HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – No team in NBA playoff history has ever lost a best-of-seven series after surging ahead 3-0. So the odds of one team choking it away are worse than a freak Midwest snow storm in the heart of spring.
Suddenly we have two teams trying to make it rain on their opponents’ parade.
The Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets return to their respective home arenas Friday night with the objective of extending their first-round series to the wire after losing the first three games. Trying to avoid postseason infamy and outright humiliation is the second-seeded New York Knicks, the clever characters who dressed in black on Wednesday for a Game 5 “funeral” at Madison Square Garden. However, as Knicks Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith dutifully pointed out afterward, they were the ones that got buried by the resilient Celtics.
Over in the Western Conference, the eighth-seeded Rockets in Game 5 dominated a discombobulated Oklahoma City team without their heart-and-soul point guard Russsell Westbrook. Former Thunder guard James Harden splashed seven 3s for Houston and scored 31 points.
So what are the odds that either the Celtics or Rockets can at least get their respective series to a Game 7? Cloudy, at best.
Only three teams down 3-0 have ever won the next three to go the distance: The Knicks did it against Rochester in the 1951 Finals; the Denver Nuggets against the Utah Jazz in the 1994 West semifinals; and the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2003 West first round. The latter two were double-digit victories for the home team.
“Mainly because the other team is a lot better,” Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said when asked why teams down 3-0 typically bow out in Game 4 as his injury-depleted club did against the San Antonio Spurs.
And truth be told, if Westbrook doesn’t tear the meniscus in his right knee, the Thunder are likely sitting back waiting to see if the Memphis Grizzlies close out the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 6 or if those two are headed back to L.A. for one final bludgeoning.
But Westbrook’s absence has changed everything. The Rockets, the youngest team in the playoffs as the Thunder once were, are feeling confident. They have to believe that if they continue to run-and-gun and don’t allow anyone not named Kevin Durant to go crazy that they have a great chance to force a Game 7 back at Oklahoma City on Sunday.
The Celtics, logic insists, don’t have as good a chance as Houston because they don’t have a built-in opening like the Rockets with the catastrophic injury to the all-important Westbrook. The Knicks aren’t missing a star player. They possess the league’s scoring champion in Carmelo Anthony (18-for-59 from the field in Games 4 and 5), the Sixth Man in Smith (suspended for Game 4, 3-for-14 in Game 5), last season’s Defensive Player of the Year in Tyson Chandler, a more threatening offense and they’re deeper at just about every position, if not at every position.
But, as long as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are wearing green — and add cold-blooded Jason Terry, a champ himself in 2011 with Dallas — the Celtics just don’t die. A raucous TD Garden on Friday will put the Knicks’ veteran poise to the test.
The Knicks must dig down to avoid the No. 1 derogatory label in all of sports — chokers. And the Thunder must figure out how to pick themselves up without Westbrook.
The odds remain steep for the Celtics and Rockets. Then again, as Jason Collins proved this week, there’s always a first for everything.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Forget about The Finals, for now.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have to worry about getting out of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, now that we know they’ll have to finish the Houston Rockets without one half of their superstar dynamic duo. Russell Westbrook needs surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee and could be out anywhere from four to six weeks, depending on how quickly he recovers.
“We hope [he comes back in the playoffs],” Kevin Durant said. “Our firs thing is to make sure he gets healthy and gets that knee back right. We’re not trying to rush him or bring him back ahead of schedule. We want to make sure he’s healthy and his knee is right. That’s our only concern right now.”
There is a time frame that would allow Westbrook to return later in the playoffs, perhaps late in the conference finals or the start of The Finals.
But again, the Thunder will have to make it that far without the league’s resident iron man. Love him or hate him, no one can question Westbrook’s durability, before now. He hadn’t missed a game during his five-year career, having played in 394 consecutive regular season games and all 45 playoff games the Thunder have played during that same span.
But he won’t be on the floor for Saturday night, joining a long list of game changers who are watching this NBA postseason from the bench of or beyond due to injury. Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Amar’e Stoudemire, David Lee and Danny Granger are all watching their teams toil without them in this postseason. They all serve as human reminders for their peers that your next false step could be your last, of this season.
But none of those aforementioned stars plays on a team that had the supposed inside tack to get back to the conference finals and then The Finals, for that rematch with the Miami Heat. Westbrook’s injury opens the door in the Western Conference for the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers or Memphis Grizzlies and the Denver Nuggets or Golden State Warriors to start eyeballing the calendar in early June for a possible trip to The Finals of their own. Shoot, even the Los Angeles Lakers, down 2-0 to the Spurs in their first round series, can start dreaming about doing the unthinkable.
Simply put, the West is wide open now.
“Kevin Durant needs to take the Carmelo Anthony approach,” said ESPN analyst Jalen Rose. “Take around 25-30 shots per game, his team already has a 2-0 lead. The one thing about professional sports, and life for that matter, when opportunity knocks, you have to seize it. So trust me, all of the teams in the Western Conference, their ears perked up today. They feel like they have chance to advance.”
The Thunder earned the No. 1 seed in the West this season but entered the postseason with plenty of worthy challengers who did not plan on the fragile nature of things to swing in their favor with Westbrook’s injury. No offense to Reggie Jackson, Kevin Martin, Derek Fisher or anyone else in a Thunder uniform, but it’s Durant and Russell Westbrook who do the headlining. In fact, the Thunder have never had to work for an extended period of time without both of their stars in the lineup.
Trying to navigate these rough playoff waters with only one half of that devastating combination sounds more like mission impossible for a Thunder team that, truth be told, spent much of this season learning how to operate without the former third member of their superstar crew, Rockets All-Star guard James Harden.
Thunder GM Sam Presti, coach Scott Brooks and Durant all did their part to rally the troops today after the news spread of the severity of Westbrook’s injury.
“Our team as a whole, we’ve got a resilient group of guys, a lot of character within that locker room and a group that enjoys playing together and has been through some adversities over the last several years that they’ve been together.” Presti said. “We’d expect them to adjust, come together and have different guys step in and play well collectively. Once we were able to gather all of the necessary information and everything was accumulated, it was an easy decision for our medical team.”
The decision on how to play in Westbrook’s absence won’t be nearly as easy. The Rockets’ defensive strategy shifts now from worrying about picking between two lethal performers to focusing solely on Durant and daring that Thunder supporting cast to beat them. Westbrook averaged 24 points and seven assists through those first two games while also serving, as always, as the Thunder’s primary facilitator.
Jackson’s been solid in spurts of relief this season. Doing it daily, however, could be more than he’s capable of handling. And even if does acquit himself well in the first round, either Chris Paul or Mike Conley and their teams, will be waiting on the Thunder’s replacement for Westbrook in the next round.
Durant insists that the Thunder’s “Next Man Step Up” mantra applies in this case, just as it does any other.
“We have good depth on our team,” Durant said. “Reggie Jackson is ready for the moment. He has been working his tail off ever since he got here. So he’s ready for this. We just have to rally behind him and know that we have to give him confidence, because he’s going to make mistakes like everybody else. But we just have to keep encouraging him.”
All the courage and encouragement in the world won’t make Jackson into Westbrook. Their is certainly survival after losing a superstar. The Lakers (Kobe) and Celtics (Rondo) are proof of that much.
But we’re talking about a team focused on competing for championships, not just surviving.
“It doesn’t matter who we throw out there. We’re a 15-man team and we still are, even with Russell being hurt,” Brooks said. “We’re a 15-man team and everybody believes in each other and that’s what you have to do. You don’t win in this league with one player. You don’t win with five or six players, you win it with your team. We talk about that and we believe in the things that we talk about. We don’t jus throw it out because it looks cool on a t-shirt or a billboard. We believe in each other, we believe in what we do and we take pride in it and we’re proud about what we do.”
We’re all going to find out exactly what the Thunder do when they are forced to play a man down.
Who or what has impressed you so far this postseason?
Steve Aschburner: The Knicks. I’ve long been a skeptic of whatever comes out of Madison Square Garden, NBA-wise, because of media hype and team management’s infatuation frequently with the wrong types of players. But the Knicks apparently have the right coach and Mike Woodson has been getting those guys to play the right way. This edition of the Celtics has injury and age issues, sure, but the way New York’s defense has choked Boston off in the second halves of the first two games has to grab one’s attention.
Fran Blinebury: Chris Paul is averaging 23.5 points, 8 assists, shooting 16-for-28 from the field, hit the game-winner on Monday night and has the Clippers up 2-0 on Memphis. Mark me down as impressed.
Jeff Caplan: Since I spent the opening games of the playoffs in Los Angeles watching the Clippers, I’m going with three aspects of this team’s impressive start: Chris Paul, the bench and coach Vinny Del Negro — that’s right Del Negro. Paul’s been masterful, patiently allowing the game to come to him and playing superbly in crunch time with 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting, three assists and no turnovers in the fourth quarters of Games 1 and 2. The Clippers’ deep bench has at times out played Memphis’ starters and has received contributions from a number of players. As for Del Negro, he has his team well-prepared, motivated and he hasn’t succumbed to the notion that rotations must shrink in the playoffs. He’s getting solid contributions and keeping his starters’ minutes extremely reasonable.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Maybe because I as there to see it, but the Nuggets winning Game 1 without their preferred tempo was an impressive start to what could be a nice run. Everyone knows Denver can win when it runs. To grind out a victory while having to execute at the end of a close game is a good sign.
John Schuhmann: I’m impressed by how efficient the Clippers have been against the league’s No. 2 defense. I had the Grizzlies winning that 4-5 series in six games, because they’re the much better defensive team and because the Clips seemingly treaded water for the last couple of months. But Chris Paul has flipped the switch, taking on a bigger scoring load (47 points to go along with his 16 assists in the first two games) and still taking care of the ball (only two turnovers) against a D that has always been good at forcing miscues.
Sekou Smith: It’s early yet, but the Golden State Warriors showed me something in their Game 2 win over the Nuggets in Denver. Losing David Lee for the remainder of the playoffs is a blow. Any team that loses an All-Star and the league-leader in double doubles would struggle without him. But coach Mark Jackson pushed buttons on his deep roster and found several guys (most notably rookie Harrison Barnes) to step up and fill the void. This was the one series where I felt like the lower seed had a real chance to push the series into the seven-game realm and so far, the Warriors have made me feel really good about that prediction. When shooters like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and perhaps the most underrated player in the league this season, Jarrett Jack, get rolling, they can turn a game upside down. They shot 65 percent in a playoff game, folks. Crazy.
Lang Whitaker: I was a little curious about the Pacers coming in to the playoffs, because they’d lost five of six and had looked pretty bad at times over that stretch, but Paul George decided he wasn’t going to let the Pacers down. I know it’s been a small sample size, but George was phenomenal in Game 1 against the Hawks. He was Indiana’s best offensive player, repeatedly driving and either getting to the line (he shot 17-of-18 on free throws) or kicking to open teammates (he finished with 12 assists), and he pressured Josh Smith into shooting an array of long jumpers as the shot clock was ticking down.
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The playoffs are here. And to get you ready, we’ve got statistical nuggets for each series, courtesy of NBA.com/Stats.
Western Conference basketball was faster and more efficient than Eastern Conference hoops. We’re sure to see three high-paced series in the first round, because six of the eight West playoff teams ranked in the top 10 in pace, with the only exceptions being the Clippers and Grizzlies, who will face each other.
Pace won’t be the only reason scoring will be higher in the West. Seven of the eight West playoff teams ranked in the top 10 in offensive efficiency.
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank) OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank) DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank) NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank) The league averaged 94.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.1 points scored per 100 possessions.
Had someone floated the idea of this 2012-13 NBA season to George Karl three years ago – the Denver Nuggets’ high-octane overachievement, the fun he would have orchestrating it, this talk of him as a leading candidate as NBA Coach of the Year – he’s not sure how he would have reacted to it.
There was so much uncertainty then. Peering three years into the future? Yeah right. Man plans, cancer wags a long, Dikembe Mutombo-like finger.
“That summer when I had to make a decision whether I was going to coach again, it was a hard summer,” said Karl, who already had deal with prostate cancer in 2005 when neck cancer grabbed him by the throat in February 2010. “I remember, at the end of July, I just wasn’t mentally ready to do it. I had to push myself to … whatever. Get over the depression. Get over feeling sorry for myself.
“I just knew, you have two families: You have your inner-core family that’s blood and people who have always been with you. And then you have your basketball family. I wasn’t ready to leave my basketball family. I wasn’t ready to leave the gym.”
So Karl, 61, returned. Through treatment, through occasional absences, through the Carmelo Anthony drama. He celebrated his 1,000th victory in 2010-11 and kept going, and he labored hard to build and heed new habits for himself, a working style that was sustainable. And survivable.
“I went back with different rules,” Karl said before Denver’s game in Milwaukee. “The rules were balance and ‘I’m not going to kill myself.’ And ‘If I’m stressed, I’m going to delegate. If I’m worried and to the point where I’m out of control, I’m going to walk away, I’m going to take a day off.’ I never would have thought of that when I was in Milwaukee.”
In Karl’s five seasons with the Bucks (1998-2003), same as in his seven seasons in Seattle (1991-1998), there was no minor problem, no niggling little annoyance too small for Karl to plunge headlong into a quest for a solution. He was wilder then both on and off the court, and he wasn’t healthy even before he got sick.
Then he had wisdom and perspective forced on him, the way so many of us do. Beyond his own illness, his son, Coby, faced and survived lymph node cancer. Change became the constant for Karl.
“I love basketball, I love the gym, I love the passion, I love the competition,” he said. “But I wasn’t going to deteriorate my health again.”
So he rants and rails and stays late less, yet enjoys it all more. Especially this year, the most successful regular-season in Denver’s NBA franchise history. The Nuggets’ previous best in victories was 54 and its top home record was 36-5, which was bested by this season’s 57-25 and 38-3 finishes, respectively.
“You’ve got to understand, he’s deal with a lot of stuff in his personal life,” guard Andre Miller said. “To be able to come back and be totally committed to this organization says a lot. … It’s only right for him to be considered for Coach of the Year. It’s a lot of hard work dealing with NBA players and he’s been doing it well for along time.”
The Nuggets play fast, they push into the paint to shoot a high percentage and dominate on the offensive boards, and they do it all without a legit all-NBA third-team prospect. The lack of a marquee star, a ready excuse for many franchises, has been embraced in the Mile High City. (more…)
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The start of the NBA playoffs is just days away and that’s always a signal for superstars to ready themselves to step into the spotlight on the game’s biggest stage.
It’s also the time for those unsuspecting guys, the unsung contributors on playoff teams from throughout the league, to raise their level of play with their respective seasons on the line. We like to call them Hang Time’s Playoff Wild Cards, guys who will impact their teams and potentially the outcomes of their respective team’s first round series.
The Starting Five of HT’s Playoff Wild Cards Team (and just like Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, we don’t get caught up in positions. We’re going with the best five Wild Cards):
JEREMY LIN, PG, HOUSTON ROCKETS
By now Rockets fans know that the star point guard they snatched away from New York last summer is not the same guy who inspired Linsanity. What they’ve got is a guy who is much steadier and just as productive, statistically, through 82 games with the Rockets (13.4 ppg, 6.0 apg and 3.0 rpg) as he was in 25 games with the Knicks (14.6, 6.2 and 3.1). What makes Lin a Wild Card is knowing that he’s capable of getting on the kind of roll that created the Linsanity phenomenon. The right matchup in the playoffs could be all he needs to morph back into the player we saw during his magical ride in New York.
DANNY GREEN, SG, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Green is easily overlooked on a team with superstars like Tony Parker and even Tim Duncan who are often foolishly overlooked by the masses when the conversation turns to the true superstars in the league. What cannot (and should not) be overlooked is Green’s season-long penchant for taking and making big shots, not to mention his 43 percent shooting (for the second straight season, mind you) from beyond the 3-point line. Green is the beneficiary of defensive attention being paid to Parker and Duncan, and he takes full advantage of defender’s inattention to detail all the time.
JEFF GREEN, SF, BOSTON CELTICS
If the Jeff Green that showed up after All-Star weekend is the same Jeff Green that shows up for the playoffs, the Celtics will be one of the postseason’s most dangerous lower seeds. Green has averaged 17.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 2.7 apg in 34.1 minutes a night since the break (compared to the 10.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg and 1.0 apg he posted in 24.6 minutes before the break). Green has the size, athleticism and skill on both ends of the floor to battle elite small forwards. The Celtics need him to do it every night in the postseason.
JIMMY BUTLER, SF, CHICAGO BULLS
In a season when Derrick Rose‘s supporting cast has been under scrutiny every single night, Butler has shined in his opportunities to contribute, particularly on the defensive side of things. He’s the battled the likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and more than held his own in those matchups. Some young players struggle with a sudden increase in minutes, many of them spent in different roles. But not Butler. The more he’s played the better he’s played, giving Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau yet another rugged contributor on a team filled with them. If Butler continues to score the way he has recently (15.6 ppg on 53 percent shooting in his last five games), he’ll have an even greater impact than expected in the playoffs.
COREY BREWER, SF, DENVER NUGGETS
This Wild Card thing is easy for Brewer. He does it daily for a talented and deep Nuggets team that has thrived all season by unleashing that depth on the opposition. What makes Brewer so effective in this role is his non-stop motor, his activity on both ends of the floor, his ability to shoot it from distance and the fact that he finishes at the rim and in transition. It’s pretty remarkable considering he doesn’t appear to have gained a single pound since middle school (we’re joking here). Brewer averages 12.2 ppg without any plays being called for him … ever. He should have “Wild Card” stitched across the back of his jersey instead of “Brewer.”
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
Bulls win, but bigs could be on minutes limit– As they’ve done all season, the Bulls continue to stay in the thick of the race for the No. 5 seed in the East — a spot that won’t be decided until likely the season’s final night. Last night’s easy win over the hapless Orlando Magic provided a good sign for the Bulls in that injured big men Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson both got in some playing time after missing games with injuries. But K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports that Noah and Gibson could see a tight minutes limit come playoff time:
A season filled with uncertainty will close with this dose of clarity: The Bulls won’t know their first-round playoff opponent until Wednesday’s season finale.
That’s because the Bulls defeated the hapless Magic 102-84 on Monday night as both Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson returned to test their recoveries from injury and coach Tom Thibodeau said it’s “a possibility” both players will be on minutes limits at the start of the posteason.
Noah, who had missed 12 of the previous 13 games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, finished with six points, five rebounds and four fouls in 14 minutes, 21 seconds off the bench. Gibson, who had missed 17 games recently in two separate bouts with a sprained MCL in his left knee, contributed 12 points and two blocks in 21:13.
“I knew there was a setback right away last time,” Noah said after his last attempt to return April 7 in Detroit. “I feel pretty good right now. I’m just happy my foot held up.”
Noah admitted his wind wasn’t “great” but vowed it would “get better quick.”
Gibson wore the large brace he said he disliked.
“The brace is real protective, but I just have to get used to it,” Gibson said. “It’s kind of heavy. But the knee felt great. The main thing I wanted to do was play some defense because our defense was really awful the last couple games.”
…”We have to be at our best in a short amount of time,” Thibodeau said. “We’re a well-rested team. The question I have is are we a sharp team? We have guys that haven’t played a lot of minutes lately that are going to be called upon to be at their best. The moment of truth will be here shortly.”
Lawson getting back to his old self — Shortly after their 15-game win streak ended, the Nuggets were dealt a serious blow to their hopes of a long playoff run when Ty Lawson went down with a foot injury on March 27. Although he missed just five games as he got better, the Nuggets were concerned how much their point guard could play and whether or not he’d be the game-changing playmaker they were used to. Last night’s win in Milwaukee went a long way in proving Lawson is speedily returning to form, though, writes Christopher Dempsyof The Denver Post:
With 14.2 seconds to go and down one at Milwaukee, a game the Nuggets had to have to lock up a top four spot in the Western Conference, Ty Lawson surveyed the court and lofted the ball to Wilson Chandler. Chandler handed the ball back off to Lawson who drove the lane, crossed over the defender, Monta Ellis, rose up and hit a shot that was arguably the most important jumper any Nugget has hit in the last three weeks.
Lawson is back.
His heel is not all the way healed, but that shot suggested his game is.
The degree of difficulty won’t go down as calculus level stuff. It was a 10-ish-foot jumper. But Lawson’s speed and quickness, which was in full display on the play, got him free for an open look. And in the process wiped away – or should have – any of the doubt about what he is and can be in the playoffs.
Initially, Karl said if Lawson could give 20-25 minutes when he returned that he could work with that. And yet Lawson, since returning late last week, has given him so much more.
His arc, since playing on April 12 has looked like this: 13 points; 12 points and 10 assists; and now 26 points and seven assists. After Sunday’s game against Portland, Karl was already gushing: “I couldn’t have asked for a better script these last two games,” he said of his point guard.
Tonight’s game should have erased any other doubts.
Lawson has averaged 17 points, 6.6 assists and 1.6 steals in the three games he’s been back. He’s shot 56 percent from the field and 84 percent from the free throw line. Monday night’s game brought back another encouraging sign – his ability to get to the rim and draw fouls.
In the last two weeks there has been enough bad news for the Nuggets, who are just trying to get their roster to survive the remainder of the regular season to get to the playoffs. First, Lawson’s status was in doubt. Then Danilo Gallinari was lost for the season. Then Kenneth Faried went down and can only hope to be close to 100 percent for the start of the playoffs.
It was time for some good news.
Ty Lawson provided it. And with it, may have renewed at least some of the belief that these Nuggets are still headed for a healthy playoff run.
OKC wraps up No. 1 in West — It is easy to take for granted the success the Thunder have enjoyed all-so-quickly since moving from Seattle before the 2008-09 season. Although the first campaign in Oklahoma saw the Thunder go 23-59, since then it has been nothing but a steady climb for the youthful contenders. Last night, they achieved perhaps their greatest feat since the move, winning their 60th game and wrapping up the top spot in the West. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman has more on the Thunder’s rise to the top of the conference:
Not only did the Thunder clinch the top spot in the conference, but OKC also won for the 60th time this season, marking the first 60-win season in Oklahoma City’s brief basketball history.
“It’s shows that we’re improving every year,” said Thabo Sefolosha. “It’s a big number. There’s not a lot of teams that can do it, and to be part of that group and just to get to that number is big.”
With a win in the season finale Wednesday against Milwaukee, the Thunder can finish with a .744 winning percentage. Win or lose, though, the Thunder will have increased its winning percentage in each of its first five seasons, from .280 in 2008-09, to .610 in 2009-10, to .671 in 2010-11, to .712 last year. Even with a loss Wednesday, the Thunder would finish with a .732 winning percentage.
“It feels good, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” said Kevin Durant of winning 60 games. “We’ve never done it here before so it’s new to us. But it feels good. It shows our progression as a franchise each and every year.”
Gores wants accountability for Dumars, Frank — We haven’t seen or heard much from Tom Gores since he took over ownership of the Pistons in 2011 from the Davidson family. While he has been mostly a quiet owner of the team, he has no doubt been unhappy with the fifth straight season of sub-.500 basketball, the youthful-but-mistake-prone efforts and the roster that is a bit of a mishmash of parts. Gores spoke to the media before the Pistons’ home finale against Philly and was none to pleased with his team, GM Joe Dumars and coach LawrenceFrank, writes Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
Speaking with the news media briefly before Monday night’s home finale against the Philadelphia 76ers, Gores said he was serious when he said last season he expected to make the playoffs and is disappointed the franchise didn’t come close.
“I will say I expected better results,” Gores said. “I met with Joe and Lawrence (Sunday) and I let them know that. They’re great guys that know their business, but I’m here assessing everything. My job is to move this franchise forward.”
The Pistons moved to 29-52 on the season following Monday night’s 109-101 victory. The season concludes Wednesday at the Brooklyn Nets, and then the season postmortem will begin.
For Gores, it’s all about accountability. He plans to meet with both Frank and Dumars in the coming days. The Pistons are 54-93 under Frank in two seasons.
“I think both of them, including ownership, has to be accountable for the year,” Gores said. “We have to be accountable for the results of this year. We have a great core of young players, but we have to be accountable.”
“Now I’m very excited about what we have going,” Gores said. “We have a lot of (cap) room. We’ve set ourselves up financially, and basketball operations has set ourselves up, so I’m very excited about the future.
“But I’m not content about how we performed this year.”
Through a series of transactions the last 10 months, the Pistons will have roughly $25 million to spend this summer on free agency or trades. He said the Pistons “are prepared to spend.”
“It’s always important, but it’s magnified this year because we’ve really put ourselves in position to really make moves,” Gores said. We want to win a championship. We want to get into the playoffs and all of things.
“I tell you, Lawrence is a tremendous guy. I’ve gotten to know him over the last couple and he’s tremendous, but I really have to think about what the best thing is.”
Report: Bobcats name change a ways off — On Jan. 24, the New Orleans Hornets officially announced they would be changing their name, colors and logo to that of the Pelicans for next season. It was a move to closer bind the franchise to the New Orleans community and leaves the Hornets moniker, which dates to the franchise’s days in Charlotte, back in the NBA’s hands. Shortly thereafter, chatter (or buzz, if you will) began around the Web and the Charlotte community that the current team there — the Bobcats — should look to reclaim the nickname that was once theirs. A website called BringBackTheBuzz.com is spearheading the charge on the Internet, but the hopes of that group and others who want the Bobcats renamed for next season are looking unlikely. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has more on what it would take to change from the Bobcats to something else:
If the Charlotte Bobcats ask the NBA for a name change, it would be at least 18 months before such a request was implemented.
NBA commissioner-to-be Adam Silver met with the Observer and other print media outlets Monday during a visit to Charlotte. Much of his 20-minute interview addressed the possibility the Bobcats might switch their nickname to “Hornets” now that the New Orleans Hornets are switching to “Pelicans.”
The Bobcats have done some market research but have yet to make a request with the NBA. Silver said he is fine with whatever the Bobcats decide, but that the team’s deliberate approach is the right course.
Silver said this would be a “very expensive process for the team,” so it’s “a weighty process, not just what ‘X’ amount of fans say in an opinion poll.”
Rather, it’s about whether a rebranding would be lucrative enough to justify spending millions on new uniforms, logos and signage.
Since the NBA owns the name “Charlotte Hornets,” plus the teal-and-purple color scheme the team wore in Charlotte and New Orleans, Silver was asked how quickly a new brand could be implemented.
Even with all that working for it, a change from Bobcats to Hornets would take a minimum of 18 months, the deputy commissioner said.
Silver also was asked whether the Benson family, which owns the Pelicans, still controls the Hornets nickname. Silver replied that the Bobcats wouldn’t owe the Pelicans compensation if they took on that name.
ICYMI of the night: Derrick Williams might be the best player in the league at finishing off crazy alley-oops. Here’s another one to add to hisstockadeofsuchplays:
There is just one day left in the 2012-13 regular season and 15 of the 16 total possible playoff spots have been wrapped up (Utah and the L.A. Lakers are still slugging it out for the last berth in the West). While things get a little clearer each day, here’s a look at which teams are headed where — and which teams can still change their fate.
UPDATED THROUGH GAMES PLAYED APRIL 16
EASTERN CONFERENCE TEAMS
No. 1 Heat (65-16) — Clinched Southeast Division, No. 1 in East, No. 1 overall seed in playoffs
No. 2 Knicks (53-28) — Clinched Atlantic Division, No. 2 in East
No. 3 Pacers (49-31) — Clinched Central Division, No. 3 in East
No. 4 Nets (48-33) — Clinched No. 4 in East
No. 5 Bulls (44-37) — owns tiebreaker (won season series with Atlanta 2-1); (1 game left — April 17 vs. Wizards)
No. 6 Hawks (44-37) — trail Bulls for No. 5 by virtue of tie-breaker rules; (1 game left — April 17 @ Knicks)
No. 7 Celtics (41-39) — Clinched No. 7 in East
No. 8 Bucks (37-44) — Clinched No. 8 in East
The quick recap: Miami is assured of home court throughout the playoffs and the division-winning Knicks and Pacers have locked up the No. 2 and 3 spots. The Nets, Celtics and Bucks are all locked into their playoff spots as well, leaving the No. 5 and No. 6 spots (which are between Atlanta and Chicago) up for grabs.
ATLANTA: The Hawks (seeded No. 6 as of Wednesday morning) and the Bulls (No. 5) can still swap spots if Atlanta finishes with a better record than Chicago. But, the Hawks do not have the tie-breaker as they lost the season series to the Bulls, 2-1.
CHICAGO: Has tiebreaker (season-series victory) over Atlanta for the No. 5 seed. The Bulls have one game left on the schedule (April 17 vs. Washington) and, should they finish tied with the Hawks record-wise, Chicago would pass Atlanta and clinch No. 5 in the East.
WESTERN CONFERENCE TEAMS
No. 1 Thunder (60-21) — Clinched Northwest Division, No. 1 overall in West
No. 2 Spurs (58-23) — Clinched Southwest Division, No. 2 in West
No. 3 Nuggets (56-25) — No. 3 in West; Assured of home court in first round; Can clinch No. 3 with a win Wednesday against Phoenix OR if the Clips lose finale (April 17 @ Kings).
No. 4 L.A. Clippers (55-26) — Clinched Pacific Division; Clinched at least No. 4 in West; May or may not have home court in first round; needs either a win (April 17 @ Kings) or a Grizzlies loss (April 17 vs. Jazz) to clinch home court.
No. 5 Grizzlies (55-26) — Clinched No. 5 in West
No. 6 Warriors (46-35) — No. 6 in West; Cannot fall lower than No. 7
No. 7 Rockets (45-36) — No. 7 in West; Can climb up or fall one spot
No. 8 Lakers (44-37) — No. 8 in West; controls own fate (April 17 vs. Houston); can move as high as No. 7
No. 9 Jazz (43-38) — 1/2 game behind Lakers for No. 8 seed; owns tiebreaker with Lakers (won season series 2-1); can only clinch No. 8 spot
The quick recap: The Thunder have home court throughout the Western Conference playoffs, the Spurs are the No. 2 seed and the Grizzlies are the No. 5 seed. Other than that, there are still plenty of things left to be decided.
DENVER: The Nuggets are assured of home court in the first round, but their seeding can still change. Denver can clinch No. 3 with a win Wednesday against Phoenix OR if the Clips lose either of their last two games. If the Clippers and Nuggets finish with the same record, the Clippers own the tiebreaker advantage; although the Nuggets won the season series with the Clips, the Clippers’ division title trumps a head-to-head series win. In this case, the Clippers would be the No. 3 seed and the Nuggets would be the No. 4 seed.
L.A. CLIPPERS: By virtue of winning a division, they can’t fall further than No. 4. However, they can lose home court in the first round despite the division title. Memphis is locked into the 5th seed and can’t pass Denver, and the Clippers are guaranteed a top 4 seed. But, if Memphis finishes with a better record than the L.A. Clippers, they would host a Grizzlies-Clippers series despite being the lower-seeded team.
GOLDEN STATE: They can clinch the No. 6 spot by winning their season finale in Portland on April 17. But if they lose and the No. 7-seeded Rockets win their season finale against the Lakers, Golden State loses the tiebreaker with Houston and falls to No. 7 in the West.
HOUSTON: The Rockets can finish anywhere from No. 6 to No. 8 in the West. Here’s how:
They climb to No. 6 if: They beat the Lakers in their season finale and the Warriors lose in Portland. Houston won the season series with Golden State 3-1.
They stay at No. 7 if:The Warriors win their season finale in Portland. The Rockets would be unable to catch Golden State in the standings.
They fall to No. 8 if: They lose to the Lakers in their season finale on April 17. With a victory, the Lakers would tie the season series with Houston and, by virtue of the next tiebreaker (record against conference foes), would leapfrog Houston. In that scenario, the Warriors would be the No. 6 seed, the Lakers would be the No. 7 seed and the Rockets would be the No. 8 seed.
L.A. LAKERS: First things first — they control their own playoff fate. Win on April 17 against the Rockets (or have Utah lose in Memphis earlier in the night) and L.A. clinches the last playoff berth still available. A victory by Utah coupled with a loss to Houston means L.A. misses the playoffs by virtue of the Jazz winning the season series, 2-1.
They will be No. 8 if: They lose, but the Jazz lose to the Grizzlies, too.
They will be No. 7 if: They defeat Houston in their season finale.
They miss the playoffs if: They lose to Houston in their season finale and the Jazz defeat the Grizzlies.
UTAH: The Jazz need to win their season finale in Memphis … and then hope the Lakers lose at home to the Rockets (who, as you can read above, could fall to No. 8 if they lose). If the Jazz get in, they can’t move up higher than No. 8, even if the Warriors lose and Rockets win their final games. Both teams would finish with better records than the Jazz.
MILWAUKEE – George Karl doesn’t exactly need more real-world perspective forced on his work in what old newspaper scribblers used to call the toy department of life. He has battled cancer. His dear coaching friend, Rick Majerus, passed away in December. Karl is a 61-year-old man who has rocked and rolled with life’s highs and lows.
But he still paused Monday evening before his Denver Nuggets faced the Milwaukee Bucks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center and reflected on the horrible news out of Boston.
“When things like that happen, we all get a little scared,” the Nuggets coach said. “Security is a big part of life. It’s like what happened in Denver with that movie theater [the Aurora theater shootings in July]. And the danger now – every time I walk in a movie theater there’s a flashback or a subconscious feeling that nothing is safe anymore.”
That is the point, after all, of randomly targeting innocent people. People who dreamed and planned about running or attending the Boston Marathon for years in some cases, Karl said, and – for those who survived it – never will feel the same again.
“When things like that happen, we think, ‘What’s going to be next? Is there more than just one?’ It’s a heavy day for our country,” Karl said. “Our country is learning to deal with these things. A lot of countries around the world have had them more often than we have.
“To me, it’s the eeriness of being insecure. Now life is not as confidently secure as it has been in the past.”