Posts Tagged ‘Bradley Beal’

Morning shootaround — Nov. 21

VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from Friday’s action

Beal could be back | Porzingis impresses | Karasev apologizes | Warriors need faster starts

No. 1: Beal feels ready to return — The Wizards have won two straight games, but it never hurts to get the key cog in your offense back into the lineup. That could happen Saturday in Detroit with Bradley Beal ready to get back in action. The Wizards’ leading scorer has been out for two weeks with a should injury, but told Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post that he’s feeling no pain:

“I want to play. I had a good practice today,” Beal said. “I just have to see how I recoup tomorrow and go through shoot-around and see how I feel before the game and go from there.

Beal, Washington’s leading scorer, hasn’t played in nearly two weeks, but has missed just three games because of the Wizards’ inactive schedule. The team called the ailment a shoulder contusion but he contended that the injury also included muscle tightness in his neck and back. He said the discomfort lingered.

“I could be just sitting here and it’d be throbbing and hurting and I couldn’t move,” said Beal, who has never dealt with shoulder troubles before. “So it was a lot worse than people just saying it was a bruised shoulder. I think I’m tougher than that.”


No. 2: Nowitzki calls Porzingis the real thing — Over the past two decades there have been plenty European imports who were labeled the next best thing since Dirk Nowitzki came to the NBA from Germany. Just a few years back, the Knicks themselves had their month of fantasy from American home-grown Jeremy Lin. So while it may be tempting to say that the early excitement around Kristaps Porzingis should be tempered, none other than Nowitzki himself told Marc Stein of that the Knicks rookie is legit:

The greatest European import of them all, when asked this week by for his initial impressions of the Latvian, didn’t hesitate.
“He is for real,” Nowitzki said.

Dare I say Dirk would know. In January 1999, when the NBA’s first-ever lockout abruptly ended, Nowitzki had to suddenly make the leap from mysterious European prospect to frontcourt starter in the best league in the world. The same leap Porzingis is making as we speak.

As well as anyone you could consult, Nowitzki understands how broad of a jump it is.

In one of the more memorable stories of my 20-odd years on the NBA beat, then-Mavericks coach Don Nelson told me for a piece in The Dallas Morning News that he expected Nowitzki to win NBA Rookie of the Year honors. Which was great for the newspaper and a terrible disservice to the skinny 20-year-old kid who had to shoulder the weight of such an audacious forecast.

The transition from the thoroughly unknown DJK Wurzburg X-Rays of the German Bundesliga to the moribund Mavericks of the rugged Western Conference proved to be so bumpy that Nowitzki would confess years later that he gave serious thought to going back to Europe for Year 2.

So if you don’t want to listen to windbags like me try to convince you that Zinger’s start is legitimately special, perhaps you’ll be interested in Nowitzki’s take.

Says Dirk: “He is long. He is athletic. He is tough. He’s got a touch. He can put it on the floor.

“He is for real,” Nowitzki repeats. “Sky’s the limit.”


No. 3:Nets’ Karasev doesn’t want out — We all know how it is with family. Sometimes you want to hug them and sometimes you feel like you want to choke them. Nets’ swingman Sergey Karasev was in full retreat and apology mode after his father complained about lack of playing time and said his son was looking into a trade away from coach Lionel Hollins. The younger Karasev told Brian Lewis of the New York Post that Dad was speaking out of turn and he’s committed to the Nets:

“My dad, he’s my biggest fan, so he has his own opinion. I can’t control what he says to the press. A lot of people want that I play, especially back home in Russia, so they have their own opinion,’’ Karasev said. “I’m with the Nets. I love this organization, I like Coach Hollins, so I just keep working hard. I’m just with this team right now. All my focus, all my mind is to win the game. That’s why I’m here.’’

“I talked with [my father] and he said, ‘Yeah, I know, I apologize.’ But … that’s his opinion. I can’t control this. He can say whatever he thinks. That’s not what I’m thinking. We are like thinking different directions.’’
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Which is something Hollins — father of several basketball-playing children himself — understood. He brushed the comments off.

“Put it this way: Sergey’s father is a father. I’m a father. I had sons that played basketball. I had a daughter that played basketball. We all want our kids to be first position,’’ Hollins said. “So he has his opinion, and I understand where he’s coming from as a father. But it’s just that: his opinion.’’

The 22-year-old Karasev also spoke with Hollins several days ago about what he needed to do to earn more playing time.

“[Hollins] said I need to be more aggressive on the court and that’s what I try to do right now. I try to work hard every day. I work on my conditioning because … .you need to be in shape every day to be ready, because that’s why you have 15 players on the roster,’’ Karasev said. “I talked with him, and he said he likes how I worked the last practices, so I think I go in the right direction.’’


No. 4:Walton wants faster starts for champs — Admittedly, it might be quibbling. Like finding flaws in the Mona Lisa or telling Kate Upton she should stand up straight. But champions are held to a higher standard and even at 14-0 interim coach Luke Walton wants the Warriors to stop digging themselves early holes, according to Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:

“To me, it’s two things,” Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton said before Friday’s game. “It’s people wanting to be the first to give us a loss, and they’re coming out and playing like it’s a playoff game. It’s the biggest game of the season for them.

“Two, we’re not matching their intensity early. We were thrilled with our intensity early in the season — as far as the way we were starting games. That was one of the focal points of training camp, and we did a great job of it early. We’ll continue to talk about it and make it a point in our meetings, but it’s something that our guys out on the court need to change.”

The Warriors outscored their first 10 opponents by an average of 30.5-23.3, keeping four opponents to fewer than 24 points during the span. But their past four opponents have outscored the Warriors by an average of 32.8-25.8.

It’s no coincidence that three of the Warriors’ four toughest wins came after allowing Brooklyn (36 first-quarter points), Toronto (25) and the Clippers (41) to get off to fast starts. Brooklyn took the Warriors into overtime, the Warriors squeaked out a five-point win over Toronto, and they had to overcome a 23-point deficit to beat the Clippers.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Hip surgery sidelines Wizards’ Martell Webster for the season…J.R. Smith accused of choking 19-year-old…Metta World Peace says “Malice at Palace” brawl sent him into depression…NBA players often bond over popcorn and movies…John Calipari’s name keeps getting linked to Sacramento…Kobe Bryant and Caron Butler have stayed like brothers down through the years.

Thunder, Wizards do best to manage madness

VIDEO: Wizards, Thunder square off tonight in NBA TV’s Fan Night game

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The chatter is inevitable.

And it won’t go away anytime soon.

Never mind the seasons to be played for both the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Washington Wizards, combatants tonight at the Verizon Center (7 p.m., ET for Fan Night on NBA TV).

Thunder superstar Kevin Durant is making his final trip home to the nation’s capitol before he hits free agency in the summer, when the Wizards (and all other interested parties) will pursue one of the best players in the game.

But what could be a season-long distraction for both sides should be anything but, given the way Durant and the Wizards are handling things. Durant has made a point of not entertaining the subject as best he can, going so far as calling it “disrespectful” for Wizards fans to prioritize him or any other free agent over rooting for their own team, which has been a rising force in the Eastern Conference the past two seasons.

To their credit, the Wizards are doing the same. Bradley Beal agreed with Durant, telling The Washington Post:

“It is disrespectful because he plays for Oklahoma City,” Beal said Monday. “He doesn’t play for Washington.”

Once the final buzzer sounds tonight, both teams can put this media circus aside for the foreseeable future and return to the business at hand. For the Thunder, that means attempting to return to their lofty status among the Western Conference elite. For the Wizards, they want to occupy a similar place in the Eastern Conference.

Barring a matchup in The Finals, the only time this particular storyline will be revisited before the summer is in the lead up to a Feb. 1 matchup between the two in Oklahoma City.

That said, their seasons will be inextricably linked all the way until July, when free agency kicks off in its usual crazy mode. Then, and only then, will we get a full understanding of what the future holds for Durant and his hometown team.

Right now his focus is on the Thunder and how they navigate the early stages of this season under new coach Billy Donovan. There are chemistry issues that need to be resolved, adjustments to be made by role players and stars alike, a collective comfort zone to be located.

Durant will stay busy reminding us all that no matter where he plays, he remains one of the league’s most lethal weapons. For he and fellow superstar Russell Westbrook, chasing the Golden State Warriors for that No. 1 spot in the Western Conference is their first and only priority.

Beal, All-Star point guard John Wall and the Wizards have business of their own to tend to in advance of free agency, first and foremost proving that they are a force to be reckoned with in the East. And that’s with or without any additional superstar help, and no matter what kind of external hype is swirling around them.

“It’s the same I said last year,” Wall told The Post. “We can’t worry about what Kevin Durant’s doing. He’s worried about his OKC team and me and Brad and the other 13 guys on the team, we’re worried about the Washington Wizards.” We’re not here to tank and not try to make the playoffs and not try to win a championship and do those things.”

That’s the right attitude, because the chatter is inevitable.

And even if it’s absent from the headlines for a while, it won’t end anytime soon.

VIDEO: John Wall and the Wizards topped Kevin Durant and the Thunder in their matchup at Verizon Center last season

Morning shootaround — Nov. 10

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 9


Cousins hints at ‘players-only’ meeting | Beal doesn’t want fans cheering for K.D. in D.C. | Report: Pelicans bring back Fredette

No. 1: Cousins hints at ‘players-only’ meeting after loss to Spurs — The Sacramento Kings in 2015-16 were expected by many to, at best, push for a playoff spot in the Western Conference and, at least, show marked improvement from the last several seasons. Yet this morning they are 1-7 after a 106-88 home drubbing at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. Following the loss, Kings star DeMarcus Cousins — back in the lineup after missing four games with an Achilles injury — said the team has issues to work through. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee has more:

The Kings are 1-7 and have lost six in a row. This time the Kings fell apart in the fourth quarter and were outscored 34-19.

Again, the Kings’ defense did little to slow down an opponent, which has been the case often this season. The lineups were unpredictable again as the group that started the game didn’t start the second half.

Cousins, who missed the previous four games with a strained right Achilles’ tendon, was asked if he learned anything about the team while injured.

“Everything I can’t really speak on,” Cousins said. “We got some issues that we got to carve out. Can’t really speak on that. But one thing is, us players, we got to stick together. And just with that, that’ll get us through most battles. We got some issues in-house we need to figure out.”

Cousins was asked if these were issues that could be fixed before the Kings host Detroit on Wednesday.

“Can’t answer that,” he said.

Are these on-court issues?

“Not at all,” Cousins said.

Cousins was asked if the Kings needed a players-only meeting.

“It’ll be a players-only meeting,” Cousins said. “… Just to make it clear I believe in every single person in this room. We just got to stay together. That part I’m not worried about. But there are issues we need to figure out.”

Cousins was asked if the issues would be fixed with a few wins.

“I feel like when those issues are fixed, the winning will come,” Cousins said.

The Kings have used a different starting lineup in the last six games and seven different starting lineups overall.

Anderson was benched to start the second half and did not re-enter. Ben McLemore went from the doghouse to starting the second half.

“It’s different lineups, man, so people we haven’t necessarily played with before and it’s tough,” Rudy Gay said. “Not just on the people that do play, it’s tough on everybody. The guys that do come in and try to fill in the pieces. And we have a lot of young people who are expected to do a lot of things. We just have to be better.”

Coach George Karl was also asked about the mood of the locker room. The optimism from preseason is being overtaken by the frustration the Kings have only one win.

“Right now it’s probably a little angry and frustrated and confused,” Karl said. “Fortunately we have a day tomorrow to straighten that out and get back on track.”

VIDEO: DeMarcus Cousins hints at Kings’ need for a ‘player-only’ meeting


No. 2: Beal, Durant: D.C. fans cheering for Durant ‘disrespectful’ — There’s a big matchup tonight on NBA TV as the Oklahoma City Thunder visit the Washington Wizards (7 ET) in a Fan Night showdown featuring two contenders. Aside from that, of course, is the storyline of D.C. native Kevin Durant and whether or not he’ll use his looming free agency in 2016 to leave Oklahoma and head back home come 2016-17. That’s unknown at this point and Durant has done all he can to stay away from the topic. Still, there will be D.C.-area fans at tonight’s game purely cheering for the native son, which is something Wizards star Bradley Beal (and Durant) doesn’t endorse. J. Michael of has more:

Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal are on the same team when it comes to this, before the Oklahoma City Thunder arrive to square off the Wizards on Tuesday: They don’t want Verizon Center fans cheering their favorite son in an attempt to placate him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. In fact, both loathe it.

“It is disrespectful because he plays for Oklahoma City,” said Beal, who is questionable because of a sore left shoulder, when asked if he agreed with Durant’s assessment. “He doesn’t play for Washington.”

Earlier in the day, Durant spoke about his experience playing here last season. While he’s a native of D.C. and the Wizards (3-3) have made moves to clear cap space to make a run at him in 2016, the adoration makes him uncomfortable.

“It was cool to see all my family there but if our team did that to somebody coming into our arena, I wouldn’t like it. I didn’t really like it,” Durant told reporters after practice in Oklahoma City. “We’re playing a really good team in the Wizards, a great team. Great young talents. Good coach. I think that was disrespectful so I didn’t like it.”

Wizards center Marcin Gortat was more understanding, knowing that’s how fans can be and doesn’t take it personal.

“They are fans. At the need of the day, they pay my salary. They can do whatever they want to do,” said Gortat, who is in the second year of a five-year, $60 million contract. “Kevin Durant has a huge fan base. Wherever he goes he’s got thousands of people cheering for him. We can’t be mad about that. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll have some fans that cheer for us and hopefully we’re going to get a win because we need that win.”

Durant coming to the Wizards would be a game-changer. It’s still a year away but it’ll continue being a hot topic until there’s a resolution less than a year from now.

“That’s why the NBA is better than a lot of sports. … In basketball, one or two stars going to a different team, your expectations are different,” said Jared Dudley, who is an unrestricted free agent next summer and acknowledged he might not be around to see what happens first-hand. “This is a star league and he’s a top three player. … Hopefully he does (come to D.C.).”

VIDEO: David Aldridge discusses the likelihood of Kevin Durant joining the Wizards in 2016-17



No. 3: Report: Pelicans bring back Fredette — Just before the start of the 2015-16 season, former lottery pick Jimmer Fredette seemed to have run out of NBA chances after he was cut by the San Antonio Spurs. He was taken No. 2 overall in the NBA D-League draft by the Westchester Knicks and was seemingly on the long path many failed draft picks and NBA hopefuls take. That road didn’t last long for him, though, as Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania reports the 0-6 New Orleans Pelicans are set to bring Fredette back to the team:

Jimmer Fredette – the No. 2 pick in the NBA Development League draft by the Westchester Knicks – has re-signed with the New Orleans Pelicans under the injury hardship exception, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

edette will provide insurance to the Pelicans’ backcourt, with Jrue Holiday still on a playing restriction. The Pelicans weren’t granted an injury exception to sign a player during the first week of the season, but were given one Monday, sources said. New Orleans, hampered by numerous injuries, is off to a 0-6 start this season.

Fredette played 50 games with the Pelicans last year, averaging 3.6 points and 10.2 minutes per game.

Fredette, 26, was waived by the San Antonio Spurs during training camp. He had signed a partially guaranteed contract to compete for an open roster spot, which ultimately went to veteran Rasual Butler.

Fredette’s D-League rights will remain with Westchester.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Golden State Warriors roundly agree they have the ‘best’ bench in the NBA. Do you? … Knee soreness kept Joakim Noah from making what would have been his first start of the season … The Washington Wizards say Bradley Beal’s injury is not serious … How these Detroit Pistons are different from coach Stan Van Gundy‘s Orlando Magic teams of the 2000s … Dwyane Wade is really looking forward to however many clashes he has left with Kobe BryantWhat in the world is wrong with the Memphis Grizzlies this season? … Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr was at shootaround and participated in a free throw shooting contest with Stephen Curry … Former NBA player and collegiate star God Shammgod is enjoying his new gig at his alma mater, Providence CollegeDewayne Dedmon is making the most of his opportunity with the Orlando Magic

Morning shootaround — Nov. 6

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 5


Beal in it for long haul with Wizards | The evolving Love-James relationship | Grizzlies miffed by Clippers’ tweet | Duncan: Spurs thinking too much

No. 1: Beal letting his game do the talking in D.C. — Earlier this week, as our David Aldridge reported, the Washington Wizards and shooting guard Bradley Beal agreed to hold off on a contract extension … for now. The Wizards have hopes next summer of landing marquee free agent Kevin Durant and pairing him with All-Star guard John Wall, all while keeping Beal in the fold, too. While it’s unknown how next summer will shake out in terms of big names coming to D.C., Beal is committed to what the Wizards are building. Yahoo Sports’ Michael Lee has more on that:

The Wizards view the 22-year-old Beal as a foundational piece for the organization, a future star who has already teamed with Wall to form the best backcourt in the Eastern Conference, a duo that’s surging on Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as the best in the league. But the Wizards also have plans to upgrade the roster next summer – preferably with the signing of a four-time scoring champion who was born and raised in the area and will be a free agent in 2016 – and need Beal to exercise both patience and faith for that to occur.

“This is where I want to be. I’m not looking at any other teams. I’m not looking to go anywhere else. I believe in this team we have in this locker room. I’m a big cornerstone of this team, so I’m here. I want to be here. Hopefully, the front office knows that. I’m pretty sure that they know that,” Beal told Yahoo Sports. “It’s a business at the end of the day. I can’t let that affect the way I play, nor will I ever let it. It’s money at the end of the day. And I just want to go out here and play my butt off, each and every night and get what I deserve. Earn every penny that I get. If that’s the max, then it’s the max. And if it’s not, it’s not. At least I can look at it and say I gave it my all.”

Beal stands to make more money by waiting. Since Wall was already named the team’s designated player when he agreed to a five-year, $80 million extension in 2013, Beal was eligible for only a four-year extension worth more than $90 million. By becoming a restricted free agent, Beal could sign a five-year contract with the Wizards worth more than $120 million.

The incentive for Beal to sign a rookie extension, however, was more for the security of not having to worry about the risk of injury, since he has missed parts of his first three seasons with stress injuries in his right leg. When Anthony Davis agreed to his record, five-year, $145 million extensionwith New Orleans only a minute into the free-agent negotiating period, Beal fully thought the Wizards would quickly take care of him, especially since Wall received his deal before making his first All-Star team and following a season in which he missed 33 games with a knee injury.

“When you’re in that situation, you’re sitting there waiting, like, ‘Here we go,’ ” Beal, who went third overall in the 2012 draft, told Yahoo Sports of his reaction to Davis’s extension. “But it didn’t happen. It’s no hard feelings and you just have to move on. It was frustrating at first, but I understood it. I couldn’t be selfish about it. I couldn’t think, ‘Oh, they don’t want me.’ Because that’s not the case. They’re just being smart with what they want to do. And I honestly, I respect it, because it makes sense for both sides to wait until next year anyway.”

The Wizards offered an extension for less than the maximum with a purely strategic purpose, considering Beal’s talent would surely command such a deal with the deluge of television money arriving next year. But Beal’s cap hold will be $14 million next summer, as opposed to $20 million had they agreed to an extension. With the extra room, the Wizards could chase Kevin Durant and add some help to a roster that currently has just four other players under contract for 2016-2017 – Wall, Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre.

“That’s the goal. Obviously, that’s the goal,” Beal told Yahoo. “I trust what they’re doing. I understand what they’re doing. I have no [anger] toward [team president] Ernie [Grunfeld] or anyone else in the organization. I know at the end of the day, this is where I’m going to be and hopefully that I continue to be here. I don’t even worry about it. I’m worried about this season and controlling what I can control. I’m not in there arguing back and forth with Ernie like, ‘I need this!’ I’m just out here playing and doing what I do and letting my game speak for itself.”

Beal has adjusted his game, vowing to take more 3-pointers and “stop shooting those damn long twos” after heeding the advice of Pierce and watching film with his trainer, Drew Hanlen. He has also adjusted his attitude, with that nasty streak sticking around for a while. He’s motivated to be a better player, to earn the contract he believes he deserves and to help the Wizards advance further than the second-round inferno that has ruined the past two seasons.

The smile might come back. He might even shave. But Beal has no intention of letting up with so much at stake this season.

“I promised that every time I stepped on the floor, I was going to give it my all,” Beal told Yahoo. “I’m not playing for anybody else but my family, the man upstairs, myself and these guys in this locker room. The biggest thing for me is making sure I’m confident in myself and continue to prove to myself and prove to my teammates that this is what I’m going to continue to do for the rest of the year.”

VIDEO: Bradley Beal’s clutch 3-pointer seals a win over the Spurs

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Blogtable: Most entertaining team to watch in 2015-16?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Top international newcomer? | Most entertaining team? | Too many preseason games?

VIDEOWho are the must-watch teams on League Pass in 2015-16?

> The ________ will be the most entertaining team to watch this season, and here’s why.

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Warriors. They already were, and they brought the band back together. Steph Curry spent the summer trying to become even more efficient, and dropped 40 on New Orleans in the opener. The second and third years in a new offense are when a truly smart and skilled team blossoms. Which means trouble for the other 29 teams.

Steve Aschburner, For the second straight season, the NBA’s most entertaining team probably will be its best team — the Golden State Warriors. A club like the Clippers might pack more personality and purists might find entertainment value in the care and nurturing of a young, developing crew such as Milwaukee or Orlando. Personally, I still get my kicks watching 40 percent of the Memphis Grizzlies – that is, big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol playing old-millennium ball in a 3-crazed NBA. But night in, night out, for pace and production and their undersized leader out top (Steph Curry), Golden State is sports’ DWTS.

Fran Blinebury, The defending-champion Golden State Warriors. Have we forgotten so quickly, the ball movement, the shot-making the versatility, the sheer beauty of the Warriors that practically begged for a musical score in the background?  Play it again, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and the rest.

Scott Howard-Cooper, The Warriors. I considered the Thunder because it’s Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka joined by the uncertainty of a new coach, and that wonder of how Billy Donovan will work out adds to the good theater. But c’mon. Golden State is a fun watch anyway, and now the defending champs have the entire league chasing them … while hearing about how the title was luck … and firing back at doubters … with a coach who routinely dishes snark. That’s entrainment.

Shaun Powell, The Thunder. So much at play here, with Kevin Durant returning and seeking to restore his MVP glow, and how Russell Westbrook tries to top what he did the last three months of last season, and what Billy Donovan has in store for a system. Oh, and there’s also the backdrop of KD’s pending free agency. To me, entertainment means points and wins and showdown games against top competition, and OKC will hit that trifecta.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThe Warriors are the easy answer, and the Thunder are a distant second. But in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards could be Warriors Light. John Wall can’t shoot anything like Stephen Curry, but he’s one of the league’s best passers who will thrive with more space to operate. If Bradley Beal and Otto Porter can build on their postseason performances, this can be a pretty potent offense led by one of the league’s five best point guards.

Sekou Smith, The Clippers have all the ingredients you need to be the No. 1 reality TV show in basketball, both on and off the court. They’ll be the most interesting team to watch, as coach Doc Rivers tries to tinker with the chemistry of a championship-caliber group that has added three ridiculously strong personalities in Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson. This is still Chris Paul‘s team, but he might have to share the leadership load with others in ways that he has not been accustomed to recently. They’ll put on a show when they are at their high-flying best.

Ian Thomsen, The Clippers are going to be the edgiest and therefore most entertaining team. Their impatience will be their strength: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are fed up with hearing about what they haven’t done, while DeAndre Jordan, Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith all want to be taken seriously. They are going to play with more attitude than any rival contender.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogHere’s the thing: Whichever team is the correct answer to this question is a team we aren’t talking about right now. Last season the Atlanta Hawks quickly evolved into a sweet passing tribute to Jogo Bonito, which transformed them into darlings of the basketball nerd set. And then there are the young teams that play entirely on spirit and fire with a style that may be unsustainable, but no less watchable. So I’ll take a guess and say a team that might be worth tuning in for, if healthy, will be the Minnesota Timberwolves. Between Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine performing nightly high-wire acts, Ricky Rubio splashing the ball around with abandon, and Kevin Garnett and Karl-Anthony Towns in the post, what’s not to like?

New offense energizes Wizards

VIDEO: Bradley Beal’s evolution is crucial to the Wizards’ season

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Bradley Beal insists it’s the best the Washington Wizards have looked during his time with the team.

So what if he’s talking about the often flimsy sample size that is NBA preseason.

When you basically pass on free agency (until next summer’s Kevin Durant free-for-all), install a new offensive system and ask everyone to buy into new and tweaked roles heading into what is sure to be a pivotal season, a seamless transition to a decidedly different way of operating offensively should ease whatever tensions might have lingered.

A comfort zone for Beal and All-Star point guard John Wall has to be the top priority for a Wizards team few people mention a contender in the Eastern Conference this season. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are at the top of everyone’s list, followed in some order by the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat … and then the Wizards.

That dynamic backcourt is not only the key to the Wizards’ season, they’re also the selling point for the future, along with this new, player-friendly offense that coach Randy Wittman unveiled during the preseason. If the Wizards are serious about making noise this season in the Eastern Conference playoff chase and carrying that momentum into the summer of 2016, it all starts with this emphasis on the faster pace, which takes advantage of what Wall and Beal do best.

The Wizards had the highest offensive rating in the preseason (106.8 points per 100 possessions) and were fourth in pace (104.45 possessions per 48 minutes), a stark contrast from a team that finished 19th and 16th, respectively, in those categories last season.

We saw signs of the shift in the playoffs, when the Wizards threw a scare into the Hawks in the conference semifinals with their small-ball lineup. A summer of tinkering, training and a preseason of on-the-job training gives a team with basically the same core personnel (sans Paul Pierce, of course, who moved on to the Los Angeles Clippers) a chance to reinvent itself on the fly.

Otto Porter and Jared Dudley inherit the minutes and responsibilities Pierce handled last season, including the floor-stretching duties that opened things up for Beal and Wall in the postseason.

VIDEO:’s John Schuhmann breaks down the Wizards’ new look on offense

Beal spoke of improved team camaraderie, better focus on the details and the always important good health that evaded him and the Wizards this time a year go. An improved and more efficient offensive system that the players “love,” according to Wall, paired with a top-10 defense that’s been a staple under Wittman, could serve as the wrinkle the Wizards need to move into the East’s upper echelon.

“Well, I think the Wizards obviously are a dangerous team, and they’ve proven that,” ABC/ESPN analyst Mark Jackson said, “and Randy Wittman has done an outstanding job coaching that team, leading that team, being strong in the face of tough times, holding on to the rope, which became contagious with the players where they bought in.

“I think it’s a different look for them because they certainly have post-up players that are skilled that they can take advantage of, at certain points of the game, but it really gives — adds versatility to that basketball team when you look at that dynamic backcourt in Wall and Beal, playing at a faster pace, creating an offense, stretching the floor is only going to make them tougher to defend, and I think ultimately a tough out in the Eastern Conference.”

If anyone knows about the importance of playing to the skills and abilities of a dynamic young backcourt duo, it’s Jackson. It’s what led to the rise of the Golden State Warriors during his tenure as he catered his system to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Wall and Beal are not Curry and Thompson, and there’s no one suggesting as much.

But they are talented in their own right and on a trajectory that could very well push the Wizards into the realm of teams capable of upsetting the projected East order before whatever free agent splash the team is planning for the summer.

Yes, we’re working on the fumes of the preseason, and that’s always a dangerous predicament.

But if you’re trying to both engineer a revolution and outperform expectations, as Beal and the Wizards are this season, you have to start somewhere.


A photo posted by Bradley Beal (@bradbeal3) on


One Team, One Stat: Space in D.C.

VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Washington Wizards’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Washington Wizards, who changed their identity in the postseason.

The stat


The context

20151024_was_basicsThe Wizards were a different team in the playoffs than they were in the regular season. After his team ranked 19th in offensive efficiency in the regular season, Wizards coach Randy Wittman broke out a floor-spacing lineup that made the offense more potent in the playoffs.

Back-up bigs Kris Humphries and Kevin Seraphin had their roles reduced, while starters Nene and Marcin Gortat played fewer minutes together.

Small forward Otto Porter, who was out of the rotation just three weeks before the playoffs began, averaged more than 33 minutes over postseason games. In fact, Porter and Paul Pierce played more minutes together in the playoffs (147) than Nene and Gortat did (139).

The Wizards were at their best, outscoring their opponents by 10.8 points per 100 possessions, with Porter on the floor. They were a plus-32 in 69 minutes with John Wall, Bradley Beal, Porter and Pierce on the floor with one of the two starting bigs.


The smaller lineup wasn’t just about shooting more 3s. It also provided more space for Wall and Beal to attack the basket. Both of the Washington guards drove more often in the playoffs than they did in the regular season.


Other teams have seen a similar increase in the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range. But of the last eight that saw a jump of at least six percentage points, only one really sustained it with a jump of at least that big from that regular season to the following one.


But Wittman and Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld have seemingly embraced the idea of keeping the floor spaced for Wall and Beal. Pierce is gone, but the Wizards replaced him with Jared Dudley, another small-ball four. Porter is now the starting small forward, rookie Kelly Oubre Jr. is another wing who gives them some versatility, and Humphries has started shooting 3s.

In the preseason, Washington shot 28.9 percent of its shots from 3-point range, a higher rate than it did in last year’s playoffs. Pierce will be missed, but the Wizards could be one of the most improved offensive teams in the league. And if they can maintain a top-10 ranking on defense, they’ll have a shot at a 50-win season.

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

Blogtable: First-time All-Stars in 2015-16?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: One thing to watch early on? | Predicting Golden State’s season | First-time All-Stars

VIDEOCan Bradley Beal take that All-Star leap?

> Give me two players — one from the East and one from the West — who will be first-time All-Stars this season.

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: East: Bradley Beal. West: Andrew Wiggins.

Steve Aschburner, East: Giannis Antetokounmpo. It’s unclear which player Milwaukee is going to rally behind as a leader – Khris Middleton might lead the Bucks in scoring and Jabari Parker in time might have the game and personality to be their alpha dog – but “The Greek Freak” still packs outrageous potential in so many areas. If he takes a good-sized stride in development this season, and the Bucks stay at or above .500, I think the coaches will honor him. West: DeAndre Jordan. Jordan’s selection might be tougher in a league that goes with “Frontcourt” All-Stars rather than true centers. But I think he’ll have gaudy enough rebounding and blocked shot numbers on a Clippers team with a dazzling record by February.

Fran Blinebury, East: I’m thinking that Bradley Beal will finally catch a break avoiding injuries and build on his last two years of big-time performances in the playoffs to join backcourt partner John Wall as an All-Star. West: Kawhi Leonard. After MVP of the Finals (2014) and Kia Defensive Player of the Year (2015), it’s just a matter of him staying healthy. LaMarcus Aldridge will get the headlines, but Leonard is the all-around cream of the Spurs crop.

Scott Howard-Cooper, East: Andre Drummond. The Pistons could push into the playoff picture and Drummond could be somewhere around 15 rebounds a game while near the top of the league in shooting and blocks. West: Kawhi Leonard, as part of a season that also includes making second- or third-team All-NBA at the end of the season. But it’s also impossible to disagree with Mike Conley, DeAndre Jordan or Gordon Hayward. No argument here for nominating any of those four, although Leonard, Conley and Jordan begin the season with an edge because Hayward will need to be especially worthy if the Jazz are headed toward the lottery.

John Schuhmann, East: Bradley Beal. Beal had a strong postseason, has vowed to change some of his long 2-pointers into threes, and should have additional space to operate with the Wizards playing more small ball. West: Kawhi Leonard: Leonard is simply the league’s best player who hasn’t been an All-Star yet, and his offensive role should continue to grow. Dark horse picks: Nicolas Batum, Mike Conley, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, DeAndre Jordan and Isaiah Thomas.

Sekou Smith, East: Bradley Beal. He showed signs last season that he’s ready to take that step. He’ll join John Wall in Toronto for All-Star Weekend this season, in uniform on Sunday instead of street clothes. West: DeAndre Jordan. Both Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green will battle it out in the Western Conference to join the All-Star crew. They both appear ready to take that step, but it’s a crowded field at small forward (and really at basically every position). But I’m picking Jordan to smash his way into the mix at center.

Ian Thomsen, East: Giannis Antetokounmpo. West: Gordon Hayward. The Jazz and Bucks are rising, and Hayward and Antetokounmpo are going to celebrate breakout All-Star years.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: East: how about Jahlil Okafor. He’s going to have the chance to rack up points and boards with the Sixers, and if a Rookie is putting up 18 and 10 or something like that, it would be neat to see the coaches give him a gift. West: Kawhi Leonard. The more I think about the Spurs adding LaMarcus Aldridge, the more I think it benefits Leonard. He has been mostly overlooked in the Spurs constellation of stars, but if maintains the aggressive defense he played most of last season’s second half, and gets more open looks as a result of Aldridge, Leonard could be the key to the Spurs’ success. And get an All-Star nod along the way.

Morning shootaround — Oct. 6

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 5


George gets ‘clarification’ on role | Bucks’ Parker to miss preseason opener | Beal seeks to tweak his game | Bulls’ Gasol ages like a fine wine

No. 1: George gets ‘clarification’ on power forward role — Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George wasn’t a fan of moving to the power forward spot when the idea was first breached. He wasn’t a fan of it after scoring 18 points in the Pacers’ first preseason game (a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans). Yet after a talk with the team’s brass, it seems George has reversed field on his feeling on the switch and is more open to it, writes Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star:

Paul George drew national attention by making comments about his new role as the Indiana Pacers starting power forward after the first exhibition game. George matched up against New Orleans Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis – either a welcomed introductory challenge or a complete nightmare depending on your view – and later opined: “I don’t know if I’m cut out for a 4 spot. I don’t know if this is my position.”

Then, George said he would seek input from coach Frank Vogel and team president of basketball operations Larry Bird into how he performed at the position. By Monday afternoon, George had spoken to them and found more interpretation.

“Yeah, we talked about it,” George said after Monday’s practice. “Just going over what was the plan going forward.

“I mean, there was clarification on what we’re (doing) going forward,” George added later. “That’s what it was, just clarification.”

When asked if the “clarification” meant changes to his role, George said: “We’re going to still stick with it, see how it works.”

Then, when quizzed if he’s OK with that, George responded: “I’m a part of this team.”

Though George offered few specifics of this meeting, the “clarification” appears to be more like repetition.

“Nothing we haven’t said in the past,” Vogel responded when asked about the conversation with George. “We’re going to continue to evaluate and get his feedback and what he’s comfortable with and what he’s not comfortable with. We’re not going to put him in a position where he’s not comfortable with his role. We’re just not going to do that. But we’re going to play both small lineups and big lineups, and he understands that.”

However after one preseason game – in fact, a loss in which Davis produced 18 points and eight rebounds without playing through the second half – George felt the matchup did not go well.

“We took it way left field. It’s Game 1 of the preseason, and we’re playing against arguably one of the best, if not the best, power forwards in this league,” George said on Monday. “So it was an adjustment. And (Davis) kicked my (butt). He kicked my (butt) Game 1.”

George and the Pacers will get a more moderate test in Detroit (7:30 p.m., Tuesday) against Ersan Ilyasova (who was 12-of-14 for 34 points in a game against Indiana last season). Ilyasova might be 6-10, 235, 15 pounds heavier than George, but he relies more on a perimeter game. Players such as Ilyasova are the reason the Pacers remain committed to playing with a smaller lineup.

“You can’t make small reactions. It’s going to be a big picture thing, and we’re going to do what’s best to win basketball games,” Vogel said. “Winning is more important than style of play, but this style of play, I think, gives us, this group, the best chance to win basketball games.”

VIDEO: Paul George talks about the discussion he had with the team’s brass

*** (more…)

Morning shootaround — Sept. 26

VIDEO: Brent Barry reports from Clippers media day


Jackson to be more involved with Knicks | Pierce talks title, retirement | Skiles wants Magic to get defensive | New vets bring leadership to Boston

No. 1: Jackson to be more involved with Knicks — Team president Phil Jackson and head coach Derek Fisher won just 17 games in their first full season in New York. Now, to get better, they think they need to get together … more often. Jackson said Friday that he will take a more active, day-to-day role with the Knicks this year. Newsday‘s Al Iannazzone has the story…

Phil Jackson won’t be sitting on the bench, but he will spend more time in the coach’s office and film room this season — at the request of coach Derek Fisher.

Jackson, the Knicks president who won an NBA-record 11 championships coaching the Bulls and Lakers, wanted to give Fisher his space last season. But after the first-time coach guided the Knicks to a franchise-worst 17-win season, Fisher asked Jackson for assistance.

Fisher said he wanted more “one-on-one” discussions with Jackson to see how to prepare himself and the team better, and welcomes counseling from “one of the great basketball minds we’ve ever seen.” Jackson promises to be more involved and hands-on for his hand-picked protege.


No. 2: Pierce talks title, retirement — Paul Pierce is home. Paul Pierce is with a championship contender. And Paul Pierce turns 38 years old in a couple of weeks. You can write the script from there, as Dan Woike of the Orange County Register writes…

Paul Pierce already has an idea of how this all might end.

The Inglewood native and NBA veteran signs a deal to play for his hometown team, helping the Clippers win their first NBA title. He rides in the parade through his streets, trophy in hand, leaving his career behind him.

That’s the hope.

“I don’t have much basketball left – whether it’ll be this year or another year. To come home and play in front of family and friends and possibly win a championship, it’s like a dream come true,” Pierce said at Friday’s media day. “If we win this year, win a championship, I’ll probably be done with basketball to be honest.

“It’ll be a dream to be home and carry that championship trophy down Manchester Boulevard.”

By the way, all is cool with DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul. It always was, apparently. Melissa Rohlin of the L.A. Times has the story…

When a Clippers contingent went to DeAndre Jordan’s home in Houston in July to help convince the center to re-sign with the Clippers, rumors abounded that Jordan and Chris Paul had a powwow to clear up their strained relationship.

Only thing is, according to the players, there was no strain.

“I think that there was forced tension because of everything we all heard that we said about each other, which was not true at all,” Jordan said at Clippers’ media day on Friday. “It was just the outside, and we never asked each other about it.

“These guys are my brothers. I talk to them every day. Yeah, there’s times that we bump heads on the court, but five minutes later, we’re good because it’s constructive, it’s for the right reasons: We want to win. … There’s not any tension; we don’t not like each other. And all three of us [Jordan, Paul and Blake Griffin] are going to be here for a very long time. This is our team; this is our unit. There was no clearing of the air. We just had a sit-down to tell them I was going to be in a Clipper uniform this year.”


No. 3: Skiles wants Magic to get defensive — When Scott Skiles took over the Milwaukee Bucks in 2008, they went from last in defensive efficiency to fourth in his second season. Now, Skiles is hoping to lead similar improvement with the Orlando Magic, who ranked 25th defensively last season. The Orlando Sentinel‘s Josh Robbins was at Magic media day on Friday…

Skiles intends to imbue the Magic with a brand-new identity: defensive-minded and hard-nosed. On several occasions Friday, he said the Magic need to transform themselves into a team that ranks in the top five in field-goal percentage defense.

Last season, they finished 28th in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to make 46.3 percent of their shot attempts.

“There’s been a lot of talk, even before I came here, about turning into a good defensive team,” Skiles said. “It hasn’t happened, and we need to do it.”

The Magic know all about Skiles’ goals. He has spoken with all of the players since he was hired in late May, and he has told them that they need to make significant strides defensively if they’re going to climb out of the NBA cellar and approach a winning record.


No. 4: New vets bring leadership to Boston — After squeezing into the playoffs with a young team last season, the Boston Celtics are looking to another step forward. It was another summer where Danny Ainge wasn’t able to acquire a star, but the Celtics did add a couple of veteran big men to their rotation.‘s Ian Thomsen was at media day in Boston and takes a look at how David Lee and Amir Johnson could make an impact…

Lee, the 32 year old power forward, should fit in beautifully. The Warriors were able to win the championship last season in no small part because Lee (along with Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut) was willing to accept a reduced role for the good of the team. As Lee pursues a new contract next summer, his view of the bigger picture promises to affirm his identity: He will help the Celtics intangibly by keeping the focus on team goals.

He fills many needs for the Celtics. Lee, a two-time All-Star, is a strong rebounder, a smart passer and a versatile scorer. After sitting for most of the season, he was able to identify his team’s needs and make an impact instantly when the Warriors went small midway through the NBA Finals, helping to launch their comeback from a 2-1 deficit against the Cavaliers. Because the Celtics lack a singular playmaker in this era of leading point guards, Lee’s ability to make quick decisions with the ball should be crucial.

Neither Lee nor free-agent Johnson (whose two-year contract is non-guaranteed for 2016-17) has a reputation for selfishness. Both will be expected to provide leadership by example for the young Celtics. Johnson, at 6-9 and 240 pounds, will be asked to play minutes at center, along with Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Bulls’ Mike Dunleavy is out 8-10 weeks after undergoing back surgery … The Wizards have offered Bradley Beal a less-than-max extensionThe Wolves still like Ricky RubioJared Sullinger lost weightAn oral history of the best in-game dunk we’ve ever seen … Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is going to camp … and the Nuggets waived Kostas Papanikolaou.

ICYMI: The best buzzer-beating highlights from last season:

VIDEO: 2014-15 Top 10 Buzzer-beaters