LOS ANGELES –Jamal Crawford spent the first few minutes after Monday morning’s shootaround being as affable as ever while answering questions about the physical nature of the series, adjustments to be made and the importance of protecting home court.
Then came the one topic that visibly soured his mood. His smile disappeared, his shoulders slumped, his voice lowered.
While the Clippers were reviewing Monday night’s Game 2 strategy against the Memphis Grizzlies, the league was announcing New York Knicks gunner J.R. Smith as the Kia Sixth Man of the Year. An award Crawford owned for the first half of the season was swiped by Smith’s late hot streak that corresponded with the Knicks’ late-season 13-game win streak.
“Congrats to J.R.,” Crawford said softly. “You can’t worry about stuff you can’t control.”
It’s uncertain if Crawford was already aware of his fate or was just learning of it. Clearly, though, when it hit his ears, his mind reeled back to late January when the All-Star reserves were announced. Crawford, the 2010 Sixth Man of the Year with Atlanta, had hoped he’d be selected for his first All-Star team in his 13th NBA season. He was not.
“Going back to the All-Star team, I guess twice in a season,” Crawford said of getting the snub. “But congrats to J.R.”
So when Crawford came out on fire in the Los Angeles Clippers’ 93-91 Game 2 win over the Memphis Grizzlies for a 2-0 first-round series lead, it sure seemed like he had come out with a Big Apple-sized chip on his shoulder.
He canned his first six shots and put together an 11-point second quarter that changed the flow of the game and a 13-point first half as the Clippers’ bench again caused all kinds of problems for the Grizzlies.
Crawford led L.A.’s bench with 15 points, plus three steals and a single turnover in 33:30. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, as expected, backed his first-year sixth man who averaged 16.5 points in the regular season, his high mark since taking the Sixth Man award three seasons ago, while shooting 37.6 percent from beyond the arc.
“He’s [third] in the league in fourth-quarter scoring, he’s had 29 20-point-plus games off the bench,” Del Negro said. “He set the franchise record for free throws (58 in a row), set the franchise record for 3-pointers made (149 in the regular season). He’s been a huge catalyst for us all season from Day 1, the whole season, so it’s hard for me to look at it and say that Jamal didn’t deserve that. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone more deserving.”
With an All-Star snub in the rearview mirror and now the Sixth Man hardware in Smith’s hands, Crawford still has the biggest prize of all in his sights.
He’s the leader of easily the deepest (and arguably the most dangerous) bench in the league. During the regular season it was just one of four benches to average better than 40 ppg.
In the first two games of the first-round series against the Grizzlies, the Clippers’ bench has been superior and has forced the hand of Memphis coach Lionel Hollins.
In L.A.’s breathtaking 93-91 victory Monday in Game 2, the Clippers’ bench outscored their opponents’ reserves 30-11. In Game 1, Memphis got 19 points from Jerryd Bayless, who played 30 minutes because the Grizz were constantly playing catch-up, and that limited defensive-minded Tony Allen to just 17 minutes. In that game, L.A.’s Eric Bledsoe went off for 13 points, four assists and six rebounds in the decisive fourth quarter.
Del Negro has pushed all the right buttons so far. In Game 1, he went to little-used power forward Ronny Turiaf instead of Ryan Hollins and it paid off. In Game 2, Crawford accounted for half the scoring, but the Clippers got five assists and 15 rebounds from the bench.
“I have confidence in all of our guys,” Del Negro said. “I have no hesitation putting them in if I feel they can help us.”
And that’s included Lamar Odom throughout the season. Although Odom’s 3-point and free throw shooting has been abysmal, he’s rewarded Del Negro in other ways. He had seven rebounds in Game 1, more than burly big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined. There was his fourth-quarter sequence in Game 2 that included a defensive rebound and long outlet to Matt Barnes, a leaping swat of Randolph and a terrific bounce pass to the slashing Bledsoe for a dunk.
An all-reserve second unit changed the momentum of Game 2 in the second quarter and opened the fourth quarter on an 8-0 to build a double-digit lead.
“With the depth of the Clippers’ bench, we have to match them offensively as well as do a decent job on them defensively,” Hollins said. “But we can’t go out there and not score and give up eight, 10 points in a row. Then they can’t be out there for long as a group.”
And they weren’t. Hollins got all five starters back out there early in the fourth quarter to battle, in a rare occurrence, the Clippers’ five subs.
It’s a predicament the Grizzlies must solve in a hurry.
LOS ANGELES – Seemingly the only person inside the 93rd consecutive sold-out house not overwhelmed by Chris Paul’s drive and impossible bank shot that dropped for the game-winner with one-tenth of a second left on the clock was Paul himself.
The super-clutch superstar of these burgeoning Los Angeles Clippers didn’t raise his arms, didn’t let go a primal scream. He beat Memphis’ tremendous defender Tony Allen, giving him a hitch at the corner of the key, a high-step to the right side and released a one-handed leaner that just out of the reach of helping defender Darrell Arthur.
Bank and ballgame, 93-91.
As Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford were first to embrace him and then as his teammates mobbed him, realizing they’d just snuck out with one and will take a 2-0 series lead to Memphis for Thursday’s Game 3, CP3 stood firm, seemingly rising above the fray, his chest puffed out, his face unflinching as if to say, “Get used to this, folks.”
Paul scored eight points in the fourth quarter and they just happened to be the Clippers’ final eight after L.A.’s offense went stale and allowed the Grizzlies to scrap back from an 85-76 deficit with 6:53 to go.
From that point on, CP3 did it all. Delirium shook the Staples Center and 19,000-plus couldn’t decide on the chant as “C-P-3! C-P-3!” cross-channeled with “M-V-P! M-V-P!”
“Chris made the plays down the stretch,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He has a knack and a will and a desire to step up in those moments. That’s what star players do. That’s the best part of the game. If you’re competitive, that’s what you love, and Chris Paul loves that part.”
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins had Allen, his best on-ball defender, guarding Paul on the final sequence that started with 13.9 seconds on the clock and the game tied at 91. Allen was having a tremendous night with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while charged with holding down Clippers explosive sixth man Jamal Crawford after his 6-for-6 start in tearing up Jerryd Bayless (Crawford went 0-for-4 after that).
When Allen went toe-to-toe with Paul, he was deep into his 38th exhaustive minute. He might have expected Paul to go left, but instead the 6-foot, 175-pound whiz gave the hitch, stutter and poof.
“We tried to get Mike Conley to switch on me because we know Tony Allen is their best defender, but [Allen] did a great job staying on me,” Paul said. “Every time I went to go left, he took the space up.”
So this time, after that brief stop-and-go, Paul went right and created the space he needed to leave Allen a step behind.
“What can you do? The kid made a great shot,” Hollins said. “That’s what great players do and he’s a great player.”
Paul ruined a sensational bounce-back game from Conley, the Memphis point guard who doesn’t generate nearly the headlines he deserves. He finished with 28 points and nine assists, the final one coming as he patiently waited for the play to develop then drilled the cutting Marc Gasol with a pass for an uncontested dunk that tied the game.
Memphis has two days to figure out how to get back in this series on its home floor. Paul, with 47 points, 16 assists and just two turnovers in the series, is just one problem. The Clippers’ bench is whole other animal. Del Negro has made good on his promise to keep his rotation deep and to use players as he sees fit. He’s used six players off the bench in each of the first two games with stunning results.
Crawford, disappointed earlier in the day when he found out that he finished second in Kia Sixth Man of the Year voting to the New York Knicks’ J.R. Smith — comparing it to the slight he felt when passed over for the All-Star team — made his first six shots of the game. He finished with 15 points and three steals.
He led a second unit that should seriously alarm the Grizz. Five Clippers subs opened the second quarter with the score tied and Memphis using two starters and three subs. Seven minutes down and L.A.’s super subs had a three-point lead.
This kind of thing just doesn’t happen in the NBA playoffs. Five subs don’t take on five starters. Yet that was the case in the fourth quarter when the group of Crawford, Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf began the fourth quarter with an 8-0 spurt for an 83-71 lead.
That came with Conley and Zach Randolph playing with three subs. It didn’t last long, as Hollins quickly got his starting five back in there to keep from a second consecutive fourth-quarter blowout.
The Clippers’ razzle-dazzle second unit whips the ball around, finds cutters and slashers for dunks, make steals and chases down rebounds.
“For us, when teams get tired or get weaker, we get stronger,” Crawford said. “That can be a huge advantage.”
When that group finally petered out and the proud Grizz made a charge, CP3 or MVP, whatever you want to call him, was there to finish the job.
LOS ANGELES – In praising young guard Eric Bledsoe, did Chris Paul divulge his plan to be back in a Los Angeles Clippers uniform next season and beyond?
“Bled is one of the best guards in our league,” Paul said following Sunday’s Los Angeles Clippers practice. “I’ve said it all season long, I’m enjoying playing with him right now because there’s no way he can be here next year because we probably won’t have enough money to pay him. He should be a starting point guard.”
Bledsoe, 23, is under contract through next season for a bargain $2.6 million. However, if the Clips max-out Paul, who will become a free agent this summer, the franchise could look to move Bledsoe, the third-year talent out of Kentucky taken 18th by Oklahoma City and traded to the Clippers for a first-round draft pick.
He was a catalyst off the bench in Saturday’s 112-91 Clippers victory for a 1-0 lead in the first-round, best-of-7 series against the Memphis Grizzlies. Bledsoe came alive in the fourth quarter for 13 of his 15 points (on 7-for-7 shooting) and all of his four assists and six rebounds as he played the entire period and Paul watched on the bench for all but 3:12 of the fourth.
“For him, I’m just enjoying it and I love to sit back and watch him because he’s a game-changer,” Paul said. “And like I said [Saturday] night, he’s the key to our run.”
The 6-foot-1 Bledsoe is explosive off the dribble and a rugged 190 pounds. He averaged career-bests with 8.5 points and 3.0 rebounds to go with 3.1 assists this season in just 20.4 minutes. His numbers per-36 minutes, or the floor time a starter might typically play, were 14.9 ppg, 5.4 apg and 5.2 rpg. He shot 39.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Bledsoe, as expected, said he’s not focused on his future beyond this postseason. Still, finding ample minutes for a remarkable backcourt arsenal that includes Paul, Bledsoe and veterans Chauncey Billups and sixth man Jamal Crawford is not easy.
“We got one goal and that’s to win the championship and I think we got a pretty good team to do that,” Bledsoe said. “So I’m not focused on next season. I’m pretty going to worry about winning, learning how to, really, for the first time in my career to get a championship.”
Through three quarters Saturday night, Bledsoe had logged 6:19 and had two points. His spurt of relentless activity in the fourth quarter included stint with Paul and Billups.
“Everybody on the team went through it,” Bledsoe said of sacrificing minutes on a deep team that routinely goes 10 and 11 deep. “For right now, it’s whoever is playing good at the time. So we’re just going to cheer the next man on, that’s part of a team. So I really can’t focus on minutes. If I get them I get them, if I don’t, I don’t.”
According to Paul, Bledsoe should be getting more next season when he’s wearing a different uniform.
And that could very well suggest that Paul plans to stay in a Clippers uniform.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
Bledsoe, Billups give backcourt a boost — The Clippers have had Chauncey Billups in the lineup in just 21 games this season and heading into last night’s home game against Portland, he had missed L.A.’s last eight games. As well, third-year guard Eric Bledsoe had missed five games with a left calf muscle injury that slowed his energetic, up-tempo style. But both players were instrumental in the Clips’ romp of the Blazers, something that made Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro happy, writes Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:
Billups brings the Clippers championship experience. He won a title with the Detroit Pistons over the Lakers in 2004, when Billups was named the Finals most valuable player.
“He’s a little bit older now,” Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said about the 36-year-old Billups. “He’s missed most of last season and a lot of this season, so that’s not as easy to do. We still expect a lot from him with his leadership. He can make shots, obviously. He’s another guy that can make plays.”
Billups had missed the last eight games with a strained right groin. He has played in just 21 games this season and is expected to play in a back-to-back game Wednesday night in Sacramento.
Del Negro said the plan is to play Billups about 20 minutes per game.
“He knows how to play and we have to get him into game condition as quick as possible,” Del Negro said. “He gives us another dimension out there making plays off the dribble, shooting the basketball. But he’s got to get out there and get his rhythm and chemistry with the guys.”
“[Bledsoe] changes the complexion of the game with his speed,” Del Negro said. “It’s just the versatility that he brings that is of value. We can’t always use it depending on matchups. But he’s been fantastic for us since he’s been healthy.”
Bledsoe had suffered a sore left calf muscle that kept out of five games. He seems to be just now getting his legs back strong again.
“He gives us an edge to us out there defensively and the speed he plays with,” Del Negro said. “We knew that was going to be a factor for us. I feel he’s back playing with a lot of confidence. He knows his energy and the way he plays is very important, especially with that second unit or if he’s out there with Chris [Paul], in how he uses his athleticism to pressure the basketball defensively.”
Spurs likely not expecting much from McGrady — After parting ways with Stephen Jackson last week and dealing with a myriad of injuries to Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker along the guard corps, the Spurs picked up Tracy McGradylast night. McGrady, who hasn’t played for an NBA team this season, is eligible for the playoff roster and provides some backcourt depth for the postseason. But how much will the former scoring champ impact the Spurs’ postseason rotation? Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News has more:
With all the twists and turns during the 2012-13 regular season, it was only fitting that the Spurs gave us one more on Tuesday, signing Tracy McGrady to fill to roster vacated after the unceremonious whacking of Stephen Jackson.
It is the seventh NBA stop for the former franchise player, and eighth as a professional including his recent stint in the Chinese league. He dominated with Qingdao Double Star Eagles, averaging 25 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists — the type of numbers he put up as a seven-time All-Star before injuries sapped his athleticism.
McGrady won’t find it nearly so easy back in the NBA, where he averaged 5.3 points last season with Atlanta.
There’s some speculation that McGrady’s addition had been the end goal all along. But at this point, the most likely explanation is probably the simplest: The Spurs excised what they viewed to be a cancer, and they needed a warm body to help pick up the slack on a Spurs bench that suddenly isn’t so deep.
That means chewing up whatever time is available behind starting small forward Kawhi Leonard. And from what Gregg Popovich has said recently, there won’t be much. Leonard, he said, could earn up to 40 minutes a night, leaving precious little for a floor-bound ex-star.
Still, they needed somebody, and with only days left until the playoffs begin on Saturday, the Spurs could have done far worse. His woeful playoff record notwithstanding, McGrady has experience, and he should be able to provide adequacy in a number of facets: Playmaking, rebounding, perhaps even a touch of scoring.
Players unsure if Hunter will coach Suns next season — When the Suns parted ways with coach Alvin Gentry in mid-January, some drama ensued. Assistant coaches Dan Majerle and Elston Turner quit the team shortly thereafter once word came down that fellow assistant Lindsay Hunter — and not Majerle or Turner, who had more experience as assistants — would be the Suns’ new interim coach. Those two might want to consider themselves lucky as Hunter hasn’t set the world on fire as coach. He is 12-28 as interim coach and the Suns are 2-8 in their last 10 games. All of those facts would seem to not bode well for Hunter returning to the Suns, a topic many players were mostly mum on. Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic has more:
Luis Scola and Goran Dragic were asked whether they would recommend interim head coach Lindsey Hunter returning next season. Both players punted the topic.
“That’s a tough question,” Dragic said. “ … I’m here to play basketball. It’s not my decision to make.”
Dragic did say he liked Hunter’s approach to practice.
“Alvin (Gentry) was a great coach for the veteran players; he knows when to give them a day off, but for our team we have a young team and we really need to practice hard every day,” Dragic said. “When he (Hunter) took over the team I think we maybe had one or two days off. I think it should be like that.”
Scola said he thought Hunter did “a great job. Circumstances were bad and he did as good as he could. But I don’t make those decisions. I’m just a player.”
Would a third coach in less than a year be unsettling for the team?
“I think it would be a sign of things being bad,” Scola said. “But things are bad.”
Suns owner Robert Sarver declined comment when asked about Hunter’s future, and Hunter said no time has been set for a postseason meeting with either General Manager Lance Blanks or President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby.
Off-court decisions loom for Raptors — Another season draws to a close in Toronto tonight and the Raptors are once again on the outside of the playoff picture. It has been five seasons since Toronto made the postseason and seven since it finished with a record above .500. Needless to say, the team is in need of more overhauls and changes, although many of those could happen to non-roster positions. Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun explains how the fate of GM Bryan Colangelo, the direction of Maple Leaf Sports and more could shape the Raptors’ future:
As another Toronto Raptors season crawls to its conclusion, a franchise teetering on irrelevance has a series of enormous decisions to make.
There may not be any one right answer for Tom Anselmi and the board of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, but there is almost certainly a wrong one.
The decisions, as they seemingly do at the end of every Raptors season, revolve around the general manager, Bryan Colangelo, and the coach, Dwane Casey. Colangelo has an option year remaining on his contract. Casey has one year left on his deal.
And the team is forever paddling in circles, creating the occasional wave, but ending up nowhere in the end.
The decision for Anselmi and the board isn’t in any way obvious, with the largest issue being the relationship between Colangelo and Casey. Colangelo did his best to distance himself from his coach early in the season and there has been all kind of internal speculation that the two can’t possibly work together again.
Here’s the dilemma for Anselmi and the board: Do they use the option year on Colangelo’s deal and enable him an eighth season as general manager? Or do they have enough faith in Colangelo to reward him with a new contract, which would be based as much on blind faith and the fact he gives good board meetings as anything else?
Whatever determination is made on Colangelo’s future puts Casey’s future in a rather distant place. If one doesn’t believe in the other — and we saw what happened how effective it was when Brian Burke allowed Ron Wilson to continue on when they were philosophically opposed with the Leafs — then what sense is having Colangelo back with Casey as coach?
Colangelo apparently tried to fire Casey at least once during the season, insiders say, but wasn’t given the go-ahead to do so.
Colangelo hasn’t helped himself by his annual summers of bad decisions. There are only so many Landry Fields and Hedo Turkoglus and Jason Kaponos and Jermaine O’Neals you can miss on.
Casey, as coach, didn’t help himself by following up a decent first year with a scrambly second year and an absolute inability to compete in close ones.
So far, Anselmi has revamped the entire front office of Toronto FC and he played good soldier when some of the ownership decided to fire Brian Burke with the Leafs. Now he has a chance to go 3-for-3 in his first year on the job as president and chief operating officer.
“It’s not like we’re going to make an out of the blue decision. There’s been conversation going on all season long,” said Anselmi. “Is it any more complicated than usual? I don’t know. Either Bryan’s going to be in place and making decisions or someone else will be in place and make the decision on the coach. Leadership is very important to us.”
The Raptors’ season ends tonight. There is no meeting yet scheduled for the MLSE board. A decision on Colangelo is expected by early May.
ICYMI of the night: Plays like this one from Chauncey Billups to Blake Griffin might be a good example of why coach Vinny Del Negro is glad Billups is healthy again:
HANG TIME WEST – Best dunk of the season? Please.
Try among the best dunks in Clippers history. The edge still goes to Blake Griffin mauling Danilo Gallinari with a full arsenal of power, agility and hops into a concussive finish, although others will choose different Blake Superior moments. But DeAndre Jordan turning innocent Piston Brandon Knight into road kill Sunday night in Los Angeles was a crescendo for the ages.
Seriously, for the ages. Jordan uncommon athleticism for a big man capped by the coordination and the power move at the basket deserves to be in any John Starks-Michael Jordan-Tracy McGrady-Baron Davis-Scottie Pippen-Kevin Johnson-Ronnie Price conversation for the best NBA dunks, non-contest category. (The best dunk by an NBA player in any setting is Vince Carter turning Frederic Weis into a punchline at the 2000 Olympics. End of discussion.)
In the moment, though, the seismic event Sunday at Staples Center is the slam of the season, for the league and certainly for the Clippers.
1. Heir Jordan a
Knight will get a ton of grief because that’s the way it works, but, really, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He wasn’t even challenging the shot. Knight’s move was to try to intercept a Chris Paul pass that seemed to be thrown into the middle of the lane, out of harm’s way.
DeAndre (not Michael) Jordan moved it into harm’s way. He was a left-hander who controlled the lob with his right hand, a 7-footer with the dexterity of a wing, a defensive specialist at center who will now forever be remembered for a play on offense.
2. Butler Did It a
Caron Butler easily ditched Carter’s defense in the corner, drove baseline and threw down on Chris Kaman. Those are the facts of the thunderous moment.
That we’re talking, yes, Caron Butler is an added sidelight. Not Griffin. Not Jordan. Not Eric Bledsoe. Not even Travis Leslie in preseason, before getting waived. Butler, 32, is a highlight of flight.
3. The Two-Man Game a
Monta Ellis lost the ball after Milwaukee reached the front court. Bledsoe gained possession and threw ahead to Jamal Crawford for what should have been an easy breakaway basket. No Buck was close to Crawford. But Griffin was.
Griffin can dunk, as you may have heard. But Crawford’s delivery doused the play in glitter: left hand to right hand between the legs and flips up the lob at the perfect height for the trailer, Griffin, to finish. It was more the pass than the dunk.
4. Point Well Taken a
Good things can happen with Paul running the break and fellow point guard Bledsoe on the wing. CP3 can get where he needs to get on the court and the athleticism of Bledsoe means he can get where he needs to get in the air even at 6-1.
Paul’s hook-shoot pass over his right shoulder arced into the lane, where Bledsoe took over by controlling the ball with his right hand and hammering the ball through the rim. The little men ruled the paint.
5. Paul Bearer a
CP3 really is everywhere. The defense. The drive, the finish.
The dunk itself is nothing out of the ordinary. But it’s Paul controlling the moment, and that’s never ordinary either.
If Thursday’s NBA trade deadline was a movie, the audience would have walked out in the middle from boredom. This freeze came straight from the script that is the league’s new collective bargaining agreement — with its harsher luxury tax penalties and diminished roster flexibility for tax offenders — it put the clamps on a stunningly uneventful deadline day.
The big names were on the opening credits: Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
Yet, when the curtain closed at 3 p.m. ET, Orlando Magic sharpshooter J.J. Redick stole the show as the lone player of significance to switch teams. The Milwaukee Bucks acquired the career 39.8 percent 3-point shooter in a six-player deal that involved five other relatively anonymous NBA names.
Only one potential blockbuster deal percolated, but ultimately died on the vine with the Atlanta Hawks going the distance in an attempt to strike a deal with the Bucks for Smith before pulling back. One reason so few big deals were discussed was simply because there wasn’t much talent realistically in play, a point that goes beyond any ramifications of the CBA.
The CBA that took effect in December 2011, and begins to smack tax-paying teams with stiffer fines next season, has clearly put franchises on the defensive. Teams that were once willing to add salary to consummate a deal no longer are. Teams that once didn’t think twice about sweetening a deal with a first-round pick, suddenly guard them with their lives.
“Cap room and draft picks, which are usually the currency of how these [big] deals get done, were at a huge premium and are something that everyone wants to have,” said Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who steered the most active club at the deadline with a couple of lower-tier deals.
There’s really no greater example of the effect of these changes than the Dallas Mavericks and their braintrust, owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson. Chronic and strategic over-spenders and tax payers under the old CBA, Cuban, who took on salary in deadline deals for Jason Kidd in 2008 and Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson in 2010, analyzed the new rules and reversed field last year.
He dismantled the 2011 championship team, choosing to covet cap space and the roster flexibility granted to teams that remain under the tax threshold, as well as newfound valuing of first-round draft picks as low-priced labor and trade assets.
It’s a strategy that no longer has the Mavs on speed dial of teams looking to make a deal and dump salary.
“It’s definitely a factor,” Nelson said of the CBA’s chilling effect Thursday after the deadline expired. “There’s no question that folks have their eye on the inevitable, and there’s no question that people are getting their collective houses in order.
“There’s some teams that see that on the horizon and act early, and other teams that will procrastinate and pay a dear price. But I think we’re right in the middle of that. It’s not brand-new news and so, yeah, I think you’re going to see a lot of teams try to correct themselves financially.”
The so-called “repeater” tax really has teams scared. Several clubs tried to deal away lost-cost players to avoid the repeater tax, which will whack franchises with an additional fine if they go over the tax line in three of four seasons. Golden State was successful in this venture. Chicago was not and will pay a luxury tax for the first time since its implementation.
This “repeater” penalty deterred teams from making deals that would have pushed payroll even slightly over the tax line, deals they might have normally green-lighted in the old days. So, is this the way of the future under the current rules?
“I can’t predict the future,” Morey said, “but I think the trend is more this way.”
Rockets: Morey’s stockpiling of assets the last couple years has been questioned, but he’s turned it into quite a haul starting with James Harden prior to the start of the season. The day before the deadline, Morey acquired the No. 5 overall pick, Thomas Robinson, from Sacramento. Morey’s dealing didn’t damage an abundance of cap space next summer that will be used to pursue a top free agent such as Dwight Howard and Josh Smith.
Bucks: GM John Hammond didn’t get his big fish in Smith, but he pulled off the deal for Redick, who should really help a club that’s been skidding down the East standings and needs a boost. Hammond held onto Jennings and Ellis and will have room to maneuver in the summer to add more pieces.
Thunder: GM Sam Presti continues to make shrewd moves. The acquisition of Ronnie Brewer from the New York Knicks for a second-round pick gives OKC another strong perimeter defender to help Thabo Sefolosha.
Celtics:Jordan Crawford might not be Jamal Crawford, but he can score in bunches and Boston was desperate to bolster its injury-ravaged guard backcourt. Boston fans are the winners here, too, with the team’s heart and soul, Garnett and Pierce, staying put.
Mavericks: Sure, on the surface, picking up 3-point specialist Anthony Morrow for defensive-minded guard Dahntay Jones doesn’t sound like much. But then SheridanHoops.com reminded us of this Dwight Howard interview in Russia when he named Morrow as one of a handful of players he’d like to have as a teammate.
Blazers: The team with the leanest bench in the NBA finally got some help in a minor deal that netted OKC guard Eric Maynor, who lost his job early on to Reggie Jackson. Maynor will help Rookie of the Year frontrunner Damian Lillard reduce his 38.5 mpg workload.
Hawks: They didn’t get the deal done to ship out Smith and now it seems they will lose him for nothing in free agency. On one level, however, it’s hard to say that this is a definitive loss. They’ll keep Smith (who might or might not come away from this experience deflated) for the rest of the season, and, with any luck, try to keep him while recruiting friend and fellow Atlantan Howard next summer. If GM Danny Ferry wasn’t pleased with the deals presented, it doesn’t always pay to take something, anything just because in the end you could be left with nothing. If Smith leaves, the Hawks will take the cap space and look to spin it in their favor.
Magic: They deal away a useful player and one they drafted in Redick and hand over his Bird Rights to the Bucks. There was no guarantee that Redick would re-sign with Orlando, but he at least had said the door was open to a return. The Magic’s Josh McRoberts to Charlotte deal for Hakim Warrick is a head-scratcher.
Knicks: They didn’t upgrade at any position and gave away a solid defender in Brewer, who was starting for the club during their hot start out of the gates, but had slipped out of the rotation. New York did use the roster vacancy to sign veteran power forward Kenyon Martin.
Nets: They failed to land another high-priced player in Smith and failed to unload one of their own, Kris Humphries.
HANG TIME, Texas — The clock ticks down, the trade deadline draws near and all 30 NBA general managers are burning up their phones with possibilities realistic and absurd.
Some need to make deals to solidify playoff teams, others simply can’t bear the thought of sitting still. As Thursday gets closer, here are seven GMs with big decisions to make:
Danny Ferry, Atlanta Hawks
Is it finally time to give up on the hope that Josh Smith can be more than a numbers-gatherer in Atlanta? Ferry, the first-year Hawks’ GM, wasted no time in moving out Joe Johnson’s big contract. Part of the decision was that J-Smoove would blossom without Iso-Joe taking up a big part of the offense. Instead he’s averaging 1.4 fewer points and one rebound less than a year ago, his efficiency rating is down from 21.14 to 19.90 and he’s shooting only 50 percent from the free-throw line. The sense is that it’s “just time.” Still, that doesn’t mean Ferry has to move him. He’s positioned the Hawks so that they could afford to keep Smith and still sign a pricey free agent next summer. But that won’t stop the likes of the Bucks, Suns, Celtics, Wizards and Sixers from making a run. The Rockets have long had eyes for Smith, but might be more inclined to wait to make their moves in free agency.
Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics
Despite their 8-1 record since Rajon Rondo’s season ended due to torn knee ligaments, it’s too hard to see the Celtics making a serious and deep playoff run on the aging legs of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The obvious move would be with the 36-year-old Garnett and making that long-rumored deal to the Clippers (Eric Bledsoe). The challenge is getting K.G. to waive the no-trade clause in his contract. Can Ainge appeal to Garnett’s own best interest to get another ring or his loyalty to the Celtics organization to help them start over? Even if Rondo’s knee injury isn’t as severe as first thought and he’s able to get back on the floor for the start of training camp, the rebuilding in Boston has to start sometime. It might as well be now.
Billy King, Brooklyn Nets
If King could know for sure that Deron Williams will shake off the injuries and inefficiency and return to the All-Star form he showed in Utah, then he’d be more inclined to sit back and put his feet up. Or maybe not in the realm of Mikhail Prokhorov. The Russian billionaire owner is willing to shell out big bucks, but also expects immediate results and does not handle mediocrity well. See Avery Johnson, who was fired with a 14-14 record, a Coach of the Month title pinned to his resume. The Nets will likely try to get Paul Millsap from the Jazz and could be in the running for the popular Josh Smith. Last year’s All-Rookie team member MarShon Brooks is on the block. Would Charlotte’s offer of Ben Gordon for Kris Humphries be enough? The Nets have been so inconsistent that with the possibility of a first-round bounce due to a bad matchup looming, you have to believe King won’t sit still.
Donnie Nelson, Dallas Mavericks
“The Bank of Cuban is open.” That was team owner Mark Cuban’s declaration last month, but what must be determined is in which direction the Mavericks are headed right now. They enter the post-All-Star stretch six games under .500 and 4 1/2 games out of the last playoff spot in the West. If the Mavs decide they’re better off reloading with a fully-recovered Dirk Nowitzki next season, they certainly have a good trade chip in Vince Carter, who’d be a wonderful addition to any playoff contender. He could also bring in future assets for Shawn Marion, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand.
Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets
You put him in this slot just because Morey lives with an itchy trigger finger and might be inclined to make a deal just because he can. But with the James Harden steal under his belt and the free agency hits on Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, the Rockets will probably strike only if it’s a chance at a home run. With the youngest team in the league, a position in the West playoff race and a payroll that could make them big, big players in free agency, next summer is probably when they’ll make their move. But Houston is now big-game hunting for talent to play with Harden. If a chance to scoop up a true All-Star comes their way, Morey won’t hesitate.
Mitch Kupchak, L.A. Lakers
It’s almost obligatory to put the Lakers on any potential trade deadline list, despite Kupchak saying publicly that he’s not at all interested in dealing Dwight Howard or breaking up his All-Star group of underachievers at this point. He can’t trade Pau Gasol as long as the possibility exists that Howard walks as a free agent next summer — which it does. Besides, the Lakers problems are not about needing more players but getting the ones they have to play every night with passion.
Dennis Lindsey, Utah Jazz
Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson? Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap? With the contracts of both of the frontcourt veterans expiring, it was assumed since Day One of this season that the rookie GM Lindsey would have to deal one of them by the deadline, if for no other reason than to make room and more playing time for Derrick Favors. It would seem to make sense, but only if the Jazz can get a bonafide star in return. That’s what the 30-24 team lacks right now. But there is no reason to make a deal just to make a deal. The future is based on a young core of Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. Millsap is the more likely one to go, but maybe only for another expiring contract in return. Salt Lake City is not a desired location for free agents. But as the effects of the new collective bargaining agreement are felt and big names teams try to avoid the increasingly punishing luxury tax, players will want to simply get paid. Don’t expect a panic move here.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Josh Smith‘s days of playing before an ambivalent crowd at Philips Arena are numbered. If we’re reading the trade deadline tea leaves correctly, he might even be down to his final 48 minutes there on Wednesday night when the Hawks host the Heat.
The Hawks’ attempts to convince Smith to stick around until the summer, when he’d be a free agent, have not slowed a number of teams pursuing the versatile power forward.
In fact, the list of teams with reported interest in Smith seems to grow with every tick of the trade deadline clock. The Hawks have let it be known that they are willing to move the Atlanta native by Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline. And a player with his unique arsenal of skills can fit in any system.
The max-deal conversation that has raged for weeks was, like many things in the Twitter era, not fully understood by most of the people. They were simply repeating the stories of Smith and the Hawks agreeing to disagree about his value to the team that drafted him with the 17th pick overall in the 2004 Draft.
The funny thing is the Hawks, spanning two different front office regimes, have never really made clear what monetary value they have assigned to Smith. His current deal — he’s in the final year of a five-year, $58 million contract — was one the Hawks had to match after the Memphis Grizzlies made a play for him as a restricted free agent in 2008. It’s a bargain for a player who has been as productive as he has during that time.
Since basically his first season, Smith has been on the proverbial trade market every February. And the Hawks have drafted player after player (Marvin Williams, Shelden Williams, Al Horford) who were supposed to supplant Smith as the team’s best option at his position. Yet Smith has been steady. For every knock on his game — the ill-advised jump shots no one wants him to take, the spotty decision-making and the well-publicized dust-ups with coaches Mike Woodson and Larry Drew — there are things Smith and only a handful of other players can do on a given night.
When the Hawks traded six-time All-Star Joe Johnson to the Nets last summer, the playoff forecast for the franchise changed dramatically. Smith and Horford were left to lead a team of good role players that few people expected to be among the Eastern Conference’s best teams early this season.
There is a high probability that Hawks fans who have grown disenchanted with Smith’s game over the nearly nine years he’s played before hometown crowds. That throng will get their wish and see him move on. It’s up to Hawks general manager Danny Ferry to sort through the mess and find the right deal (with the most assets — players, draft picks, etc. — they can get for their best player).
And all indications are that’s exactly what he’ll do by Thursday’s deadline. (more…)
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST –Terrence Ross is thrilled to be one of six competitors and the lone rookie entrant in Saturday’s Sprite Slam Dunk contest in Houston as part of All-Star Saturday. And as the Toronto Raptors guard defies gravity, he’ll be uplifted by a number of young fans he probably never knew he had.
That’s because the 22-year-old guard out of Washington plans to dunk something far bigger than basketballs — he wants to help dunk cancer and help the children battling the despicable disease every day.
Before the Raptors play host to the Denver Nuggets tonight, Ross will announce his involvement in launching a three-part fundraising campaign in partnership with “Dunk Cancer” and its month-long initiative, ”Dunk Cancer Month,” during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.
Ross has committed to help raise money to benefit the Children’s Cancer Association and his high school back home, Jefferson High, in Portland, Ore.
“Ever since I was in about the third grade, my mom has run an out-of-home day care service,” Ross said. “So there were always kids around. One of the kids that she took care of had cancer. We were close to the family and were always around each other so it hit home for us. That’s the main reason I’ve chosen to support “Dunk Cancer” and “Dunk Cancer Month.”
Ross kicks off the first leg of the campaign on Thursday as he’ll host a 72-hour, Twitter-based online fundraiser from his @T_DotFlight31 twitter handle. Using the #dunkcancer hash tag, he will encourage Twitter users to support “Dunk Cancer Month” by purchasing “Dunk Cancer” merchandise (T-shirts, hoodies etc.) at dunkcancer.com.
During Saturday night’s slam dunk contest, Ross will donate $2,000 to “Dunk Cancer” for every round he advances in the three-round slam-dunk competition.
He’ll go up against defending dunk champ Jeremy Evans of Utah, plus Denver’s powerful Kenneth Faried — who leads all contestants with 85 dunks on the season (seventh-most in the league) — the Los Angeles’ Clippers’ high-flyer Eric Bledsoe, the Knicks’ 30-year-old James “Flight” White and Indiana’s Gerald Green, who blew out a lit candle in a cupcake perched on the back of the rim in the 2008 dunk contest.
So what does the 6-foot-6, 195-pound Ross, the youngest of the contestants, have planned?
“I’ve been planning my dunks for about a week now, testing them with teammates to see which will get really good scores,” said Ross, who noted that Raptors newcomer Rudy Gay has provided some pointers. “I’m definitely going to do something new, nothing I’ve done during the season.”
So a few surprises then?
“Possibly,” said Ross, who is averaging 6.6 ppg and 2.1 rpg in 17.3 mpg. “I think I have a fairly good chance of winning. Plus, I need to advance to build up my contribution.”
After the All-Star break, Ross, the eighth overall pick last June, will turn his attention to his old high school in Portland. As the Raptors are playing the Washington Wizards next Tuesday, Jefferson High will be taking on Benson High. Ross will donate $500 for each dunk a Jefferson player slams home, up to $2,000. The money will go to support the school’s athletic program.
“I’m just doing my part to try to help kids that are in need,” Ross said. “Partnering with ‘Dunk Cancer,’ to benefit the Children’s Cancer Association and my high school back home, allows me to lend my name to a good cause.”
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Can’t deny that amazing performance by LeBron James last night against the Bobcats — the reigning MVP made 13 of 14 shots, the league’s third-best shooting performance with at least that many attempts in the last 18 years — as Miami won. But our vote goes to Bulls-Pacersin a matchup of two of the East’s elite squads — both in terms of records and defensive ability. Paul George showed why he’s both an All-Star and one of the best all-around young talents in the game with a 25-point, 11-rebound, five-assist performance that included an amazing dunk and a dazzling assist. Surprising as well was both teams combining for 212 points, considering where the Bulls (19th) and Pacers (26th) rank in offensive rating.
Dwight doesn’t want a ‘circus’ — After a ‘Dwightmare’ that lasted pretty much all of last season (and into the 2012 offseason), Dwight Howard isn’t looking to create more drama in Lakerland. In a sit-down interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, Howard defended his actions last season, spoke of not wanting to be a distraction in Lakerland, further detailed his nagging shoulder injury and discussed playing with Kobe Bryant. ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin has the report off the interview, which has some pretty telling stuff about how Howard views himself:
“I’m not a crybaby,” Howard told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on SportsCenter on Monday. “I didn’t try to cry my way out of Orlando. That was never my intention, or not what I did at all. And I understand everybody thought it was that way because of what was being put out there. I’m not indecisive. I love this game. You know I play it because it inspires me; it inspires millions of kids around me, adults and all. And, I’m going to have fun while I do it.”
Howard becomes a free agent July 1 but wants to live in the present, sticking to his goal of winning the first championship of his nine-year career this season, no matter how unlikely it may seem with the Los Angeles Lakers getting off to a 22-26 start more than three months into the season.
“Right now, my only focus is to get us into the playoffs and win the championship,” Howard said. “Nothing else matters at this point.
Howard talks about his future in L.A. and knows the Lakers want him back, but he isn’t ready to commit to them just yet:
The Lakers have made it clear that they want Howard to be a keystone for the franchise moving forward, with general manager Mitch Kupchak telling Newsday this week that the center will not be traded, but Howard does not want to focus on the future just yet.
“I understand, you know, what the Lakers want,” Howard said. “And I also understand that right now, there’s no need for all the circus, and all the stuff that happened last year to start back up. I don’t want it, my team doesn’t need it, I don’t need it, and frankly, our fans don’t need it neither.”
What the fans do need is to see more of Howard looking like the player who became the first person in league history to win three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards. First he needs to be on the court to do so.
Howard is considered a game-time decision when the Lakers play the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday because of a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder. Howard, who has missed four games this season because of his shoulder but has not missed any time from complications stemming from offseason back surgery, said he continues to battle with his health.
“Well with my back you know, it’s not all the way there, 75 percent,” Howard said. “And with my shoulder, it’s day to day. This is the first year recovering off of a back surgery. I really don’t think people understand the severity of the surgery and the injury, and how long it takes to recover. Even sitting down in this chair right now is causing my legs to go numb, and just having this tingling sensation all the way down my legs. So, that happens when I’m playing. That happens when I’m just sitting on the bench for a couple minutes. It’s not easy.”
In terms of playing with Bryant, Howard says he can’t let the fact Kobe tends to shoot a lot disrupt his game:
“You play with Kobe Bryant you know, he’s going to get them up,” Howard said. “But, at the same time, I have to find ways to still be effective. I can’t allow that to affect how I play. There were a lot of times early in the season where I would get upset you know, because I felt like he shot the ball a lot. And you know, I wanted some touches down low. Do I want touches, yeah. But, whatever I have to do to help this team win, I have to keep my mind in that area.”
It’s Finals or bust for these Pacers — Indiana’s win over Chicago pulled it into a tie for the Central Division lead and has the Pacers sitting at No. 3 in the Eastern Conference. Reason to be happy, right? Not exactly, according to Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. The Pacers have shown the ability to be very good, but need a game-changing scorer off the bench to realize the team’s full potential: a Finals-worthy squad. Kravitz expounds on his point and has a few deals he’d like to see Indiana make:
It’s not enough for the Indiana Pacers to win 50-plus games and go deep into the playoffs. It’s not enough for them to be a really good team that has a chance to take the Miami Heat to the edge and make them sweat, as they did one year ago.
The bar has to be raised higher, an NBA Finals appearance or bust, and there’s only one way that’s going to happen:
Before the Feb. 21 trade deadline, team President Donnie Walsh and general manager Kevin Pritchard must make a season-changing deal.
They have two needs if they want to go from nice playoff contender to NBA Finals possibility.
They need a dynamic scorer off the bench. Right now, they’re hanging on by their fingernails, scoring by committee. But they don’t have anybody like, say, a J.R. Smith of the Knicks, who can come off the bench and drop 20 on an opponent.
Go grab somebody like J.J. Redick, the Orlando sharpshooter who would give the Pacers the dead-eye presence they so sorely lack. That might mean losing Redick, a free agent, at season’s end, but it could be worth the investment.
Or how about picking up some of the pieces when and if the Boston Celtics decide to break up the old gang? The Pacers would re-unite with Leandro Barbosa in a heartbeat. The Pacers would love a piece of Jason Terry. Somebody. Anybody.
They could also use a bit more size at the backup point guard spot, even if that’s not as great a crying need as a scorer off the bench.
What’s frustrating is, they were within minutes of pulling off a trade last year for O.J. Mayo. And then when that trade fell through, Jamal Crawford, a free agent, decided he would no longer wait around and signed instead with the Los Angeles Clippers.
…Who do they move?
I’d make Tyler Hansbrough available.
I’d make Green available.
I’d think about moving Lance Stephenson, even though he has emerged the way former team boss Larry Bird envisioned he would.
And I’d part with a first-round pick in a year in which the draft is unusually weak.
Here’s who I wouldn’t part with: Danny Granger.
He has been the subject of fan trades for years, and just this week, there was another rumor that the Houston Rockets were making exploratory calls about Granger’s availability.
Listen to me.
Don’t trade him.
Without him, they have zero chance to make any noise in the playoffs.
The Pacers are close, really close, likely a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference.
But they’re not an NBA Finals contender.
Not yet, anyway.
No big secret to Chandler’s rebounding success — With his 20-rebound game against the Pistons last night, Tyson Chandler joined Willis Reed as the only player in Knicks history to amass 20-plus rebounds in three straight games. In the 13 games before this rebounding outburst, Chandler averaged 11.5 rpg — right at about his season average (11.2). So what has led to his big turnaround on the boards? Newsday’s Jim Baumbach says a stern talk with coach Mike Woodson lit a fire under Chandler to pick up his rebounding work:
The way Knicks coach Mike Woodson sees it, when a 7-footer with Chandler’s wingspan plays with as much energy and hustle as his center has recently, those rebounds are going to pile up. And after a recent stern talk initiated by Woodson, Chandler has been proving his coach’s point twentyfold.
In Monday night’s 99-85 victory over the Detroit Pistons , Chandler grabbed 20 rebounds for the third straight game, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished by a Knicks player in more than four decades.
He credited his recent rebounding surge to a frank talk he had with Woodson in the coach’s office last week that “mentally lit a fire under me.”
Woodson said he thought Chandler’s play had been slipping for a few games, and the coach wanted to put a stop to the troublesome sign before it became a trend.
So Woodson called Chandler in and harped on the fact that now that he’s an All-Star for the first time in his 12-year career, he has to play like one all the time.
“I didn’t think he was playing complete basketball,” Woodson said. “He was taking possessions off. He wasn’t moving the pace offensively and he wasn’t getting it done in terms of rebounding the basketball. And you can’t be an All-Star in this league and not play like it.”
As hard as it was for Chandler to hear that from his coach, he said he didn’t take offense. Instead, he said he channeled his emotions on the court — especially when chasing down those missed shots.
“The last thing you want is for people to start questioning you,” Chandler said. “And I agreed . . . Sometimes you need that. You need a little push.”
Bynum keeps working, but worries about bone bruises — Sixers big man Andrew Bynum is ramping up his on-court knee rehab a little each day and is still targeting post-All-Star break to make his Philly debut. But as he works to return, his main concern is avoiding a bone bruise on the knee. Tom Moore of Phillyburbs.com has more on what Bynum’s rehab schedule and concerns are:
Bynum said prior to Monday’s home game against the Magic that he expects to play sometime in February, barring “a bone bruise or something like that.”
The earliest it would seem Bynum could be in uniform is Feb. 20 in Minneapolis, which is the first game after the all-star break.
As for the Feb. 14-19 break, Bynum said the plan is to go to his home in Los Angeles for the first part and to return to Philadelphia that Sunday or Monday.
Bynum has missed the entire 2012-13 campaign due to bone bruises in his both knees.
Asked what is keeping him from playing, Bynum replied, “My doctor said it’s fear of a big bone bruise, so we need to nurse it back up to playable conditions without having a setback or creating a bone bruise.”
While he’s still isn’t even playing 1-on-1 in his workouts, he said he’s progressing to the point where his sessions last as long as three hours and consist of running, lifting weights and basketball drills. He’s running on the anti-gravity treadmill with 75-80 percent of his body weight.
Bynum said it hurts when he does “jumping, lateral movement and defensive slides” and wonders if it’s a range-of-motion issue.
The second set of Synvisc shots he received Thursday in New York from personal physician Dr. David Altchek don’t seem to be helping much, according to Bynum, though his right knee “feels phenomenal.” That’s the knee he hurt bowling. He injured the left knee doing a basketball drill in September.
Z-Bo trying to find way out of slump — Memphis’ double-double machine and All-Star, Zach Randolph, was more than dependable the first three months of the season. He averaged 15.6 ppg and 12.8 rpg from October to January and, aside from shooting 33.3 percent in Memphis’ lone October game, never shot worse than 43.5 percent in any month. Much has changed for him from late January to the start of this month, as he’s averaging 6.7 ppg, 14.0 rpg and shooting 26.5 percent from Jan. 28-Feb. 1. Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal talked with Randolph about the cause of his swoon:
Zach Randolph pontificated for several minutes about the Grizzlies’ offense, how he needs to play and the nuances of opposing defenses geared toward weakening his presence in the paint.
Then, the Griz power forward fielded a simple question.
“How are you feeling?” a reporter asked, wondering if the lower back pain that caused Randolph to miss a game about two weeks ago might still linger.
“I ain’t the one to complain,” Randolph said. “If it was (hurting) I couldn’t tell you.”
Randolph let loose a hearty laugh. But there isn’t much amusing about Randolph’s inability to score over the past three games. What’s funny — as in odd — is the All Star has missed layups, tip-ins, settled for off-balanced jump shots while fading.
The veteran’s offensive problems have added up to a three-game stretch in which he’s scored a total of 20 points on 9-of-34 shooting (26 percent).
This is so funny that Randolph put a stamp on it.
“This has probably been the worst slump since 2003 for me,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve really played good offensively this whole year. I have my spurts. I’ve been doing other things.”
From coach Lionel Hollins to every teammate, the Griz agree that they can help Randolph get back on track.
No one but Randolph can correct his inexplicable misses around the basket, but the Griz have talked about improving their early offense and overall spacing to alleviate pressure in the post.
“He’s got to work harder to get up and down the court so we can get some easy buckets for him, and we haven’t done that,” Hollins said. “And we’ve got to do a better job of getting the ball to him in the post where he can operate and then getting out of his way.”
Hollins preferred more pick-and-rolls and transition offense without an injured Randolph most of last season. The gradual move away from setting up and throwing the ball in the post continued this season.
However, Randolph has relied more on facing up and launching midrange jump shots as his effectiveness around the basket has decreased.
“On the offensive end, it’s not like it was two years ago. It’s been different,” Randolph said. “The beginning of the season was different. But it’s just a matter of me getting right. That’s what I do. I’m an offensive player and a rebounder. I’ve just got to keep pushing.”
Clippers staying tight-lipped on KG talk — As we mentioned on the Hang Time blog yesterday, reports are circulating that the Clippers may be chasing after Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. One of the players believed to be involved in a potential trade, guard Eric Bledsoe, didn’t have much to say about a deal and neither did his coach, Vinny Del Negro. Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News wonders, though, if a trade is just what these Clippers need most:
The aging, expensive Celtics recently lost point guard Rajon Rondo to a season-ending knee injury, knocking an already unbalanced season sideways.
With the Clippers potentially looking for help to get back on track, the Celtics contemplating blowing their roster up and going into full rebuild mode and the Feb. 21 trade deadline approaching, the game of connect the dots is in full swing.
Which led to a report that surfaced Sunday in the Sporting News that indicated the Clippers had inquired about the Celtics’ Kevin Garnett.
The Clippers reportedly are dangling point guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Caron Butler for the 37-year-old Garnett, who has two more years on his contract beyond this season worth $23 million.
Bledsoe has enough on his hands trying to hold things down
until Paul returns from his knee injury – that included playing the entire second half Sunday against the Celtics – let alone worry about trade rumors.
“I’m just focused on the Washington Wizards,” Bledsoe said before Monday’s game. “Just focused on the Wizards and trying to get back on a winning track.”
It was a clever way of downplaying the reports, but the reality is Bledsoe knows full well his name is out there in trade talks. To deal with it, he boils his focal point down to the most minimal element.
“It’s what I can control,” Bledsoe said. “So I’ll focus on the Wizards and trying to get back on the winning track.”
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said trade talk isn’t an issue and most of the rumors being bandied about have little validity.
“Most of (what’s reported) isn’t accurate,” Del Negro said.
Does it make sense for the Clippers to take on the two years and $23 million remaining on Garnett’s contract after this season, considering it will take him beyond his 40th birthday?
They remain tight-lipped about their deadline plans, but all indications point to a level of interest in exploring ways to improve the roster.
“We’re no different than any other team out there. If there’s an opportunity to do something to get better we’ll look at it,” Del Negro said.