HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The 15 players selected to the All-NBA team every season earn a place in NBA lore that is rarely celebrated the way fans do All-Star bids.
Weighing the two, however, is a battle that shouldn’t be a fair fight. An All-star nod is often based on reputation and how well someone is playing early in a given season. The All-NBA team measures the best of the very best the league has to offer in a season. The team consists of the 15 best players (by position) in the league.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
Thursday, the NBA released this year’s squad. But what about the future? What might that team look like in say, three seasons, when Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, stalwarts on All-NBA teams the past two decades, are no longer active?
What is the makeup of the All-NBA team in the future? What does the league look like three seasons from now?
We take a look, courtesy of the HT (Hang Time) Time Machine, at the future All-NBA Teams …
2015-16 All-NBA First Team
F LeBron James, Miami Heat: No one was sure if LeBron would stick around South Beach after the Heat won those back-to titles in 2014 and 2015. But he watched his good friend Dwyane Wade retire after the last one and vowed to finish his career in a Heat uniform as well. There are no signs of his skills diminishing either. He bounced back masterfully after the Heat were beaten soundly by the Memphis Grizzlies in The Finals in 2013. James has reinvented himself as the epitome of a point forward during the second act of his Hall-of-Fame career, leading the league in assists this season with 12.7 per game. He’s still chasing Michael Jordan‘s six championships standard, though the comparisons to Magic Johnson are much more appropriate, and at 32 he still has plenty of time left.
F Paul George, Indiana Pacers: Three straight trips to the Eastern Conference finals without a breakthrough performance would be a mental and emotional setback for most stars, but not George. He’s done nothing but build on that All-Star berth in his third NBA season. George has blossomed into the closest thing to a legitimate challenger to LeBron’s throne. He interrupted LeBron’s MVP flow in 2015, when he stunned the hoops world by averaging a triple-double (24.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 10.0 assists) while leading the Pacers to a franchise-record 63 wins and finished as the MVP runner-up this season. The only threshold left for George to cross is to lead the Pacers past LeBron and the Heat into The 2016 Finals.
C Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies: Gasol served as the backbone for the Grizzlies’ 2013 championship team, though Zach Randolph walked away with Finals MVP honors, and solidified his status as the most complete big man in the game with his performance each season since. While he’s never piled up the kind of impressive numbers that would allow him to stick out historically among players at his position, Gasol does have three Kia Defensive Player of the Year awards on his mantle and a championship on his resume. If Ed Davis can replace Randolph as Gasol’s tag-team partner in the low post, the Grizzlies could have another run or two in them before it’s time to break this veteran crew up and start over.
G James Harden, Houston Rockets: The two-time (and counting) scoring champ, Harden has supplanted his former teammate and friend Kevin Durant as the league’s most prolific scorer. He’s averaged 30 or more points in three straight seasons, including this one (31.7) and has led the Rockets to the playoffs in each of his four seasons in Houston. Harden has evolved into more than just a scorer, too, leading the Rockets in assists (7.6) and steals (2.3) while adjusting to playing alongside Patrick Beverly in the starting lineup instead of sixth man Jeremy Lin. Harden’s career went to another level since he radically changed his look in training camp before the 2013-14 season by shaving off his trademark beard and mohawk in favor of a bald head and clean-shaven face. Who knew?
G Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors: With his ankle injuries behind him, the sweet-shooting Curry finally claims the first-team spot from Chris Paul and a crowded, star-studded point guard field. Curry’s work as a shooter — he’s shot 45 percent or better from beyond the 3-point line every season since 2011-12 — overshadows the fact that he’s become the consummate playmaker and leader for the league’s most exciting team. Curry put together a 20-10 season at the point (23.6 points and 10.4 assists), the only point guard to do so in the past three seasons, while leading the Warriors to a top four finish in the Western Conference playoff chase for the third straight season. With Curry and Klay Thompson (still the league’s best-shooting backcourt) as the catalysts, the Warriors are trying to crash the conference finals party. (more…)
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Lakers-Bucks was the more sexy game of the night, what with Milwaukee climbing out of a 13-point hole to take down the West’s most glamorous team. By contrast, the Kings-Suns game gets the award for least sexy matchup of the night (despite an awesome performance from the enigmatic DeMarcus Cousins). That leaves Pacers-Mavs as our pick this morning, a bit of a surprise if you look at the final score. We’re picking this one, though, for some off-court reasons. Namely, the Pacers’ mental toughness and circle-the-wagons approach to last night’s game (especially after they learned Danny Granger won’t be back this season). Indiana also heard Dallas’ talk of shaving their hope-to-be-.500 beards after this game, as if assuming they’d topple the East’s No. 2 team with no problem. But great performances from Paul George and Roy Hibbert showed the Pacers are as serious of a contender in the East as they have been all season.
Sanders fuels Bucks’ big victory — As our man Steve Aschburner pointed out postgame, the big story from last night’s Lakers-Bucks game in Milwaukee was obviously the injury toKobe Bryant. But while we’re all fretting over whether or not the Black Mamba will play in L.A.’s next game, lost in the shuffle was the play of Larry Sanders last night. He finished with a career-best 21 points and his high-energy play that has been a hallmark of his season sparked Milwaukee as it rallied from a 13-point hole. Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has more on Sanders and the Bucks’ big win:
The Bucks knew that somehow, some way, they had to halt a four-game slide that was putting their playoff push in reverse gear.
And they did it with a collective effort, posting a 113-103 victory that featured a career-high 21 points from center Larry Sanders and a stellar defensive performance by veteran Marquis Daniels, who had the difficult assignment to defend Bryant.
“We came out and accepted the challenge,” Daniels said. “We needed a win bad. We came out with more intensity and more energy.
“You just try to make all his shots tough and make him work for everything that he got.”
“Our attention to detail was a little better,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “Larry was great, really active, did a lot of talking out there.
“We’ve been struggling lately. And when you struggle, you can get into your own little world, and that’s a bad place to go as a team. You need to be communicating; you need to be playing a collective game.
“Tonight was breaking out of that shell a little bit.”
The Bucks trailed by as many as 13 points in the second quarter but rallied within 56-53 at halftime.
Then they began to take control in the third quarter, using a 13-2 run that featured three dunks by Sanders and a three-pointer by Daniels.
The Bucks led, 82-77, after three quarters and extended the lead to 12 points in the fourth quarter.
Daniels had a key three-point play off a Monta Ellis assist as part of an 8-0 spurt to give the Bucks a 104-92 lead.
“It gets the crowd going and gets the team going,” Sanders said of his six dunks.
He exhorted the crowd in the final minute, walking over to the sideline and raising his arms to get the fans out of their seats.
“I love the crowd,” Sanders said. “I like to get them hyped, especially with the playoffs coming up. It will be good for us.”
Randolph, Hollins ignore talk of conflict — During the Knicks’ win over the Grizzlies on Wednesday night, the New York broadcasting crew implied that there might be growing friction between Grizzlies All-Star forward Zach Randolph and his coach, Lionel Hollins. They also suggested there is a growing belief there is a wedge between the star and his coach and that dynamic is being played out on the court. Randolph and Hollins, though, refute those claims and detail their relationship further to Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal:
There is a growing belief that the Grizzlies’ veteran power forward and head coach aren’t on the same page as they prepare for a postseason run. However, both men dismissed that notion Thursday, saying there is no friction between them.
“Our relationship is fine,” Randolph said. “I respect my coach.”
“The only beef I had with Zach is he was excessively late for a shootaround that started at 4:30 p.m. (last Saturday),” Hollins said. “I told him I can’t start you and he understood. Everybody’s got their opinion about what goes on in our locker room. But only the people in there know. I haven’t had a beef with Zach and he hasn’t had one with me.”
Randolph didn’t start last Saturday against Boston because of his tardiness that day. He struggled mightily on the court this past week in games against Washington and New York.
Randolph had just one shot in the second half of a loss at Washington. He was just 1 of 3 from the field against New York.
Hollins said any correlation between Randolph’s recent poor performances and their relationship is off base because there are basketball reasons why Randolph has struggled lately.
“We’re getting him the ball,” Hollins said. “If you watch the games, we’re getting him the ball. It’s just now teams are taking him away. They’re running three people at him and he’s making passes. Other people are having to step up and try to do things. It’s just the way it is.”
Hollins did acknowledge that the Grizzlies aren’t in the best place as the regular season winds down. And his assessment had nothing to do with their fifth-place standing in the Western Conference.
“I’d like for us to be sharper mentally and more focused intensity-wise. But I understand it’s a long season. I understand that guys get tired and you go through lulls. Then, you get your energy back,” Hollins said. “I just don’t want us to get bad habits. That was one of the reasons I had practice (Thursday). I wanted to get back to practicing our habits. It wasn’t a hard workout, but it was back to technique and fundamentals offensively and defensively.”
Cousins pounds away on Suns — The Kings are one of the West’s worst squads but have shown improvement in March, going 7-7 with wins against the Bulls, Clippers and, most recently, the Warriors, during that span. The win in Golden State wasn’t without its dramatic points for the Kings, most notably being that leading scorer DeMarcus Cousins sat out the entire fourth quarter of that game as coach Keith Smart went for a defensive lineup. Cousins was back in action last night and made sure his play wasn’t an afterthought in the Kings’ win, writes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee:
A night after being held out the final 12 minutes, DeMarcus Cousins had the option of going back in during the fourth quarter Thursday night.
He declined. There was no need for Cousins to do any more.
Cousins had his way against the undermanned Phoenix Suns. The third-year center scored a season-high 34 points to go with 14 rebounds as the Kings bullied their way to a 117-103 win at US Airways Center.
Rather than seethe over what happened against the Warriors, Cousins took his frustration out on Luis Scola, Markieff Morris, Hamed Haddadi or any other Suns player that tried to stop him.
Cousins scored 17 points and had seven rebounds in the first quarter to spark the Kings’ 38-point effort to open the game. It was the most points Phoenix allowed in a first period this season.
“It was definitely frustration,” Cousins said. “I just try to put it behind me. It’s a new day, so I just try to act like it never happened.”
Cousins showed off his overall skills in going 12 for 16 from the field and making all nine of his free throws. He also made one of his two three-point attempts.
Cousins used power against smaller players and skill and quickness against stronger players that could not match his athleticism.
“The guy has a lot of talent, and you saw everything,” Smart said. “From the three-point shot, he can do that, he shoots them in practice. The midrange, 17-, 18-foot shot. The drive to the basket from deep off the floor. Obviously his rebounding is still going to be his strong suit because that’s what he does, and he’s a very good offensive rebounder.”
Smart knew Cousins wasn’t happy about not playing in the fourth against the Warriors and liked how Cousins responded.
“The best way to handle anything you may be feeling is to go out on the floor and perform,” Smart said. “We’re all judged on the performance. And regardless of what a coach did or a player did, it’s all about your performance on the floor. And tonight he created the environment that he wanted to have success in.”
Barnes wants more transparency with refs — The Clippers are tied with the Thunder in average technical fouls per game this season with 0.8. There have been 58 technicals assessed to the Clips this season, with Blake Griffin’s 12 being the team high. And, as Dan Woike of the Orange County Register points out, most of those technicals have come after the Clippers’ players and coaches argue with officials about a call. Reserve forward Matt Barnes, though, has clear thoughts on what should happen with officials in the future:
Matt Barnes, a player who has made a career of not backing down from anyone on the court, didn’t back down from the touchy topic, calling for the leae to be more transparent with their officials.
“One I thing I will say is I know they get graded. I think their grades should be public record,” Barnes said before the Clippers’ victory over New Orleans Wednesday. “Everything we do on the court is public. Our fines, our techs, everything we do is under a microscope. And the refs are supposed to be a part of this league just like we are.
“Their grades should be public record. Everyone should be able to see.”
“It’s hard,” Barnes said. “When you’re playing as hard as you can and you’re getting beat up and nothing is being done about it, it’s frustrating.”
Multiple players agreed that the team has developed a reputation around the league for complaining about calls.
“I think we do, and if so, it’s warranted,” Barnes said. “I’ve seen the calls that have been made against us and the calls that are not made for us. Blake’s a superstar, and I see the way he gets beat up or me as a defender being aggressive and the fouls I get. It’s frustrating, but it’s something we have to play through.
“…I think the reputation, for whatever reason, is something we’re going to have to work through because we definitely don’t get calls.”
Barnes said he doesn’t hold any ill will towards officials, though.
“They’re out there doing the best job they can,” he said.
But that doesn’t change his views on whether the NBA should be more open with its reviews of their officials.
“A ref’s grade should be public record after a game just like our stats are,” Barnes said. “They’re out there, doing their job, and they’re supposed to be the best in the world just like we are. Their grades should be public record. I don’t understand why not.”
ICYMI of the night: It takes a lot for a mascot to make the cut down here, but Bango sure did get Dwight Howard good on this one … :
HANG TIME WEST – Welcome to the new DeMarcus Cousins Watch, the one about whether he plays in the fourth quarter, unlike the one tracking suspensions and technicals, or the one measuring his foul troubles, or the one gauging the mood of the locker room being brought down by behavior issues of its best player.
Cousins has been benched for most of the fourth quarter each of the last two games, and the fourth quarter of close games at that time in a season (OK, a decade) when Kings’ victories are at a premium and opportunities cannot be wasted. But there he sat Tuesday against the Nuggets at Sleep Train Arena and Wednesday against the Warriors at Oracle Arena, and that takes it from one-time occurrence on bad nights to possible emerging trend.
That, in turn, makes the Suns’ visit to Sacramento tonight unexpectedly interesting, this new twist in the three-season saga of Cousins vs. his demons that has held the Kings hostage. He remains too talented to dump for nothing and too emotionally fractured to reach his All-Star potential and build around, and now he is also sitting in favor of Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes when the Kings twice have chances to beat opponents bound for the playoffs.
Cousins was terrible in Oakland, making two of 10 shots and managing five points and four rebounds, although also four steals, in 20 minutes against Andrew Bogut working his way back from two injuries. It’s being kind to say Cousins appeared disengaged. Off that night, he deserved the bench.
Except that it wasn’t just that night. Some 24 hours earlier, Cousins was equally AWOL on offense with one basket in 12 tries. But he had five blocks. He had 13 rebounds. And coach Keith Smart took him out with 10:15 left and the Kings down 10. When Sacramento rallied with the smaller lineup, getting within 101-97 with 5:36 remaining, Smart kept Cousins on the bench.
Against the Warriors, it was the entire fourth quarter as the Kings again played well enough to threaten a better team, this time leading by a point in the final minute before losing 87-83.
“I think he’s engaged,” Smart said. “But I think he’s in a slump right now. It’s the last two games, a couple games, he’s not getting what he wants. But that’s what happens. You’ve got to learn how to grow out of these. You’ve got to learn how to play out of them. You’ve got to figure out, ‘Is it how I’m on the floor playing,’ or ‘Get back into my working game and work on some of the things, get back in the film room.’ Do all those things. I look at the games that we’re playing here on out. He’s still got to do everything he’s supposed to do as if this is game number five. You don’t change. You still come in and work on your game. This is all our players. This isn’t going to be a DeMarcus Cousins show. This is for all our guys. You keep working on your game until the final horn sounds. That’s how I approach it and I want those guys to approach it.”
Cousins conceded he is not in a good shooting rhythm and that he isn’t getting to the spots he wants for the shots. But he said he has not clocked out of the season five or six weeks ahead of schedule.
“Am I disappointed?” to not play in the fourth quarters, he said, repeating the question after the Warriors game. “Yes. But I can’t really control it.”
Are you surprised?
“You just kind of expect anything here.”
Has Smart said anything to you about why you are being benched in crunch time?
Do you try to talk to him?
“Not at all.”
What do you mean by expecting anything around the Kings?
“Just what I said.”
Tonight against the Suns will be a good test, on whether Cousins can’t break out of the shooting slump and, in the bigger picture, whether Smart will rely on him if it’s close in the fourth.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Last night’s trio of games weren’t the most exciting matchups on paper, with two games (Nuggets-Kings and Lakers-Thunder) being matchups that were pretty one-sided (and ended up being that way in the final result, too). That makes Celtics-Sixers our pick this morning, mostly because we were treated to a performance from Avery Bradley that was reminiscent of the work he did in the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals against these Sixers. As you’ll read below, Celtics coach Doc Rivers credits Bradley’s play with a lot of Boston’s success since Rajon Rondo was lost for the season, and this game last night was a great case in point.
West: LeBron ‘in another world’ right now — Around the All-Star break, the LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant debate was stirred up anew after Hall of Famer Michael Jordan said he’d pick Bryant over James. Another Hall of Famer, Warriors executive Jerry West, has his thoughts on the LeBron debate — specifically where James ranks among all-time performers and whether or not he is on Jordan’s level. West’s answer to that, as well as his thoughts on the struggling Lakers, his old owner, Jerry Buss, and more are all a must-read in this Q&A from Sports on Earth’s Shaun Powell:
Q: After 50 years in the game, you’ve seen just about everyone. Are you ready to call LeBron James the greatest after Jordan? Or maybe he trumps Jordan? Or is this all too silly?
A: I’ll say LeBron is in another world right now. He’s a player for the decade. You watch him and you can tell his teammates love him. What you can’t do is judge him by the championships right now. Just his all-around play and skills. He’s a superstar who’s very unselfish. You don’t find that too often. He could lead the league in scoring every year if he wanted. But he’d rather find any way to beat you even if it meant giving up the ball. To watch his growth as a player and person has been pretty special. I would have enjoyed having him as a teammate.
Q: Miami has made it work by combining three All-Stars. But weren’t you, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain the original Big Three?
A: Oh, I don’t know. That’s just a label. The difference between us and them is they’re in their prime. Elgin battled injury and wasn’t the same player when we came together. I wasn’t the same player because I battled knee injuries and we didn’t have the medical advancements then as we do now. I was almost constantly in pain. Wilt wasn’t the same, either; he was at the end of his career. And we didn’t win together because Elgin retired before the championship. I know people didn’t like what Miami did by teaming them up, but I thought it was fantastic. LeBron is special, Dwyane Wade is right behind him and Chris Bosh is a very good player. They’ll win championships or be right there as long as they’re healthy and on the same team. People should enjoy and respect what they’re seeing right now.
Q: Meanwhile, your old team has struggled with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash although to be fair, Howard and Nash haven’t been healthy from the jump. Will they get it together? Or will this be basketball’s Titanic?
A: What people don’t understand is the enormous adjustment you have to make as a player in those situations. I was a scorer, Elgin was a scorer and Wilt, even then, liked the ball. We all had to put everything else aside. The Lakers are playing better now, especially defensively, and I think they’ll make the playoffs. I think the worst is behind them.
Q: You knew Jerry Buss as well as anyone, maybe even better. Got a favorite Dr. Buss story you could share?
A: Well, because of the personality he had, I couldn’t tell you any of the best ones for print. But everything you heard about him as an owner was true. He always did what was in the best interest of the game, from a Lakers perspective and a league perspective. I wish all owners were like him. He was a real innovator. He wasn’t afraid to make a decision. You liked him and cared about him. He was a good guy who was able to buy something and become an incredible steward of a historic franchise. I was lucky to have known him. Working for him wasn’t even work, it was fun. I never saw it as a job. Not for one day. I miss him already.
Kings’ Cousins has words for fan — For DeMarcus Cousins against the Nuggets on Tuesday, it was a night to forget. A season-worst shooting night (1-for-12) coupled with a relentless barrage by Shootaround favorite Kenneth Faried led to a 120-113 loss in which Cousins sat on the bench for the final 10 minutes, 15 seconds. But as Cousins left the game, writes Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, he got into a bit of a verbal altercation with a fan — another black mark in a season where Cousins has had his fair share of on-court dustups:
Cousins sat out the final 10:15, and his exit wasn’t the usual jog to the bench. He engaged in a shouting match with fans seated on the baseline near the Kings’ bench.
“He said some disrespectful things, and I had some things to say back,” Cousins said. “That was it.”
Cousins said he believes it was a Kings fan, “which makes it even worse.”
Coach Keith Smart said sitting Cousins had nothing to do with that verbal exchange and instead was about finding the best matchup to slow down the Nuggets (40-22).
“The focus is on the game. The focus is on what we’re trying to do on the floor,” Smart said. “And whatever happens with someone on our team in the stands, whatever needs to be dealt with, is dealt with.
“These are our fans and they come out here to support us, and we’ve got to make sure we do the right things at all times”
Asked about fan support, Smart made it clear the team’s focus needs to be on the court.
“That’s why it’s very important that we focus on playing good basketball instead of being focused on the fans,” Smart said. “They pay good, hard-earned money to come to a game to do or say whatever they might want to say. But overall the fans in Sacramento have been great to our basketball team.”
‘Melo asked out of game before he got hurt — Although the Knicks rallied from a 22-point deficit to take down the Cavs in Cleveland on Monday, they suffered a loss as Carmelo Anthony left the game in the second quarter after injuring his knee. A day after that mishap, Knicks coach Mike Woodson says the injury could have been avoided had Woodson agreed to let Anthony out of the game when the Knicks’ star started feeling pain. Ian Bagley of ESPNNewYork.com has more on the situation:
Woodson revealed Tuesday during an interview with ESPN New York 98.7 FM that Anthony had asked to be removed from the game due to knee discomfort before suffering the injury in the second quarter.
The Knicks announced later Tuesday that Anthony officially has been diagnosed with a sore knee and will be listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Detroit Pistons.
Woodson called Anthony’s injury “alarming” during his interview on “The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show” and admitted his decision to leave the star forward in the game was “stubborn.”
“Melo was hurt,” Woodson said. “For him to ask me to come out of the game before he actually took that spill made me realize that something wasn’t right. He’s never ever, ever, even hinted about coming out of the game [before Monday]. I play him too much in that regard. Melo’s a trooper — he’s a warrior, he’s a tough kid.”
Woodson was asked during the interview why he chose to leave Anthony in the game after he requested to come out.
“I should have [taken him out],” Woodson said. “Stubborn coach — I just didn’t.”
Woodson explained that he hoped Anthony would help dig the Knicks out of their 22-point first-half deficit.”Maybe I should have taken him out before he actually stumbled and took the fall,” Woodson said. “But again, I’m thinking [during] the game, ‘Hey, he’ll play through it. He’ll figure it out.’
“But he was hurt. He walked out after he took the spill and he didn’t come back, and that’s not Melo-like. Obviously, his knee is bothering him.”
Anthony said on Monday that his knee had been bothering him in recent days, and an MRI taken recently revealed no structural damage.
“Today I just woke up, and you know how some days you really don’t feel right,” he said after the game. “I came out here and I tried to warm up and I thought it was going to loosen up before the game, but some of the things that I was doing, I felt like I was dragging it.”
Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald said Tuesday in an interview with radio station WFAN that he did not believe the injury was “serious,” even though Anthony has been bothered by the knee for two or three weeks.
Sans Rondo, Celtics up their intensity — As was mentioned by the Inside the NBA crew last night, the Celtics are 12-4 since Rajon Rondo was lost for the season on Jan. 27. While getting key players back (such as Avery Bradley and Chris Wilcox) and adding a little depth (via a trade for Jordan Crawford) have helped, Boston coach Doc Rivers says Rondo’s departure probably did more to help get the team on a winning track than anything else. Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe has more on the Celtics’ sudden improvements:
The Celtics began Tuesday two games from the fourth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the first round, which is stunning considering Boston was 20-23 when Rondo went down and was expected to sink in the second half.
“I just think we’re playing better, for whatever reason,” said coach Doc Rivers. “You have all those injuries, you usually go the other way. I just think our guys kind of came together and realized we don’t have a margin of error anymore.
“And maybe that’s why. But overall, I think a lot of things happened, too. I think Avery [Bradley] was just coming back, so our defense improved dramatically with him.”
Rivers said Bradley’s presence has been critical. The Celtics had improved to ninth in the league in points allowed entering Tuesday night’s game.
“When the guy is on the point of the ball putting pressure, it makes everyone else kind of join in, I think that helped,” Rivers said. “I thought our second unit was just about to take off before all the injuries. So they were finding their way.”
Kevin Garnett said the team’s decision making has drastically improved to compensate for Rondo’s missing floor leadership.
“I would say [we’re] more decisive,” he said. “You get to whatever you’re doing and if you’re going to pass it, pass it, if not you make your move. Consistency is something that I always put our hat on. The more consistent we can be with stopping the ball . . . that’s been the formula for success since I’ve been here and getting guys to buy in.”
Perhaps this is a blessing and curse, because professional sports can break a ballplayer’s heart this way. Redick’s loyal this way. He immerses himself in the franchise’s fabric, invests in the community. His two old coaches – Mike Krzyzewski and Stan Van Gundy – still get calls and texts on a regular basis.
“My wife Chelsea and I built a life in Orlando,” Redick told Yahoo! Sports. “Listen, there was no anger [over the trade], but there was a little bit of disappointment.
“Part of me wishes I could’ve been there my whole career and been part of the rebuilding, part of the turnaround, and gotten back to the finals in my 11th or 12th year. That’s the romantic in me, the idealist.”
With Redick, the Bucks have won four of five games. With the Bucks, Redick is relevant again.
“There’s been a number of moments since I’ve been here – in the fourth quarter, in overtime – where I’ve thought, ‘Man, I missed this,’ ” Redick says. “And I did.
“Even in Orlando, in a close game, coming down to the wire, you still think to yourself: ‘We’re 15-37 or whatever.’ ”
So far, the vision of Bucks general manager John Hammond has been validated. Redick will be a free agent this summer, and Hammond gambled with the trade for him. As hard as the Bucks tried to get Josh Smith, Redick was the player whom they believed could become their starting shooting guard for years. Brandon Jennings is a restricted free agent, Monta Ellis can opt out of his contract and, almost assuredly, only one of them returns next season.
Milwaukee can’t afford to pay the three of them, so Jennings or Ellis will stay, and Milwaukee is prepared to pay Redick as a starting shooting guard. Redick will be in great demand, but make no mistake: To leave the Bucks, he’ll have to take less money – probably a lot.
Hammond and his assistant GM, Jeff Weltman, have the Bucks positioned to be an Eastern Conference playoff team for years to come. For them, Redick has arrived to make shots, yes, but also bring professionalism to the workplace.For Redick, it was over in Orlando. The Magic disassembled into a total rebuild. Part of him will always live with the regret of how everything fell apart, how they fired Stan Van Gundy and traded Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers.
In Redick’s mind, the best thing that ever happened was getting drafted into Orlando with a coach who refused to insert him into the rotation. For two years, Van Gundy challenged him to become a more complete player and Redick thinks “a lot about what kind of career trajectory I would’ve had without Stan, and I’m grateful for what he did for me.”
“Those years in Orlando humbled me,” Redick said, “and gave me perspective on basketball and life.”
Bynum visits knee specialist– In the seemingly daily update of how Andrew Bynum‘s knees, the Sixers big man headed off the New York to visit an orthopedist to get more news on his problematic joints and the long-term outlook for his career. Jason Wolf of The (Wilmington) News Journal has more on Bynum’s visit with Dr. David Altchek of the Hospital for Special Surgery and what next steps are ahead for the big man:
The 7-foot, 300-pound Bynum, whose right knee continued to swell more than a week after taking part in his first practice of the season on Feb. 22, is considering arthroscopic surgery and no longer confident he’ll play for the Sixers this season.
Bynum also visited with at least one doctor on Monday, Sixers CEO Adam Aron said in two broadcast interviews.
“We’re all trying to gather information and see what the best course of action is,” Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo said. “I’m sure Altchek will have an opinion, our doctors will have an opinion, and Andrew, basically, will have an opinion. It’s just gathering information now. And like I said before, he’ll continue to rehab and see how that goes. The option of washing it out [with arthroscopic surgery], we’ll see what happens there.”
Bynum has been sidelined by bone bruises and damaged cartilage in his knees since September. The Sixers acquired him from the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team trade in August.
He is making $16.9 million this season and will become an unrestricted free agent in July, when he’s hoping to land a long-term deal and a nine-figure pay day.
“He set it up. That’s his doctor,” DiLeo said. “I know it’s a late appointment, so I don’t know if we’ll hear [results] tonight or tomorrow. … [The swelling] has gone down. But the activity has gone down.”
ICYMI of the night: Kenneth Faried got Dunk of the Night honors from our multimedia crew for this jam, but we like this one so much better:
Let’s say DeMarcus Cousins is accurate. Let’s say his account of what led to the second technical foul and ejection Monday night in Salt Lake City is court-stenographer verbatim and that he didn’t say anything beyond calling one of the referees an “effing female,” according to what Cousins told Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee after the game.
It doesn’t matter.
Cousins moved to a special place on the NBA radar in November with a two-game suspension for leaving the locker room after a game, still in uniform, and, in the words of the league, “confronting Spurs announcer Sean Elliott in a hostile manner.” The turbulent Kings center knows he is under a particularly powerful microscope, that past acts will cost him in the future, and that he has no leeway with refs. And yet he keeps inviting trouble.
This is on Cousins. There is no one else to blame for 2 1/2 seasons of anger and maturity issues, and the season before that at Kentucky as teammates quickly learned of his temper. One person and one person only is costing Cousins money in suspensions and his team wins when the best player on the roster is getting an early shower or out of the arena entirely on suspension.
But how does no one on the Kings get Cousins out of harm’s way long before he could get a male referee submit to a gender exam? The greater question is how anyone let him get within shouting distance of Elliott courtside that November night in Sleep Train Arena. Out of the locker room, maybe, because team personnel are busy after games and not exactly keeping an eye out for unprecedented actions from a specific player. But out the door, through the tunnel, back on the court and nearly to the other end of the court, about 30 yards, all while in uniform, and nobody threw up a detour.
Maybe that happens because no one could imagine it happening. Maybe. The Elliott incident, though, should have been the final sign that Cousins is incapable of controlling his emotions, despite the grossly oversold stories that coach Keith Smart is reaching him, and that all the Kings have to deal with it.
It is not the perfect solution. It certainly is not the fair solution. But the Kings’ best chance to win is if he plays, and so this is everybody’s problem. That may be babysitting, but that’s also the truth.
As long as Cousins is on the team – there never has been an indication from around the league or within the organization that management looked hard at any trade – the team will have to deal with it. Players, coaches, support staff, the guy driving the bus on the road. At the first sign of rising blood pressure, someone has to stay between Cousins and referees. A teammate has to stay in his ear about remaining focused only on the next play.
Monday at Utah, he got the second technical leaving the court before halftime. That can’t happen.
“Before that, (the referees) tell us if you have a problem with them, come talk to them,” Cousins was quoted as saying by Jones. “They give us permission to do that. I tried to wait until the play was over. I waited until the play stopped, I went up to the ref… he kept telling me, ‘Don’t talk to me, don’t talk to me, I don’t want to talk to you.’ So I waited until halftime. He said the same thing… he was saying, ‘Don’t talk to me.’ So my response was, ‘You don’t have to act like an effing female.’ I shouldn’t have said that. That’s about it.”
Cousins is right about one thing. Refs will have explanations/conversations with players and coaches during a stop in play. That just doesn’t mean a player with his history is going to get too far inside that buffer zone.
A veteran teammate or coach, schooled in the ways of dealing with officials, could have had the conversation for him. At the very least, one of them should have been aware Cousins had an issue and done everything possible to get him away from the referees. As long as he is on the team, this is a team issue.
If you thought the Kings were wandering through a thick haze before, imagine the layers of uncertainty now that the team has been sold, sort of.
Transitions to new owners can be tricky on the basketball operations side under the best of circumstances – a pretty settled roster, a relatively quiet time on the calendar – and this is definitely not the best of circumstances. This is a losing operation desperate for traction with personnel decisions looming, varying degrees of involvement from the out-going owners depending on the day and the mood swings, and leaders in Sacramento weighing several counter-strikes, including legal action, to block the sale to a group that would move the team to Seattle.
P.S.: The trade deadline is Feb. 21, and the potential sale won’t be close to untangled by then.
Normally when a franchise is in escrow, the current owners, officially in charge until the Board of Governors approves the sale, continue to handle business, but in strong consultation with the incoming owners. It’s possible something would have been written into the agreement about veto power on decisions, it’s possible it would have been a courtesy. But, for example, outgoing Chris Cohan was not going to do a sign-and-trade for David Lee to come to the Warriors on an $80 million deal without a nod of approval from pending boss Joe Lacob.
This time? The Maloof family has agreed to sell to a group headed by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer. But Sacramento officials are lining up investors for a counter-bid in a last-ditch hope the Board of Governors votes down Hansen-Ballmer. Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has been promised a chance to appear before the BoG votes in April and commissioner David Stern is meeting with potential owners who would keep the team in the California capital. There is no “normally.”
The Kings have needs – defense, rebounding, shooting, playmaking – but only the future of Tyreke Evans is an issue on the clock. The former starting point guard, former starting small forward and current starting shooting guard becomes a restricted free agent July 1, making this the last chance to be in control of the possibility of getting something in return for a key player. If they have decided to match any offer sheet, which is not the case, that would be one thing. Evans would be coming back to the “Seattamento SuperKings” and there would be no pause heading toward Feb. 21. But letting free agency play out means management will have trade options greatly reduced if he signs a deal elsewhere and Sacreattle chooses not to match. The only trade can be with the team Evans has picked and there’s no guarantee that signing club would have anything of value to swap.
DeMarcus Cousins, meanwhile, is not pressing. There is no indication Geoff Petrie, the president of basketball operations, has had any serious trade conversations, no matter how many bad rumors got started this time. (To the Celtics for a package headed by Jared Sullinger? Good one. Because what the Kings really want to do about six months after investing a lottery pick on Thomas Robinson and big money to re-sign Jason Thompson is move their best talent for another power forward, and one with a concerning injury history at that.)
The real updates remain on the business front. Ron Burkle, the kind of big-money guy Sacramento has been hoping to have at the top of the ticket to present to the Board of Governors, met with Stern in New York on Thursday in a definitive statement of interest by the Pittsburgh Penguins owner.
The development, while noteworthy, is little more than an emotional boost to Sacramento fans latching on to any positive. In reality, landing investors and kick-starting an arena project, now possibly at a different location than what had been in place from the brief 2012 agreement with the Maloofs, was never the biggest challenge. It was, and still is, convincing the Board of Governors not to like what appears to be an ideal bid from Seattle. The money from Sacramento interests will be there in the end. But so will the Seattle group, and if the Board approves the Hansen-Ballmer purchase, Burkle or anyone heading efforts in the current Kings home won’t have a team to buy.
A month from trade deadline: Give us a trade you’d like to see.
Steve Aschburner: Utah needs to break up that logjam of power forwards, with Al Jefferson my preferred choice for a fresh start. But no one needs a fresh start more than Pau Gasol, who would be way better off getting out of L.A. and shedding the Lakers’ scapegoat role. Gasol for Amar’e Stoudemire? Gasol in a package to Atlanta for Josh Smith (scratching two trade itches at once)? Gasol is getting older, he’s fragile and he’s got a big contract, but the skilled and classy big man deserves better than the demotion and snide treatment he’s dealt with lately.
Fran Blinebury: I’m ready to trade the Quizmaster for next season’s lease at empty Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. But barring that, let’s swap Pau Gasol for Josh Smith. It gets Pau out of toxic Lakerland for his own good and lets him pair up nicely with All-Star big man Al Horford. Smith could make a big splash in L.A. and save the season or be permitted to walk off into free agency. If that happens, it’s addition by subtraction, since coach Mike D’Antoniand the stats show that Gasol and Dwight Howard do not work effectively together. Lakers have to take the baggage of Johan Petro, DeShawn Stevenson and Ivan Johnson to make it work.
Jeff Caplan: The Lakers have 2 choices: Trade Pau Gasol or trade Dwight Howard. At this point the right call might just be to trade D12. The Nets would probably take him today and the Lakers can move on with some pretty nice players, including team-oriented Brook Lopez, who can score like Dwight, although he won’t rebound or defend quite like Dwight, even this Dwight after back surgery. Gasol is a bit more difficult to trade and get back as much quality. On paper, it’s a no-brainer that you keep Howard and trade Gasol. But Howard’s immaturity and inability to assume responsibility seem to stretch to new levels with every passing game.
Scott Howard-Cooper: DeMarcus Cousins for anybody. Because if Kings fans are about to lose their team, they shouldn’t have to also lose their mind in frustration in the process. (Not going to happen, though. Every Cousins rumor that popped up the last several weeks was mostly bad fiction writing.)
John Schuhmann: This is kind of a simple idea, but I’d like to see the Nuggets trade Corey Brewerand a pick to Atlanta for Kyle Korver. Both guys are on reasonable, expiring contracts, so the deal wouldn’t affect future cap space at all. Denver desperately needs perimeter shooting to complement their speed and athleticism, and Korver could put them in the top-five offensively and in the upper echelon of the Western Conference. And with the return of Wilson Chandler, Brewer is now expendable. I’ll admit that it would help if Anthony Morrow (or Lou Williams) was healthy, so that the Hawks weren’t so reliant on Korver’s shooting.
Sekou Smith: I’d like to see the Lakers put Pau Gasol out of his misery and move him somewhere he can rediscover the role he played three seasons ago, before that playoff meltdown against the Mavericks that started his current career slide. Even with these rumblings about the Lakers considering Dwight Howard trades, Gasol is the big man the Lakers have to move. Gasol still has enough tread left on his tires to help anchor the low post somewhere other than Los Angeles. And it’s clear, now that he’s been relegated to a reserve role in favor of Earl Clark, that Gasol isn’t in the Lakers’ plans.
Nothing ever is intentional for Cousins, whose heat-of-the-moment forearm to the face of Vince Carter with 41 seconds left in OT and the Kings down two, was reviewed, elevated to a Flagrant 2 and a subsequent automatic ejection. It was Cousins’ sixth foul anyway and as the 6-foot-11 center dragged 29 points, nine rebounds and four assists to the locker room, his team, which had led by 17 points, was left for dead — again.
Now Cousins will await a predictable fine from the league office, which reviews all flagrant fouls. The league office, of course, is quite familiar with the recurring troublemaker. He’s already been suspendedtwice this season.
This time, “Boogie” turned himself into the victim.
“I swear, no matter how hard I try, some type of way it happens,” Cousins said. “It’s frustrating. Like no matter how hard I try, they find a way.”
The answer made little sense in response to a question posed about not allowing this incident to become a setback after he’s put up monster numbers over the last couple of weeks, and just as trade rumors swirl.
This is what the Kings are grappling with on a daily basis, an undeniable talent who is irrevocably immature. It’s darn near getting impossible to live with him, yet life without the potential cornerstone leaves the franchise with what? He’s 22 and he’ll figure it out eventually, right?
A follow-up question came to Cousins: Are you frustrated with yourself?
“I wouldn’t say with myself because I know I’m trying my best,” Cousins said. “I mean I can’t sit here and point the finger at other people, and I know some of these decisions, I got to make better decisions.”
This poor decision came well after the Kings had already imploded in the fourth quarter and were lucky to be in overtime thanks to Isaiah Thomas banking in a game-tying 3 at the buzzer. With a chance to tie late in the OT, the ball went into Cousins in the paint and three Mavs collapsed on him. Cousins was stripped, the ball bounced around, squirted out the side and was recovered by Dallas’ Shawn Marion.
As Cousins rose up — sandwiched between Mayo behind him and Carter in front — he shoved his right forearm into Carter’s chin. As Carter (who might have embellished just a bit) started to fall backward, it was almost as if it clicked inside Cousins’ head that this was not good, and he quickly cradled Carter to the floor as if tucking him into bed.
The foul was then reviewed and upgraded.
“But come on, like, give me a break,” Cousins said. “I just know that wasn’t intentional. Come on, man.”
The officiating crew, after viewing multiple replays, thought otherwise. Just guessing that the league office will, too.
The idea of in some sense rewarding DeMarcus Cousins for the havoc he has wreaked yet again on the Sacramento Kings grates on some of us here at the HTB Hideout. When you’re the best player on your team’s roster, you’re supposed to fix things, not escape them.
But the flip side of any rumored Cousins-to-Boston trade coin is that the Celtics would be the ones getting rewarded. Proud, aging stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, along with respected coach Doc Rivers, would get a XXXL-sized transfusion in wring a bit more postseason success from the era begun nearly six years ago.
The third side of that coin, though, would ask: Would a trade from 13-21 Sacramento to 16-17 Boston qualify anymore as a reward?
OK, so that’s a little snarky. But seven years of lottery finishes (and four coaching changes) has left the Kings a core of young talent. Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans, Jason Thompson, Isaiah Thomas, James Johnson and Cousins all are 26 or younger. Chuck Hayes (29) and Aaron Brooks (27 till next week) still are helpful pieces. Rookie forward Thomas Robinson, the fifth pick in the Draft in June, has had a bumpy start but perked up both in performance and in awareness on the road this weekend in Toronto and Brooklyn.
Cousins, of course, remains the key. He has averaged 20.8 points, 13.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals over the last six games, driving Sacramento’s 4-2 mark. He has exasperated team members, staffers and fans alike with his unprofessionalism, which earned him a team suspension right before Christmas. Yet there is no denying Cousins’ skills and potential – that’s what keeps the apologists alive and the trade market in overdrive.
It’s hard to know what to believe at the moment. Sam Amick, USA Today‘s rock-solid NBA guy who is based in Sacramento, continues to report that the Kings are not moving Cousins.
DeMarcus Cousins is not going to the Celtics. Teams continue to be told that he’s not available. That is all.
But NESN.com, like a lot of Boston fans, wondered if the Celtics’ decision to waive Kris Joseph and Jarvis Varnado might suggest – open roster spots! – that some multi-player maneuver was in the works. That speculation had life breathed into it by NBAonNBCBoston.com, via a Twitter item based on an anonymous source to that site’s Patrick Gilroy:
Sources close to nbaonnbc.com confirm that Danny Ainge is working to complete a deal to bring Cousins to Boston, tonight.
(Notice that the replies to that “tweet” ranged from @JFunkyD_JD’s “We need to do something to shake up the mix” and @RiGronkulous87′s ”I’ll believe it when I see it” to @seanoblizalo’s “I just threw up.”)
Meanwhile, Boston sports reporter Mike Petraglia of WEEI was offering up an idea that would have the Celtics headed in an entirely different direction: Trading Garnett, the oldest guy on the roster, in a move for now but especially later.
The Celtics have precious few trading chips to do what they really need to do, and that is move forward.
The Celtics are not going to even sniff the NBA finals as currently constituted. I wrote in this space last week that the Celtics should get Garnett some help. But after what I watched last week on the West Coast and Wednesday against Memphis in person, I’m convinced another big man won’t make up the talent deficit the Celtics face. Even worse, if the Celtics decide to improve the roster, it will come at the expense of at least Bradley, if not draft picks.
That’s exactly what [Celtics basketball boss Danny] Ainge should not do. … This is about rebuilding a roster with the type of younger and more athletic talent it takes to compete year in and year out.
Obviously, the Cousins and Garnett schools of thought could only co-exist in a trade of three or more teams. Even if Garnett were to waive his no-trade clause, he wouldn’t do so to relocate to Sacramento. The Kings, likewise, would have little use, while still on training wheels, for the pricey 36-year-old.
Cousins as the centerpiece of roster renewal in Boston? Garnett landing with a team with real championship potential? Sure, it’s all fun to ponder. All long shots, too.
There are some things in this $5 billion enterprise known as the NBA that are complicated and nearly inexplicable: The formula for the “repeater” luxury tax, for instance, or Vinny Del Negro‘s magic touch with the Los Angeles Clippers. And then there are some things that are elemental, as simple as can be.
Like thirty-one and twenty.
Grammarians might contend that anything linked via an “and” technically counts as two things. Style police might demand the numerals, 31 and 20, rather than the words. But NBA fans can cut through all that to the essence of what it meant when Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins scored his season high in points and matched his career high in rebounds in a victory Friday at Toronto.
Thirty-one and twenty means that Cousins will continue to get his way.
Thirty-one and twenty makes all the headaches worth it, when coping with and waiting for the third-year big man from Kentucky to grow emotionally and intellectually into his broad, formidable, 6-foot-11, 270-pound body.
Thirty-one and twenty buys more time and tolerance for forced 19-foot jump shots and cranky postgame chats with opposing teams’ broadcasters.
Thirty-one and twenty keeps other teams open, even eager, to consider trade possibilities, regardless of Cousins’ past deeds, current demeanor or future detours.
Admittedly, it came against the Toronto Raptors, which is like the giant’s “fe-fi-fo-fum” coming against Jack of magic-bean fame. Already underbulked if not undersized, the Raptors were without Jonas Valanciunas and Andrea Bargnani and ran the likes of Aaron Gray, Amir Johnson, Ed Davis and Quincy Acy at Cousins. From Cathal Kelly‘s account in the Toronto Star, it might as well have been the Maple Leafs against the Navy SEALS.
“He was getting everything he wanted,” Davis conceded.
The only Raptor who gave Cousins a run was relative pipsqueak Alan Anderson – and all of that was with his mouth. Cousins and Anderson took matching technicals early, and looked perilously close to a fist fight once things got out of hand.
Cousins wreaked much of his havoc after halftime, scoring 10 points and grabbing eight rebounds in the third quarter. That’s the period Sacramento won 28-10.
It came on the road, where the Kings have won two in a row after a 1-13 start. It left Cousins at 19.4 points, 14.0 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.0 steals in the five games since he returned from a two-game team suspension.
And it reminded all of us, for good and for bad, why Cousins figures to get catered to and courted for a while longer. Some day, maybe, eventually, he’ll get it and start racking up all-NBA selections and victories. In the meantime, some tantalized by his talent will simply get theirs, lured by the thirty-one and twenty, stung by the rest.