The Bobcats are changing their names back to the Hornets. Good, bad, odd, something else?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Good. Bobcats is a bad nickname anyway, ill-conceived as a vanity thing for the original owner. Beyond that, teams that relocate never should be permitted to abscond with the nicknames – or the record books – of the franchises they used to be. Too late, of course, for the goofily named Utah Jazz or L.A. Lakers. But by all rights, the expansion team in Minneapolis should have revived the Lakers name there. When George Shinn moved his Charlotte club, it should have become the new Jazz. Same thing if Seattle gets back into the NBA – they’re the SuperSonics. At which point, why should Oklahoma City have any claim on Spencer Haywood, Gus Williams, Slick Watts or Gary Payton? Records, banners and history should stay put (or, retroactively, revert back). Fans in Charlotte surely care about Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues and Alonzo Mourning more than those cheering for Pelicans in New Orleans.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Gee, and here I thought Michael Jordan should have changed his own name so everyone might forget that he’s the one who built the Bobcats.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Something else: Yawn. My only prerequisite is that the new Charlotte Hornets retain the NOLA Mardi Gras uniforms.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I had some teal-and-purple Charlotte Hornets gear back in the early 1990s, and “Bobcats” already has a pretty dreadful history, so I’m in favor of the name change. With two different franchises being named the Hornets at one time or another, my historical spreadsheets might get a little confused, though.
Philipp Dornhegge, NBA.com/germany: What’s not to love? The Hornets’ name and logo need to stick in the NBA, and the home of the Hornets apparently wants the name back. I have a good friend from around Charlotte and he told me that most people were never and aren’t to this day able to connect with the Bobcats. The franchise just doesn’t appeal to them. They are in rebuilding mode now, and what better way to start afresh and excite more people than to bring back the Hornets?
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA.com/greece:Okayyyyyy…. right. So, we had the Charlotte Hornets. Then they moved to New Orleans. Then another team appeared in Charlotte and was named “the Bobcats.” And now they want to change again to “the Hornets.” And we are back in the 90′s. Are Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson coming back, too? Life goes in circles, after all. As bad as the “Bobcats” sounds like (a really bad choice I ‘m afraid), the real problem is the way the team plays and the fact that they have a 28-120 record over the last two years. “Bad”, whatever you call it, is still “bad.”
NEW YORK – Before Tuesday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers were among the two or three Lottery teams most likely to make the playoffs next year. They have a budding superstar, other young players who will only get better, and a new (and old) coach who will get them to improve on the end of the floor where they’ve been particularly dreadful that last few years.
2013 Lottery results
Toronto (to OKC)
After Tuesday night, if you didn’t already have them there (some of us did), you’d have to move the Cavs to the top of the list. Thanks to the results of Tuesday’s Draft lottery, Cleveland will add the No. 1 pick of the 2013 Draft to and young and talented core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson.
A month ago, Mike Brown was rehired to fix that defense. The Cavs are the only team to rank in the bottom five in defensive efficiency each of the last three years, but ranked in the top five on that end a couple of times under Brown (and with the best player in the world).
A month from now, Cleveland will add another piece to the puzzle. Two No. 1 picks in three years is a good way to ensure both short and long-term success.
“It’s going to mean a lot,” Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said Tuesday, “because if we can pick the right guy to fit into the young core that we have now, we can be a great team for many, many years.”
Before the lottery, there was no clear No. 1 pick. No LeBron James or Anthony Davis. And there was no Big Two on the level of Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Among the top four or five talents, there’s a guy at each position, and none is a can’t miss prospect.
But with Cleveland drawing the top selection and already having Irving and Waiters in their backcourt, Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, a 6-foot-11 power forward, jumps to the top of the list. The Cavs have Thompson, Tyler Zeller (taken with the No. 17 pick last year) and the oft-injured Anderson Varejao up front, but every good team needs at least three quality big men.
The issue, of course, is that Noel won’t be available until at least Christmas, still recovering from ACL surgery in his left knee in March. And as we’ve seen in the past, training camp is a critical part of a rookie’s orientation to the league.
The Orlando Magic, who finished with a league-worst 20-62 record, will draft second, and they can use help at every position and on both ends of the floor. They have a handful of young players, but none is really a franchise anchor. Their best pieces are on the frontline, however, so they should be happy with any number of options in the backcourt, including Michigan point guard Trey Burke and Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore.
In discussing the possibilities, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn talked about building a culture as much as acquiring talent.
“I trust our general manager and our scouts and their ability to find the right person who’s going into fit in our locker room,” Vaughn said.
Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, another descendant from the San Antonio Spurs’ management tree, had a similar outlook, saying that he wants to continue “to build the momentum with what we want to be about, what our identity is, what our values are, and really staying true to that.”
Like the Cavs, the Washington Wizards have a young and talented backcourt. So they will probably look to go big with the third pick, though general manager Ernie Grunfeld indicated Tuesday that he’ll look for the best player available.
“In this league, players win, regardless of what position they’re at,” Grunfeld said. “We’ll take the best player that we feel will help us, in the short term and the long term.”
Which available spot is most appealing to an out-of-work coach? Least?
Detroit’s Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight (by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE)
Steve Aschburner: Detroit. The core of young talent makes the Pistons an attractive job – Greg Monroe put up more double-doubles for Detroit than anyone since Grant Hill, Brandon Knight is so young he still has time to develop better point guard sensibilities and rookies Kyle Singler and Andre Drummond had solid inaugural seasons. Drummond might have been brought along too slowly, so there’s untapped potential right below the surface. The payroll is in good shape, too, with space this summer and guys like Charlie Villanueva and Rodney Stuckey entering the final years of their deals.
Fran Blinebury: Geez, it’s closing time at the bar and time to make your pick. Coaches win with the best players and so you’ve got to start there. The best players on the teams with openings were Kyrie Irving in Cleveland and Jrue Holiday in Philly. (I’m assuming we still are counting the Cavs in here in the 24 hours of Mike Brown‘s return.) Since the Sixers are such a mess and have to figure out what they’re going to do with Andrew Bynum, I’m leaning toward the Cavs as most appealing. Do you really have to ask about the worst? Charlotte is a black hole inside a smoking ruin wrapped up in a disaster. And Error Jordan is still calling the shots.
Jeff Caplan: Let’s answer the last part first: Charlotte. What a disaster. Hey, what coach would want that gig? There’s only been three coaches in the last three seasons. How’s that for security? Oh, and the collective talent … well, yeah. OK, so there’s a couple ways to look at the most appealing job. The first is that it got snapped up Tuesday with news that Mike Brown is headed back to Cleveland to coach Kyrie Irving and the Cavs’ kids. The other is that the most appealing job isn’t open, yet. Remember, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman will make a decision on his return depending on his wife’s health. If he decides it’s best to walk away, then someone will walk into a very well-stocked cupboard. Similarly, Brooklyn will make a decision on interim coach P.J. Carlesimo. If he’s out, someone will get a team that’s maxed-out deep into the luxury tax, but comes with All-Star level players at point guard and center.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Most appealing of the jobs open at the moment, since others may be coming, is Cleveland (at least until Brown walks through the door). Getting the certainty of Kyrie Irving along with the real promise of a few others is a running start to success for a new guy. Least appealing: Charlotte. A brief moment of hope with Larry Brown has become year after year of instability.
John Schuhmann: I’m going to assume that we’re including Cleveland (and not the three or four additional jobs that may open up in the next few weeks) among our options, because it was available just a few hours ago. And then I’m going to answer Cleveland, because the Cavs have the star player. Every team and every coach wants a star to build around. Mike Brown had it in his first go-round in Cleveland, and he has it now. And this is a team he can improve right away by just getting them to play decent defense, just like he did previously. I also think that Detroit, with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, is pretty appealing. Least appealing? Charlotte, Charlotte and Charlotte.
Sekou Smith: Of the available openings today, the Detroit job shows the most immediate growth potential. You have a veteran general manager in Joe Dumars who remains in place and a young core that includes Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight (he will survive the highlight reel tumult of this season) as building blocks. The Pistons finished this season playing decent basketball under ousted coach Lawrence Frank, so there were signs of life from this group even at the finish of a season that was lottery-bound months ago. That speaks to the mettle of the players. They have to do sound work in the Draft and in free agency, but this a rebuild that is past the foundation process. As for the least appealing, well, there is always Charlotte.
Lang Whitaker: Most appealing has to be Cleveland — besides having Anderson Varejao under contract through 2015, you get Kyrie, and having an All-Star point guard already in the fold in the age of the point guard is a decided advantage. Also, seems like Dan Gilbert would be fun to work for, because you know he cares about winning. And I bet he sends out some fiery emails to his staff from time to time. For least appealing I’ll go with Charlotte. Consider that next season, in his third season in the NBA, Kemba Walker will be playing for his third coach. Doesn’t really seem like the organization is setting its guys up to be successful.
Coach Mike Dunlap has been fired by the Bobcats after one season on the job, as first reported by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
Mike Dunlap has been fired as Bobcats coach.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) April 23, 2013
Dunlap, who led the Bobcats get to a 7-5 start before ending with a 21-61 record, had his share of flare-ups with veterans on the team (most notably Ben Gordon) during the season. The Bobcats have had just one winning season (2009-10) in their franchise history and have won 35 games or more only twice in their 10 years of existance.
Dunlap was the fifth coach in the Bobcats’ nine-year history. He came from the college ranks, where he had served as an assistant for St. John’s before taking the Charlotte gig.
“Rich Cho and I conducted our season-ending review and met with Coach Dunlap to reflect on this season. As an organization, it was decided that we needed to make a change with the head coach position,” Higgins said. “We want to thank Mike for his contribution and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
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.
Bulls win, but bigs could be on minutes limit– As they’ve done all season, the Bulls continue to stay in the thick of the race for the No. 5 seed in the East — a spot that won’t be decided until likely the season’s final night. Last night’s easy win over the hapless Orlando Magic provided a good sign for the Bulls in that injured big men Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson both got in some playing time after missing games with injuries. But K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports that Noah and Gibson could see a tight minutes limit come playoff time:
A season filled with uncertainty will close with this dose of clarity: The Bulls won’t know their first-round playoff opponent until Wednesday’s season finale.
That’s because the Bulls defeated the hapless Magic 102-84 on Monday night as both Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson returned to test their recoveries from injury and coach Tom Thibodeau said it’s “a possibility” both players will be on minutes limits at the start of the posteason.
Noah, who had missed 12 of the previous 13 games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, finished with six points, five rebounds and four fouls in 14 minutes, 21 seconds off the bench. Gibson, who had missed 17 games recently in two separate bouts with a sprained MCL in his left knee, contributed 12 points and two blocks in 21:13.
“I knew there was a setback right away last time,” Noah said after his last attempt to return April 7 in Detroit. “I feel pretty good right now. I’m just happy my foot held up.”
Noah admitted his wind wasn’t “great” but vowed it would “get better quick.”
Gibson wore the large brace he said he disliked.
“The brace is real protective, but I just have to get used to it,” Gibson said. “It’s kind of heavy. But the knee felt great. The main thing I wanted to do was play some defense because our defense was really awful the last couple games.”
…”We have to be at our best in a short amount of time,” Thibodeau said. “We’re a well-rested team. The question I have is are we a sharp team? We have guys that haven’t played a lot of minutes lately that are going to be called upon to be at their best. The moment of truth will be here shortly.”
Lawson getting back to his old self — Shortly after their 15-game win streak ended, the Nuggets were dealt a serious blow to their hopes of a long playoff run when Ty Lawson went down with a foot injury on March 27. Although he missed just five games as he got better, the Nuggets were concerned how much their point guard could play and whether or not he’d be the game-changing playmaker they were used to. Last night’s win in Milwaukee went a long way in proving Lawson is speedily returning to form, though, writes Christopher Dempsyof The Denver Post:
With 14.2 seconds to go and down one at Milwaukee, a game the Nuggets had to have to lock up a top four spot in the Western Conference, Ty Lawson surveyed the court and lofted the ball to Wilson Chandler. Chandler handed the ball back off to Lawson who drove the lane, crossed over the defender, Monta Ellis, rose up and hit a shot that was arguably the most important jumper any Nugget has hit in the last three weeks.
Lawson is back.
His heel is not all the way healed, but that shot suggested his game is.
The degree of difficulty won’t go down as calculus level stuff. It was a 10-ish-foot jumper. But Lawson’s speed and quickness, which was in full display on the play, got him free for an open look. And in the process wiped away – or should have – any of the doubt about what he is and can be in the playoffs.
Initially, Karl said if Lawson could give 20-25 minutes when he returned that he could work with that. And yet Lawson, since returning late last week, has given him so much more.
His arc, since playing on April 12 has looked like this: 13 points; 12 points and 10 assists; and now 26 points and seven assists. After Sunday’s game against Portland, Karl was already gushing: “I couldn’t have asked for a better script these last two games,” he said of his point guard.
Tonight’s game should have erased any other doubts.
Lawson has averaged 17 points, 6.6 assists and 1.6 steals in the three games he’s been back. He’s shot 56 percent from the field and 84 percent from the free throw line. Monday night’s game brought back another encouraging sign – his ability to get to the rim and draw fouls.
In the last two weeks there has been enough bad news for the Nuggets, who are just trying to get their roster to survive the remainder of the regular season to get to the playoffs. First, Lawson’s status was in doubt. Then Danilo Gallinari was lost for the season. Then Kenneth Faried went down and can only hope to be close to 100 percent for the start of the playoffs.
It was time for some good news.
Ty Lawson provided it. And with it, may have renewed at least some of the belief that these Nuggets are still headed for a healthy playoff run.
OKC wraps up No. 1 in West — It is easy to take for granted the success the Thunder have enjoyed all-so-quickly since moving from Seattle before the 2008-09 season. Although the first campaign in Oklahoma saw the Thunder go 23-59, since then it has been nothing but a steady climb for the youthful contenders. Last night, they achieved perhaps their greatest feat since the move, winning their 60th game and wrapping up the top spot in the West. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman has more on the Thunder’s rise to the top of the conference:
Not only did the Thunder clinch the top spot in the conference, but OKC also won for the 60th time this season, marking the first 60-win season in Oklahoma City’s brief basketball history.
“It’s shows that we’re improving every year,” said Thabo Sefolosha. “It’s a big number. There’s not a lot of teams that can do it, and to be part of that group and just to get to that number is big.”
With a win in the season finale Wednesday against Milwaukee, the Thunder can finish with a .744 winning percentage. Win or lose, though, the Thunder will have increased its winning percentage in each of its first five seasons, from .280 in 2008-09, to .610 in 2009-10, to .671 in 2010-11, to .712 last year. Even with a loss Wednesday, the Thunder would finish with a .732 winning percentage.
“It feels good, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” said Kevin Durant of winning 60 games. “We’ve never done it here before so it’s new to us. But it feels good. It shows our progression as a franchise each and every year.”
Gores wants accountability for Dumars, Frank — We haven’t seen or heard much from Tom Gores since he took over ownership of the Pistons in 2011 from the Davidson family. While he has been mostly a quiet owner of the team, he has no doubt been unhappy with the fifth straight season of sub-.500 basketball, the youthful-but-mistake-prone efforts and the roster that is a bit of a mishmash of parts. Gores spoke to the media before the Pistons’ home finale against Philly and was none to pleased with his team, GM Joe Dumars and coach LawrenceFrank, writes Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
Speaking with the news media briefly before Monday night’s home finale against the Philadelphia 76ers, Gores said he was serious when he said last season he expected to make the playoffs and is disappointed the franchise didn’t come close.
“I will say I expected better results,” Gores said. “I met with Joe and Lawrence (Sunday) and I let them know that. They’re great guys that know their business, but I’m here assessing everything. My job is to move this franchise forward.”
The Pistons moved to 29-52 on the season following Monday night’s 109-101 victory. The season concludes Wednesday at the Brooklyn Nets, and then the season postmortem will begin.
For Gores, it’s all about accountability. He plans to meet with both Frank and Dumars in the coming days. The Pistons are 54-93 under Frank in two seasons.
“I think both of them, including ownership, has to be accountable for the year,” Gores said. “We have to be accountable for the results of this year. We have a great core of young players, but we have to be accountable.”
“Now I’m very excited about what we have going,” Gores said. “We have a lot of (cap) room. We’ve set ourselves up financially, and basketball operations has set ourselves up, so I’m very excited about the future.
“But I’m not content about how we performed this year.”
Through a series of transactions the last 10 months, the Pistons will have roughly $25 million to spend this summer on free agency or trades. He said the Pistons “are prepared to spend.”
“It’s always important, but it’s magnified this year because we’ve really put ourselves in position to really make moves,” Gores said. We want to win a championship. We want to get into the playoffs and all of things.
“I tell you, Lawrence is a tremendous guy. I’ve gotten to know him over the last couple and he’s tremendous, but I really have to think about what the best thing is.”
Report: Bobcats name change a ways off — On Jan. 24, the New Orleans Hornets officially announced they would be changing their name, colors and logo to that of the Pelicans for next season. It was a move to closer bind the franchise to the New Orleans community and leaves the Hornets moniker, which dates to the franchise’s days in Charlotte, back in the NBA’s hands. Shortly thereafter, chatter (or buzz, if you will) began around the Web and the Charlotte community that the current team there — the Bobcats — should look to reclaim the nickname that was once theirs. A website called BringBackTheBuzz.com is spearheading the charge on the Internet, but the hopes of that group and others who want the Bobcats renamed for next season are looking unlikely. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has more on what it would take to change from the Bobcats to something else:
If the Charlotte Bobcats ask the NBA for a name change, it would be at least 18 months before such a request was implemented.
NBA commissioner-to-be Adam Silver met with the Observer and other print media outlets Monday during a visit to Charlotte. Much of his 20-minute interview addressed the possibility the Bobcats might switch their nickname to “Hornets” now that the New Orleans Hornets are switching to “Pelicans.”
The Bobcats have done some market research but have yet to make a request with the NBA. Silver said he is fine with whatever the Bobcats decide, but that the team’s deliberate approach is the right course.
Silver said this would be a “very expensive process for the team,” so it’s “a weighty process, not just what ‘X’ amount of fans say in an opinion poll.”
Rather, it’s about whether a rebranding would be lucrative enough to justify spending millions on new uniforms, logos and signage.
Since the NBA owns the name “Charlotte Hornets,” plus the teal-and-purple color scheme the team wore in Charlotte and New Orleans, Silver was asked how quickly a new brand could be implemented.
Even with all that working for it, a change from Bobcats to Hornets would take a minimum of 18 months, the deputy commissioner said.
Silver also was asked whether the Benson family, which owns the Pelicans, still controls the Hornets nickname. Silver replied that the Bobcats wouldn’t owe the Pelicans compensation if they took on that name.
ICYMI of the night: Derrick Williams might be the best player in the league at finishing off crazy alley-oops. Here’s another one to add to hisstockadeofsuchplays:
Who needs the Draft’s No. 1 pick the most? Who will use it best?
Last year’s No. 1, Anthony Davis (by Noah Graham/NBAE)
Steve Aschburner: Charlotte. Please, Charlotte. No team in The Association needs more help – on the court, at the turnstiles, for the boss’ legacy – than the Bobcats. Doesn’t matter how they spend it (Nerlens Noel, Marcus Smart, whomever), they need to pick high, they need to get it right, they need to get moving. As for which team would best utilize it, I’m thinking San Antonio, which aces the No. 1 pick every time it gets it.
Fran Blinebury: Oh, for sure the Bobcats need it the most. They’ve been living on the bottom so long they should be renamed “Flounders.” Of course, based on Michael Jordan‘s stewardship, they’ll be right back fishing for No. 1 again next season. Orlando probably deserves it after having Shaq and Dwight Howard walk out the door. But based on what’s already going on in Cleveland and the pieces that have already been put around Kyrie Irving, I believe the Cavs could take a big step forward with the No. 1 pick and make it more appealing for free agent LeBron James to return in 2014.
Jeff Caplan: We all know who needs the No. 1 pick. His initials are M and J. But do we trust the Charlotte Bobcats owner with the top pick? I’ve got a bridge to sell you … So who’d best utilize it? I’d like to see what Dell Demps and Monty Williams could deliver to the young and intriguing New Orleans Pelicans.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Needs it most? Probably Charlotte or Sacramento. The other teams with the best chance to get No. 1 either had relatively recent success or signs of forward movement in place. The Bobcats have struggled to gain traction and the Kings are rowing in circles. Who makes the best use of the pick? The GM that still has his job in two years. This Draft is filled with potential peril.
John Schuhmann: The answer to the first question is obviously the Bobcats, because they’re terrible on both ends of the floor and need help at every position, except maybe small forward (because I like the Kidd-Gilchrist/Taylor combination if they just get MKG a dedicated shooting coach). I think the Pistons would do well with the pick, though. They already have three young pieces with Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. If they keep Jose Calderon, use their cap space wisely, and add a top pick that’s ready to contribute, they could be ready to take the next step.
Sekou Smith: First we we have to identify exactly what the team with the No. 1 pick in the Draft would be getting their hands on with that top pick. And from what I saw during March Madness, there didn’t seem to be a program changer running through the college ranks. If Ben McLemore of Kansas is the man, then it would be fantastic to see what a couple of unusual lottery types could do with the No. 1 pick. The Dallas Mavericks need a young star to help bridge the gap between the Dirk Nowitzki era and whatever comes next. Sure, the Charlotte Bobcats are in much more dire straits than an outfit like the Mavericks. But after years of seeing what perennial lottery teams do with the top picks in the Draft, I’d love to see what the Mavericks could do with the No. 1 overall pick.
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: Several good ones to pick from last night, including the sizzling Jazz winning their fifth straight, the Rockets rolling along with James Harden on the bench and the Pacers doing just enough to escape the Clips in L.A. But we’ve gotta give it up for the Grizzlies this morning for their win over the (albeit injury-depleted) Spurs last night. Memphis was at it’s Grit-and-Grind best and showed they can change up their style a bit, too. With San Antonio pressuring big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol all night (and neither one having a particularly wowing stat line), the Grizz turned to Mike Conley, who came through time after time and nailed the game-winning layup with :00.6 left.
Heat escape punishment for resting stars– Heading into Sunday night’s Heat-Spurs matchup in San Antonio, one of the talking points was the team’s last meeting in December. That game is famously known for two reasons: first, for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sending Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green back to San Antonio to get rest rather than play them in back-to-back games and second, for the Spurs giving the fully stocked Heat a real game despite missing those standout players. The rematch on Sunday lacked LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, who all sat out due to injury but, unlike the Spurs’ quartet in December, were sitting on Miami’s bench during the Heat’s eventual win. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today explains why the Spurs were fined $250,000 for their antics in December and the Heat weren’t leveled any punishment for theirs:
There are multiple reasons why NBA Commissioner David Stern hammered the Spurs:
It was an early-season game, long before it becomes customary for playoff teams to give top players a game off.
The Spurs didn’t list a reason why their players (who were sent home) didn’t play other than “NWT” — Not With Team. The Heat gave reasons for James (strained right hamstring) and Wade (sprained right ankle).
In a statement addressing the Spurs’ fine in November, Stern said the Spurs violated league policy “against resting players in manner contrary to the best interests of the NBA. … The team also did this without informing the Heat, the media, or the league office in a timely way. Under these circumstances, I have concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans.”
It can be concluded that the Heat informed the Spurs, media and league office in a timely way, since Miami was not penalized.
At the April 2010 Board of Governors meeting just before the playoffs began, Stern said owners addressed the issue of teams sitting players in the final weeks of the season and concluded, “We also had what I would call a spirited discussion on the subject of players being rested down the stretch. And I think it’s fair to say that there was no conclusion reached, other than a number of teams thought that it should be at the sole discretion of the team, coach, general manager, and I think it’s fair to say that I agree with that, unless that discretion is abused.”
It can also be concluded that Popovich abused that discretion in November and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did not in late March.
Knicks’ Smith picks up his all-around game — J.R. Smith is the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the usual reason players get that award: he’s been sizzling hot in his last few games. In the last three weeks in particular, Smith has forsaken his love of the 3-pointer for more aggressive drives to the basket and is doing work on the glass as well. Tommy Beer of HoopsWorld.com has more on Smith, who is rolling and fueling the Knicks as they are in the midst of an eight-game win streak:
Smith has been consistently aggressive. He’s relentlessly attacking the basket rather than settling for perimeter jumpers.
Consider these statistics to help put Smith’s recent play in proper context: Smith played 35 games for the Knicks last season after signing with New York in mid-February and attempted a total of 55 free throws over the course of the 2011-12 season. In contrast, over the Knicks’ last 10 games, Smith has attempted 89 free throws. Yes, he has gotten to the line 34 more times in 25 fewer games.
Over this 10-game stretch, dating back to March 14, Smith is tied with Kevin Durant for the most free throw attempts in the entire league.
During this current 10-game span, Smith is shooting over 48 percent from the floor and has scored 250 points on just 168 field goal attempts. Those numbers compare favorably with even the league’s most efficient scorers.
Smith certainly hasn’t eliminated the three-pointer from his arsenal (he averaged 6.3 three-point attempts in March), he’s just been more selective. In addition, he has drastically reduced the amount of long two-pointers he’s taking. Smith is either taking threes or getting to basket, which typically results in a dunk, lay-up or trip to the charity stripe.
In March, Smith was one of just five NBA players who knocked down at least 20 three-pointers as well as 80 free throws. The other four members of that exclusive club: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, James Harden and Durant.
Coming into this season, Smith had never averaged more than 4.1 rebounds per contest, but is pulling down 5.2 rebounds a night in 2012-13. He’s also dishing out a career-best 2.8 assists per game. He is one of just six players this season averaging at least 17 points, five rebounds and 1.3 steals (Russell Westbrook, James, Durant, Paul George and Rudy Gay are the other five).
O’Neal readies for his moment to be immortalized — To a generation, Shaquille O’Neal may mostly be known as the new face on Inside the NBA, a pitchman and an adopter of practically all forms of social media. But before you pigeonhole Shaq as merely and entertainer, don’t forget his days as the most dominant force in the league as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. Although O’Neal never played an entire healthy season in L.A., he nonetheless ran roughshod over opponents, particularly during the Lakers’ three-peat years from 2000-02. Tonight, his No. 34 jersey will be hung from the rafters at Staples Center, joining other Laker legends as we all take a moment to reflect on his career, writes Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times:
If Shaquille O’Neal needed a nickname on his first day as a Laker, it could have been the Big Worrywart.
As dominant as he was, the best big man in the NBA recognized he represented just a fraction of the Lakers centers who had come before him.
George Mikan won six titles while becoming Mr. Basketball. Wilt Chamberlain won two titles (one as a Laker) and scored 100 points in a game. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won six titles (five as a Laker) and was the league’s all-time leading scorer.
What had O’Neal done, besides help the Orlando Magic go poof in a four-game sweep during the 1995 Finals?
“It was something I was terrified of,” O’Neal said of the Lakers’ legacy of centers. “We made it to the Finals that one year. That was good, but it wasn’t as good as them yet. Because in my mind I’m like, ‘Wilt’s got two [titles], Kareem’s got six and I have none.’”
O’Neal’s insecurities were only reinforced when Jerry West, then the Lakers’ executive vice president, placed his hands on the center’s broad shoulders shortly after he joined the team in July 1996 and told him to look up at the jerseys hanging from the rafters inside the Forum.
“He said, ‘Son, if you do everything correctly and do everything in a professional manner,’” O’Neal said, recalling their conversation, “‘you may be up there one day.’”
O’Neal was famous for bestowing nicknames upon himself: Shaq-Fu, Big Aristotle and MDE, for Most Dominant Ever.
He never called himself the best Lakers center ever, and he isn’t about to now.
“I’m just good enough to be in the conversation,” said O’Neal, 41, who was given the night off from the TNT broadcast of the Lakers-Mavericks game to enjoy his jersey retirement ceremony.
O’Neal overpowered defenders, using his massive 7-1, 340-pound body as leverage before spinning away for layups or dunks. He teamed with Kobe Bryant to help the Lakers win three straight titles from 2000-02. “My style was dominating and intimidating people, making them quit, making them flop,” O’Neal said.
He does have a few regrets about a career in which injuries limited him to an average of 63 games a season.
“I’m kind of upset with myself for missing 250 games,” said O’Neal, who ranks sixth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 28,596 points. “If I had played those games and gotten an extra 5,000 points, I would have passed Wilt Chamberlain and then I would have the right to say I’m the most dominant big man ever to play.”
Corbin pranks red-hot Jefferson — The Jazz are the hottest team in the West, having won five straight games. Those victories have come at an opportune time, considering Utah is in a scrap with Dallas and the L.A. Lakers for the No. 8 spot in the West (although Utah does hold the tie-breakers over both teams). Key in that surge of late has been center Al Jefferson, who was named the Western Conference Player of the Week and has dominated inside while the Jazz are slowly regaining the rhythm that made them a solid-if-not-certain playoff team earlier in the season. Jody Genessy of the Deseret News has more on Jefferson, his award and a little joke played on him by his coach, Tyrone Corbin:
Al Jefferson got an unexpected phone call from Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin on Monday afternoon.
At first, Big Al thought he might be in trouble.
Jefferson then wondered if he was a prank victim.
“He called me out of the blue, and I was thinking I did something wrong,” said Jefferson, who then quickly was reminded it was April Fools’ Day. “(Coach) was like, ‘Yeah, I’m calling to trade you. …
The coach was informing Jefferson he’d been named the NBA’s Western Conference player of the week.
“I think it’s a tremendous honor for where we are,” Corbin said. “He’s a huge part of the success that we’re having.”
Big Al averaged 19.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.5 blocks during the pivotal week, which helped the Jazz work their way back into the eighth and final playoff spot out West.
“It really did (surprise me). It caught me off guard so bad,” Jefferson said. “I’m so focused trying to just get into the playoffs. I ain’t really thought about our record this week and what I averaged this week.”
Jefferson, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds in Utah’s 112-102 win over Portland on Monday, has been named a player of the week five times in his nine-year career, including twice with the Jazz (the first time being April 23, 2012).
That came as a surprise to him. He thought this was his fourth time.
“For real?” he said when informed he’s earned the honor twice in Utah, twice in Minnesota and once with Boston. “It’s a great feeling, but there’s bigger fish to fry. The main goal is to win a championship.”
Dunlap glad Bobcats face tough final schedule — Charlotte is in a game-by-game battle with Orlando for the worst record in the Eastern Conference and is set up for likely a third straight season of 25 wins or less. Of the Bobcats’ final eight games, five are against playoff teams. That would seem to be exactly what a young, struggling team like Charlotte wouldn’t want to face, but coach Mike Dunlap tells Charles F. Gardner of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel the opposite is true:
Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap said he’s glad his team is playing teams in contention for the playoffs.
“The great thing about playing the Bucks tonight is they have the playoff fever,” Dunlap said. “Every possession presents itself with an intensity that is good for our young guys to understand.”
Charlotte scored 60 points in the first half but only 42 in the second half as the Bucks won their 10th consecutive home game against the Bobcats.
The Bucks and Bobcats met twice early in the season, with Charlotte prevailing at home, 102-98, on Nov. 19 and the Bucks winning at home, 108-93, on Dec. 7.
Charlotte started 7-5, matching its total of victories last season. But it has won just 10 more times since that promising start.
“Youth, is one,” Dunlap said. “And two is you have them in a concentrated period of the training camp and you come right into the season. There’s a bit of fizz there in terms of clarity.
“We’ve had a story line that’s quiet. But we’ve run into major injuries. We’re on the margin, so when a Gerald Henderson is out for the better part of two months, that impacts us. You can see what he’s doing. Then (Ramon) Sessions goes out. We can’t afford to lose a Sessions. That’s like losing a (Mario) Chalmers or something along those lines.”
ICYMI of the night: Game by game, Ricky Rubio is regaining the form that made him a standout last season and, game by game, Derrick Williams is benefiting from Rubio’s play … :
Will the Heat win out? If not, who’ll trip ‘em up?
Steve Aschburner: If Chicago beats ‘em, bully for the Bulls. If New Orleans snaps the streak, hooray for the Hornets. But San Antonio on Sunday is the most imposing team standing between Miami and the ’71-72 Lakers’ record. So what will the Spurs and coach Gregg Popovich do? Keep their powder dry for the road game Monday against Western Conference rival Memphis – and, while they’re at it, stick it to the NBA a little for the first Miami game (and $250,000 fine) by legitimately resting a few key players? Or take this one as a challenge, as a defense of their court and a refusal to join the other streak victims? A li’l extra rest might help San Antonio on Monday and down the road. But losing Sunday will become part of the permanent record if this streak goes the distance and, because of who the Spurs are, one of the victories that will be remembered. Hopefully Pop and his guys stomp on the gas and give the Heat their best effort.
Fran Blinebury: Tim Duncan with the lead pipe in the conservatory.
Heat upcoming schedule
Jeff Caplan: Assuming the Heat finish off this week — at Chicago (Wednesday), at New Orleans (Friday), at San Antonio (Sunday) — unscathed and riding a 30-game win streak, they will lose on April 10 at Washington. Why then? Easy: Miami will have broken the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ record streak of 33 consecutive wins with its 34th one night earlier on April 9 at home against Milwaukee. The sheer emotional and physical exhaustion of the streak that dates to Feb. 3 will finally spill out on the home floor of the Wizards (who are playing quite well anyway, thank you) and they’ll have the honor of mopping up the blood, sweat and tears of the longest win streak in NBA history.
Scott Howard-Cooper: They will not win out the season. That would be asking too much. That would be asking them to be much more than record-setters. Running the table would be more like super human. Who trips them up? San Antonio on Sunday.
John Schuhmann:No. And it could be anybody that knocks them off, really. I know that they have their foot on the pedal for the most part, but they’ve had plenty of imperfect nights during the streak, and every opponent left on the schedule (except the Bobcats) is an NBA team capable of playing well enough to beat the Heat when they’re not playing their best. If they do make it to 34 straight, I think they definitely take their foot off the pedal for those final five games and make sure they’re somewhat fresh for the first round, where they might just run into the Celtics. So I seriously doubt they run the table.
Sekou Smith: No. As well as they’ve played the past two months — winning 27 straight games is remarkable by any standard — I just can’t see them making it all the way to April 17 unscathed. I’m sure Heat fans would love for their beloved team to take a 39-game win streak into the playoffs. But there’s no way … is there? Ultimately, I think the streak ends this week. The San Antonio Spurs are going to be tough to beat at their place on Sunday. There’s no shame in having the second best regular season win streak in NBA history. No shame at all.
MIAMI – The Miami Heat will have to stretch the second best winning streak in NBA history to 26 games without the services of All-Star guard Dwyane Wade, who will sit out tonight’s game against Charlotte with a sore right knee.
Veteran shooting guard Mike Miller will start in Wade’s place against the Bobcats, the team with the worst record in the NBA this season.
Wade is the second member of Miami’s Big 3 to miss time during the streak, which began Feb. 3 in Toronto. Chris Bosh, celebrating his 29th birthday today, missed back-to-back games (Feb. 6 against Houston and Feb. 8 against the Los Angeles Clippers) with the flu.
Working without Wade, however, changes the dynamics for the Heat, who use the two-man dynamic between Wade and LeBron James as a catalyst routinely.
With a game Monday in Orlando, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra decided to rest Wade now rather than push it with a four-game road trip coming up this week.
“We have talked about it all year long,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not easy for these guys. They do a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes to keep not only their bodies ready but mentally staying in it. The toughest thing about it is you don’t know when your number is going to be called. Our top nine and 10 is pretty set right now. The other guys know at some point we are going to need them, and need them at key times, so they have to keep themselves ready and do a lot of work behind the scenes.”
MIAMI – March is the month of Madness for college basketball fans around the world. Rarely has it served a similar purpose for NBA fans.
“March is kind of a funky time in the NBA,” said Heat forward Shane Battier. “Once you hit April you start smelling the playoffs a little bit.”
But the Miami Heat, with a huge assist from the Denver Nuggets, are doing their best to change that. The Heat’s winning streak is a whopping 25 games, second best all time in the NBA, and could be 26 before the nightly news ends if they handle their business against the Charlotte Bobcats this evening at AmericanAirlines Arena (pregame 5:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV).
Some of the craziest and best moments of the Heat streak, which began Feb. 3 in Toronto, have come this month.
Payback wins over would-be Eastern Conference challengers New York (March 3) and Indiana (March 10) as well as dramatic finishes against Orlando (March 6) and wild comeback wins over Boston (March 18) and Cleveland (March 20) have all come during the 13 games the Heat have won this month.
The Heat haven’t exactly breezed through the competition during this streak. They’ve had to work for almost every win, which is what makes Heat coach Erik Spoelstra smile with the Bobcats and Magic up next before a Monday trip to Orlando kicks off a four-game road trip, with stops in Chicago Wednesday, New Orleans Friday and San Antonio Sunday, to finish off the month.
“However it is happening, teams are coming at us,” he said. “That’s a good thing. We can’t sleep walk into a game. We have to bring it. We have to play well at both ends. We have to dig. We have to earn wins. And we’re playing against our opponents’ best games. That only helps. That sharpens you. The more you get tested in this league, the better you get, as long as you handle it the right way. I like it. I like that every game we’re getting tested.”
The Heat have embraced everything about this streak, everything from the sluggish starts and dramatic finishes to the seemingly endless supply of questions about the streak itself and the chase to catch and surpass the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ record 33-game streak.
“It is awesome,” Dwyane Wade said. “It is cool. If you think about it, there are teams in the league right now that don’t even have 25 wins for the season. You have to be thankful and very blessed to be in this situation right now and enjoy it while you have it.”
That doesn’t mean they’ve lost sight of what will define this season for them for years to come. Heat big man Chris Bosh said a recent discussion with a friend about the streak record compared to a championship provided him with what should be an obvious choice.
“I’m going to take the championship every time,” Bosh said. “You don’t get a plaque or a ring or nothing for 34 in a row. You get a record that will probably be broken one day. Records are meant to be broken. But championships last forever.
“Someone was telling me it’s way cooler to win 34 [in a row]. I’m like, ‘Man, please! Get out of here with that. They won’t be throwing confetti for that. I’ll guaran-damn-tee you that.’ ”
When word spread that Jerry West and other members of the Lakers’ 33-game streak team gushed about this Heat crew and wished them well in their quest to break the streak, Wade didn’t buy it.
“I don’t believe it,” Wade said and then laughed. “I don’t believe it.”
Resident hoops historian LeBron James, however, had a different reaction.
“I just appreciate it,” he said of the praise from West and others. “I appreciate the history. For them to say they are pulling for us to get the streak, that’s cool. I respect the game and I respect the guys who paved the way for me and the rest of my teammates. That is a cool thing [for them to do], but we have a long way to go and cannot focus on that right now.”
No, they can’t. The immediate focus is Charlotte, the rest of this month’s schedule — which includes those two road traps in Chicago and San Antonio — and trying to finish off their version of March Madness in style.