Posts Tagged ‘Derrick Favors’

Morning shootaround — Sept. 12


Report: Optimism growing about Bosh’s status | Report: Howard falls ill on flight | Hill ready to lead Jazz back to playoffs

No. 1: Report: Optimism growing that Bosh will play in 2016-17 — The Miami Heat and star forward Chris Bosh seem to have the same goal in mind — him playing in the 2016-17 season. However, enacting a plan both sides agree on to reach that goal hasn’t always gone well. Bosh missed the last half of the 2015-16 season with a heart condition and still needs clearance from the team to play again. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Bosh and the Heat may be getting close to that approval status:

There is growing optimism about Chris Bosh being cleared by the Heat to resume his career while remaining on blood thinners, according to a union source.

Bosh pitched the Heat on playing late last season, while taking a new form of blood thinner that would be out of his system in eight hours or so. The Heat resisted that approach at that time but is now more open than it had been to Bosh playing while on blood thinners, according to the source.

Bosh wouldn’t be the first athlete to do that: Former Florida Panthers player Tomas Fleischmann takes anticoagulant injections after games that are out of his system by game time.

Whether Bosh would be able to play in every game, such as the second set of back-to-backs, remains to be seen.

But barring a setback in the next few weeks, it would be surprising if Bosh isn’t cleared to play.

That would mean a Heat starting lineup of Bosh, Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Goran Dragic and likely Dion Waiters.



Morning shootaround — March 24

VIDEO: Highlights from Wednesday’s games


Kerr won’t keep Warriors from chasing 73 | Young Jazz get big win on road | LeBron discusses his behavior with coach, GM | Casey won’t risk players’ health for No. 1 seed

No. 1: Kerr won’t stop Warriors from chasing 73 — As the Golden State Warriors have rolled through the 2015-16 season, their success has been compared against that of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who set the NBA single-season record for wins. That Chicago crew amassed 72 wins and Golden State is more than on pace to break that mark. Yet questions remained about whether or not coach Steve Kerr (a reserve on that 1995-96 Bulls team) would led the Warriors pursue the mark … or rest his players for another Finals push. Wonder no more, writes Tim Kawakami of The Mercury News, as both Kerr and star Stephen Curry backed the team’s push for history:

The Warriors are going for 73 regular-season victories — to top the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who went 72-10 — on their way to an attempt at repeat championships.

Because: Why not?

After weeks of hints and evasions, coach Steve Kerr and star Stephen Curry all but made the official announcement in the hours before Wednesday night’s 114-98 victory over the Clippers at Oracle Arena.

That performance raised the Warriors’ overall record to 64-7, their home record to 33-0 (no team has ever gone undefeated at home for a full regular season) and put an exclamation point on their grand stretch-run plans.

It’s all out there, and the Warriors are no longer going to pretend they don’t know it or want it.

“Now we’re right there,” Kerr said before the game. “That’s pretty enticing.

“It’s really the players’ record. I know they want to get it. So we’ll act accordingly.”

The Warriors’ immediate priority is to secure the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs, and the Warriors still have to keep winning games to fend off San Antonio.

And most of all, obviously, the Warriors want to maximize their chances to win back-to-back titles.

A more cautious team — a less historic team — might find a game or two of rest Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green over the next handful of games.

There are risks to going after a record that guarantees them nothing for the playoffs.

So stipulated.

But if they’re all feeling good over these next few weeks, the motivation is clear: The Warriors need nine more victories with 11 to play, and it’s right there for them.

The larger point is that this epic season has been fueled by pure competitive fire, and now that the Warriors are on the brink of history, why would they throttle it down now that it’s tangible?

“It’s probably a different answer for each person,” Curry said after the team’s shootaround Wednesday, “but this is probably a good checkpoint.

“Going 10-2 for us is kind of on pace for what we’ve been doing all season.”

“Yeah, this whole idea of setting a record does make things a little trickier,” Kerr said. “It’s the players who are setting a record. It’s not the organization. It’s the players who are doing it.

“So they will absolutely have some say in matters down the stretch in terms of how we approach everything.”

“For us, we don’t want to limp into the playoffs,” Curry said. “We want to continue to play better and fine-tune on both sides of the ball, our execution.

“We want to continue to establish winning habits and a winning mentality as you go into the playoffs.

“Whatever it takes to motivate us at this point, whether it’s just continue what we’ve been doing, searching for that 73, No. 1 seed, whatever it is.”

Also, Curry added: “Sitting out and watching is just boring. I don’t like watching games if you have the opportunity to play in them.”

VIDEO: Golden State tramples the Los Angeles Clippers for win No. 64



Numbers notes: Close games have kept Grizzlies afloat

VIDEO: Antetokounmpo’s 15 points and 11 assists lead the Bucks over Memphis on Thursday.

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Memphis Grizzlies are having a weird season. Right now, they’re just trying to survive with Marc Gasol out for the season and a plethora of other injuries. Seven other Grizzlies missed Thursday’s loss in Milwaukee and only three guys — JaMychal Green, Ryan Hollins and Jarell Martin — have played all 10 games in March. Hollins was signed in January and Martin had played in four games prior to this month.

On Monday, with eight guys out, the Grizzlies lost by 49 points in Houston. It was the second time this season that they’ve lost by at least that many points, having lost 119-69 at Golden State in their fourth game of the season.

The Grizzlies are 2-9 in games decided by 18 points or more and have been outscored by 112 points this season, the ninth best mark in the Western Conference. Yet, they’re 39-30 and in fifth place, despite a four-game losing streak.

Only the Warriors (24-1) and Spurs (15-6) have been better in games that were within five points in the last five minutes than the Grizzlies, who are 25-12 in those games. Memphis has both a top-five offense and a top-five defense in clutch situations.

The Western Conference point differential standings would have the Spurs as the top seed in the West and the Jazz as the five seed, with the Grizzlies in the Lottery. In the East, the Pistons would be in and the Bulls would be out.

With all their injuries, the Grizzlies are seemingly sinking in the real standings, and they have the toughest remaining schedule among teams currently seeded 5-9 in the West. But they still have a four-game lead for fifth place, because the teams behind them haven’t posed much of a threat to move up. The sixth-place Blazers have lost six of their last eight games, struggling against a tough schedule. The seventh-place Rockets are 9-12 since late January and the eighth-place Mavs have lost six of their last seven.

Defensive discrepancy in and out of Utah

The ninth-place Jazz have won four straight after a 3-10 stretch and are just a game behind the Rockets and Mavs. But the Jazz play their next five games on the road, where they haven’t defended nearly as well they have at home. In fact, no team has a bigger home-road differential in defensive efficiency than Utah.


Even since they got Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert back from injuries, the Jazz have struggled to get stops away from home. They’ve allowed 108.6 points per 100 possessions over the 11 road games since Favors returned in late January.

After trading Enes Kanter and promoting Gobert to starting center, the Jazz were the league’s best defensive team, by a wide margin, after the All-Star break last season. They’ve been a good defensive team this year, but haven’t been able to replicate last year’s late-season success.

Utah’s five-game trip begins Saturday in Chicago and includes two games against top-10 offenses, including a critical game in Houston next Wednesday.

The Jazz, though, do have a much easier remaining schedule than the Mavs, who look like the pick to miss the playoffs.


Backing their way in

The Grizzlies’ season-long mark of minus-112 wouldn’t be close to being the worst plus-minus for a playoff team. Last year’s Nets (minus-236) claimed eighth place in the East by winning a head-to-head tiebreaker with Indiana, who had a positive plus-minus (plus-23) for the season.

The Nets’ mark was the worst raw point differential for a playoff team since the 1991-92 Miami Heat (minus-345). That Heat team (38-44) is one of two since the 1970-71 season that won 10 more games than their point differential said they should. They made the playoffs with a point differential of a 28-54 team.

The 1985-86 Clippers also had a 10-game differential between their actual wins (32) and “expected” wins (22), a mark that could be eclipsed by this year’s Grizzlies with another loss by 40-plus. And with four more games against the Spurs and Warriors, that’s a real possibility.

Blogtable: Are Jazz playoff-bound?

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

BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on Knicks? | Jazz playoff-bound? |
Will LaVine or Curry repeat on All-Star Saturday?

VIDEOHayward powers Jazz to 7th straight win

> With Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors back in the lineup, the Jazz are starting to pile up some wins. Is Utah’s four-year playoff drought about to end?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: As Jeff Weigand said in “The Insider,” most certainly. And I’ll go you one better; I think Utah has a decent shot at getting home court in the first round now, with the injuries to the Clippers (Blake Griffin, Austin Rivers) and Memphis (Marc Gasol). The Jazz have a chance to be real good for a good long while.

Steve Aschburner, Utah is good enough to qualify for the playoffs. It all just comes down to the math of nine teams vying for eight spots (with maybe Denver the best of the rest in potentially climbing up). I say yes, the Jazz get in, because part of bouncing back from injuries is getting adjusted again to the roster’s full personnel – though seven in a row suggests a quick re-orientation. Utah ranks high enough both offensively and defensively to justify its spot among the West’s top eight and I think that holds for the next two months.

Fran Blinebury, It will be a good race for the No. 8 spot with the Trail Blazers, but I’ll give the nod to Utah. The Jazz played strong from the All-Star break to the end of last season and now that they’re healthy again are looking like that rising young team again.

Scott Howard-Cooper, I can’t give a solid “yes” because the entire group going for the final spot is built on sand, but you’d have to like the Jazz’s chances. I had Quin Snyder among the contenders for Coach of the Year in my preseason predictions that never, ever go wrong. Watch him start to pick up votes if Utah stays in the postseason mix after all the injuries.

Shaun Powell, It should end, and I think it will. They really missed Gobert. That doesn’t mean the Jazz are ideally built or that Utah is ready to pull a first-round surprise, though. I’m still not sold on Utah having a potential superstar among the batch of young players on the team, and you can’t routinely win 50-plus games a year without one (or two). This summer, I’d seriously think about trading Gordon Hayward for the right price.

John Schuhmann, Yes. The Jazz are 14-7 with both Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert and have a top-three defense since Favors returned from his back injury eight games ago. They look like the team that went 19-10 after the All-Star break last season. Their offense is still going to have some droughts, but Rodney Hood is evolving into a really good player and they can finish a few games over .500 with how well they defend. The Jazz also have an easier remaining schedule than Houston or Portland, and Marc Gasol‘s injury creates some doubt that the Grizzlies (whose schedule gets really tough after the first week in March) can hold on to their spot.

Sekou Smith, It’s still a little early for me to be certain that the playoff drought ends for the Jazz this season. There are still things that have to be sorted out by the teams chasing that 8th and final spot. That said, the Jazz certainly have the look of a team ready to give serious chase. Favors and Gobert give them a 1-2 big man punch that could be very valuable down the stretch of this season. They need better point guard play, of course. And maybe they’ll be active at the trade deadline next week and address that issue. But either way, they’re going to be in mix for that playoff spot.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe Blazers, who are the other young team racing for the No. 8 spot, are in their first season together after rebuilding on the fly last summer. The Jazz have been investing in this young core for several years, and that teamwork and cohesion should help as the games become more important – even though Utah must play 17 of its those remaining 31 games on the road.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: I know they’re hovering around the No. 8 seed right now, but I don’t think that’s going to continue. To me, Portland has more veteran leadership and is probably better suited to a postseason run. If Dante Exum hadn’t gone down, they might be more firmly in the postseason mix. That said, if they can find an upgrade at point guard at the trade deadline, they might be back in the race.

Jazz lose Gobert to sprained MCL

The big front line of the Jazz will be cut down a bit for the foreseeable future with Rudy Gobert suffering a Grade II sprained of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

According to a release from the club, no surgery is required and the 7-1 center will be sidelined indefinitely.

Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune got a reaction from Jazz forward Derrick Favors:

“It’s a big blow to us for sure, but we have to step up,” Jazz forward Derrick Favors told The Salt Lake Tribune Thursday evening. “We have to find a way to play well without him and hold it down until Rudy returns.”

The injury probably means that Favors will slide into his center spot and coach Quin Snyder is likely to insert Trevor Booker or rookie Trey Lyles into the starting lineup.

Gobert is averaging 9.2 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shot in his third NBA season. He missed two earlier games with a sprained ankle and the Jazz (8-8) lost them both to the Heat and Magic.

Morning shootaround — Nov. 22

VIDEO: The Fast Break — Nov. 21

Cuban lets loose | Deron Williams rebounds | Fast-improving Favors is officially a Utah favorite | Warriors not stressing over record

No. 1: Cuban lets loose — The most sought-after interview in the NBA never changes. It’s significant time with Mark Cuban, the Mavericks owner and the maverick owner who always speaks his mind, which he can literally afford to do. Cuban is always entertaining and forthright and pretty much on-point with his thoughts on basketball or really anything you ask of him. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe managed to get some time with Cuban and we’re all better off for it:

He remains the most entertaining owner in the NBA, and he’ll offer an opinion on anything he is asked, making him one of the most transparent figures in sports.

Cuban was asked about the firing of Kevin McHale by his rivals, the Houston Rockets. Cuban has had very public feuds with Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, especially when the Mavericks nabbed swingman Chandler Parsons from the Rockets with a mega-deal in July 2014.

“I like Kevin, I feel bad for him personally, but the rest of it? Whatever,” Cuban said. “I mean, we’ve been in a high-expectation position before. We go to the Finals, we started 0-4 [in 2006-07], and it’s ‘what’s wrong?’ and we came back to win 67 games and lose in the first round.

“So I’ve said it before, the hardest thing for an NBA owner to do is hire a coach. The easiest thing to do is fire a coach. The reason it’s hard to hire a coach, coaches are great at date-face, they know exactly what your weaknesses are and they know exactly how to sell to those weaknesses, so it’s really difficult to pick it right and it’s 90 percent luck.”

Cuban recently signed his coach, Rick Carlisle, to a five-year extension.

“If the hardest thing to find is a good coach, you marry him, you put a ring on it,” Cuban said.

Asked about the escalating salary cap that will kick in next season with the new television contract, Cuban said, “It’s going to change a lot. More from a strategy perspective, it makes the value of draft choices go through the roof because they’re pegged at a certain price. Minimum contracts will go through the roof. Anybody that signs for the mid-level, the value goes through the roof.

“It’s going to be a lot of tough decisions. And in reality, if everything sticks to the projections that we come up with, the cap will go down after that. So that changes what you do as well.

“It will be really interesting. There will be some guys that will get way paid. When guys are making $30 million-plus, it’s going to be tough to have more than one of them.”

Cuban said he has no issues paying players such exorbitant salaries because that is the price of a championship.

“What’s a championship worth?” he said. “I always look at it as a team. The biggest mistake people make in this business is they say this player is worth ‘X.’ That’s never the case. When you insert that player as one of 15, if he can increase the value of [the team], he’s cheap.

“I remember back when we [acquired] Erick Dampier [in the middle of a $49 million contract] and everybody said we were idiots. Without that big body, we don’t go to The Finals, and we still should have won that Finals if it weren’t for three blind mice [i.e. the officials].”


No. 2: Deron Williams rebounds — OK, there’s no sense in proclaiming him the leader for comeback story of the year, since Paul George is way ahead and probably won’t look back. But Deron Williams is experiencing somewhat of a rejuvenation in Dallas after being dumped by the Nets and declared finished as a productive player. He’s hardly in All-Star form, yet the Mavericks are surprisingly flourishing right now and Williams is one of the reasons. Last season in Brooklyn, he was on the bench in tight games in favor of Jarrett Jack. But now, the ball’s in his hands and the Mavericks have confidence in him. More importantly, Williams has confidence in himself. Here’s Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News with the details:

He was a crunch-time beast Friday as the Mavericks weathered a hard push from Utah, steadied themselves behind their point guard and whipped the Jazz 102-93 at American Airlines Center for their sixth consecutive victory, matching their longest streak of last season.

At 9-4, the Mavericks hit the road for a three-game trip starting Sunday at Oklahoma City.

Williams finished with 23 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. His 3-pointer after a nice feed from Raymond Felton with two minutes to play put the Mavericks up 95-87. He added to that cushion with a pair of free throws — running his streak to 35 without a miss this season — as the Mavericks finished off the Jazz, who fell behind by 20 but got as close as five down the stretch.

Williams missed almost all of training camp with nagging injuries and had a knee problem early in the regular season. He has rounded into form nicely of late. He took over the Boston game on Wednesday with 11 fourth-quarter points and was every bit as dominant against the Jazz.

Williams isn’t quite ready to pronounce himself as the Mavericks’ closer, but he’s certainly sent a message that he’s capable of doing so.

“Everything’s coming together,” he said. “It’s still early. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. But I definitely feel more comfortable out there. I’m getting opportunities in the fourth. I’ve had a chance to have the ball in my hands at the ends of games, and I can make plays not only for myself and others.”

It’s a nice feeling, one that Williams hasn’t enjoyed often enough in recent seasons. He got overlooked or overshadowed too many times in Brooklyn.

“There were times when I did a lot of standing, a lot of watching,” he said. “And that takes away your aggressiveness. That’s not what I’m good at.”


No. 3:Fast improving Favors is a Utah favorite — Interesting thing about Deron Williams: He cost the Nets a lot, and not just $100 million. Remember, the Nets surrendered a promising teenage power forward named Derrick Favors to get Williams, and years later, it’s clear that Utah came out ahead. Favors’ game is maturing and he’s becoming a double-double guy, following previous Jazz low-post beats who collected doubles, Karl Malone and Al Jefferson. The sixth-year forward spent time with Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune, who offers this:

“I think last year was my first time having fun again, playing basketball,” Favors said. “I got comfortable with talking to the coaches. I felt more responsible and got more comfortable as a team leader. I have more responsibility offensively and defensively. I feel better in my role, and I think that’s made me open up a lot more.”

As the Jazz prepare to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, Favors is shining in his role as a difference-making power forward.

Favors, in his sixth season out of Georgia Tech, is averaging 16 points and nine rebounds per game, to go with 1.5 blocks. He’s been a hub offensively in the post and on the perimeter when he drifts to 15-18 feet from the basket. Defensively, he’s been almost spectacular, not just blocking shots, but in pick-and-roll coverages and defending the perimeter against stretch power forwards and smaller guards.

Beyond the numbers, Favors is playing with an edge previously unseen. For the first time in his career, he’s showing emotion on the floor, scowling after snatching rebounds, celebrating after baskets. People are noticing. Whispers around the league suggest Favors could have a shot at the All-Star Game, if he continues to play well and if the Jazz find consistency in the win column.

Yet, he remains unfazed.

“I think I’ve played well, but I feel like can play a lot better,” Favors said. “As far as offensively, I feel like I can play better, like there’s more stuff I can do. As far as being an All-Star, you never know. You never know how stuff works out, as far as how political the process is.”

So, how has Favors been able to explode? He said the maturation has been six years in the making. He came into the NBA a raw specimen, a 6-foot-10 athletic man-child with few refined skills.

As the No. 3 pick of his draft, Favors was supposed to dominate from the jump. He didn’t, and needed time to adjust, something the then-New Jersey Nets decided they didn’t have enough of. So Favors was brought to Utah in the Deron Williams trade.

Favors was stung by that trade, and to this day plays with a chip because of it. He felt discarded, unwanted at a young age, and was stung by the criticism of him needing development.

The result today is a Favors with an offensive game that’s becoming more well-rounded by the year. He has a consistent jumper. He’s effective with his back to the basket. He’s always been great rebounding the ball for points and he’s becoming a better passer.


No. 4:Warriors not stressing over record — How did we make it this far in the Morning Shootaround without the obligatory Warriors mention? OK, here it goes. The Warriors can tie the NBA record for fastest start tonight against the Nuggets and maybe you’ve heard about that. Well, if you believe the Warriors, they’re taking this historic start in stride, which is in their best interest. Nothing makes these guys sweat, which is easy to avoid when you have Steph Curry on the squad, hitting jumpers, and others filling in. Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle is with the gang and filed this observation:

The Warriors go for 15 wins in a row Sunday night, and they’ll have to descend about 2 miles in order to reach Pepsi Center’s mile-high altitude. This is a team that is locked in and loosey-goosey, a dangerous combo.

Luke Walton, the interim head coach, was talking Friday night about the Warriors’ team vibe. Apparently, behind closed locker-room doors, these fellows laugh a lot. Walton recalled a pregame moment from last season’s NBA Finals. The Warriors were coming off a loss, they were in trouble, looking beatable in Cleveland.

Steve Kerr and his assistants were huddled in their own locker room minutes before show time, mapping last-minute strategy. They were also wondering about the emotional state of their players.

From next door in the Warriors’ locker room, peals of raucous laughter rang out.

Kerr said to his staff, “I guess they’re going to be all right.”

They were. They are.

In this expert’s opinion, the Warriors will not go 82-0 in this regular season. But whatever losses they suffer won’t be due to the pressure finally getting to them.

One of the key elements Kerr brought to the Warriors — and it remains solidly with them even during his absence from bench — is that, dammit, you’d better have fun.

That’s why the Warriors end many practices with a wild free-for-all shooting contest, as mature as a food fight.
Kerr’s philosophy is that this is dead-serious business, but it’s basketball, played best with a soaring spirit and childlike exuberance.

“Fun, that’s the No. 1 priority,” Draymond Green said Friday night. “That’s what coach Kerr has preached from Day 1: Have fun. Got the best job in the world, we come to play basketball for a living, with guys that we like.”

So the streak is not weighing on you?

“Absolutely not. Not at all.”

Of course, it’s easier (I’m guessing) to have fun when you never lose. There will be sterner tests ahead of the Warriors’ joviality. Right now, they’ve got the top down and they’re enjoying the ride.

But enjoying it too much? If Kerr were speaking publicly these days (no timetable on his return, by the way, but indications are that his recovery is progressing) he would likely express some concern about his team getting a little too loose.

Kerr wants the Warriors to be lightning-fast and creative, but not sloppy and careless. He convinced his team last season that it’s possible to be fast and smart.

The last three games, team leader and floor general Stephen Curry has crossed over into Kerr’s concern area, to the point where Kerr kidded Curry about how much money he’s losing to his mom in their ongoing turnovers bet.

Curry averaged 3.9 turnovers last year as the league MVP. He said before the season that, because of the team’s maturing and his own off-season training, he expected turnovers to go down. Sure enough, through the first 11 games, Curry averaged 3.1 turnovers.

But the last three games Curry turned the ball over seven, seven and six times. Too many.

Walton said Curry’s recent turnover flurry was partly due to opponents’ scouting and scheming for Curry’s tendencies, and the Warriors’ coaches and Steph would need to counter.

But some of it is just Curry’s attack/create mentality. He’s not looking to make crazy passes just to show off, but he is constantly seeking a higher level of basketball, which steepens the risk-reward curve.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Gregg Popovich is amazed that folks in San Antonio want to name schools after him. … Dwyane Wade is getting older and he’s getting smarter. … Lance Stephenson was supposed to help the Clippers, remember? What happened? … Toronto must find a way to minimize the absence of Jonas Valanciunas, out with a broken bone in his non-shooting hand, and good luck with that. … Meanwhile, Brandon Jennings is getting close to making his return.

Young Jazz still trying to turn corner

VIDEO: Derrick Favors powers Jazz to close road win in Atlanta

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Moral victories will sustain you for only so long in the NBA.

Sooner or later, signs of growth and glimpses of what could be have to backed up with something much more substantial than just the hope of what’s to come.

The Utah Jazz are living that reality these days. They are a team loaded with intriguing young talent, a group still trying to find its way together as they chart a course from the lottery to the playoffs while still working to shore up deficiencies on the roster and in their make up.

They shocked us with their work to finish the 2014-15 season, going 15-9 during the stretch run after the All-Star break, suggesting that this season might bring a true breakout effort from coach Quin Snyder‘s crew with a nucleus of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and defensive menace Rudy Gobert anchoring the middle of an improved frontline.

But the road has been a bit tougher than expected early on this season, courtesy of a rugged early schedule and the offseason loss of point guard Dante Exum for the season with a torn ACL.

That’s what makes nights like Sunday, when they outlasted the Atlanta Hawks 97-96 at Philips Arena to finally score a road win after three straight losses on a four-game trip, so sweet.

All that potential in action, and with a result to match. It’s all you can ask for when you’re trying to turn a corner. The Jazz sit at 5-5 after their first 10 games with every intention of living up to their own hype.

“I feel like we are ahead of where we were last year,” Hayward said. “We’re in a good place. I know that’s seems like a strange thing to say after you lose three in a row. But two close games and then kind of drained on that last one. But we are moving in the right direction. We just have more experience, another year with [Snyder] and all of the experiences from the tough games we played last year. We’re learning how to win games and trying to figure out where you can succeed in this league.”

Learning how to win games like this one will only help the Jazz in their pursuit of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Sunday’s win over the Hawks was their first this season in games decided by five points or less (they were 0-3 previously).

They shot a season-high 51 percent (39-for-76), outrebounded the Hawks by seven and Favors, an Atlanta native, led five players in double figures. Gobert recorded his first double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds, to go along with his three assists, three blocks and two steals as the Jazz finally put together a complete game against an elite opponent.

A little good fortune never hurts, of course. All-Star forward Paul Millsap missed a wide-open 12-footer in the game’s final seconds that would have won the game for the Hawks.

The hard work to get to that point, though, was rooted in the preparation for moments exactly like this one, Favors insists. And that preparation has been years in the making for the most experienced members of this Jazz team, where a 24-year-old, six-year veteran like Favors qualifies as an elder statesman.

“Everybody is more comfortable with the roles and guys are going out there playing with more freedom, without looking over their shoulder every time they make a mistake and worrying about the coach taking you out and crazy stuff like that,” Favors said. “It’s experience, too. This is my sixth year. Gordon’s been here six years. Most everybody else is in their second or third year. There is so much you have to learn. We’ve been through it as individuals. But now we have to go through some things together, as a group. And that’s what makes you stronger.”

This Jazz team still has glaring issues, of course, namely its struggles at point guard. Raul Neto is the starter and Trey Burke, a prized lottery pick two years ago, is the backup and playing well in that role.

But with the game on the line in the final four minutes Sunday, the Jazz worked without either one of them on the floor. It’s a formula they have been using all season, going with Alec Burks, Rodney Hood and Hayward as the primary facilitators with games on the line.

It’s a dangerous way to play in a league where quality point guard play has never been more valuable. And when you’re a team attempting to make the leap from the lottery to the playoffs, it’s a potentially fatal flaw.

The Hawks played without their All-Star point guard Sunday night, Jeff Teague, who sat out with a sprained ankle. And they lost starting small forward and energy man Kent Bazemore when he turned his ankle with 2:20 to play.

But there’s no need to apologize for a little luck, not when every bit of it and every lesson learned along the way will be useful on this journey.

“It was very important. We were very close to winning the first two games of the road trip. We lost each game by a couple of possessions,” Gobert said of what the Jazz took away from these early lumps they’ve endured. “But we were able to win the game tonight. We want to make the playoffs, so we need to put some wins together.”

Playoff talk in November is just that, talk. And no amount of bluster, internal or otherwise, will fuel the Jazz the rest of the way.

“We know it was a trendy thing to talk about us expecting to be a playoff team and a team on the rise or this and that,” Favors said. “But I don’t think you can own any of that until you actually get there. So anybody talking about us turning a corner … we haven’t turned a corner until we make the playoffs.”

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 20

VIDEO: Anthony Davis’ Top 10 Plays from 2014-15 season


Shaq to son: Follow Anthony Davis | Is Deron done as a star? | Moses Malone remembered

No. 1: Shaq to son: Follow Anthony Davis Pelicans forward Anthony Davis has received plenty of props from within the basketball world, but maybe the highest compliment came the other day from Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq has a son, Shareef, who is a budding basketball star in Los Angeles. Shareef is 15 and lean and brings some skill for someone who’s already 6-foot-8, and Shaq attends his son’s games whenever he can. You’d think Shaq would want son to copy dad, who did a few good things in the NBA. Instead, Shaq wants Shareef to use Davis as an example of how to play the game. Shaq spoke to John Reid of the Times Picayune about his advice …

Instead of pushing him to pattern his game after him, O’Neal said he’s told his son to learn the game by watching power forward Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans’ transcendent star who finished fifth in the league’s MVP voting last season.

”I told him to watch Anthony because he’s probably going to be the same height and have the same type of build,” said O’Neal, who returned to Baton Rouge to host his annual annual LSU Life Skills Golf Classic at Carter Plantation on Friday in Springfield. ”Not skinny, but long.

”He’s (Davis) probably the best at that position. He can run, rebound, dominate take over games. He’s going to do his thing this year.”

Already at 6-foot-8, Shareef O’Neal also is doing his own thing to turn heads. He emerged in AAU ball this summer playing for the California Supreme as a power forward.

Unlike his father, the younger O’Neal has a mid-range game, capable of scoring from the perimeter and can handle the ball. O’Neal said Shareef O’Neal also is learning from watching LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.

Only a sophomore at the Windward School in Los Angeles, Shareef O’Neal has already received scholarship offers from USC and UCLA.

O’Neal expects more to come, but said he is going to allow his son to make his own decisions and not steer him to LSU or any other school.

At LSU, O’Neal was a two-time SEC Player of the Year and the fourth leading scorer (1,941 points) in school history behind only Pete Maravich, Durand Macklin and Howard Carter. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic.

In the NBA, O’Neal won four NBA championships in 19 seasons, scoring 28,596 career points and grabbing 13,099 rebounds.

”I won’t steer him along,” O’Neal said. ”He’s got to find his way. He’s a big guy that can shoot it.”


No. 2: Is Deron done as a star? Somewhere between Utah and Brooklyn, Deron Williams lost his way. He was a star with the Jazz and perhaps one of the league’s top 10 or 15 players, certainly among the best two or three point guards. But not long after he arrived with the Nets as the marquee face on the franchise’s move to Brooklyn, Williams crashed. He had some injuries and they certainly contributed, but none so serious that caused him to miss an entire season. Besides, Williams was so good that even if he lost a step, he’d still have three steps on most point guards. But now? Well, the Nets bought out his contract and he had little choice but sign with the hometown Mavericks for a fraction of what he made on his last contract, which paid him well over $100 million. Ken Berger of CBS Sports did a fine analysis of Williams and what may or may not lie ahead, and here’s his take …

Williams’ body and impact have been in steady decline since he was shipped out of Utah as a proactive strike against his impending free agency. But the intrigue surrounding one of the league’s most enigmatic talents continues to grow.

Do you remember when it seemed Williams was on the fast track to the Hall of Fame, when he could do things like this? Yeah, nobody else does, either. And the story of what happened, and what sort of arc Williams’ career will track in Dallas, is no less mystifying than his lethal crossover used to be.

The Mavericks, stung by the reversal of free agent DeAndre Jordan, harbor no delusions that Williams will ever reclaim his once rightful and perennial All-Star status. With a low-risk deal for $10 million over two years — on the heels of the $27 million buyout that mercifully ended his ill-fated tenure in Brooklyn — the Mavs are merely hoping for serviceable.

That’s how far the 31-year-old Williams has fallen. For a player once so dominant and electrifying that he stood toe-to-toe with — and, at times, towered over — Chris Paul in the debate over who was the best point guard in the NBA, serviceable is now the goal.

“I don’t think he’ll be an All-Star again because of how good the West guards are,” one longtime executive told CBS Sports. “I don’t think he’s a top-15 point guard right now, but I think he can eventually get there.”

Williams’ stunning decline in New Jersey and Brooklyn over the past four-plus seasons puts him squarely in the discussion of the NBA’s biggest $100 million busts in the modern era — along with the likes of Shawn Kemp, Allan Houston, Gilbert Arenas and Rashard Lewis. But even more so than any of those guys, the case of Williams’ demise, or at least the suddenness of it, remains mystifying. We know about the ankle problems, the fallout in Utah, all of that. But to fall this far so quickly? According to league sources dialed into Williams’ ill-fated time under the bright lights in New York, the point guard’s journey from elite to scrap heap was both physical and mental — a tale of superstar wanderlust gone terribly wrong.

“He played a lot better with less than he did with more, when he was more of a focal point,” former Nets assistant GM Bobby Marks said.

No one put Williams on blast more candidly than his one-time Brooklyn teammate, Paul Pierce, who torched the three-time All-Star in an infamous interview with Jackie MacMullan back in April.

“Before I got there, I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate,” Pierce said. “But I felt once we got there, that’s not what he wanted to be. He just didn’t want that.

“I think a lot of the pressure got to him sometimes,” Pierce said. “This was his first time in the national spotlight. The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York, so that can wear on some people. I think it really affected him.”


No. 3: Moses Malone remembered The sudden passing of Hall of Famer Moses Malone shook the basketball world and many gathered in Houston on Saturday to pay their respects. Interestingly, the funeral was held at Lakewood Church, which was formerly the Summit, where Malone starred while a member of the Rockets. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle was on hand to file a report

With NBA legend Moses Malone, there was always laughter, a gift he happily shared and left for those that gathered Saturday to remember him. The pain and shock and loss were still fresh at his memorial less than a week after he had died in Virginia. But there were stories to tell and imitations to share. Malone was mourned, but also fittingly celebrated.

Mourners had flocked from around the country to Houston, Malone’s adopted hometown, with an estimated 1,200 people gathering at Lakewood Church – formerly The Summit, where Malone starred for the Rockets – to honor the life of an icon and to support one another with reminders of why he had become such a beloved part of NBA and Houston sports history.

So as they spoke, they punctuated stories with imitations of Malone’s distinctive, rapid-fire mumble. And as he had so many times before, he left them laughing.

“That’s how Moses was,” said Charles Barkley, who delivered the eulogy for the former Philadelphia 76ers teammate he called “Dad.” “He made you smile. He made you laugh. And he loved everybody.

“He helped everybody. From the rookies on, he treated everybody great. He was a wonderful man. It was an honor for me to do the eulogy.”

Malone, 60, died Sunday in Norfolk, Va. The Virginia medical examiner’s office listed his cause of death as hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Malone was survived by his sons, Moses Malone, Jr., Michael Earl and Micah, a granddaughter, Mia.

One of the giants of basketball history was celebrated by many members of that most exclusive club. Among those in attendance were former Rockets teammates Rudy Tomjanovich, Calvin Murphy, John Lucas and Major Jones as well as Julius Erving and Maurice Cheeks, with whom Malone won the 1983 NBA championship with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Other former players who attended the ceremony included Dominique Wilkins, Ralph Sampson, Clyde Drexler, George Gervin, Artis Gilmore, Alex English and Tracy McGrady.

They came out of love and admiration for one their own who was still even in their company special.

“He did it his own way,” Erving said, comparing basketball’s “Chairman of the Boards” to another. “You have to compare him to Frank Sinatra, a guy who did it his own way and in the process, changed everything. Moses wasn’t the smoothest. He wasn’t the most articulate. There’s a short list of things he wasn’t and a long list of things that he was.

“I feel like he completed his mission. He always had a mission, the message that he carried around in his bible. He did what it said. He was a man who loved his family, loved life to the fullest and got the most out of his time here.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Shaquille O’Neal wants Kobe Bryant to play beyond this season … Heat have some decisions to make very soon … Haven’t had enough of Tristan Thompson’s contract talks? Then read onDerrick Favors is hyped for the Jazz, even without Dante Exum

Morning shootaround — Sept. 10

VIDEO: Day 9 of the FIBA Americas tournament


Report: World Peace, Lakers inch toward deal | Favors enjoying life in Utah | Sefolosha rejects deal in nightclub case | Jay Williams’ laments of youth

No. 1: Report: World Peace closing in on Lakers return — Metta World Peace made the basket that helped lock up the Los Angeles Lakers’ last championship. But, he hasn’t played for the Los Angeles Lakers since 2012-13 and hasn’t been in the NBA since a 29-game stint with the New York Knicks in 2013-14. However, it is looking more and more like a Los Angeles reunion is in the works for World Peace, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Free agent Metta World Peace has begun to work out daily at the Los Angeles Lakers’ practice facility, inching closer to a return to the franchise on a one-year contract, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

World Peace, 35, started participating in informal workouts with Lakers players this week at the team’s facility in El Segundo, Calif., and is expected to continue through the start of Lakers training camp later this month, league sources said. No deal has been agreed upon, but there’s an increasing expectation that will happen this month, league sources said.

World Peace had been in the Lakers’ practice facility earlier this summer, too, working against 2014 first-round pick Julius Randle, sources said.

World Peace has been out of the NBA since the New York Knicks waived him during the 2013-14 season. He played last season in China and Italy. Lakers officials are growing in the belief that World Peace, formerly Ron Artest, has evolved into a mature veteran who can impact a young roster with his toughness and resolve, league sources said.

*** (more…)

Morning Shootaround — March 15


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played March 14

Celts still streaking | Five in row for Jazz | Noel likes Sixers’ future | Jackson doesn’t hustle
No. 1: Celtics closing in on playoffs — Friday night’s topic of conversation was “Cater-gate,” when Evan Turner claimed that coach Brad Stevens was so angry at halftime against the Magic that he canceled the food for the postgame flight to Indianapolis. Turns out that was not true at all, but the hungry Celtics still went out Saturday night and devoured the Pacers’ seven-game winning streak. Suddenly Boston is with in a half-game of the final playoff spot in the East and only a game behind No. 7 seed Indy. Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald says Stevens ate it all up:

Brad Stevens was in heaven.
“These are the kinds of games I’ve always loved. Just find a way,” said the Celtics coach. “It’s nice when you have a game where you’re making every shot, but that’s one of those nights, and one of those nights is called that for a reason. You’re not going to have it very often, and you just have to find a way.”

The result was the Celtics’ 93-89 win over Indiana, a team that had won its last seven games, all but one at home.

The C’s, suddenly on a four-game winning streak, thus made up ground on everyone in the chase for the seventh and eighth playoffs seeds. They moved into a tie with ninth place Miami, within a half-game of eighth place Charlotte and a game outside of the seventh place Pacers.

They suddenly feel like they should pass all of these teams.
“Winning takes care of everything,” Brandon Bass said with an especially restive smile, thinking back two months to when the Celtics didn’t have much chance of winning these games.

“We went through our struggles early on, not being able to finish games, and it’s paid off for us,” he said. “I don’t mind these grind out games. Maybe it would be better at home if we could see Gino, but we’ll win whatever we can get.”


No. 2: Jazz getting big Favors up front — With his stature and his dominant play of late, it’s certainly been hard to overlook the play in the middle of Utah’s fabulous Frenchman Rudy Gobert. But perhaps lost in the shadow of the “Stifle Tower” has been the resurgence of Derrick Favors at power forward. He’s back to playing the position where he’s most comfortable and has been large part of what has now grown into a five-game winning streak. Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune has the details:

C “I’m just taking my time,” Favors said, “reading what the defense gives me.”
After Favors scored a game-high 26 points, helping push the Jazz to a fifth straight win, his coach put it another way.

“He’s hard to guard,” Quin Snyder said.

Rudy Gobert has garnered much of the attention in Utah’s shift from defensive ineptitude to defensive powerhouse. But Snyder has been vocal about the role Favors has played, since sliding over to the 4-spot. Favors’ size has allowed the Jazz to compete against big lineups. His speed — his ability to switch, even on point guards — has kept him on the floor against smaller lineups.

And the results have been good.

“We don’t necessarily have to go small to match up,” Snyder said. “So what ends up happening is sometimes he’s got a mismatch.”

Favors, meanwhile, is also settling into an offensive groove. Favors has topped 20 points in four of his past seven games.
“He’s just more poised,” Snyder said. “I think that’s just experience. We’ve seen him improve as the season progresses.”

Favors averaged 15.9 points per game before the All-Star break. Since then (coinciding with the Enes Kanter trade and Favors’ move to the 4), Favors has put up 18.7 points per night.


No. 3: Noel wants chance to play with Embiid — He was already shocked once this season when point guard Michael Carter-Williams was shipped out at the trade deadline. So Nerlens Noel is hoping to avoid more upheaval going forward next season. He told Tom Moore of The Intelligencer (Pa.) that he wants a chance to play alongside a healthy Joel Embiid next season:

And what if the Sixers end up with Duke center Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns in the draft? They already have a core center in 7-footer Joel Embiid, who is sitting out his rookie season with a foot stress fracture.
“I really hope nothing happens,” Noel said last week. “I like this team. I like what we’re building. I hope we can stick together and continue to grow.”

Noel is confident that he and Embiid — with Embiid likely playing power forward on offense and center at the defensive end — will turn out to be a terrific tandem.

“Jo is going to get more and more healthy and more active,” Noel said. “I see things really taking shape (next season).”

Still, Noel gets that “at the end of the day, it is a business. You always have to keep that in mind. You’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do, work on your thing.”

Noel has been working and it’s been paying off. He’s moved into the league’s top 10 in blocked shots (sixth) and steals (10th) and, while he remains a work in progress on offense, he’s having a considerable impact on defense.

On Wednesday, Noel became the first NBA player since the Rockets’ Hakeem Olajuwon in November 1988 to accumulate at least 10 rebounds and four steals in four straight games. Through Friday, he was averaging 11.8 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2 blocks in his last eight games with six double-doubles.


No. 4: Jackson benched in another Pistons loss — It was only a few weeks ago when Reggie Jackson was delighted to finally be traded out of a reserve spot in the OKC lineup and given a chance to run a team of his own in Detroit. It seems like the blink of an eye since the Pistons were happy to welcome Jackson to town as their point guard of the future. Well, you might want to put the brakes on the talk of a new contract next summer and a blissful marriage. Coach Stan Van Gundy yanked Jackson off the floor for lack of hustle in Pistons’ loss at Utah, their 10th in a row. Terry Foster of the Detroit News detailed the ugliness:

On a night the Pistons hustled for nearly everything they got it, was a non-hustle play that angered the coach.
Van Gundy can tolerate mistakes and questionable shot selection as long as there is some effort behind it. But he will not tolerate lazy play on the court.

And that is when Jackson relaxed and got burned. He came in for Spencer Dinwiddie with 5:50 remaining and play immediately bogged down.

Jackson turned the ball over and later watched as Dante Exum hustled down a loose ball and fed Rodney Hood for a layup, which gave the Jazz a 78-74 lead with 4:32 remaining.

“He (Jackson) wasn’t being very aggressive and when he didn’t chase down the loose ball and Exum got it that was a huge hoop in the game,” Van Gundy said. “As I told him when I took him out of the game, I will tolerate mistakes, but we are in a battle trying to win a fourth game in five days and you’re not going to make an effort?”

Jackson got the message loud and clear from Van Gundy.

“I just assumed the ball was going out of bounds,” Jackson said. “You can never make an assumption. You have to always complete the play.
Unfortunately that play really cost us tonight. It was a big possession. We were trying to make a comeback. Whether it is going out of bounds or not I have to be in position to make the play.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Stephen Curry got a birthday cake from the Warriors and a win from the Knicks…The Clippers are hoping that Blake Griffin returns to the lineup today against the Rockets….  Andre Miller is still surprised that Wizards traded him to Sacramento…Bucks plan to keep Khris Middleton….Hawks’ Scott to miss four to six weeks with broken toe.