Posts Tagged ‘Doc Rivers’

Clippers’ Jamal Crawford On Quite A Run


VIDEO: Jamal Crawford runs wild in the Clippers’ win over the Thunder

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Jamal Crawford‘s had some big weeks, but he has yet to win the NBA’s Player of the Week award. Jordan Crawford has. So it goes.

Jamal Crawford, though, is having one helluva February and should be a leading candidate for the league’s monthly award in the Western Conference.

Ah heck, who are we kidding? He won’t win it. Just like when the West coaches didn’t put him on the All-Star team last season for what would have been the first time of his career. And like when a panel of genius writers and broadcasters later crossed him over for the 2013 Sixth Man of the Year award and handed it to the clown prince of New York, J.R. Smith.

And now, get this: Crawford’s played so well this season, been so steady, so reliable, so needed that he’d win Sixth Man hands down. But … he’s out of the mix because he’s been forced into the Los Angeles Clippers’ starting lineup way too often — 22 times and counting — as an injury reinforcement.

So, as for the West Player of the Month? LeBron James having his mug being chiseled on the actual Mount Rushmore has better odds. Nah, the monthly honor will probably go to Kevin Love or Kevin Durant. Maybe James Harden or even Crawford’s rather deserving teammate, Blake Griffin. Those four, plus James and Carmelo Anthony over in the East, are the only guys averaging more points this month than Crawford’s 25.2. All-Stars, every last one of them. And not a single one of them’s even hit 30.

Hey, it’s cool. It’s just where would the Clippers be right now without their soon-to-be-34-year-old (March 20) shooting guard with the sick, launch-from-anywhere rainbow 3, and the insanely deft handle?

Not 39-20. Not holding down the No. 4 playoff spot.

“I don’t want to toot my own horn,” Crawford said Sunday night after dropping 36 points, including several timely 3-pointers and a late, backbreaking floater, on the Oklahoma City Thunder. “I think I’ve been a professional, honestly. Starting, coming off the bench, being ready at all times, I pride myself on that.”

Here’s Crawford’s stellar season-to-date statistics: 31.0 mpg, 19.1 ppg, 3.3 apg, 2.3 rpg, 42.1 percent shooting overall, 37.2 percent from deep and 85.9 percent from the stripe.

And here’s his numbers through 10 games in February: 36.5 mpg, 25.2 ppg, 4.0 apg, 2.4 rpg, 48.8 percent shooting overall, 41.1 percent from deep and 90.4 percent from the stripe.

Even better: With Crawford on the floor in February, the Clippers’ offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) soars to 121.6 and when he sits it drops to 102.6 — a 19-point cliff dive.

Crawford’s explosion helps explain the Clippers’ rise as the No. 1 offense in the league this month, boasting an offensive rating of 115.1 and averaging 113.9 ppg, even with Chris Paul reintegrating himself into the lineup and playing only six of the 10 games. L.A.’s playing quicker, getting in transition more and the Thunder win was a shining example with 27 of its 34 fastbreak points coming in a 72-point first half. The Clippers’ pace (possessions per 48 minutes) is at a season-high clip in February, 99.35, compared to December’s previous high of 97.81.

Asked Sunday if he’s considered moving Crawford back to the bench to give some punch to a lacking second unit even with would-be starter J.J. Redick still hurt, coach Doc Rivers literally couldn’t have swatted the question back quicker.

“No,” Rivers said. “That’s not a consideration, I can tell you that. He helps the starters too much. If you’re going to help one group or the other, I’m going to pick the starting group.”

In just the last two games, huge back-to-back road wins at Oklahoma City and New Orleans to get to 16-15 away from Staples Center, Crawford, in his 14th season and somehow on his fifth team in the last six seasons (second in a row with the Clips) —  scored 60 points, buried a dozen 3s, shot 56.8 percent overall and dropped nine dimes.

Really, this run started in January, not February. During the 18 games Paul missed with a separated shoulder from early January to just before the All-Star break, Crawford posted 22.0 ppg, 5.0 apg, 2.7 rpg and shot 39.3 percent from beyond the arc. The Clippers held steady, going 12-6.

Crawford hasn’t missed a game this season. As a starter he averages about 10 more minutes a game, yet in Crawford’s perfect world, Redick would start Wednesday against the Rockets — he won’t, and is out for weeks yet — and Crawford would come firing off the bench.

“J.J.’s our best shooter,” Crawford said. “Whenever he comes back it makes us that much more lethal, it opens up the floor. I can’t wait till he comes back because I get a chance to go back to the bench.”

Is a Most Invaluable Player award something to look into?

Building Trust, Clippers Believe They’re Coming Together For Stretch Run


VIDEO: Jamal Crawford leads the Clippers past the Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY – It’s taken nearly three-quarters of the season, but it seems the Los Angeles Clippers, through injury and inconsistency and now with trade deadline rumors buried, are forging the most important bond a team can form: Trust.

“This is our team,” Chris Paul said. “If we’re going to win it all this is who we’re going to do it with, so if we can’t get on one another and understand that we have one common goal … that’s what winning teams do, they understand it’s nothing personal.

“Our team, we talk a lot more than we used to in the past, try not to leave anything unsaid. We’re a family and we play like that.”

Paul is strengthening his trust in coach Doc Rivers and in forward Blake Griffin. Griffin’s developing greater trust in Paul and, as in Sunday’s 125-117 road win at the Oklahoma City Thunder that required a push of crunch-time execution to complete the job, the Clippers (38-20) are learning to trust in the system.

Perhaps most crucial to success is the bond between L.A.’s two All-Stars. And while no one wishes injury upon anyone, the separated shoulder that sidelined Paul for five weeks until right before the All-Star break may have served a greater purpose.

Griffin, the evolving, 24-year-old power forward, uncorked a phenomenal stretch, and while he remains well under the radar as an MVP candidate behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James, his all-around performances were central to the Clippers going 12-6 without Paul, the league’s assist leader and almost universally regarded as the top point guard in the game.

“The biggest thing is you see me and Blake’s relationship, we talk all game long,” said Paul, who said he didn’t expect to play against the Thunder because of a badly swollen right thumb, yet accumulated 18 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds and one turnover in 39 minutes. “I think we both realize how much we need each other. When I was out I got a chance to really see his growth and how dominant he is. So me, I’m out there to facilitate and pick my spots, but we’re really starting to get that chemistry at the right time.”

Griffin was the youthful, hopeful face of a downtrodden franchise. Paul arrived as the savior. There have been whispers throughout their now three seasons together about whether they liked one another, whether they could play together and succeed together. Griffin said Paul’s absence helped him grasp his larger importance to the team and to emerge with a stronger voice.

“It’s been important for us as a team to learn to have to play without him because I think at times we relied a little bit too much on him,” Griffin said. “At the end of games you kind of think, ‘OK, we have the ball and it’s in our guy’s hands and we’re just going to kind of let him do his thing. I think we really had to rely on our system.

“And for me, really, taking a different approach as far as being a leader for our team and having a little bit more vocal approach with him out, I think it was good for me.”

The Clippers trusted in the system and stuck with it at both ends after blowing a 15-point lead, 95-80, with 2:14 left in the third quarter and taking only a 99-93 margin into the fourth quarter.

Kevin Durant’s 3-pointer gave him a game-high 42 points (with 10 assists) and put the Thunder ahead 115-112 with 2:43 left in the game.

From there, the Clippers closed it out with a 13-2 run in which Paul, Griffin — who didn’t have his best game, but fought through foul trouble for 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists — and Jamal Crawford (36 points and five 3-pointers) combined for the final flurry.

It was a significant win for a team that only evened its road record at 15-15 and hadn’t beaten a top tier team away from Staples Center since Houston way back in November. The Clippers had already stumbled twice out of the All-Star break while reintegrating Paul — much as the Thunder are doing now with Russell Westbrook — including losing at home to a San Antonio team without Tony Parker and then a couple nights later at nemesis Memphis.

On Sunday afternoon they beat OKC’s fourth-rated defense badly in the first half in transition and throughout the game with a 3-ball that was expected to be prolific for them this season, but hasn’t. Matt Barnes went 6-for-10 from deep, and the Clippers believe when J.J. Redick is ready to return (likely before the playoffs) that they’ll finally be the team they always thought they would be — playing with pace, spreading the floor, rolling to the bucket for dunks and launching 3s for quick, momentum-turning scoring bursts.

“It’s funny [we’ve been] trying to get Matt to run to the corners all year and now he’s doing it, and that’s a good shot for him, we can get it in transition,” Rivers said. “And when he does run there, that’s why D.J. [DeAndre Jordan] gets the dunks because the guards have to make a choice, take D.J. or leave the guy in the corner, and it’s really helped us.”

The question facing the Clippers: Can they build off this singular victory as they head into the final 24 games? Paul said they’ll find out Monday night when they play at New Orleans.

Because through 58 games even Rivers said he’s unsure of the kind of team he’s got on his hands.

“I think we know, but I don’t really know,” Rivers said. “We haven’t had a lot of games together. But nobody really cares about it except for us, so we just have to keep working, and if we do get our group together, the minutes that everyone had I have to think it will help our team overall.”


VIDEO: Jamal Crawford talks about the Clippers’ win in Oklahoma City

DeAndre Jordan Driven By Russell Comparison


VIDEO: DeAndre Jordan gets busy on the boards against the Sixers

Before the leprechaun could land on his shoulder and deliver a dinky pipe to the cornea followed by a swift kick to the pot ‘o gold, Doc Rivers said it again.

“I genuinely see traits of Bill Russell,” the Clippers coach stated without hesitation or deep, deep regret.

In DeAndre Jordan. Rivers sees traits of Bill Russell in DeAndre Jordan.

Rivers – the former Celtics coach, the man who said Boston is the place that made him – has made the comparison before, only now Jordan is first in the league in rebounding and fourth in blocks, with first in shooting percentage tossed in for good measure, so who cares if it’s heresy.

Like the Clippers are sweating if Doc will be asked to turn in his Celtics card. All they know is that Jordan is motivated, by the presence of Rivers in general and specifically because of the statement, and playing at a much higher level than when he was getting routinely benched in the fourth quarter in 2012-13 by Rivers predecessor Vinny Del Negro.

Jordan was a longshot all along for the All-Star game this weekend, but could end up leading the league in three categories when anything close to that finish puts him in the preseason mix for the 2015 showcase and Defensive Player of the Year. He will have done it, but Rivers will have made it happen.

“Listen, it’s nice to be compared to Bill Russell,” Rivers said. “I don’t see a negative in that.”

Of course not. There are no negatives to be compared to the definition of winning and the epitome of a center who casts a defensive shadow that can blot out the sun.

It’s insane, though.

“I don’t know why,” Rivers said. “Why can’t you want to be the best? I don’t see why it’s insane.

“I genuinely see traits of Bill Russell. I didn’t say he was Bill Russell. I just think that’s a good thing. What do you see? You see block shots, he’s the (leading) rebounder in the league, he’s blocking everything that comes his way and he changes shots. That’s what Bill Russell does. So that’s been a good thing.”

But… but… but… Bill Russell!

“Again, I think it’s a good thing to say,” Rivers said. “The guys you talk to, they’ll say that and say, ‘Yeah.’ But there’s a lot of guys that have had the potential. There’s a lot of guys that have had the potential to be Kobe or Michael. And DJ’s following through. He’s really focused on that end and he really believes that that’s his impact. And it really has been. He’s been great.”

He’s been blown away.

“I can only laugh and wish I could kind of carry that guy’s jock strap,” Jordan said. “To be compared with somebody like that, even if Doc’s just joking, I take it to heart because I want to be the best defensive player and the best rebounder and the best chief out there on the floor I can be. I know that Doc instilled that in me.”

Rivers is not joking on this account. More importantly, Jordan knows it.

He met Russell once. Sort of. It was in 2008 at rookie orientation, an annual seminar the NBA holds to help new players transition to the league, often with advice from former standouts. The 11-time champion, five-time MVP, 12-time All-Star was there. They got within conversation distance.

“It was kind of like ‘Aaaaahhhh, I don’t know what to say,’ ” Jordan recalled. “And I just kind of walked away.”

With what Rivers has quickly come to mean to Jordan and understanding what the Celtics mean to the coach, Jordan is humbled. That’s been one reaction. Another is that the comparison motivated him to watch Russell in action more intently than before, leading to another possible impact for the Clippers. Where he once tried to swat shots to the rafters in a statement for opponents, Jordan learned from the old movies that controlling the rejection or directing the ball to a teammate is the better play and more hurtful to the other team. He has specifically been working on that move while already totaling 16 more blocks in 1,937 minutes and 54 games than last season in 2,010 minutes and 82 games.

Clippers In Good Place Despite Problems


VIDEO:  NBA Action shines the spotlight on Doc Rivers

This was never going to be a simple journey under the most normal of circumstances, not after the Clippers traded for a coach, that coach immediately began looking into planning a championship parade – for the Clippers – and Doc Rivers took to saying he saw some Bill Russell in DeAndre Jordan. Talk about daring the heavens to come crashing down.

And now that there have been challenges, so what? Important reserve Matt Barnes missed 18 games with leg and eyes problems, starting shooting guard J.J. Redick was out 21 with a hand/wrist injury, superstar point guard Chris Paul is at 15 and counting because of a separated shoulder, there has been a transition to a new coach and system, rebounding is a problem … and yet they’re actually in a good place.

The Clippers are 34-17 as the All-Star break approaches, in fourth place in the Western Conference, three games out of second, on pace for 55 wins, and peeking through the wreckage to find that no one in the standings has run away from them. For all the problems, there aren’t any.

Quite the opposite. In that locker room, the first half of the season is being embraced and even welcomed as challenging times that will make them better in the second half of building momentum to the playoffs. A little spin control, sure, but also a lot of reality knowing that a good training room will solve what has been the biggest problem.

“I really don’t know what the negatives are,” Rivers said. “I look at our record and our team, I like our team. I love where we’re at. I love the adversity. I think it’s good for us. I think it’ll make us better. I think everything that we’ve gone through, there’s not a negative thing that’s happened. It’ll help team toughness and mental toughness and trusting everybody on the team as a player. I think all that’ll come into play. I think everything’s been good.

“If you’re going to be playing in March, April, May and June, tough things are going to happen. It’s not going to be an easy road; otherwise everyone would do it. Any kind of adversity is a good thing. I think that’s how you should look at it.”

Even with the injuries? Even with long stretches of missed opportunity for a team with several prominent new faces to find a rhythm?

“Yeah, even with that,” Rivers said. “Because other guys are playing. It’s forced our staff to do things differently. I think it’s all good. To me, this is a new group. I think just throwing us in there and trying to figure stuff out on the fly, trusting each other, it’s been a very good thing for us.”

The contenders for the West title at the start of the season still are. Now the Clippers need the stability of a preferred starting lineup, which could happen with Paul’s return in the next week or maybe just after the All-Star break, and also to ride out the current mean-spirited schedule. Seriously, a seven-game Eastern swing (5-2), coming home for one against the Wizards (win), going back out to Oakland (loss), returning to Staples Center for the Jazz (win), and turning around again to go to Denver (loss). They haven’t been in the same city twice in a row since a four-game homestand ended Jan. 15.

And yet, 34-17.

“We know the second half of the year we’re going to be better than we were the first half, with or without injuries,” said Jared Dudley, one of the key offseason acquisitions. “Just because of getting used to each other, getting used to Doc Rivers and how he coaches the schemes.”

They still have about three months before the playoffs. They still have a real chance, and not just to get to know each other.

Griffin’s, Clips’ Rise (Sans Paul) Impresses




VIDEO: Join in on the high-flying fun that is Blake Griffin’s ridiculous highlights

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – In just about any other field, a month like the one Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin has put together would result in one of those employee of the month plaques that hang on an office wall.

Griffin will have to settle for knowing that whatever corner that needed to be turned without Chris Paul in the lineup has been turned, because an insane month from Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant, not to mention a monster first month of 2014 from Portland Trail Blazers All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, has cast a huge shadow over the work of all others.

Still, it’s hard to be anything but extremely impressed with what Griffin has done since Paul went down with a shoulder injury Jan. 3. His January numbers alone, heading into tonight’s showdown against the Golden State Warriors (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT), should force his critics to take another look at the master of highlights and recognize the evolution of his game.

Griffin is playing as well as anyone in a crowded field of quality power forwards, a group headlined by Aldridge, Minnesota’s Kevin Love, Golden State’s David Lee and Miami’s Chris Bosh (who is often left off the short list due to the diminished statistical impact he has on a team with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as the first two options).

And tonight’s matchup against the Warriors gives him a chance to take another shot at a team that has worked overtime to get under his skin and test the Clippers’ mental and intestinal fortitude every chance they get. Griffin and Warriors forward Draymond Green were both ejected from the Warriors’ 105-103 win in Oakland on Christmas.

Griffin has been on an absolute tear since then. He scored 75 points in the two games immediately after that Christmas Day debacle and has destroyed the competition the past month, averaging 25.6 points on 56 percent shooting to go along with 8.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 74 percent from the free throw line.

Perhaps even more startling (and impressive) is that the Clippers lead the league in offensive efficiency since Paul, widely regarded as the league’s most complete floor general, went down. And that was earned against a stiff level of competition that included more top 10 defensive teams (6) than bottom 10 defensive teams (5) during their current run.

All of that is a credit to Griffin as well, now that the offense runs through him more than any other player on the roster. There is no doubt Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick have all stepped up in Paul’s absence. Clippers coach Doc Rivers is touting DeAndre Jordan as an All-Star, and it’s not just hyperbole. Jordan has been spectacular and leads the league in both field goal shooting and rebounding as of today.

“We have a lot of really good players and sometimes guys like Jamal, J.J., DJ some of these guys don’t get the credit they deserve,” Griffin said after Wednesday night’s win over the Washington Wizards. “They are more than capable. I think that’s what we’ve learned about our team, guys will step up and accept challenges and rise to the occasion.”

There is no denying that Griffin’s rise has been the ultimate difference maker for this team, particularly with Paul out of the mix for as long as he has been missing from the lineup.


VIDEO: Blake Griffin talks CP3 and the Clippers after a win ove the Wizards

Morning Shootaround — Jan. 30


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Jan. 29

NEWS OF THE MORNING

OKC’s adjustment pays off vs. Heat | Rivers lobbying for Jordan to be an All-Star | Myers dishes on Warriors’ rebuild

No. 1: OKC’s halftime adjustment proves crucial vs. Miami — In Wednesday night’s much-anticipated Thunder-Heat game from south Florida, OKC found itself down 30-21 after the first quarter. At one point, Miami’s first-half lead swelled to 18 points, but the Thunder rallied and by halftime had a 55-50 lead. How OKC maintained that lead in the second half en route to a 112-95 rout of Miami had a lot to do with coach Scott Brooks‘ decision to sit starting center Kendrick Perkins in the second half and insert Perry Jones, thus giving OKC a quicker (if smaller) lineup that caused Miami fits, writes our own Steve Aschburner:

So, set aside the MVP debate for a while, at least until these teams meet again Feb. 20 in Oklahoma City. Focus a little on the COY — Coach of the Year — because the Thunder’s Scott Brooks accounted for the biggest highlight move of the night.

Understand that Brooks hasn’t had his preferred starting lineup for a while, not with All-Star guard Russell Westbrook (right knee meniscus surgery) sidelined since Christmas. But the one he started Wednesday has been his next-best option, with a record now (15-5) that’s nearly as good as OKC’s ‘A’ team (17-2).

So, coming out of halftime, Brooks pulled a lineup from column C. He sat down center Kendrick Perkins and inserted backup forward Perry Jones. Jones is listed at 6-foot-11 but he’s a quarter-horse compared to Perkins’ Clydesdale and the switch effectively rendered the Thunder small. Serge Ibaka was the default center, Durant the ersatz power forward.

It worked wonders. OKC outscored the two-time defending champions 36-25 in the third quarter. A 91-75 lead ballooned to its max with 8:45 left when the Thunder opened the fourth on a 10-1 run. Miami fans might have learned their lesson in The Finals about leaving early when things look bleak but this time, there really was little reason to stay.

So Perkins/bad, small ball/good was plain to see on this night. But Brooks dared to tinker with a mostly pat hand (Perkins has started all but two games), in a properly ballyhooed game, in front of an ESPN audience. He went with Jones and left him in for all 24 minutes of the second half. He made sure the Thunder used their mobility especially to get back on defense, choking off any Miami notions of transition buckets (OKC won that battle, getting 20 fast-break points to the Heat’s eight).

And he sold it on in real time, with nary a pout – who can tell with Stoneface Perk anyway? – nor a ripple.

“I thought to win this game, we had to make a decision,” Brooks said. “It’s just this game. It’s not something we have to do all the time. Perk brings so much to us. We’re not going to make it a small lineup/big lineup [issue]. ‘We’ won the game. It’s always been about ‘us.’ We have a bunch of guys who are always about ‘team’ and tonight was a prime example of that.”


VIDEO:
OKC fans watch, celebrate the Thunder’s win in Miami

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No. 3: Rivers pushing hard for Jordan to make All-Star team — This time of year, many coaches will lobby other coaches within their  conference to vote for a player as an All-Star reserve. The general thought, though, is that this happens during pregame conversations or informal talks amongst NBA coaches. That’s one level of lobbying. Then there’s what Clippers coach Doc Rivers is apparently doing to get center DeAndre Jordan to the All-Star Game. ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Arash Markazi has more on Rivers’ lobbying efforts:

Before the season began, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said his team had a “big three”: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.Rivers now would like to see his big three in New Orleans for the NBA All-Star Game and has gone as far as lobbying his fellow Western Conference coaches to include Jordan in their vote to make the team as a reserve.

“I got a great response,” Rivers said. “But that’s why you go under a curtain when you’re stumping and they vote real because [they say], ‘Yeah, I’m going to vote for him,’ and then they shift that other lever.”

Rivers said many of the coaches he called said they would vote for Jordan while others said they liked him without saying whether they would include him.

“Yeah,” Rivers said when asked whether he was hopeful Jordan would be named an All-Star. “But it’s a lot of guys at that position.”

Jordan currently is leading the NBA in field goal percentage at .645 and rebounding with a 13.9 per-game average, and is fourth in blocked shots with 2.38 per game. He also is averaging a career-high 9.5 points per game.

“I’m looking forward to [the announcement]; whatever the coaches vote, I’m going to respect it,” said Jordan, who had 14 points and 17 rebounds against the Washington Wizards in a 110-103 win Wednesday night. “If I make it, I make it and I’ll be really excited, but if not, it’s another chip I can add on my shoulder and just continue to keep playing like I’m playing this season.”


VIDEO: Doc Rivers talks about L.A.’s win on Wednesday over the Wizards

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No. 3: Warriors GM dishes on building a contenderJust two seasons ago, Golden State was a 23-win team in the midst of what would become its fifth straight season without the playoffs. Much has changed since then, what with last season’s run to the Western Conference semifinals and this season contender for the Pacific Division crown. BasketballInsiders.com’s Nate Duncan caught up with Warriors GM Bob Myers, who talked in detail about crafting a long-term plan to make Golden State relevant again:

You talked about the timeline. When you came on in roughly early 2011 and then going into that summer and after the lockout, what did you perceive this team’s timeline for contention to be at that point?

Myers: Well what’s left from when I started is our two players, David Lee and Steph Curry. So of the 13 or 14 guys three years ago, we’ve kept two. So it’s a total overhaul of the entire roster, whether it’s through draft, trade or free agency. We have I would say, right now 13 new players in two years, which is a big turnover. Ideally you’d like to have more continuity, but we weren’t having success with the roster that year, obviously. We did believe last year, we hoped we put together a team that could make the playoffs. So our goal this year, last year it was to make the playoffs, this year was to make a good showing in the playoffs, and maybe next year it’s more than that. But we try to be realistic about where we are, we want to go beyond the goal of last year, which was just making the playoffs, and this year maybe advance in the playoffs. Maybe advance further than we did last year. So you’re always trying to build. A lot of things factor into your success in the postseason. We do our best in the front office and as an organization to put together the most talented team, and trust in our coaching staff to develop the players we give them. And then we go from there, and see what happens.

In 2011 you’re 36-46 and there’s this sort of truth, we can debate how truthful that actually is, that you kind of don’t want to be in the middle, that that’s the worst place to be. Was there any thought that you might have to bottom out a little bit to improve in that 2011 timeframe?

Myers: Well, the goal was to upgrade our talent from that team, that was the goal all along. We didn’t have a ton of assets to deal via trade. One of our assets, who happened to be our best player at the time, was Monta Ellis. One of the philosophies of the organization was to get bigger. We really wanted to try and be big. This organization has been small for so long and has had some success in that way, but from ownership on down, we feel like size is imperative to compete consistently in the NBA. So we had an opportunity to trade a guard for a center, and I think those opportunities are rare, and we took advantage of it. And Bogut happened to be hurt at the time. I’m not sure we could have got him if he was healthy. If he was healthy that would have been fine, maybe that would have allowed us to make a push towards the playoffs. But the fact that he was hurt allowed us to see what the team was with a lot of our young assets. Every day we come to work, we’re trying to find ways to improve our roster. Whether that’s through current assets or future assets or developing organically through the players we have here. Every day we want to leave work a little bit better than when we came in.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: For the second time this season, Evan Turner hit a game-winning buzzer-beater … Historically, the Jazz don’t do so hot on the nights they retire jerseys … Ex-Mavs coach  Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says, like it or not, the “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy is part of the NBA now

ICYMI(s) of The Night: There were two standout breakaway dunks last night, so it was hard for us to pick just one. Which one was better: Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s or Blake Griffin‘s? …:


VIDEO: Giannis Antetokounmpo finishes strong vs. Phoenix


VIDEO: Blake Griffin takes flight on a breakaway jam

Expect Dirk To Get 12th All-Star Nod


VIDEO: Dirk has 28 points and nine boards as the Mavs stop the Pistons

DALLAS – In his final game Sunday night before the Western Conference coaches head to their bunkers to select seven All-Star reserves, Dirk Nowitzki left them with one of those vintage performances that this season has spawned the phrase, “He’s still Dirk.”

“Twenty-eight points in 32 minutes,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, glancing over the 10-for-16 shooting, the nine rebounds and the four assists. “I guess he’s an All-Star.”

Is he? That is the question.

“This year [I'm] right up there, and we understand there’s always going to be some guys that deserve it and don’t make it, so that’s just the nature of the game,” Nowitzki said after raising his averages to 21.2 ppg and 6.0 rpg in a win over Detroit. “The power forward spot in the West has always been loaded and somebody is going to feel like they’ve been snubbed, but that’s just part of the game.”

The power forward position, plus a couple centers tossed into the new “frontcourt” designation, is loaded with young, thriving talent. The three starters voted in by the fans are 25 (Kevin Durant and Kevin Love) and 24 (Blake Griffin). Two sure-fire reserves, Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge are both 28. On-the-bubble candidates DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are 23 and 20, respectively. Serge Ibaka, 24, almost gets lost in the discussion because of the superstar teammates who overshadow him. David Lee, an All-Star last season, is like the older brother of the group at 30.

Nowitzki, 35, and Tim Duncan, 37, are like the godfathers. The West coaches put Duncan back on the All-Star team last season after his 13-year run was snapped in 2012, and seemed over for good. Knee surgery during training camp last season sabotaged Dirk’s 11-year run. Now there’s likely room for only one, if that, legendary old-timer on the 12-man squad.

Have fun, coaches. The reserves for both conferences will be announced Thursday night on TNT.

“He’s a Hall of Fame player, as we all know,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who is prohibited from voting for his own player, and would seem a prime candidate to give Dirk, his decades-long nemesis, the nod. “Dirk basically — modern times so to speak — has really personified that stretch-4 because he scored from everywhere on the court and from distance … and he hasn’t slowed down much, if at all.”

Prevailing wisdom suggests this is Dirk’s — and Duncan’s — best chance to add one last All-Star appearance considering the aforementioned list of bursting, young talent. Dirk, who ranks seventh among forwards in usage percentage and fifth in true shooting percentage, might still have a few more fine seasons left in him beyond this one, just as Duncan has proved post-35, but the next generation will likely be too strong and push him out of All-Star consideration.

Dirk’s edge this season is lifetime achievement. How heavily will coaches weigh career milestones? Likely heavily. He’s surged up the NBA’s all-time scoring list, starting the season at No. 18 and passing Reggie Miller and Jerry West, among others, to move all the way up to No. 13. He’s 412 points from passing John Havlicek for 12th and it’s possible he will catch Oscar Robertson at No. 10 by season’s end.

Dirk recently collected the 1,000th steal of his career and joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kevin Garnett and Karl Malone as the only players with 25,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,000 steals.

“I’ve looked at it pretty closely,” Carlisle said. “He’ll make it. I just have the feeling that he will. You look at his stats, what he’s carrying, the production and the minutes; if he was playing the minutes most of those guys were playing, he’d be a 25-point scorer. So, we’ll see. We’ll see.”

Dirk didn’t think he deserved a spot on the 2012 squad after a slow start to the shortened lockout season. But the coaches weren’t about to let the Finals MVP be swept out of the All-Star Game that easily. They won’t this year either, especially when he’s not exactly a hardship case. In fact, if he does’t make the team, it will be a first of sorts. Five players 35 or older — Malone, Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Michael Jordan and Alex English — have averaged 21 points or more in 11 different seasons. Each time they made the All-Star team.

When his streak did end last season, Nowitzki had little control over it. His right knee required the first surgery of his career during training camp. He missed the first 27 games of the season, probably came back too soon to help save a sinking season and didn’t regain his All-Star form until the second half.

Fending off Father Time (with an eye on a semi-concerning sleeve he again donned on his left knee), Nowitzki has shouldered another near-totally retooled roster to a 26-20 record, good for the last playoff spot in the ultra-competitive West. The Mavs, while inconsistent, not unlike like Nowitzki’s shooting performances, are just 1.5 games behind No. 6 Golden State and three games back of No. 5 Houston, a so-called contender Dallas will attempt to defeat for a third time in four tries at home Wednesday night.

“They still have that big guy from Germany. He’s pretty good,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said earlier this month. “And when you have a player like that, you can put a lot of people around him and they’re going to be better. That’s the effect of a Dirk on your team. I bet Monta’s never seen open shots that he’s seen when you come off a pick and roll with Dirk setting it, so he does make you better.”

Monta Ellis would agree. A fringe All-Star candidate himself, Ellis is averaging 19.2 ppg, about what he averaged last season with Milwaukee, but his 46.2 shooting percentage blows away last season’s mark and is at its highest since 2007-08 with Golden State. He’s finding wide lanes to drive and open jumpers to fire thanks to the defensive attention Dirk draws and the spacing he brings.

How dependent are the Mavs on Dirk? With him and Ellis on the floor, they’re averaging a potent 109.1 points per 100 possessions. With only Ellis on the floor, it drops to 102.7.

Dirk’s net rating of 4.0 is easily the highest among Dallas’ starters, a group in which only center Sam Dalembert (1.6) and Jose Calderon (0.2) also boast positive net ratings.

So is Dirk an All-Star? Bet on the coaches granting him the grand stage, if not for one last hurrah, and leaving the lure of a February beach vacation for the years ahead.

“It always means something to be among the best 12 or 13 players in the West,” Nowitzki said. “It has always been an honor. I’ve always had fun going there and representing the Mavericks the right way — but, I did have some fun at the beach last year, too. Either way, I’ll be happy to go, obviously, and always represent the Mavericks. And if not, then I’ll find something else to do.”

Thibodeau ‘Trade Rumors’ A Losing Deal

(Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)

Tom Thibodeau has three years left on his contract with the Bulls. (Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – So far, amid the wispy speculation and conjecture hovering over coach Tom Thibodeau, the Chicago Bulls and their future together, it was Thibodeau who has had the healthiest perspective.

“Every day there’s something going on [in the media],” Thibodeau said Friday evening. “Now, the rumor about my date with Kate Upton, started by me, I’m not commenting on that either. So let’s move on.”

He got the laughs intended. But this is about something more tawdry than funny.

Common sense and, frankly, a sense of decorum would suggest that anyone dwelling on Thibodeau’s whereabouts beyond this season is, respectively, wasting his or her time and wallowing in something awfully jaded and cynical.

Regarding the former, Thibodeau has three years left on his contract. His coaching skills and work ethic are almost universally lauded throughout the NBA (his minutes management, a little less so). His relationship with Derrick Rose, the star-crossed star in whom the Bulls have many more millions tied up than they do in their head coach, is one of the closest and strongest of its kind in the league.

Thibodeau’s connection with Chicago’s second-best player, Joakim Noah, nearly is as special. And with Thibodeau’s role as a Team USA assistant through the 2016 Olympics, the rapport he develops with top players from throughout the league will only enhance his status as a draw for those hungry to win and willing to work, as well as players eager to have their full potentials tapped into.

The only reasons Bulls management might consider moving on from Thibodeau are bad ones. By the way, it’s worth noting here that the coach and the front office so far have expressed nothing but mutual admiration and respect, though relations have been strained at times over personnel and philosophical disagreements.

But if this were to come down to internal friction between Thibodeau and GM Gar Forman and/or VP of basketball John Paxson, it would be both petty and silly, considering the levels of outrageousness NBA teams routinely tolerate from players. Cast aside a proven, eminently qualified basketball mind with occasionally divergent viewpoints for a corporate “Yes” man? Stop nodding so obsequiously, please.

If it’s a case of Thibodeau not being on board with an unstated organizational goal, not simply to “retool” the Bulls but to tear down and start over – specifically, by losing as often as possible this season to enhance lottery odds – then the management would have an equally tough sell with their fan base.

Sure, there is a segment that lives for the bright, unsullied “future,” whatever and whenever it is, over the stark reality of any particular present. There are Bulls fans, too, who got spoiled by the 2008 leap to No. 1, on a 1.7 percent chance, to land Rose in the first place, as if their favorite team’s mere presence in the lottery would guarantee a top prize. It wouldn’t.

Besides, if the Bulls wanted to go back to employing the Vinny Del Negros of the coaching world, well, they had the real deal on the payroll just four years ago.

Beyond wrong reasons, though, this sort of maneuver feels plain wrong. It’s a threshold that was unseemly enough when Doc Rivers, Danny Ainge and the Los Angeles Clippers “went there” last summer and, were it to become a thing, it could lead to all sorts of instability and turmoil across the league.

As a one-off, the Celtics-Clippers “trade” of Rivers was interesting, a ramification of Boston’s sudden veer into rebuilding and Rivers’ absence of appetite for same. With key veterans (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, on the heels of Ray Allen a year earlier) being purged, it seemed of a piece. And Ainge planned to dig deep, targeting a prime pick in the 2014 Draft.

The thought was, Rivers – having led Boston to the 2008 championship – wouldn’t want to roll up his sleeves and start over in his 15th season as a head coach. So he and they finagled a way to get him out West with a roster more ready to win, while the Celtics saved money on their head coach’s salary and got everyone in the organization flow chart on the same page (with the exception of some proud players in the locker room).

Few of those factors are at play for the Bulls and Thibodeau. This is only his fourth season as a head coach. There has been no ring, not even a trip to The Finals. Rose’s second season-ending knee injury, and the Jan. 7 trade of free-agent-to-be Luol Deng, hardly is an orchestrated rebuild.

Then there is Thibodeau’s single-minded and single-geared approach to winning. If that’s a reason to shed him, the Bulls would need to immediately slash their ticket prices by 20 percent or more because it would raise a competitive white flag over the entire organization. Nothing would drive home the suspicions that management loves selling out United Center and ogling the Forbes valuations – Chicago Bulls: $1 billion – more than it loves winning than cutting ties with a coach who eats, drinks and sleeps it.

Even Rivers could see the folly in Chicago doing with Thibodeau what Boston did with, and for, him.

“I think it would be nuts not to have him here,” Rivers said of his friend and former assistant. “He’s the best coach, one of the best coaches in this league. So if you have that, that’s an asset. And I don’t think any right-minded organization would allow that asset to leave. Because with all this adversity they’ve had with injuries, if you allow that one to leave, things will fall apart. And that would be pretty much a guarantee.”

Rose, again in need of a fresh start, could leave – which, given Bulls’ luck, probably would be a guarantee of his return to form as an All-Star point guard. Noah, already rocked by Deng’s trade, might never fully recover. Thibodeau’s ability to plumb the depths of a player’s skill set, to get more out of less (i.e., late first-rounders Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell) and to convince players he coaches not for vanity, not for money but for one valid reason … it all could be gone.

And frankly, Thibodeau hasn’t done enough, long enough, to merit any such “favor” by the Bulls. Since when can’t he abide a team hitting the reset button? That’s a conceit as unflattering as bosses being unable or unwilling to work through a little disagreement from the sideline.

Also, does the NBA really want to create and live with a coaches trade market? Do owners want to start ripping up and bidding up contracts — as opposed to routinely paying off the fellows they fire — in a category of employees where there is no salary cap? Would coaches — even if they found the leverage advantageous and the clamor for their services in other markets flattering — want to be cast as specialists, where some of them become known only as builders or maintainers or closers or, ahem, tankers?

And what impact might it all have in the locker rooms, if players start to adapt to a world in which they not only can get a coach fired but maybe get him traded?

I asked Rivers before the Clippers’ game in Chicago Friday about the precedent he might have set, the ripple effects and unforeseen consequences of his team switcheroo.

“I didn’t do it for that effect,” he said. “If it does help coaches, then great, I’ll look at it that way. It’s not why I did it.”

It is, however, the only reason it’s become a topic of conversation and rumors in Chicago.

Clips’ Collison Has Reasons To Fight Through The Pain


VIDEO: Check out some of Darren Collison’s season highlights

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – It’s a painful year to be a point guard in Los Angeles. The Lakers have lost all three of theirs and the Clippers have been without Chris Paul since early January. Their backup and Paul fill-in, Darren Collison, is desperately trying to elevate his pain threshold.

Collison sprained his left big toe Saturday night. He’s played through it, although his plummeting stats would suggest it isn’t doing him any favors.

In the first six games after Paul separated his right shoulder on Jan. 3 in Dallas, Collison averaged 15.8 ppg, 7.2 apg and 4.0 rpg. He shot 55.7 percent overall and L.A. won five of six. Collison was also brilliant against the Mavs that night Paul went down in the third quarter. Collison drilled the team he played for last season for 20 points in the Clippers’ come-from-behind victory. On Jan. 15, he did it again against Dallas with 13 points and 10 assists in another comeback win.

But in a lopsided loss to Indiana on Saturday, Collison sprained his toe. In that game and the two that followed, Collison has shot 36.0 percent and averaged 8.7 ppg, 5.0 apg and 2.0 rpg. He had to sit out the end of Wednesday’s loss at Charlotte with the game hanging in the balance. L.A.’s lost two of the three games. Coach Doc Rivers suggested that Collison might have to sit, but according to the Los Angeles Times, Collison will attempt to play tonight as L.A. plays the fifth of a seven-game road trip at Chicago (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Collison’s situation as replacement starter is nearly identical to the one he found himself in as a rookie with New Orleans. As Paul’s backup, he took over the starting job when Paul was injured, and flourished. Indiana traded for Collison that summer to make him their starting point guard. By the end of his second season, Collison lost his starting job to George Hill.

Dallas, needing a starting point guard to replace Jason Kidd, traded for Collison the next summer to take over the job for the 2012-13 season with newcomer O.J. Mayo starting alongside him. It was a disaster. Dirk Nowitzki had knee surgery during training camp and didn’t return until a few days before Christmas. The team plunged 10 games under .500 and Collison shouldered loads of the blame for poor late-game execution and the mounting losses. He fell out of favor with coach Rick Carlisle early on and lost his starting job twice to aging veterans Derek Fisher and then Mike James. Dallas failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons.

“It’s a lot of things that went on last year,” Collison said when he made his return to Dallas earlier this month. “I think I was hurt, one, that we didn’t have a chance to make the playoffs. I think that hurt me the most and I took a lot of pride in trying to run this team the best way I can. Dirk was out for like 20-something games and we had a lot of dudes that were on one-year deals that were trying to like [come] together. I think that was the biggest reasons about this whole situation.”

It became obvious that Dallas had no interest in re-signing Collison last summer. He chose a familiar role as Paul’s backup, this time with the Clippers.

“As a competitor you look at it that way,” Collison said of feeling disrespected that Dallas didn’t want to keep him. “They had their situation. I’m just glad that I fell into a situation like the Clippers that’s given me an opportunity. Now I have a chance to play for a contending team that’s going to try to play for something more special.”

Collison signed a two-year deal with L.A and has been a steady reserve. He is earning $1.9 million this season and holds a player option for next season with a slight raise. If he continues to play well as the Clippers’ starter and then again when he returns to a reserve role, it will be interesting to see if Collison chooses to opt out, and if so, if another team attempts to make the third time the charm for the 5-foot-11 Collison as a starter.

It’s just one reason why Collison desperately wants to keep fighting through the pain.

Blogtable: Most Intriguing Team

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


Questioning the Heat | Easy offense | Most intriguing team



VIDEO: Kevin Durant leads an OKC team that continues to intrigue

Which team do you consider the most intriguing in the league? Why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Forcing us to choose, eh? That’s hard (and good, for an NBA scribe). I’m intrigued by a bunch of teams. Miami, for its curious new vulnerability. Portland, for its surprising prime-time readiness. Brooklyn, for how it might go about salvaging this season. Golden State, for its energy and ambition and connection with its crowds. Minnesota, for spotting the field a half season. San Antonio, for any flare-up of Game 6 PTSD. The Miss Congenialities of the East (Atlanta, Toronto, Washington, Chicago), for the chance that one or more might actually assert itself. Heck, even Milwaukee, for how – with so many legit NBA players – it has managed to crater its way into the lottery lead. But forced to choose one, I choose Indiana. The Pacers are intriguing because they have it all, certainly enough, but will have accomplished nothing new if they don’t reach The Finals. Following Indiana now feels like tracking the Titanic – and scouting for the icebergs.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I’m still intrigued by the raw potential of the Rockets when they’re at the top of their game. They’re 4-1 against San Antonio and Portland, two of the top 3 seeds in the West. I’m also intrigued by the Rockets’ ability to often play like they don’t know which end of the ball to bounce. Witness their 1-5 record against the Sixers, Lakers, Jazz and Kings. My gut says that as a lower playoff seed, they’ll be a dangerous and tough out in the first round, but simply don’t have the poise or smarts to go deep in the playoffs.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comOklahoma City in a good way. They’re no longer the cute story about a bunch of young kids on the rise. This is about winning a championship with multiple story lines unfolding: Kevin Durant chasing his first MVP, Russell Westbrook overcoming three knee surgeries in eight months, a hand-built roster proving its deeper than any Thunder team before it, coach Scott Brooks proving he’s as good as his star players and general manager Sam Presti proving he can get it done by staying under the luxury tax and by being uncompromising in doing it his way.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThe Clippers as they walk the tightrope. Maybe they get to June, maybe they lose in the first round again. Neither would be a surprise. And not just a team where anything is possible, but real personality and fun to watch. Blake Griffin’s improvement on offense, DeAndre Jordan’s resurgence on defense, soon the return of Chris Paul and gauging his health, will Doc Rivers deliver — one storyline after another, all wrapped into a team with everything to prove when it matters.

Manu Ginobili (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Manu Ginobili (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThe Spurs. The way they lost The Finals still sticks in my head, so it must still stick in theirs. They’re back at the top of the Western Conference and are the only team in the league that ranks in the top five in offensive and defensive efficiency, even though they’re playing without two starters. Manu Ginobili has looked like a totally different player than he looked like in June. Kawhi Leonard has been a disappointment in his third season, but still has the potential to be a star. Oklahoma City is a tough matchup for them, but they can still get back to The Finals, and it would be fascinating to see if they can get over that hump this time.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comI’m partial to the Portland Trail Blazers, considering that they weren’t on anyone’s radar outside of the Pacific Northwest in training camp. I find myself making sure to get a power nap sometime during my day so I can make sure to stay up late enough here at Headquarters. Seriously, I don’t like watching them after the fact because there is too much high-quality basketball being played to miss it live. LaMarcus Aldridge is playing at a legitimate MVP level and Damian Lillard isn’t far behind most nights. That supporting cast strikes a really nice balance and Terry Stotts, in my opinion, has to be the frontrunner for Coach of the Year (along with Indiana’s Frank Vogel). The surprise factor, though, is what sets the Trail Blazers apart for me on the intrigue meter. It’s like NBA reality TV … the good kind (the non-New York kind). Who doesn’t love a good Cinderella story? You want to see how far this team can go.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blog: I’ve kept my critical eye trained on Portland all season, because the Blazers have put together such a surprising start to the season. (Actually, at this point I suppose it’s more than just a start to the season. First two-thirds? What do we call this?) Yet lately there have been two teams I’ve been glued to on League Pass: Atlanta and Oklahoma City. Even without Al Horford, the Hawks have managed home wins against teams like Houston, Miami and Indiana, and they’ve been competitive in almost every game. They share the ball, capitalize on open space, rotate on defense, and basically stay in games with hustle and tough play. The Thunder, of course, were supposed to be a contender, but with Westbrook out lately, Kevin Durant is playing some of the best and most complete basketball I’ve ever seen him play, which is saying something, when you consider what he’s already accomplished. By the way? He’s still just 25 years old. Talk about must-see TV.

Aldo Avinante, NBA Philippines: The resurgence of the Brooklyn Nets has intrigued me. After a dismal start to the season they are now firing on all cylinders. They were hyped up to be one of the contenders to Miami’s throne in the East, and such a poor start was a disappointment to the fans in general. Can they keep up their high level of play or is this streak of great games an aberration?

Simon Legg, NBA Australia: There’s a few but I’ll go with Phoenix. Ask me in a month and my mind might change. Will they make the playoffs without Eric Bledsoe? Do they even want to make the playoffs now? If they made one move and added a missing piece in the offseason, could they challenge? So many questions that need to be answered. They were viewed as intriguing-bad in the offseason but rookie coach Jeff Hornacek has turned them into intriguing-good.

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA Brasil: The Atlanta Hawks definitely look like they have the potential to derail Indiana’s or Miami’s postseason run, especially if Al Horford comes back for the playoffs. Mike Budenholzer is doing a fantastic job with a group of blue-collar, hustling players like the 2004 Pistons. They add a whole lot of intrigue to the Eastern Conference.