Posts Tagged ‘Bob Myers’

Morning Shootaround — August 8


VIDEO: Jerry Colangelo breaks down the roster for USA Basketball’s minicamp

Tempered expectations for Stanley Johnson | Connaughton’s a rookie with two-sport dreams | Thompson calls trade to Warriors ‘bittersweet’

NEWS OF THE MORNING

No. 1: Tempered expectations for Stanley Johnson — Any conversation about the rookies most ready to make an impact on their respective teams next season includes the name Stanley Johnson. The Detroit Pistons are counting on it. Johnson has the size, talent and based on what we saw from him in Summer League action the temperament to handle the rigors during his first season as a professional. But as always, the expectations for Johnson and many others in the celebrated Draft class of 2015 need to be tempered, writes Sean Corp in The Detroit Free Press

Pistons president and coach Stan Van Gundy is even talking about a willingness to start Johnson at either shooting guard or small forward, as he mentioned during an interview with Grantland’s Zach Lowe recently.

However, if history is any indication, expectations for Johnson should be tempered. Rookies struggle, it’s just a fact of NBA life. It’s not a criticism it is an inevitability. Even last year’s All-Stars struggled to find much playing time as rookies. DeMar Derozan (1,664 minutes), LaMarcus Aldridge (1,392) and Paul George (1,265) played sparingly and looked lost on the court much of the time. If Johnson manages to eclipse even that modest amount of playing time (about 18 minutes per game) he will be the exception and not the rule.

Over the past 10 years, NBA lottery picks average just 1,457 minutes in their first NBA season. And Johnson isn’t a typical NBA lottery pick. Less than a month past his 19th birthday at the time of the draft, Johnson will be one of the younger rookies of the past 10 years. Just 12 lottery picks played most of their rookie season as teenagers, averaging just 1,213 minutes. Expanding the range to teens selected at any point in the draft, the average playing time is just 1,050 minutes. Even if you limit the analysis to those players selected 8th overall, like Johnson was, the average playing time is 1,292 minutes.

But what of his current head coach? Here is where a little excitement might be permitted. Van Gundy known nothing but success before arriving in Detroit, and as a consequence he has limited experience with rookies.

During a full season, Van Gundy has coached just six rookies in his career, including three first-rounders. The most prolific, unsurprisingly, is Dwyane Wade. Wade was selected fifth overall in 2003 and played 2,126 minutes, finishing third in the rookie of the year voting. The next year, the Heat selected Dorell Wright out of high school (19th overall) and he played a total of 27 minutes. Van Gundy’s other first-round pick was Courtney Lee in 2008, and Johnson and Lee make for an interesting comparison.

Lee came out of Western Kentucky as a 6-foot-5 combo guard-forward who could shoot the lights out and defend from day one, filling a glaring defensive need in Orlando’s high-powered lineup. He ended up playing 1,939 minutes as a rookie. Johnson, meanwhile, is 6-foot-7, capable of playing multiple spots on the floor, and is expected to be able to defend from day one. This defensive ability, on a team desperate to create the defensive identity Van Gundy is known for, could be Johnson’s ticket to regular playing time.

Is it fair to expect him to play 1,900 minutes like Lee did? No. A combination of competition on the roster, youth, and the history of rookies in the NBA says expecting more than that from Johnson would be an unreasonable expectation. Kevin Durant and LeBron James might have looked like stars from day one, but only because they grew from stars to superstars. For everyone else, a rookie year looks something like what Johnson is likely to experience – irregular playing time, regular mistakes and an invaluable learning experience.

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Morning Shootaround: June 21


NEWS OF THE MORNING
Heat hot for Dragic | LeBron in a funk | No breaking up Warriors | Dealing in Detroit

No. 1: Miami to offer Dragic 5 years, $80 mllion — It won’t be a max deal, but Miami plans to turn up the heat early in the free agency period by offering point guard Goran Dragic $16 million per season to remain in South Florida as a key part of resurrecting the former champs. Marc Stein of ESPN.com says that the team will offer less than the allowable $100 million overall, because the Heat still have to deal with a new contract for franchise icon Dwyane Wade:

Sources told ESPN.com that the Heat are planning to offer Dragic a five-year deal in excess of $80 million to keep him in Miami after acquiring the 2014 All-NBA third-team selection from Phoenix on trade deadline day in February.

Only Miami can offer a five-year deal this summer to Dragic, who told local reporters after the season that he “had a great time” with the Heat despite missing out on the playoffs. He said on more than one occasion that “I want to come back.”

Heat president Pat Riley has likewise expressed confidence in Miami’s ability to retain him, saying at a season-ending media availability two months ago: “If he doesn’t sign, my ass will be in that seat [next to reporters] next year.”

A five-year maximum deal for Dragic would exceed $100 million but Miami also might find itself dealing with Dwyane Wade’s free agency one summer earlier than expected if Wade decides to bypass his $16.1 million player option for next season. The Heat also await a decision from Luol Deng about his plans to either invoke next season’s $10.2 million player option or opt for free agency.

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No. 2: LeBron still trying to deal with Finals loss — If only it were a case of James Brown, Sly Stone or George Clinton filling up the head of LeBron James. But when the four-time MVP says he’s “still in a little funk,” he’s not dancing. In a streamed testimonial on Bleacher Report’s “Uninterrupted,” James said he’s still trying to get over the 4-2 loss to the Warriors, but vows to keep the Cavaliers contending for championships in the years to come, according to Joe Vardon of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:

“Hopefully I can put our team in position once again to try to compete for a championship next year and year in and year out,” James said on Bleacher Report’s “Uninterrupted,” a series of streamed testimonials James takes part in as part of an undisclosed financial arrangement. “That’s my goal, and my inspiration hasn’t changed.”

James told the Northeast Ohio Media Group during the Finals he is “happy where I’m at” in Cleveland, and in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s Game 6 loss to the Golden State Warriors he reiterated his family was happy to be home.

James has a $21.57 million player option on the deal he signed when he returned to Cleveland last summer. He’ll likely decline the option for a new one-year contract worth roughly $22 million with a player option.

In James’ latest “Uninterrupted” video, in which he speaks while sitting in a barber’s chair getting a haircut, he said “being back home is everything that I dreamed of, everything that I thought about.

“Being back with these fans, being back with this community, just being back here and trying to bring joy to this city, which deserves it,” James said. “Bringing a sense of pride to this city, which deserves it. Giving this city something to talk about, which they deserve.”

Of the Finals, in which James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists but the Cavs’ lost 4-2, he said “it hurt to lose, and I’m still in a little funk right now, but I’m trying to work my way out of it.”

“You know, for a team that’s first getting together, in our first year to be able to reach the Finals, (I’m) not saying I’m happy with the results, but I’m proud of our guys,” James said. “Just the growth that they had from the first day we walked in the gym to the other day, us losing, I’m proud of the guys and what they was able to accomplish.”

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No. 3: Warriors want to stay together — Though league rules prevent him from talking in specifics, first-year general manager Bob Myers hinted that keeping free agent Draymond Green is the high priority, but bringing back most of the roster that won Golden State’s first championship in 40 years is the plan for next season. He spoke to Al Saracevic of the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Our hope is to keep the core together,” said Myers. “That is within our control.”

“Clearly, with the success we’ve had this season, the players have shown this group can win. High character. A lot of youth. They’ve been able to complement each other.”

Beyond Green, the Warriors have a few other questions to answer, but nothing too pressing. With the expected departure of Lee, a former All-Star whose minutes were curtailed drastically because of Green’s rise, the team will be looking for a backup power forward.

A key reserve, Leandro Barbosa, is an unrestricted free agent. Myers and the ownership group, led by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, will have to decide whether to re-sign the 12-year veteran or look for an upgrade.

“I think the league has shifted a little bit,” said Myers. “Even though it’s perceived we have a lot of shooting, we still could use more shooting, especially in the second unit.

“We could always use a shooter who can defend. That’s on the wish list of the entire league. Spacing the floor has become a major focus for all teams, as we saw in the playoffs and the Finals.”

The good news for Myers? His bosses have plenty of money, and they’re not afraid to spend it. Lacob and Guber have made it clear that success on the court is a priority.

“We want to be fiscally responsible. And we want to win,” said Myers. “Clearly, from ownership, it’s win first. It’s a good place to be. It gives you a great chance to be successful when the ultimate goal is winning.”

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No. 4: Pistons might be ready to deal pick — After trading for “stretch four” Ersan Ilyasova, whom coach Stan Van Gundy says will be in the starting lineup, the Pistons brought in a pair of forwards in Frank Kaminsky and Myles Turner for pre-draft workouts and Terry Foster of the Detroit News says that could be a sign that the team is getting ready to shop its No. 8 pick:

The Pistons sent more signals Saturday that they might be willing to trade away the eighth pick in Thursday’s NBA draft when they worked out big men Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin and Myles Turner of Texas.

Then again, perhaps Stan Van Gundy and his staff don’t want to leave any stone unturned. Both Kaminsky and Turner will be available at No. 8. And the Pistons appear to be set at power forward after obtaining from Milwaukee “Stretch Four” Ersan Ilyasova, who Van Gundy said would start the 2015-16 season for the Pistons.

If Van Gundy is interested in adding more depth at power forward, he can turn to either Kaminsky, the college basketball player of the year, or Turner. Both have similar games. They can hit perimeter shots and dip inside for buckets. Kaminsky’s major weakness is perimeter defense. And Turner must show more fluidity when he runs.

Both are 6-foot-11 and projected to go anywhere from 11th to 16th. They are competing for a better draft slot.

The Pistons are expected to select a small forward if they keep the eighth pick. There is also a chance they’ll trade up with the New York Knicks, who are looking to deal the fourth pick. If that happens it gives the Pistons a solid shot at Duke forward Justise Winslow or shooting guard Mario Hezonja of Croatia.

Regardless, whomever the Pistons select will be a premier perimeter shooter.

If the Pistons select Kaminsky or Turner it would put them in the market to sign a free agent small forward — perhaps former Piston Arron Afflalo. That becomes a dicey proposition because this has not been a big destination for free agents.

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Karl-Anthony Towns works out for Timberwolves and looks more and more like No. 1 pick … Greg Oden to take part in mini-camp with Mavericks … Doc Rivers’ mother dies in Illinois … Celtics legend Bill Russell enjoys his role as link to the past at the NBA Finals … Spain’s Rodriguez planning return to NBA … Lance Stephenson says he seeks to change his image with the Clippers.

Morning shootaround — June 20


VIDEO: Curry addresses fans at Warriors victory parade

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Sixers court doctor ‘Dream Team’ for Embiid | Lakers face limited choice at No. 2 | Did Warriors’ exuberance trump league memo? | Avery coulda been a contendah

No. 1: Sixers court doctor ‘Dream Team’ for Embiid — The Philadelphia 76ers have done so ding-dong-dandy well at drafting a basketball team with all their high picks lately that they apparently are branching into another field: medicine. The team’s front office is sparing no expense in rounding up the best possible sports physicians and orthopedists to examine the right foot of untested 7-foot center Joel Embiid. Keith Pompey of the Philadephia Inquirer wrote about the latest in Embiid’s unnerving foot plight:

76ers CEO Scott O’Neil said on the Breakfast on Broad show Friday that three more doctors will evaluate the latest setback in the healing of Joel Embiid’s right foot.

“We’re still waiting,” O’Neil said. “We have another three doctors to come see him. The nice thing about jobs like these – you can literally get the best experts in the world. All you have to do is call and they love to see us.”

He added that the franchise could get an answer about the 7-foot center’s future in “a couple of weeks.”

The team announced last Saturday night that Embiid had a setback in his recuperation. The 2014 first-round draft pick from Kansas missed what would have been his rookie season after undergoing surgery last June to repair a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot.

It is unknown if Embiid, 21, will have to undergo another surgery, which could sideline him for part of next season. The team is still gathering information, and nothing has been ruled out.

The Cameroonian big man is not expected to participate in the two NBA summers leagues the Sixers will participate in next month although O’Neil said his status is not known. It’s also not known how long he will be sidelined.

O’Neil confirmed that Embiid has been shut down from working out.

There’s a chance this injury will hinder Embiid’s career the way it has for other 7-footers. Like Embiid, Yao Ming suffered a stress fracture in a navicular bone in 2008 and again in 2009. That injury forced Yao to retire in 2011.

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No. 2: Lakers face limited choice at No. 2 — The Los Angeles Lakers appear to want no part of any “We’re No. 2! We’re No. 2!” chant, whether it pertains to their status as basketball tenants at Staples Center or to the spot in which they’re sitting for Thursday’s NBA Draft. They’re in the semi-awkward position of having to wait for the Minnesota Timberwolves to choose their man – most likely between Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns or Duke’s Jahlil Okafor – before getting their five minutes on the clock. And while 28 other teams would be more than accommodating to welcome Okafor into their fold, the sense that he’s being forced on them – the way a cheap magician forces a certain playing card when doing his parlor tricks – has the Lakers already feeling a little snubbed. After all, they’re the Lakers and Minnesota is the Timberwolves. And yet… As Mark Medina writes for the Los Angeles Daily News:

In less than a week, the Lakers will embark on an NBA draft that could significantly influence the pace of their massive rebuilding project. So with six days remaining before that date on June 25, the Lakers have scheduled numerous workouts in hopes for more clarity involving their No. 2, 27 and 34th picks.

The Lakers [were scheduled to] host a private workout for Duke center Jahlil Okafor on Friday afternoon at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo, marking the second individual workout Okafor has had wearing a purple and gold practice jersey. The Lakers also plan to host a private workout on Saturday both for Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell and for prospects that might be available at the No. 27 and 34th draft slots. The Lakers will then have private workouts next Monday and Wednesday just for prospects they would consider with the 27th and 34h picks.

The Lakers also held a second workout on Thursday for point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, though his session entailed training with prospects slated for the second round. On Monday, the Lakers invited Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis for an individual workout after seeing him train last weekend in Las Vegas.

The Lakers have also become increasingly doubtful they will have a workout for Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns. The Lakers believe their lack of progress with those efforts stem from most NBA mock drafts predicting the Minnesota Timberwolves will select with their No. 1 pick. But the Lakers will accommodate their workout schedule should Towns and his representatives express interest in a workout.

It isn’t likely this sort of stuff will buoy the Lakers’ hopes, a sighting by the Twins beat writer for MLB.com:

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No. 3: Did Warriors’ exuberance trump league memo? — A league directive is a league directive, right? When the NBA sends out an advisory to all its member teams to tread lightly when talking about restricted free agents – as ESPN and other outlets have reported – you’d expect that to be taken seriously and heeded. After all, there has been and can be a chilling effect to RFA players’ market value if prospective bidders are convinced their time is being wasted, thanks to the players’ most recent teams going big with the we’re-gonna-match rhetoric. The National Basketball Players Association doesn’t think that’s right and is said to be monitoring such talk, with the possibility of legal action against teams that engage in it. It’s not just some made-up problem, either, according to CBSSports.com‘s Matt Moore:

It’s a smart move by the NBPA. The comments generally fall inside two categories. One, to make a player feel loved and let fans know that they’re not going to let a key member of a team go, and two, to discourage teams from putting a bid in on a player knowing they’ll only be tying up their cap space while setting the bar of an offer for the player’s team to match.

In a broader sense, this speaks to a larger problem of the general lowdown underhandedness implicit with the restricted free agency device. A player is granted free agency at the end of his rookie contract, but he’s not actually free in the agent sense — he can negotiate with other teams, can sign offer sheets, but doesn’t actually control where he goes. New Orleans guard Eric Gordon very badly wanted to go to Phoenix several years ago, and the Suns’ training staff might have done wonders for his unreliable body. Despite public angst over the deal and a plea for the Pelicans to not match, New Orleans decided to keep the player they in essence traded Chris Paul for.

A more nefarious situation occurred without such a public stance in 2009. Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks –before he was the reclamation project that was waived by the Pistons and became an unlikely playoff contributor for Houston — was a restricted free agent in 2009. Teams knew that the Hawks would match any offer, though, and Smith just sat there on the free agency pile before eventually signing an offer sheet with the Grizzlies in the hopes Atlanta would let him go. They did not, and instead got Smith back on a bargain. Meanwhile, last summer the Suns pulled the same trick with Eric Bledsoe, forcing a nasty holdout that stretched on until August. Bledsoe eventually got the kind of big-money deal he was after, but it took the threat of the qualifying offer in order to force the Suns to move.

Banning public comments about a team’s determination to keep their restricted free agency star won’t stop word of a team’s intentions from getting around and impacting value. But it at least keeps it in the behind-curtains world of league rumors and provides a few more percentage points of leverage for a player as he and his agent negotiate a better position.

So then we get to Friday and the Golden State Warriors’ championship parade in downtown Oakland. Looks like somebody forgot about the memo:

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No. 4: Avery coulda been a contendah — Because Avery Johnson, former NBA point guard, one-time NBA champion (1999) and two-time head coach (Mavericks and Nets), is a pretty good self-promoter, one’s first response is to chalk his comments up to bluster. When he says he likely would have landed one of the four recent open coaching jobs if only he’d held off on moving into the college ranks to coach Alabama, it’s easy to think, “Yeah, and my Uncle Fred can say the same thing now that the jobs are all filled.” But Johnson, a New Orleans native who interviewed with that team before it hired Monty Williams in 2010, sounded pretty convincing when he talked with John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

”I know without a shadow of a doubt, that if I had waited, there would have been a high probabiliity I would have got an NBA job based upon the conversations my agent was having with some people,” Johnson said by telephone Thursday. ”But the main thing is that there is no turning back. I’m here at the University of Alabama and this is the right situation.”

Jonnson, 50, would not disclose what NBA teams his agent had exploratory conversations with.
The Pelicans were one of four teams, which included the Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls and the Denver Nuggets, that had coaching vacancies last month. However, all of those jobs have been filled now.

The Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry on May 30 to replace Monty Williams, who was fired after five seasons. Gentry will be formally introduced by the Pelicans on Monday afternoon. He took part in the Warriors’ parade celebration in Oakland, Calif., on Friday. The Warriors won their first NBA championship in 40 years on Tuesday night after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games in the NBA Finals.

Johnson is close friends with Pelicans executive vice president Mickey Loomis and he is a longtime friend of Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson.

”Sometimes change is hard,” Johnson said. ”But from what I’ve heard, Alvin did a nice job interviewing for the job. I think his experiences with the different head coaching jobs that he has had and assistant coaching jobs, he brings a wealth of experience to the franchise.”

Johnson said it is just a matter for the Pelicans to put the right pieces around star power forward Anthony Davis to win big in the Western Conference. [Davis] ended the season with the league’s highest player-efficiency rating at 30.8, which is the 11th highest for a single season in NBA history.

Davis also was a first-team All-NBA selection, finished fifth for the league’s MVP award and averaged 24.4 points and led the league in blocks with a 2.9 average during the regular season.
”I tell you what, his plays are going to work a whole lot better with Anthony Davis,” Johnson said.”I’m happy for Alvin.”

Johnson last coached in the NBA in 2012,when he was fired by the Brooklyn Nets after a 14-14 start.

Johnson was the NBA Coach of the Year in 2006 after leading the Dallas Mavericks to their first NBA Finals appearance but they lost to the Miami Heat. In almost seven seasons as an NBA coach, which included four seasons with the Mavericks starting in 2004, Johnson compiled a 440-254 record.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Melvin Hunt, the interim Denver Nuggets coach who won’t be returning under Mike Malone, has found a spot on Dallas coach Rick Carlisle‘s staff. … Portland guard Steve Blake has exercised his player option to stick with the team next season for a reported $2.1 million. Blazers fans still await decisions on Arron Afflalo (his, if he wants to be back for $7.3 million) and Chris Kaman (theirs, if they want him back for $5 million). … Taj Gibson‘s ankle surgery is going to sideline the Chicago Bulls backup big for an estimated four months. … If Steve Nash is a future Hall of Famer, so is Shawn Marion. Huh? That’s ESPN.com’s claim and they’re sticking to it. … Former GM Danny Ferry‘s buyout and exit from the Atlanta Hawks moved forward with approval of the team’s board. … J.R. Smith didn’t do enough for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals but he has done wonders for the “phunkeeduck.” Yes, the “phunkeeduck.”

Morning shootaround — May 27


VIDEO: Highlights from Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron seeking new Finals narrative | Did Shaq really threaten to kill Kobe? | Myers: Curry passed concussion protocol twice | Hawks have plenty to prove

No. 1: LeBron seeking new narrative with this Cavs team — The wait to return to the NBA Finals for the Cavaliers is over, and it seemed even longer than it was. LeBron James took the Cavs to the 2007 Finals, where they were swept by the Spurs and admittedly weren’t ready in any way to challenge for a championship. Then LeBron went to Miami three years later, won a pair of titles and left the Cavs in a rut. Have things changed much since then? Well, the Cavs will once again be the underdog in the Finals, as they were against the Spurs, but LeBron likes the latest version to offer a lot more resistance. Bud Shaw of the Northeast Ohio Media Group has more:

LeBron James understandably jumped into Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ arms that night in 2007, then climbed atop the scorer’s table. Austin Carr wept. Strangers hugged in the concourse.

Mike Brown stood at center court on a night much like the one that unfolded Tuesday at the Q, saying of the matchup with Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, “I’m in it to win it.”

This time, James was happy for sure, but also more subdued. David Blatt wasn’t nearly as bold as was Brown.

“We’re in Cleveland, nothing is easy here,” Blatt told TNT’s Ernie Johnson.

This time, though, the Cavs in it to win it is a narrative that might even be true.

They are 12-2 in the post season, winners of seven straight since James hit a corner buzzer beater in Game 4 against Chicago.

They swept a 60-win team in a series-clinching rout. They made the Hawks look like the Spurs made the Cavs look in 2007. As if they didn’t belong.

James was 22 when he vanquished the Pistons in a much tougher series. He’s 30 now. For five consecutive years, he’s treated the NBA Finals like a time share, showing up every June and twice putting up his feet as if he owned the place.

If it’s Golden State this time around, as we expect it will be, James isn’t going in early to visit wine country. This is happening sooner than he thought before the midseason makeover. But nothing about this is especially surprising.

Another title puts him halfway to Michael Jordan. More importantly — and I believe it is for him — a NBA title ends a half century drought in a city that once cursed him.

There are so many themes involved in what’s to come. Happy to be there isn’t one of them.

Good for James that he has a much better supporting cast, even without Kevin Love and with Kyrie Irving hobbled, though we suspect Irving will need to have two pretty good legs under him for the Cavs to win.

Against San Antonio, the Cavs scored 76, 92, 72 and 82 points. This Cavaliers’ team can score 10 different ways. (Eleven if it’s safe to now count the Tristan Thompson rebound, and stepback buzzer beater from 18 feet).


VIDEO: Go inside the huddle with the Cavs throughout their Game 4 win

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Morning Shootaround — March 1


VIDEO: Highlights of the seven Saturday night games

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Morris wants more fan support in Phoenix | Harden vs. LeBron for MVP argument? | Randy Wittman accepts accountability in Washington | Rondo back, coping in Dallas

No. 1: Morris wants more fan support in Phoenix — After his team set a franchise-record low for points in a half, and then provided relief for the rodeo road-weary Spurs, Suns forward Markieff Morris addressed the issue of support for the Suns. You could argue the Suns didn’t deserve much on Saturday when they were wiped out by San Antonio and really didn’t put up much of a fight all night. Also, keep in mind that Morris was perhaps speaking out of frustration, realizing the Suns’ playoff chances might be slipping away in the West. Still, he went on a measured rant, wondering why the building never seems noisy enough for the Suns. Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic was willing to listen:

“I don’t think we have a home-court advantage,” Markieff said. “It does not feel like a home-court advantage at all. Some games are going to be bad. You can’t win every game. That comes along with sports. Nobody wins games. We need the support. We need, as a team, to know that our fans are going to be behind us and I don’t feel like this year they’re behind us enough.

“I feel like we do have those genuine Suns fans but, for the most part, I feel like we had more San Antonio than Phoenix fans tonight.”

In the first Spurs visit of the season, Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver apologized to fans and offered refunds for a preseason game in which the Spurs did not play their stars. After this Spurs 101-74 drubbing included their stars, the fourth sellout crowd of the season received only advice.

“They don’t boo, but they don’t cheer that much, either,” Markieff said. “We feed off, for the most part, off the energy. I know we’re a lot better than that. I know Phoenix fans are a lot better than that. Like I said, we have a lot of genuine fans that cheers for us – the ones that are in the first row, in the second row, in the third row. Once you go up, you feel like people were just at the game, just watching.”

Markieff made a point to say the sentiment was not specific to Saturday night. The Suns are 17-13 at home this season with six of the home losses coming to losing teams.

“I speak for me and my teammates,” Markieff said. “It depends on who’s playing here. When we have the LeBrons and the D-Wades, we need to be heckling them. We need the fans to win games. We need the energy from them to win a lot of games, and we need that every night, not just certain nights.

“Every night is not going to be a great night. It’s going to happen. Stuff like that is going to happen. We expect more from them because I know they expect more from us.”

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No. 2: Harden vs. LeBron for MVP argument? — The MVP debate, heating up in recent weeks, will take a turn Sunday when the Cavs play the Rockets and more specifically, LeBron James shares the floor with James Harden. As you know, LeBron is a 4-time MVP winner, Harden is looking for his first, and has a solid chance. He leads the league in 40-point games (6) and 30-point games (25) and has the Rockets squarely in the hunt in the West despite missing Dwight Howard. In fact, an amusing moment happened at the Sloan analytics conference over the weekend when Rockets GM Daryl Morey sat on a panel with Warriors GM Bob Myers had an exchange when asked their thoughts on the MVP race. Morey said Harden; Myers noted that Steph Curry and the Warriors have a better record and are 4-0 against the Rockets. Also on the panel was agent Arn Tellum, who chimed in for his client: “Russ Westbrook is better than both of them.” Anyway, Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk had this:

“Take James Harden off our team, and we’re nowhere,” Morey said.

Fodder for Mark Cuban? Yes.

True? To a degree. Harden has successfully carried a heavy load with Dwight Howard in and out of the lineup due to injury. Houston outscores opponents by 6.2 points per 100 possessions when Harden plays and get outscored by 3.2 points per 100 possessions when he sits.

Of course, Morey has long admired Harden, trading for him in 2012. That deal has been revisited countless times with the Thunder grading out poorly in hindsight – despite how reasonable the deal seemed at the time.

But perhaps Oklahoma City deserves criticism for negotiating poorly, given how badly Morey says he wanted Harden.

“We basically told the owner, ‘We should just give them everything. Like, literally, every possible thing that isn’t bolted down with the Rockets should be traded,’” Morey said.

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No. 3:  Randy Wittman accepts accountability in Washingtonn — The Wizards have had better weeks and months, but at least Saturday was a better day — barely. They slipped past the Pistons and in the process brought themselves some relief from a 6-game slide and a pair of embarrassing losses to a pair of 12-win teams. The good news is Bradley Beal returned from his injury and so did Paul Pierce. No disrespect to Pierce, but the Wizards missed Beal the most. They don’t have a solid backup at his two-guard spot and as a result, John Wall forced too many shots from distance, the kind he doesn’t usually make. The Wizards scored 60 points in the first half against the Pistons and shot 55 percent. Still, they’ve got a long way to go to match the mojo they had early in the season. And if they don’t, well, plenty of speculation will surround coach Randy Wittman, because this team was expected, by management, to take a considerable step in the East. The playoffs will tell. Anyway, Wittman acknowledged the Wizards have been underperforming. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post had this from the coach …

“First and foremost, I’m the leader of this, of the group, and I’ve got to do a better job,” Wittman said. “I’m not doing a good enough job of putting guys in position to succeed better, instilling the confidence in these guys to go out and play. It starts with me. . . . I’ve got to do a better job, obviously, of getting our guys through tough times. That’s my job.”

Beal and Pierce provided what the Wizards’ offense was sorely lacking — dynamic play on the wing. Both players spread the floor with three-point shooting and attacked seams off the dribble, areas that were glaring liabilities during their previous two losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers.

Their imprint was evident in the first half: The Wizards scored 60 points, shot 55.8 percent from the field and made six three-pointers. Washington played with a sense of confidence and freedom not apparent during much of their rut as Wittman incorporated rotation adjustments. In addition to having Beal play with the second unit, which he often did before his eight-game absence, Wittman added Pierce to the lineup.

“We came out as good as we’ve come out both defensively and offensively,” Wittman said. “Again, it starts with me, and I have to figure it out. I can’t explain to you how you play one half and then as soon as a team makes any kind of run we stop playing. That’s what we do — we stop playing. I have to figure out how to help the guys overcome that.

***

No. 4: Rondo back, coping in Dallas — OK, so it’s over, the Rajon Rondo snit with coach Rick Carlisle. Where do we go from here? As Rondo made his way back into the lineup after a 1-game suspension due to conduct detrimental to Carlisle, both the coach and player have had discussions on how to be on the same page philosophically. Rondo has struggled since arriving from the Celtics and feels the system might need tweaking to his liking. Carlisle seems agreeable to that, but only if it’s in the best interest of the Mavericks, and not just one player. Hey, they’re making an honest attempt here! Tim McMahon of ESPN Dallas offers up this:

“That’s just the way it is,” Rondo said almost an hour after the Brooklyn Nets handed the Dallas Mavericks a 104-94 loss, having wrapped up an extended postgame shooting session. “That’s the system. I’m still learning, and I’ll find a way.”

Of course, it’s Carlisle’s job to help Rondo find a way. That’s why they’ve spent hours talking over the past four days. Some of the plays Carlisle called proved his willingness to adjust, attempting to make the Mavs’ midseason blockbuster-trade acquisition comfortable.

Case in point: Dallas repeatedly ran sets designed to run the offense through Rondo on the block, a new wrinkle for these Mavs but old hat for the four-time All-Star point guard.

“I think he’s mixed some stuff up as far as what worked for me in Boston a couple of years back when we had a great run,” Rondo said. “Just put the ball in my hands in different situations, not just pounding up top. Getting in the post and making plays for my teammates and for myself.”

The results weren’t great in Rondo’s return. He posted a so-so statistical line — eight points on 4-of-10 shooting, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 turnovers — but the Mavs were minus-22 in the 27:43 Rondo was on the floor.

In fairness, Rondo and the Mavs were forced to play without three of their regular starters. Center Tyson Chandler (hip) and small forward Chandler Parsons (ankle) wore sport coats and sat on the bench while nursing injuries. Shooting guard Monta Ellis (4-of-16 shooting) just didn’t show up.

But perhaps the Mavs’ biggest issue is figuring out how to make the square peg that is Rondo fit into the round hole that is the point guard’s role in Carlisle’s system.

If Carlisle had his way, the Mavs would never have to call a play. They’d just play free-flowing offense at all times. But that doesn’t work with Rondo, whose shooting woes allow defenses to dare him to beat them from the perimeter, screwing up the spacing for everybody else.

So the Mavs must adjust their offensive scheme to mask Rondo’s weaknesses and maximize his strengths.

“We’re in a situation where his abilities mesh with our team a certain way, and there is more play-calling when he’s on the floor because that’s been the most successful way for us to play offensively,” Carlisle said earlier this week. “He and I early on talked a lot about the right plays to call and the right tempo to play at and things like that, and we got away from it in recent games. We’ve got to get back to it. That’s on both of us.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Russell Westbrook underwent surgery on his right cheek and will not play Sunday … Bismack Byiombo of the Hornets is a good dude, taking the homeless to lunch… Hassan Whiteside grabbed 24 rebounds Saturday and the Heat still lost to a Hawks team resting three starters …

Kerr finally gets his chance with Curry


VIDEO: The NBA TV crew analyzes the transition of Steve Kerr

OAKLAND — They have joked about it for months now, Steve Kerr and Bob Myers, Kerr and Larry Riley, and Kerr and Stephen Curry, over the phone and in person, through the years and over international borders in an outcome so strange it comes with a laugh track.

A little more than five years later, everyone has unexpectedly met here, Kerr as the new Warriors coach, Myers as the general manager and primary recipient of what didn’t happen, Curry as the All-Star point guard, and with Riley still part of the organization as director of scouting. Roles have changed. Lives have changed.

One thing has remained true, though: Kerr has never been so happy to lose.

He was the Suns general manager in June 2009 and wanted Curry in the draft. Badly. There was phone call after phone call between Kerr and Riley, his Warriors counterpart. There were internal conversations among Phoenix management about the risk of trading 26-year-old Amar’e Stoudemire coming off three consecutive seasons of at least 20 points and eight rebounds — and the risk of keeping Stoudemire with free agency a year away and growing health concerns.

The Warriors were very interested, intrigued by the chance to get the known of a proven power forward over the uncertainty of a scoring point guard from mid-major Davidson. They also really liked Curry and, in fact, doubted he would be on the board when Riley picked seventh. Arizona’s Jordan Hill was the fallback, probably for both sides, for the Suns if a deal had been arranged and for Golden State to keep if no deal was in place.

It got close, but never imminent. The Warriors were not going to trade for Stoudemire unless he at least showed strong likelihood of re-signing as a free agent the next summer, and Riley had yet to so much as ask the Suns for permission to have the conversation. And if Golden State and Stoudemire did talk, the result would have been the same. He was not going to commit to anything at that point other than showing up, playing hard and keeping an open mind about the future, an understandable stance that almost certainly would have ended the talks bouncing between Phoenix and Oakland.

Plus, once Blake Griffin (Clippers), Hasheem Thabeet (Grizzlies), James Harden (Thunder) and Tyreke Evans (Kings) were picked and the Timberwolves followed with the infamous Ricky RubioJonny Flynn double dip of points guards at five and six, Curry was still available at seven. Riley’s stance hardened. No longer was it just weighing acquiring Stoudemire as a possible one-season rental while also sending out Andris Biedrins and big salaries as cap balast, it was believing Curry would be special. Riley would be demoted to director of scouting and replaced by Myers in 2012, but also secure a positive place in Golden State history by not biting on the tantalizing lure of an athletic power forward that put up numbers.

The Warriors took Curry seventh and he turned into a star. The Suns kept Stoudemire one more season and 23.1 points and 8.9 rebounds and played it right to not get into a bidding war with the Knicks in 2010 free agency.

And….

The Warriors ended up hiring Kerr to coach. To coach the entire roster, obviously, but with Curry as the best player and one of the main attractions of choosing Golden State over the option of working for long-time friend and coaching mentor Phil Jackson with the Knicks.

How life could be different if Kerr got his wish in 2009.

“I may not be here,” he said.

It was one of the first things they talked about after Kerr was hired in May, when he was home near San Diego and called Curry on a postseason golf outing in Mexico. Kerr couldn’t bring him to Phoenix, the new coach told his point guard, so Kerr would come to Curry.

“He’s said a couple times, ‘You know, I really wanted him,’ ” said Myers, an agent in 2009. “Obviously any coach that has the opportunity to coach this team, that’s one of the first things mentioned, if not the first, which is, ‘I get an opportunity to coach that guy.’ And not just his talent on the floor, but who he is as a person. It makes perfect sense to me. I’d want to coach him too if I was a coach. We’ve joked around about that.”

Because they can now. Now that Kerr finally has Curry on his side.

Myers solidifies his Warriors future

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Since leaving player agency and joining the Warriors three years ago, Bob Myers has headed a fast rise in Oakland.

It happened fast. That’s the thing.

Agent to general manager-in-waiting to actual GM to indisputably part of the solution in Golden State. Zero to 60 in about three years. Maybe not officially zero, since the experience as a leading agent is a rolling start, but Bob Myers had never lived the front office life before, and certainly not one as unique as the Warriors with so many voices coming at him from different directions.

About the only certainty when he went to work for his hometown team as assistant general manager in 2011 was that Myers would eventually, and probably quickly, become head of basketball operations, because no way he comes down from a lofty position in the agent game to serve as an aide. There was no chance to predict this with any confidence, though, the way a management newbie turned no cap space and limited trade assets into Andre Iguodala, how Myers did the Stephen Curry extension at what turned out to be an incredible bargain, how the Warriors got prime coaching target Steve Kerr away from Phil Jackson and the Knicks, and how the draft record will look good if Harrison Barnes is more 2012-13 than 2013-14 and Festus Ezeli recovers from knee surgery.

By the summer of 2014, the turnaround has led all the way to where general manager is one of the positions the Warriors don’t have to worry about. Myers has proven himself in pressure situations, the window of opportunity is still open after the disappointing first-round exit last season, upper management is relieved to be away from the strained relationship with previous coach Mark Jackson, and now the team and Myers have agreed on a three-year contract.

The new deal, first reported last week by Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group, is on top of the 2014-15 remaining on the original package, putting Myers under contract through 2017-18. The Warriors are in an uncertain place on the court as Kerr takes over with no coaching experience and needing to deliver immediate results, good enough to project to somewhere around the middle of the Western Conference but unproven enough for reasonable doubts about a long playoff run, there is transition off the court with the planned arena construction and move into San Francisco, the salary cap has to be managed to take on another big salary with Klay Thompson a season away from free agency, but the front office is stabilized.

Relatively speaking, at least. Owner Joe Lacob is very involved. Assistant general manager Travis Schlenk, well regarded as a future GM somewhere, has a voice. Assistant general manager Kirk Lacob, son of Joe, has a voice. Jerry West, untitled in basketball ops but a minority owner/member of the executive board, does not know how to hang back, wanting to challenge people and loving others challenging his ideas just as much. Even the new coach, Kerr, is a former GM who will speak up, lobbying hard to keep Thompson and David Lee rather than trading for Kevin Love.

The mega-decisions — whether to include Thompson in the deal to get Love from the Timberwolves, whether to go four years and $48 million for Iguodala and three years and $36 million on an Andrew Bogut extension within about four months — come down to Lacob and Myers. But that’s still a lot of volume in one place. That’s still a very crowded war room when communication is not one of the GM’s strengths.

Still, the understated Myers kept the Warriors together emotionally last season as a counterbalance to an owner whose passion is regularly on display, with Jackson’s future in play for several months, when an assistant coach was fired for bugging colleagues’ conversations and another assistant demoted, not to mention dealing with the Donald Sterling saga in the first round against the Clippers that Golden State players and coaches said affected them too. That the Warriors got to a Game 7 despite the absence of Bogut says a lot about Jackson and the risk Lacob and Myers took in firing him. But there was also a composure in difficult situations, and that’s Myers too.

After all of one season as an apprentice and two as the GM, he has solidified himself as part of the long term, a proven commodity at age 39. Myers is no longer one of the questions, even more now that the potential contract issue is off the table with the extension. It happened fast.

Morning Shootaround — May 7



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played May 6

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Nets get rude welcome to the big time | Clippers keeping their eyes on the prize | Pressures shift to Warriors’ ownership and front office | Spurs fighting against their own history

No. 1: Welcome to the big show Brooklyn, your Nets aren’t dealing with the Raptors anymore: We tried to warn you not to count on that 4-0 regular season record against the Miami Heat. This is the playoffs. And whatever happened before now is history. It’s what you do now that counts. The time off didn’t bother the Heat. If anything, it only served to refocus their attention on that Nets team that had their number during the regular season. The victim of those eight days spent going over every detail wore black Tuesday night at American Airlines Arena. And as Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post points out, it’s a whole new world:

So this is what the varsity looks like: a little bit faster, a little bit quicker, a little bit smarter, a little bit savvier. And a whole lot better. Intellectually, you knew that.

Instinctively, the Nets knew that. But it’s still not the same as seeing it up close, in person, in living color.

“We have to put up more resistance,” Paul Pierce said.

“We have to elevate,” Shaun Livingston said, “because they’re going to force you to elevate, or else.”

“They’re the defending champions,” Jason Kidd said. “They’re going to be at a high level. You have to find a way to match it.”

None of this came as a surprise to the Nets, of course, certainly not to the grizzled and the graybeards among them who have been through this all before with the Heat. Still, it’s one thing to say things properly — We swept the season series and it means nothing! They’ve been off for a week but we don’t expect them to be rusty! — and quite something else to stand your ground in the face of a full frontal Heat attack.

And not wind up flatter than Kevin Bacon in “Animal House.”

“They’re the ones that kept attacking for 48 minutes,” Kidd said. “We didn’t.”

The Nets didn’t lose the series Tuesday night, and there’s little chance any of the key participants will be confused on the matter. The Nets came to these Eastern Conference semifinals in full grind mode anyway, snarling their way through the seven-game slog with Toronto, and the grinder’s mantra is this: Get a split. Game 1, Game 2, doesn’t matter, counts the same.

(more…)

Morning Shootaround — Jan. 30


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Jan. 29

NEWS OF THE MORNING

OKC’s adjustment pays off vs. Heat | Rivers lobbying for Jordan to be an All-Star | Myers dishes on Warriors’ rebuild

No. 1: OKC’s halftime adjustment proves crucial vs. Miami — In Wednesday night’s much-anticipated Thunder-Heat game from south Florida, OKC found itself down 30-21 after the first quarter. At one point, Miami’s first-half lead swelled to 18 points, but the Thunder rallied and by halftime had a 55-50 lead. How OKC maintained that lead in the second half en route to a 112-95 rout of Miami had a lot to do with coach Scott Brooks‘ decision to sit starting center Kendrick Perkins in the second half and insert Perry Jones, thus giving OKC a quicker (if smaller) lineup that caused Miami fits, writes our own Steve Aschburner:

So, set aside the MVP debate for a while, at least until these teams meet again Feb. 20 in Oklahoma City. Focus a little on the COY — Coach of the Year — because the Thunder’s Scott Brooks accounted for the biggest highlight move of the night.

Understand that Brooks hasn’t had his preferred starting lineup for a while, not with All-Star guard Russell Westbrook (right knee meniscus surgery) sidelined since Christmas. But the one he started Wednesday has been his next-best option, with a record now (15-5) that’s nearly as good as OKC’s ‘A’ team (17-2).

So, coming out of halftime, Brooks pulled a lineup from column C. He sat down center Kendrick Perkins and inserted backup forward Perry Jones. Jones is listed at 6-foot-11 but he’s a quarter-horse compared to Perkins’ Clydesdale and the switch effectively rendered the Thunder small. Serge Ibaka was the default center, Durant the ersatz power forward.

It worked wonders. OKC outscored the two-time defending champions 36-25 in the third quarter. A 91-75 lead ballooned to its max with 8:45 left when the Thunder opened the fourth on a 10-1 run. Miami fans might have learned their lesson in The Finals about leaving early when things look bleak but this time, there really was little reason to stay.

So Perkins/bad, small ball/good was plain to see on this night. But Brooks dared to tinker with a mostly pat hand (Perkins has started all but two games), in a properly ballyhooed game, in front of an ESPN audience. He went with Jones and left him in for all 24 minutes of the second half. He made sure the Thunder used their mobility especially to get back on defense, choking off any Miami notions of transition buckets (OKC won that battle, getting 20 fast-break points to the Heat’s eight).

And he sold it on in real time, with nary a pout – who can tell with Stoneface Perk anyway? – nor a ripple.

“I thought to win this game, we had to make a decision,” Brooks said. “It’s just this game. It’s not something we have to do all the time. Perk brings so much to us. We’re not going to make it a small lineup/big lineup [issue]. ‘We’ won the game. It’s always been about ‘us.’ We have a bunch of guys who are always about ‘team’ and tonight was a prime example of that.”


VIDEO:
OKC fans watch, celebrate the Thunder’s win in Miami

***

No. 3: Rivers pushing hard for Jordan to make All-Star team — This time of year, many coaches will lobby other coaches within their  conference to vote for a player as an All-Star reserve. The general thought, though, is that this happens during pregame conversations or informal talks amongst NBA coaches. That’s one level of lobbying. Then there’s what Clippers coach Doc Rivers is apparently doing to get center DeAndre Jordan to the All-Star Game. ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Arash Markazi has more on Rivers’ lobbying efforts:

Before the season began, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said his team had a “big three”: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.Rivers now would like to see his big three in New Orleans for the NBA All-Star Game and has gone as far as lobbying his fellow Western Conference coaches to include Jordan in their vote to make the team as a reserve.

“I got a great response,” Rivers said. “But that’s why you go under a curtain when you’re stumping and they vote real because [they say], ‘Yeah, I’m going to vote for him,’ and then they shift that other lever.”

Rivers said many of the coaches he called said they would vote for Jordan while others said they liked him without saying whether they would include him.

“Yeah,” Rivers said when asked whether he was hopeful Jordan would be named an All-Star. “But it’s a lot of guys at that position.”

Jordan currently is leading the NBA in field goal percentage at .645 and rebounding with a 13.9 per-game average, and is fourth in blocked shots with 2.38 per game. He also is averaging a career-high 9.5 points per game.

“I’m looking forward to [the announcement]; whatever the coaches vote, I’m going to respect it,” said Jordan, who had 14 points and 17 rebounds against the Washington Wizards in a 110-103 win Wednesday night. “If I make it, I make it and I’ll be really excited, but if not, it’s another chip I can add on my shoulder and just continue to keep playing like I’m playing this season.”


VIDEO: Doc Rivers talks about L.A.’s win on Wednesday over the Wizards

***

No. 3: Warriors GM dishes on building a contenderJust two seasons ago, Golden State was a 23-win team in the midst of what would become its fifth straight season without the playoffs. Much has changed since then, what with last season’s run to the Western Conference semifinals and this season contender for the Pacific Division crown. BasketballInsiders.com’s Nate Duncan caught up with Warriors GM Bob Myers, who talked in detail about crafting a long-term plan to make Golden State relevant again:

You talked about the timeline. When you came on in roughly early 2011 and then going into that summer and after the lockout, what did you perceive this team’s timeline for contention to be at that point?

Myers: Well what’s left from when I started is our two players, David Lee and Steph Curry. So of the 13 or 14 guys three years ago, we’ve kept two. So it’s a total overhaul of the entire roster, whether it’s through draft, trade or free agency. We have I would say, right now 13 new players in two years, which is a big turnover. Ideally you’d like to have more continuity, but we weren’t having success with the roster that year, obviously. We did believe last year, we hoped we put together a team that could make the playoffs. So our goal this year, last year it was to make the playoffs, this year was to make a good showing in the playoffs, and maybe next year it’s more than that. But we try to be realistic about where we are, we want to go beyond the goal of last year, which was just making the playoffs, and this year maybe advance in the playoffs. Maybe advance further than we did last year. So you’re always trying to build. A lot of things factor into your success in the postseason. We do our best in the front office and as an organization to put together the most talented team, and trust in our coaching staff to develop the players we give them. And then we go from there, and see what happens.

In 2011 you’re 36-46 and there’s this sort of truth, we can debate how truthful that actually is, that you kind of don’t want to be in the middle, that that’s the worst place to be. Was there any thought that you might have to bottom out a little bit to improve in that 2011 timeframe?

Myers: Well, the goal was to upgrade our talent from that team, that was the goal all along. We didn’t have a ton of assets to deal via trade. One of our assets, who happened to be our best player at the time, was Monta Ellis. One of the philosophies of the organization was to get bigger. We really wanted to try and be big. This organization has been small for so long and has had some success in that way, but from ownership on down, we feel like size is imperative to compete consistently in the NBA. So we had an opportunity to trade a guard for a center, and I think those opportunities are rare, and we took advantage of it. And Bogut happened to be hurt at the time. I’m not sure we could have got him if he was healthy. If he was healthy that would have been fine, maybe that would have allowed us to make a push towards the playoffs. But the fact that he was hurt allowed us to see what the team was with a lot of our young assets. Every day we come to work, we’re trying to find ways to improve our roster. Whether that’s through current assets or future assets or developing organically through the players we have here. Every day we want to leave work a little bit better than when we came in.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: For the second time this season, Evan Turner hit a game-winning buzzer-beater … Historically, the Jazz don’t do so hot on the nights they retire jerseys … Ex-Mavs coach  Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says, like it or not, the “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy is part of the NBA now

ICYMI(s) of The Night: There were two standout breakaway dunks last night, so it was hard for us to pick just one. Which one was better: Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s or Blake Griffin‘s? …:


VIDEO: Giannis Antetokounmpo finishes strong vs. Phoenix


VIDEO: Blake Griffin takes flight on a breakaway jam

Point Of Origins For Cavaliers, Warriors




VIDEO: Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving waged an intense point guard battle Sunday night

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Random games like Sunday night’s Golden State Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers matchup need to come with a disclaimer:

“Objects on the screen might appear to be similar but most certainly are not” 

An overtime game led by potential superstar young point guards that are the keys to their respective rebuilding projects — Stephen Curry for Golden State and Kyrie Irving for Cleveland — was as close as it gets. But there’s a fork in the road dividing these two franchises right now.

The Warriors have won a season-high five straight games (tying last season’s season-high) and finally appear to be back on the track many (myself included) predicted for them before the season began. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have lost five straight and continue a twisted spiral into the Eastern Conference abyss, a voyage fraught with solid decisions gone awry (the Andrew Bynum experiment) and missed opportunities at nearly every stop along the way.

While the Warriors have been mostly praised for all that’s gone well — and rightfully so — the Cavaliers have somehow escaped the discerning eye of many due to what I call the LeBron James Left ‘Em Syndrome.

But how many swings and misses do the Cavaliers get? How long will they be allowed to use that as cover for a failure to get it together on and off the court?

From owner Dan Gilbert and his declaration that the Cavs would win a title before LeBron would in Miami (completely misguided when initially uttered and even more foolish now that the Heat have been to The Finals three straight years and won two titles) to repeated misfires in the Draft (Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett) and coaching hires (Byron Scott and perhaps Mike Brown the second time around … the jury is still out), it’s been one tire fire after another.

At a time when playoff positions from three to eight are wide open in the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers’ performance is excruciatingly painful. Not only has there reportedly been friction between Irving and both Waiters and Bynum, now the former Lakers’ and Sixers’ big man has basically been exiled (with pay) by the Cavs until they can either figure out what to do with him or pawn him off on someone else.

The repeated stumbles on the court during their current tailspin only magnify the mistakes made off the court by general manager Chris Grant and his staff. You have to wonder if they are learning from all of these mistakes or not.

“I feel like we’re close,” Brown told the Plain Dealer after the loss to the Warriors. “Obviously, these losses bother our guys, and they bother them in the right way. But we have to stay at it. All these experiences are great for us to go through, you just hope you can come out on the winning end on most of them. I’ve got to give my guys credit because they’re competing. I’ve just got to try to keep helping them at the end of games.”

While the Cavaliers continue to struggle and continue to try to “figure it out,” the Warriors are moving on from early season injuries and transitions for guys like Andre Iguodala, and finally grooving a bit. The work done by the Warriors’ front office, led by the totally understated and completely underrated Bob Myers, has been splendid.

They’ve been aggressive in the Draft, with trades and in free agency. They’ve cashed in with the likes of Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli comprising a core group that should be the envy of rebuilding outfits from coast to coast. They’ve battled through injuries to their stars to continue their ascent.

Warriors coach Mark Jackson, a risky hire when he was plucked from his analyst seat at ESPN and ABC without any coaching experience, has developed nicely along with his team (eat your heart out, Brooklyn). They’re building something that is more than just a one-time, flash in the playoff pan.

Much of it has to do with Curry, his game and his personality. He’s become a point guard in every sense of the word. When you start there and build properly around a player like that, the process runs much more smoothly.

The Warriors have pulled this off not only by rebuilding a roster, but rebuilding a culture and fueling it with tangible results. It’s a blueprint the Cavaliers would be wise to sneak a peek at as they continue to try to “figure it out.”