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Morning shootaround — Nov. 29

VIDEO: The Fast Break: Nov. 28

Rush puts latest ‘wow’ in W’s | Wizards hard to please in swoon | LeBron saves day, J.R.’s D | McCollum’s audience of 1

No. 1: Rush puts latest ‘wow’ in W’s — All right, the Golden State Warriors are just messing with The Association now. Racing to their 18-0 record, the NBA’s defending champions are posting stupid numbers of superiority and seem almost to be handicapping themselves just for sport. For instance, reigning MVP Steph Curry scored 17 points in the first quarter of his team’s victory over Sacramento while taking only six shots. Draymond Green, who in previous generations might have gotten dismissed as a ” ‘tweener” and been sent packing to multiple teams as a seventh or eighth man, became the first Warriors player since Wilt Chamberlain to post consecutive triple-doubles. Golden State already has outscored opponents by 288 points in just 18 games,’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss reports, and then – even as Harrison Barnes goes out for what could be a couple weeks there’s the whole Brandon Rush thing Saturday:

So, how does a team that averages a blowout top itself? On Saturday night, joyous surprise came in the form of a quick strike Brandon Rush throwback game. He was called upon to replace Harrison Barnes (sprained ankle) in the starting lineup, to some surprise. He didn’t deliver much in the beginning but owned the third quarter like Klay Thompson in disguise. Rush scored 14 points in a 3-minute, 49-second stretch that was shocking, fun, and possibly cathartic.

Rush has a history here, having done nice work for a very different Golden State team, not entirely long ago. On the 2011-2012 Warriors, he was the rare good role player, a glue guy in a situation too shattered to matter. On Nov. 3, 2012, against the Grizzlies, a Zach Randolph shove sent Rush’s career into dormancy. He’d scored 2,639 points in his four-plus seasons before his ACL injury. In the two seasons that followed, he scored 109.

In the background, he has been a vocal part of the locker room, originator of the, “Get what you neeeeed!” catchphrase, meant to inspire work between practices. He’s a popular teammate, someone people here have been pulling for to finally reclaim what he lost. That was palpable in the frenzy of his 14-point explosion. Teammates were clearly looking for Rush, hoping to extend his moment.

After a dunk over contact, Rush was found for three consecutive 3-pointers. Then, during a timeout, interim coach Luke Walton and assistant coach Jarron Collins decided to carry the fun further, calling up “Elevator Doors” for the suddenly hot Rush.

“Elevator Doors” is a play that looks like its namesake. An offensive player runs off the ball between two screening teammates, who converge together to block his defender — the closing doors. It’s a play normally called up for the best of shooters, as it creates a 3-pointer on the move. You’ll see Curry get this play call. You’ll see Thompson get this play call. Something crazy has to happen for almost anyone else to ditch the stairs and take the lift. Since three straight 3s qualifies, Rush got the call, got the ball and … splash.

The crowd went nuts, only outdone by a Golden State bench that might have accidentally created dance moves never before invented.


No. 2: Wizards hard to please in swoon — All it took was a playoff sweep of the Toronto Raptors for the Washington Wizards and their fans to go all-in on the small-ball, pace-and-space style of offense so popular throughout the league. All it has taken to shake them from that embrace is four defeats, strung together last week in five nights against Indiana, Charlotte, Boston and Toronto. That shiny, new attack doesn’t look so dazzling anymore, and center Marcin Gortat sounded ready to throw it under the bus to get his old bruise buddy, Nene, alongside him again in a big-man tandem that, weeks ago, seemed prehistoric. Gortat also wasn’t happy with what he termed “negativity” in Washington’s locker room, saying: “”It’s not even fun coming here anymore.” Here is an excerpt of J.Michael’s Wizards insider report for

“We missed some shots but it’s tough also because with the system we play, four outside one inside,” he said after 16 points and 10 rebounds in Saturday’s 84-82 loss to the Toronto Raptors. “I’m by myself over there fighting for the rebounds. Usually you got two, three guys inside the paint so it’s a little bit different without Nene being at the four.”

Nene, who started alongside Gortat as the power forward, missed Saturday because of a left calf strain. Even though his career rebounding numbers are modest (6.6), Nene tends to clear the traffic around the rim to allow Gortat to rebound.

Of course, last season Gortat wasn’t happy on the offensive end because being on the floor with Nene being there clogged the paint and caused difficulty for him, as well as John Wall on drives, to operate. The idea of moving Nene to the bench and sliding in someone who has three-point ability into that role opens the floor but usually comes at the cost of rebounding.

The Wizards are 6-8 and struggling with their identity, and minus-28 in rebounds during this four-game losing streak. Playing the old way got them to the Eastern Conference semifinals two years in a row.

Kris Humphries had started every game at power forward as his three-point shooting evolved but has only made one deep ball in the last five games. For the first time Jared Dudley, who is undersized at 6-7 and was a teammate of Gortat’s with the Phoenix Suns, started there Saturday. He had seven points and four rebounds.

“Jared is a different player. He’s giving a lot to the team. I love to play with him,” Gortat said. “But just as Jared is giving us offensively great opportunities, we’re suffering on rebounds a little bit. It is what it is.

“Coach [Randy Wittman] is still looking for the right guy at the four spot. … It’s tough. Everybody has to do more now, including me. It’s not easy.”


No. 3:LeBron saves day, J.R.’s D — A late-game mistake nearly torpedoed the generally good defensive work that Cleveland’s J.R. Smith turned in on Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson. But LeBron James‘ late-game heroics averted that particular disaster on a night in which the two Cavaliers – a study in contrasts in so many ways, in demeanor and drive – were their team’s best story. Dave McMenamin of saw it as further steps in the championship contender’s progress toward the goal:

There they stood next to each other in the back corner of the Cavaliers’ locker room Saturday: one with aspirations of being known as the G.O.A.T., the other narrowly avoiding becoming the goat for the night, thanks to his ambitious friend hitting a game winner that absolved his defensive sin in the previous possession.

For James, there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary about his final stat line of 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists or anything too outlandish about him hitting the clincher; he has done it plenty of times before. But it was the nature of his final shot — an eight-foot, driving hook shot over the 7-foot Brook Lopez — that made it unique.

“I don’t think I’ve ever made a game winner off one of those,” James said. “I’ve made layups. I’ve made pull-ups. Obviously I’ve made step-back jumpers. I’ve probably never made one of those for a game winner. So, I might go to the skyhook next time. … Brook, he did not think in his wildest years that I was going to shoot that one.”

For Smith, unfortunately, there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary about his ill-advised foul on Joe Johnson’s 3-point attempt with 15.2 seconds left and the Cavs leading by three. Smith has committed mental mistakes by fouling in inappropriate situations before, be it Friday night against Charlotte on a Nicolas Batum 3 or the mountain of miscues he had late in Game 2 of the Finals. But it was his overall defensive effort — a career-high four blocks, three steals and the primary defensive assignment on Johnson to begin with — that warrants mentioning

“I know as long as I can bring that enthusiasm and toughness on the defensive end, then we will have a better chance of winning than if I’m just making shots,” Smith said. “I have to be a two-way player.”

It could be seen as troubling that Cleveland needed the double-rainbow-like performance to win a home game against a Brooklyn team that’s now 3-13. There could be legitimate points made about Cleveland’s big-man trio of Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao and Timofey Mozgov — making a combined $28.7 million this season — combining on the court for just 12 points on 5-for-18 shooting, 20 rebounds and six turnovers against the Nets. There certainly has been a bit of hand-wringing among team observers wondering when the on-court product would actually look as good as the Cavs’ 13-4 record is.

The flip side to that: You have developments such as Smith becoming a key cog in Cleveland’s fourth-quarter, switch-everything defensive lineups and encouraging quotes such as James crediting coach David Blatt for the “designed play.” However, Blatt passed the praise to his star player, saying, “Just the way I drew it up. … Give it to No. 23.”

Like James and Blatt’s relationship, or Smith’s commitment to something other than taking contested jump shots to James putting in so much time in practicing a specialized shot such as that running hook that he would actually feel confident enough to use it in crunch time, Cleveland’s season goals are all about growth.


No. 4:McCollum’s audience of 1 — When Portland shooting guard C.J. McCollum sank the first four shots he took against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Trail Blazers’ eventual home victory Saturday, he simply was following instructions. His own instructions. Turns out, McCollum – who scored 19 points in the first half and finished with 28 points as Portland won for the third time in four games – had given himself a rather demanding pep talk before the game and Jason Quick of was on hand to witness it:

It was a mostly silent Moda Center when CJ McCollum took the court about two hours before Saturday’s Trail Blazers game. The music had yet to start blaring from the speakers above, and there were only a limited amount of players on the court.

It was quiet enough to hear McCollum engage in what would be an important conversation … with himself.

“Get up!” McCollum told himself as he attempted a shot.

The next shot, it was the same thing. “Get up!’’

And so it went for the next 15, 20 minutes.

“Get up!” … Swish … “Get up!” … Swish.

Nearly every shot was accompanied by a reminder to both get arc under his shot, and lift from his legs.

“Sometimes, my shot is a little flat,’’ McCollum said. “I’m shooting more of a line drive, so I just remind myself that I’ve got to get it up.’’

McCollum, who is averaging 20.4 points while shooting 46 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range, says he often talks to himself during shooting routines. Usually, he talks to himself in his mind during morning sessions at the team’s practice facility. Other times, he is more audible. Either way, he find the personal reminders offer “positive reinforcement.”

“We shoot so many shots that sometimes, you baby it, hold back a little bit,’’ McCollum said. “So I remind myself to get it up, let it go.’’


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: It has taken the proverbial New York minute for the Knicks and their fans to swap out the question mark after Kristaps Porzingis‘ name with an exclamation point, and our man Lang Whitaker tells the tale of New Yorkers’ newfound 7-foot-3 source of hope and optimism … Detroit coach and basketball boss Stan Van Gundy had center Andre Drummond in his crosshairs, asking more from the big man who has given the Pistons so much this season, at least in terms of gaudy rebounding numbers. … Here’s some video of Kobe Bryant on that kid McCollum’s growth in Portland, on the young Lakers and on the inevitable march of time. … Here at HangTime HQ, we can’t remember the last time Father Time grabbed 18 rebounds in a game but we do know when San Antonio’s Tim Duncan most recently accomplished that. … The Bulls need Derrick Rose to play more like Derrick Rose, especially when trying to score, though some doubt he’ll ever quite make it back. … Did someone say back? That’s what Rockets fans wonder, while waiting for Donatas Motiejunas to come back in his recovery from back surgery. … ICYMI, this Philadelphia 76ers fan’s lament does some serious Sixers ‘splaining. … The way Brook and Robin Lopez mock-bicker and tease each other – over their cats, their personalities, you name it – you might find yourself wishing they were conjoined rather than merely identical twins.

Morning shootaround — Nov. 28

VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from Friday’s action


Warriors just keep winning | Jackson returns to OKC | Heat embracing life after LeBron | Davis goes down

No. 1: Warriors just keep winning The Golden State Warriors went into Phoenix Friday night with their historic season-opening winning streak on the line. Seventeen wins in a row? No problem, apparently, as the Warriors cruised to a 19-point win, 135-116, and keeping their streak alive. This included a typically impressive 41-point effort from Stephen Curry, who didn’t even get off the bench in the fourth quarter. What made this win even more outrageous, writes ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss, is that the Warriors didn’t even play particularly well, and yet they still won easily …

Here’s an illustration of what’s terrifying about the 17-0 Warriors, aside from the fact they’re 17-0. On Friday night, Golden State was torched on defense, ceding 116 points on 92 shots to the host Phoenix Suns. The Warriors were sloppy on offense, lousy with unforced errors, coughing it up 23 times. A bad game for them, in a few respects.

Still, they won by 19, 135-116. Also, they didn’t even need to play Stephen Curry in the fourth quarter. As in, the game ceased being competitive after three stanzas. The Suns were done. An unholy torrent of 3-point shooting had snuffed them. In his three quarters, Curry delivered 41 points and nine 3-pointers. The team set a record, splashing 22 from deep.

The Suns went small, attempting to best Golden State at its preferred style. What resulted was an aesthetically pleasing, fast-forwarded look at basketball. Phoenix already had dug a hole by then and couldn’t keep pace with Golden State in rhythm, hitting so many 3s. The Suns had a great night beyond the arc, draining 10 3-pointers on 26 attempts. Other teams just aren’t supposed to top that figure by 12.

Golden State, despite all the “streak” questions, continues to focus on process. Interim coach Luke Walton said, “We turned the ball over too much, we still have to get better at that.” Breakout All-Star candidate Draymond Green, who claimed a triple-double Friday, said, “I don’t think our performance was great tonight. You can’t let fool’s gold fool you.” It makes sense. The Warriors hit some 3s they won’t usually hit. They need to tighten up, fix certain things that might hurt them later.

If it’s fool’s gold though, what glitters still has to make other teams shiver with woe. Curry was brilliant, which would seem redundant, possibly even boring, if not for his propensity to unveil a new trick every game. This time, with Ronnie Price attempting to pressure him, Curry evoked three gasps on one play from the “away” crowd. First, with a behind-the-back dribble that left Price grasping. Then, with a pump fake that sent Price flying. And finally, the punctuating swish. Gasp. Gasp. Gasp. Cheer.

“Afterward, it felt like a neutral site game at that point,” Curry said of what his play did to the crowd.

So when will the Warriors lose? It could be sooner rather than later because of an injury to Harrison Barnes. While subbing at center, Barnes’ ankle gave way when he landed on Markieff Morris. The team says it’s a sprain and that X-rays are negative. Still, the expectation is he will miss some time, and Golden State will be without its dominant “death lineup” of Green-Barnes-Andre IguodalaKlay Thompson-Curry. That could end the streak, as could the basic law of averages. No team goes undefeated, no matter how great.


No. 2: Jackson returns to OKC It may not have been on the level of, say, LeBron James returning to Cleveland with Miami for the first time, but Friday night saw a significant homecoming nonetheless. Last season, former Thunder guard Reggie Jackson made his displeasure at his back-up role known, and was traded to Detroit, where he signed a long-term deal and has become an integral part of their core. With the Pistons in Oklahoma City last night, the Thunder seemed happy to get the big win, 103-87, and make something of a statement along the way, writes The Oklahoman‘s Erick Thorne

Former Thunder guard Reggie Jackson didn’t leave Oklahoma City on the best of terms.

Kevin Durant wasn’t afraid to say it.

“It was tough. I didn’t like some of the stuff he said in the media and how he went about it,” Durant said Friday before the Thunder’s 103-87 win over Jackson’s Detroit Pistons. “… But at the end of the day you’ve got to respect a guy who wants that opportunity and I can appreciate a guy who wants that opportunity.”

The Pistons were able to offer Jackson the opportunity he wanted to become a starting point guard, and rewarded him with a five-year, $80 million contract in July. Jackson was dealt to the Detroit in February after not being able to agree with the Thunder on a contract extension and following a report that his agent requested a trade out of OKC. The trade landed the Thunder Enes Kanter, as well as Steve Novak, Kyle Singler and D.J. Augustin.

Jackson, who called Friday night’s tilt against the Thunder “just another game,” was asked if he had any regrets about how his tenure in Oklahoma City ended.

“I don’t look back to last year,” Jackson said. When asked if there was regret that the Thunder didn’t get over the top, the one thing Jackson said he does look back on is “four years and I don’t have a ring.

“But like I said, I’m focused on the season so I can reflect in the summer,” Jackson said.

When asked if the trade was beneficial for both Jackson and the Thunder, Durant said he never really thought about it that way.

“We’ve got a really great team, we’ve got some great guys back. Reggie’s doing well in Detroit,” Durant said. “We had a rough ending last year with Reggie, but I can just think about when he first got here how hard he worked, how great of a teammate he is, and every guy wants an opportunity.”


No. 3: Heat embracing life after LeBron — It’s going on two seasons now since LeBron James left South Beach to return to his native Ohio. And while last season the Heat battled injuries and a major mid-season trade, this year the expectations are higher for the Heat, including from the Heat themselves. As Michael Lee writes for Yahoo, the Heat are actively looking at their legacy in the post-James era …

“I expect to be in the playoffs every year from now on,” Chris Bosh told Yahoo Sports. “We want it. After my ordeal last year, it’s a lot easier grinding it out, having a good time, playing out your dreams. It’s tough, but it’s a lot of glory in it. That’s what we’re about. People remember your name. And for me personally, it’s a chance to write our legacy without Bron, to be honest.”

LeBron James was better off without Miami than the other way around in their first season apart. While James flourished in his return to Cleveland, making his fifth consecutive NBA Finals run, the Heat floundered through an injury-plagued campaign in which trouble lurked around nearly every corner. Despite unearthing a rebounding and shot-blocking gem in Hassan Whiteside and trading for Goran Dragic, a third-team all-NBA guard two years ago in Phoenix, the Heat were doomed to the lottery once Bosh’s season came to an end. But the playoff reprieve had a surprise on the other side as Miami landed a seemingly ready-made contributor in promising rookie Justise Winslow, a defensive menace who won a national title at Duke and was available with the 10th overall selection in the draft.

The Cavaliers at full strength don’t appear to have a capable challenger to supplant James’ reign, but the Heat are certainly one of the more intriguing candidates in a much-improved Eastern Conference. Miami usually finds a way to avoid the recidivist rate of most non-playoff teams, making repeat trips to the lottery once in Pat Riley’s 20 years with the franchise and winning a championship within four years of its past two lottery appearances.

“If you’re not going to win a championship, that whole run through June sucks anyway,” Dwyane Wade said earlier this season. “We weren’t going to win a championship last year, so it wouldn’t matter if we went out in the first round or April 17, when our last game was. That’s kind of what I think at this point in my career. I don’t play to get into the first round of the playoffs. We’re still a young team, together trying to grow. We have a lot of potential and we see that.”

The Heat have the sort of talent that has the potential to be sensational or go sideways.

Wade and Bosh, neighbors and partners on two championship teams, are still capable of special nights but both are north of 30 and can no longer consistently carry teams as they have in the past. Dragic, whom Miami awarded with a five-year, $90 million extension last summer, is still navigating how to be aggressive while serving as the point guard on a team with multiple offensive options. Veteran Luol Deng, 30, has a résumé that includes two all-star appearances, but Tom Thibodeau may have squeezed out the best years of his career in Chicago. Amaré Stoudemire, 33, signed with the Heat believing they gave him the best chance to grab that elusive title, but he is being used sparingly to save him for the postseason.

“If we would’ve been together in our 20s, it would’ve been a real problem,” Stoudemire told Yahoo about teaming with Wade and Bosh, “but as we’ve gotten older, we’ve found ways to still be successful.”


No. 4: Davis goes down The New Orleans Pelicans may have gotten off to a slow start under new coach Alvin Gentry, as they’ve suffered through injuries to nearly everyone, but they got their biggest scare yet last night, when young franchise player Anthony Davis went down with a knee injury following a collision with Chris Paul and had to be carried from the floor. Davis eventually returned to the bench, though not the game, and the Pelicans weren’t thrilled with the injury itself, writes John Reid of …

Davis did not return to play after he was taken to the locker room to be treated. The Pelicans were assessed three technicals following the play in which they apparently thought Paul took a cheap shot to cause the injury.

Pelicans officials said Davis suffered a right knee contusion and he initially was listed as questionable to return. Late in the fourth quarter, Davis returned to the bench, but did not get back in the game.

Davis was in obvious pain after it appeared Paul knocked knees with Davis, who was trying to defend him in transition.Davis fell holding his right knee in pain.

”I wouldn’t had put him back in, it’s not worth the risk,” Alvin Gentry told reporters after the game.

It appeared Paul didn’t avoid trying to collide into Davis near the midcourt lane after Clippers forward Josh Smith blocked Ish Smith‘s layup attempt with 2:48 remaining in the third quarter.

When Gentry was asked what he thought about the play, he said he didn’t have anything to say about it.

”You saw it, so make your own judgement,” Gentry said. ”When you are a great player, they are going to come at you. We just have to match the physicality and find a way to stay off the injured list.”

After the game, Paul admitted that he drew the foul on the play.

”We (Davis and I) knocked knees and I hope he is alright,” Paul said.

Davis’ status for Saturday night’s game against the Utah Jazz has not been determined. Before the injury occurred, Davis played 28 minutes, scored 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting and grabbed six rebounds.

Gentry said they will know more about Davis’ status after he gets evaluated by the Pelicans’ training staff on Saturday. It is the third injury Davis has suffered after the first 16 games.

Davis missed two games earlier this month with a right hip contusion. On Nov. 18, Davis missed the Oklahoma City Thunder game because of a left shoulder injury.

”It’s part of the NBA, he’s hurt and we’ll see where he goes,” Gentry said. ”If he doesn’t play, then we’ll put somebody else in and they’ll have to step up. That’s what it is.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: According to a report, Jahlil Okafor‘s recent incident in Boston wasn’t his late-night altercation … Luke Walton might get credit for the Warriors winning streak after all … No better how bad things get for the Lakers this season, Kobe Bryant won’t be getting benched … If O.J. Mayo and DeMarcus Cousins had a verbal spat earlier this week, Mayo isn’t talking about itJ.R. Smith was thinking of Shaquille O’Neal when he went one-on-one against Frank Kaminsky.

Morning shootaround — Nov. 18

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 17


LeBron: Cavs aren’t as ‘hungry’ as Warriors | Davis’ status for tonight unknown | Kidd: ‘Wouldn’t say we gave up a lot’ in Knight trade

No. 1: LeBron: Cavs aren’t as hungry as Warriors — Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James has tried a few manners of button-pushing to motivate his squad in 2015-16. He’s apparently added another one to his list. After last night’s loss to the Detroit Pistons, a game that the Cavs led by five points with 3 minutes, 49 seconds left, James wasn’t happy the performance. He looked across the conference divide at the Golden State Warriors (who would win last night to move to 12-0) and draw some comparisons between his defending East champs and the defending-champion Warriors. Joe Vardon of the Northeast Ohio Media Group has more:

“We haven’t done anything,” James said, following the Cavaliers’ 104-99 loss to the Detroit Pistons, Cleveland’s second-consecutive loss and third this season. “We didn’t win anything. We lost. We lost in the Finals. So, that’s enough motivation for myself. I think we need to understand that.

“Like, we lost in the Finals. We didn’t win. And the team that beat us looks more hungry than we are. So it shouldn’t be that way.”

Coach David Blatt piled on Tuesday night, saying that the Cavs “need to toughen up.” The Cavs blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter with poor defense, shooting, and turnovers down the stretch.

“I didn’t think we displayed the kind of toughness that made us a team last year,” Blatt said. “I didn’t see that the last two games and we need to toughen up. Every aspect.”

James agreed, adding: “We’re too relaxed and too nice.”

“It’s not always about being Iron Man,” James said. “It’s a mental toughness as well. Going out and doing your job, doing it at a high level and preparing that way before the tip even happens. So, we got some guys who’ll do it and some guys that don’t do it consistently enough.”

On Saturday, James questioned the Cavs’ effort level, calling it “half ass” at times.

Without naming names, James is accusing some teammates of a sense of entitlement, held over from reaching the Finals last season and returning the entire nucleus from that team.

“We shouldn’t feel entitled,” he said. “That’s what I continue to say. We’re not entitled to a win. We’re not entitled to being the Eastern Conference Champions. That’s last year. It’s a totally different year and until we figure that out, we’re going to continue to put ourselves in positions to lose basketball games.”

VIDEO: LeBron James wasn’t happy after the Cavs’ loss to Detroit

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Blogtable: Take your pick — Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond?

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: Advice for the Lakers? | Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond? | Early-season surprise?

VIDEOTake a closer look at Andre Drummond’s hot start to 2015-16

> My initials are A.D. I stand about 6-foot-11, I’m 22-years old and I’m the best big in the NBA. Am I Detroit Pistons big man Andre Drummond or New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Ooh, you’re tricky, Blogfather. But it’s Anthony Davis. His offensive game is much more diversified than Drummond’s, though Drummond is getting better with every minute, I grant you. I need more than a few admittedly great games from the other AD before I overthrow The Brow as the best young big in the L.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comSome might say you’re a bad speller because the best big man in the NBA has the initials D.C. (DeMarcus Cousins) or soon maybe KAT (Karl-Anthony Towns). But for the purposes of this question, I’ll go with Davis. Love Drummond as a paint dominator and his 20-20 games for Detroit definitely are welcome throwbacks in a “strettttch” era. But New Orleans’ cornerstone guy is more versatile, more mobile and more refined as a defender. I’m not wild about having him hoist 3-pointers – as an opponent I’d welcome that compared to other damage Davis could do – but he’s more of a moving target in terms of game-planning to cope with him.

Fran Blinebury, Not to dismiss the strong start to the season by Andre Drummond, but Anthony Davis has more skills at more places all over the court. He’s still the pick as the one player to build a team around.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Anthony Davis. While the start for Andre Drummond has been swimming in positives, Davis is still the better two-way threat. Drummond has the chance to become the best interior presence in the game and Davis the biggest presence, period. If anyone wants to get off the Davis bandwagon after a couple weeks of the season, I’ll take the extra seats.

Shaun Powell, Right now? Andre Drummond, if only because he’s doing a Wilt Chamberlain on the league. This is the Drummond we thought we’d see once the Pistons waived Josh Smith last season and let Greg Monroe go in free agency. That doesn’t mean Anthony Davis isn’t more valuable (he is) or won’t eventually put his name in the Kia MVP discussion (he will). But for now, give Drummond his due.

John Schuhmann, Anthony Davis, because you’re more skilled. Both guys are big and bouncy, with the ability to run the floor, catch and finish, and protect the rim. Drummond is a monster on the glass and has a burgeoning post game, but Davis can step out and make a jumper, which is the most important skill in this league. Coach Stan Van Gundy has done a nice job of building around Drummond, but Davis’ versatility makes that job a little easier.

Sekou Smith, You are Anthony Davis. Yes, you’ve had a rough start to this season and your New Orleans Pelicans just got their first win of the season last night in the Alvin Gentry era. But you don’t have to worry about being tossed of your big man throne after two outlandish weeks from that other AD, who has been nothing short of magnificent for the Pistons. Anytime you find yourself in the same category basketball-wise as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, you’re doing something serious. There might not be as much distance between the two of you in the coming years, but right now Davis still has more to his game than Andre Drummond.

Ian Thomsen, You are Anthony Davis. I opt for you because of your versatility and the current style of NBA play, which is built to bring out the best in you. Drummond, exceptional as he is, is playing against the current and cannot make his free throws. Davis can cover more of the court and will not face matchup problems when opponents go small. In spite of the Pelicans’ inexplicable start, Davis is the guy.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: I’m sorry, how are the initials “A.D.” short for DeMarcus Cousins? Because Cousins is the best young big man in the NBA right now. OK, he’s 25, not 22, but even in the midst of the perpetually in flux situation in Sacramento, Cousins has been a double-double machine. Davis has had plenty of plaudits this summer, though if anything those were based on what we think Davis will become, not what he is right now. And Drummond is playing incredible basketball right now, for sure, but I’d like to see him sustain it more than seven games.

Blogtable: Early-season surprises?

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: Advice for the Lakers? | Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond? | Early-season surprise?

VIDEOHow good can the Timberwolves be in 2015-16?

> We’re two weeks into the new season. What didn’t you foresee in this opening stretch that you maybe should have?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Completely whiffed on Detroit. I thought the Pistons would only be marginally better, but they seemed to have skipped a whole level of improvement. Someone asked me if I thought they’d be top four in the east and I told them they were crazy. Still think I’m right. I think. Andre Drummond‘s numbers are insane but it’s Reggie Jackson that has been the biggest revelation to me so far.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comOpening the season by playing six of your first eight games on the road – including a five-game West Coast trip – is a sure way to sputter, yet I still assumed the best about the Memphis Grizzlies. I’ve enjoyed watching that old-school crew for years now and have gotten comfortable with their status as contenders-on-the-verge-of-breakthrough. But their coach, Dave Joerger, was right when he said last week the Grizzlies were looking a little old. This team didn’t sufficiently address its shooting need in the offseason and now, in this pace-and-space NBA, points are really hard to come by for Memphis. So, frankly, is court coverage based on opponents’ 3-point percentage thus far (40.4). Mario Chalmers as the cure? Not feeling that.

Fran Blinebury, I’ll admit that I didn’t expect Steph Curry and the Warriors come back this season and take their game to an even higher level. After all, they won 67 games en route to the championship and seemed to be at the peak of performance in closing out the Cavs in The Finals. Maybe it is the confidence that comes from having done it. Maybe they’re spurred on a perceived lack of respect and the few folks who picked them to go back-to-back. Maybe they got tired of the summertime talk about the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers in the West. But the reigning Kia MVP Curry has been off-the-charts and the entire Golden State team over-the-moon amazing and could be a real threat to win 70. On the downside, there’s the Pelicans. But nobody saw all the injuries coming.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Deeee-troit basketball. I liked the Pistons a little before the season, figuring they were good enough to be in the playoff conversation but picking them 10th in the East. I thought Andre Drummond would be an All-Star candidate. I did not see this opening statement coming, though. They have been winning on the road, winning on the second night of back-to-backs and winning overtime games, all while continuing the search for shooting. Let’s see where they are at the end of the month, after the current six-game trip ends Sunday and a another series of tests follow, mostly at home. If it’s December and the Pistons are still heading in a good direction, this could be a season of statements.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comThe wise guy response: The Kings haven’t imploded yet? What’s taking them so long? But seriously, the Warriors blowing teams away is something that could’ve been anticipated. Remember, not only did they win the title last season, but did so with players largely on the upside. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green haven’t reached their potential and Curry is the MVP. I’d also give a shout-out to the Pistons’ fast start.

John Schuhmann, That the Minnesota Timberwolves would be able to compete with (and beat) some of the best teams in the league. Ricky Rubio still isn’t a 3-point shooter, and that’s an issue. But I forgot how much of an impact he has on his team’s numbers, especially defensively and especially with Zach LaVine being the only remaining option at point guard when Rubio was hurt last season. I assumed the Wolves would be at the bottom of the Western Conference with the Lakers, but this team should stay in the middle of the pack. I don’t mind saying that I’m surprised by how good Karl-Anthony Towns is already, but I feel dumb not knowing how much of a difference that a healthy Rubio would make.

Sekou Smith, These young Minnesota Timberwolves came out of nowhere for me. Much like their Eastern Conference counterparts in Detroit, the Timberwolves have piled up an intriguing collection of talented youngsters who appear ready for prime time sooner than expected. Andrew Wiggins looks like he’s ready for a breakout season and Karl-Anthony Towns is absorbing every bit of the wisdom Kevin Garnett and coach Sam Mitchell have to offer. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise, though, has been the play and steady guidance of Ricky Rubio. A 4-0 road record so far for a team that won seven road games last season is another positive. And these guys are playing with a spirit that will serve them will this season and beyond.

Ian Thomsen, I should have known that Detroit would be stronger. There have been a lot of early surprises — for better in Minnesota, Utah and Portland, and for worse in New Orleans and Memphis — which might not hold up over the length of the season. But Detroit is going to be respectable all year long because coach Stan Van Gundy is a proven winner who will get the best out of Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and their teammates. He has created a floor-spreading system that has served him well before.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: I didn’t think the Atlanta Hawks would be better than they were last season. And after watching them early on, I think the Atlanta Hawks are better than they were last season. Sure, they lost DeMarre Carroll and Pero Antic, and they may not win 60 games again, but this Hawks team is deeper, more versatile, and I think altogether more talented than last year’s team. Part of that is the emergence of Kent Bazemore, who is a capable defender and skilled offensive player, as well as the acquisition of Tiago Splitter, who still doesn’t seem totally in sync with the team but gives the Hawks needed size and bulk. The rest of the Eastern Conference may have improved, but for a team that so highly values player development, I’m not sure why we didn’t suspect that these Hawks would return with sharpened talons, too.

Morning shootaround — Oct. 30

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 29


Nash’s big moment in Phoenix arrives | Report: Pistons to retire jerseys of Billups, Wallace | Cuban downplays rivalry with Clippers | Carlisle: Williams’ return unknown

No. 1: Nash gets his moment in sun in Phoenix — Tonight, during halftime of the Phoenix Suns’ home game against the Portland Trail Blazers (10:30 ET, League Pass), former two-time MVP Steve Nash will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor. To call this a big event for the franchise is to vastly undersell it as Nash’s impact on the team revitalized the franchise at a low point and also, helped spark an offensive revolution of sorts in the NBA over the last decade. ( alone has Q&A’s with Nash’s old teammates, his former coach, Mike D’Antoni, a two-part hour-long special on Nash’s career and more.) One observer who was part of Nash’s golden age with the Suns in the 2000s, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, tries to put into context a player who meant so much to so many:

From draft-night boos to “We want Steve” curtain-call chants. From a bloody nose to a swollen-shut eye.

From flying hair to finger-licking free throws. From a sweet shot with a soft touch to a sweet side with a soft spot.

From the nickname “Two-Time” (for his MVP awards) to the Ring of Honor now to the Hall of Fame later.

Dallas borrowed him, but this Canadian snowbird is eternally colored in purple and orange for 10 winters in Phoenix that produced a franchise rebirth. Friday night, Nash the basketball retiree returns, stirring memories of every other version of No. 13.

Entering his prime belatedly at age 30, Nash redefined point-guard play, combining with the offensive genius of coach Mike D’Antoni, who put his stamp on changing tempo, spacing and lineup innovation.

“It was the start of what we see now by the majority of teams in the league,” Nash said of the 62-20 season. “The style was new. The speed and pace was shocking people. They had a hard time adjusting.”

“Sometimes, I watch what (Stephen) Curry is doing and think, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy is incredible,’” said Nash, now a player development consultant for Golden State. “But in that Dallas series, it was kind of similar. It was a great will to win the series. It was obviously personal for me – not in a vindictive way, but a personal way.”

Nash made the Suns the NBA’s most efficient offense for six seasons and remained an All-Star at age 38. That included another vengeful moment in 2010, when he shot 56 percent and averaged 22 points and eight assists to lead a Suns sweep of the San Antonio team that had ousted his Suns from three previous postseasons. That Suns team had the NBA’s most prolific offense per possession in three decades.

Think Nash edged Shaquille O’Neal for MVP by the benefit of his surrounding talent in 2005? In the next season, he repeated the MVP feat over Kobe Bryant even after losing each starting teammate except Shawn Marion.

The Suns won 54 games and again reached the conference finals during the first of Nash’s four 50-40-90 seasons. The only other player to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent on 3-pointers and 90 percent at the free-throw line in a season multiple times is Larry Bird, who did it twice. The only other point guard to be a repeat MVP was Magic Johnson.


His background in soccer, hockey and lacrosse gave him unique vision to go with underrated athleticism. Nash was cognizant to keep all of his teammates involved and they learned to be on their toes for passes that would come around his back, underhanded, ambidextrously or through defender’s legs.

Nash showed both strength of his game in a classic 2006-07 season duel with Jason Kidd, whose 38 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists were outdone by Nash’s 42 points, 13 assists and six rebounds with a clutch 3-pointer that saved a double-overtime Suns road win.

For pure passing, the quintessential game came in that season’s first-round playoff series. Nash dished out 23 assists against the Lakers and tied an NBA playoff record with 15 in the first half.

“When you’re at this stage of your life, I’m like, ‘Man, I used to do that? What?’” Nash said. “You forget. Those type of nights happened quite a lot.”

VIDEO: A look back at Steve Nash’s glory days in Phoenix

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Morning shootaround — Oct. 23

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 22


Clarkson injured in finale | Noah OK with bench role | Johnson unlikely to start for Pistons | Why ‘Jimmer Mania’ never caught on in NBA

No. 1: Clarkson injured in preseason finale; Scott expects Bryant to go in opener — The Los Angeles Lakers are just days away from a fresh season that, hopefully, can help them erase last season’s disastrous campaign. One of the few bright spots from last season was point guard Jordan Clarkson, an eventual All-Rookie First Team performer. Clarkson will be counted on heavily this season, which made last night concerning for the Lakers. He left the team’s preseason finale against the Golden State Warriors with a right shoulder sprain that will require an MRI today. Lakers stalwart Kobe Bryant missed the preseason close-out game, but on a bright note, he’s expected to go in the season-opener.

Here’s a look at how/when Clarkson’s injury occurred …

VIDEO: Jordan Clarkson injures his shoulder vs. Warriors’s Baxter Holmes has more on what’s next for Clarkson and Bryant:

Lakers coach Byron Scott said he still expects the 37-year-old Bryant, who is in his 20th season with the Lakers, to play in the team’s regular-season opener Oct. 28 against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center.

“There’s no doubt in my mind [that he’ll play in that game],” Scott said before his team faced the Warriors on Thursday. “Talking to him [Thursday], he said he’s just gearing up for Wednesday. I said, ‘Good, because that’s what I’m gearing up for as well.’ There’s no doubt in my mind. It will take a whole lot to keep him out of that game.”

However, starting guard Jordan Clarkson’s status for the opener is now in question after he left Thursday’s game in the second quarter with what the team called a sprained right shoulder. Clarkson did not return to the game and was scheduled to receive an MRI on Friday.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Scott said, although Clarkson said he expects to play Wednesday.

Scott said he first noticed Clarkson was favoring his shoulder early in the game, and so Scott asked Lakers trainer Gary Vitti to examine Clarkson.

“[Vitti] basically told me [Clarkson’s shoulder] came out and went back in, whatever that means,” Scott said.

VIDEO: Jordan Clarkson talks about his shoulder injury after Thursday’s game

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Morning shootaround — Oct. 21

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 20


Buss defends Bryant extension | Aldridge: Kobe was bright spot in Lakers’ pitch | Drummond passes on extension | Noah a sixth man in 2015-16?

No. 1: Buss defends Bryant extension, fires back at Johnson — Los Angeles Lakers executive Jim Buss has not lacked in the critics department. From analysts to ex-Lakers players to fans, many have questioned the moves Buss has made in steering the Lakers back into relevance, let alone NBA title contention. One such move that is questioned was Buss giving Kobe Bryant a two-year, $45.8 million extension in 2013. Since then, injuries have limited Bryant to 41 games (out of a possible 164). But Buss stands by his move and explains why in an interview with USA Today‘s Sam Amick:

The Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations made it clear that he has no regrets about the controversial contract.

“You give Kobe Bryant $50 million for two years,” Buss told USA TODAY Sports in a wide-ranging interview. “Are you kidding me? What did he bring us? In this day and age, what did he bring us, for 20 years? And if that isn’t what you’re supposed to do, then I have no idea what life is all about.

“You pay the guy. You believe in the guy. If he ends up (staying healthy), that’s fantastic. Well everybody (in the media) cut me up for that, but I’d say over 200 fans have come up to me and said, ‘Thank you so much for letting my kid see Kobe Bryant for two more years.’ And I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m glad I can see him for two more years.’ ”

Even now, as the Lakers approach the start of their latest regular season, Bryant is missing preseason games because of a left leg contusion suffered against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.

Give Buss credit for this much: He’s transparent about how he sees the Bryant deal. Yes, there was a lifetime achievement factor, with the Buss family deciding not only to pay Bryant in the future but to honor him for his past. And to anyone who dares bring up the piece from a year ago that so strongly suggested Buss was eager for Bryant to head for the exits so the Lakers’ rebuild could begin in earnest, he is quick to condemn the concept.

“It’s (BS), that’s exactly what that was,” he fired back when asked about the ESPN the Magazine article. “The organization absolutely loves him. You know why? Because he has made a living, as we (have) with the Lakers for the last 20 years, because of this man. Magic Johnson carried us (to) this part (of their history) … and Kobe Bryant has carried us for 20 years. So every person that works in that organization, why would they hate him? Why would they want him out of there? There’s only a basketball or a Kobe hater that would want that. There’s no other reason.”

He laughs.

“You can’t justify (being anti-Bryant),” Buss continued. “If you’re a secretary or a mail room executive or whatever, you can’t justify saying you don’t want Kobe there. He gets a thousand pieces of mail a day, so that keeps your job.”

Additionally, Buss took on one of his biggest critics, former Lakers star Magic Johnson, and had this to say:

“Magic Johnson going nuts on me?” Buss said with a laugh. “It’s like, ‘Really, dude? My dad made you a billionaire almost. Really? Where are you coming from?’ ”

Johnson — who sold his share of the Lakers in 2010 and two years later led the ownership group that paid $2 billion for the Los Angeles Dodgers — earned approximately $43 million during his playing days and has been wildly successful in the business sector ever since (a 2011 Forbes report estimated his net worth at $525 million). In the grander sense, though, it’s well-chronicled that late owner Jerry Buss‘ impact on Johnson went well beyond basketball.

“Dr. Buss gave me the platform to be Magic,” Johnson told the Los Angeles Times in Feb. 2013 after Buss’ death. “He gave me the knowledge to be Magic.”

When asked about Buss’ comment, Johnson issued a statement to USA TODAY Sports in response.

“It’s all about winning, Jim,” Johnson said.

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One Team, One Stat: Reggie, Andre and Space to Operate

VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Detroit Pistons’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Detroit Pistons, who found something that works late in the season.

The stat


The context

20151018_det_basicsThe Pistons had the numbers of the league’s best offense and a top-10 defense when Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond were on the floor together without Greg Monroe.

Less than 500 minutes isn’t a big sample, but it likely influenced the Pistons’ decisions this summer. Monroe left for Milwaukee without a fight from Detroit and Stan Van Gundy put together a roster that probably won’t ever have two non-floor-spacing bigs on the floor at the same time.

Defensively, the Pistons were more mobile and active with just one true big man on the floor last season, forcing a lot more turnovers while not giving up anything on the glass.


Offensively, with a floor-spacer at power forward, the court was more open for Jackson to attack. After averaging 8.3 drives per 36 minutes with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Jackson drove almost twice as often with just one big man on the floor in Detroit.


Jackson’s teams scored 1.23 points per possession when he drove. That mark was even with that of LeBron James and ranked 15th among 65 players with at least 300 drives last season.

This summer, the Pistons replaced Monroe with Ersan Ilyasova, a floor-spacing power forward who has shot 40 percent from 3-point range over the last four years. Ilyasova will be a better complement to Jackson/Drummond pick-and-rolls than Monroe was.

Again, we’re looking at only 409 minutes of data and the Pistons obviously won’t be as good over a full season. But last year’s numbers are an indication that Jackson and Drummond operate better with more space and that Detroit could be one of the most improved teams in the league this season.

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

Van Gundy: Odom ‘doesn’t deserve this’

CHICAGO – Add Stan Van Gundy to the long list of NBA players, coaches and front-office personnel shaken by the news of Lamar Odom‘s fight for life in a Las Vegas hospital. Van Gundy coached Odom when both were with the Miami Heat in 2003-04.

It was Van Gundy’s first season as an NBA head coach and Odom made an indelible impression on him, both as his best player (17.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 4.1 apg) and as a person.

“All of us who had the privilege of working with Lamar, we’re all in the same place right now,” Van Gundy told reporters Wednesday, before his Detroit Pistons’ preseason game against the Bulls at United Center. “I’m reading comments online. It’s occupying everybody’s mind right now. It’s hard to get away from thinking about it.

“He really was – I don’t mean was in the sense that he’s gone, I just mean as a player – one of my all-time favorites. I’ve said that numerous times. Not only a great player but a great teammate that everybody enjoyed being around.”

The two have maintained a relationship through the years, with Van Gundy well aware of the tragedies and harsh twists that have befallen Odom. Even his reality-TV marriage to Khloe Kardashian, something to ogle and discard for so many viewers, turned sad and heartbreaking, in the opinion of some who know Odom.

“I think we’ve all felt bad for everything that’s happened to him over the last three or four years,” Van Gundy said. “Now this is the worst. It’s just really rough thinking about it. The guy’s had such … a hard life in a lot of ways and still was such a positive person. He just doesn’t deserve this. He really doesn’t. And it’s really, really sad. Tough to deal with.”

Chicago forward Pau Gasol teamed with Odom on the Lakers for three-plus seasons (2008-2011), reaching the Finals three times and winning two NBA championships together. Gasol said after Wednesday’s game that he hadn’t been able to keep in touch with Odom in recent years, but the moments they shared while in Los Angeles made this a difficult day.

“We had a very special bond,” Gasol said. “We played off each other a lot. We finished most games or all games together. … It was really fun to play and we had an incredible respect for each other. We just played so well together. It’s hard.

“It’s an emotional day for me. Just trying to keep it together. Hopefully he’ll come back and recover well. … It’s just really, really sad that a person with that type of a heart and talent has gone through so much. It breaks my heart.”