Golden State Warriors All-Star forward David Lee became the latest out-for-the-season casualty with a complete tear of his right hip flexor in Saturday’s Game 1 loss to the Denver Nuggets. He reluctantly joins the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (Achilles) and Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari (knee), two players sidelined by devastating injuries just before the start of the playoffs.
That leaves three Western Conference playoff teams down a star player.
“I think about it all the time,” Butler said of that dreadful day, Jan. 1, 2011, when his right patellar tendon ruptured during a game in Milwaukee, making him a bystander and cheerleader for the rest of the season as the Dallas Mavericks went on to win the championship.
“Every time I lace up and step on the court I think about it because that could have easily been my last time playing the game of basketball as a professional. It’s one of those things that I don’t take for granted. I was truly humbled by that experience and I learned a lot from it.”
Butler is now in his second season as the Los Angeles Clippers’ starting small forward. He had an excellent Game 1 with 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting and seven rebounds in just 24 minutes as the Clippers beat the Memphis Grizzlies 112-91. Game 2 is tonight (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT) at Staples Center.
“We’ve got a number of guys that have had injuries and come back from them,” Chris Paul said. “But Caron especially, when you’re injured and trying to work through an injury you feel like you’ll never be back to who you were. To see Caron playing the way he is, it’s exciting and great to see.”
Yes, Butler is finally healthy. He began to think he was snakebit when he broke his left hand in last year’s playoff opener and was feared lost for an extended period. He somehow played through it, determined not to miss more precious postseason time.
“I was not going to miss it,” Butler said.
“It’s frustrating, extremely frustrating,” Butler continued. “Being part of a team and building up to the ultimate goal to compete for a title and not being able to compete on the court is always frustrating. And then you just have to think team first and add all the little intangibles you bring to the table besides being on the floor — being vocal in the locker room, the experience in the locker room, staying in guys’ ears.”
To this day, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle talks of the gruesome nature of Butler’s injury, how his knee cap became completely dislodged and how Butler walked off the court under his own power, not wanting to scare friends and family who came to watch him in Milwaukee, near his hometown of Racine, Wisc.
And Carlisle relays the heroic nature in which Butler attacked rehab for months, desperately attempting to make it back for even one game of the playoff run only to fall short.
“It was so painful just not to be able to show your gift like what you’re capable of doing on the biggest stage in the sport,” Butler said.
Now 33 and in his 11th season — and sixth postseason in which he’s actually able to play — Butler said the 2011 season has come to define his approach to the rest of his career.
“It’s made me a much more motivated, a much more focused player, a much more mature player,” Butler said. “And that’s why I’m always — I’m much older now — but I’m always wanting to be out there on the court. I just want that opportunity to be out there all the time and to have my impact and influence on the court felt, not just in the locker room.
“It’s something I really look forward to, these opportunities to go into a postseason relatively healthy and being able to perform at a high level.”
He suspects the same will be true next season for Kobe, Gallinari and Lee.
LOS ANGELES – How poor was the Memphis Grizzlies’ rebounding in Saturday night’s Game 1?
So poor that Lamar Odom’s seven boards in 18 minutes were one more than Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combined to bring down in 66 total minutes.
“Very surprised,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said when asked about the Los Angeles Clippers’ 47-23 overall margin on the boards and 14-4 on the offensive glass. “But I’ve been saying when we played them before, they’ve gotten more boards than they should. Their wing people come in and get offensive rebounds.”
Hollins then noted after his team’s 112-91 loss the seemingly impossible with what can only be described as stunned exasperation: Randolph managed four rebounds in 25 foul-plagued minutes and Gasol got just two rebounds — one defensive board in the first quarter and another in the third — in 41 minutes.
And just look at those offensive rebounds that Hollins is talking about for the Clippers. Of their 14, the starters had five — center DeAndre Jordan (three), Caron Butler (one) and Blake Griffin (one), who, like Randolph, was taken out of the flow of the game by fouls — some seemingly very ticky-tack both ways — and played less than 26 minutes.
The bench, led by Odom’s three offensive rebounds, accounted for nine, and remarkably equaled Memphis’ overall 23 rebounds. Even little-used Ronny Turiaf, getting nine minutes of in place of Ryan Hollins late in the third and early in the fourth, outrebounded Gasol, 3-2, including an offensive board and a put-back.
Nothing in Saturday’s Game 1 held to form for either club other than the Clippers’ bench playing outstanding basketball. The rebounding aspect went haywire. During the regular saeason, Memphis ranked third in allowing the fewest offensive rebounds per game (10.3), was tied for third in accumulating offensive rebounds (12.9). It was also third in rebounding differential (plus-3.6).
The Clippers are big up front and are a good rebounding team, having finished sixth in differential (plus-2.5). But to have a plus-24 advantage in Game 1 and to be outscored 25-5 on second-chance points, it was all about outhustling the burly Grizzlies.
“We got beat at our game. We got to give them credit,” said Gasol, a top Defensive Player of the Year candidate. “Once we got a stop, they kept running and getting offensive rebounds and second-chance points. The way we played for 36-40 minutes, I think we played good basketball. Even though we weren’t fully feeling like ourselves, they were doing a good job of trying to get us away from what we’re trying to do.”
For Memphis fans who were screaming at Lionel Hollins through their television sets to see more of Ed Davis, who was first off the bench when Randolph got in foul trouble and started fast with six points and three rebounds in the first quarter (he finished with six and six in 12 minutes), the coach made it clear why he Davis saw just five minutes of action after the first quarter.
“We’ve got to stop people, too,” Hollins said. “That sounds good and I know that everyone’s chirping at that (playing Davis more), but there’s a lot more to this game than just one step.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – That rant Vinny Del Negro unleashed on his team after Saturday night’s blowout loss to the Houston Rockets (sans James Harden) was not an elaborate pre-April Fool’s Day ruse. It was real.
“They played harder than we did,” Del Negro said. “We were terrible. Our effort was terrible, our attitude was terrible, our urgency was terrible. Very disappointed. I didn’t see the fight in us tonight, and we need guys to step up.”
“We’re fighting for a spot, and we come out with that second-half — pretty much the whole game — effort. It was poor.” Del Negro said. “I know it’s the fourth game in five nights, but that’s no excuse. We’ve got plenty of depth. No excuses. I don’t believe in that.”
The vitriol … the disappointment … all of it was real.
With seemingly everything to play for — a top-three seed in the Western Conference playoffs, home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, simple professional pride — the Clippers cannot find the energy to finish the season the way they started (with a bang).
The Clippers have fallen off the mark in the second half of the season, squandering a league-best 32-9 start by stumbling their way to a .500 finish (17-17) with seven games remaining in the season. Chris Paul‘s MVP turn during All-Star weekend might very well serve as the lone highlight for the Clippers during the season’s stretch run if they can’t shake out of their funk.
Deciphering exactly what’s wrong with the Clippers from a schematic standpoint is basically a waste of time. They have certain deficiencies that cannot be cured this season unless both Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan magically locate reliable post moves overnight. That’s not meant as a slight to either of the talented young big men, it’s just a fact.
The Clippers are not capable of playing inside-out for long enough stretches to make other high-level teams uncomfortable. Kicking off a crucial, four-game home stand with a deflating loss to the Pacers is no way to inspire confidence. And when Paul, Jamal Crawford and the rest of the Clippers’ perimeter stars are taking turns struggling as well, it confirms all of the fears we’ve been expressing about this team since their second-half struggles began.
This is code red time for the Clippers. They’ve lost four of their last five games and the finger-pointing (direct and otherwise) has already begun. The effort and energy from the players seems to be lacking, suggesting an underlying issue between the players and the coach that is undefeated in terms of the final results (the coach always has to go).
Del Negro has taken a rather aggressive approach, tinkering with his rotations and even benching starters in an effort to jumpstart his team.
For any of this to be said on a team with some of the best locker room leadership in the league (Paul, Caron Butler, Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups) is a bit startling.
Just as startling is Del Negro’s pointed criticism at his biggest stars, particularly his benching of Paul and Griffin recently, moves that are sure to erode the coach-player dynamic on a team that has always had issues in that regard under Del Negro. This madness is going on with a team that needs just one more win to clinch the franchise’s first 50-win season in history.
This puts the entire operation on alert for the postseason. If the Clippers slide in and then slide out just as quickly, then it’s anyone’s guess as to where the Clippers go from there in the offseason.
Start the playoffs on the road and suffer the fate then that you did during your recent tour through the Southwest Division, a 1-3 plank walk, and whatever is wrong with the Clippers will be someone else’s problem.
HANG TIME WEST – Best dunk of the season? Please.
Try among the best dunks in Clippers history. The edge still goes to Blake Griffin mauling Danilo Gallinari with a full arsenal of power, agility and hops into a concussive finish, although others will choose different Blake Superior moments. But DeAndre Jordan turning innocent Piston Brandon Knight into road kill Sunday night in Los Angeles was a crescendo for the ages.
Seriously, for the ages. Jordan uncommon athleticism for a big man capped by the coordination and the power move at the basket deserves to be in any John Starks-Michael Jordan-Tracy McGrady-Baron Davis-Scottie Pippen-Kevin Johnson-Ronnie Price conversation for the best NBA dunks, non-contest category. (The best dunk by an NBA player in any setting is Vince Carter turning Frederic Weis into a punchline at the 2000 Olympics. End of discussion.)
In the moment, though, the seismic event Sunday at Staples Center is the slam of the season, for the league and certainly for the Clippers.
1. Heir Jordan a
Knight will get a ton of grief because that’s the way it works, but, really, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He wasn’t even challenging the shot. Knight’s move was to try to intercept a Chris Paul pass that seemed to be thrown into the middle of the lane, out of harm’s way.
DeAndre (not Michael) Jordan moved it into harm’s way. He was a left-hander who controlled the lob with his right hand, a 7-footer with the dexterity of a wing, a defensive specialist at center who will now forever be remembered for a play on offense.
2. Butler Did It a
Caron Butler easily ditched Carter’s defense in the corner, drove baseline and threw down on Chris Kaman. Those are the facts of the thunderous moment.
That we’re talking, yes, Caron Butler is an added sidelight. Not Griffin. Not Jordan. Not Eric Bledsoe. Not even Travis Leslie in preseason, before getting waived. Butler, 32, is a highlight of flight.
3. The Two-Man Game a
Monta Ellis lost the ball after Milwaukee reached the front court. Bledsoe gained possession and threw ahead to Jamal Crawford for what should have been an easy breakaway basket. No Buck was close to Crawford. But Griffin was.
Griffin can dunk, as you may have heard. But Crawford’s delivery doused the play in glitter: left hand to right hand between the legs and flips up the lob at the perfect height for the trailer, Griffin, to finish. It was more the pass than the dunk.
4. Point Well Taken a
Good things can happen with Paul running the break and fellow point guard Bledsoe on the wing. CP3 can get where he needs to get on the court and the athleticism of Bledsoe means he can get where he needs to get in the air even at 6-1.
Paul’s hook-shoot pass over his right shoulder arced into the lane, where Bledsoe took over by controlling the ball with his right hand and hammering the ball through the rim. The little men ruled the paint.
5. Paul Bearer a
CP3 really is everywhere. The defense. The drive, the finish.
The dunk itself is nothing out of the ordinary. But it’s Paul controlling the moment, and that’s never ordinary either.
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.
In the latest Shaqtin’ A Fool, Shaq calls out Caron Butler, John Wall, Roger Mason Jr. and Tyreke Evans as well as investigating some recent free-throw shenanigans. Vote for your favorite Shaqtin’ A Fool moment! –
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: Can’t deny that amazing performance by LeBron James last night against the Bobcats — the reigning MVP made 13 of 14 shots, the league’s third-best shooting performance with at least that many attempts in the last 18 years — as Miami won. But our vote goes to Bulls-Pacersin a matchup of two of the East’s elite squads — both in terms of records and defensive ability. Paul George showed why he’s both an All-Star and one of the best all-around young talents in the game with a 25-point, 11-rebound, five-assist performance that included an amazing dunk and a dazzling assist. Surprising as well was both teams combining for 212 points, considering where the Bulls (19th) and Pacers (26th) rank in offensive rating.
Dwight doesn’t want a ‘circus’ — After a ‘Dwightmare’ that lasted pretty much all of last season (and into the 2012 offseason), Dwight Howard isn’t looking to create more drama in Lakerland. In a sit-down interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, Howard defended his actions last season, spoke of not wanting to be a distraction in Lakerland, further detailed his nagging shoulder injury and discussed playing with Kobe Bryant. ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin has the report off the interview, which has some pretty telling stuff about how Howard views himself:
“I’m not a crybaby,” Howard told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on SportsCenter on Monday. “I didn’t try to cry my way out of Orlando. That was never my intention, or not what I did at all. And I understand everybody thought it was that way because of what was being put out there. I’m not indecisive. I love this game. You know I play it because it inspires me; it inspires millions of kids around me, adults and all. And, I’m going to have fun while I do it.”
Howard becomes a free agent July 1 but wants to live in the present, sticking to his goal of winning the first championship of his nine-year career this season, no matter how unlikely it may seem with the Los Angeles Lakers getting off to a 22-26 start more than three months into the season.
“Right now, my only focus is to get us into the playoffs and win the championship,” Howard said. “Nothing else matters at this point.
Howard talks about his future in L.A. and knows the Lakers want him back, but he isn’t ready to commit to them just yet:
The Lakers have made it clear that they want Howard to be a keystone for the franchise moving forward, with general manager Mitch Kupchak telling Newsday this week that the center will not be traded, but Howard does not want to focus on the future just yet.
“I understand, you know, what the Lakers want,” Howard said. “And I also understand that right now, there’s no need for all the circus, and all the stuff that happened last year to start back up. I don’t want it, my team doesn’t need it, I don’t need it, and frankly, our fans don’t need it neither.”
What the fans do need is to see more of Howard looking like the player who became the first person in league history to win three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards. First he needs to be on the court to do so.
Howard is considered a game-time decision when the Lakers play the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday because of a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder. Howard, who has missed four games this season because of his shoulder but has not missed any time from complications stemming from offseason back surgery, said he continues to battle with his health.
“Well with my back you know, it’s not all the way there, 75 percent,” Howard said. “And with my shoulder, it’s day to day. This is the first year recovering off of a back surgery. I really don’t think people understand the severity of the surgery and the injury, and how long it takes to recover. Even sitting down in this chair right now is causing my legs to go numb, and just having this tingling sensation all the way down my legs. So, that happens when I’m playing. That happens when I’m just sitting on the bench for a couple minutes. It’s not easy.”
In terms of playing with Bryant, Howard says he can’t let the fact Kobe tends to shoot a lot disrupt his game:
“You play with Kobe Bryant you know, he’s going to get them up,” Howard said. “But, at the same time, I have to find ways to still be effective. I can’t allow that to affect how I play. There were a lot of times early in the season where I would get upset you know, because I felt like he shot the ball a lot. And you know, I wanted some touches down low. Do I want touches, yeah. But, whatever I have to do to help this team win, I have to keep my mind in that area.”
It’s Finals or bust for these Pacers — Indiana’s win over Chicago pulled it into a tie for the Central Division lead and has the Pacers sitting at No. 3 in the Eastern Conference. Reason to be happy, right? Not exactly, according to Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. The Pacers have shown the ability to be very good, but need a game-changing scorer off the bench to realize the team’s full potential: a Finals-worthy squad. Kravitz expounds on his point and has a few deals he’d like to see Indiana make:
It’s not enough for the Indiana Pacers to win 50-plus games and go deep into the playoffs. It’s not enough for them to be a really good team that has a chance to take the Miami Heat to the edge and make them sweat, as they did one year ago.
The bar has to be raised higher, an NBA Finals appearance or bust, and there’s only one way that’s going to happen:
Before the Feb. 21 trade deadline, team President Donnie Walsh and general manager Kevin Pritchard must make a season-changing deal.
They have two needs if they want to go from nice playoff contender to NBA Finals possibility.
They need a dynamic scorer off the bench. Right now, they’re hanging on by their fingernails, scoring by committee. But they don’t have anybody like, say, a J.R. Smith of the Knicks, who can come off the bench and drop 20 on an opponent.
Go grab somebody like J.J. Redick, the Orlando sharpshooter who would give the Pacers the dead-eye presence they so sorely lack. That might mean losing Redick, a free agent, at season’s end, but it could be worth the investment.
Or how about picking up some of the pieces when and if the Boston Celtics decide to break up the old gang? The Pacers would re-unite with Leandro Barbosa in a heartbeat. The Pacers would love a piece of Jason Terry. Somebody. Anybody.
They could also use a bit more size at the backup point guard spot, even if that’s not as great a crying need as a scorer off the bench.
What’s frustrating is, they were within minutes of pulling off a trade last year for O.J. Mayo. And then when that trade fell through, Jamal Crawford, a free agent, decided he would no longer wait around and signed instead with the Los Angeles Clippers.
…Who do they move?
I’d make Tyler Hansbrough available.
I’d make Green available.
I’d think about moving Lance Stephenson, even though he has emerged the way former team boss Larry Bird envisioned he would.
And I’d part with a first-round pick in a year in which the draft is unusually weak.
Here’s who I wouldn’t part with: Danny Granger.
He has been the subject of fan trades for years, and just this week, there was another rumor that the Houston Rockets were making exploratory calls about Granger’s availability.
Listen to me.
Don’t trade him.
Without him, they have zero chance to make any noise in the playoffs.
The Pacers are close, really close, likely a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference.
But they’re not an NBA Finals contender.
Not yet, anyway.
No big secret to Chandler’s rebounding success — With his 20-rebound game against the Pistons last night, Tyson Chandler joined Willis Reed as the only player in Knicks history to amass 20-plus rebounds in three straight games. In the 13 games before this rebounding outburst, Chandler averaged 11.5 rpg — right at about his season average (11.2). So what has led to his big turnaround on the boards? Newsday’s Jim Baumbach says a stern talk with coach Mike Woodson lit a fire under Chandler to pick up his rebounding work:
The way Knicks coach Mike Woodson sees it, when a 7-footer with Chandler’s wingspan plays with as much energy and hustle as his center has recently, those rebounds are going to pile up. And after a recent stern talk initiated by Woodson, Chandler has been proving his coach’s point twentyfold.
In Monday night’s 99-85 victory over the Detroit Pistons , Chandler grabbed 20 rebounds for the third straight game, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished by a Knicks player in more than four decades.
He credited his recent rebounding surge to a frank talk he had with Woodson in the coach’s office last week that “mentally lit a fire under me.”
Woodson said he thought Chandler’s play had been slipping for a few games, and the coach wanted to put a stop to the troublesome sign before it became a trend.
So Woodson called Chandler in and harped on the fact that now that he’s an All-Star for the first time in his 12-year career, he has to play like one all the time.
“I didn’t think he was playing complete basketball,” Woodson said. “He was taking possessions off. He wasn’t moving the pace offensively and he wasn’t getting it done in terms of rebounding the basketball. And you can’t be an All-Star in this league and not play like it.”
As hard as it was for Chandler to hear that from his coach, he said he didn’t take offense. Instead, he said he channeled his emotions on the court — especially when chasing down those missed shots.
“The last thing you want is for people to start questioning you,” Chandler said. “And I agreed . . . Sometimes you need that. You need a little push.”
Bynum keeps working, but worries about bone bruises — Sixers big man Andrew Bynum is ramping up his on-court knee rehab a little each day and is still targeting post-All-Star break to make his Philly debut. But as he works to return, his main concern is avoiding a bone bruise on the knee. Tom Moore of Phillyburbs.com has more on what Bynum’s rehab schedule and concerns are:
Bynum said prior to Monday’s home game against the Magic that he expects to play sometime in February, barring “a bone bruise or something like that.”
The earliest it would seem Bynum could be in uniform is Feb. 20 in Minneapolis, which is the first game after the all-star break.
As for the Feb. 14-19 break, Bynum said the plan is to go to his home in Los Angeles for the first part and to return to Philadelphia that Sunday or Monday.
Bynum has missed the entire 2012-13 campaign due to bone bruises in his both knees.
Asked what is keeping him from playing, Bynum replied, “My doctor said it’s fear of a big bone bruise, so we need to nurse it back up to playable conditions without having a setback or creating a bone bruise.”
While he’s still isn’t even playing 1-on-1 in his workouts, he said he’s progressing to the point where his sessions last as long as three hours and consist of running, lifting weights and basketball drills. He’s running on the anti-gravity treadmill with 75-80 percent of his body weight.
Bynum said it hurts when he does “jumping, lateral movement and defensive slides” and wonders if it’s a range-of-motion issue.
The second set of Synvisc shots he received Thursday in New York from personal physician Dr. David Altchek don’t seem to be helping much, according to Bynum, though his right knee “feels phenomenal.” That’s the knee he hurt bowling. He injured the left knee doing a basketball drill in September.
Z-Bo trying to find way out of slump — Memphis’ double-double machine and All-Star, Zach Randolph, was more than dependable the first three months of the season. He averaged 15.6 ppg and 12.8 rpg from October to January and, aside from shooting 33.3 percent in Memphis’ lone October game, never shot worse than 43.5 percent in any month. Much has changed for him from late January to the start of this month, as he’s averaging 6.7 ppg, 14.0 rpg and shooting 26.5 percent from Jan. 28-Feb. 1. Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal talked with Randolph about the cause of his swoon:
Zach Randolph pontificated for several minutes about the Grizzlies’ offense, how he needs to play and the nuances of opposing defenses geared toward weakening his presence in the paint.
Then, the Griz power forward fielded a simple question.
“How are you feeling?” a reporter asked, wondering if the lower back pain that caused Randolph to miss a game about two weeks ago might still linger.
“I ain’t the one to complain,” Randolph said. “If it was (hurting) I couldn’t tell you.”
Randolph let loose a hearty laugh. But there isn’t much amusing about Randolph’s inability to score over the past three games. What’s funny — as in odd — is the All Star has missed layups, tip-ins, settled for off-balanced jump shots while fading.
The veteran’s offensive problems have added up to a three-game stretch in which he’s scored a total of 20 points on 9-of-34 shooting (26 percent).
This is so funny that Randolph put a stamp on it.
“This has probably been the worst slump since 2003 for me,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve really played good offensively this whole year. I have my spurts. I’ve been doing other things.”
From coach Lionel Hollins to every teammate, the Griz agree that they can help Randolph get back on track.
No one but Randolph can correct his inexplicable misses around the basket, but the Griz have talked about improving their early offense and overall spacing to alleviate pressure in the post.
“He’s got to work harder to get up and down the court so we can get some easy buckets for him, and we haven’t done that,” Hollins said. “And we’ve got to do a better job of getting the ball to him in the post where he can operate and then getting out of his way.”
Hollins preferred more pick-and-rolls and transition offense without an injured Randolph most of last season. The gradual move away from setting up and throwing the ball in the post continued this season.
However, Randolph has relied more on facing up and launching midrange jump shots as his effectiveness around the basket has decreased.
“On the offensive end, it’s not like it was two years ago. It’s been different,” Randolph said. “The beginning of the season was different. But it’s just a matter of me getting right. That’s what I do. I’m an offensive player and a rebounder. I’ve just got to keep pushing.”
Clippers staying tight-lipped on KG talk — As we mentioned on the Hang Time blog yesterday, reports are circulating that the Clippers may be chasing after Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. One of the players believed to be involved in a potential trade, guard Eric Bledsoe, didn’t have much to say about a deal and neither did his coach, Vinny Del Negro. Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News wonders, though, if a trade is just what these Clippers need most:
The aging, expensive Celtics recently lost point guard Rajon Rondo to a season-ending knee injury, knocking an already unbalanced season sideways.
With the Clippers potentially looking for help to get back on track, the Celtics contemplating blowing their roster up and going into full rebuild mode and the Feb. 21 trade deadline approaching, the game of connect the dots is in full swing.
Which led to a report that surfaced Sunday in the Sporting News that indicated the Clippers had inquired about the Celtics’ Kevin Garnett.
The Clippers reportedly are dangling point guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Caron Butler for the 37-year-old Garnett, who has two more years on his contract beyond this season worth $23 million.
Bledsoe has enough on his hands trying to hold things down
until Paul returns from his knee injury – that included playing the entire second half Sunday against the Celtics – let alone worry about trade rumors.
“I’m just focused on the Washington Wizards,” Bledsoe said before Monday’s game. “Just focused on the Wizards and trying to get back on a winning track.”
It was a clever way of downplaying the reports, but the reality is Bledsoe knows full well his name is out there in trade talks. To deal with it, he boils his focal point down to the most minimal element.
“It’s what I can control,” Bledsoe said. “So I’ll focus on the Wizards and trying to get back on the winning track.”
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said trade talk isn’t an issue and most of the rumors being bandied about have little validity.
“Most of (what’s reported) isn’t accurate,” Del Negro said.
Does it make sense for the Clippers to take on the two years and $23 million remaining on Garnett’s contract after this season, considering it will take him beyond his 40th birthday?
They remain tight-lipped about their deadline plans, but all indications point to a level of interest in exploring ways to improve the roster.
“We’re no different than any other team out there. If there’s an opportunity to do something to get better we’ll look at it,” Del Negro said.
Celtics officials have made no decisions about the future, even with rookie power forward Jared Sullinger (back surgery) joining point guard Rajon Rondo (knee) last week in seeing their seasons end.
The Celtics came into Sunday’s game on a four-game winning streak and will wait until closer to the trade deadline to decide whether to keep this team together. The deadline is 3 p.m. ET Feb. 21.
For now, the Clippers wait on their injured guards. [Chauncey] Billups is working his way back from a foot injury. There is no timetable for the return of star point guard Paul from a knee injury. [Jamal] Crawford, the team’s sixth man, is wearing an industrial-strength facemask to protect his broken nose.
The Clippers are a battered bunch and losers of five of their previous seven games.
Coach Vinny Del Negro hopes to get Paul and Billups back during the team’s eight-game trip, which runs through Feb. 11.
“Right now, it is all about winning games,” Del Negro said. “We need to get guys back to win at a higher rate than we are right now, then we were used to at the beginning of the season. It’s a long season; you have to manage it the right way. When we think we’re getting everyone back, it seems like, so far this year, someone’s been injured. You have to manage that. You have to take the highs and the lows.”
But still, the Clippers are going for it. And why not? When healthy, they count themselves among NBA title contenders. That’s saying something for a franchise that had long been considered not just among the NBA’s worst, but in all of sports.
Considering, too, the struggles of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Clippers see this season as a chance to reach at least the Western Conference finals and in doing so to reorder the hoops hierarchy in LA.
Garnett, who makes his offseason home in Malibu, has a no-trade clause in his contract and two years left on his contract. So there is that one, gigantic hurdle to deal with. He’s not going anywhere he doesn’t want to go.
But he could have worse options than joining a Clippers team that could be one or two healthy stars away from making a championship run. The championship window in Boston is closed, no matter how hard Celtics coach Doc Rivers tries to fight it.
Garnett has a limited amount of time left to chase a second title to pair with the one he won with the Celtics in 2008. Rolling with the Clippers could be his best and last chance to add to his already Hall of Fame worthy resume. For a player as consumed by winning as Garnett has been his entire career, it would be hard to dismiss an opportunity like this were it actually on the table.
And that brings us back to the core of crazy season in the NBA. No matter how far-fetched an idea seems in theory, the possibilities will get floated to the basketball-loving public between now and the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
a HANG TIME, Texas – What better occasion than Super Bowl Sunday, our annual genuflection to wretched excess, to ask: When is enough enough?
Along about the time when the Knicks were tap-dancing on the chalk outline of all that was left of the Kings on Saturday night, the venerable Kurt Thomas rose up to launch one more 3-point shot.
Does the fact that Thomas, at 40, is the oldest player in the NBA, get him the benefit of the doubt that perhaps his failing eyesight couldn’t see the Madison Square Garden scoreboard that showed his team ahead by the fairly comfortable margin of 110-60?
What of the Knicks piling onto Sacramento with a whopping total of 43 shots from behind the arc on the night, J.R. Smith swinging his arms like a runaway windmill after nailing one, Carmelo Anthony and Steve Novak firing imaginary guns after hitting their targets?
“I’m not trying to rub this in,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “When it’s time to go to the bench, I do that. I’ve been on the other end of it in my career.”
Five nights earlier in Salt Lake City, the Rockets put the finishing touches on the worst home beating in the history of the Jazz, 125-80, by shooting 8-for-13 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
“They didn’t let up one bit,” Utah forward Paul Millsap told the Salt Lake Tribune. “But believe me when I say we will see them again and, hopefully, it will be the other way around.”
Interestingly enough, on Friday night in Toronto, in the final seconds of a 98-73 thumping, it was the Clippers Caron Butler that raised eyebrows around the league. As the Raptors Jonas Valanciunas was dribbling out the clock, Butler approached and made like he was extending his arm in a handshake. When Valanciunas let down his guard, Butler then reached out to swipe the ball and tried to run off to score before he was fouled.
So what are the unwritten and unspoken rules of etiquette in these situations? Is there anything that says any one of these players did anything unsportsmanlike or unethical?
Remember, this was not teenager Danny Heater of West Virginia pouring it on with 135 points against an overmatched team of high schoolers. The Kings and Jazz and Raptors are all highly-paid pros. And, of course, the Raptors won the game.
“Is the clock still ticking? Are the lights still on? Is the game still being played?” asked Matt Bonner, the Spurs reserve who has had more than his share of experience in late-game situations.
“What you’re always taught is to keep playing hard and to always protect yourself any time you’re on the court. You can’t suddenly tell guys who are in at the end of the game to stop competing.”
To his credit, Kings coach Keith Smart told Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News that he did not mind the celebrating.
“I don’t feel that way,” the Sacramento coach said. “We’re all big boys. Guys don’t get a chance to play much, they want to shoot and keep playing. You can’t tell them not to shoot. Take your lumps and move on.”
In late-game situations, while the victims just want to hurry and get off the court, there can be other players getting a chance to shine.
“Look, there have been times when I haven’t played much all night and then we’ve got a big lead and Pop (coach Gregg Popovich) might send a bunch of us out there for the last seven or eight minutes,” Bonner said.
“Hey, I want to play. I want to do well. This is my chance. Pop might tell us no fastbreaks or something like that, but he still wants us to run our offense the right way, to play the game and take the shots.”
It is understandable. The reserves only move up in the rotation when they show what they can do. As Smart said, they’re all big boys and if you don’t like it, well, you could go out and defend all those 3s?
So then, how does anyone come up with a reasonable explanation for Butler’s rope-a-dope on Valanciunas?
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – What the Los Angles Clippers are doing is just as impressive in person as it is from afar. Seriously, do you have any idea how difficult it is in the NBA to win every night with a schedule that is unrelenting and competition that, for the most part, is as tight as you could get on a given night?
The Clippers do and have managed their league-best 17-game win streak masterfully.
Does it mean they’ve arrived among the NBA’s truly elite? We won’t know that for sure until sometime in late April or early May, when this group fights off the pressure in the playoffs and advances without playing their very best. Does it mean they have officially replaced the Los Angeles Lakers as the top hoops draw in their own city? Of course, not. Lakers fans will simply remind you to look up in the rafters at Staples Center and start counting the banners.
But if this streak proves anything at all, it’s that Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro has figured out the best way to avoid the dreaded coaching hot seat he seemed to be on every other night when his team wasn’t winning all the time. In fact, he’s rarely been mentioned, good or bad, during the streak. And that’s probably the way he’d like to keep it.
The laws of NBA gravity suggest that this streak will have to end sometime soon. A grueling stretch of schedule that has the Clippers walking on hot coals – in Denver on Tuesday, the Nuggets are 9-1, in Oakland to face Golden State the next night, and then back in Los Angeles for another round of the City Championship series against the Lakers on Friday, followed the next night by a visit from the Warriors — just to survive the next six days.
It’s certainly doable for a team that went 16-0 this month. But adding four more wins this week against that schedule would be grounds for an investigation into extra-terrestrial assistance for a franchise that has never experienced the kind of hoops high the Clippers are these days.
Which brings us right back to Del Negro, whose navigated this mercurial stretch seamlessly. He’s allowed the Clippers’ entire cast of characters to play their roles to perfection. All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin lead the way, Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan do some of the heavier lifting when they need to, as Butler did in Sunday’s win over the Utah Jazz with 29 points, while the league’s best bench (Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Eric Bledsoe and the boys) continue to crash open close games with their wave on non-stop energy.
“Everybody here has a decent body of work in some way shape or form,” Crawford said. “They’ve proven something somewhere in the NBA. With that is a confidence that a player has, and there are egos involved.”For him to be able to manage that and put people in the right positions and use people to their strengths, he deserves a lot of credit.”
Del Negro has juggled a rotation full of veterans without much drama, but he’s established roles for everyone from Paul to Ryan Hollins.
“Guys get frustrated sometimes not playing as much, but it’s about the team winning games,” Del Negro said.
One thing Del Negro has done is allow players to operate in their areas of strength.
“He just tells me to be me. It’s been awhile since I was told to just be me,” Ronny Turiaf said. “I think it goes back to the Laker days when Phil (Jackson) told me, ‘Ronny, just go out there and play. I trust your basketball I.Q. I trust your basketball knowledge to be able to make plays for us.’”
Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said managing a roster with so many guys who are capable could present challenges down the road.
“It’s difficult. It’s a good and a bad thing to be in,” Corbin said. “Guys want to play, especially good guys who have had great careers and still think they have something to offer. Things are going well so they all want to be a part of it. It’s easier to manage their minutes, when things are going well.”
Said Crawford of Del Negro: “For him to have the pulse of the team and feel the team and the stuff he draws up, he has us believing we can win every single day.”
Do it every single day this week and someone can toss Del Negro’s hot seat into the ocean sometime late Saturday night!