Posts Tagged ‘Chris Webber’

For Rockets’ Motiejunas, what happens in Vegas should not stay in Vegas

VIDEO: Donatas Motiejunas has been a load for defenders in Summer League

LAS VEGAS — There were 50 seconds left and the Houston Rockets trailed the Charlotte Hornets, 80-79, in the semifinals of the Samsung Las Vegas Summer League. Rockets guard Isaiah Canaan cleared out the left side of the court, then lobbed the ball inside to center Donatas Motiejunas. Motiejunas caught, leaned back, wheeled toward the center of the court and dropped in a soft hook shot to give the Rockets the lead and the win.

Motiejunas finished the game with 18 points and 13 rebounds in 31 minutes, another strong performance in the seven-foot Lithuanian’s brief history of terrific Summer League showings. Just two years ago, a 25-point, nine-rebound showing in his Summer League debut caused NBA TV’s Chris Webber to exclaim, “I came to Vegas and fell in love!”

But in two NBA seasons since then, Motiejunas hasn’t been able to consistently find the same kind of minutes or production with the Houston Rockets. So what is it about Vegas that brings out the best in Motiejunas?

“I don’t know, it’s hard to say. Do you like Vegas?” the man they call D-Mo says with a smile. “First time when I play it was just after the draft. I came here to prove to everyone I’m not just a simple European guy, a typical one, that I can fight and play. This year, I came here to get into shape for National Team, because the guys started training camp July 7, and my team said they prefer me to stay here and play a couple of games here. We lost two games in a row, I was pissed, and then we start winning, winning, winning. I could not say no, not to play. I just wanted to win.”

The Rockets’ winning streak has pushed this Vegas trip to the limit — after Monday’s championship game, Motiejunas will take an overnight flight to Houston, unpack and repack, and then hop on an evening flight to Frankfurt to join the Lithuanian National Team.

“It’s intensive, but I’m happy. I’m playing, I’m getting a lot of touches, I’m enjoying these guys. Like I said, they did an incredible job the last couple of weeks, separate players becoming team, not easy to do.”

Along with Canaan, Motiejunas has been Houston’s best player in Vegas, averaging 17.7 points per game to go along with 7.7 rebounds through six games. And with Houston trading away Omer Asik, as well as whiffing on Chris Bosh in free agency, the opportunity for Motiejunas to become a regular Rockets rotation player is there for the taking.

“His homework for Summer League was tougher post defense and rebounding, and I think he’s done both those things,” says Houston Summer League coach Chris Finch. “He’s very skilled offensively — he’s a guy that can score in the post and make plays off the dribble as a big guy. And those are things we can do with him in our offense with the Rockets once we can get him a consistent role. But the defense and the rebounding is what is going to get him that. He did a good job last season of working his way into the rotation, so he’s on the growth path.”

In other words, Motiejunas will have to fight and show toughness to earn minutes. Which is something he says he’s not afraid to do.

“I’m trying to show toughness! Trying to get there!” he laughs, grabbing my arm. “I don’t know, how is going on? Is it getting better?”

You look pretty tough to me, I said.

“OK! It means it’s working out.”

“D-Mo is tough. He is a fighter,” says Finch. “He works hard — you’re never going to find a guy who out-works him. He needs to learn to play with physicality without fouling, physicality without getting out of position, that kind of stuff. That’s why we’ve asked him to be more physical this year defensively and on the glass.”

For his next act, Motiejunas has to translate his Summer League showings into the regular season, finding a way to perform in the regular season as he has in the summer season.

Clearly, for the benefit of both Motiejunas and the Rockets, the trick to going forward is going to be getting what happens in Vegas to not stay in Vegas.

All-Star Appearance A Welcome Accolade For Pelicans’ Superstar Davis

Pelicans big man Anthony Davis is a multifaceted All-Star.

Pelicans big man Anthony Davis is a multifaceted All-Star.

NEW ORLEANS — There should be only so many different ways for one player to make you jump off the sofa.

But there’s Anthony Davis posterizing Joel Freeland of the Trail Blazers with a tomahawk dunk; there’s Davis reaching up and back and nearly to the top of the backboard to get a one-handed throw down on Luis Scola of the Pacers; there he is roaring down the lane with the force and ferocity to make Glen Davis of the Magic hit the deck like a bowling pin at the end of an alley.

Then there’s the defensive end, where Miami’s Chris Bosh seems to have him pinned down on the low block and tries to go up for an easy bucket once, then twice. Both times, Bosh has to eat the ball.  When the Lakers’ Pau Gasol gets an offensive rebound and whirls away from traffic, Davis goes right along, a figure skater in tandem. At the finish of the 360 spin, Davis slaps the ball back with disdain.  And there he is suddenly sprinting way out into the left corner to reach up and slap away a 3-point shot by an utterly shocked Tobias Harris of Orlando.

“How many times have I seen a ‘Wow!’ moment out of A.D.?” ponders teammate Ryan Anderson.  “Let’s see, how many games have we played and how many times have I been out there on the same floor at practice?  Every day he’s doing something that makes me shake my head.”

VIDEO: Brent Barry breaks down Anthony Davis’ game

The No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft officially became an NBA All-Star when commissioner Adam Silver tabbed him to replace Kobe Bryant on the Western Conference team.  Davis’ ascension to that elite level of play has been there since opening night this season, when he scored 20 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked three shots against the Pacers.

Except for a period of two weeks in December when he was sidelined by a fractured bone in his left hand, Davis has been everything the Pelicans had hoped. Yet he’s also shown he is a unique player, one no one could have imagined even with the advance hype that he brought out of his one college season at Kentucky.

His most identifying physical mark remains The Brow, which crawls like a single entity over one of his large, curiosity-filled eyes to the other. But at 6-foot-10 with a wingspan of 7-foot-5 1/2,  those long, lethal, larcenous limbs enable him to cover space on the court like a basketball version of the four-armed Hindu god Vishnu.

VIDEO: Davis scores 22 points, grabs 19 boards and blocks seven shots against Orlando

“He knows what he’s doing on offense and he’s a smart, aggressive player on defensive,” said Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown.  “Anthony Davis will shine in the NBA for years and years.  I’m telling you, he’s the truth.” (more…)

NBA TV’s Fan Night 1-On-1 … The Final Four: LeBron Vs DRose And KD Vs Kobe

VIDEO: LeBron James shows off some of his finest above-the-rim moves … after practice

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’re down to the wire now in NBA TV’s Fan Night 1-On-1 Tournament, and that means only best of the best are still in contention for the title.

That list starts with Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, the current frontrunner for MVP honors this season, and the reigning two-time MVP and Finals MVP LeBron James. Only they won’t matchup in the Final Four four of this tournament. Durant faces off against Kobe Bryant in one semifinal while LeBron squares off with Derrick Rose. They both already own MVP hardware.

Claiming this title, however, won’t be easy for any of them, not in a 1-On-1 tournament where we are matching up the skills of each player in his prime against that of another player of equal or greater ability.

Durant has a distinct height advantage over Kobe and might be the only player of this generation whose competitive fire rivals that of the Los Angeles Lakers’ great. As great as Kobe has been throughout his career, I could easily see Durant as the superior player in a 1-On-1 setting …

Rose, for all of his fury when healthy, is simply no match for a player with LeBron’s unique combination of size, skill and otherworldly athleticism (check the video up top … we’re talking about practice?). Rose would make this interesting for a while, but LeBron is just too good and too powerful with a “mouse in the house.” …

 You need to get in on the conversation on who would win via social media (Tweet @NBATV #1on1LeBron or #1on1Rose and #1on1Durant or #1on1Kobe). The results will be announced during NBA TV’s postgame coverage of tonight’s the Fan Night game between Durant’s Thunder and the Portland Trail Blazers (10 p.m. ET, NBA TV) by NBA TV’s Matt Winer, Greg Anthony and Chris Webber.

VIDEO: Kevin Durant does it all for the Oklahoma City Thunder

All-Star Davis Gives N.O. Added Flavor

VIDEO: Anthony Davis’ top 10 plays

Not that the NBA All-Star Game is ever lacking in fireworks or flash or big names, yet it’s always a bit more fun when there is a hometown connection: Tom Chambers rolling to an MVP award before a jam-packed crowd at the vast Kingdome in Seattle in 1987, Michael Jordan at Chicago Stadium in 1988, Karl Malone and John Stockton working their magic in Salt Lake City in 1993, Kobe Bryant touching base with his Philly roots in 2002.

The 2014 All-Star Game got the spice and flavor of a hot bowl of gumbo when Pelicans’ forward Anthony Davis was named as a replacement for the injured Bryant on the Western Conference roster by new commissioner Adam Silver.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

But it was more than just a case of home-cooking since Davis has been performing at an All-Star level from the beginning of his second NBA season, and was probably the biggest snub by the vote of the coaches when the reserves were originally named.

Davis is averaging 20.6 points, 10.5 rebounds and leads the league with 3.3 blocked shots per game and shooting 51.8 percent from the field. He’s grown in confidence and stature at the offensive end, compiling a greatest hits collection of slam dunks, while also making jaw dropping blocked shots far out on the perimeter as a defensive beast.

In January, Davis blocked 51 blocked shots in 15 games. That was more than the total compiled by three entire NBA teams: Heat (50), Cavaliers (48) and Jazz (48). Through the first 101 games of Davis’s career, he had 233 blocks and 132 steals. The only player since 1985-86 to match those numbers in his first 101 games was Spurs Hall of Famer David Robinson. Davis is also on pace to become the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000 to average 20-10-3 for an entire season.

Davis will also take part in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night of All-Star Weekend. He was the No. 1 pick by Team Chris Webber.

“I would love to be an All-Star,” Davis said in a recent conversation. “It would show that the hard work I’ve been putting into my game during the offseason and every day in practice are paying off.

“It would also bring more attention to our team, the entire Pelicans organization and make a statement, I think, that we’ve got a plan to get better and become a contender in the league. I’ve had great support from the city since I’ve joined the team and making the All-Star team would be an extra bit of excitement for everybody in New Orleans during an exciting weekend.”

Goran Dragic and the world of Suns fans will surely feel slighted that Silver didn’t replace Bryant with another guard. Their valid argument will be that the Suns have a winning record and the Pelicans are below .500. But it never hurts to have the flavor of home in an All-Star Game.

Fan Night 1-On-1: Kobe Vs Westbrook

VIDEO: Kobe Bryant goes hard for his 81 points against the Raptors

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — What do you get when you pair up two of the most competitive human beings to pick up a basketball and tell them it’s a one-on-one game, winner take all?

How about an epic clash of the guard titans between Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook, backcourt stars of the past, present and future in this week’s installment of NBA TV’s Fan Night 1-on-1 Tournament.

Of course, this is the only place we’re going to dissect the battle between two of the most dynamic players in the league, because both Bryant and Westbrook are out with injuries right now for their respective teams. (The Lakers could use Bryant and a clone or two, or three, to get back into the Western Conference playoff mix while the Oklahoma City Thunder are rocking along just fine without Westbrook, thanks to Kevin Durant.)

Kobe in his prime was a diabolical sort, an absolute offensive assassin with the ability to shred you by air or land and the skill set to beat you inside or out. He’d take advantage of Westbrook, a physical marvel for his size but a “mouse in Kobe’s house” down low.

As much as I love Westbrook’s fearlessness, I cannot pick against the Black Mamba in this one … 

Dive in on the conversation on who would win via social media (Tweet @NBATV #1on1Kobe or #1on1Westbrook). The results will be announced during NBA TV’s postgame coverage of the Fan Night game between the surprising Phoenix Suns and the Chicago Bulls (9 p.m. ET, NBA TV) by TNT’s and NBA TV’s Ernie Johnson, Greg Anthony and Chris Webber.

VIDEO: Russell Westbrook messed around and got a triple-double

Fan Night 1-On-1: D-Rose vs. Kyrie

VIDEO: Kyrie Irving is an Eastern Conference All-Star starter this season

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — They were supposed to be the future at the point guard position, rivals for years to come. But things don’t always work out the way they are supposed to. And for Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose and Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving, we’ve never had the division rivals healthy enough simultaneously to really compare and contrast their games in real-time.

Thankfully for all of us, we get to make our theoretical comparisons between the two with NBA TV’s Fan Night 1-on-1 Tournament, and we’re down to the final stages with this matchup.

Take both of these guys at their best and it’s a magical pairing, two young and explosive players with games different enough that the beauty of their matchup would be found in the contrast. Rose attacks the rim and finishes as well as any player at the position but might not be as crafty with the ball as Irving, whose handle and deep shooting range set him apart from the pack.

It’s as even as any matchup we’ve seen during the Fan Night 1-On-1 Tournament:

Join the conversation on who would win via social media (Tweet @NBATV #1on1Rose or #1on1Kyrie). The results will be announced during NBA TV’s postgame coverage of the Fan Night game between the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets (8 p.m. ET, NBA TV) by TNT’s and NBA TV’s Ernie Johnson, Greg Anthony, my main man Rick Fox and Chris Webber (via FaceTime).

VIDEO: Derrick Rose goes off during the exhibition season for the Bulls

Fan Night 1-On-1: KD Vs Melo = Fireworks!

VIDEO: So far, so good in 2014 for Thunder forward Kevin Durant

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The two greatest pure scorers in the game today, squaring off in a one-on-one game?


We’d get all that and more from Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant and New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony, the combatants in this latest installment of the NBA TV Fan Night 1-on-1 Tournament.

There’s no way you play this game, hypothetical or otherwise, in the make-it, take-it format. Because the first person to get the ball might never give it up. That’s how good both of these guys are. That’s how prolific they both are with the ball in their hands.

The physical and skill matchup between these two is arguably the best of any we’ve seen thus far. The only other guy capable of going into that otherworldly assassin/scorer zone that Durant has been in so often here lately is ‘Melo, whose Knicks could use some of those performance from their leader right now.

But this isn’t necessarily about the Thunder or the Knicks. This is about the respective faces of those franchises and what kind of havoc they cold reach on each other  in NBA TV’s Fan Night 1-On-1 Tournament:

Join the conversation on who would win via social media (Tweet @NBATV #1on1Durant or #1on1Melo). The results will be announced during NBA TV’s postgame coverage of the Fan Night game between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics (7:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV) by TNT’s and NBA TV’s Ernie Johnson, Chris Webber and Greg Anthony.

VIDEO: Carmelo Anthony puts in work as the Knicks knock off the two-time defending champion Heat

Fan Night 1-On-1: LeBron Vs Steph Curry

VIDEO: Steph Curry goes off in the Warriors’ win over LeBron James and the Miami Heat

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — On paper it’s a completely unfair fight. LeBron James goes 6-foot-8 and 250-plus pounds while Stephen Curry is just 6-foot-3 and barely 190 pounds.

But would any of that matter if the Heat star and reigning two-time MVP had to tussle with the Warriors star, arguably the most creative scorer in the game today, in a game of one on one?

Thanks to our friends at NBA TV we get a chance to debate that very topic today with the latest installment of their hypothetical one-on-one tournament that the players weigh in on weekly during the splendid Fan Night 1-On-1 Tournament.

Curry and James squared off once already this season, with Curry shredding the Heat for game highs of 36 points and 12 assists in the Warriors’ Jan. 2 win over the champs in Miami. LeBron had a surprisingly off night (25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 8 turnovers), by his standards. And even couldn’t help but gush about Curry’s performance when the smoke cleared.

“I looked at the stat sheet at one point and he was seven of 13 from the 3-point line and I was seven of 12 from the field,” James said. “I was like, ‘He’s got more 3-point attempts than I got field goal attempts.’”

Curry would have to employ that sort of strategy against LeBron in a one on one game, because he would certainly be at a physical disadvantage against the game’s most physically imposing specimen.

Of course, this is all just in theory. No one knows for sure how this matchup would play out. And that’s where the fun comes in. You get to dive in as well by voting on who you think would win in this battle of superstars:

Join the conversation on who would win via social media (Tweet @NBATV #1on1Curry or #1on1LeBron). The results will be announced during NBA TV’s postgame coverage of the Fan Night game between the Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers (7 ET, NBA TV) by TNT’s and NBA TV’s Ernie Johnson, Chris Webber and Greg Anthony.

VIDEO: 2013 was a pretty good year for LeBron James … pretty good indeed

Fan Night 1-On-1: Rose Vs Parker

VIDEO: Derrick Rose was flying high in the preseason

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Injuries have robbed us of seeing Derrick Rose for so long now that it’s easy to forget just how dynamic and explosive the injured Chicago Bulls superstar and former MVP can be on a basketball court. And this season is no different, with Rose sidelined indefinitely for the second straight season with a severe knee injury.

Tony Parker, on the other hand, has exploited every opportunity during a success-filled career that should land the San Antonio Spurs’ point guard in the Hall of Fame some day. The MVP candidate is doing his usual this season, as the head of the snake of the defending Western Conference champions.

Can you imagine what it would be like to see the two of them, healthy and in their primes, going one on one?

Our friends at NBA TV have taken it a step further than just the dream phase by staging a hypothetical one-on-one tournament that the players weigh in on weekly during the splendid Fan Night 1-On-1 Tournament. This week’s combatants are none other than Rose and Parker, two of the standard bearers at the point guard position for their respective generations.

You get to dive in on this fun as well by voting on who you think would win in this battle of the point guard superstars:

You get to join the conversation on who would win via social media (Tweet @NBATV #1on1Rose or #1on1Parker). The results will be announced during NBA TV’s postgame coverage of the Fan Night game between the New Orleans Hornets and Miami Heat (7:30 ET, NBA TV) by TNT’s and NBA TV’s Ernie Johnson, Chris Webber and Greg Anthony.

VIDEO: Mike Fratello talks about the impact Tony Parker makes in San Antonio’s offense

Blogtable: What Happens To Kobe Now?

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

Kobe’s fate | Lakers’ plans | The blame game

VIDEO: Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding discusses Kobe’s latest setback

Gut feeling: Just another challenge that Kobe will attack and conquer, or beginning of the end?

Steve Aschburner, It seems pretty clear to me we have entered the end game with Kobe Bryant. He doesn’t have time to be losing big chunks of this or any season to injuries and rehabs, and what might be a flukey, sad coincidence when two injuries in rapid succession happen to 25-year-old Derrick Rose seems more ominous with 35-year-old Bryant. It’s hard to envision him getting back to All-Star level, never mind Top Five.

Fran Blinebury, At 35, with so many miles on his body, every day is the next step toward the end.  It’s simply the natural process of the body telling all of us that we can’t go on forever.  That said, Kobe is so driven, so fiery, that he’ll recommit himself again to rehab and be back out on the court as soon as he’s able.  Maybe it makes him re-think what is possible.  Maybe it makes him set his sights a little lower.  Maybe it makes him try more to fit in than to be the lead dog.  Nah, he’s Kobe.  He only has one gear.

Jeff Caplan, Kobe certainly isn’t used to this injury stuff. Coming off the rehab of his life following the Achilles tear, this will indeed be another physical and emotional challenge. But, if initial team reports are correct, this is a six-week recovery, not the seven months of grueling rehab he just completed. Hopefully the recovery from the fractured left knee won’t retard, or at least not much, the progress he’s made strengthening his left Achilles tendon. There’s no doubt he will attack this and conquer it. It’s the way he’s wired. No chance he allows this setback to break him. No chance. Just good thing for him he’s already put that autograph on a two-year, $48.5 million contract.

Scott Howard-Cooper, That depends on your definition of “beginning of the end.” Bryant will be back and he will make an impact. But the beginning of the end was already beginning. Kobe himself was the first to say Father Time was getting more good looks than ever against Bryant, and then came the Achilles’ tendon injury. Being 35 and coming off that health concern would have been enough of a climb. And that injury is probably still the more pressing of the rehabilitations, not the fractured knee.

John Schuhmann, We’ve probably seen the last of superstar Kobe, so the beginning of the end was really the Achilles tear in April. I’m sure he can come back and finish out his contract in some shape or form. But really, he’s 35 years old, he has suffered two major injuries to the same leg in the last 8 ½ months, and was showing signs of regression (on the defensive end of the floor) before he got hurt the first time.

Sekou Smith, My gut tells me that Kobe, one of the truly undeniable forces of nature the game has ever seen, will do whatever it takes to battle his way back from this devastating setback and finish his career on his own terms. But my mind keeps going back to the words Chris Webber spoke on Episode 142 of the Hang Time Podcast and his keen observation, as someone who had battled injuries at the end of his own stellar career. You realize this has to be the beginning of the end of the Kobe Bean Bryant we’ve all come to know and respect (not even his critics can deny that the man has had a wicked work ethic over the course of his career). I just don’t see how there is any other view of this thing. Two significant lower leg injuries, to the same leg mind you, in nine months … unfathomable for a player who has been as durable as Kobe has been the past 17 years. When his contract ends I think Kobe calls it quits, regardless of what’s left to accomplish in his mind.

Lang Whitaker, I have said all along that I don’t believe there is an end for Kobe. I’m not a doctor (and have never played one on TV) so I don’t know Kobe’s body and don’t know how many miles he has left on there. But no player of his generation — of any generation, really — has consistently shown this kind of drive and determination. I can’t count him out until he says he’s out.