Posts Tagged ‘Derrick Williams’

Morning shootaround — July 17


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played July 16

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Pistons, Kings still talking trade for Smith | Spoelstra: No ‘regrets’ over LeBron leaving | NBA may rethink Draft lottery | Taylor opens up on Love trade talk

No. 1: Report: Kings, Pistons re-open J-Smoove trade talks — A few days before the 2014 Draft, there was buzz that the Pistons had engaged in trade talks with the Sacramento Kings with forward Josh Smith being the top name shifting from one team to another. In the weeks since, there hasn’t been much chatter on that front … until now. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that the teams have started talking about a J-Smoove swap once again:

The Detroit Pistons and the Sacramento Kings have resumed trade discussions on a deal that could send Josh Smith to Sacramento, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.

Sources told ESPN.com the Kings have continued to express interest in Smith and the parties are on the hunt for a third team that could help facilitate the deal.

As ESPN.com reported last month, Detroit and Sacramento have engaged in trade discussions that would potentially land Smith in the same frontcourt with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Initial talks called for Sacramento to send Jason Thompson and either Derrick Williams or Jason Terry to the Pistons for Smith, but those discussions reached an impasse and were pushed into July along with the rest of both teams’ free-agent business, sources said.

Sources said the Pistons also seriously discussed various sign-and-trade scenarios this month that would have landed restricted free agent Greg Monroe in Portland, but the Blazers ultimately pulled themselves out of the race for Monroe by signing free-agent big man Chris Kaman to join Robin Lopez in the Blazers’ center rotation.

Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, furthermore, is known to be fond of splashy moves. And trading for Smith, given the lukewarm reviews of his first season with the Pistons, would certainly qualify as bold.

Another potential bonus is Smith’s close relationship with Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, whom Sacramento has been targeting in trade talks for some time.

The Kings, sources say, prefer to trade Terry rather than buy him out of the final year of his contract valued at nearly $6 million, while Terry has said he’s interested in a return to the Dallas Mavericks if he’s ultimately released and can get to free agency.


VIDEO:
Relive some of Josh Smith’s best plays as a Piston last season

(more…)

Kings’ Cousins: ‘I Know I Deserve A Spot’


VIDEO: Check out who made the West reserves for the All-Star Game

DALLAS – Kings center DeMarcus Cousins believes he is an All-Star.

“I feel like I’ve played at a high level. Do I feel like I can do better? Absolutely. But I feel like I was pretty deserving of an All-Star spot,” Cousins said Friday night prior to Sacramento attempting to break a five-game losing streak against the Dallas Mavericks.

“I don’t know what it is,” the 6-foot-11 Cousins said when asked why he thinks enough Western Conference coaches didn’t select him to be one of seven reserves. “But I know looking at it, I know I deserve a spot.”

He won’t even get to take out his frustrations on the court against a team he’s destroyed to the tune of 19.4 points and 10.8 rebounds over his career, and torched for 32 points and 19 rebounds in the Kings’ blowout win over Dallas last month. Cousins is missing his fifth consecutive game with a sprained left ankle. He said he set himself back a bit by working too hard to make a quick return. The team is now preaching patience. Coach Michael Malone said Cousins will likely miss Saturday’s game at San Antonio with a possible return targeted for Monday night’s home game against Chicago.

Two weeks later, the 23-year-old will get unwanted rest when the NBA converges in New Orleans on Feb. 14-16 for All-Star weekend. With three forwards — Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love — voted in by fans as “frontcourt” starters, the coaches selected LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard and Dirk Nowitzki as reserves.

“I’m not surprised,” Cousins said dryly. “At the end of the day it’s an individual stat, so when they read you off as an eight-time All-Star, they don’t include your team’s record. So, like I said, it didn’t surprise me at all.”

That was Cousins’ way of suggesting that his personal improvement and All-Star worthy season shouldn’t be penalized by his team’s 15-30 record entering Friday’s game. He leads all centers in scoring at 22.6 (on a career-high 48.8 percent shooting) and ranks fourth in rebounding at 11.6. He’s first in steals (1.78) among centers and ninth among all players. His usage rate of 33.0 percent is the highest in the league, meaning almost everything the Kings do offensively goes their big man, who can score in the low block and step out and hit the mid-range jumper.

The league’s eradication of the center position on the All-Star ballot didn’t help Cousins’ cause. Under the traditional positional format, Houston’s Howard would have been tabbed as the starting center in the fan vote and coaches likely would have had a hard time leaving Cousins off the team as the backup center.

“That did affect a lot,” Cousins said. “But even with that being said, I still deserved it.”

The Kings got off to a rough start to the season, made a minor trade for young Timberwolves castoff Derrick Williams followed by a major deal that netted Rudy Gay. After a transition period, Sacramento put together it’s best stretch of the season with a win over Miami, a down-to-the-wire loss at San Antonio followed by a win at Houston, which they’ve defeated twice.

After disappointing let-down losses at home to Philadelphia and Charlotte, the Kings beat Portland. Soon after came the unfortunate luck of concurrent injuries to Cousins and Gay that has again made life hard on the West’s last-place team.

As deserving as Cousins believes he is for a first All-Star nod, the talent in the West simply runs too deep to squeeze on the 12-man roster. Howard and Aldridge were locks. And Nowitzki is so respected by the coaches that they weren’t going to leave him off the team after averaging 21.1 points coming off a rough 2012-13 season in which he had knee surgery and his 11-year All-Star run ended.

Until the league expands the All-Star rosters or the Kings turn around their fortunes, All-Star disappointment could continue to follow Cousins. He has a slim chance of sneaking onto the 2014 team. New commissioner Adam Silver will pick a replacement for injured guard Kobe Bryant, and a replacement will be needed for point guard Chris Paul, if he hasn’t returned from injury.

Suns point guard Goran Dragic will likely be the first player added. Dragic is having a brilliant season on the league’s most surprising team. The Suns are 28-18, yet that still couldn’t get him onto the team, another nod to the conference’s overall talent pool. If Paul is out, Cousins and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis will likely be the next two players on Silver’s list.

“It is fuel to my fire,” Cousins said. “I’ve been doubted my whole life. Nothing’s ever come easy for me. So this not coming easy is not a surprise; keep grinding and at the end of the day I’m going to get in.”

For New Kings, Three Must Be Company


VIDEO: The Starters break down Rudy Gay being traded to the Kings

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – What happens when three of the NBA’s top usage players come together on the same team, in one starting lineup? That is now first-year Sacramento Kings coach Mike Malone‘s Rubik’s Cube.

As Rudy Gay, the man atop the analytics movement’s love-to-hate list — and it’s reciprocal — watched his new team play Monday night from under a red-and-blue retro Kings hat, he surely enjoyed the offensive explosion Isaiah Thomas, DeMarcus Cousins and his other new teammates dropped on the Dallas Mavericks in a resounding victory.

And then Gay surely wondered from where is he going to get his?

“That’s a good question,” Malone said. “You start Isaiah, who has always been a scoring guard. You have DeMarcus, who’s going to be the focal point of our offense. And then you add a guy like Rudy. And you have Ben [McLemore]. You have Derrick [Williams]. The one thing I’m proudest about is that we’re really sharing the ball. We haven’t shot the ball as well as we’d like this year, but the ball movement, the unselfishness, has been there.

“That’s going to be my challenge to this group now.”

Against Dallas, Cousins scored 32 points and attempted 17 shots. Thomas, a pound-the-rock point guard, scored 24 and took 16 shots. Williams scored 31, also on 16 shots. The Kings, as Malone noted, are also developing the rookie shooting guard McLemore, who got seven shots. That’s 56 shot attempts among four players.

Enter Gay. The Kings acquired the handsomely paid and athletic 6-foot-8 forward — infamously known by a burgeoning group of meddlesome analytics worshipers as the game’s great ball-stopper — knowing he averages nearly as many shot attempts per game (18.6) as points (19.4).

When the Kings (6-13) take the floor tonight at Sleep Train Arena against the last-place Jazz (10 ET, League Pass), assuming Gay is ready to go, the starting lineup will be Thomas, McLemore, Gay, Jason Thompson and Cousins. The league’s rules committee has not yet convened to allow for the use of more than one basketball.

“I’m not going to get into that,” Cousins said when asked if the addition of Gay will mean subtracting from his team-high 17.2 shot attempts per game. “We have our game plans here and we have a system. Coach is going to do the best job of putting us in a position that he thinks is best and whatever that may be that’s what we’re going to go with.”

With that, usage will become the hot advanced stat of the day in Sacramento. Usage is an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor. Cousins ranks No. 1 among all players — not just centers, but all players — with a usage percentage of 35.0 percent. Among centers, Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez is second at 26.9 percent. Dwight Howard‘s usage is 23.5 percent.

Despite being the backup to the traded Greivis Vasquez, Thomas ranks tied for sixth among guards in usage with Dwyane Wade at 27.7 percent (Greivis’ usage percentage was 18.8 percent). Gay’s usage, 30.1 percent with the Raptors, ranks third among forwards behind Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant.

To compare other trios, the Rockets’ usage looks like this: James Harden, 27.3 percent; Howard, 23.5 percent; and Chandler Parsons, 18.9 percent. Here’s the Thunder: Russell Westbrook, 32.0 percent; Durant 30.7 percent; and Serge Ibaka, 19.1 percent.

Not only did the Kings add another high-usage player in Gay, but also an inefficient player. He’s shooting just 38.8 percent on the season (although his 3-point accuracy is way up at 37.3 percent), an especially disappointing number considering he spent so much time during the offseason working to raise a shooting percentage that has sagged badly over the past two seasons.

Thomas and Cousins have been a strong duo. The Kings are scoring 111.7 points per 100 possessions when they’re on the floor together, which was limited — 242 minutes in 18 games, or about 13 mpg. Their minutes together should rise significantly now that Vasquez is out of the picture. Against Dallas — notably a poor defensive team — they played together for 36 minutes and registered an offensive rating of 119.9 and a defensive rating of 85.5.

Sacramento’s hope is that the addition of Gay forces defenses to pick their poison. Conversely, the analytics crowd is sounding the alarm, warning of an incoming poison pill.

“I know everyone’s hung up on his 38 percent this year,” Malone said. “But if you look at his numbers throughout his career, he’s shot well over 45 percent a number of seasons. I’m not as concerned as a lot of these analytic people get concerned about. He’s a very talented player. End of games, he can make plays for you. He’s versatile. He can score in the post, handling the ball, catch-and-shoot, isolation. He’s talented and we become a much more talented team with him.”

NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper contributed to this report.


VIDEO: Rudy Gay talks about his move to Sacramento, hopes for Kings

Derrick Williams Is Out Of Excuses


VIDEO: Derrick Williams talks about adjusting to his role with the Kings

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – There was the lob from Greivis Vasquez that became a two-hand dunk and his own alley-oop toss to Ben McLemore to finish a break and, finally, there also was the time he ditched defender Jared Dudley backdoor, rose along the left baseline, extended his right arm to the ceiling, controlled the ball one-handed inside the restricted zone despite Blake Griffin contesting the pass and in a single motion completed the slam as the crowd erupted.

All was right in Derrick Williams’ world. It was just one night, Friday at Sleep Train Arena against the Clippers. But he helped ignite the home fans and basked in the adulation with a featured role. He played small forward. And he played a lot, 32 minutes, including all but 22 seconds of overtime.

It was what he imagined the last two seasons would have been like, had he permanently been at the position he preferred or been given a chance at any spot by the Timberwolves. In his mind, he didn’t get one. Suddenly, Williams was a King, traded for Luc Mbah a Moute, and in his first game was throwing down multiple lobs, picking off defensive rebounds and pushing the ball downcourt himself on the break, generally turning Sleep Train wild.

Now all he has to do is come close to repeating that a half-dozen times a month or so.

For all the talk that getting out of Minnesota and away from the expectations that come with being the second pick in the 2011 draft, Williams knows the pressure is still on, maybe more than ever. He came to a team that wants to develop prospects, unlike with the Timberwolves aiming for the playoffs, and to a team that gave him a clear path to the opening lineup at small forward, unlike his previous home.

Minnesota didn’t put anything on a silver platter. But the Kings benched opening-night starter John Salmons and traded his replacement to the Twin Cities to get Williams. That was followed by Sacramento coach Michael Malone sounding like a man very conscious of building up Williams’ confidence.

Miss this chance and Williams may never get a better opportunity. Miss this chance and Williams will validate Rick Adelman and the Timberwolves and take away the I-never-got-a-chance defense.

“It’s on me,” said Williams, who followed up the thrilling debut with four points on one-of-three shooting, along with seven rebounds, in 21 minutes in the Sunday loss to the Warriors. “I really feel like I can help this team a lot. Just my style of play. But it’s put up or shut up. I really feel like I can make something happen here. That’s the main thing. For my career and helping this team, I really feel like I can do that.”

Besides, that whole never-got-a-chance thing isn’t based in reality. Before taking a seat near the end of the bench the first month of 2013-14, when every front office knew he was available in a trade, Williams appeared in 66 games as a rookie (the only Minnesota player of any experience level to make every game) and 78 games last season. He got in 97 percent of the games. He started 71 times, 48 percent of the possible starts. He averaged 21.5 and 24.6 minutes. He played small forward, his preferred position, alongside Kevin Love and played power forward when Love missed most of 2012-13 with a hand injury.

When Williams heard the news of the trade, he said, his reaction was happiness at a fresh start, which is fair, and that he was, “Excited to get back out on the court and finally get a fair shot,” which isn’t. He didn’t get to play true small forward as he had wanted, but the Timberwolves grew to see the Williams that concerned a lot of teams heading into the draft – he may be a classic tweener, unable to stick at either forward spot.

The Kings are willing to give him his shot. They have handed small forward to Williams, told him not to worry about looking to the bench with every mistake. He has this season and next to see if he turns into part of the solution in Sacramento or a test drive that didn’t work out. Now it’s up to Williams.


VIDEO: Derrick Williams finds Ben McLemore on the break

Derrick Williams Era Ends In Minnesota


VIDEO: Derrick Williams arrives in Sacramento

HANG TIME WEST – The Timberwolves’ patience with Derrick Williams officially ran out Tuesday as the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft was traded to the Kings for Luc Mbah a Moute in a move Minnesota hopes will also stabilize the defense and strengthen its playoff chances.

The highest selection in team history left town without ever coming close to paying off, a classic tweener who didn’t develop at small forward alongside Kevin Love or power forward when Love was hurt and averaged 22.6 minutes in two-plus seasons. Williams was at 14.7 minutes this season while appearing in 11 of 16 games.

Sacramento provides more than just a change of scenery. The original starter at small forward, John Salmons, lost the job and his replacement, Mbah a Moute, was just traded, creating a clear path for Williams if he is able to capitalize. Based on work to date, though, that’s obviously a big if.

Similarly, the Timberwolves are getting a player blanketed in the caution sign that the Kings moved him so soon after acquiring Mbah a Moute from the Bucks in the offseason for a pair of second-round picks and wanting him to be at the forefront of the latest new emphasis on defense. Minnesota takes him with the same hopes while 23rd in the league in shooting defense.

Swapping a veteran for a prospect is exactly the kind of move the Kings had in mind when NBA.com reported last week Sacramento was aggressively pursuing trade possibilities in hopes of adding young talent and/or draft picks. Williams was available, and has been for some time, because he was not producing, but the new Kings management sent word around the league that most every veteran was available in exchange for pieces that would accelerate the rebuilding process.


VIDEO: Wolves GM on dealing Williams, acquiring Luck Mbah a Moute

Howling Wolves Deal With Quiet Time


VIDEO: The Rockets beat the Timberwolves 112-101 on Saturday

Remember when the Timberwolves were something to howl about?

It was less than two weeks ago when the ball and the shots were moving through the offense like they were notes in a symphony.

You could pull on your parka and a pair of mukluks, then squint your eyes and imagine you were watching the Spurs North.

You could see Ricky Rubio spinning, darting and creating with only the edges of his imagination as a limit, see Kevin Love go down low to score in the post and then come outside and make it rain from behind the 3-point line, see Kevin Martin drop in all those improbable shots from all those impossible difficult angles.

The Timberwolves were 6-3 right out of the box and they were a team that could dance right off into the stars.

But now they have two left feet. All of a sudden, they can’t shoot, can’t defend, can’t muster up enough energy to take the floor and make their coach happy.

“You can look at stats all you want, but we didn’t have enough,” said Rick Adelman after their fourth loss in six games, a flogging by the James Harden-less Rockets. “I don’t know if it’s mental fatigue or whatever. We just have to do a better job and the schedule doesn’t matter.”

The schedule has turned brutal of late, serving up nine games in 14 nights, five in seven, including rising teams such as the Clippers and Rockets and next up are the East-leading Pacers.

“We play 18 games right off the bat this month,” Love said. “It’s tough. I think that’s really what it is. Plus we’re playing some really good teams. So it hasn’t been easy for us.”

One of the things that makes it hard has been the continuing struggles of Rubio to put the ball into the basket. For all of the wizardry that he uses to set up his teammates for easy baskets, the 23-year-old doesn’t seem to have a trick up his sleeve to help himself.

Rubio has made half his shots from the field only five times in the first 15 games, shooting just 34.7 percent. Now in his third NBA season, Rubio has scored 15 or more points in a game while making half his shots only nine times. The Wolves are 6-3 in those games. It’s just not that simplistic, but if Rubio could learn to shoot, the Wolves could take a big permanent step forward.

“It’s a lot easier when all your guys can make shots,” Adelman said. “He’s such a good passer and creator that if he’s making shots it makes it very difficult for the other team. They can’t go under screens, pick and rolls and things like that. It’s a process he’s going to have to go through.

“This is the first year he’s had training camp since he’s been in the league. He’s been hurt or we had a short training camp. It’s going to take time. He’s playing well and hopefully he’s to going to make shots.”

They’re a team that has Love and Rubio back in the lineup after being plagued by injuries a year ago and they have small forward Corey Brewer back with the club after signing as a free agent over the summer. They have big man Nikola Pekovic doing all that he can in the middle and with Chase Budinger again sidelined by injury, they’ve sucked everything they can out of Martin as if he were a water hose in the desert.

“We were the worst outside shooting team in the league last year,” Adelman said. “So having Kevin opens things up. And having the other Kevin (Love) back opens things up too. Last year we were firing blanks. We didn’t really have a lot of answers. This year we have a few more.”

They are still a team that has less depth than a wading pool and could use former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams to be something more than a massive bust or Alexey Shved or Dante Cunningham or Robbie Hummel or anyone to step up.

“We’re a solid team,” Martin said. “We got some work to do. It’s a long season. Everybody goes through their tough stretches with a tough schedule…We feel like we’re right in there. We’ve got a lot of things to work on. Just got to weather the storm right now.”

Morning Shootaround — Nov. 1

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Anthony wants to retire in N.Y. | Hayward, Jazz fail to reach deal | Suns pass on Bledsoe extension | Fredette to be a free agent; Kings don’t extend Vasquez | Adelman promises to give Williams a chance

No. 1: Anthony: ‘I want to retire in New York’Yesterday, we told you in this space that Knicks star Carmelo Anthony and GM Steve Mills had come to an agreement to not discuss a possible contract extension for Anthony during the season. During last night’s Knicks-Bulls game on TNT, Anthony opened up about his plans for the future, going as far as to say he wants to ‘retire in New York.’

“I think a lot of people jumped the gun when I said I wanted to be a free agent,” he said. “And yeah, I want people to come play in New York. I want them to want to play in New York. I want New York to be that place where guys want to come play.”


VIDEO: Carmelo Anthony on his desire to stay with New York

***

No. 2: Hayward, Jazz fail to agree to contact extension — Contract extension were doled out to several members of the 2010 Draft class during the offseason and training camp including John Wall, Larry Sanders, Paul George and Derrick Favors. Jazz forward Gordon Hayward and his representatives had been in talks with Utah’s front office about a deal, but nothing materialized before yesterday’s deadline. Sam Amick of USA Today has more on why the deal fell through and what’s next:

When it comes to NBA extensions, it’s a calculated risk any way you slice it. The only thing that changes is the side that’s rolling the dice.

So it was that the Utah Jazz and small forward Gordon Hayward couldn’t reach an agreement before the midnight ET deadline on Thursday night …

As veteran agent Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports and Entertainment explained it after months of talks with Jazz officials regarding Hayward didn’t pay off, it’s a tough task to pull off when both parties know that the now-or-never moment doesn’t happen until the offseason. The evidence supports that claim, as only six players from the draft class of 2010 signed extensions in the latest go-round: Indiana small forward Paul George, Milwaukee center Larry Sanders, Washington point guard John Wall, Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins, Utah forward Derrick Favors, and Memphis guard Quincy Pondexter.

“The most difficult deals to do are extensions — other than the max,” Bartelstein told USA TODAY Sports by phone just before the deadline passed. “When someone is offering you a max, then it’s easy. Those are easy. Other than that, they’re difficult because … there’s not a marketplace, so the teams sometimes have a view of wanting to get something for doing it early, and the player wants to get what he perceives his value to be, so they’re hard to do.”

As it pertains to Hayward, there were strong signs in the days leading up to the deadline that he was leaning toward taking the restricted free agency route. The Jazz were clearly hoping to secure Hayward after agreeing to terms with Favors on a four-year, $49 million deal, but they’ll now have the chance to match the highest bidder this summer when the 23-year-old may be the leading man among the younger class of free agents.

Bartelstein was quick to compliment the Jazz for their handling of the negotiations, and dispelled any notion that this is a sign that Hayward is looking to head elsewhere.

“The main thing is that the Jazz put in a tremendous amount of time and effort into wanting to get something done, and we put in a tremendous amount of time and effort to get it done,” Bartelstein said. “It was not due to a lack of trying. That’s for sure. There was a lot of time and a lot of energy spent the last few months in working at it, but sometimes you just can’t come up with something that both sides feel good about. That doesn’t change at all — at all — how Gordon feels about the Jazz.”

***

No. 3: Suns, Bledsoe can’t come to extension agreement — Suns guard Eric Bledsoe had an impressive preseason and led Phoenix to a victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in their season-opener. Those games represent all of Bledsoe’s career to date in Arizona and although the 2010 draftee was eligible for a contract extension up until last night, the Suns were have a hard time determining what, exactly, to pay him if they offered him such a deal. That lack of time together may have been one of the tipping points in the Suns’ decision to not offer Bledsoe an extension, writes Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic:

The Suns and Eric Bledsoe have been talking about a possible contract extension that could have locked up the point guard through 2018.

They could not find common terms by Thursday night’s deadline but the Suns still intend for Bledsoe to be part of their future.

“There is no rookie extension with Eric but that doesn’t in any way suggest that we are not excited that Eric is a Sun and we look forward to Eric being a Suns for a long time,” said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby, who has been engaged in extension talks over the past month with Mark Termini, the former agent who works as a negotiator for Bledsoe’s agent, Rich Paul.

“It’s a hard thing to do. We had numerous conversations over the past few weeks. We had a good, professional exchange of ideas.”

The task of extending Bledsoe was a challenging one, especially with Bledsoe logging one game as a Suns before the 9 p.m. deadline struck Thursday night. Bledsoe has been a backup for his first three NBA seasons with the Clippers but surely will increase his value this season as a starter and focal point for the Suns. He is only 23 and was highly sought when the Suns made a trade to acquire him from the Clippers in July.

“Both sides are trying to make projections on what Eric’s performance and new role are going to be,” Babby said Thursday night. “Those projections are not necessarily precise and, from the Suns’ perspective, it needs to be considered from the context that Eric will be a restricted free agent in the summer, which gives us matching rights. In the end, it seemed prudent to wait until July. In the meantime, we will be rooting for Eric to have a great season.”

Babby would not characterize how close the sides came in negotiations. The parties assumedly were talking about a four-year deal, rather than the option of a five-year deal for a designated player to get a maximum-salary contract.

The dilemma of what to pay Bledsoe was spelled out previously here.

It appears that the talks did not turn contentious, which is a danger in such situations.

“It was completely professional, not acrimonious,” Babby said. “Everyone understood the task was a difficult one because of the nature of the circumstances and the context of restricted free agency.”

No. 4: Kings decline to pick up Fredette’s option, pass on Vasquez extension — Back during the 2011 Draft, the Kings took part in a three-team deal that, in part, helped them land former BYU sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette. Since landing in Sacramento, though, Fredette’s playing time has been inconsistent and when it came time to decide to pick up his option for 2014-15, the Kings passed on it. As well, new starting point guard Greivis Vasquez, whom Sacramento acquired in the offseason in the Tyreke Evans trade, was eligible for a contract extension, but the team passed on that, too. Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee has more on the moves:

Those who have wanted the Kings to “Free Jimmer” might get their wish.

The Kings on Thursday declined to pick up the fourth-year option on guard Jimmer Fredette’s contract for the 2014-15 season, which would have paid the 2011 first-round draft pick a little more than $3 million. The deadline to do so was Thursday at 9 p.m.

Therefore, Fredette will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. The Kings could re-sign him at a reduced salary, but the decision likely means this will be Fredette’s final season with the team.

It also means Fredette probably would bring more value in a trade because his expiring deal would create salary cap space for next summer’s free-agent class. The trade deadline is Feb. 20.

During the offseason, the team drafted Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum and acquired Greivis Vasquez from New Orleans. The Kings’ front office likes Isaiah Thomas, and Marcus Thornton has two years left on his contract.

A huge crowd greeted Fredette at Sacramento International Airport when he arrived following the draft, and he remains extremely popular, even though his playing time with the Kings has been inconsistent.

Thursday also was the deadline to reach agreement on contract extensions for 2010 first-round draft picks.

The Kings had two players eligible for deals, Vasquez and forward Patrick Patterson. Neither landed an extension.

Sacramento can make both players restricted free agents after his season, giving the Kings the right to match an offer from another team and retain them.

***

No. 5: Adelman promises Williams will get his chance — Since being taken with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2011 Draft, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams has had a wildly inconsistent role on the team. Last season, he played in 78 games, starting 56 of them, and saw his averages in scoring (12.0 ppg), rebounding (5.5 rpg) and shooting (43.0 pct) hit career highs. Then came the season-opener on Wednesday night in which Williams failed to get off the bench despite being healthy. Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman and Williams addressed the player’s role after Thursday’s practice and Adelman vows that Williams will eventually get his chance, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune:

Wolves coach Rick Adleman had a couple things to say about Derrick Williams. First, the third-year forward will get his chance to play. Second, we should all calm down on the issue.

“I don’t worry about him as much as you guys do,” Adelman said after Thursday’s practice. Williams, who works at both forward positions, did not play in Wednesday’s opening-night victory over Orlando.  A former second-overall pick, Williams’ playing time has fluctuated since he joined the team.

“He’s going to get a chance to play when it looks like there is a good opportunity for him,” Adelman said. “But there are other guys, too. Right now Robbie Hummel’s played very well, the whole month he’s been here. It could be one of those guys. It could be (Shabazz Muhammad), who has played well. Nobody has separated himself. (Williams’)  best spot is the four spot, and it’s almost impossible to get him minutes at the four spot.”

Williams, asked about his situation, said he wasn’t disappointed. “No, we won, you can’t be disappointed when we win,” he said.

But on the matter of patience? “I’ve been patient two years now,” he said. “So we’ll see. I don’t know.’’

Interestingly, Williams retweeted an item originally tweeted by Los Angeles Clippers forward Jamal Crawford Wednesday night. “Watched a bunch of games tonight,” Crawford wrote. “One thing that is clear. Situation, and opportunity has a lot to do with success in the NBA.’’

“That’s all the NBA is, opportunity,” Williams said. “That’s why I retweeted it.”

But when will his come? The power forward position is where Kevin Love plays, and Dante Cunningham is usually his backup. That leaves the small forward position. And for Williams to play there, Adelman said he needs to see the right matchup.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Wizards guard John Wall got a warning about floppingJ-Smoove is enjoying the start to his career in Detroit so far … The Magic are readying for their home opener and the official kickoff to their 25th anniversary season … The reviews are in for Pierre the Pelican, and they’re not pretty

ICYMI Of The Night: We’ve got to imagine Clippers TV play-by-play man Ralph Lawler is a little horse after these three straight alley-oop jams by Blake Griffin


VIDEO: Blake Griffin converts three straight alley-oop jams

Morning Shootaround — March 1

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: We were more than a little jazzed around these parts for last night’s Clippers-Pacers game from BankersLife Fieldhouse. A matchup of two of the NBA’s elite — not just in terms of record, but also in terms of defensive acumen as well as young All-Star talent (Blake Griffin on the Clippers and Paul George on the Pacers). The game lived up to the hype through the first half, but by the third quarter, the Clippers imposed their will on the Pacers and had built a hefty 17-point lead in the fourth quarter. Indiana showed some heart and made a late charge to get back in the game, but overall this was all Clippers in the second half.

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News of the morning

CP3 takes over vs. Pacers | Dwight has eyes on Rio | Report: Bulls, Amundson in talks | Williams hitting his stride with Wolves

Paul’s steady hand saves winOn paper, what was the game of Thursday night was the Clippers-Pacers game in Indiana that pitted two of the NBA’s best teams against each other. Although the Pacers kept it close (as we detail above), the Clips took control midway through the fourth quarter and seemed to have this one salted away. Indiana made a late charge while the Clips’ starters rested on the bench, but once Chris Paul got back in the game, L.A. finally locked up the win for good. Dan Woike of the Orange County Register explains how CP3 imposed his will on the Pacers before things got out of control:

The Clippers were up by 17 points over the Indiana Pacers with less than six minutes to play. Players were smiling on the sidelines, dancing to the music blaring and getting ready to celebrate a nice road victory.

Less than three minutes later, the Clippers found themselves fighting to hang on, as the Pacers ripped off a 13-0 run to cut the lead to four.

In situations like this, the Clippers lean on point guard Chris Paul to make things happen, and Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, he didn’t let his team down in a 99-91 victory.

“I just love to see him take over games like that,” Chauncey Billups said. “That’s either something you’re blessed to have, or you’re sorry you don’t have it.”

Paul drained a jump shot over Tyler Hansbrough and got to the rim for an acrobatic right-handed finish. Then with the lead at four and less than a minute to go, Paul drove past Indiana’s Lance Stephenson, simultaneously ending Indiana’s momentum and chances for a comeback.

“You’ve got to hate to lose,” Paul said. “… At some point, you have to slow everything down and say, ‘It’s winning time.’”

Report: Howard wants to play in 2016 GamesDwight Howard suffered a season-ending back injury in 2011-12 and, as such, missed not only the 2012 playoffs, but also the 2012 Olympic Games so he could recover. Although the back (and a new injury — a sore right shoulder) haven’t had him playing at his peak level this season for the Lakers, Howard forsees a full recovery at some point and has already set  his sights on playing for Team USA in the 2016 Games, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Los Angeles Lakers big man Dwight Howard, who won Olympic gold with the U.S. in the 2008 Beijing Games but had to miss last summer’s London Games while recovering from back surgery, said he wants to be back on the team in 2016.

“No doubt,” Howard said Thursday when asked if he wanted to play in Brazil.

Howard will be 30 years old when the next Olympics roll around. He expressed disappointment in not being able to go for back-to-back gold medals this summer, much like Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant was able to do, because of the back surgery he underwent in April.

“I was pissed off,” Howard said. “I was mad I couldn’t play in the playoffs. I was mad I couldn’t play in the Olympics. I was pissed. I was looking forward to going to London. I was looking forward to making a big run in the playoffs last season, so I wasn’t too happy about the fact that I had to have surgery and miss a lot of basketball.”

Howard said he has maintained a relationship with USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.

“He’s cool with me,” Howard said. “He’s always been someone that I’ve thought highly of and he’s always supported me.”

Howard said he received an invitation from Colangelo to play on the 2012 team prior to his back injury.

“He called me and asked me about joining the team in London,” Howard said. “We were looking forward to it. He was one of the first people that contacted me and asked me if I wanted to play. I was very excited about it. I wanted to play. He said, ‘OK.’”

Colangelo will be tasked with not only filling out a roster for Rio de Janeiro, but finding a new coach.

Mike Krzyzewski told ESPN Radio this week that he will not assume his coaching duties with Team USA when his season at Duke ends.

Report: Bulls, Amundson in talksVeteran big man Lou Amundson spent the first 30 games of the season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but asked to be cut by the club when his playing time dropped. The Wolves obliged, releasing him on Feb. 8, and Amundson has been looking for a new squad since then. As of Thursday, FoxSportsFlorida.com’s Chris Tomasson reported that four teams — the Bulls, Knicks, Celtics and Heat — were pursuing Amundson. As of this morning, though, the Bulls have emerged as the favorite, writes Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

The Chicago Bulls are in talks with Louis Amundson about signing the veteran power forward, according to league sources.

A decision is expected Friday, sources told ESPN.com, with the Bulls and Amundson’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, scheduled to talk about specifics.

The Bulls are looking for an extra big man with Taj Gibson sidelined by a sprained left knee. And Chicago has just enough room under its hard salary cap of $74.307 million to sign Amundson, who is eligible to play for the Bulls in the postseason because he was waived by Minnesota before Friday’s 11:59 p.m. ET deadline.

Williams finding his way in Minnesota -- After having a solid reserve role the first nine games of the season, second-year Wolves forward Derrick Williams was more or less riding the pine in December and January. Injuries to Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko, among others, forced Williams back into the rotation by mid-January and he has picked up his game since. Williams is averaging 10.6 ppg and 5.4 rpg this season, but in his last 10 games has upped those marks to 16.0 and 9.0, respectively. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune has more on Williams resurgance:

Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams returned home to Los Angeles for Thursday’s game against the Lakers not exactly a changed man but feeling differently for sure.

“Just more confident really,” he said.

His statistics in his past five games — 18.8 points and 10.6 rebounds — tell part of the story.

Coach Rick Adelman‘s decision to draw up a potential game-winning play for him on Tuesday in Phoenix suggests Williams has earned a little more trust. Williams was one of two options on a play that ended with Alexey Shved missing a driving layup near the overtime buzzer.

Until recently, Williams struggled to find his way — and earn Adelman’s faith — in a league where No. 2 overall picks are expected to do so much more from their first day.

In the past two weeks, Williams has delivered the double-doubles — three 20-point, 10-rebound games in his past five entering Thursday’s game — that are nearly nightly achievements by Kevin Love, the Wolves’ injured All-Star whom Williams has replaced as the starting power forward.

Williams credits Love’s biggest attribute — rebounding — for his recent play. “Rebounding really is what got me going,” he said. “Trying to get every rebound has got my confidence up, not really knocking down shots. I’m focused on the defensive end and trying to get as many rebounds as possible.”

ICYMI(s) of the night: If we wanted to, we could call this the hey-look-at-what-Blake-Griffin-did of the night given his highlight reel-ish play. We aren’t changing the name, of course (it’s way too long), but Griffin gets the nod today anyway for two awesome jams …:

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Rubio’s Back And So’s His Magic


MINNEAPOLIS
– At first, it looked like a double-wicket shot. It truly appeared – in real time – as if Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio had delivered a perfectly executed, improbably conceived bounce pass through his own legs AND through Dallas defender Elton Brand‘s legs too.

Only in replay, slowed down, was it clear that Rubio’s pass had gone just past Brand’s left leg rather than behind it, not that the Mavericks forward noticed. The basketball reached its destination right about the time the Target Center crowd realized what it was seeing, and Greg Stiemsma finished off with a simple layup for a very unsimple highlight.

“Playing with Rajon [Rondo] last year, I’ll say it was kind of similar, where you almost have to expect the ball every time you roll, every time you dive,” Stiemsma said of playing his first game with Rubio, the Wolves’ clever and, finally, available point guard.

“We’ve been running through some drills with him the last couple weeks, some pick-and-roll stuff. Even there, Ricky’s going between his legs, behind his back, all that in the drills.”

That one was Rubio’s piece de resistance (that’s Spanish, right?) in his first game in nine months. But there were others: Rubio shoveling a pass to J.J. Barea as they crisscrossed for a reverse layup. Rubio sticking a long arm into O.J. Mayo‘s passing lane, switching defense into offense in an instant as his dark eyes immediately searched for an open man. Rubio working the baseline like Gretzky behind the net, finding Luke Ridnour 18 feet out for a jumper.

With Rubio running the point, there’s always the risk for his four teammates of snuffing another of the kid’s wonderous assists and snuffing a video treasure. Worse, there’s the risk of getting hit in the head or the face by the ball if one is caught unaware. And so it was a risky night in downtown Minneapolis Saturday, where Rubio continued his comeback from knee surgery.

It is continuing, for al the excitement and the instant results. Rubio was on a minutes leash of (cough) 16-18 minutes Saturday and will build up his participation time gradually, coach Rick Adelman said. He probably won’t play in both ends of the Wolves’ back-to-back trip to Orlando Monday and Miami Tuesday. And after all the inactivity and rehab from surgery to repair the ACL and MCL ligaments torn in his left knee in March, Rubio’s performance curve figures to have a few ripples, maybe even reversals, in it.

Still, he electrified the crowd of 18,173 (the Wolves sold an extra 1,750 tickets in the hours before tipoff) and seemed to make them forget that All-Star Kevin Love was a late scratch due to the flu (Love hoped to play through his bruised right thumb, before the Wolves sent him home as a sickie). Rubio certainly animated Adelman, who lavished praise on his team afterward and even saved a little for himself.

“When he has the ball in his hands,” Adelman said, “I’m a lot better coach.”

If Houdini had come back from surgery, he would have started with a few card tricks. But Rubio came back sawing the lady in half, only from behind his back.

His first shift began with 1:47 left in the first quarter and ended at 6:16 of the second. In that 7:31 stint, he had four points, four assists and a steal. The Target Center had its second lineup thrill of the season – Love surprised them all with his sudden comeback from a broken hand the night before Thanksgiving. Folks boomed “Rubio! Rubio!” for him just for trotting to the scorer’s table.

“I can’t say with words how it felt,” the 22-year-old said.

Derrick Williams could. The disappointing No. 2 pick in 2011 scored 12 points with five rebounds in the first half, Rubio’s return applying paddles to his game. “That’s the best I’ve felt since I’ve been here, honestly,” Williams said.

Rubio’s second shift started at 4:37 of the third quarter and ended 7:15 minutes later. That pushed him to 14:46 for the game, Adelman holding back a few of Rubio’s rationed minutes just in case. And sure enough, when the Wolves’ 15-point lead dwindled to one with 3:16 left, Rubio came back in.

Key moment this time? A pile-up near the sideline with Dallas’ husky Derek Fisher. Fisher already was coming on like a Grinch trying to swipe Christmas, scoring nine points in the fourth. Now he was tangled up on the floor with the Spanish unicorn. But two men went down and two got up, both fine, Fisher tapping Rubio on the chest.

“Once guys come out there, everything’s free to go,” Fisher said. “But you’re obviously never trying to hurt a guy. I just asked him if he was OK real quick.”

Rubio’s third shift ended with regulation, his shot from out top bouncing off, same as a couple of Minnesota tips. Adelman showed great restraint in sitting him through the overtime. There was the minutes limit and, besides, Rubio was tired.

“That kills me inside,” Rubio said, smiling as always, “but we did a great job.”

Officially, Rubio was a mere +1 in plus/minus. But his impact had been more contagious to the other Wolves than Love’s flu. Andrei Kirilenko dominated the 12-4 overtime with five points, three boards and an assist.

“We’re going to do big things with this team this year, just showing how we played in overtime, getting that 10-0 run,” Rubio said. “It was amazing … They gave me a great gift, that W in overtime.”

Only fair for a guy who dishes so many gifts himself. As Dallas’ Dahntay Jones said of Rubio’s impact: “You have people flying down the court, because they know he’s looking for them. He’s special.”

Kirilenko ticked off the names of the great playmaking point guards with whom he has played: John Stockton, Mark Jackson, Deron Williams. “Ricky is one of those guys because when he sees opportunity, he goes there. I learned from the best how to get open – and how not to get hit on the back,” Kirilenko said.

“It’s always a privilege to play with those kind of guys. Especially if you can play without the ball – you know if you get open, you’re going to get the ball.”

Rubio changes the whole dynamic of playing without the ball – no one is without the ball for long when he’s on the floor. Rubio’s back, and defenders’ heads are swiveling again.

It’s Time For Wolves’ Williams To Howl

HANG TIME, Texas — As the cold nights and the injuries pile up in Minneapolis, so should the opportunities for those still upright and healthy in the Timberwolves lineup.

So what should we make of Derrick Williams, the No. 2 pick in the 2011? After doing little to distinguish himself as a rookie, Williams has shown few signs of getting better.

Much credit has been given to the always-resourceful coach Rick Adelman for keeping his team moving forward without the infirmed Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Brandon Roy and now Chase Budinger.

However, the Wolves 5-3 record is even more impressive when you consider how little he’s getting out of a gem prospect like Williams who has turned into cubic zirconia in barely a year. Last season, he at least had the post-lockout excuses of no real training camp and a condensed schedule to blame.

None of that applies this time around and, if anything, the opportunities to prove himself have only grown in the face of so many injuries.

But according to our man Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Williams shows no inclination of rising to the occasion and pitching in:

The Wolves’ most gifted healthy player isn’t playing long enough or hard enough to justify the second pick in the 2011 draft, isn’t playing long or hard enough to justify his place on a team that desperately needs him right now, and he doesn’t seem to understand that if he can’t help right now he might not be asked to help much later.

The Wolves have four players on the All-Star ballot. Three are injured. Two haven’t played at all this season. Six of their seven top players were out Wednesday.

Their best healthy player, Kirilenko, is surviving with brains and elbows, surviving by reminding his teammates that 95 percent of the game is played below the rim and between the ears. Thursday, the day after Williams faded, the Wolves signed small forward Josh Howard as a (luke)warm body to help spell Kirilenko.

Williams should be embarrassed. Apparently, he is not.
“I think we all struggled,” he said, referring to all of the Wolves who had shots blocked.

Asked about his progress, he said: “I’m feeling a lot better. I’m not worried about misses and makes like that. If you play the game going off misses and makes it’s going to be a long season.”

Williams’ 8.8 point per game scoring average is identical to last season, while his field goal percentage has dropped from a poor 41.2 to an abysmal 32.4. He has the athleticism and the skills to get to the rim, but can’t finish. He has scored in double figures only three times thus far and shot just 9-for-33 in his last three games.

He watches veterans like Andrei Kirilenko throw his body all over the floor at both ends and does not join him. At a time when Williams’ hustle and attitude should be forcing Adelman to give him more playing time, he still spends more than half of every game on the bench.

Rubio, Love, Roy, Budinger. It’s an injured list that almost hurts just to read.

Ndudi Ebi, Rashad McCants, Jonny Flynn, Wesley Johnson. It’s a list of washout first-round draft picks by the Timberwolves that is painful in a different way and that Williams keeps inching closer to joining.