Posts Tagged ‘D.J. Augustin’

Morning Shootaround — April 22



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played April 21

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Pacers have changes in mind for Game 2 | Nowitzki backs Calderon as Mavs’ starter | Report: New arena remains key for Bucks’ future | Thibodeau unhappy with Bulls’ defense | Jefferson vows to play in Game 2

No. 1: Pacers planning on some changes in Game 2 — Simply put, the Indiana Pacers were shellshocked after the Atlanta Hawks marched into Bankers Life Fieldhouse and beat the home team from start to finish. With that defeat on their minds, the Pacers are examining each and every thing they did in Game 1 and are open to making some pretty big changes on things from who guards the star of Game 1 (Atlanta’s Jeff Teague) to what kind of defense they’ll play as a team and more. Mark Montieth of Pacers.com has more:

Coach Frank Vogel was coy when pressed on the issue following Monday’s practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, not wishing to become the first coach in NBA history to reveal strategy to the opponent a day before a playoff game. But, winds of change were wafting through the building. Practice ran longer than was originally advertised to the media, and all doors were closed. Afterward, Lance Stephenson created a breeze when asked if strategic changes were forthcoming.

“Of course we’re going to make changes,” he said. “We’re not allowed to talk about the changes we made, (the Hawks) will figure it out when we play.”

Earlier, Vogel had only hinted at the possibility.

“I prefer not to make major changes,” he said.

Are you willing?

“Of course.”

Do you think you will?

“We’ll see.”

Any changes are most likely to come on defense. Offensively, Vogel simply wants his team to move the ball more quickly and more often, and for Roy Hibbert to establish better post position near the basket and for his teammates to toss the ball to him when he does. But given the way Hawks point guard Jeff Teague punctured the Pacers’ defense on Saturday, some sort of adjustment seems in order.

The players talked Monday about doing a better job of helping one another, filling gaps and all that, but would they go to the extreme of rolling out a zone defense for the first time this season? Vogel said during last season’s playoff series with Miami that he would implement it this season. He hasn’t, largely because the team’s trip to Taiwan and the Philippines for two preseason games sliced too large a chunk out of his practice time.

The bottom line is, something will be to be done to prevent Teague from running a layup line. He had nine of them on Saturday on his way to 28 points. A zone defense would be one way to do it.

“I wish we had used it more, because then I’d be more comfortable using it now,” Vogel said. “That is something we’re talking pretty lengthily about.”

At the very least, it’s likely that Paul George will defend Teague at some point. George isn’t as quick as Teague, but he is seven inches taller and the Pacers’ best perimeter defender.

George has said he wants to do it. But he wasn’t going to say he would do it.

“If the opportunity calls for it, I’ll enjoy the match-up,” he said, smiling.

“For all I know,” he added, “Hibbert’s guarding him.”


VIDEO: Frank Vogel talks about possible changes for the Pacers in Game 2

***

No. 2: Nowitzki backs Calderon as Mavs’ starting point guardMost NBA followers know that Dallas Mavericks point guard Jose Calderon is one of the best playmakers in the league … and also one of its worst defenders at the point as well. In Game 1, though, Calderon struggled a bit, amassing seven points and two assists in 16 minutes. His primary understudy, Devin Harris, had a much better game, going for 19 points and five assists in 32 minutes. So, is there a point guard quandary in Big D. ESPNDallas.com’s Tim McMahon reports that to star Dirk Nowitzki, there’s no question who the starter is for Game 2:

Coach Rick Carlisle refused to discuss whether he’d consider starting Devin Harris instead of Jose Calderon in Game 2, using his stock line about revealing his lineup 16 minutes before tip.

However, Dirk Nowitzki readily declared about 53 hours before Wednesday’s tip in San Antonio that no change in the Mavericks’ starting lineup was forthcoming.

“We’re rolling the way we’re set up,” Nowitzki said. “Jose has been our starter the whole year. We’ve got to start the game off a little better. I think we were a little slow and we were down eight or 10 pretty quick there in the first quarter, so we’ve got to be a little better there, but Jose is our starter. He’s the guy that puts us in our plays and we’re rolling with it.”

The Mavs’ normal starting lineup has been badly overmatched against the Spurs, having been outscored by 40 points in 33 minutes in the Dallas-San Antonio meetings this season, including Game 1. The Mavs have had a 24-point advantage in the 79 minutes that Harris has played against the Spurs, but that’s also evidence of the success the Dallas bench has had against San Antonio’s second unit, a strength that Carlisle might not want to mess with.

“We’re going to approach it the way we approach it, doing it the way we feel is best,” Carlisle said. “If we get to the point where I feel major lineup changes are in order, we’ll do it, but I’m not going to talk about it two days before the game.”


VIDEO: Dirk Nowitzki talks after Dallas has practice Monday in San Antonio

***

No. 3: Report: New arena critical to Bucks dealLast week, Milwaukee Bucks fans got some happy news about the future of their team as longtime owner Herb Kohl announced he was selling the team to the duo of Wesley Edens and Mark Lasry for a reported $550 million. While that ownership group is committed to keeping the team in Milwaukee, they could lose the ownership rights on their team if they cannot get a new arena built for the Bucks by 2017. Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com have more: :

The NBA has the right to buy back the Milwaukee Bucks from incoming owners Wesley Edens and Mark Lasry if a deal to a bring a new arena to the city is not in place by November 2017, according to sources briefed on the situation.

Sources told ESPN.com that the sale agreement announced last week to transfer the Bucks from longtime owner Herb Kohl to Edens and Lasry for a purchase price of $550 million includes a provision that allows the league to buy back the team for $575 million if construction on a new building in Milwaukee is not underway by the deadline.

Although one source said Monday that the league would likely only take that step if it didn’t see “significant progress” toward a new arena in Milwaukee by then, this provision ensures that the NBA would control the fate of the franchise from that point as opposed to Edens and Lasry.

Edens and Lasry agreed last week to pay a league-record $550 million to Kohl for the Bucks and promised to contribute an additional $100 million toward a new arena. Kohl also pledged to gift $100 million toward construction of a new facility, but more financing will be needed to get the project going, with city officials in Milwaukee estimating that a new arena would cost in excess of $400 million.

The inclusion of this clause in the sale agreement, furthermore, is an unspoken admission that neither the league nor the new owners are convinced that construction on a modern building in Milwaukee will be underway in the space of three-plus years.

Two local task forces have been assembled to study the issue, but there has already been pushback to potential public financing by politicians and community groups. The Bucks’ lease with the antiquated Bradley Center runs through the 2016-17 season, which establishes the fall of 2017 as a natural deadline to find a solution.

***

No. 4: Thibodeau calls out Bulls’ defense In Game 1 of the Bulls-Wizards series, Chicago allowed Washington to roll up 102 points as the Wizards’ big man combo of Marcin Gortat and Nene pounded away and picked apart the Bulls’ vaunted defense. That kind of performance left a bitter taste in coach Tom Thibodeau‘s mouth and he didn’t mince words during Monday’s practice about how displeased he was with Chicago’s defense, particularly the play of point guard D.J. Augustin. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times has more on what the Bulls plan to do differently in Game 2:

‘To put it on one guy, that’s not how we do it here,’’ Thibodeau said.

But that didn’t prevent the Wizards from finding that perceived weak link in the chain and attacking it, especially in their fourth-quarter comeback. Unfortunately for guard D.J. Augustin, he was the guy the Wizards went after in crunch time.

“Not only D.J., our defense,’’ Thibodeau said when asked if he thought Augustin had to improve on the defensive end. ‘‘I could go from start to finish. There’s an endless list of things that we didn’t do correctly. We’re capable of doing much better. And we’re going to have to.

“They’re a good team. In the playoffs, you have to play for 48 minutes and be disciplined. You have to stick to it. Some plays, they made tough plays. Give them credit. Others, we made mistakes. And we have to correct those mistakes.’’

According to one source, though, Thibodeau was concerned about Augustin’s defensive shortcomings being exposed, especially in the playoffs, when opposing coaches smell blood and attack. Sure enough, the Wizards’ guards seemed to go right after him down the stretch, whether it was John Wall, Bradley Beal or even 38-year-old Andre Miller, who scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter.

Thibodeau was asked if the defensive breakdowns were more related to bad positioning or poor communication.

“It was a compilation of all those things,’’ he said. ‘‘To me, if one guy is not doing their job, it’s going to make everyone look bad. We have to be tied together. We have to have the proper amount of intensity and concentration. And we have to finish our defense. That’s one thing that we could do a lot better.”

While there will be tinkering, it didn’t sound as though Thibodeau was going to change his rotation. That means Augustin and the other players on the court at the end of games will have to find a way to deal with the Wizards’ backcourt and to slow down forward Nene, who burned the Bulls for 24 points.

***

No. 5: Jefferson: ‘I’m suiting up’ for Game 2 — Bobcats center Al Jefferson can count on one hand the number of times he’s been in the playoffs. As the big man is in the midst of just his third career playoff appearance, there’s little doubt he’s going to let anything prevent him from playing. That statement apparently applies to his bout of plantar fascia in both feet that flared up early in Charlotte’s Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat. But as Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports, Jefferson is determined to play in Game 2 … and beyond:

Jefferson was in surprisingly good spirits Monday after missing practice, undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging and several hours of treatment. He said there’s no way the injury he suffered Sunday in Game 1 of this playoff series is a season-ender.

“I’m suiting up,” Jefferson said. “It’ll take more than that to make me sit down.”

The issue for Jefferson is not so much his availability, but rather his effectiveness. He will again miss practice Tuesday and his left foot is encased in a protective walking boot.

The pain he experienced in the first quarter Sunday, after he felt a “pop” in his left foot, was excruciating – he compared it to the sudden attack of appendicitis he suffered several years ago, resulting in emergency surgery.

“Like somebody shot me. A terrible feeling. I knew something was wrong,” Jefferson recalled.

Despite that, Bobcats medical staff told him and coach Steve Clifford that Jefferson is taking no special risk by playing. He was told not to anticipate needing surgery in the off-season; that this is about pain-management now and rest in the off-season.

The plantar fascia is a thick band of fibrous material that runs along the bottom of a foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes.

There doesn’t seem to be a significant risk in Jefferson playing with this injury, so long as he can handle the pain, according to Dallas-based sports orthopedist Dr. Richard Rhodes.

“If you can fight through, and they can manage the pain (with medication), you can go on it and then heal in the off-season,” said Rhodes, describing the plantar fascia as helping the foot hold its natural arch.

The issue going forward is how Jefferson can perform in the short-run. Clifford said the injury seemed to harm Jefferson’s performance more on offense than defense. In particular, Clifford noted, Jefferson struggled to pivot off his left foot, which is key to his low-post scoring moves.

Jefferson agrees with Clifford that he spent much of the second half pulling up for jump shots or floaters, rather than completing a move to the rim. He said that was more out of initial fear after the injury than the physical inability to recreate his moves.

“I stopped short. I was afraid to continue,” Jefferson described. “It was more in my head than anything, that I was afraid to do things I normally do.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Could the Hawks be gearing up for a rare No. 8-over-No. 1-seed upset?Tony Allen is doing what he normally does — frustrate Kevin Durant in the playoffs … The Clippers’ Game 2 rout of the Warriors got them back on track in several different ways … With a heavy dose of his trademark intensity, Joakim Noah took home the Kia Defensive Player of the Year award last night … These five names may be on the Utah Jazz’s short list for its new coach …

ICYMI OF THE NIGHT: Yes, the Grizzlies won Game 2 in OKC last night. But there’s no denying that Kevin Durant was doing all he could to get the win last night, as evidenced by this wild and-one 3-pointer he nailed late in regulation …


VIDEO: Kevin Durant hits the ridiculous and-one 3-pointer

Numbers preview: Bulls-Wizards

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: East Playoff Preview: Bulls vs. Wizards

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat hold the top two seeds, but six Eastern Conference teams had better records after the All-Star break. Two of those teams will meet in the 4-5 series.

The Chicago Bulls have once again overcome the loss of Derrick Rose. But they’ve also been better since trading Luol Deng than they were before. The Washington Wizards have been solid all season, ending a five year playoff drought with a top-10 defense and one of the league’s most improved offenses.

Here are some statistical nuggets regarding the 4 and 5 seeds in the East, as well as the three regular-season games they played against each other.

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

Chicago Bulls (48-34)

Pace: 92.7 (28)
OffRtg: 99.7 (28)
DefRtg: 97.8 (2)
NetRtg: +1.9 (12)

Overall: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Washington: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

Bulls notes:

Washington Wizards (44-38)

Pace: 95.5 (19)
OffRtg: 103.3 (18)
DefRtg: 102.4 (10)
NetRtg: +0.9 (15)

Overall: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Chicago: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

Wizards notes:

The matchup

Season series: Wizards won 2-1 (1-1 at Washington)
Pace: 90.8
CHI OffRtg: 102.3 (15th vs. WAS)
WAS OffRtg: 100.6 (8th vs. CHI)

Matchup notes:

Young, Augustin Shine As Understudies


VIDEO: The Bulls outlast the Lakers in an overtime thriller

CHICAGO – The guy in purple and gold with the nifty Nike low-cuts, playing shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, tormented Chicago all evening. He scored 17 points in 20 minutes in the first half, coolly drained three free throws near the end of regulation to tie, then scored five of the Lakers’ seven points in overtime.

The Bulls’ point guard, meanwhile, was just as busy, scoring 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting – and an uncommonly hot 5-of-7 from the arc – to lead Chicago to a two-point victory. He didn’t get to the foul line all that much (2-of-3) and his four assists were matched or surpassed by four teammates. But the Bulls need scoring these days from the guy dominating the basketball, so the point guard gave them that.

Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose? Nope. Not unless you squinted really, really hard, at which point you might have mistaken crew chief Joey Crawford for George Clooney.

It was Nick Young and D.J. Augustin, respectively, on Understudy Night at United Center Monday. They took on the roles normally played by the more famous-but-injured stars and nailed those performances that it drove some of the conversation afterward.

“I can’t play like Kobe. There’s only one Kobe, right?” said Young, who had 29 points against Toronto 24 hours earlier and has scored 28 or more in three of his last four games.

A couple teammates within ear shot started to react to that storyline. Lakers big man Jordan Hill, dressing a few feet away, laughed and said, “Kobe gets dimes, he gets assists. He gets rebounds.”

“Kobe’s been a great mentor to me,” Young said, sounding a little embarrassed. “Just telling me all kinds of things during games. That’s been unbelievable for me this whole year, learning from one of the greatest players to play this game.”

Denials aside, the apparent ease with which Young and Augustin have stepped into their teams’ voids has some folks asking that age-old NBA question: Individual talent or system? No one is suggesting that either has swiped the superhero cape out of Bryant’s and Rose’s closets quite yet, but this is more than Little Man clomping around in Dad’s shoes. Both came off the bench Monday but played starters’ minutes, which will keep coming.

If Young can parlay a half season of some on-court and more off-court wisdom from Bryant into 29 points a game, if Augustin can air-drop into Chicago seven weeks ago, learn Rose’s lines and hits his marks at game time, there is more going on here than impersonations.

“I know Coach [Tom Thibodeau] is just giving me ultimate confidence and running a lot of pick-and-roll stuff, which I feel comfortable with,” Augustin said. “That’s what I’ve been known for.”

It’s no small feat for Young to find his scoring opportunities within Mike D’Antoni‘s game plan each night for the Lakers, though having Bryant, Steve Nash, Steve Blake and even Xavier Henry sidelined has cleared the way lately. Augustin’s responsibilities for Chicago include running the offense and finding open teammtes in their spots.

But then, Nate Robinson plugged the Rose hole last season to great effect. Augustin has done it without a training camp, on the fly, with a team freshly demoralized by another Rose knee injury.

“D.J.’s playing great basketball for us,” center Joakim Noah said. “He’s playing really confident basketball right now. He’s a good fit. He makes the right play all the time. The right pass. The big shots. He can really shoot the ball.

“We need scoring. And he’s been doing a good job of just getting guys the right shot, and scoring as well.”

In his past six games, Augustin has averaged 18.0 points, 7.0 assists and 2.8 assists. Rose, in the 10 games he logged before going down with a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee, had worked back to 15.9 ppg, 4.3 apg and 3.2 rpg.

“All I’m thinking about right now is just going out and playing hard,” Augustin said. “Whatever Thibs runs, whatever plays he runs, I’m just trying to run it and do the best I can. Like I said, he runs a lot of pick-and-roll stuff. That’s what I’m comfortable with and it’s working for us.”

Augustin, in fact, said, he is feeling Charlotte-comfortable again. That’s the last place he played this much — 29.3 minutes per game in 2011-12 with the Bobcats, on par with the 29.4 he’s averaging for the Bulls — and the last place he was this productive.

“I didn’t get an opportunity the last two years in my career,” Augustin said. “When I was in Charlotte, I played the same way I’m playing now. The last two years at Toronto and Indiana, I didn’t get an opportunity. When I play a lot of minutes, I think I play pretty good.”

Young’s minutes — with Bryant limited to a six-game cameo appearance in December between his Achilles tendon comeback and his current left knee fracture — are up to 28.7, his most since 2010-11 in Washington. His per-36 stats — 21.4 points, 16.8 FGA — are personal highs, if not at Kobe levels.

“Each guy’s an individual,” D’Antoni said before tipoff Monday. “Nick does a great job. He’s got a lot of energy, he brings a lot of energy. He’s a good guy. A good teammate.

“When he gets the ball in his hands, he can score. That’s what he does. You can see the joy on his face when he’s playing and he has no fear. So the fourth quarter is no problem, but it could be the first quarter, second quarter. He’s still coming at you.”

It’s the NBA equation: Talent plus confidence equals success. At the moment, it happens to be coming for the Lakers and the Bulls, respectively, from familiar spots.


VIDEO: Nick Young takes it up strong on the Bulls’ defense

Augustin, Bulls Cozy Up In Marriage Of Point-Guard Necessity


VIDEO: D.J. Augustin misses the jumper but intercepts the pass and feeds Luol Deng for the layup

CHICAGO – Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls, supernova talent from the city’s South Side and NBA franchise in search of its 1990s championship pedigree again, is a match made in heaven (with a couple of recent hellish turns).

D.J. Augustin and the Bulls? Strictly a marriage of necessity.

But when someone needs someone to pick up the kids or the dry cleaning, and both someones need each other to get through a chilly winter night, those types of unions – borne of desperation – can be better than nothing.

Which is what Augustin and the Bulls essentially had a couple of weeks ago.

Augustin – the Texas point guard drafted by Charlotte eight spots after Rose in 2008 but worlds apart in NBA impact and arc – had been cut loose by the Toronto Raptors earlier this month in a post-Rudy Gay trade roster shakeout.

But it wasn’t just numbers; Augustin hadn’t played in nine of Toronto’s previous 12 games, sliding down and finally off the team’s depth chart. On the heels of an unsatisfying 2012-13 season as Indiana’s backup to George Hill – a role for which the Pacers sought out former Bull C.J. Watson – it seemed as if Augustin’s career might be Euro-bound or worse.

Then there were the Bulls, losing Rose to a season-ending injury for the second time in 19 months. Veteran Kirk Hinrich got thrust into Rose’s spot in late November but after 10 NBA seasons, Hinrich is only duct tape-and-baling wire durable, a race car in need of trainers-room pit stops every other lap or so.

That left Marquis Teague, little-used as a rookie last season and underwhelming enough lately to merit a redshirted sophomore year as well. And Mike James, 38, an insurance player exposed as inadequate even as a catastrophic policy.

So the Bulls turned to Augustin, the best of whatever bunch was available on the street or in the D-League. He played the night he arrived, logging 12 minutes and doing little else against Milwaukee, and in the five games since. In the past four, Augustin has started three and averaged 37.6 minutes, 13.8 points and 8.0 assists, while shooting 44.2 percent.

His career stats prior to Chicago: 24.1, 9.4, 3.9 and 39.9 percent. Augustin had 18 points and 10 assists, his first double-double since April 2012, to help the 10-16 Bulls beat Cleveland at United Center and snap a four-game losing streak (Kyrie Irving had 14 and 5).

“This is good for him but it’s good for us. We both need each other,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. “When you look at his entire career, his first two years in the league were terrific. Even last year, I thought he had some very good moments in the playoffs.

“He’s been a little up-and-down. Sometimes that’s not uncommon for a young player. But you can see that he has a lot of confidence. I like his skill set, that he can run a pick-and-roll, he can shoot, he can make plays. And I like the way he’s competing defensively. Each game, you can see he’s making a conscious effort to do the right things.”

All those things Thibodeau listed, other coaches with other teams eventually found lacking in Augustin. Their focus shifted to the negatives: Smallish, struggling to defend his position, shooting 36.5 percent since 2010-11.

But the Bulls were beggars, not choosers, when they scooped up Augustin after he cleared waivers. The players in their locker room were conditioned to follow their point guard’s lead. To them, in the moment of Rose’s latest knee injury, Augustin was the cavalry riding over the hill and they’re treating him as such.

“That’s an important leadership quality also,” Thibodeau said. “When you look at your point guard, you’re looking for someone who can unite and inspire your team. And I think he’s doing that with our guys.”

Augustin did that with Charlotte, under Larry Brown, for a couple of years, and then he didn’t. The way his play and minutes went with Indiana and Toronto, there wasn’t much uniting and inspiring going on when he took the court.

Now that he’s with his fourth team in three years, Augustin – in a puny sample size, admittedly – might be praying to Chauncey Billups, the NBA’s patron saint of early-career knockaround point guards, and hoping this run with the Bulls continues.

“I know how the NBA is,” Augustin said late Saturday, at the end of his from-disposable-to-indispensable week. “It’s a business. … You never know what can happen. The situation in Toronto, I didn’t get down on myself and I kept working hard and came here, and I’ve been playing a lot. I think if I got down on myself, I wouldn’t have been ready to play.”

There’s no way to get ready for 46 minutes, Augustin’s workload against Cleveland, other than gutting them out. The point guard has done extra work in the gym and with video, familiarizing himself with Chicago’s plays and his teammates’ tendencies. The tough head coach with the grind-it-out mentality Augustin saw as an opponent, but now he appreciates all that from the inside.

Beats the alternative, too. Everyone wants to be wanted, particularly around the holidays.

“We’re a team,” Augustin said of his latest hoops home. “Every night we go out and fight as a team. They’ve been embracing me pretty well here. I love it, I love all my teammates, I love Coach Thibodeau. You know, I love it here.”

Curry Makes Biggest Impact Offensively


VIDEO: Stephen Curry lights up the Mavs and hits the game-winner

The List

Biggest on-off-court differential, OffRtg

On floor Off floor
Player Team MIN OffRtg MIN OffRtg Diff.
Stephen Curry GSW 744 112.0 370 86.5 25.5
Kevin Love MIN 748 109.5 313 86.0 23.5
John Wall WAS 755 104.6 230 83.9 20.6
Paul George IND 809 106.2 252 89.1 17.0
Klay Thompson GSW 872 107.1 242 91.8 15.3
Marcin Gortat WAS 691 104.3 294 89.4 14.9
Luol Deng CHI 656 101.3 324 86.6 14.7
Corey Brewer MIN 748 107.0 313 92.5 14.6
David Lee GSW 774 108.1 340 94.0 14.2
Ricky Rubio MIN 716 107.3 345 93.3 14.0

Minimum 300 minutes on the floor
OffRtg = Team points scored per 100 possessions

The Context

Last season, the leader in this category was Damian Lillard. The 2012-13 Blazers scored 11.5 more points per 100 possessions with Lillard on the floor than they did with him on the bench. Right now, Curry’s differential is more than twice that.

With Curry on the floor, the Warriors have scored 2.5 more points per 100 possessions than the best offense in the league (Portland). With Curry on the bench, they’ve scored 7.2 fewer than the worst offense in the league (Milwaukee).

Curry is one of the most dangerous weapons in the league and a unique challenge to defend, because he’s one of the league’s two or three best shooters, but also has the ball in his hands to start most possessions. He leads the league with 15.8 pull-up jumpers per game, including 5.1 from 3-point range.

Curry not only gets buckets himself, but the threat of him pulling up clearly creates openings for his fellow perimeter players. Klay Thompson has shot 7.4 percent better from the field and 9.9 percent better from 3-point range with Curry on the floor, while Andre Iguodala has shot 31.1 percent better from the field and 43.7 percent better from beyond the arc.

The Warriors have not only shot better with Curry on the floor, but they’ve turned the ball over 6.1 fewer times per 100 possessions. Both Nemanja Nedovic and Kent Bazemore have turned the ball over on more than 20 percent of their possessions.

Iguodala’s absence is certainly a factor in the offensive drop-off when Curry steps off the floor. Iguodala, who is the team’s back-up point guard in addition to being the starting small forward, and who also has a tolerable turnover rate, has missed the last 10 games with a hamstring injury.

But before Iguodala’s injury, the Warriors were still pretty bad offensively with Curry off the floor and Iguodala on, scoring only 93.7 points per 100 possessions over 195 minutes. They were strong defensively, however, and that’s where Iguodala’s absence has been felt most. Golden State has allowed 104.1 points per 100 possessions over the last 10 games after allowing just 96.5 over their first 13.

Even when Iguodala returns, backcourt depth will be an issue. Mark Jackson hasn’t been able to trust Nedovic and Bazemore, who have played a total of 114 minutes over the 10 games that Iguodala has missed. Curry, meanwhile, has played 40-plus in eight of the 10. Both Curry (11th) and Thompson (seventh) now rank in the top 11 in minutes per game. They’re young, but that’s a heavy burden to shoulder.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Golden State has been included among the teams interested in trading for Kyle Lowry. What they’d have to offer the Raptors is the issue. They don’t have much of value beyond their top six players.

The Warriors have played a tough schedule, with 14 of their 23 games on the road and 19 of the against the Western Conference. But their lack of depth has become a real concern. Nobody can come close to replicating what Curry gives them when he’s on the floor, but they need somebody who can at least keep their offense from falling completely off the map.

The Video

Here are Curry’s nine 3-pointers against the Clippers on Oct. 31, here are his 15 assists in Memphis from Saturday, and here’s his game-winner against the Mavs on Wednesday.

The bottom of the list

The Pacers have scored 14.7 more points per 100 possessions with Ian Mahinmi on the bench (106.5) than they have with him on the floor (91.8). Yeah, there’s still a big drop-off when Frank Vogel goes to his bench, but the reserves do their jobs defensively, Luis Scola has given them more offense than Tyler Hansbrough did, and Roy Hibbert‘s minutes are up from 28.7 per game last season to 30.7 this season.

Just ahead of Mahinmi is the Lakers’ Steve Blake at -14.6, and I wrote last week how L.A.’s bench has been so much better than their starters. Ahead of Blake are the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard (-13.8), Vitor Faverani (-13.4) and the Pacers’ Orlando Johnson (-12.7).

Trivia question

What player has scored the most points without a single one coming from outside the paint? Hint: He’s a Western Conference big man who was once a top 10 draft pick by an Eastern Conference team.

More on-off-court notes

  • The presence of three Warriors in the top 10 further illustrates their lack of depth. Also in the top 10 are two Wizards, and when you take defense into account, John Wall has the largest on-off-court NetRtg differential. Washington has outscored its opponents by 5.6 points per 100 possessions with Wall on the floor and has been outscored by 24.1 with him on the bench. That Eric Maynor addition hasn’t worked out too well.
  • It’s also interesting to see Luol Deng on the list. We understand how important Deng is to the Bulls’ defense, but it’s now clear that, without Derrick Rose, they desperately need Deng offensively. With him out over the last three games, Chicago has scored a brutal 79.8 points per 100 possessions against three bottom 10 defensive teams (Detroit, Milwaukee and New York). And no, D.J. Augustin isn’t going to help much.
  • At the top of the list defensively? Nate Robinson. The Nuggets have allowed 15.5 fewer points per 100 possessions with Robinson on the floor than they have with him on the bench. Seems crazy, but the Nuggets have been just awful defensively in the first six minutes of games, allowing 121.2 per 100 possessions, more than 20 over the league average of 100.9 during that time. That has forced them to play catch-up when their reserves enter. Nate for DPOY!

Trivia answer

Andrew Bogut, who has 164 points, all from the paint (150) or from the free throw line (14).

One Team, One Stat: Pacers Defend It All

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Indiana Pacers, who were one game away from reaching The Finals..

The basics
IND Rank
W-L 49-32 8
Pace 92.8 25
OffRtg 101.6 19
DefRtg 96.6 1
NetRtg +5.0 7

The stat

1st - Where the Pacers ranked in defending the restricted area, defending corner threes, and defending above-the-break threes.

The context

Those are the three most important areas of the floor, so yeah, the Pacers had the best defense in the league. The last team to lead the league in defending the restricted area and the 3-point line was the 2000-01 Spurs.

Roy Hibbert was largely responsible for the Pacers’ success at defending the rim. Indiana opponents shot just 50.4 percent in the restricted area with Hibbert on the floor, the lowest mark for any defender in the league who faced at least 500 restricted-area shots from opponents. Indy opponents shot 57.2 percent in the restricted area with Hibbert off the floor.

The general idea behind the Pacers’ defense is that, with Paul George sticking to the opponent’s best wing scorer (even through screens), Hibbert was able to stay home at the rim and the other guys were able to stay at home on shooters. Of course, that’s a lot more simple than it really is, and the Pacers do help off their man. They just don’t over-help and make the same communication mistakes that we saw in the Nets’ video last week.

Here are clips from Game 6 of the first round, where the Hawks shot just 9-for-19 from the restricted area and 3-for-19 from 3-point range…


The Pacers’ biggest issue last season was their bench. But their bench defended the 3-point line a lot better than their starters did. In the regular season at least, Indiana’s depth issues were all about offense.

Pacers’ efficiency and opponent 3-point shooting, regular season

Lineups MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/- Opp3PM Opp3PA Opp3PT%
Starters 1,218 108.6 96.5 +12.1 +284 136 376 36.2%
Other lineups 2,698 98.5 96.7 +1.8 +42 304 968 31.4%

A lot of that is the opposing lineups the bench was facing. The were facing other reserves who didn’t shoot as well or even create as many open shots. But that 36.2 percent from beyond the arc that the starters allowed would have ranked 19th in the league. And every player in the Pacers’ rotation had a on-court DefRtg of less than 99 points per 100 possessions. After Tony Allen (94.3), Gerald Green had the lowest on-court DefRtg (95.1) among players who logged at least 1,000 minutes last season.

The playoffs were a different story though…

Pacers’ efficiency and opponent 3-point shooting, playoffs

Lineups MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/- Opp3PM Opp3PA Opp3PT%
Starters 414 109.5 94.7 +14.8 +126 49 146 33.6%
Other lineups 502 94.5 107.4 -12.9 -123 85 231 36.8%

So the Pacers went shopping for a bench this summer. They said goodbye to D.J. Augustin, Green, Tyler Hansbrough and Sam Young, bringing in Chris Copeland, Luis Scola and C.J. Watson. The return of Danny Granger also boosts the second-unit offense, whether it’s Granger or Lance Stephenson coming off the bench.

The Pacers’ offense should definitely be better. But it will be interesting to see if the second-unit defense is as strong as it was last season. As both the Bulls and Pacers have shown over the last few years, ranking No. 1 defensively takes 10 guys.

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

Who’s Left? A Look At The Numbers

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – It’s been 15 days since teams could start talking to free agents and six days since contracts could be signed. And at this point, pickings are slim. If you want an impact player, you’re probably going to have to settle for a guy that makes an impact only some of the time.

Here’s what’s left on the free-agent market as of Tuesday morning, according to the numbers guys put up last season.

There were 30 free agents available on July 1 (or who became available afterward) who had played at least 2,000 minutes last season. Only three remain …

Most minutes played, remaining free agents

Player Old team GP GS MIN MIN/G
Brandon Jennings MIL (R) 80 80 2,896 36.2
Gerald Henderson CHA (R) 68 58 2,133 31.4
Nate Robinson CHI 82 23 2,086 25.4
Nikola Pekovic MIN (R) 62 62 1,959 31.6
Jason Maxiell DET 72 71 1,789 24.8
Antawn Jamison LAL 76 6 1,636 21.5
Lamar Odom LAC 82 2 1,616 19.7
Alan Anderson TOR 65 2 1,495 23.0
Gary Neal SAS 68 17 1,484 21.8
Beno Udrih ORL 66 9 1,457 22.1

(R) = Restricted free agent

There were 21 free agents who played at least 200 minutes in the playoffs, and six of those guys are still left …

Most playoff minutes played, remaining free agents

Player Old team GP GS MIN MIN/G
Nate Robinson CHI 12 8 404 33.7
Gary Neal SAS 21 0 390 18.6
D.J. Augustin IND 19 1 316 16.6
Derek Fisher OKC 11 0 261 23.7
Kenyon Martin NYK 12 1 253 21.1
Devin Harris ATL 6 6 225 37.5
Brandon Jennings MIL (R) 4 4 133 33.3
Sam Young IND 15 0 130 8.7
Keyon Dooling MEM 14 0 114 8.1
Ivan Johnson ATL 6 0 108 18.0

There were 31 free agents who scored at least 800 points last season, some more efficiently than others. Only four of those guys are left …

Most points scored, remaining free agents

Player Old team GP PTS PPG eFG% TS%
Brandon Jennings MIL (R) 80 1,397 17.5 46.8% 51.0%
Nate Robinson CHI 82 1,074 13.1 51.0% 54.0%
Gerald Henderson CHA (R) 68 1,055 15.5 46.6% 53.1%
Nikola Pekovic MIN (R) 62 1,011 16.3 52.0% 57.2%
Antawn Jamison LAL 76 712 9.4 53.7% 56.1%
Alan Anderson TOR 65 693 10.7 46.0% 50.9%
Gary Neal SAS 68 645 9.5 48.7% 51.2%
Mo Williams UTA 46 592 12.9 48.5% 51.9%
Devin Harris ATL 58 577 9.9 52.5% 56.5%
Byron Mullens CHA 53 564 10.6 44.4% 46.5%

EFG% = (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA
TS% = PTS / (2 * (FGA + (0.44*FTA)))

Of the 30 free agents who grabbed at least 300 rebounds, five remain …

Most total rebounds, remaining free agents

Player Old Team GP OREB DREB REB RPG OREB% DREB% REB%
Nikola Pekovic MIN (R) 62 230 315 545 8.8 13.1% 18.8% 15.9%
Lamar Odom LAC 82 117 363 480 5.9 8.6% 25.2% 17.2%
Jason Maxiell DET 72 135 274 409 5.7 8.6% 17.7% 13.2%
Antawn Jamison LAL 76 109 253 362 4.8 7.5% 16.7% 12.2%
Byron Mullens CHA 53 71 266 337 6.4 5.3% 21.9% 13.2%
Samuel Dalembert MIL 47 105 171 276 5.9 13.9% 26.6% 19.8%
Ivan Johnson ATL 69 76 190 266 3.9 8.4% 20.9% 14.7%
Brandan Wright DAL 64 85 175 260 4.1 8.5% 16.0% 12.4%
Gerald Henderson CHA (R) 68 55 195 250 3.7 2.9% 10.9% 6.8%
Brandon Jennings MIL (R) 80 59 187 246 3.1 2.1% 7.3% 4.6%

OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds grabbed while on the floor
DREB% = Percentage of available defensive rebounds grabbed while on the floor
REB% = Percentage of available total rebounds grabbed while on the floor

Of the 24 free agents who dished out at least 200 assists last season, six remain …

Most assists, remaining free agents

Player Old Team GP AST APG TO AST/TO ASTRatio
Brandon Jennings MIL (R) 80 521 6.5 203 2.57 24.9
Nate Robinson CHI 82 358 4.4 144 2.49 23.9
Beno Udrih ORL 66 302 4.6 108 2.80 32.4
Jamaal Tinsley UTA 66 290 4.4 106 2.74 45.2
Mo Williams UTA 46 285 6.2 125 2.28 29.1
A.J. Price WAS 57 205 3.6 64 3.20 28.9
Devin Harris ATL 58 197 3.4 88 2.24 24.8
Gerald Henderson CHA (R) 68 177 2.6 108 1.64 13.9
D.J. Augustin IND 76 170 2.2 68 2.50 29.5
Luke Walton CLE 50 166 3.3 60 2.77 39.9

ASTRatio = Percentage of possessions resulting in an assist

There were 49 free agents who recorded a positive plus-minus last season, and 18 of them – including a pair who made a strong impact – remain.

Highest plus-minus, remaining free agents

Player Old Team GP +/- OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg
Lamar Odom LAC 82 +296 104.9 95.4 +9.5
Devin Harris ATL 58 +155 105.2 97.9 +7.3
Gary Neal SAS 68 +101 105.4 101.4 +4.0
Brandan Wright DAL 64 +100 107.9 102.8 +5.1
Derek Fisher OKC 33 +64 107.2 100.7 +6.5
Kenyon Martin NYK 18 +58 109.8 101.4 +8.4
Rodrigue Beaubois DAL 45 +36 102.8 99.3 +3.5
Nate Robinson CHI 82 +32 101.9 101.9 +0.0
Mike James DAL 45 +30 106.8 103.8 +3.0
Jerry Stackhouse BKN 37 +27 103.0 104.6 -1.7

OffRtg = Team points scored per 100 possessions with player on floor
DefRtg = Team points allowed per 100 possessions with player on floor
NetRtg = Team point differential per 100 possessions with player on floor

Efficiently, Pacers Add Watson, McMillan





Some NBA teams hit free agency with smoke and lasers, going big and working on the egos of their targeted players in hopes of razzle-dazzling them to a heady decision.

Others demonstrate their artistry more like Grant Wood. Less fanfare, stoically efficient.

The Indiana Pacers are among the latter group, no muss, no fuss, rarely chewing their cabbage twice. Yet there they were on the first official day of free agency, addressing their areas of greatest need both on the court and on the side.

The Pacers’ top priority remains the same: re-signing power forward David West. He is the heart of that team, he is a throwback threat offensively whose simplicity in the post can be breathtaking and he is vital to Indiana’s ambitions this season of catching and passing the Miami Heat and any other Eastern Conference contenders.

West is one of the NBA’s true grown-ups, and the fact that he and agent Jeff Austin aren’t beating a bass drum of competing offers is just more evidence of the value he brings to that team. West and newly returned President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird nailed down a solid business deal for both sides two years ago – two years, $20 million in a bit of a show-us contract – and there is no reason to expect a different outcome (some different numbers, sure) this time around.

Meanwhile, Indiana reportedly reached an agreement with free-agent guard C.J. Watson to take over the backup point – and initials – role from D.J. Augustin. And former Seattle and Portland head coach Nate McMillan has been hired to slide into Brian Shaw‘s spot as the Pacers’ top assistant coach.

Swapping Watson in for Augustin, a move first reported by Hoopsworld.com’s Alex Kennedy, should be a low-cost upgrade, played out at equally low decibels. Watson, who spent 2012-13 in Brooklyn after two seasons in Chicago, plays with more emotion or expression than Augustin, but that’s fine for Indiana coach Frank Vogel if he sees more proficiency.

When the Pacers turned to Augustin in the wake of Darren Collison‘s trade departure last July, they welcomed having someone who wouldn’t be fighting the backup role that Collison disliked. Trouble was, Augustin wasn’t assertive enough – and he never seemed to find any rhythm off the bench. His shooting and floor direction dipped, contributing to the Pacers’ already shaky bench.

Watson arrives as a slightly feistier player, capable of playing both spots in the backcourt for variations alongside George Hill, and with a longer resume as a 3-point shooter (41.1 percent for the Nets last season). He reportedly would be signed for two years with the bi-annual salary cap exception (about $2 million yearly), with deals only official after July 10 when the moratorium period ends.

Indiana also has made a qualifying offer of about $4.1 million to backup forward Tyler Hansbrough, who didn’t progress as hoped. That too hurt the second unit, which on too many nights was like having retread tires on a $75,000 sports car. As longtime Pacers writer Conrad Brunner wrote on his EPSN 1070 blog:

While the Pacers can hope for a complete return by Danny Granger, who would either give the bench a much-needed scorer or push [Lance] Stephenson into the role, that alone would not solve the problem.

The Pacers’ bench ranked 29th in scoring (24.1), 30th in shooting (.393) and 26th in 3-point shooting (.329) in 2012-13.

“The moves will be to strengthen the bench,” said team President Larry Bird. “Our starters are pretty well set, especially if we can get Danny back. There’s still some uncertainty there. If he comes back, automatically our bench gets better. We’ve just got to get the other guys to play better or bring in some guys we think’s going to help us.

“For us to talk about beating the great teams in this league, you’ve got to have a stronger bench. Our bench didn’t produce last year the way we needed them to produce and we definitely have got to fix that one area.”

Finding another shooter in free agency, such as J.J. Redick, Chase Budinger or Marco Belinelli, could open up things for West, center Roy Hibbert and slashing Paul George too.

In the meantime, Indiana got some help on the bench with McMillan’s addition. In 12 seasons prior to sitting out 2012-13, the former SuperSonics guard posted a 478-452 record with five playoff appearances. Shaw was hired as Denver’s head coach and another Pacers assistant, Jim Boylen, recently joined San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich‘s staff.

Pacers Beat The Knicks With Offense

g

NEW YORK – The Indiana Pacers aren’t nearly the best offensive team in the NBA. But they’re a lot better than the Boston Celtics, a painful lesson learned by the New York Knicks on Sunday.

Defense was the Pacers’ calling card this season. And behind the exceptional rim protection of Roy Hibbert, Indiana kept a great offensive team at bay in Game 1 of the conference semifinals. The Knicks shot just 12-for-28 in the restricted area as Hibbert blocked five shots and contested countless others.

But it was the other end of the floor that really determined the 102-95 outcome, giving the Pacers their first win at Madison Square Garden this season, as well as home-court advantage in this series.

The Knicks looked like a pretty good defensive team against the Celtics. They pressured Avery Bradley and swarmed Paul Pierce, and there was nothing that Boston could really do about it, because they didn’t have anyone who could create shots or make something out of nothing.

The Pacers have that. They have Hibbert and David West in the post. They have George Hill in the pick-and-roll and Lance Stephenson on the break. And they have a jack-of-all-trades in Paul George. Throw in some hot shooting from D.J. Augustin (4-for-5 from 3-point range) and Indiana had six guys in double figures on Sunday, even though neither George (5-for-14) nor Hill (5-for-17) shot well.

It was a balanced attack in more ways than one, because there was no real offensive set or action from which Indiana got a lot of production. It was a real mixed bag of early offense, pick-and-rolls, post-ups, random plays made late in the shot clock, and second-chance points.

“If you’re going to score the ball offensively in the playoffs, especially in an environment like this, teams are going to take away your first option, your second option,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said afterward. “Random action is a huge, huge part of playoff basketball on the offensive end. And our guys did a great job of just playing the game.”

After some early struggles (10 points on their first 15 possessions), it was a couple of offensive rebounds (from Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough) that produced five second chance points and got the Pacers going. And it was in the second quarter when they hit their stride, scoring 30 points on just 20 possessions and turning a seven-point deficit into a six-point lead that they continued to build on in the second half.

The Pacers’ spacing was good, they shared the ball, and they didn’t force anything. They played smart. They had 16 turnovers, but only four of them were live balls, keeping the Knicks from getting out in transition.

“I thought we didn’t have a careless turnover,” West said. “We took our time tonight. I thought guys did a good job of putting them on their heels, attacking and being aggressive.”

The Knicks weren’t awful defensively (meaning that they weren’t nearly as bad as the Nets were in the first half on Saturday night), but going from the Celtics to the Pacers (or any other team, really) is an adjustment. New York tried applying pressure on the ball like they did against Boston, but unlike the Celtics, the Pacers have real NBA point guards who are able to handle that pressure, as well as more guys who can make plays once the defense is compromised.

So the Knicks have some things to figure out. Because the Pacers scored from all directions, there’s no obvious defensive adjustments to make. They may just have to work harder and longer defensively.

You can point to the offense and that Carmelo Anthony (10-for-28) and J.R. Smith (4-for-15) shot a combined 33 percent. And make no mistake about it, the efficiency at which the Knicks were scoring at the end of the regular season has been completely lost.

But with Hibbert staying back to protect the rim, Raymond Felton was again productive in the pick-and-roll on Sunday. Overall, the Knicks did score 95 points on 90 possessions, a solid output in a playoff game against the league’s top defense.

The Knicks themselves ranked 16th defensively this season. They looked much better in the first round, but if Game 1 of this series is any indication, that was more about the Celtics than the Knicks.

Pacers’ Vogel Hits First Speedbumps

 

No one ever told Frank Vogel this NBA head coaching stuff would be easy. But he could have been forgiven had he started to think that way, given the arc of his first 22 months on the job.

Vogel landed the job on Jan. 30, 2011 when he took over for fired Jim O’Brien. He steered a team that had played 10 games under .500 to a 20-18 finish and a playoff berth, and that – coupled with the Pacers’ feistiness in their first-round series against Chicago – shook the “interim” tag loose from in front of his title.

Last season, Indiana won 16 of its first 22 games, chased the Bulls in the Central Division with a 42-24 mark and put a scare into the eventual champs from Miami by grabbing a 2-1 lead and homecourt advantage in the second round.

Everything seemed to be onward and upward again this season after the Pacers re-signed free agent center Roy Hibbert, committed to George Hill as starting point guard, brought back talent czar Donnie Walsh and added pieces they valued such as D.J. Augustin, Ian Mahinmi and Gerald Green.

What has followed, though, has been the first hiccup of the Vogel era. Indiana sputtered to a 3-6 start. At the season’s quarter pole, things have perked up somewhat, but 10-10 still is well below expectations. The Pacers hardly have seized control of the weak NBA Central.

“We’re trying to get a feel,” forward David West said the other night on a stop in Chicago. “We’re trying to pick up wins and put together complete games. We’re just going through the everyday ups-and-downs of the NBA season. Y’know we believe in what we have.”

The defense has been strong – Indiana ranks first in defensive field-goal percentage (40.9) and second in defensive rating (99.6) – but then, it has needed to be considering the Pacers’ offense. They are shooting just 41.5 percent with an offensive rating of 99.1 (both stats rank 28th). They’re not getting to the foul line much and turnovers have been a problem.

Yes, Indiana misses forward Danny Granger, its most potent scorer who is in the midst of a three-month layoff (left knee injury). And it has played 12 road games already, seven of its setbacks coming away from Indy.

But it’s been more than that. Augustin – averaging just 3.2 points and 2.4 assists – has been low impact, generating low confidence from Vogel or teammates and not nearly the dream backup imagined when the club jettisoned Darren Collison. The whole bench has been disappointing, as in the 92-89 loss to Denver Friday. The Pacers subs managed just 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists in nearly 71 combined minutes.

Tyler Hansbrough‘s scoring is down, beyond his dip in minutes. Ditto for Green, sputtering to play within Vogel’s system in ways he didn’t last season in his NBA return with the Nets. Mahinmi has been fine in relief of Hibbert, but Pacers fans bemoan the loss not just of Collison but of A.J. Price, with some lobbying for rookie Ben Hansbrough to get a shot at Augustin’s role.

Among the starters, West has been close to his former All-Star form, but Hibbert, Paul George and Lance Stephenson have been inconsistent.

Then there is Vogel, who has kept a calm about him but hasn’t been shy about changing up plenty during these doldrums. Defensively, he doesn’t ask Hibbert to show as much on pick and rolls, content to keep him as a paint factor. The Pacers have tried to pick up their pace, too, and to get away from iso plays for Hibbert, West or others; with Granger and his shooting out, defenses are more effective sagging or digging in such situations.

“Dramatic shift in philosophy,” Vogel called it. “A work in progress.”

The key for the Pacers is to keep seeing progress while, in themselves or in their head coach, not seeing too much stress. The education continues Sunday in Oklahoma City.