PHILADELPHIA – In getting off to a hot start last season, the Philadelphia 76ers had two big advantages over other teams. The first was continuity. They had made minimal changes to their roster and brought back guys who played an incredible 99 percent of their minutes from the previous season.
The second advantage was depth. The Sixers didn’t go 10 or 11-deep, but they had three or four guys coming off their bench – namely Evan Turner, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young – who could keep the scoreboard going in the right direction. That trio was especially strong offensively, and the Sixers outscored their opponents by almost eight points per 100 possessions when the three were on the floor together.
“We had three guys coming off our bench who were capable of being starters,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said at training camp on Friday.
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Boston Celtics have reloaded with Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green. The Brooklyn Nets have spent over $300 million on their new starting lineup. The New York Knicks lost Jeremy Lin, but added depth. And the Toronto Raptors have upgraded their rotation with the additions of Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields and Jonas Valanciunas.
Overall, the Atlantic Division is on an upswing. But what of the Philadelphia 76ers, who were, at one point, one of the last five teams still alive in the 2012 Playoffs?
With seven players in their rotation under the age of 25, the Sixers could have stood pat and kept improving. Instead, they let go of two of their biggest contributors, allowing free agent Lou Williams to sign with the Atlanta Hawks and using the amnesty clause to waive Elton Brand.
In their place are Nick Young (signed to a one-year deal), Dorell Wright (acquired from Golden State) and Kwame Brown (two years).
With young guards/wings Maurice Harkless, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner on board, it’s understandable why the Sixers didn’t want to commit long-term to Williams. But Brand was on the final year of his contract, and the Sixers clearly downgraded in their frontcourt. (more…)
The Dallas Mavericks were the winners for the services of Elton Brand Friday, claiming the 33-year-old forward off of amnesty waivers for $2.1 million. Getting Brand continues a strong comeback for the Mavericks after losing out on Deron Williams and Steve Nash at the start of the free agency negotiating period.
Brand wanted to go to Dallas, a source told NBA.com Wednesday. And he got his wish, giving the Mavericks a big who has never scored less than double figures or averaged fewer than 6.1 rebounds per year in his 13-year NBA career. He will back up Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman at the center and power forward spots, but Brand is most interested in showing that he can still be a major contributor to a good team.
Last season, Brand averaged 11 points and 7.2 rebounds for Philadelphia in the regular season. Those numbers went down in the playoffs, but Brand was dealing with a neck injury that limited his range and effectiveness.
In Dallas, he’ll re-team with former Clippers teammate Chris Kaman, whom the Mavericks signed to a one-year deal Wednesday. The Mavericks also traded for guard Darren Collison and swingman Dahntay Jones in a deal with the Pacers for backup center Ian Mahinmi.
The first day that NBA teams are officially allowed to sign free agents and make trades is also the first day of the six-day window where teams are allowed to use the amnesty provision to cut players and remove them from their salary cap. The Washington Wizards are still undecided about whether to use the amnesty provision on one of the top league-wide candidates, forward Andray Blatche, according to sources.
Washington is exploring several options for Blatche, who has fallen out of favor both with fans in D.C. and with the organization after signing a contract extension in 2010 that reworked his existing contract into a five-year deal worth $35 million. The Wizards could opt for amnesty, which would remove the remaining $23 million the team owes Blatche from its salary cap, freeing up resources that the team will need in the next few years to extend players like John Wall and this year’s first-round pick, Bradley Beal.
The Wizards could trade Blatche immediately. Or, they could continue to explore trade options while removing Blatche from the daily workings of the team–in essence, paying him his salary to stay away. The Pacers used a similar strategy in 2008, forcing guard Jamaal Tinsley to sit out the whole season while not playing after he clashed with then-coach Rick Carlisle and the organization.
But asking owner Ted Leonsis to write that $23 million check is a big ask, sources allow, even though Blatche is not in the team’s future plans. The Wizards have remade their power forward group in the last year and a half, drafting Jan Vesely with the sixth pick in the 2011 Draft and acquiring Emeka Okafor from New Orleans last month (along with small forward Trevor Ariza) for Rashard Lewis. Second-year forward Trevor Booker also played extremely effectively in spots the last couple of years. Washington has Ariza and Chris Singleton penciled in to take the lion’s share of minutes at small forward. (more…)
DALLAS – It’s not easy making headlines during The Finals if you’re a lottery team that hasn’t sniffed the playoffs in the past few years and don’t appear to be in danger of doing so anytime soon.
But the Golden State Warriors have found away. Not only did they make a splash with the hiring of former All-Star point guard and ABC analyst Mark Jackson to take over as their head coach, now there is significant chatter that Monta Ellis could be on the trade block in a rumored deal for Andre Iguodala.
Before we dive into the trade we have to make one observation about Jackson taking over as coach of the Warriors. It is one of the few recent moves of this sort that we can remember it actually staying completely quiet until it was done. Kudos to Jackson and the Warriors for handling their business in such a stealth manner in the Twitter age.
BOSTON — Everywhere you look, the Heat are up on the Celtics. The series is 2-0 Miami. LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are leading Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. And Pat Riley is one-upping Danny Ainge.
Yes. About that last item. The Sporting News didn’t bother waiting for the NBA Finals verdict and instead named Riley the Executive of the Year, and if there was an award for Executive On His Rear, well, Ainge might make a few ballots. After all, Celtic Nation screamed in horror when Ainge made the dandruff-scratching decision at the deadline to swap Kendrick Perkins for a backup forward who’s getting 15 minutes a game in this East playoff showdown. And nearly three months later, the trade still doesn’t make sense.
If you haven’t noticed, the Celtics’ window is closing. Their best players, Rajon Rondo the exception, are four steps slower than LeBron Wade. Doc Rivers has one foot out the door, and the other foot is on a roller skate. This was Boston’s chance for one last championship push before age settles in and the young upstarts in the East (Chicago, Miami, etc) blow up. But Ainge had an eye toward the future when he grabbed Jeff Green, a player he probably could’ve signed in the off-season without trading Perk.
Would Perkins have made a big difference in this series, had he stayed? Perhaps not significant, but yes. Remember, when healthy, the Celtics lineup of KG, Pierce, Rondo, Allen and Perkins never lost a playoff series in three years.
Look. Ainge did bring a championship to Boston. And yes, while his buddy Kevin McHale did Ainge a major by giving him KG, Ainge did hire Rivers and drafted Rondo and traded for Allen. Those moves erased most of the so-so decisions Ainge made prior to the Big Three. But right now, it’s all about Riley, because his Big Three, barring injury, will likely prosper longer than Ainge’s Big Three.
Riley’s award shouldn’t be based on signing LeBron and Bosh. His award was stamped for the work he did in the two years prior, when he dumped salary and still found a way to keep Miami competitive. He also covered his ears whenever Wade asked for help during that time, explaining the need for cap relief and the chance to do something unprecedented.
Has Riley’s record been spotless during this time? Not quite. You can quibble with the decision to draft Super Cool Beasley and then give him away for nothing (yeah, for cap space, but still) and also let the Warriors steal Dorell Wright after Miami groomed him. And how’s that Mike Miller signing looking right now?
Finally: Gar Forman and Sam Presti arguably had just as good a run as Riley.
But this is about Miami leading Boston right now, and by extension, Riley leading Ainge.
It was one of those nights. You’re tired and ready to go to bed, but there’s one more game still going on League Pass and the score is kind of close. So you put it on and end up catching one of the most entertaining games of the year.
It happened back in December with this crazy finish. And it happened again Friday with the Orlando Magic and Golden State Warriors.
“That was a shootout right there,” Dorell Wright said in the aftermath of his team coming back from a 21-point deficit (with a few minutes left in the second quarter) to beat the Magic 123-120 in overtime.
The score doesn’t do the game justice, because it doesn’t account for a wild double-turnover sequence near the end of OT, nor for how much we were all shaking our heads at the shots the Warriors were making in the final minutes. And though the Magic lost a huge lead, it’s hard to stress it too much, because teams just aren’t supposed to make all of those shots.
Led by Wright, the Warriors hit 21 3-pointers. That set a record for the most in franchise history and tied for third most in NBA history.
Most 3-pointers, single game, NBA history
Jan. 13, 2009
Nov. 14, 2010
March 11, 2011
March 13, 2005
Of course, the Magic were hitting some bombs too, 15 to be exact. And the 36 combined threes crushed the previous record of 32, set by the Sonics (14) and Suns (18) in a double-overtime game on Jan. 22, 2006.
And the most prolific 3-point shooters in the game happened to be the league leaders in treys. Wright was 8-for-11 from 3-point range and, for the Magic, Jason Richardson was 7-for-11, allowing him to maintain an edge for the season.
Most 3-pointers, 2010-11
Only two of the five guys above were in the 3-point contest, by the way.
Richardson has hit a lot of 3-pointers, but he would have to hit seven in each of the Magic’s 16 remaining games to eclipse Ray Allen‘s NBA record of 269 threes, set with the Sonics in the 2005-06 season.
One last note on this incredible game: The 41 combined points in overtime was the third most in NBA history. The record belongs to the Mavs and Rockets, who combined for 46 points (23 each) in a single overtime period on April 11, 1995.
LOS ANGELES – After detailed debate and two intense days of examination, the Hang Time crew has come up with our own set of predictions for All-Star Saturday night.
As you might expect, Blake Griffin‘s name came up often. Piling up 137 dunks by All-Star Weekend has a way of making you a favorite for the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.
Same goes for Ray Allen in the Foot Locker 3-Point Contest. But there’s more to All-Star Saturday night than just those two competitions. We’ve got the Haier Shooting Stars and the Taco Bell Skills Challenge to think about.
ATLANTA – From what we gather, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen get along fabulously. They’ve won a championship together. Allen attended Pierce’s wedding last summer. They have other common interests, perhaps. There’s a bond.
Oh, but can you imagine the trash-talking that’s going on between them right now?
Pierce will defend his 3-point championship in L.A. on All-Star Saturday and who’s the biggest threat? None other than the guy who’s poised to become the all-time 3-point shooter in NBA history. Yes, that would be Allen, who will take down Reggie Miller first for that career honor, then take aim at Pierce. Surely, this rift will divide the close-knit Celtic locker room and possibly destroy team chemistry for the season. Doc Rivers‘ job just got tougher, trying to referee such a bitter contest between two of his most important players.
Besides, Allen doesn’t talk smack; his verbal confrontation with Kobe Bryant years ago was the exception, not the norm. Still, there will be some good-natured give-and-take between now and Feb. 19. The burden is on Allen, obviously; he’s made a career from the 3-point line, while Pierce is a streaky long-distance shooter.
The title will probably be decided by a Celtic, because the rest of the field isn’t as good as it could’ve been. There’s no Kyle Korver, a 41-percent shooter. Or Matt Bonner, the Spurs’ specialist who’s making half his shots this season. Or Steph Curry, who lost to Pierce in the final round last year (perhaps Steph is being punished for that). Or Mike Bibby, a veteran 3-point shooter, or Kevin Love, a rare power forward with range. At least there is an interesting subplot between James Jones and Dorell Wright; the Heat gave up on Wright last summer partly because they were sold on Jones.
I suspect Pierce, in order to gain a psychological edge, might remind Allen of that 0-for-13 stretch in the NBA Finals last summer. Is that out of bounds? We’ll see.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For a team that didn’t pile up many wins last season, the Golden State Warriors certainly racked up their share of highlight plays.
When you start with the dynamite backcourt tandem of Monta Ellis and Steph Curry, that should be expected.
But much has changed for this team since we saw them last.
New owners, new uniforms, plenty of new faces and maybe some renewed vigor for a team that has never had to worry about the passion of its immense fan base.
With training camp just days away, we’re still trying to figure out how coach Don Nelson is going to integrate eight new faces — All-Star forward David Lee, Dorrell Wright, Louis Amundson, Rodney Carney, Charlie Bell, Dan Gadzuric and rookies Ekpe Udoh and Jeremy Lin — into the Warriors’ mix.
But Nelson is the league’s resident mad scientist, so if anyone is capable of cooking up something, it should be him. And he’ll be coaching (for as long as the new ownership group will have him) the sort of motley crew that should be easy to show some California love for all those Warriors diehards in the Bay Area.
Whether or not this team will inspire any reaction beyond their home base, however, remains to be seen.