Posts Tagged ‘Avery Johnson’

Teletovic, Nets punish Heat ‘D’ in Game 3

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Heat vs. Nets: Game 3

NEW YORK – As the Chicago Bulls didn’t bother to defend Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans in the first round of last year’s playoffs, Brooklyn Nets forward Mirza Teletovic sat.

Though his team was suffering from a lack of floor spacing, the floor-spacing big played just one garbage-time minute as the Nets got bounced in seven games. Teletovic, a 27-year-old rookie, had never gained the trust of coaches Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo. He got a shot at the rotation for a few weeks after the All-Star break, shot decently, and then rode the pine the rest of the way.

This season, Teletovic had the trust of coach Jason Kidd from the start. His been in the rotation from Day 1 and has had a consistent role. Kidd has never been afraid use his bench for heavy minutes or in key situations.

His trust and his team’s depth paid off in Game 3 of the conference semifinals, a 104-90 victory over the Miami Heat in which Andray Blatche paced the Nets in the first half and in which Teletovic sparked the Nets’ game-deciding third-quarter run with three of his four 3-pointers.

After struggling offensively in the first two games of the series, Brooklyn broke out on Saturday, hitting a franchise-playoff-record 15 treys on 25 attempts and scoring 104 points on just 84 possessions. The passes were a notch crisper than they were in Game 2, and the Heat defense was punished for the attention it put on the ball.

“The thing that was great about it was the ball movement,” Joe Johnson, who shot 5-for-7 from beyond the arc, said, “us getting into the teeth of the defense and kicking out for wide open shots.”

Teletovic’s shots weren’t all wide open, but once he sees one go in, how open he is doesn’t seem to matter. He’s now 11-for-19 from beyond the arc in the series and 17-for-34 in six games against the Heat this season.

His defense has always been a question and is the biggest reason he never earned Carlesimo’s trust last year. But Kidd had him defending LeBron James for a stretch of the third, a period in which the Heat scored just 14 points.

As Miami struggled, Brooklyn found some separation by spreading the floor and moving the ball.

The Heat’s defense can be suffocating, but open shots can be had if the ball moves quickly. Teletovic’s first 3-pointer (video) was an open look from the right corner on a possession in which the Nets passed the ball eight times, including three times in the four seconds before Teletovic’s shot.

Other 3s were just one pass away, as Deron Williams took advantage of the attention he was getting from the Heat defense.

“Some of it came off our defensive schemes,” James said of the Nets’ 3-point shooting, “Shrink the floor on their perimeter guys and close out on their shooters.”

After missing all nine of his shots in Game 2 on Thursday, Williams shot just 3-for-11 in Game 3. The Heat haven’t given him anything easy all series.

But the reason why Williams has struggled to score is the same reason why he dished out 11 assists on Saturday. Because the Heat are showing him so many bodies when he has the ball, his teammates have some space. And Williams maximized his team’s opportunities by pushing the ball up the floor early and often.

“D-Will set the tone,” Kidd said, “by being aggressive and attacking.”

Three of Johnson’s 3s came on transition assists from Williams. Even in the half-court, Williams was at the center of Brooklyn’s ball movement, moving the ball from side to side and making the Miami defense work.

“The way they are playing me with two on the ball and coming up at me,” Williams said, “I need to make the right plays and get people the ball.”

The Nets probably aren’t going to shoot 60 percent from 3-point range again. Some of those 15 treys on Saturday were pretty well contested. They’re still down 2-1 in the series and have a smaller margin for error in every game than their opponent.

But they can continue to take advantage of the Miami defense and give themselves a chance to win with the same offensive mentality that they brought to Game 3.

“If we continue to share the ball, we’ll be successful,” Williams said. “The ball has to be faster than their rotations.”

It helps to have guys who can make shots. You just have to give them the playing time.

A Meandering Road For N.O. Basketball


VIDEO: Fran Blinebury narrates the history of New Orleans basketball

The author Tom Robbins once said that if New Orleans is not fully in the mainstream of culture, neither is it fully in the mainstream of time. Lacking a well-defined present, it lives somewhere between its past and its future, as if uncertain whether to advance or to retreat.

That might also describe the meandering history of basketball in the Crescent City. With roots that stretch to the earliest professional leagues, the game has followed the unsteady path of an overindulgent visitor in the French Quarter to reach the glitz and glamour that is the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend.

The state of Louisiana could fill out a virtual Hall of Fame roster with native-born talent — Bill Russell, Bob Pettit, Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Elvin Hayes, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, Robert Parish, Joe Dumars, Don Chaney and Bob Love. But the pro game has spent more than six peripatetic decades trying to find an embrace in the Big Easy.

“Honestly, it’s not that big. It’s really not,” said Pacers forward and native Danny Granger of the basketball scene in New Orleans. “Compared to Indianapolis, if Indianapolis is a 10, New Orleans is a 4, as far as high school basketball goes … We’ve always been a football city.”

Still, at the end of World War II, the game began to take wing all across the United States. New Orleans’ first team, the Hurricanes, were part of the Professional Basketball League of America in 1947. Led by 19-year-old guard Paul Seymour, the Hurricanes and the league lasted just eight games before going out of business.

A year later, the Hurricanes were renamed the Sports and joined the second year of the Southern Basketball League. The Sports featured the league’s leading scorer in Alex “Greek” Athas, a product of Tulane University in New Orleans. The Sports went 7-24, the SBL went out of business at the end of the season and a nearly 20-year wait for another pro basketball team began.

The ABA comes to town

The American Basketball Association was the young, defiant upstart league that burst onto the scene in 1967 with a red-white-and-blue ball, a 3-point shot and a wide-open, slam-dunking style of play that challenged perceptions and authority.

And what better place to do that than rowdy Bourbon Street and New Orleans?

Larry Brown (center) of the New Orleans Buccaneers was MVP of the ABA All-Star Game in 1968. With ABA Commissioner George Mikan (left) and Rick Barry. (NBA Photos/NBAE)

Larry Brown (center) of the New Orleans Buccaneers was MVP of the ABA All-Star Game in 1968. With ABA Commissioner George Mikan (left) and Rick Barry.
(NBA Photos/NBAE)

The Buccaneers were coached by the legendary Babe McCarthy with his honey dew Mississippi drawl and his pocketful of down-home sayings:

“Boy, I gotta tell you, you gotta come at ‘em like a bitin’ sow.”

“My old pappy used to tell me, the sun don’t shine on the same dog’s butt every day.”

McCarthy’s team was loaded with talent. The first player signed was Doug Moe, the talented forward out of North Carolina who had been connected to a college basketball betting scandal. Even though nothing was ever proven, Moe, along with Connie Hawkins, had been banned from the NBA for life.

The Buccaneers then added Moe’s good buddy Larry Brown, the 5-foot-9 point guard who’d been dismissed by the NBA for simply being too short.

“I loved every minute of playing in New Orleans and playing with that team,” said Brown, 73, the Hall of Fame coach who is now at Southern Methodist. “I was an assistant coach at North Carolina at the time and figured that was it. That league and that team meant a lot to me because they gave me a chance to prove that I could be a player at the top level.

“Man, that was a team. We had a great kid that nobody ever talks about anymore — Jimmy Jones from Grambling. We had Jackie Moreland, Jesse Branson, Marlbert Pradd and Austin ‘Red” Robbins. We came within a game of winning the championship in that first year (losing 4-3 in the ABA Finals to Hawkins and the Pittsburgh Pipers).”

The Bucs played before largely empty houses at Loyola Field House for the first several months, mostly because they arrived in town the same year the Saints were welcomed into the NFL.

“I went to the very first Saints game ever,” Brown said. “Guy takes the opening kick back 99 yards for a touchdown and the place went crazy. We all figured they’d never lose a game. Of course, with that passion for the Saints, nobody paid attention to us until football season was over. But when it was, the stands were packed. The enthusiasm and interest was great.

“I loved playing for a phenomenal coach in Babe. He had a great feel for the game and he cared about his players. He reminded me of a southern Frank McGuire and that’s the greatest compliment that I can give anybody.”

Even though Brown won the MVP award at the first ABA All-Star Game and Moe was named to the All-ABA team, they were both traded after just one season.

“I think it was about money,” Brown said, “even though Babe always called me his pissant guard and he did get back a 6-7 guard in Steve Jones. That’s OK. Doug and I went to Oakland and won a championship the next year.

“But I wouldn’t trade that experience — that one year — in New Orleans for anything.”

The Buccaneers survived just two more seasons in New Orleans before the franchise moved to Memphis in 1970.

The Pistol Pete era


VIDEO: Ultimate “Pistol” Pete Maravich highlight reel

It was four years later when the NBA finally came to town with an expansion team. The aptly named Jazz fittingly brought in the greatest improvisational artist in the game in “Pistol” Pete Maravich, who’d played college ball at Louisiana State in Baton Rouge and made music with a basketball like Louis Armstrong did with his trumpet.

Avery Johnson, who won an NBA championship with the Spurs, coached the Mavericks to The Finals and is now an ESPN analyst, grew up on the streets of New Orleans’ Sixth Ward, within walking distance of the Superdome. He joyously recalls watching the show.

“As a young kid, the Jazz really sparked my interest in basketball,” he said. “Growing up, my two favorite guys to watch were Nate ‘Tiny’ Archibald and ‘Pistol Pete.’

“Since the Jazz were playing at the Superdome and had all those seats to fill, they were practically giving tickets away. So my friends and I were going to as many games as we could, even on school nights.”

“All the kids in our neighborhood wore our [floppy] socks like Pistol and anytime we saw him make a great shot or an amazing pass, we’d all be out there on the schoolyard or playground the next day trying to do it. For a kid my age, it really didn’t get any better than that.”

Trouble was, most of the NBA was always better than the Jazz. In five seasons, the Jazz never finished with a record of .500 record. When Maravich was beset by a series of knee injuries and couldn’t play, the big show lost its headline attraction.

“It was sad when he could no longer be Pistol,” said Brown. “I grew up with Pete and from the time he was young he had a quality on the court that wouldn’t let you take your eyes off of him.

“I saw him play in the state high school tournament. He loved the game. He made players better. He made you enjoy going to watch the basketball game. You didn’t know what was going to happen, but you knew something great would happen.

“I have always been known as a perfectionist coach, talking about playing the game the right way. Pete didn’t play the right way, but he had to play the way that gave him the best chance to win. A lot of people would look at the shots I let Allen Iverson take in Philly and say, ‘That’s not right.’ But when you have greatness like him, you let him do the things he’s capable of doing. The same held true for Pete and there was nobody capable of doing the things he was doing.”

But with Maravich hobbled and fan support hemorrhaging, the franchise was sold in 1979 and the Jazz name was incongruously relocated to Utah.

Post Pete

“In 1979 the Jazz were leaving, a channel called ESPN came on my TV,” Johnson recalled. “It seemed like the world was changing and you couldn’t hold things back.”

“It was playing in the Superdome,” Brown said. “It wasn’t a real basketball facility. Too many seats. And you know, the South was still kind of funny then. I don’t think people were ever passionate about basketball after the Buccaneers left. They were never really attracted to the Jazz, just Pete.”

At that time, a young David Stern was general counsel to NBA commissioner Larry O’Brien and worked hard to try to find a local owner in Louisiana. He couldn’t.

“I never thought even at that time that the NBA couldn’t work in New Orleans,” Stern said. “I always thought the NBA could work anywhere and we’ve proved that over the years with the so-called small markets in San Antonio, Orlando, Utah, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Portland and Sacramento. So even as we were leaving, I never thought there was a reason the NBA couldn’t come back.”

It took 13 years, but when the Hornets could not work out an agreement for a new arena in Charlotte, they relocated. The beat of pro basketball was again in New Orleans.

The Hornets played at the New Orleans Arena, built adjacent to the Superdome. They were coached by Paul Silas and with a veteran roster led by Jamal Mashburn, George Lynch and Elden Campbell, and immediately made two playoff appearances. But a miserable 18-64 record the next season was the worst in the league.

The Hornets parlayed that misery into making Chris Paul their top pick in the NBA Draft in June 2005 and plotted their comeback. But real tragedy struck on Aug. 29 of that year when Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans, the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States.

More than 1,800 lives were lost, $108 billion in damages suffered to the city and the Hornets were forced to set up a temporary home for two seasons in Oklahoma City.

Former Hornets player P.J. Brown visits a Katrina memorial in 2007. (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Former Hornets player P.J. Brown visits a Katrina memorial in 2007. (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

“I was so happy when the team had returned to New Orleans and my hometown got another chance,” Johnson said. “Then came Katrina and all you could wonder was ‘What next?’ Would they come back again?”

With rabid fan support for the Hornets and a hunger for the first pro sports franchise in OKC, the question of whether the Hornets would return to the Big Easy continued to be asked. As the city slowly and steadily picked up the pieces and began to put itself back together, Stern — now the commissioner — remained the city’s greatest champion. He gave his steadfast approval to New Orleans as an NBA town.

“Apart from my own previous history with the city, I have an affection because of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation that followed,” Stern said. “It was important to me for us to be the first sport to play a regular-season game again in New Orleans after Katrina. We scheduled an All-Star Game [2008] there and people said we were crazy. So it gives me enormous pleasure to see where the franchise is today.”

“That was a very strong statement made by commissioner Stern,” Johnson said. “ ‘We are not going to leave you at the time of your greatest trial.’ It was a sign faith, of hope, of possibility for the future.”

When the Hornets returned, the team was in full bloom with Paul as its leader. He was joined on the 2008 All-Star team by New Orleans teammate David West. The Hornets finished 56-26, their best record ever, were the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, and defeated Dallas in the first round.

But things again turned sour two years later when the NBA was forced to purchase the team from owners George Shinn and Gary Chouest in a bid to keep basketball in the city. The league, with Stern acting as the de facto owner, ran the franchise for 1 1/2 years. Paul, who’d been an All-Star four times in six seasons in New Orleans, said he wanted out and, after one deal that would have sent him to the L.A. Lakers was turned down by Stern, Paul eventually was traded to the Clippers.

CP3 and the Big Easy

Chris Paul in 2008 (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Chris Paul in 2008 (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Now, three years later, Paul still holds an affinity for the city. New Orleans is more than just a team in a city where his NBA career began.

“[It's] everything. Everything,” said Paul, who will return this week as a member of the Western Conference. “It’s going to be emotional going back. Obviously I was already going to All-Star regardless because we have some players’ association events and things like that. I still have a lot of my close friends and family there in New Orleans. My pastor lives in New Orleans. I’m doing my daughter’s christening when I go back and stuff like that. My brother’s doing his twins. It’s going to be pretty cool to be back.”

Even though he actually played his first two NBA seasons in Oklahoma City with the displaced Hornets, Paul sank his teeth and his roots into America’s most colorful, most unique city.

His brother got married in New Orleans.  Paul still runs an after-school program in the city.

“It’s crazy because I’m older and a little bit wiser now from when I was there in New Orleans, but it’s the people of New Orleans that make it what it is,” he said. “Everybody talks about the food and the environment and the nightlife and all this different type stuff. But it’s the people. There’s nothing like it. It’s its own language. It’s its own everything. And me being born and raised from the South, the people of New Orleans became my family.

“I did those [first] two years in Oklahoma City so I had no idea. I was going off what everybody was telling me about New Orleans. It’s crazy to hear some people talk about, ‘Oh, New Orleans, I can’t go there, I can’t do this.’ And I tell people, ‘I loved it. I absolutely loved it.’ What you learn is that some people will say that in front of the camera and stuff like that, but when it [the camera] moves, they’ll be like, ‘I hated it.’ But, you know, I’ll talk about New Orleans. I absolutely loved it there. That ‘07-08 season was something special that I’ll never forget. When you’re winning and playing in New Orleans, there’s nothing like it. Nothing like it.”

A new beginning

In April 2012, Tom Benson, the owner of the NFL Saints, bought the team from the NBA. In June the team made Anthony Davis the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. And for the start of the 2013-14 season, the Hornets were rechristened as the Pelicans, a nod to the state bird of Louisiana and a source of local pride. Now New Orleans will host its second post-Katrina NBA All-Star Weekend.

In his second season in the league, the athletic forward Davis has exploded at both ends of the court as a franchise player and future All-Star. Jrue Holiday, an All-Star a year ago, has been added to the roster. It’s the fourth season for coach Monty Williams.

“I was disappointed they had to let Chris go,” said Brown. “But I believe in Monty Williams. He’s a smart young coach who used to work for me. They’ve got an unbelievable kid there in Davis. I’m telling you, that kid is the truth.

“I’ll always have a love for that city because of one special season of playing basketball. But after all those years and all those teams and all those different problems, I think they’re finally going in the right direction.”

Walkin’ to New Orleans, as the great Fats Domino sang, goin’ back home to stay.

Dropping Dimes Again A Priority For D-Will

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Trivia time: Which point guard, Jason Kidd or Deron Williams, has finished more seasons with a double-digit assist average?

Answer: It’s not the NBA’s No. 2 all-time assists leader. Kidd finished his 19-year career with three (1999, 2000 and ’08). Williams, after eight seasons, already has four, all of which came from 2008-11. Kidd, now Williams’ coach with the Brooklyn Nets, wants to make it five.

“I’m going to push him. I want the best for him,” Kidd told the New York Daily News on Sunday after signing autographs at the Nets’ merchandise store in Coney Island. “When we sit down and talk about goals, team goals and also individual goals, I’m going to push him and I want to get him back to double-digit assists.”

Williams’ pace faltered the last two seasons with various impediments to blame, from former coach Avery Johnson‘s isolation-heavy offense (ask Kidd, who played under Johnson in Dallas, about that) to the extra weight and injury woes the three-time All-Star carried into last season. The Nets extracted Johnson from the equation early on last season, and Williams managed to get healthy and shed some pounds during his free time over All-Star weekend. He was a far more productive player in the second half of the season.

The powerful, 6-foot-3, 209-pound Williams averaged 7.7 apg last season, his lowest mark since his rookie year. That came after averaging 8.7 apg in his first full season (albeit a lockout-shortened one) with the Nets.

But the Nets of the last two seasons are hardly the ones Williams, 29, will lead into a 2013-14 campaign full of lofty expectations. An roster-wide talent upgrade should naturally increase Williams’ assist total, perhaps even allowing him to rival 2008-09 when he averaged 10.7 apg and finished second in the league behind Chris Paul (11.0). Since then, D-Will has steadily moved down the ladder when ranking the top playmakers at point guard.

The blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics that delivered Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry (coupled with the free-agent acquisition of Andrei Kirilenko), significantly enhances the Williams’ scoring options and should dramatically increase the team’s 3-point shooting.

The Nets ranked 17th in scoring (96.9 ppg), 13th in overall shooting percentage (45.0 percent) and 17th in 3-point shooting (35.7 percent). Brooklyn’s starting forwards consisted of a declining Gerald Wallace (39.7 field-goal percentage, 28.2 percent from 3-point range) and garbage man Reggie Evans (47.9 percent but on just 3.3 shot attempts per game). Kris Humphries, who started 21 games, shot 44.8 percent from the floor.

Evans can now move to a more sensible role off the bench. Wallace and Humphries are replaced by Pierce, who shot just 43.6 percent from the field last season but a solid 38.0 percent from 3-point range, and Garnett, who hit roughly half of his shot attempts last season (49.6 percent). Add those two to shooting guard Joe Johnson (37.5 percent from beyond the arc) and the offensively gifted 7-footer Brook Lopez (52.1 percent), and Williams should be operating in the halfcourt with a well-spaced floor. It should make double-teaming by opposing defenses both difficult and dangerous.

Terry didn’t have an inspiring first season with the Celtics after a prosperous career in Dallas, but he make 37.2 percent of his 3-pointers, right at his career average (37.9 percent). Kirilenko, a crafty worker without the ball, shot 50.7 percent last season with Minnesota.

Kidd, who fashioned 11 seasons averaging at least 9.0 apg, is promising an up-tempo offense that should benefit Williams’ game. And now with more scorers as targets for Williams, who is on pace to join the 10,000 assist club ( John Stockton, Kidd, Mark Jackson, Steve Nash and Magic Johnson) if he plays another eight seasons, the opportunity is there for him to get back to being a double-digit dime machine.

Incoming scorers
(from 2012-13)
Outgoing scorers
(from 2012-13)
Player PPG FG% 3pt FG%
Player PPG FG% 3pt FG%
Paul Pierce 18.6 43.6 38.0 Gerald Wallace 7.7 39.7 28.2
Kevin Garnett 14.8 49.6 12.5 Kris Humphries 5.8 44.8 0
Jason Terry 10.1 43.4 37.2 Keith Bogans 4.2 38.0 34.3
Andrei Kirilenko 12.4 50.7 29.2 Jerry Stackhouse 4.9 38.4 33.7
Shaun Livingston 6.3 48.0 0 MarShon Brooks 5.4 46.3 27.3

Report: Kidd In Negotiations With Nets



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Jason Kidd‘s retirement party won’t last another week at this rate. The future Hall of Fame point guard, who announced his retirement from the league last week, is reportedly in negotiations to become the next head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.

Kidd is in line for a three-year deal and has, according to John Mitchell of the Philadelphia Inquirer, already an agreement in principle to replace P.J. Carlesimo in Brooklyn. Carlesimo finished the season as the interim replacement for coach Avery Johnson, who once coached Kidd in Dallas.

Nets boss Billy King is going in a radical direction by even pursuing Kidd, whose brilliant playing career included a championship in Dallas in 2011 and back-to-back trips to The Finals with the Nets a decade ago. Kidd’s lack of coaching experience is offset by 19 years of playing in the league, many of those as one of the top point guards in the game.

How Kidd fills his staff out will also be of significant intrigue. A source confirmed to NBA.com this afternoon that former Nets and Detroit Pistons coach Lawrence Frank is expected to be a part of Kidd’s staff, potentially as his lead assistant. Frank coached Kidd from 2003-04 to the trade deadline of the 2007-08 season, when Kidd was dealt to Dallas.

The Nets were considering a long list of candidates for their vacancy, including Pacers assistant Brian Shaw and recently fired Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins. Both men remain candidates for the open job with the Los Angeles Clippers. Kidd rising to the top of the Nets’ list in such short order is a development few saw coming, especially on the heels of his retirement announcement last week.

Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle of this entire affair, though, is what impact Kidd’s hiring will have on the current face of the franchise: veteran point guard Deron Williams. An All-Star and Olympic gold medalist, Williams and Kidd already have a relationship from their playing days. How they work together will likely determine the immediate on-court fortunes of the franchise.

Nets Going Old School For New Coach





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The sting of blowing a Game 7 on their home floor will linger for a while in Brooklyn. There is no way to dress up that debacle.

A new coach, though, one with a high profile and Hall of Fame credentials, is a good place to start. And from all indications the Nets are setting their sights high. Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Jeff or Stan Van Gundy and even Larry Brown‘s name has been mentioned by a few league executives who are watching the Nets and waiting to see where they go next.

They are all on the Nets’ short list as of this afternoon.

Nets GM Billy King didn’t even let the sun rise the morning after that Game 7 loss before P.J. Carlesimo was informed that his services would no longer be needed. Carlesimo is an old pro at this. He knew what we all did when he took over after Avery Johnson was fired, that anything short of a miraculous championship run from the Nets would mean he’d be cleaning out his office at season’s end.

What makes the Nets search for a replacement for the replacement is that Sloan, who coached with and clashed, at times, with Nets star Deron Williams in Utah, is on the list of candidates to fill the job.

Much like the other candidates on the Nets’ list, Sloan’s name tends to come up whenever there is an opening. This Nets opening, however, appeals to him. He said as much to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com:

“I’m open, I would listen,” Sloan told CSNNW.com via phone. “I haven’t done the research on their roster, but I would definitely listen if they called.”

Already linked to the Milwaukee Bucks Head Coaching gig, Sloan admits he’s interested in getting back to roaming the sidelines, but only under the right circumstances and conditions.

“According to reports, I’m interested in every job that’s out there,” Sloan said. “That’s just not the case. I don’t like being linked to every opening. If the right situation presented itself, I will look into it.”

Sloan dropping his John Deere cap and days spent on his tractor for the sideline in Brooklyn has movie of the week potential. But any team could use his wisdom and guidance, provided the players on the roster are willing to listen.

The Nets won’t have the flexibility to tinker with their roster this summer, so the most significant change they’ll make will be in the coaching ranks. There is also a temperament change that is needed, one highlighted by many in the immediate aftermath of that lackadaisical Game 7 effort.

Williams has his own ideas about what the Nets need in a new coach and it’s all about someone who demands his team play with the intestinal fortitude to win a Game 7 on their home floor in the playoffs, based on what he told Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com:

Williams was asked what quality the Nets need more of.

“Toughness,” he replied. “I think that’s what we’ve used a lot. Toughness. I think we got out-toughed in that last series, especially [Saturday], so I think that’s the main thing.”

Williams thinks a coach like his former one in Utah, Jerry Sloan, could get toughness out of his players.

“When I played for Coach Sloan, I think he had that effect — just the way he coaches and the way he talked to us every day and the way he prepared us for games kind of rubbed off,” Williams said.

Would Williams want to play for Sloan again?

“I would love to,” he replied.

And Phil Jackson?

“Who wouldn’t want to play for Phil Jackson?” he replied.

Regardless, Williams believes the team’s next coach needs to be experienced.

“Yeah, I think so. I think somebody that’s creative on offense and has a good system on defense,” he said. “I haven’t really thought much about it. I think we just need somebody that’s going to lead us, somebody everybody respects for sure; it’s tough.”

That “somebody” could be anyone on the Nets’ short list.

But the description sounds an awful lot like Sloan …

No ‘D’ In Brooklyn But Nets Get It Done

CHICAGO – Halfcourt basketball is a staple of the NBA playoffs. But with so much talk about Brooklyn’s offense and Chicago’s defense in the Nets-Bulls first-round Eastern Conference series, some might assume the teams actually are using just half a court, like a pickup game at some crowded playground.

The sad truth is, without Derrick Rose, the Bulls’ attack often is as entertaining as watching Dad re-grout the bathroom floor. As for the Nets’ defense, the voters spoke loud and clear: While 21 different players received votes for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award announced Wednesday, none of them play for the Nets.

The numbers suggest that while Brooklyn has improved its performance when the other guys control the ball, that wasn’t exactly a priority when GM Billy King went shopping prior to this season with another $330 million of owner Mikhail Prokhorov‘s money.

Statistically, the Nets brought defensive improvement along on their move from New Jersey to Brooklyn, just not any dramatic reimagining that way. In 2011-12, their defensive rating of 109.6 ranked 28th and they were 28th in opponents’ field-goal percentage, 29th in foes’ 3-point percentage, 19th in steals and dead last in defensive rebounds and blocked shots.

This season, the Nets got their defensive rating down to 106.2 and their ranking up to 17th. They ranked 23rd in opponents’ field-goal percentage, 21st in 3-point percentage, 19th in steals, 21st in defensive rebounds and 18th in blocks.

No less an authority than Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau sounded sufficiently impressed with what interim coach P.J. Carlesimo and, before him, Avery Johnson did starting in training camp.

“It starts with Brook Lopez,” Thibodeau said of Brooklyn’s All-Star center, known primarily as a dangerous scorer and occasional rebounder. “He’s gotten a lot better at challenging shots and blocking shots. [Forward Reggie] Evans has been an excellent defender. Gerald Wallace, every year you can make a case for him, all-league defense. I think P.J.’s done a great job with them, as did Avery, having a defensive philosophy.

“There’s been tremendous growth, I think, in the last two to three years. They have size, they have versatility. [Keith] Bogans, C.J. [Watson], I had both those guys here and they’re really terrific. [Veteran Jerry] Stackhouse is a little older now but he was a terrific defender for a long time and his team defense is very, very good. [Backup big man Andray] Blatche has very good feet.”

Yeah, Thibs, but are they any good when it comes to that five-guys-on-a-string stuff?

“They’ve got shot-blocking at the rim, they’ve got Wallace who can guard, they’ve got Johnson, who’s big,” Thibodeau said.

Like he was going to say anything different, right?

As for the DPOY award and Chicago placing three players – Joakim Noah (4), Luol Deng (15) and Jimmy Butler (T18) – among the 21 vote-getters, Thibodeau said he was proud of his players. But he also spoke of the multiple, sometimes contradictory factors that influence the balloting.

“I don’t know the metrics that are going into it,” said Thibodeau, whose work in Boston and Chicago since 2007 have led to greater defensive appreciation throughout the league. “I think it’s very difficult to measure the impact of a defensive guy. It’s not like a pitcher against a hitter in baseball and you can say, ‘This is what he’s doing.’ It’s five-man offense, five-man defense and a lot of variables that go into it: there’s rotations, there’s switches. Often a guy gets credit and maybe he wasn’t the person responsible.”

That, the Bulls coach said, is “why you could make a case for several guys who are on the same team.”

Or none on a middle-of-the-pack defensive team such as Brooklyn.

Report: Cavaliers Pursuing Phil Jackson?



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MIAMI – Phil Jackson in Cleveland?

Go ahead and let that sink in for a minute …

If the Cleveland Cavaliers have their way, that won’t just be a question … it’ll be a reality. The Cavaliers’ coaching search shifted from reuniting with former coach Mike Brown to focusing on another, much more accomplished former Los Angeles Lakers coach.

The Cavs have entered the Zen Master’s zone, per a report from ESPN.com, as they reached out to the “retired” Jackson to gauge his interest in coming aboard to help revive the franchise. It’s not the first time the Cavs have approached Jackson:

Jackson interviewed with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert in 2005, when Gilbert was looking for a coach. That year, Gilbert ended up hiring Mike Brown.

Brown and the Cavs have mutual interest in a reunion. Gilbert and Brown met over dinner Sunday night, a league source confirmed.

Jackson is considering other coaching options, sources said. The Brooklyn Nets and possibly the Sacramento Kings — if they relocate to Seattle — are two teams likely to appeal to Jackson more than the Cavaliers, according to sources close to the situation.

The Nets reached out to Jackson before even firing coach Avery Johnson last fall and are expected to check his interest again following the season. The Seattle-based group attempting to purchase and relocate the Kings, led by investor Chris Hansen, is interested in bringing Jackson on board in an executive role if it wins approval for the deal, sources said.

Jackson is believed to be looking for a similar situation as Pat Riley has with the Miami Heat– oversee personnel moves and mentor a head coach. To land and keep Riley, the Heat gave him a deal that included an ownership stake in the franchise.

Jackson entertaining an offer to get back into coaching is one thing. To dive into a situation in need of as much rebuilding work as the Cavs require, however, seems like a longshot. All-Star Kyrie Irving is a promising young talent and the Cavaliers will have financial flexibility this summer, but they just don’t fit Jackson’s usual profile.

With a number of potential coaching vacancies this summer, and Jackson high on the wish list in each and every instance, it makes sense for the Cavaliers to be proactive in their pursuit of arguably the best coach in NBA history.

Whether or not that pursuit produces anything other than interesting headlines and lots of chatter remains to be seen.


Parker Puts Teeth Back In Spurs Defense

HANG TIME, Texas — The first inclination when you hear that Tony Parker will likely be back in the starting lineup tonight is to figure the Spurs’ offense will get a boost from their sparkplug point guard. He is, after all, their leading scorer, assist man and firecracker.

But the truth is that where Parker’s presence was felt most during the three weeks he was sidelined with a sprained left ankle was on defense. While our ace stat man John Schuhmann has noted that the Spurs have refocused in specific areas to get back to a top-three defensive ranking overall, the team has suffered at that end of the floor in his absence.

Look no further than a 136-106 thumping by Portland, a 107-83 loss at Minnesota (without Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard) and even allowing lowly Cleveland to cruise into San Antonio and make things far too interesting before losing 119-113.

As Schuhmann points out, the Spurs have concentrated more this season on contesting shots and that’s an area where Parker has shined, along with cutting off opponents’ penetration into the lane.

It was another good friend, the dapper Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News, who went into Parker’s individual numbers to show how critical he is to the defense.

He found that Parker’s minus 4.0 on/off total on defense (the amount of points the Spurs give up per 100 possessions when he’s on the court compared to off) is third-best on the Spurs, trailing Tiago Splitter (minus 6.8) and Leonard (minus 4.8) but ahead of Duncan (minus 3.5).

Also, opposing players register a 13.3 PER (15.0 is average) with a 43.5 effective field-goal percentage while matched up against Parker, according to 82games.com. For comparison’s sake, Memphis guard Tony Allen, widely considered one of the NBA’s top perimeter defenders, holds his opponents to a 13.6 PER on 51.6 eFG.

“Defensively, he’s been unnoticed, really, coach Gregg Popovich said while Parker was out. “But he’s done a hell of a job on that end of the floor guarding difficult players every night. His leadership has been very important to what we’ve done. I trust him the way I used to trust Avery (Johnson). Offensively, you guys have all seen it. So all three of those aspects of the game (defense, offense, leadership) have been apparent all year long.”

So while the Spurs will be happy to have Parker put some juice back into their offense tonight, it’s sinking his teeth back into the defense that will give them a real bite.

Feeling Lucky? Try 7 GMs With Decisions

HANG TIME, Texas — The clock ticks down, the trade deadline draws near and all 30 NBA general managers are burning up their phones with possibilities realistic and absurd.

Some need to make deals to solidify playoff teams, others simply can’t bear the thought of sitting still. As Thursday gets closer, here are seven GMs with big decisions to make:

Danny Ferry, Atlanta Hawks

Is it finally time to give up on the hope that Josh Smith can be more than a numbers-gatherer in Atlanta? Ferry, the first-year Hawks’ GM, wasted no time in moving out Joe Johnson’s big contract. Part of the decision was that J-Smoove would blossom without Iso-Joe taking up a big part of the offense. Instead he’s averaging 1.4 fewer points and one rebound less than a year ago, his efficiency rating is down from 21.14 to 19.90 and he’s shooting only 50 percent from the free-throw line. The sense is that it’s “just time.” Still, that doesn’t mean Ferry has to move him. He’s positioned the Hawks so that they could afford to keep Smith and still sign a pricey free agent next summer. But that won’t stop the likes of the Bucks, Suns, Celtics, Wizards and Sixers from making a run. The Rockets have long had eyes for Smith, but might be more inclined to wait to make their moves in free agency.

Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics

Despite their 8-1 record since Rajon Rondo’s season ended due to torn knee ligaments, it’s too hard to see the Celtics making a serious and deep playoff run on the aging legs of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The obvious move would be with the 36-year-old Garnett and making that long-rumored deal to the Clippers (Eric Bledsoe). The challenge is getting K.G. to waive the no-trade clause in his contract. Can Ainge appeal to Garnett’s own best interest to get another ring or his loyalty to the Celtics organization to help them start over? Even if Rondo’s knee injury isn’t as severe as first thought and he’s able to get back on the floor for the start of training camp, the rebuilding in Boston has to start sometime. It might as well be now.

Billy King, Brooklyn Nets

If King could know for sure that Deron Williams will shake off the injuries and inefficiency and return to the All-Star form he showed in Utah, then he’d be more inclined to sit back and put his feet up. Or maybe not in the realm of Mikhail Prokhorov. The Russian billionaire owner is willing to shell out big bucks, but also expects immediate results and does not handle mediocrity well. See Avery Johnson, who was fired with a 14-14 record, a Coach of the Month title pinned to his resume. The Nets will likely try to get Paul Millsap from the Jazz and could be in the running for the popular Josh Smith. Last year’s All-Rookie team member MarShon Brooks is on the block. Would Charlotte’s offer of Ben Gordon for Kris Humphries be enough? The Nets have been so inconsistent that with the possibility of a first-round bounce due to a bad matchup looming, you have to believe King won’t sit still.

Donnie Nelson, Dallas Mavericks

“The Bank of Cuban is open.” That was team owner Mark Cuban’s declaration last month, but what must be determined is in which direction the Mavericks are headed right now. They enter the post-All-Star stretch six games under .500 and 4 1/2 games out of the last playoff spot in the West. If the Mavs decide they’re better off reloading with a fully-recovered Dirk Nowitzki next season, they certainly have a good trade chip in Vince Carter, who’d be a wonderful addition to any playoff contender. He could also bring in future assets for Shawn Marion, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand.

Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets

You put him in this slot just because Morey lives with an itchy trigger finger and might be inclined to make a deal just because he can. But with the James Harden steal under his belt and the free agency hits on Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, the Rockets will probably strike only if it’s a chance at a home run. With the youngest team in the league, a position in the West playoff race and a payroll that could make them big, big players in free agency, next summer is probably when they’ll make their move. But Houston is now big-game hunting for talent to play with Harden. If a chance to scoop up a true All-Star comes their way, Morey won’t hesitate.

Mitch Kupchak, L.A. Lakers

It’s almost obligatory to put the Lakers on any potential trade deadline list, despite Kupchak saying publicly that he’s not at all interested in dealing Dwight Howard or breaking up his All-Star group of underachievers at this point. He can’t trade Pau Gasol as long as the possibility exists that Howard walks as a free agent next summer — which it does. Besides, the Lakers problems are not about needing more players but getting the ones they have to play every night with passion.

Dennis Lindsey, Utah Jazz

Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson? Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap? With the contracts of both of the frontcourt veterans expiring, it was assumed since Day One of this season that the rookie GM Lindsey would have to deal one of them by the deadline, if for no other reason than to make room and more playing time for Derrick Favors. It would seem to make sense, but only if the Jazz can get a bonafide star in return. That’s what the 30-24 team lacks right now. But there is no reason to make a deal just to make a deal. The future is based on a young core of Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. Millsap is the more likely one to go, but maybe only for another expiring contract in return. Salt Lake City is not a desired location for free agents. But as the effects of the new collective bargaining agreement are felt and big names teams try to avoid the increasingly punishing luxury tax, players will want to simply get paid. Don’t expect a panic move here.

Wall’s Return Puts Heat On Wittman

 

HANG TIME, Texas – The win over the defending champion Heat in the first week of December was an eye opener. Taking down the Thunder in the first week of January was no less impressive.

But if the goal of the Wizards is to provide more than a once-a-month shock to the NBA system, then the season begins tonight.

Point guard John Wall will make his season debut tonight against the Hawks after missing three months due to a stress injury in his left patella. While nobody is expecting to see the player that averaged 16.3 points. 8.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds in his first two seasons, just having the former No. 1 draft pick on the court is finally a lift for the club that is again foundering at the bottom with a 5-28 record, the worst in the league.

Wall is trying to keep a lid on expectations, as he told Michael Lee of the Washington Post:

“I figure the first couple games probably won’t be the best games,” Wall said after practicing for the third consecutive day without complications from his left knee.

“Just go out there and play my game,” he said. “Don’t do too much. I know that’s the main thing I’ve got to do for my first game back. Just let the game come to me and just try to help my team out.”

Wall also doesn’t expect to have a difficult adjustment to playing alongside several new teammates after sitting next to the Wizards coaching staff for nearly every game and observing their tendencies. His teammates have already marveled as his speed and decision-making, which has been sorely missed for a team has started five different point guards this season – A.J. Price, Shaun Livingston, Jordan Crawford, Shelvin Mack and Garrett Temple.

When asked if he felt any external or internal pressures with coming back, Wall quickly responded, “No pressure at all.”
The biggest challenge for him, Wall said, will be “getting my legs underneath me but just working the offense, being the point guard, finding my teammates and knowing guys’ sweet spots is pretty easy to me.”

Without Wall to run the show, the Wizards have been virtually clueless all season, unable to attack defenses and score. In one more season when Washington made significant changes to the lineup — Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, rookie Bradley Beal – they have clearly lacked a leader to pull it all together.

While the medical staff will have Wall operating under a limit on playing minutes as he works his way back into game shape, Wizards coach Randy Wittman says there will be no limits to what he asks of his franchise player in terms of leading his team.

“John is going to have the ball in his hands a lot,” Wittman said. “I don’t want to take any pressure off him. He hasn’t gotten any pressure yet this year. I want him to feel some pressure. John likes pressure.”

Of course, Wittman can only hope that Wall will relieve any pressure on his own situation, which has to be in the crosshairs of a season when Mike Brown, Avery Johnson and Scott Skiles have already been relieved of their head coaching jobs.

If there has been a reason that Wittman has been spared the same fate, it’s because he’s been coaching with one hand tied behind his back without Wall. Now that the Wizards’ main man is back in the lineup, the heat is on and the clock is ticking.