Posts Tagged ‘DeAndre Jordan’

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 19


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 18

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Wade to the Heat’s rescue | Asik Boston bound? | Report: Lakers holding on to Gasol | Warriors catching Spurs at the perfect time

No. 1: Wade rides to the rescue in Heat comeback – LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen all made big plays during the Heat’s wild comeback against the Indiana Pacers, but it was the performance of Dwyane Wade that truly stood out in a contest that felt much more like a playoff game than it did a regular season game in December. His game-high 32 points provided the Heat the opportunity needed to storm back and snatch the game. It was work that we’ve seen sparingly from Wade this season as he nurses the soreness in his knees. It’s finishing work the Heat will need more of, particularly in their matchups against the Pacers, writes Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald:

The Heat trailed 88-80 after Pacers firebrand Lance Stephenson converted a driving layup, but the Heat’s defense steadied itself from there and, thanks to some clutch three-pointers, the home team outscored the Pacers 12-4 over the final 4 1/2 minutes.

“We just kept grinding,” said Dwyane Wade, who finished with a game-high 32 points. “We knew we were getting some good opportunities, but we just couldn’t pull it as close as we wanted, but we knew we weren’t far out of it.

“We got some great defensive stops that allowed us to get out in transition and get some easy baskets and get us back in this thing. You don’t want this team in half-court every possession, so we had to get stops, and we went with the bigger lineup with [Chris Bosh] and [Chris Andersen], and we were able to get more rebounds and get out and go a little bit.”

Wade was 8 of 11 in the second half and matched Paul George point for point in the final 24 minutes of the game. Both players had 18 points in the second half; George finished with 25 points to lead Indiana.

Pacers forward David West was an unstoppable force for long stretches in the second half until Heat coach Erik Spoelstra plugged Andersen in the paint alongside Bosh. The combination, along with James at his hybrid point-forward position, came through with needed stops.

A running dunk by Wade with 2:47 remaining cut the Pacers’ lead to three points, and, after a pair of missed jumpers by the Pacers, Bosh knocked down a three-pointer with 90 seconds left to tie it at 92-92. Bosh finished with 15 points.

“Our guys are fearless, no question about it,” Spoelstra said. “They would want to play every single game like this, with this type of intensity and drama and having to make big plays down the stretch.”


VIDEO: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade’s highlights against the Pacers

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No. 2: Asik could be headed for Boston at any moment: – All that’s left for the Houston Rockets to do is finalize whatever the best deal is for their disgruntled big man Omer Asik. The Boston Celtics have emerged as the clear frontrunner, according to multiple reports, including one from our very own Fran Blinebury (who reports that Rockets GM Daryl Morey is weighing all of his final options before executing a deal by his self-imposed deadline that ends today). Rockets coach Kevin McHale and Celtics boss Danny Ainge have a longstanding relationship as former teammates, friends and trade partners (Kevin Garnett …), so Asik going to Boston will shock no one. Still, there are other possibilities in play until something gets done officially:

The rumor mill had the Celtics as the frontrunners to land the 7-footer with an offer of Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee and a first-round draft pick, a deal first reported by Yahoo! Sports. The teams were said to be haggling over the draft pick, which would be protected to some degree in the 2014 lottery.

Such a trade would fulfill Morey’s desire to get a backup center, a shooter and a draft pick. However, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald wrote that Celtics president Danny Ainge made that offer a week ago, but was turned down at the time by Morey.

The Rockets general manager sent word out around the league on Dec. 6 that he would entertain offers for Asik and choose the package he liked best by Dec. 19, the last date that any players obtained are eligible to be dealt again by the Feb. 20 trade deadline. Since that time, Morey had talked with many clubs, including the Sixers, Cavaliers and Hawks. The Knicks and Trail Blazers were also said to have expressed interest.

Asik has been sidelined for more than two weeks with a thigh injury that eventually caused swelling around his knee.

With Paul Millsap the ideal acquisition for the Rockets to put on their front line next to Dwight Howard, it was interesting to note that Morey began following the Atlanta forward’s official Twitter page —@paulmillsap4 — a short time before the Rockets tipped off against the Bulls on Wednesday night. It is certainly not out of the question that the social media conscious Morey was just having fun dropping a red herring.

If the deal with the Celtics should prove to have legs, it would reunite Howard and Bass, who played together for two seasons in Orlando. At just 6-foot-8, Bass would certainly be an under-sized backup for Howard. He does not have range out to the 3-point line that the Rockets crave, but can knock down mid-range shots to open things for Howard around the basket.

The Celtics could perhaps sweeten their offer by substituting forward Jeff Green for Bass. But Green’s contract, which has two more seasons at $18.4 million due, is not the kind that would normally appeal to Morey, who values keeping salary cap flexibility for his next deal, which is always just around the corner.

VIDEO: The Game Time crew examines the merits of a Rockets-Celtics deal for Asik

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No. 3: Gasol no longer on the trading block? – You can go ahead and remove Pau Gasol‘s name from the list of big men who could be moved … right now. According to a report from ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein, the Lakers are no longer shopping their four-time All-Star. Gasol and Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni got sideways last week but repaired the damage quickly and moved on. Now, instead of his name being swirled around in trade rumors alongside Houston’s Asik, Gasol appears to be safe … for now:

The Lakers entered the 2013-14 campaign fully intending to keep Gasol for the whole season and then to explore the feasibility of re-signing him in the summer. But ESPN.com reported last week the Spaniard’s recent public complaints about how he’s been used in D’Antoni’s system, as well as some subpar play, prompted L.A. to begin assessing its trade options.

However, the way Gasol quickly made amends with conciliatory comments about D’Antoni during the team’s recently completed 2-2 road trip has eased concerns. Gasol had 21 points and nine rebounds in the Lakers’ 96-92 win in Memphis on Tuesday night, after totaling 16 points and 10 rebounds Monday night in a loss to Atlanta. In the two games, Gasol made 16 of 21 shots to raise his overall shooting percentage to .439.

“I just think people go through periods of slumps where you question things,” D’Antoni said of Gasol after Tuesday’s win. “Like I said, we were out of whack. Different things go on. But Pau’s an All-Star, he’s one of the best players in the league, he worked through it and he’s back to normal.”

Sources told ESPN.com this week that the Lakers, before Gasol’s resurgent play, engaged in exploratory talks with several teams but never got too far with any of the calls.

Among the teams they spoke with were the Rockets, sources say, but those conversations never got serious, even with Houston determined to trade disgruntled center Omer Asik before a self-imposed Thursday deadline.

Sources say the Lakers do have certified interest in Knicks center Tyson Chandler, but New York appears to have no interest in fielding offers for Chandler at this time, having just welcomed the former NBA Defensive Player of the Year back to the lineup after a fractured fibula sidelined Chandler for the past 20 games.

ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard reported Saturday that the Lakers, facing a slew of injuries in the backcourt, made an inquiry about the Knicks’ Iman Shumpert, but sources say those talks were likewise merely exploratory.

The Lakers are still assessing their long-term plans and whether there’s a way to keep Gasol beyond this season, with the 33-year-old headed for unrestricted free agency in July. Sources say that team officials have communicated to Gasol in various ways that they remain interested in keeping him in L.A. beyond this season.

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No. 4: Warriors surging, catching Spurs at perfect time – It certainly sounds good in theory, the Golden State Warriors finally catching their breath after a road-heavy start to this season and now catching the defending Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs when they are on their heels a bit, and at Oracle Arena. The Spurs will be without Tony Parker (shin contusion). The Spurs, of course, have a way of destroying the best plans, as Matt Schwab of the Oakland Tribune points out:

The reigning Western Conference champions will return to Oracle Arena on Thursday night, playing on back-to-back nights on the road, without injured point guard Tony Parker (shin contusion).

But don’t try selling any softened Spurs scenario to Warriors coach Mark Jackson.

“With no Parker, it makes a difference, but they still find ways to execute and hurt you,” Jackson said. “Kory Joseph had success against us in the playoffs. Patty Mills can disrupt the game. He has a scoring mentality. They added (Marco) Belinelli, so they’ve got guys that know how to win ballgames.

“It’s still going to be a challenge for our defense and us overall.”

The Warriors got their mojo back in a 104-93 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, as David Lee became David Lee again with 21 points and 17 rebounds, and Andre Iguodala returned triumphantly from a 12-game absence after suffering a strained left hamstring. Klay Thompson helped limit Eric Gordon to five points on 1-for-9 shooting in 24 minutes, employing what Jackson called “elite defense.”

Moreover, Stephen Curry continued his electrifying run with 28 points and 12 assists. The pieces all fit together, just as they did during an 8-3 start to the season before Iguodala went down.

“Really good team effort,” Iguodala said. “We moved the ball really well, but at the same time Steph was in a really good rhythm within the flow of the game. It was really helpful when we defend the ball like we do, and when we move the ball and he’s able to attack without having to force everything.

“Everything was just comfortable, in a rhythm. You could tell he was in his comfort zone, and the same with David Lee.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Clippers pop the Pelicans, thanks to DeAndre Jordan‘s stellar work … It wasn’t pretty, but the Knicks get it done in the clutch against the Bucks … Kyle Korver is working on more than just a 3-point streak, the Hawks’ shooter is doing it from all over … Pistons’ big man Andre Drummond has only scratched the surface of his immense potential.

ICYMI(s) Of The Night: A little friction in Miami (between LeBron James and Mario Chalmers) never hurts, especially when you finish the way the Heat did against the Pacers …


VIDEO: Passion is the name of the game in Miami, at least for LeBron and Chalmers

MVP Ladder: Room For KD And Russ?



VIDEO: Russel Westbrook and Kevin Durant show off why they make such a dynamic duo in Oklahoma City

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS —  Trying to figure out ways to slow down Kevin Durant is enough to give a coaching staff the night sweats. Devising a scheme to corral his partner in hoops crime, Russell Westbrook, only makes things worse for the opposition and such a treat for the rest of us.

It’s not often you find two true MVP-caliber players coming of their own at the same time on the same team, and all right before our very eyes. But we get to see it every time the Oklahoma City Thunder’s dynamic duo hit the floor. That’s one of the many reasons they both have spots on the KIA Race to the MVP Ladder this week.

Durant’s MVP credentials have never been an issue. Westbrook, on the other hand, had some convincing to do … until that knee injury during the 2013 playoffs sidelined him and the Thunder’s championship hopes went up in smoke. That made it clear to anyone open-minded enough to reconsider their previous analysis of Westbrook’s game.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks didn’t need a refresher. He knows exactly what he has in his two young superstars and he says they both make the MVP grade.

“I think Russell impacts the game on both ends of the floor and in order to be a MVP candidate you have to do that,” Brooks said. “You have to be a two-way player to be a part of that conversation. I don’t think you can just be a scorer and expect to be considered the top player in the league. Russell does it with his activity on the basketball and his steals, Kevin does it with his ability to block shots and his rebounding. But they both defend and they are terrific players offensively.”

Durant maintains his No. 1 spot on the Ladder for a second straight week, followed by Paul George, LeBron JamesTony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge to round out the top five. Westbrook joins the list by grabbing the 1oth and final spot.

Dive in here for more of this week’s KIA Race To The MVP Ladder!

Thunder Playing With Edge Few Can Match




VIDEO: Durant, Westbrook power Thunder past Hawks

ATLANTA – All of the wonder that used to accompany the Oklahoma City Thunder has been replaced with furrowed brows, shoulder shrugs and a wicked focus from the previously precious Western Conference party crashers.

They still dance after dunks and holster their shooting hands after a 3-pointer every now and then. But the mood is much different. The fun and games are over for the Thunder. Last season’s playoff failures, piggybacked on the failure to capitalize on home-court advantage in The Finals in 2011, have hardened this group.

“They’re playing for respect,” is the way one keen observer put it to me in a hallway at Philips Arena late Tuesday night after the Thunder finished thumping a game Atlanta Hawks team. “They went from No. 1 [in the Western Conference] to the backburner after Russell [Westbrook] got hurt last year against Houston. They didn’t forget how that felt. And they are taking it out on people now.”

It shows, particularly in Westbrook and Kevin Durant, the catalysts for this Thunder team. They carry an edge that few teams in the league can match right now. It’s the same edge they played with on their way up, when they took their lumps in successive years trying to reach the top of the Western Conference.

There is a physical edge to this group that was not there previously, one that was on full display against a Hawks team that hasn’t been pushed around much by anyone this season.

Westbrook chased a triple-double (14 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds) on a night when he couldn’t make a shot early and finished 6-for-21 from the floor. Durant shredded the Hawks for his usual 30 points, but was just as lethal on the other end, finishing with 10 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal.

A much-improved Serge Ibaka added 19 points, 10 rebounds (his 10th double-double this season) and two swats, serving as a roadblock around the basket and neutralizing the Hawks’ Al Horford for most of the night.

During a late Hawks run, while both Durant and Westbrook were on the bench watching the reserves try to hold the lead, they were summoned back into the game. Durant swatted away shots on back-to-back possessions to help end whatever threat that was brewing from a Hawks team that dismantled the Los Angeles Clippers in Atlanta last week.

What Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan couldn’t do against a steady and disciplined Hawks team the Thunder did at will. They controlled the action and their stars were able to outwork their Hawks counterparts when it mattered most. The Thunder held the Hawks to just 36 percent shooting, an impressive feat for a team noted more for their explosive offensive abilities than for the intense defensive pressure.

“Any time you hold an NBA team in the thirties in shooting percentage,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said, “you’re doing a good job defensively.”

Anytime you have talented players like Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka and that bunch locked in and focused on both ends the way they are now, you can do what you want against just about anybody. The Thunder’s 11 wins in their last 12 games, including a pasting of the Indiana Pacers over the weekend, is proof.

The way they finished off the Hawks was just a subtle reminder to the rest of the league that they will not let up, no matter the time, place or circumstance. Before the Hawks trimmed that lead to 95-92 late in the fourth quarter, the Thunder had cranked things up and led by 13 with just under seven minutes to play.

“(The Hawks) revved up their intensity on the defensive end and when we went on that [fourth quarter] run we matched their intensity. We were able to take that punch and give a bigger punch back,” Durant said. “We played well defensively and took some good shots. We had the game up to 14 or 15 twice, and we let them back in the game. They are tough to guard. They have shooters, and they have guys who roll to the rim and finish, but we did a good job of covering everything. We just always tell each other ‘weather the storm,’ no matter what. If they close the lead or if we’re down 20, just weather the storm and keep working and keep pressing. We took it a possession at a time, and when they cut it to three, we were able to just settle down and get stops and make shots as well.”

They did whatever needed to be done. And they did it with an edge. It makes you wonder — who will match that this season?


VIDEO: OKC guard Jeremy Lamb talks about his play vs. Atlanta

Doc’s Tough Love Is A Must For Clippers




VIDEO: Clippers coach Doc Rivers spares no one in assessing his team after a loss to the Hawks

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It all makes sense now, the tough love approach and the constant reminders, in big wins or just plain ol’ wins, that nothing has been accomplished yet. There’s a method to the madness that is coach Doc Rivers‘ approach to dealing with his team, his new team (still). The Los Angeles Clippers, stacked as they might be and as talented as ever, are still not ready for prime time.

Doc knows it and wants them to understand it before they dive into any more challenges — real or hyped — by someone outside of the Clippers’ cocoon.

The numbers are pretty, starting with a 12-7 record that puts them on solid ground in the ultra-competitive Western Conference playoff chase. The star power — Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford are all healthy and in good form – remains. There is roster balance and depth and, other than J.J. Redick being injured, they have all the pieces they need.

But the splash is easily snatched away. The Hawks did so by dismantling the Clippers with a sound defensive plan and won going away Wednesday night at Philips Arena. They exposed the still fatal flaw of this Clippers team, one that Rivers has pointed out over and over again this season and again during a timeout huddle in the midst of the manhandling by the Hawks.

“Doc (Rivers) hit the nail on the head in one of our timeouts when he said that ‘playing hard isn’t enough,’ ” Paul said. “There a lot of people who play hard but are not in the NBA. We have to figure out a way to be effective.”

The Hawks taught the Clippers’ big men a lesson. Both Paul Millsap (a game-high 25 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three blocks) and Al Horford (21 points and nine rebounds) went to work on them, getting what they wanted, where and when they wanted, all night long against Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jared Dudley and Ryan Hollins. Hawks swingman Kyle Korver returned from a four-game injury absence and tied Dana Barros‘ record of 89 straight games with a made 3-pointer, on the first play of the game no less.

If this is the Clippers’ front line of defense and the defense they’re going to play against a solid-but-far-from-great team, it’s going to be a tough season against outfits capable of attacking them the way the Hawks did. Outfits like the one they’ll see tonight in Memphis (8 ET, League Pass) on the second stop on their seven-game road trip.

The defensive challenges will remain until the Clippers’ biggest stars decide enough is enough. And right now, ranking at the bottom of the league in all the significant defensive categories is not going to cut it.

“We’ve got to stop talking about it and we’ve got to figure out how were going to stop teams,” Paul said. “I am surprised because we know what to do. That’s the tough part about it. It’s not on the coaches, it’s on us in the locker room.”

That’s where things really get twisted for the Clippers. They have a relatively harmonious locker room (injured forward Matt Barnes was not around). It’s not like they are still navigating the transition from the old regime to Rivers’ crew. The leadership structure from last season is, for the most part, intact.

All of the chatter that accompanied the arrival of Rivers and the free agents, not to mention Paul sticking around instead of exploring his free-agent options, cloaked the very real possibility that the championship chase many expected to start in the summer wouldn’t really get underway until late December or early January.

“Actions speak louder than words,” Crawford said. “You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to have that synergy where you’re clicking on and off the court. And I don’t think we’re at that point yet. But I don’t think we should be right now. Going towards the end of the season and the playoffs is when you need to be in sync like that. We’re not there yet. And I don’t want to be there yet. I don’t want this group to peak too early.”

Rivers needs them to steady things long before April. He needs a cohesive group to find their groove and assert themselves on a nightly basis. Rivers needs a core unit that can muster the toughness to beat back teams like the Hawks and even the Grizzlies, who are not the same team that trampled the Clippers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs last season.

This straight-talk approach Rivers is using in an attempt to wean this team from some of its tried-and-true bad habits is the right one. There’s no timetable, the coach made that clear repeatedly. And there’s no sense in trying to measure it after each and every game.

The defensive-minded team that Rivers wants to coach has not yet materialized. When, and perhaps more importantly, if, they show up is anyone’s guess.

“We’re not there yet,” Rivers said, talking about not only his team’s defensive mettle but also its spirit.

Not even close.

“I don’t know what it is,” Rivers said. “Every team is different. Some teams get it right away and some teams it takes a while. But there is no rhyme or reason to it. You know when you got it. I can tell you that. And you also know when you don’t. But it just takes time. From a coaching perspective you just have to be really patient with it. And as long as you think there is improvement, that’s what you want. And we’re having that for sure.”

Blogtable: Fix What On Who?

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.


Changing fortunes: Nets or Blazers? | First-time All-Star | Fixing a fatal flaw


Dwight Howard is making a tad less than 53 percent of his free-throw attempts.

Dwight Howard is shooting only 52.9 percent from the free-throw line. (Bill Baptist/NBAE)

If you could fix one part of one guy’s game, what for who?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Easy. Dwight Howard. Free throws. It could help him as much mentally as statistically, freeing him from the burden and worry of Hack-a-Dwight strategy. More than that, though, it frees me from having to watch that slop, from the intentional fouls to his feeble efforts from the line.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Clank!  Oh, this one’s a free throw. Clank! Dwight Howard’s free throws. Clank!

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Considering how the season started, is there any other answer than fixing Dwight Howard’s free throws — and if not that his post-up game? Despite his field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage practically being mirror images in the low 50s, Dwight’s still averaging 17.2 ppg. Imagine if he could hit a 5-foot hook or a 15-foot freebie.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kent Smith/NBAE)

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Fixing anything with a player, I would correct Greg Oden’s health — he could have been really good if his body had not betrayed him. But fixing part of a someone’s game, I’ll fix Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s shot. A guy with that much athleticism and that much of a motor shouldn’t be so easy to defend. But take away the drive and he’s so limited.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comMichael Kidd-Gilchrist’s jumper. MKG has shown signs – particularly in a couple of early-season matchups with Carmelo Anthony – of being an elite defender. And he has offensive skills as a playmaker and off-ball cutter. But his shot is a major flaw, even with the work he’s put in with assistant coach Mark Price. If he can somehow develop into a good shooter, he can eventually be one of the best two-way players in the league, much like the guy – Andre Iguodala — he says he’s modeling his game after.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comJust one? Don’t you usually get three strikes … or is it three wishes? Anyway. It’s hard to pass up finishing the circle on Blake Griffin‘s game, with some post moves to go with everything else he brings to the table. And I could easily go with Dwight Howard’s free throw shooting or some low-post moves that he’s supposed to already be showcasing. I’d even dial up better shot selection and overall decision-making from Russell Westbrook. But I cannot shake the image of (a healthy) Rajon Rondo operating with Stephen Curry’s shooting stroke. Can you imagine how ridiculously lethal Rondo would be with an offensive arsenal to match the rest of his game? If someone could fix Rondo’s shot and make him a lights out shooter from the mid-range all the way beyond the 3-point line … we’re talking about a player that would be virtually unstoppable on both ends of the floor, a guy who could lay claim to being the most complete player in the game not only at his position but in the entire league. Sure, it’s fantasy land. And Rondo, by the way, is a career 48 percent shooter from the floor — though just 24 percent from deep. But you started it with the question!

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: My high school coach used to drill into us that free throws were the easiest shot in basketball. They’re the only shot where you stand completely unguarded and get 10 seconds to take a simple 15-footer. Off the top of my head I can think of several guys who could use a magic wand to fix their woes at the line, including Dwight Howard and Andre Drummond, but for the purposes of this exercise I’ll go with DeAndre Jordan. He’s shooting 45 percent on FTs so far this season, and he’s a frequent target of intentional fouls when opponents are trying to mount a comeback. If he could make just two more shots out of each 10, he’d be up over 60 percent, would bump up his points per game, would probably be more willing to do work in the post without the fear of being sent to the line, and would make the Clippers a more complete team.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA GreeceEasy one… The most intriguing thing would be to see a Rajon Rondo who can shoot off the dribble. If he can get all those assists when the defense only worries about his penetrations, what would happen if he could also make long-range shots? How could a team stop him? How many assists he would get out of pick-n-roll situations? I pick Rondo, because he is so so so good in other aspects of the game, but shoots poorly, as other superstars have a more all-around skill set.

Davide Chinellato, NBA ItaliaGive Blake Griffin Kevin Garnett’s mid-range shot and you’ll have one of the best power forwards ever. KG was lethal from 18 feet from the basket in his prime, and Blake is working on his shot. And with Doc Rivers keeping an eye on him, he’s getting better. The Clippers are counting on it. I don’t think Blake will ever be as lethal as KG, but if anyone can help him, Doc can.

Air Check: Sometimes You’re Hot

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – For NBA fans like us, there’s nothing better than League Pass. Having the ability to watch every game every night (and then again the next day) is heaven.

aircheck-250Of course, with local broadcasts, you get local broadcasters, which can be good and bad. It can be good, because these guys know their teams better than most national broadcasters. It can be bad, because these guys love their teams more than most national broadcasters. And they’re usually not afraid to show that love.

Air Check is where we highlight the best and worst of NBA broadcasts.

He must work on these lines

Sixers analyst Malik Rose has become an Air Check favorite and you may recall his Hawesome call from a couple of seasons ago. Well, Rose is back with another great line, this time using poetry instead of a pun after Marcin Gortat gives Spencer Hawes two free points with a major blunder.


VIDEO: Malik Rose gets poetic about Marcin Gortat’s gaffe

“Sometimes you’re hot, sometimes you’re Gortat.”

Classic. Hat tip to The 700 Level for tweeting that one out when it happened. You have to wonder if Rose’s game prep includes coming up with one-liners for the Sixers’ opponents.

“Let’s see, we got the Wizards tonight.

“John Wall … didn’t get the call, lost the ball, had a rough fall.

“Hmmm…. Bradley Beal has lost his zeal…

“Nah…

“Uh oh, Eric Maynor, better call the trainer!

“Close, but not quite….

“Every day he doesn’t play, Otto Porter‘s career is getting shorter.”

“Heh.”

Hyperbole in Hollywood

If you were watching that great Wolves-Clippers game on Monday night, you may have heard Ralph Lawler go a little over the top in regard to Chris Paul‘s steal in the final minutes …


VIDEO: Ralph Lawler gets a little too excited about CP3′s steal

Lawler called it the best steal he’s ever seen. Yeah, you could say that’s hyperbole … or maybe Lawler just doesn’t watch a lot of basketball, missed the 1987 Eastern Conference finals, and missed all the contact on the play (which he acknowledged upon seeing the replay).

Of course, Lawler’s has a partner in hyperbole in analyst Michael Smith. Check out the following calls from a preseason game against the Blazers.

First, after DeAndre Jordan gets fouled on a fast break, Smith lauds Jordan’s ability to run the floor…


VIDEO: Clippers analyst Michael Smith loses perspective on DeAndre

Smith: “That is so difficult to do. I don’t even know if it’s fair to say that it’s more difficult for a big man to do that than a small man. But people would say that often, that it’s harder for a big to shoot free throws or it’s harder for a big to run and catch on the fly. I don’t subscribe to that, because D.J. runs like he was 6-foot-2 and catches like he’s 6-foot-2 on the fly.”

OK. He runs well and can catch the ball. Fine. But then Smith takes it over the top…

“Of course, he’s 6-11 and I think he’s the best running big the game maybe has ever seen.”

Lawler: “Settle down, Mike.”

Smith: “Can you name one better, partner?”

Anthony Davis. Just sayin’.

Later in the same quarter, Jamal Crawford missed a pull-up, mid-range jumper…


VIDEO: Clippers’ broadcasters need to check their stats on Crawford

“Jamal Crawford,” Smith says, “will make that shot 8 times out of 10.”

So Jamal Crawford shoots 80 percent on mid-range shots. OK.

Thursday Night Lights On TNT




VIDEO: Clippers coach Doc Rivers breaks down his team’s loss to Orlando

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If the Los Angeles Clippers are using these early season games as measuring-stick contests to see where they stand against other members of the NBA elite, tonight’s game in Miami against the Heat will serve as the ultimate examination.

In fact, tonight’s TNT double-header — Clippers-Heat at 7 p.m. ET and Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets facing the Los Angeles Lakers at the Toyota Center at 9:30 p.m. ET — should have been dubbed Thursday night lights, given all of the star power that will be on display.

The Howard-Lakers saga has been overcooked for months now and we’ve done our fair share of cooking around here. Howard has clearly tried to move on, while the Lakers are doing their very best to do the same, sans Kobe Bryant, for the time being. Howard needs to get on the floor against the Lakers for the first time since he bolted via free agency to give us all a little closure on the entire mess … at least until they meet again.

Howard will have the home crowd on his side tonight, he can expect a much different environment when he returns to Los Angeles to face the Lakers at Staples Center. But Dwight and the Rocket have moved on and are thriving early on this season.

Meanwhile, Clippers coach Doc Rivers continues to vet his team. He has to find out if they have the championship mettle needed to finish the journey while the Heat don’t have to worry about that. They know what’s at their core. Of all the teams on the big stage tonight, the Clippers are the ones with the lingering questions.

They’ve been overwhelmed and worked over twice already this season by teams that were not supposed to be their equal. The Lakers ambushed them on opening night and Nikola Vucevic and the Orlando Magic got them Wednesday night.

Is this going to be a recurring theme for the Clippers, playing down to the competition?

Will Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan continue to get outplayed by guys like Vucevic, grinders who are not wowed by the shock and awe of the Lob City duo’s highlight work?

The Clippers lead the league in scoring (119 points a night) while also leading the league in points allowed (just over 112 points), making them the most exciting and vulnerable team in the league at the same time. Rivers knows better than to allow his team to continue down this path, as he explained to reporters after the loss to the Magic.

“I thought we were very casual in our approach tonight, and that’s me,” Rivers said. “I’ve always got to get them ready and I didn’t … Offense is always fool’s gold. You got to defend to win. The good part about tonight is that it was proof. When we started to get stops, we started scoring. It’s difficult to run when you’re taking the ball out of bounds every time.”

Battling the Magic is one thing. Trading blows with a Heat team that has been on red alert for statement games night after night over the past three seasons will take a colossal effort from Chris Paul and his crew. The world will be watching to see if the Clippers are up to the challenge. The Heat recognize the world is always watching to see if there will be any chinks in their armor that gets exposed by another “contender.”

The fact that we get all of that, with the Howard-Lakers drama as a nightcap, is a bonus for everyone watching.

Thursday night lights on TNT … it has a nice ring to it, no?

Early Storylines Out Of SportVU

VIDEO: Chris Paul dismantles Warriors

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – SportVU data is upon us. Now, what are we to make of it?

Not much at this point. With only 59 of the season’s 1,230 games in the books, it’s much too early to draw any serious conclusions. But we can certainly dive in and put things in the proper context.

Here are three talking points generated by the data we have so far…

Chris Paul has the ball in his hands a lot

The stat: The Clippers’ point guard leads the league in touches per game, front court touches per game, and time of possession, all by a pretty wide margin.

The context: We’ve had usage rate to tell us what players control the action most for some time. But usage rate tells you only about the end of possessions, taking shots, free throws, assists and turnovers into account. Paul currently ranks 27th in usage rate.

But by seeing the touches and time of possession numbers, we gain a greater appreciation for just how much Paul is controlling the Clippers’ offense. After Paul’s 7.5 minutes of possession, next on the Clippers is Darren Collison at 2.1 (76th in the league). The next L.A. starter is Blake Griffin at 1.6 (100th).

And here’s the thing. The Clippers, right now, have the No. 1 offense in the league, scoring a ridiculous 116.6 points per 100 possessions. The OffRtg will go down. The ranking might not.

The Clippers have to fix things defensively. But if they do, and the guy who leads the league in time of possession is also leading the league’s best defense, he has to be considered a serious MVP candidate.

Roy Hibbert protects the rim

Well, duh.

SportVU provides us with a better look at rim protection. Our advanced stats can tell you what opponents shot from the restricted with a certain player on the floor, but those numbers include attempts when that certain guy wasn’t close to the basket.

If you set a filter on that data, you’ll see that opponents have shot 28-for-64 (43.8 percent) from the restricted area with Roy Hibbert on the floor, the lowest mark among defenders who have been on the court for at least 50 restricted-area attempts. And we also see a bunch of other Pacers on the list, seemingly benefiting from Hibbert’s influence.

The SportVU numbers isolate the shots that each player is really defending. With Hibbert protecting the rim, opponents have shot 14-for-44 (31.8 percent), the sixth-lowest mark among players who have defended at least five shots near the basket per game.

That kind of information adds to the Defensive Player of the Year conversation and also might help us measure the value of blocked shots. Are the league’s block leaders also near the top of that list, or are there shotblockers who sacrifice other shots around the basket by being too aggressive? DeAndre Jordan ranks 14th at 1.8 blocks per game, but opponents have shot 60.7 percent against him at the rim (and the Clippers rank last in defensive efficiency).

Kevin Durant is a very good rebounder

We think of Kevin Durant as the best scorer in the league, but not as well-rounded a player as LeBron James. James is the better passer and defender.

But SportVU might give us a better appreciation for Durant’s rebounding. Among players with at least 10 rebounds, Durant ranks second in percentage of rebounds per chance. It’s a small sample size, yes. But Durant ranked highly in that category last season a couple of spots ahead of James).

If there’s a rebound to be had, he’s likely going to get it.

Never Too Soon For Snap Judgments


VIDEO: Sixers begin season with strong start

 

So what if we’ll have to skip the clocks ahead again before we even finish the long grind of the regular season? Does it really matter that it will take more than seven months for somebody to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy? It’s never too soon to leap to conclusions about what we know — or think we know — one week into the 2013-14 regular season.

Heat – Nobody this side of Miley Cyrus gets more scrutiny, criticism and hyperventilating overreaction than the two-time defending champs. LeBron James and Dwayne Wade already have to talk over the alarm bells, trying to put out the fires of two losses in their first three games. They still have the best player in the game, still have a more than capable No. 2 man if he stays healthy and still will be the team to beat when the playoffs begin in April. That won’t stop the sky from falling on nearly a weekly basis. But you still want to pick them for next June.

Clippers – So much for the closing down of Lob City by the new mayor Doc Rivers. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are still running free and easy with the top-rated offense in the league (119.5), but we’re going to have to see more out of DeAndre Jordan and that unicorn defense before we consider the Clips to be true playoff contenders in the West.

Derrick Rose — The Bulls’ star will be right behind the Heat with the Chicken Little crowd that will fret and worry and complain with every missed shot and turnover. He’ll have the most scrutinized repaired leg in the league until Kobe Bryant returns. The good news is that Rose hasn’t shown any ill effects from the knee surgery and it’s only a matter of time until he regains the stroke and the confidence that make him an MVP candidate and Chicago a threat to push Miami and Indiana in the playoffs.

Advantage Howard – The 2-2 Lakers might be saying they’re having fun without the 6-foot-11 distraction, but Dwight Howard is healthy and living up to all expectations in Houston as both an inside force (15 rebounds per game) and solid veteran presence in the Rockets locker room. No longer suffering from back and shoulder problems, Howard is playing joyfully and stress-free for the first time in three seasons. He’s been accepting of instruction from coach Kevin McHale, willing to move out to guard power forwards as part of the twin towers tandem experiment with Omer Asik, and has the Rockets on track to their stated goal of getting home-court advantage in the West playoffs, at the very least.

Lakers – If they were in a swimming pool, the Lakers would be wearing an orange life jacket and just trying to bob their heads above the water line. It’s a two-part season that’s B.K. and A.K. — Before Kobe and After Kobe – and things just don’t look good for the long haul with Steve Nash struggling badly and a bench that provides as much real support as a, well, bench.

Sixers – Other than LeBron and Wade declaring that they were taking the season off to visit an ashram to find inner peace, could there have been a more shocking start to the season than a 3-0 start in always sunny Philadelphia? Michael Carter-Williams, Eastern Conference Player of the Week, is the real deal. But the Warriors proved Monday that the Sixers will eventually settle down to their real level in the Andrew Wiggins Derby, especially after GM Sam Hinkie possibly parlays the quick starts by Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and maybe Thaddeus Young into deals for more draft picks.

Thunder – OK, everybody kicks five bucks into the pot and the winner is the person who picks the exact time — day, hour, minute and seconds — when some knucklehead rips Russell Westbrook for being the kind of bad/selfish teammate that will never help Kevin Durant win a championship. The truth is, since GM Sam Presti’s benevolent giveaway of James Harden to Houston, Westbrook is Durant’s only chance of getting back to The Finals. No more Memphis getting past half a Thunder team. No more avoiding the toughest challenge in the West, Spurs. Yes, Durant is OKC’s best player. But Westbrook, healthy and with a chip on his shoulder, is the hard edge on the court.

Wizards – How many times can we wait on the revamped Wizards to have that bust-out season that propels them back into the playoff picture in the East? John Wall is fine, Trevor Ariza is averaging a double-double, they have a healthy center in Marcin Gortat and yet Washington is still 0-3 with a defense that is simply dreadful. Coach Randy Wittman still leads the race for first coach fired.

Warriors – They’re like the magician that has your eyes glued to his pretty assistant in the skimpy outfit that is their high octane, high scoring offense, while coach Mark Jackson’s team really wants to pull rabbits out of their hats with a defense that will get in your face and get after it. Andre Iguodala couldn’t have been a better fit if he’d been sewn into the lineup by a British tailor.

Love Is All You Need – Well, it would certainly help to have Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and the rest of the star-crossed Timberwolves remain ambulatory through the 82-game schedule. But if there were a Comeback Player of the Year Award for the first week of the season, it would have to go to Kevin Love, who’s been nothing short of a beast scoring and rebounding. This is why it was never rash to envision the Timberwolves Western Conference playoffs the past two seasons. If Love stays healthy, they make it even in a crowded race.

Nets – While losing two of their first three was seen as a sign of the apocalypse in Miami, that trendy, high-priced collection of talent in Brooklyn might be the real candidate for being oversold as championship contenders, a win over the Heat notwithstanding. It still remains to be seen if Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce can continue to produce like their old selves as they become older selves. In the end, it will all come down to whether Deron Williams can get himself back among the elite level of point guards. So far, the shot just isn’t falling.

Knicks – Like the buzz over Gangnam Style and Zero Dark Thirty, Carmelo Anthony and his friends are just so last year. In fact, since their blazing start out of the gate in 2012-13, the Knicks have been positively mediocre and there is no indication that things will change soon. They were laughably “all-in” for a championship run last season, came up way short and now the brightest news is Melo saying he’d like to retire as a Knick. Perfect. Looks like a lot of them already have.

Anthony Davis – The No. 1 pick from the 2012 draft has positively exploded with his growth in the league, almost doubling his scoring from 13.5 to 23.7 ppg, bumping rebounds up from 8.2 to 12.3 and blocks from 1.8 to 4.0. This the Davis who had everyone drooling over his potential at Kentucky and makes the Pelicans a fun stop when flipping channels on League Pass. Now, if only coach Monty Williams could find a way to put some zip into an offense that is only mediocre because they play at such a horridly slow pace in an up-tempo league.

Pacers — Let the Nets spend all the money, the Knicks suck up all the oxygen with talk of Melo’s free agent destination and the Bulls ride the frenzy around every peak and valley in Rose’s return. Meanwhile in the heartland, Paul George keeps getting better, Lance Stephenson keeps learning about consistency, coach Frank Vogel keeps cranking up the intensity on the league’s best defense and the Pacers happily keep playing in the shadows as the real top threat to Miami in the East.

 


VIDEO: The Beat crew talks about Westbrook’s swift return

Back And Forth With Bones: Rockets-Clippers

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Back and Forth With Bones is an e-mail exchange between NBA.com’s John Schuhmann and NBA TV’s Brent Barry during a Monday night game. This week, they sat down (Schuhmann at home in New Jersey with his leftover Halloween candy, Barry in the studio in Atlanta with Matt Winer and Dennis Scott) to watch the big Western Conference matchup between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers.

Pre-game

Schuhmann: Hey Bones, we got Rockets-Clippers tonight. Here are some early numbers…

The Clippers lead the league in offensive efficiency and rank last in defensive efficiency. Chalk it up to small sample size (one game against Steph Curry and another against the carefree Lakers), but they’ve allowed their opponents to shoot 48 percent from 3-point range (29th) after ranking 26th in 3-point defense last season. And of course, they have three games against two of the most dangerous 3-point shooting teams in the league – Houston and Miami – this week.

The Rockets, meanwhile, are the only team in the top 5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency thus far. They’re a minus-1 in 34 minutes with both Omer Asik and Dwight Howard on the floor together, great defensively, but bad offensively. With only one of the two on the floor (and with Francisco Garcia shooting 10-for-20 on threes off the bench), they’ve been terrific on both ends. And obviously, it’s a long-term question if they’re better off keeping Asik or shopping him for someone who better complements Howard and James Harden.

What will you be watching for tonight?

Barry: I’m interested to see how Doc Rivers uses Blake Griffin while Houston plays big. Tough for them to cover stretch fours, but Blake is not that. So let’s see if he uses quick moves or takes comfy Js.

Clips bigs must stay out of foul trouble or else Mullens might get some run to stretch the lineup.

I’m not sure how Harden gets defended, but I would hope guards press up a bit since they are not good at the line. It’s a bad matchup for the Clips if they think they can outscore them.

Schuhmann: Griffin is 1-for-9 from outside the paint through the first three games, so yeah, he’s not going to make Dwight think twice about hanging out in the paint.

1st quarter

The Clippers shot 16-for-23 in the opening 12 minutes, scoring 42 points on 27 possessions. J.J. Redick led the way with 15 and Jared Dudley found himself wide open beyond the arc as well. Even Blake Griffin got in the act, hitting a pair of jumpers. Dwight Howard, meanwhile, picked up two fouls by the 6:24 mark and had to sit. He returned late in the period, but then picked up his third less than a minute later. The Rockets’ offense found a rhythm with just one big on the floor, but a hole had already been dug.

Schuhmann: J.J. Redick is hunting shots early and making Harden work on D. Clips have scored 15 points on 10 possessions.

Barry: Fouls and hot start forces Chandler Parsons switch.

Barry: Houston, coming off the Utah game, does not look to be nervous about being down but this is NOT the Jazz and this point guard does not like to lose.

Classic foul trouble disrupts rhythm.

2nd quarter (LAC leads, 42-25)

The Rockets’ cut the Clippers lead from 17 to six by scoring 22 points on their first 10 possessions of the quarter, with their third center – Greg Smith – scoring eight of the 22. The Clippers steadied themselves when their starters returned and led by 12 at the half.

Schuhmann: Last year’s LAC second-unit gave them great D with Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom &  Ronny Turiaf, and Jamal Crawford scored enough to build on leads. This is one of my big questions with them this year.

Barry: Agreed. Much different complexion of the bench and Barnes takes a ton of chances on D that hurt their schemes.

Barry: Barnes not healthy either, aggravated injury there. Starters prepped for pace but 2nd unit not up to speed.

Schuhmann: CP with 10 dimes in 12 minutes and I can’t say that he’s had to work hard for them. They can come easy with so many weapons who are willing to run the floor and move without the ball.


Barry: Both J.J. and Jared taking practice shots.

Halftime (LAC leads, 78-66)


Schuhmann: That was a ridiculously fast pace. 56 possessions each in the first half. I would think that Houston would be the team that would prefer to slow it down, to get Dwight involved both offensively and defensively.

Barry: Doc said he wants pace before the game, interestingly enough.

3rd quarter

With the Rockets going back to their twin-tower lineup to start the third, the pace slowed. They got Howard into the game offensively, but were unable to cut into the lead.

Schuhmann: As much as I love the Rockets’ pick-and-roll, the Clips bigs are pretty poor defensively in the post. DeAndre Jordan offering no resistance to Howard there.

Barry: And I don’t like, other than CP3, who they have come to double down.


Barry: No big lineup for the Clips. Mullens doesn’t count.

4th quarter (LAC leads, 104-89)

Scoring on their first five possessions of the period, the Rockets cut the deficit to nine and had the ball back. But Garcia missed a three and Jordan took a nice feed from Jamal Crawford to push the lead back to double-digits. Paul then took over  - 10 points and three assists in 3 1/2 minutes – and the Clippers put the game away.

Schuhmann: Harden has 15 & 5, but has been pretty terrible tonight, especially defensively.

Barry: Pretty much mentally out of it. Clips with no control of pace without Paul has hurt them tonight.

Schuhmann: Downside to Dwight post-ups: As much as he’s killing them down there, it’s too easy to just foul him.


Barry: Clips’ D not very disciplined yet. Rotations and awareness not together.

Schuhmann: Yep, just takes a ball reversal to give Omri Casspi a lane to the basket.

Final: Clippers 137, Rockets 118

Barry: When Clips reach a point in the year when it looks easy for the collective unit to operate, they will have arrived. They are good but can be really good if they stay the course and find it.

Schuhmann: Yes, and they can’t just rely on their offensive firepower to get them through the season. I think that’s what the Knicks’ problem was last year. They were too good offensively for their own good.

I don’t know that Jordan/Griffin will ever be a reliable defensive frontline and I do know the Clips aren’t getting any D from their bench. Still, their offense is a thing of beauty. Looks like Paul/Griffin side pick-and-roll with Redick or Crawford coming off a pindown on the weak side is their go-to play.


Thoughts on Houston after tonight? Tough to evaluate when they get a stinker from Harden, but his defense probably isn’t going to get better.

Rockets pace & efficiency through Monday

On floor MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Asik + Howard 47 92.2 87.1 100.1 -13.0 -18
Only Asik 47 104.4 115.0 92.3 +22.7 +23
Only Howard 83 99.9 116.1 104.0 +12.1 +13
One of the two 130 101.5 115.7 99.7 +16.0 +36

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

Barry: You have to wonder what Asik can get you in the market (D-oriented stretch 4) if they feel they can play without a back-up. But they are a dangerous team that can keep pressure on you at any point in the game. Issue is if you don’t get intimidated, you can get back at them too.

If you have the “best” 2 and the “best” 5 you should be a home-court qualifying team for the playoffs.

Plus, no Patrick Beverley tonight. That adds something to their point pressure.