HOUSTON — A week ago nobody could figure out the Bucks. It seemed they had spent most of trade deadline day trying to trade Monta Ellis to Atlanta for Josh Smith and, when that failed, added another guard in J.J. Redick.
Can you spell “crowded backcourt?” Redick joined Ellis and Brandon Jennings in what looked like the kind of traffic jam that could tie up an intersection, let alone a team trying to hang on in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“I don’t know what Milwaukee is doing,” Charles Barkley said on TNT. “They are just trying to cover the market on guards.”
The rest of the pundit class joined in a collective scratching of heads.
On Wednesday night, the Rockets were left scratching their heads when Jennings almost held onto the ball a half-tick too long, finally got it to Ellis and he put up a running, one-legged, one-armed turnaround that practically licked all of the paint off the rim before falling in to give the Bucks a 110-107 win.
It was the second time in two nights that Ellis played key role down the stretch. Coach Jim Boylan had sat Jennings for the final 3:32 on Tuesday night in Dallas and used Ellis to close out a win in Dallas. He finished with 22 points, nine assists and six steals against the Mavs. In Houston, Ellis racked up 27 points, 13 assists and six steals.
“I play basketball. Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m willing to do,” Ellis said in Dallas.
“I just got the shot off and got out of there,” Ellis said in Houston.
Nothing really has changed about Ellis’ game since the trade deadline. He’s still the most indiscriminate shooter in the league, hitting just 9 of his 24 shots against the Rockets, and that horn-beating prayer truthfully wasn’t much of a stretch from some of the others he’s hoisted along the way.
The Bucks lost their first three games coming out of the All-Star break by a combined six points, including one overtime defeat. But now they’ve taken a mini-sweep through Texas because the player they tried to trade away and who could opt out of his contract next summer, has given them the kind of sudden charge that usually comes from grabbing onto a high voltage wire.
So Ellis can bolt from Milwaukee if he wants; Redick might just be a short-term rental until he becomes a free agent in July; the starting point guard Jennings has got to wonder if he’ll watch end of any more games from the bench as the backcourt resembles a crowded elevator at quitting time. Oh, and the question remains how the deadline deal really made the Bucks any more capable of knocking off Miami or Indiana in the first round of the playoffs.
While everyone else is trying to figure out the strategy of the front office, all the Bucks are trying to do is win enough games to maybe catch Boston for the No. 7 seed.
Shocked? Only the guy who provided the electricity isn’t.
As the referees gathered ’round a TV monitor to review the final shot and some of his celebrating teammates returned to the floor to wait for an official ruling, Ellis was out the tunnel and gone without checking.
“I didn’t need to,” he said. “The buzzer went off when it was rolling around the rim. There was no need for me to come back out … I didn’t need [any] explanation.”
Despite all the coast-to-coast puzzlement at the trade deadline, apparently neither do the Bucks.
If Thursday’s NBA trade deadline was a movie, the audience would have walked out in the middle from boredom. This freeze came straight from the script that is the league’s new collective bargaining agreement — with its harsher luxury tax penalties and diminished roster flexibility for tax offenders — it put the clamps on a stunningly uneventful deadline day.
The big names were on the opening credits: Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
Yet, when the curtain closed at 3 p.m. ET, Orlando Magic sharpshooter J.J. Redick stole the show as the lone player of significance to switch teams. The Milwaukee Bucks acquired the career 39.8 percent 3-point shooter in a six-player deal that involved five other relatively anonymous NBA names.
Only one potential blockbuster deal percolated, but ultimately died on the vine with the Atlanta Hawks going the distance in an attempt to strike a deal with the Bucks for Smith before pulling back. One reason so few big deals were discussed was simply because there wasn’t much talent realistically in play, a point that goes beyond any ramifications of the CBA.
The CBA that took effect in December 2011, and begins to smack tax-paying teams with stiffer fines next season, has clearly put franchises on the defensive. Teams that were once willing to add salary to consummate a deal no longer are. Teams that once didn’t think twice about sweetening a deal with a first-round pick, suddenly guard them with their lives.
“Cap room and draft picks, which are usually the currency of how these [big] deals get done, were at a huge premium and are something that everyone wants to have,” said Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who steered the most active club at the deadline with a couple of lower-tier deals.
There’s really no greater example of the effect of these changes than the Dallas Mavericks and their braintrust, owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson. Chronic and strategic over-spenders and tax payers under the old CBA, Cuban, who took on salary in deadline deals for Jason Kidd in 2008 and Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson in 2010, analyzed the new rules and reversed field last year.
He dismantled the 2011 championship team, choosing to covet cap space and the roster flexibility granted to teams that remain under the tax threshold, as well as newfound valuing of first-round draft picks as low-priced labor and trade assets.
It’s a strategy that no longer has the Mavs on speed dial of teams looking to make a deal and dump salary.
“It’s definitely a factor,” Nelson said of the CBA’s chilling effect Thursday after the deadline expired. “There’s no question that folks have their eye on the inevitable, and there’s no question that people are getting their collective houses in order.
“There’s some teams that see that on the horizon and act early, and other teams that will procrastinate and pay a dear price. But I think we’re right in the middle of that. It’s not brand-new news and so, yeah, I think you’re going to see a lot of teams try to correct themselves financially.”
The so-called “repeater” tax really has teams scared. Several clubs tried to deal away lost-cost players to avoid the repeater tax, which will whack franchises with an additional fine if they go over the tax line in three of four seasons. Golden State was successful in this venture. Chicago was not and will pay a luxury tax for the first time since its implementation.
This “repeater” penalty deterred teams from making deals that would have pushed payroll even slightly over the tax line, deals they might have normally green-lighted in the old days. So, is this the way of the future under the current rules?
“I can’t predict the future,” Morey said, “but I think the trend is more this way.”
Rockets: Morey’s stockpiling of assets the last couple years has been questioned, but he’s turned it into quite a haul starting with James Harden prior to the start of the season. The day before the deadline, Morey acquired the No. 5 overall pick, Thomas Robinson, from Sacramento. Morey’s dealing didn’t damage an abundance of cap space next summer that will be used to pursue a top free agent such as Dwight Howard and Josh Smith.
Bucks: GM John Hammond didn’t get his big fish in Smith, but he pulled off the deal for Redick, who should really help a club that’s been skidding down the East standings and needs a boost. Hammond held onto Jennings and Ellis and will have room to maneuver in the summer to add more pieces.
Thunder: GM Sam Presti continues to make shrewd moves. The acquisition of Ronnie Brewer from the New York Knicks for a second-round pick gives OKC another strong perimeter defender to help Thabo Sefolosha.
Celtics:Jordan Crawford might not be Jamal Crawford, but he can score in bunches and Boston was desperate to bolster its injury-ravaged guard backcourt. Boston fans are the winners here, too, with the team’s heart and soul, Garnett and Pierce, staying put.
Mavericks: Sure, on the surface, picking up 3-point specialist Anthony Morrow for defensive-minded guard Dahntay Jones doesn’t sound like much. But then SheridanHoops.com reminded us of this Dwight Howard interview in Russia when he named Morrow as one of a handful of players he’d like to have as a teammate.
Blazers: The team with the leanest bench in the NBA finally got some help in a minor deal that netted OKC guard Eric Maynor, who lost his job early on to Reggie Jackson. Maynor will help Rookie of the Year frontrunner Damian Lillard reduce his 38.5 mpg workload.
Hawks: They didn’t get the deal done to ship out Smith and now it seems they will lose him for nothing in free agency. On one level, however, it’s hard to say that this is a definitive loss. They’ll keep Smith (who might or might not come away from this experience deflated) for the rest of the season, and, with any luck, try to keep him while recruiting friend and fellow Atlantan Howard next summer. If GM Danny Ferry wasn’t pleased with the deals presented, it doesn’t always pay to take something, anything just because in the end you could be left with nothing. If Smith leaves, the Hawks will take the cap space and look to spin it in their favor.
Magic: They deal away a useful player and one they drafted in Redick and hand over his Bird Rights to the Bucks. There was no guarantee that Redick would re-sign with Orlando, but he at least had said the door was open to a return. The Magic’s Josh McRoberts to Charlotte deal for Hakim Warrick is a head-scratcher.
Knicks: They didn’t upgrade at any position and gave away a solid defender in Brewer, who was starting for the club during their hot start out of the gates, but had slipped out of the rotation. New York did use the roster vacancy to sign veteran power forward Kenyon Martin.
Nets: They failed to land another high-priced player in Smith and failed to unload one of their own, Kris Humphries.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Although the matchup of All-Star point guards failed to live up to our hopes, the Spurs-Cavs game was a thriller down the stretch. Tony Parker did his part, going for 24 points and seven dimes, but Kyrie Irving had one of his toughest nights of the season, shooting 2-for-15 for six points to go along with seven assists himself. Rookie Dion Waiters showed some clutch skills with a step-back jumper to give Cleveland a two-point lead with 9.5 seconds left. But Parker — who won his lone Finals MVP by dicing up the Cavs in 2007 — went to work, operating out of the pick and roll to find a wide open Kawhi Leonard on the baseline for the game-winning 3-pointer.
Ex-Lakers coach sees bright future for L.A. — Depending on your point of view, it may not seem that long ago that the Lakers fired coach Mike Brown after going 1-4 to open the season. Since then, there’s been plenty more drama in Lakerland, USA, and we haven’t heard much from the man who had the first crack at making the Dwight Howard-Pau Gasol-Kobe Bryant-Steve Nash “superteam” work this season. Brown stopped by Colin Cowherd‘s ESPN Radio program yesterday, though, to say he sees some signs that the Lakers are heading in the direction he couldn’t get them to go when he had the gig:
Former Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown has had three months to ruminate on his former team and its struggles amid the additions of coach Mike D’Antoni, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, and the departure of Andrew Bynum.
Brown says despite a slow first half, he sees a Lakers team that can, with some work, turn its season around.
“I think it can be done,” Brown said Wednesday in a telephone interview with “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” on ESPN Radio. “Mike has a different philosophy, and it’s worked for him the many years he’s been coaching in the NBA. And I’m sure he’ll figure it out, which he’s been doing.
“He’s been making some adjustments as time’s gone on. So I think it’s a matter of time before they get it going.”
Brown noted he was skeptical when D’Antoni, upon his hiring, said the Lakers would implement a run-and-gun style offense and score in the 110-115-point range — “be the old ‘Showtime.’”
“I did not feel that was a running team,” said Brown, who was fired in November after a 1-4 start to the season. “Kobe [Bryant] is a guy who can run, but if you look back at the history of his career, he really hasn”t been on a running team, in his 15, 16, 20 years — whatever he’s been in the league.
“Then you talk about having two bigs,” Brown said of Howard and Pau Gasol. “And both of those bigs are agile and capable runners, but they’re not the type of runners that you need to have to play in a system that’s going to score those types of points.”
Brown related his experience as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, when they had both Tim Duncan and David Robinson, saying an efficient scoring tandem is indeed possible between players with the skill sets of Howard and Gasol.
Regarding his firing, Brown said he was “shocked” to learn of the Lakers’ decision.
“But I always look at it this way,” Brown said. “It’s their team. They have every right to do what they want to do with it. You know, I appreciate the opportunity that they gave me, and it was a decision that the Busses and Mitch Kupchak came to. They felt they would be better going in another direction. So from that standpoint I respect it, I appreciate the opportunity, but it was a little surprising.”
KG bidding adieu to All-Star Game? — All-Star starter Kevin Garnett is making his 14th appearance in the league’s midseason showcase, but I guess we should all take time to soak in his play there. According to the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy, Garnett says this will be his final All-Star Game. That would seem to imply that KG is pondering retirement after this season, but the Celtics’ standout said his reasons for not wanting to be in the game in the future have more to do with fatigue than the end of the road in the NBA:
Kevin Garnett said last night that his 14th All-Star Game appearance on Sunday in Houston will also be his last, though the Celtics forward stopped short of saying he was retiring at the end of the season.
Garnett, realizing he had just set off an alarm, then turned cryptic. He has two years remaining on his contract.
“This is definitely my last All-Star Game,” he said. “Ya’ll don’t know what I know. I’m more than grateful, and I’m not going to act like I have more All-Star Games in me. I’ll enjoy this one with friends and family. That’s what I meant.”
Garnett added he simply plans to enjoy himself this weekend.
“I’ll have no feelings whatsoever,” he said when asked about Sunday. “I always enjoyed each All-Star Game. I’m not a guy who is going to show too much emotion at that time. The All-Star Game for me is more for friends and family. You always have that wild-assed uncle who shows his ass, you always have that friend you always have to pull to the side and have that little conversation (with). It’s a fun time.”
Garnett admitted to feeling the wear and tear on the inside this season.
“The last four or five days have been exhausting,” he said. “Mentally more than physical. The three overtimes against Denver was emotionally draining, the travel, having to come in here and prepare after losing to Charlotte, so yeah, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind.”
Jennings refutes talk of frustration — Bucks fourth-year guard Brandon Jennings is having one of his better all-around seasons, averaging 18.5 ppg, 6.1 apg, 1.9 spg and shooting 36.4 percent from 3-point range. Jennings, a restricted free-agent this summer, had a chance to sign a four-year, $40 million extension with Milwaukee but passed on it and will test the free-agent waters this summer. An analysis story on ESPN.com said that Jennings has “irreconcilable differences” with the Bucks’ front office and is demanding a trade by the Feb. 21 deadline. But Jennings later came back and spoke with ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard — who did not write the first Jennings story — to clear up his side on things:
ESPN.com, in an analysis story on 10 NBA players who could be traded, cited sources as saying Jennings is frustrated. One source called it “irreconcilable differences” and said Jennings wants to be moved before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
“That is not true,” Jennings said in a text message when asked if his relationship with the Bucks is beyond repair. “Just because I got a new agent doesn’t mean anything. That stuff never came out of my mouth. They’re just reaching for a story since I changed my agent [to Jeff Schwartz].”
ESPN.com said it stands by its reporting.
A year ago, Jennings told ESPN.com that he was “doing [his] homework on big-market teams.” Since then, Jennings’ long-term status in Milwaukee has been the subject of speculation among league insiders, and when Jennings left agent Bill Duffy, the rumors swirled again about whether the guard is unhappy with the Bucks. The Bucks offered Jennings a four-year, $40 million extension, according to sources, but he turned it down. He will become a restricted free agent this summer.
One other theory being floated: Jennings is upset because he didn’t make the Eastern Conference All-Star team, despite leading the Bucks into playoff position by averaging team-highs of 18.5 points and 6.1 assists, or that he wants more exposure than small-market Milwaukee can offer.
Jennings denied that.
“Being in Milwaukee wasn’t the reason I didn’t make the All-Star Game,” Jennings said. “Guys just had better numbers than me.”
When asked about his future on Wednesday, Jennings said he’s only focused on the present.
“That’s something me and Jeff will discuss in the offseason,” he said. “The Milwaukee Bucks are in 8th place in the East, and I’m looking forward to helping them get to the playoffs in the second half of the season.”
Jazz’s lingering question: What to do with Big Al? — Utah has one representative — Jeremy Evans in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday — heading to Houston this weekend, which might be a good thing for the front office. Leading scorer Al Jefferson has been thrown about in trade rumors, but nothing of serious merit has floated out there. Jefferson, an unrestricted free agent this summer, has said in the past the Jazz will have the right of first refusal for him. The emergence of second-year center Enes Kanter as well as Utah’s desire to eventually free up minutes for third-year big Derrick Favors puts it in a situation where some decisions have to be made, writes Kurt Kragthorpe of the Salt Lake Tribune:
The Jazz’s biggest issue, as they head into the All-Star break after Wednesday’s game at Minnesota and anticipate the NBA’s Feb. 21 trade deadline, is what to do with Jefferson. His expiring contract will make him a free agent in July, creating options for the team. How the Jazz’s management addresses the Jeffersonian Dilemma is central to the franchise’s immediate and long-term future.It’s complicated, that’s for sure. The answer is not as simple as saying the Jazz should trade him just to get something in return before he walks away. Any deal they make next week must genuinely advance their rebuilding process, not merely bring them some temporary assets that the other party wants to unload.
The Jazz keep showing enough flashes of potential, such as Tuesday’s convincing win over Oklahoma City, to make this season’s goals worth pursuing, as opposed to starting over with two months remaining. When the injured Mo Williams and Gordon Hayward return, the Jazz should be able to solidify a playoff spot in the Western Conference, and I’ll always endorse postseason play as meaningful.
The tricky part of this discussion is that the Jazz have become so dependent on Jefferson that he’s both the solution and the problem with their offense.
Averaging 17.5 points and 9.4 rebounds, Jefferson has done more than anyone could have expected of him in his third season with the Jazz. He’s the team’s closest thing to an All-Star and he cares about winning, by all accounts.
It’s just while I’ve come to appreciate his game more and more, I still say his style — backing in, holding the ball, faking and working for a shot — just doesn’t fit the Jazz’s traditional offensive approach that calls for the players and the ball to keep moving. To his credit, he’s become much more willing to pass in the last month, resulting in the team’s field-goal percentage finally climbing above .450, ranking in the top half of the league.
The summary is that even though I don’t see him as a long-term fixture here, trading him is not necessarily the right call.
The Jazz should move Jefferson only if they can net a return that’s a reasonable percentage of the package they received from New Jersey/Brooklyn for Deron Williams two years ago. They got Derrick Favors, Devin Harris (later traded for Marvin Williams), a first-round draft choice in 2011 (Enes Kanter) and a future first-round pick, which will be conveyed via Golden State this year.
In any case, the D-Will deal should be somewhat of a model for any trade of Jefferson. It actually would make more sense for the Jazz to trade Paul Millsap, as popular as he is, because Favors is better prepared than Kanter to assume a bigger role right now.
For the sake of their future, the Jazz have to commit themselves to Kanter, at some point. I’m just not sure that time is next week.
Why Smoove to the Spurs doesn’t make sense — Few players have had their name bandied about in trade rumors more the past few weeks than Hawks forward Josh Smith. From New Jersey to to San Antonio (and points inbetween and beyond), there’s been talk of the multi-talented forward having his skills shipped to any number of contenders around the league. The Spurs would seem to be a Finals shoo-in should they pick up Smith, but we’ve got a dose of reality courtesy of the San Antonio Express-News’ Jeff McDonald on why a Spurs trade for Smith is nonsense:
And so we come to the “rumor” that the Spurs are looking to trade for Atlanta forward Josh Smith. In a power-rankings column yesterday, the great Marc Spears at Yahoo! Sports mentioned the Spurs as one of many teams expressing interest in Smith.
This morning, the folks at ProBasketballTalk took Spears’ mention a step further, hopping on the trade machine to put together a hypothetical deal between the Spurs and Hawks. To PBT’s credit, the site made imminently clear the “hypothetical” part.
The deal they made up: Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Jackson’s expiring contract, a pick (perhaps?), a young point guard (perhaps?).
Again, nobody is reporting that the Spurs and Hawks have discussed any sort of deal at all. It’s all hypothetical.
If I may, here are three reasons why the Josh Smith-to-Spurs thing will not happen.1) The Hawks are primarily interested in acquiring picks. Lottery picks. The Spurs, as you may have read, are 41-12. They’re going to have to do a championship job of tanking after the All-Star break to wind up in the draft lottery. As it stands now, they’re going to have the No. 30 pick overall. Not an enticing trade chip for a team like Atlanta.
2) The Spurs have little to no interest in adding big payroll after this season. Smith is going to want a maximum contract when his deal is up. It’s the reason the Hawks are shopping him. I have no doubt some team out there will give Smith the payday he desires. I guarantee you it’s not going to be the Spurs. You really think the Spurs would be interested in giving up Kawhi Leonard — a guy Gregg Popovich envisions as the future face of the franchise – for a half-season rental? Because I don’t.
3) Leonard is borderline untouchable at this point. Look, you never say never about trading anybody (except maybe Tim Duncan). But thanks to the rookie scale contract system, the Spurs have Leonard — aka “Bruce Bowen with skills” — for two more seasons at a total of $3.1 million. That’s chump change, and quite a value for a player who is becoming increasingly important to what the Spurs do at both ends of the floor. For the budget-conscious Spurs, a player so vastly over-performing his contract is worth holding onto for dear life.
ICYMI of the night:JaVale McGee gets a lot of heat on Shaqtin’ A Fool when he does something wrong, and most of the time the criticism is deserved. But when he does something right — like this dunk last night over Gerald Wallace – well, we’ve got to give him props …:
HANG TIME, Texas — The last time James White and Gerald Green were in a slam dunk contest together, they practically blew the roof off with a 2010 Russian Cup performance that’s become a YouTube cult classic.
The Pacers’ 6-foot-8 Green won the event in 2007 at Las Vegas when he leaped over a table to dunk in the final round to beat out Dwight Howard and finished runner-up to Howard in 2008 despite a crowd-pleasing first-round dunk where he blew out the candle on a cupcake that was sitting on the back of the rim.
State Farm All-Star Saturday Night, an all-inclusive skills showcase, will take place on Feb. 16 at the Toyota Center in Houston and will be televised live by TNT at 8 p.m. ET.
Two of the league’s long-range shooters — Stephen Curry of the Warriors and Steve Novak of the Knicks — will lead opposing teams in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest. Curry’s West teammates will be Ryan Anderson of the Hornets and Matt Bonner of the Spurs. Joining Novak on the East team will be Kyrie Irving of the Cavaliers and Paul George of the Pacers.
It’s worth noting that Novak will be returning to the Toyota Center court where he broke into the NBA with the Rockets in 2006, while the league’s top 3-point percentage shooter — Kyle Korver of the Hawks — will not take part. But Anderson has the most 3-pointers this season.
The Taco Bell Skills Challenge will have Texans Tony Parker of the Spurs and Jeremy Lin of the Rockets joining forces with Trail Blazers rookie Damian Lillard for the West against the Hawks’ Jeff Teague, the Sixers’ Jrue Holiday and the Bucks Brandon Jennings.
The Sears Shooting Stars Competition, which features NBA players, WNBA players and NBA legends, will have James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Tina Thompson, Maya Moore, Robert Horry and Sam Cassell of the West taking on an East team of Brook Lopez, Chris Bosh, Swin Cash, Tamika Catchings, Dominique Wilkins and Muggsy Bogues.
As part of the new format, points earned by each conference throughout the four All-Star Skills Competitions will determine the conference that earns the title of 2013 State Farm All-Star Saturday Night champion. Dwyane Wade of the Heat will serve as the East team captain and the Clippers’ Chris Paul will lead the West.
In addition, NBA Cares and State Farm will make a joint donation of $500,000 as part of the event, with $350,000 going to the winning conference’s charities and $150,000 to the runner-up conference’s charities. All of the charities will be selected by the conference captains, the NBA, and State Farm.
In drafting players for Team Chuck and Team Shaq in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal went in opposite directions with their top picks. Shaq built his foundation on the high-scoring backcourt of Irving and Lillard, while Barkley went for big men in Anthony Davis and Faried.
While James Harden of the hometown Rockets will be in the lineup to serve as unofficial host for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, evidently the voters — fans and coaches — haven’t received the memo that the NBA is making a big splash in Brooklyn this season.
Harden, who was traded from Oklahoma City four days before the season opener and made a splash by scoring 37 and 45 points in his first two games, will make his All-Star debut in his brand new home town.
Yet despite their being the hottest team in the league with nine wins in the last 10 games and currently holding down the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference, the Nets were shut out when the reserves were announced for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game Thursday night.
A poll of the league’s head coaches added seven players to each team.
Chris Bosh joined teammates LeBron James and Dwayne Wade on the East team, making the defending NBA champion Heat the only team with three players that will take part in the 62nd All-Star Game, which will be played at Houston’s Toyota Center on Feb. 17 (TNT, 8:30p.m. ET).
In the Western Conference, the Spurs’ old reliable twosome of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were voted in for their 14th and fifth times, respectively, while the vote split up potential duos from other teams.
– Chris Bosh, Heat — If they were the Three Tenors, LeBron James would be Pavarotti, Dwyane Wade would be Domingo and Chris Bosh will always be “that other guy.” Numbers aren’t flashy, but he sacrifices his game to make it all work. | Highlights
Tyson Chandler, Knicks — He averages a double-double of 12.1 points-10.9 rebounds, leads the league in shooting (.674) and defends the rim as if he were a hungry fat man protecting the last cheeseburger on the planet. Justice is done. | Highlights
Luol Deng, Bulls – Coaches love the lunch pail players, the guys who show up for work every night. He leads the NBA in minutes, is his team’s top scorer and top defender in a season when the Bulls are surviving without Derrick Rose. | Highlights
Paul George, Pacers — He’s not just keeping the seat warm for Danny Granger, but playing like the Pacers’ MVP. With six double-doubles in the last two-plus weeks, he closed fast and has led Indiana’s surge after a slow start. | Highlights
Jrue Holiday, Sixers – In a season when Philly fans search for rare and exotic sightings of Bigfoot and Andrew Bynum, the dynamic guard is the reason to go to the games. He’s the only player in league averaging 19 points and nine assists. | Highlights
Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers — Look past the Cavs’ 11-32 record at these more pleasant numbers: 20.7 points, 5.7 assists, 39.9 3FG%, 20.7 PER. And the kid is only 20. Are the coaches already buttering him up for free agency? | Highlights
Joakim Noah, Bulls — The numbers say it all — 12.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.1 blocks, 1.3 steals per game. The hyperactive one is having the finest season of his career and symbolizes coach Tom Thibodeau’s driven attitude. | Highlights
The lowdown:The pair of Bulls on the frontline probably squeezed Nets center Brook Lopez out of a spot. Deron Williams would have been everyone’s preseason pick, but struggling with his shot didn’t help. Maybe coaches also didn’t like his griping that led to his coach, Avery Johnson, getting fired. You could have made a case for Boston’s leading scorer Paul Pierce, but with Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo already voted in by the fans, it’s unlikely the coaches wanted to reward the 8th-seeded Celtics with a third man. Do you really see a group of coaches warming up to J.R. Smith? Brandon Jennings of the Bucks and Greg Monroe of the Pistons are just too far under the radar.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Trail Blazers — The plan was to build Blazers into a playoff team next summer. But on a roster with less depth than a wading pool, L.A. scores (20.6), rebounds (8.6) and keeps them as a surprise club in the mix this season. | Highlights
Tim Duncan, Spurs — Oh, so you foolishly left him out of the All-Star Game for the first time last season? Well, the 36-year-old geezer responds by turning back the clock and turning up the heat to keep the Spurs as a real threat in the West. | Highlights
James Harden, Rockets – A bit ironic that The Beard’s first All-Star honor comes just when he’s shot 28-97 (.289) in his last five games. But he’s shown he can carry the mantle of the top dog and will represent the home team in Houston. | Highlights
David Lee, Warriors — Statistically, a no-brainer as the top PF in the West — 19.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists. His biggest challenge was probably splitting votes with teammate Stephen Curry on a Warriors team that has truly surprised. | Highlights
Tony Parker, Spurs – Coach Gregg Popovich keeps ratcheting up the pressure on him every season by raising the bar of great expectation and Parker goes right on clearing it. Seems the coaches understand just how hard that is to do. | Highlights
Zach Randolph, Grizzlies – You could make an argument for teammate Marc Gasol anchoring the defense. But flip the light switch every night and there’s Z-Bo with 16.1 points and 11.6 rebounds, which add up to a league-leading 27 double-doubles. | Highlights
Russell Westbrook, Thunder – The most polarizing player in the NBA has struggled all season with his shot, but ranks in the top five in steals and the top six in assists while churning away with fellow All-Star Kevin Durant to build OKC’s league-best record. | Highlights
The lowdown: As difficult as it was to pare down the list, imagine how much harder things might have been if Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Kevin Love were healthy/up to par. In many cases in the West, it became an intramural competition with Lee beating out Curry, Randolph elbowing Marc Gasol aside and Aldridge getting the nod over rookie Damian Lillard. The surging Nuggets were overlooked, maybe because they’re too well-balanced. The Clippers’ turbo-charger off the bench, Jamal Crawford, was also snubbed. But if anybody’s got a reason to complain here, it’s Curry. a
Our friends at TNT will announce the All-Star reserves on 7 p.m. eastern on Thursday before another tasty doubleheader, so I thought I’d get the ball rolling with the reserves lists according to the 8-cat fantasy rankings through Sunday.
Eastern Conference Fantasy All-Star Reserves
Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers: Obviously, Kyrie has very little chance of making the real-life All-Star team, but he’s eighth across 8 categories thanks to 23.1 points, 5.7 assists, 2.0 threes, and 1.7 steals.
Paul George, Pacers: Few players are better in the fantasy gold categories, as George is averaging 2.2 threes, 1.8 steals, and 0.7 blocks — good for 12th across 8 cats.
Jrue Holiday, 76ers: Holiday is 13th across 8 cats and quite possibly this year’s Most Improved Player with 19.4 points and 9.0 assists.
Joakim Noah, Bulls: After a sub-par lockout season, Noah is Noah again, averaging 12.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks to rank 14th across 8 categories.
Brandon Jennings, Bucks: Young Buck’s points and assists are solid, at 18.6 and 5.8, respectively. That said, what vaults him to 16th across 8 categories is 2.0 steals and 1.9 threes.
Chris Bosh, Heat: Quietly, Bosh is 19th across 8 categories with 17.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 55 percent from the field, and 83 percent from the line.
Paul Pierce, Celtics: Don’t sleep on the great Paul Pierce, who still gets it done at 35 years young. The Truth is averaging 19.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.9 threes, and 1.5 steals, keeping him in the top 25 across 8 categories.
Western Conference Fantasy All-Star Reserves
James Harden, Rockets: The Beard is third across 8 categories, behind only Kevin Durant and LeBron James, and ahead of Kobe Bryant, thanks in large part to 25.8 points, 1.9 threes, and 1.9 steals.
Stephen Curry, Warriors: Finally healthy, Curry is stuffing the stat sheet AND helping the Warriors win. Steph ranks seventh across 8 categories with 20.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 3.1 threes, and 1.7 steals. 3.1 threes?!? Talk about the goodies!
Russell Westbrook, Thunder: Durant is first and Westbrook is ninth across 8 categories, making OKC the only team with 2 of the top 9 players in fantasy hoops. Westbrook’s scoring is down to 23.0 points, but his assists are up to a career-high 8.3 per game.
Tim Duncan, Spurs: Duncan is having a turn-back-the-clock season, averaging 17.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks. Shooting 50 percent from the field and 82 percent from the line has helped Duncan rank 10th across 8 categories.
Nicolas Batum, Trail Blazers: Batum is the Paul George of the West, bringing the fantasy gold with 2.5 threes, 1.5 steals, and 1.0 blocks. Batum is currently 11th across 8 categories, and he’s been providing first-round value all season.
David Lee, Warriors: Lee may be the most underrated player in the NBA, what with his 19.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 53 percent from the field, and 80 percent from the line. Lee ranks 17th across 8 categories and he may make his first appearance in the real-life All-Star game.
O.J. Mayo, Mavericks: Believe it or not, Mayo ranks 20th across 8 categories due mainly to his 18.2 points and 2.1 threes per game. After slumping a bit following Dirk Nowitzki’s return, it appears as if Mayo is back on track.
Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick.
Head coach Scott Skiles and the Milwaukee Bucks have parted ways, apparently in a mutual decision, according to various sources and NBA media outlets.
The move, reported first late Monday by USA Today, was confirmed to NBA.com by a person close to the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. The Bucks are expected to make an official announcement Tuesday.
Skiles was working in the final year of his contract — as was his staff, as is GM John Hammond, as are several key Milwaukee players — and NBA.com’s David Aldridgereported Monday that the coach informed the Bucks that he would not be returning next season. Team management or Skiles did not comment for the report, but there were obvious differences of opinion between the coach and the front office over the make-up of the roster and Skiles’ playing rotations.
For example, the Bucks’ lack of size last season sparked personnel moves that significantly beefed up the frontcourt: Hammond traded for center Samuel Dalembert, drafted power forward John Henson, retained free-agent forward Ersan Ilyasova and signed free-agent center Joel Przybilla. Yet with that logjam and the emergence of third-year big man Larry Sanders, Skiles used Dalembert and Henson sporadically and rarely activated Drew Gooden, who logged most of Milwaukee’s minutes at center last season.
Meanwhile, he grappled with a thin backcourt, with only Beno Udrih as a reliable backup to scorers/starters Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
The business decision by Bucks owner Herb Kohl not to offer contract extensions beyond this season to Skiles or Hammond was not appreciated by the coach, a person with knowledge of the situation said. Skiles allegedly had talked with Kohl about a release after last season, when he might have been a candidate for one of several NBA coaching positions. One of those jobs was in Orlando, where he enjoyed his greatest success as a player and where, unlike the Bucks, the Magic were committed to a full overhaul.
Still, Milwaukee keeping the coaches and the GM in the final seasons of their deals at least was consistent with the Bucks’ decision not to extend Jennings’ contract. They opted to let the point guard test the market as a restricted free agent this summer. Ellis has an opt-out clause in his contract.
And now their head coach will be out there as well, unrestricted.
Jim Boylan, Skiles’ top assistant coach in his stints as head coach in Phoenix and Chicago, will step in immediately. Coincidentally, he’ll slide one seat over just in time to face the Suns Tuesday at BMO Harris Bradley Center and the Bulls Wednesday in Chicago.
CHICAGO – Jon McGlocklin, Milwaukee Bucks guard-turned-broadcaster, got stopped courtside the last time his team played at Madison Square Garden. It was Spike Lee, the hardcore Knicks fan and occasional movie director, tugging on McGlocklin’s arm.
“He said ‘Jon, I want to talk to you about that game!’ ” McGlocklin recalled Monday night in the bowels of United Center. “I didn’t even know he knew who I was. I told him, ‘Aaargh, I don’t want to talk about that.’ “
The game in question: New York’s comeback from an 86-68 deficit deep into the fourth quarter, convulsed into an 87-86 victory when the Knicks scored the final 19 points on the night of Nov. 18, 1972. Pulled off against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and the rest, it generally is considered the most famous regular-season NBA game in Knicks history, ranking right behind the two championship clinchers for lifelong fans like Lee.
McGlocklin recalled it anew Monday, after the Bucks wound up on the other side of something equally improbable: A comeback from 27 points down deep in the third quarter, 78-51, engineered by an all-bench crew that outscored the Bulls 42-14 over the final 14:29. On the road. With McGlocklin there to flash back.
“You’re flailing around like in a dream,” he said of his Bucks way back when and the Bulls just moments — nightmarish moments — earlier. “You can’t quite reach the ball. You try to take a step, and it’s like an out-of-body experience.”
That was the Chicago side of things Monday, as the Bulls starters saw what had been a cushy lead cut to 17 points by the start of the third quarter. Then — whoosh! — to 10, 80-70, just 96 seconds into the fourth on Beno Udrih‘s 3-pointer. Another Bulls turnover, a run-out dunk by Ekpe Udoh and it was 80-74.
A jumper by little-used rookie Doron Lamb, whose defense on Rip Hamilton was equally important; A 3-pointer by Ersan Ilyasova, moved to the bench after 11 starts as coach Scott Skiles searched to spark him; And another one from the arc, this one by Mike Dunleavy, after Chicago let a defensive rebound bounce and wind up back in the Bucks’ hands.
That made it 82-82 with seven minutes left. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau already knew what was coming.
“In an NBA game, you can lose 10 points in a minute,” Thibodeau said, his sideline growling over for the night. “Everyone says that doesn’t happen, but I see it all the time. If you don’t play tough with the lead, this is what happens.”
Said Dunleavy: “When it was 27, it was like, ‘This is almost physically impossible.’ But when we got it to  at the end of the third, we felt, ‘This has happened before.’ “
“I was in a game once with Phoenix where we came back from 27 down, I believe it was to start the fourth,” Skiles said. “It was at Miami and [Dan] Majerle hit a 3 for Miami with like 50 seconds left. We came all the way back but got beat. … You know, this doesn’t happen that much. It’s hard to do. You’ve got to play perfectly, and then you need some help from the other team. Kind of both things happened for us tonight.”
Several things, frankly, happened for the Bucks Monday. They put behind them the sour memories of their loss Saturday to Chicago, a game in which they got pounded on the boards while Skiles played bigs Samuel Dalembert, John Henson and Drew Gooden a total of 1:18.
They got a performance for the ages from the bench crew, outscoring their Chicago counterparts 56-10. They shook off the rust or whatever it was hindering Ilyasova’s game since his return from free agency. His fourth quarter — 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting, four boards, an assist, a steal and a block — seemed better than his first 47 quarters this season combined.
“There’s a little bit better flow with that unit,” Dunleavy said. “That probably enabled him to relax a little bit — make his shots, make his plays. It didn’t feel like he was having to find his way as much.”
In other words — ahem — that dynamic offensive backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, which does tend to dominate the basketball, was nowhere to be found over the final 15:26 as Skiles swapped subs for starters. Ilyasova found some rhythm, while Lamb was more active than any of the other Milwaukee defenders against Hamilton, who had his best night as a Bulls player but missed a 10-footer in the lane as time expired.
“[Ilyasova] is new to it, but that group plays together every day in practice and we more than hold our own,” Dunleavy said. “We know how to play. We share the ball. Whoever’s open takes the shot. That’s how you beat a good defensive team like this.”
After four consecutive defeats that Milwaukee felt it could have, maybe even should have, won — tight ones to Boston and at Charlotte, an overtime loss at Miami and the first Bulls clash, a one-possession until the final half-minute — it tucked one away Monday that it had no business winning.
“I’ve thrown a few of those in my career,” Dunleavy said, laughing, Monday after Bucks practice and treatment. “It’s about 10 percent of the work. The other 90 percent is the guy making the shot. It was kind of him to put it in. I was just standing there out of bounds, kind of mesmerized.”
Jennings’ numbers to earn POW: 17.0 points, 13.0 assists and 4.0 steals per game in Milwaukee’s 2-0 start. But take a look at Dunleavy’s: 18.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals, while shooting 70.6 percent from the field and 87.5 percent (7-of-8) from the arc. Against the Cavs, he had 29 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
His PER, as a measure of overall efficiency: 34.2. Jennings? 28.5. The average NBA player checks in at 15.0.
Two games is a puny sample size. Multiply it by 41 before we start talking of Dunleavy’s across-the-board numbers in the same terms of Larry Bird‘s or Kevin Garnett‘s. His offensive rating of 149.9 — an estimate of points produced per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference.com — is crazy good. Heading into Monday’s games, it was third-highest in the league, behind Minnesota’s J.J. Barea (156.3) and Miami’s Ray Allen (149.9). (more…)
To hear the Cleveland Cavaliers tell it, the folks in Wisconsin only had to turn their clocks back 59 minutes and 59.8 seconds overnight Saturday. Because the Milwaukee Bucks took care of that first tenth-of-a-second or two for them.
After Brandon Jennings‘ buzzer-beater lifted the Bucks to a 105-102 victory at the BMO Harris Bradley Center – and after Cavs coach Byron Scott got a chance to see a couple of replays – Scott felt the timekeeping in Milwaukee was slow on the trigger. He told that to reporters after the game.
“I don’t want to get fined, so I’m not going to say nothing about the clock starting late on the last shot. But they have to figure out a way to do something about that. The bottom line is that either it doesn’t count or you take it out again. They’ve got to figure out a way.
“Looking at it again in the locker room a copule of times, the shot shouldn’t have counted. The clock started too late.”
The situation: Just 0.7 seconds showed on the clock when Milwaukee inbounded the ball, Mike Dunleavy passing to Jennings near the top of the key. Upon review, the Cavs felt Jennings did too much with the ball, from catch to windup to launch, before the clock began its countdown. (more…)