HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The shocking events of this afternoon in Boston touched off passionate reactions from folks all over the country and all around the globe, and NBA players were not immune.
With the details on exactly what happened and why at the finish line of Monday’s Boston Marathon still being investigated, the response of players on Twitter was swift and simple. And it echoed the sentiment of a nation.
Everyone is concerned for the citizens of Boston and beyond that have been impacted by this tragedy:
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST –Greivis Vasquez deserves a raise — which he’ll get in due time — or the key to the city or, heck, just make him mayor of New Orleans.
The city, and its beleaguered basketball team, couldn’t ask for a better ambassador than the Venezuelan-born point guard who’s leaving his heart and sweat on the floor every night as he emerges as a top talent in the league.
“The biggest thing is I’m getting an opportunity,” said Vasquez, a recent player of the week recipient. “Still, people don’t know about me as much because I’m playing in a small market, which I love. I love this city, I love this team.”
Pretty refreshing stuff from a third-year player just starting to hit his stride for a franchise that’s endured it’s share of hard knocks in recent years — including a hard-luck 7-25 start to this season.
Because the ridiculously youthful Hornets finally got game-changer and now-healthy shooting guard Eric Gordon in the starting lineup Saturday. It allowed coach Monty Williams to make other changes and roll out the starting five he envisioned.
And this is where Vasquez’s ambassadorial value comes shining through. A 6-foot-6, bearded jolt of energy, smiles, enthusiasm and positivity, his team-first attitude is absolutely contagious. It’s critical to the evolution of this franchise, and no more so than as it relates to Gordon, the 6-foot-3 scoring machine deemed the future of the franchise when New Orleans acquired him in the painful CP3 trade 13 months ago.
“I have a good relationship with Eric and I tell you this, we have been talking a lot,” Vasquez said before Saturday’s comeback victory. “Eric is a pro. I feel him as a player too, because his knee was really bothering him. But now he feels like his teammates got his back, we all got his back. We all know he’s going to make us better and we’re going to make him better. And now, we talked [Friday] night, we’re going to make this situation a great situation. We’re going to start winning games.
“For a guy like that to say that to a guy like me, that means a lot. I’m sure he’s saying that on behalf of the whole team because we’re winners, we want to win and we work. And that has been the main thing of our team, we’re going to work regardless. Whether we lose or win tomorrow we are getting better because our vision is in the future.” (more…)
It’s obviously a happy anniversary around Clippers HQ. They’re winning, Chris Paul has been everything they hoped for in performance and personality and every indication is he will re-sign as a free agent in July, and every certainty is that he has done exactly as promised in keeping the contract issue from turning into a hazmat spill the way it did for others in previous years. Raise a toast.
Not you, Hornets.
One year later, New Orleans can say it has moved on from the Paul saga, except that it really hasn’t. The future of Eric Gordon, the centerpiece of the return among existing players, is an unknown. The future of Austin Rivers, drafted with the pick acquired from the Clippers, is an unknown as a rookie in a difficult transition. The future of Al-Farouq Aminu is more encouraging than any time in his two-plus seasons as a pro, which is something, but a small portion of the resolution.
There is no real closure from Dec. 14, 2011, with Paul, along with a pair of second-round picks, going to the Clippers for Gordon, Aminu, Chris Kaman and the Timberwolves’ first-round pick that landed at No. 10. Kaman played 47 of the 66 games last season before leaving as a free agent without the Hornets flipping him into anything, but all other books are open.
Gordon: He is young (24 on Christmas), talented (22.3 points per game in 2010-11), versatile on offense (has range, handles well enough for a shooting guard that some thought he could be a point guard as he entered college in 2007)… and far away. Gordon played nine games last season in his inaugural Hornets campaign and has yet to play in 2012-13 because of a knee injury. There is no timetable for his return.
Rivers: The son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers is the first to say the career turn to becoming a full-time point guard is an adjustment. It’s also just beginning, not only because Austin is one-fourth of the way through his rookie season, but because he will eventually, presumably, have to learn to play in the same backcourt as Gordon. For now, the former Duke standout is averaging seven points, 2.9 assists and 1.4 turnovers in 27.6 minutes while shooting 32.5 percent with 11 starts in 20 games.
Aminu: The No. 8 pick in 2010 by the Clippers has gone from 5.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 20 minutes and 40.2 percent his first two seasons to 9.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 29.3 minutes and 47.2 percent. Although the majority of his success is coming very close to the basket, Aminu hitting any shot, after 39.4 percent as a rookie in L.A. and 41.1 last season in New Orleans, is an important. He was once a top prospect, but he’s still just 22 and could have a future yet at small forward.
Given Gordon’s health and Rivers’ inexperience, it will probably be at least one more anniversary and maybe longer, depending on the Gordon recovery, until any solid read on the deal working out for the Hornets. If they get a starting backcourt for eight or 10 years out of it, that’s a pretty good salvage job from a bad situation. But if Gordon is limping through seasons, plural, it obviously becomes a much different outcome.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Rasheed Wallace is famous for lots of things, most notably his colorful, championship-capturing basketball career and also his even more colorful vocabulary when it comes to talking to opponents and officials.
Now New Orleans Hornets rookie Austin Rivers knows exactly why Wallace is so closely associated with the phrase, “Ball Don’t Lie” and all that comes with it:
And we agree with ‘Sheed. He “can yell all he wants.”
It’s good to have you back in the league “Roscoe!”
HOUSTON — Everybody has a plan until they get hit. That’s what Mike Tyson used to say.
When the Hornets made him the No. 10 pick in the draft, the plan was for Austin Rivers to settle in as Eric Gordon’s long-term partner in the backcourt.
But with Gordon still having not played a game this season due to a knee injury, there is a burden on Rivers to carry much more of the scoring load. So far, it’s been too heavy a lift.
On the up side, Rivers opened Wednesday night’s game against the Rockets by knocking down a 3-pointer from the left corner and then dropped in a running teardrop down the right side of the lane. Trouble is, he missed five of the other six shots he tried and continues to struggle to find an offensive rhythm.
“I know it’s gonna come,” Rivers said. “So I’m trying not to think about it.”
Hornets rookie Austin Rivers, the No. 10 pick in the 2012 Draft, has had a cool start to his NBA career.
However, everyone else watching the Hornets is. What they see is, through the first five games of the season, Rivers has made only 10 of 40 shots and is just 2-for-10 from behind the 3-point line. He hasn’t made half his shots in a game even once.
“I think he’s doing a decent job,” said New Orleans coach Monty Williams. “He tries to defend. He does what we ask him to do. It’s just that when you’ve been a, quote unquote, explosive scorer your whole life and then you don’t drop 25 to 30, people think you’re struggling.
“There are not many 20 year olds who are going to come in and do that in the NBA. I’m sure he would like to see that ball go in that basket a few more times. I would too. But he’s still doing some things that we like. He causes a lot of problems in pick and roll. He can get to the basket. He’ll figure it out. It just takes some time.”
Rivers puts in extra time shooting after practices, but that’s just a continuation of his habits that made him the national prep player of the year in 2011 and a top gun at Duke in his lone college season.
“I don’t think I’m pressing or trying to do too many much to get myself going,” Rivers said. “Actually, I’m really trying my best not to think about that part of the game at all. I know that I can shoot. I know that I can score. I know what I can do. It will come.”
It’s the outside shot, especially from the deeper NBA 3-point line, that has been most glaring for its ineffectiveness. When Rivers has been able to find the bucket, it’s most often been by getting into open spots to make his runner or by pulling up from mid-range. He’s also been able to attack the basket, draw the defense to him and then set up his teammates.
While Rivers has been known as a scorer throughout his young career, the truth is he has always been more of a volume shooter than a proficient sniper. Last season at Duke he shot just 43.3 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from the shorter 3-point line. Now he’s finding it harder to get all of the shots that he wants. There have always been questions about whether Rivers can be a full-time point guard.
“The one thing that he’s dealing with is scouting reports,” Williams said. “Teams have time to prepare for you. In college you have that. But at Duke they prepare for seven or eight other opponents they have. The league does a really good job of figuring your game out and you’ve got to counter what they’re doing.
“Sometimes they try to take his right hand away. He still can get to wherever he wants to go. Now he’s got to learn how to finish over size. He’s never dealt with the kind of size and athleticism he’s dealing with now. Guys figure it out. That’s just the nature of the NBA.”
Late in Wednesday’s game, Williams switched Rivers defensive assignment from James Harden to Chandler Parsons. The 6-foot-9 Parsons used his height advantage to nail a tough, 20-foot fadeaway with Rivers’ hand in his face.
“What can you do?” Williams said with a shrug. “You can’t guard everyone and I thought Austin had his hand right in his face.”
He’s 6-foot-4, but slighter in build than many of his opponents. He is no longer able to look like the best athlete in any given matchup, even when he isn’t giving up height.
“You always have to adjust,” he said. “I adjusted from high school to college and now I’m adjusting again to the NBA. It’s nothing that’s gonna be a long term. It doesn’t even bother me. I’m getting the looks that I want. I’m getting into the lane at will.
“I’m getting my floaters. I’m getting my mid-range shots. I have had trouble knocking down the 3. It’s stuff that I’ve always been good at and I still am. It’s just that they haven’t started to fall. Yet.”
The longer Gordon is out, the more the heat gets turned up on Rivers now, even if it wasn’t part of the original plan.
There was a little bit of a delayed reaction from NBA headquarters to New Orleans coach Monty Williams’ public criticism of the league’s concussions policy – Williams made his comments Saturday in Chicago and his $25,000 fine wasn’t announced until Tuesday evening.
Maybe a slightly dulled response time seems in order, given the subject matter.
Williams was facing a difficult situation – a road game, the second of back-to-back dates, against the Chicago Bulls without prized rookie big man Anthony Davis. Davis was back in New Orleans because, the night before against Utah, he took an inadvertent elbow to the side of his head from teammate Austin Rivers. Davis was diagnosed with a mild concussion, and that made him subject to the league’s protocols for such injuries – including no air travel, a series of tests and a neurological exam before he could be cleared to play again.
That wasn’t happening overnight; in fact, Davis, despite the “mild” label, still hadn’t been cleared Tuesday to play in the Hornets’ home game against Philadelphia Wednesday. So Williams, about 90 minutes before tipoff at United Center that night, was feeling the competitive tug. (more…)
CHICAGO –- Hornets coach Monty Williams wasn’t happy to be facing Chicago at United Center on Saturday without rookie big man Anthony Davis, who was kept back in New Orleans for further testing after suffering a mild concussion in the first half against Utah on Friday.
It was teammate Austin Rivers‘ inadvertent elbow that clipped Davis in the side of the head, putting him out of what became an 88-86 loss. But it was the NBA’s precautionary concussions policy that prevented Davis from flying with the team to his hometown — his only scheduled appearance of 2012-13 in Chicago — and will sideline him until he satisfies the requirements of physical testing and a neurological exam.
Now, please know that Williams was mindful of the NBA’s fining power when he spoke with reporters before the game. But as he spoke, he revved up a little and he didn’t mince words.
“When you’re dealing with the brain, I guess what’s happening in football has affected everybody,” the Hornets coach said. “You treat everybody like they have on white gloves and pink drawers. It’s getting old. But it’s just the way the league is now.”
Williams also said: “It’s a man’s game and we’re treating these guys like they’re five years old.” (more…)
CHICAGO – The last meaningful game Anthony Davis played in or near his hometown was a disappointment: a 60-53 loss to top-ranked King, Davis’ Perspectives Charter school falling in the Illinois’ Class 3A regional in March 2011. He never got to play back in Chicago last season, when the closest he came in the University of Kentucky’s 38-2 season was a stop in Bloomington, Ind.
And now what would have been Davis’ NBA debut in the Windy City, as the No. 1 pick in the Draft in June and the prognosticators’ heavy favorite for 2012-13 Rookie of the Year, has gotten whacked, too.
Not unlike the way the New Orleans Hornets’ young big man himself got whacked Friday night. Davis suffered what doctors have termed a mild concussion when rookie teammate Austin Rivers‘ elbow caught Davis on the right side of his head in the second quarter of the Hornets’ home game against Utah.
Initial reports indicated that Davis had difficulty answering some of the questions put to him – “Where are you?” – soon after he exited with 4:51 left in the first half. He did not travel with the club for tonight’s game against the Bulls at United Center – Ryan Anderson is expected to start at center in Davis’ absence – instead staying behind for further testing. (more…)
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It’s easy to get tangled up with semantics during election season. Same goes for injury issues in the NBA.
When you hear that New Orleans Hornets guard Eric Gordon is out indefinitely with a right knee injury, the same one that cost him all but nine games last season and led to him missing the entire preseason and the Hornets’ season-opening loss to the Spurs, you have no choice but to ask an obvious question.
Does “indefinitely” mean that he’s done for the season?
There is no clear-cut answer right now. Gordon has had multiple MRIs and team medical officials have indicated that there is a reason for the pain he’s been experiencing, but no specifics have been made public.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The start of training camp is just days away.
There are 30 teams that believe deep down this is the year they do it. This is the year that it all comes together. This is the year that they win it all again in Miami, finally win it in Oklahoma City or finally break through and make the playoffs in places like Sacramento, Detroit and New Orleans.
The power of positive thinking will be on full display around the league when players convene for the initial stage of the 2012-13 season.
Not all of those hoop dreams will be realized, though, and there will no doubt be teams that are convinced they are prepared to take that next step this season when they simply are not.
But we’re focusing on the positives today, peering into our crystal ball and trying to identify the teams with the goods to make good on whatever promise they’ve shown in recent seasons, Drafts and in the offseasons (in free agency and trades).
There are no guarantees, of course. Injuries and other unforeseen issues can alter the fate of a team at any time.
We’ve checked the radar, though, and the skies are clear for HT’s Five Teams On The Rise … five lottery teams with a chance to move into the realm of playoff contention:
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, 21-45 last season
They were supposed to go away for five or six years after the departure of Lebron James and rebuild quietly. Then Kyrie Irving showed up and forced us all to reconsider. The roster is slowly but surely being fortified to surround a budding star like Irving with a supporting cast capable of making a little playoff noise at some point in the near future.
Anderson Varejao looked like his usual pesky self in London during the Olympics and Tristan Thompson showed significant promise last season as well. They’ll form the foundation of a frontcourt rotation that will include rookie center Tyler Zeller and rugged workman Samardo Samuels.
The only thing that worries us about the Cavaliers is whether or not rookie Dion Waiters is ready to assume his role as Irving’s backcourt sidekick. We were a bit surprised to see him picked where he was in the June Draft, but we were forced to reconsider when a handful of coaches and two league executives we trust gushed about him after the Draft.
Bottom line: With the fearless Irving as the ringleader (he learned from the best in Las Vegas this summer), the Cavaliers have a fighting chance this season.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS, 31-35 last season
Bucks general manager John Hammond was the league’s Executive of the Year in 2010 for a reason. If he believes that the Monta Ellis-Brandon Jennings combo is the key to getting this team back to the playoffs, we’ll ride with him. And it’s not like we needed to be convinced. Ellis has always been on our most underrated list and Jennings continues to do his thing without the respect he deserves for the improvements he’s made since entering the league.
Hammond wasn’t afraid to recognize that Andrew Bogut wasn’t the right fit for the franchise, a move that will either look like a disaster or pure genius depending on how things for turn out for Bogut and the Golden State Warriors this season. The Bucks, instead, are opting for the big-man-by-committee approach this season with Sam Dalembert, Drew Gooden, Larry Sanders, Ekpe Udoh and rookie John Henson manning the paint.
Ersan Ilyasova was a bit of a revelation last season and should give Bucks fans another dose of hope about this season and the future of the franchise. It’s not often a team stumbles onto a gem like Ilyasova, an unselfish worker bee who is effective on both ends of the floor with the range to shoot from deep and the size and versatility to guard as many as three different positions.
Bottom line: The pressure is on and Bucks coach Scott Skiles usually does some of his best work in those situations.