Posts Tagged ‘Eric Maynor’

Lamb Boosts Surging Thunder Bench


VIDEO: Jeremy Lamb finishes off the Thunder transition with the sweet left hand

OKLAHOMA CITY – Thunder coach Scott Brooks doesn’t get the sudden fuss over his bench.

“We’ve always played 10 guys. I’ve done it for many years,” Brooks said. “All of a sudden we’re all getting credit that we’re playing 10 guys. It’s baffling that we’re all of a sudden talking about it.”

The fuss isn’t so much over the number of guys coming off the bench, but rather the numbers those guys are putting up. For a team so reliant on its two superstars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder bench is scoring more this season than at any time during the Big Three era with super sixth man James Harden, as well as last season when Kevin Martin replaced the Houston-bound Harden.

This Thunder bench (according to hoopsstats.com) ranks 11th in the league in scoring (33.8 ppg) and is statistically blowing away past incarnations in a number of categories: Sixth in rebounding (17.1), eighth in offensive rebounding (4.7), 11th in assists (7.2), third in field-goal percentage (47.4) and ninth in minutes (19.2). That’s a top-11 ranking in six key categories.

Last season’s bench ranked in the bottom 11 in five of those categories (field-goal percentage, 45.2, being the lone exception).

Outside of stalwart forward-center Nick Collison, this is largely a new-name bench. Third-year point guard Reggie Jackson has been excellent and his ascension from 14.2 mpg last season to 24.8 mpg this season was somewhat predictable after his 2013 playoff breakout as Westbrook’s stand-in. More doubts centered around 6-foot-5, second-year shooting guard Jeremy Lamb and his ability to handle a hefty bench role for the first time in his career. Averaging 9.8 ppg and shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc in 20.7 mpg, so far, so good.

Add 7-foot rookie center Steven Adams, OKC’s at-the-time unheralded 12th pick in the Draft, spot minutes for 2012 first-round pick Perry Jones and a still-healthy dose of court time for everlasting point guard Derek Fisher, and the Thunder’s bench is producing at previously unseen levels. Three-point percentage (33.9), ranking 20th in the league, is the only lacking category.

The emergence of Adams (4.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.0 bpg in 16.1 mpg) has allowed Brooks to limit starting center Kendrick Perkins‘ minutes to 18.1 a game. Jackson, averaging 12.2 ppg and 3.4 apg, and Lamb (plus Fisher’s 13.4 mpg), have kept Westbrook down to 33.0 mpg coming off knee surgery. That’s about two fewer minutes per game than last season.

When the Thunder advanced to the 2012 Finals, Fisher was the most heavily used reserve guard beyond Harden. In the previous seasons, Harden was flanked by Eric Maynor (averaged 14.6 mpg in 2010-11) with Daequan Cook adding inconsistent minutes (and production) at shooting guard. This is the first time Brooks has trusted his personnel enough to regularly employ two young and athletic reserve guards.

“The trust came with all the work that he put in last season,” Brooks said of Lamb, who is shooting 48.7 percent overall. “When you don’t play as a rookie, you have a choice to make: either pout or get better. And he chose the one that we helped him choose. But it’s on him. He wanted to get better.”

No doubt that the 22-year-old Lamb was the wild card for a highly functioning bench. In Sunday’s win over Orlando, he played in his 23rd game of the season to equal his rookie total. He went 7-for-10 from the floor for 16 points, his 12th game in double figures and fourth in a row. He was 2-for-3 from beyond the arc, giving him 30 made 3s on the season, the number he attempted all of last season.

In his last three games, Lamb is averaging 15.0 ppg and is 6-for-10 from downtown. Even at his impressive clip, Lamb said he’s not happy with his long-range accuracy (30-for-73).

“I haven’t been hitting the 3 like I want to. I don’t know (a specific percentage), but I’ve missed a lot of wide open shots, some big shots. Those have to go down,” said Lamb, a 34.8-percent 3-point shooter during two seasons at Connecticut. “There’s been games where I’ve had open shots in overtime; open shots whether it’s the first quarter or overtime, I want to make them.”

Lamb and Harden are both 6-foot-5, but inherently different players. Lamb, lanky and with exceptionally long arms, is a pure shooting guard, while Harden, stockier and listed 35 pounds heavier than Lamb, is a rare backcourt hybrid. Harden possesses extraordinary skill to drive to the basket, and therefore to get to the free throw line. Still, Lamb is measuring up well to Harden’s rookie season with OKC when he averaged 9.9 ppg, shot 40.3 percent overall and 37.5 percent from 3-point range in 22.9 mpg.

With Lamb on the floor, the Thunder’s offensive rating is an excellent 110.1 (points scored per 100 possessions — only Portland has a team offensive rating better than 110.0; OKC’s is 105.9) and their defensive rating is a solid 99.0 (points allowed per 100 possessions — only six teams have ratings below 100.0; OKC’s is 98.0). When Lamb is on the bench, their offensive rating dips to 102.9 and the defensive rating is quite comparable at 97.3.

“Last year I had to change my mindset,” Lamb said. “I came in thinking, ‘OK, I’m going to get some minutes.’ But once I realized that I wasn’t going to get any minutes, I just tried to stay positive. I decided to keep working because I knew at some point I was going to get that chance, and when I got that chance I wanted to be ready.”

So, coach, that’s what the fuss is about.

Curry Makes Biggest Impact Offensively


VIDEO: Stephen Curry lights up the Mavs and hits the game-winner

The List

Biggest on-off-court differential, OffRtg

On floor Off floor
Player Team MIN OffRtg MIN OffRtg Diff.
Stephen Curry GSW 744 112.0 370 86.5 25.5
Kevin Love MIN 748 109.5 313 86.0 23.5
John Wall WAS 755 104.6 230 83.9 20.6
Paul George IND 809 106.2 252 89.1 17.0
Klay Thompson GSW 872 107.1 242 91.8 15.3
Marcin Gortat WAS 691 104.3 294 89.4 14.9
Luol Deng CHI 656 101.3 324 86.6 14.7
Corey Brewer MIN 748 107.0 313 92.5 14.6
David Lee GSW 774 108.1 340 94.0 14.2
Ricky Rubio MIN 716 107.3 345 93.3 14.0

Minimum 300 minutes on the floor
OffRtg = Team points scored per 100 possessions

The Context

Last season, the leader in this category was Damian Lillard. The 2012-13 Blazers scored 11.5 more points per 100 possessions with Lillard on the floor than they did with him on the bench. Right now, Curry’s differential is more than twice that.

With Curry on the floor, the Warriors have scored 2.5 more points per 100 possessions than the best offense in the league (Portland). With Curry on the bench, they’ve scored 7.2 fewer than the worst offense in the league (Milwaukee).

Curry is one of the most dangerous weapons in the league and a unique challenge to defend, because he’s one of the league’s two or three best shooters, but also has the ball in his hands to start most possessions. He leads the league with 15.8 pull-up jumpers per game, including 5.1 from 3-point range.

Curry not only gets buckets himself, but the threat of him pulling up clearly creates openings for his fellow perimeter players. Klay Thompson has shot 7.4 percent better from the field and 9.9 percent better from 3-point range with Curry on the floor, while Andre Iguodala has shot 31.1 percent better from the field and 43.7 percent better from beyond the arc.

The Warriors have not only shot better with Curry on the floor, but they’ve turned the ball over 6.1 fewer times per 100 possessions. Both Nemanja Nedovic and Kent Bazemore have turned the ball over on more than 20 percent of their possessions.

Iguodala’s absence is certainly a factor in the offensive drop-off when Curry steps off the floor. Iguodala, who is the team’s back-up point guard in addition to being the starting small forward, and who also has a tolerable turnover rate, has missed the last 10 games with a hamstring injury.

But before Iguodala’s injury, the Warriors were still pretty bad offensively with Curry off the floor and Iguodala on, scoring only 93.7 points per 100 possessions over 195 minutes. They were strong defensively, however, and that’s where Iguodala’s absence has been felt most. Golden State has allowed 104.1 points per 100 possessions over the last 10 games after allowing just 96.5 over their first 13.

Even when Iguodala returns, backcourt depth will be an issue. Mark Jackson hasn’t been able to trust Nedovic and Bazemore, who have played a total of 114 minutes over the 10 games that Iguodala has missed. Curry, meanwhile, has played 40-plus in eight of the 10. Both Curry (11th) and Thompson (seventh) now rank in the top 11 in minutes per game. They’re young, but that’s a heavy burden to shoulder.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Golden State has been included among the teams interested in trading for Kyle Lowry. What they’d have to offer the Raptors is the issue. They don’t have much of value beyond their top six players.

The Warriors have played a tough schedule, with 14 of their 23 games on the road and 19 of the against the Western Conference. But their lack of depth has become a real concern. Nobody can come close to replicating what Curry gives them when he’s on the floor, but they need somebody who can at least keep their offense from falling completely off the map.

The Video

Here are Curry’s nine 3-pointers against the Clippers on Oct. 31, here are his 15 assists in Memphis from Saturday, and here’s his game-winner against the Mavs on Wednesday.

The bottom of the list

The Pacers have scored 14.7 more points per 100 possessions with Ian Mahinmi on the bench (106.5) than they have with him on the floor (91.8). Yeah, there’s still a big drop-off when Frank Vogel goes to his bench, but the reserves do their jobs defensively, Luis Scola has given them more offense than Tyler Hansbrough did, and Roy Hibbert‘s minutes are up from 28.7 per game last season to 30.7 this season.

Just ahead of Mahinmi is the Lakers’ Steve Blake at -14.6, and I wrote last week how L.A.’s bench has been so much better than their starters. Ahead of Blake are the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard (-13.8), Vitor Faverani (-13.4) and the Pacers’ Orlando Johnson (-12.7).

Trivia question

What player has scored the most points without a single one coming from outside the paint? Hint: He’s a Western Conference big man who was once a top 10 draft pick by an Eastern Conference team.

More on-off-court notes

  • The presence of three Warriors in the top 10 further illustrates their lack of depth. Also in the top 10 are two Wizards, and when you take defense into account, John Wall has the largest on-off-court NetRtg differential. Washington has outscored its opponents by 5.6 points per 100 possessions with Wall on the floor and has been outscored by 24.1 with him on the bench. That Eric Maynor addition hasn’t worked out too well.
  • It’s also interesting to see Luol Deng on the list. We understand how important Deng is to the Bulls’ defense, but it’s now clear that, without Derrick Rose, they desperately need Deng offensively. With him out over the last three games, Chicago has scored a brutal 79.8 points per 100 possessions against three bottom 10 defensive teams (Detroit, Milwaukee and New York). And no, D.J. Augustin isn’t going to help much.
  • At the top of the list defensively? Nate Robinson. The Nuggets have allowed 15.5 fewer points per 100 possessions with Robinson on the floor than they have with him on the bench. Seems crazy, but the Nuggets have been just awful defensively in the first six minutes of games, allowing 121.2 per 100 possessions, more than 20 over the league average of 100.9 during that time. That has forced them to play catch-up when their reserves enter. Nate for DPOY!

Trivia answer

Andrew Bogut, who has 164 points, all from the paint (150) or from the free throw line (14).

One Team, One Stat: No Lillard, No Offense

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Portland Trail Blazers,

The basics
POR Rank
W-L 33-49 21
Pace 93.7 18
OffRtg 102.7 16
DefRtg 106.9 26
NetRtg -4.2 23

The stat

11.5 - Fewer points per 100 possessions the Blazers scored with Damian Lillard on the bench than with him on the floor.

The context

That was the biggest offensive, on-off-court differential in the league for players who logged at least 1,000 minutes with one team. And though Lillard has a fantastic season as a rookie point guard, the drop-off was more about the Blazers’ bench than it was about him.

With Lillard on the floor, the Blazers scored 105.0 points per 100 possessions, a number which would have ranked 10th in the league. With Lillard on the bench, they scored 93.5, which was four points per 100 possessions worse than the 30th-ranked Wizards.

Biggest on-off-court differential, points scored per 100 possessions

Player MIN On OffRtg On MIN Off OffRtg Off OffRtg Diff.
Damian Lillard 3,167 105.0 804 93.5 +11.5
LeBron James 2,877 113.4 1,099 102.1 +11.2
Chris Paul 2,335 112.1 1,611 101.3 +10.8
Lance Stephenson 2,278 106.1 1,640 95.4 +10.7
George Hill 2,620 104.8 1,298 95.3 +9.5

Minimum 1,000 minutes on the floor with one team

(Yes, the Pacers’ bench was pretty terrible, too.)

There’s a reason Lillard led the league in minutes played. The Blazers did everything worse offensively when he sat down. They shot worse (especially from 3-point range), they turned the ball over more, they got to the free throw line less and they got fewer offensive rebounds.

And this is all with LaMarcus Aldridge playing 503 (63 percent) of the 804 minutes Lillard was on the bench. Aldridge can step out to 20 feet, but the Blazers’ second unit lacked both deep threats and guys who can make plays with the ball.

The Blazers traded for Eric Maynor at the deadline with the hope that he would give their second unit a boost. But after the deal, the Blazers still scored just 95.2 points per 100 possessions in 248 minutes with Lillard on the bench.

Here are some ugly possessions from a March 30 game at Golden State, in which Portland scored just 22 points in 16:34 (64 points per 48 minutes) with Lillard on the bench …


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So the Blazers let Maynor leave for Washington and made some more moves this summer. Though C.J. McCollum was lost to a broken foot on Saturday, they still have Earl Watson (not a shooter) and Mo Williams (a shooter) in the back-up backcourt and Dorell Wright (a shooter) on the wing.

More important, they have Robin Lopez to improve their starting-lineup defense. Though the Blazers were solid offensively with Lillard on the floor, they were pretty poor on the other end, allowing 107.2 points per 100 possessions.

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

Jackson’s Challenging Crash Course

 

OKLAHOMA CITY – Reggie Jackson is on the accelerated learning program. It did not come by design.

In the course of his sophomore season, the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard was twice sent to the Tulsa 66ers of the D-League in December after averaging 6.9 mpg in 14 games with OKC, and came back and beat out Eric Maynor (eventually traded to Portland) for the right to back up Russell Westbrook.

“When you’re playing behind an All-Star point guard, the minutes are tough,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “But we somehow managed to give him 15, 16 minutes a game.”

Those minutes, mostly all spent directing the second unit, are invaluable now as Jackson has stepped into the unenviable role as the injured Westbrook’s replacement, logging more than 30 pressurized playoff minutes a game.

Jackson’s task is to lead the Thunder offense, seek a balance between being an aggressive playmaker and driving to the paint, feeding — and also getting out of the way of — MVP runner-up Kevin Durant, defending Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley and not melting in the glare of the postseason klieg lights.

Jackson’s studying more film and being coached harder. The three-day break between Games 2 and 3 in this semifinal series, knotted up at 1-1, might have been most beneficial for Jackson as he processes information from multiple angles and sources.

“Oh yeah, Coach Westbrook is doing a good job, watching the game, observing,” Jackson said, breaking into a smile. “He’s definitely on me a lot about pedal-to-the-metal and just trying to make plays for others and myself, try to take the load off Kevin.”

Yep, pedal-to-the-metal sounds like Westbrook. Of the many injured stars out of the playoffs, perhaps none is as uniquely dynamic for their squad as Westbrook is for the Thunder. He’s the bullet-train engine that powers OKC’s high-paced offense and keeps defenses backpedaling with powerful bursts up the floor and a pogo-stick, pull-up jumper. His active perimeter defense can be equally as fierce.

“I’m definitely talking to Reggie a lot more, but I also want him to learn and get better,” Westbrook said Thursday during his first public appearance since undergoing knee surgery on April 27. “You don’t want to tell a guy to go out there and do all these different things, you kind of want him to learn, and it’s a learning process for him as well as for me.”

And so, arguably, none of the players filling in for injured stars are being asked to fill quite the vacuum as the 6-foot-3, 208-pound Jackson.

That grand-canyon sized leap he’s making from hold-the-fort reserve to starting  point guard on a team with championship aspirations is intense and potentially mind-spinning. That it came with little time for Jackson and the team to absorb the full magnitude of Westbrook’s season-ending knee injury, to indoctrinate Jackson into the starting lineup and for Brooks to tweak his rotation, is a tremendous challenge. Fortunately for the Thunder, 38-year-old Derek Fisher, signed in late February, has been hot off the bench, easing some of Jackson’s burden.

“I had 24 hours, that’s good enough,” said Jackson, the 24th pick in the 2011 draft out of Boston College. “But it’s basketball. Remember, I started at some point in my career. I understand that coach trusts me, obviously, enough to play me in this moment and to take a new role. He sees something in me; my teammates do, they’re always on me, encouraging me, so I just got to go out there and have fun and just play basketball.”

Jackson, who said his name bears no lineage or linkage to baseball’s Mr. October — which could have come in handy in this situation — is averaging 30.9 mpg in the playoffs, more than doubling his 14.2 regular-season minutes. He averaged 21.0 mpg in the first two playoff games with Westbrook playing, and 31.2 mpg as a starter. He took 11 shots in the first two games. He’s averaging 11.6 since.

He averaged 14.0 ppg in the six games against the Rockets and shot a healthy 46.2 percent from the field. He has produced six consecutive double-digit scoring games. However, against the Grizzlies’ sturdy defense, Jackson has found the space on the floor shrinking and multiple, wide-body blockades in the paint, two vast differences from playing the wide-open, up-tempo Rockets. He’s averaged 11.0 ppg on 43.8 percent shooting against Memphis.

“He just has to play within what his capabilities are,” Brooks said. “If there’s openings, he has to attack. If he has that in transition, great. If he has that in the halfcourt, great. I think he is better when he does attack, he’s a great finisher around the rim.”

And then there’s the other end of the floor. Under normal circumstances, Westbrook and Conley would be facing off in a fascinating duel, and Jackson would mostly be sticking to the streaky shooting Jerryd Bayless. But now the sixth-year and ever-improving Conley, who has juiced his stats to 17.9 ppg and 7.8 apg in the playoffs, is Jackson’s responsibility.

The youngster took Conley’s explosive fourth quarter in Game 2 that nearly netted him a triple-double and pushed the Grizzlies to a 99-93 victory, as a personal affront.

“I can’t let that happen again,” Jackson said. “I feel that great players always take things personal, their matchups, and since Day 1, I always said that I want to be great. I have to do a better job of slowing him down and not let the head of the snake bite us next game.”

Morning Shootaround — March 25

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: The Rockets are three games up on the Lakers for the No. 7 seed, so it doesn’t look like Houston will have to face San Antonio in the first round if everything holds tight. As we all know, that can change between now and season’s end … and maybe it would be great if it did. After the Rockets and Spurs hooked up last night in Houston with a classic down-to-the-wire showdown, a Texas tussle in the first round might be a great new chapter in these teams’ rivalry. James Harden put on the hero’s cape last night, hitting a game-winning leaner with 4.5 seconds left to clinch the victory. Here’s hoping the Spurs (or Rockets) make the movement necessary to make this first-round series a possibility.

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News of the morning

Nets worried about Johnson | Report: Blazers likely to let Maynor test market | Pachulia still hurting | Report: Hoiberg drawing NBA interest

Nets’ Johnson banged upThe Nets are two games behind the Knicks for the Atlantic Division lead and have gotten improved play from Deron Williams in the last month or so. As close as Brooklyn is to a division crown, it’s hard to imagine where they’d be were it not for the play of Williams — especially considering that his backcourt mate, Joe Johnson, has been struggling of late. Johnson is averaging just 13.3 ppg in March and has struggled with his shot and is now suffering from a bruised quadriceps he suffered in a loss to the Clippers. He sat out Sunday’s win over the Suns, but as Roderick Boone of Newsday reports, the Nets are worried about Johnson’s long-term prognosis:

As for Joe Johnson, he suffered the bruised quadriceps when he bumped into Blake Griffin in the third quarter of the Nets’ 101-95 loss to the Clippers. He said it was swollen and tight Sunday, so the Nets made the decision to sit him out, starting Keith Bogans in his place.

Johnson was unsure if he’ll be able to play when the Nets face the Trail Blazers on Wednesday.

“It’s frustrating for me because all these little knick-knacks are starting to happen with me down the stretch of the season,” Johnson said before the game, “and this is the most important part of the season at this point right now. So that’s probably the most frustrating thing. It’s not about where we are playing and who we are playing. I always want to be out there with the guys. I hate sitting out and watching. That’s the hardest part.”

Since the All-Star break, Johnson hasn’t been the same explosive player. He’s averaging 13.8 points, down from the 17.0 he posted before the break, and his three-point percentage has taken a serious dip, dropping by nearly 8 percent.

“Yeah, I’m concerned, because he’s come back and he’s not healthy yet,” coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “I just think it’s very similar to what we were talking about with Deron. You saw the difference when Deron came back and felt good and was close to — 100 percent is the wrong word, but when he’s the best he’s felt all year, it made a big difference.

“Every time I ask Joe how it feels, he says he’s OK. Again, he wants to play. But I think that if you look at the numbers and you look at what Joe’s done since the injury, it’s not the same Joe. So yeah, we need to get Joe Johnson back healthy. If he’s healthy, then he’ll play the way Joe Johnson plays.”

That’s why Johnson didn’t shoot down the possibility of taking some time off to make sure he doesn’t play until he’s as close to normal. Last thing he wants to do is jeopardize his status for the playoffs.

“I think my health is more important right now at this point,” he said. “Just to heal up the little wounds because obviously, man, we want to do something major in the postseason, so I don’t want to go into the postseason with these things bothering me.”

In other words, he doesn’t want to find himself in uncharted territory.

“Every year going into the playoffs, man,” Johnson said, “I’ve been extremely injury-free, healthy and ready. This is a little different, but I will definitely be ready when I’m supposed to.”

Is it frustrating for Williams that he and Johnson can’t be together and healthy?

“Yeah,” he said, “but if we are still winning, then everything is all right. We won today without him, so that’s good. But we are going to need him. There’s no doubt about that. We are going to need him and we are going to need him healthy, so the most important thing for him is for him to get rest and for him to get healthy. He’s been battling. He’s been playing through a lot of pain. You can see it, you can tell. So he’s been a warrior out here in the games he has played.”

Report: Blazers to let Maynor test marketSo far, the Eric Maynor-Portland Trail Blazers marriage has been a successful one. Portland picked up the steady backup point guard from the Thunder at the trade deadline for Georgios Printezis and a trade exception, and Maynor has done a solid job of spelling presumptive Rookie of the Year winner Damian Lillard since arriving in Oregon. Maynor, an unrestricted free agent this summer, is someone whom the Blazers would like to retain, but they’re also willing to let him test the market. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian has more on what might be next for Maynor and the Blazers:

In the 14 games since Maynor joined the Blazers, Lillard’s scoring has improved by nearly three points, from 18.4 to 21.2 per game, and his shooting numbers have soared. Lillard is shooting 7.1 percentage points better from the field (41.8 to 48.9) and almost 10 percentage points better from three-point range (34.9 to 44.6 percent) with Maynor on the roster.

Maynor will return to Chesapeake Energy Arena as a visitor for the first time in 3 1/2 seasons on Sunday. And he’ll do so with an appreciative group of new teammates that have embraced his arrival as exactly the jolt they needed for the stretch run.

Maynor says he carries no animosity or added motivation into Sunday’s matchup against his former teammates. But he admits it will be “weird” to walk into Chesapeake Energy Arena a visitor and go at his long-time friends.

When Reggie Jackson emerged as a capable backup while Maynor rehabilitated from his injury, he lost his job. And as the trade deadline approached, Maynor was looking for a chance to play, so Oklahoma City granted his wish. He said the sides parted amicably.

“I appreciate everything they did for me for the 3 1/2 years that I was there,” Maynor said. “It was a great 3 1/2 years. But I wanted to go somewhere else and play, get some more minutes. We parted ways. Everything was good while I was there and I always still keep in touch with people there. But I’m happy to get a chance to play.”

And the Blazers — who are 8-6 since his arrival — are happy to have him. Perhaps no one more so than Lillard.

And perhaps the best part of it all is that both Maynor and coach Terry Stotts insist Maynor isn’t 100 percent in sync with his new teammates just yet.

“I think it’s still a work in progress,” Stotts said. “I’m getting more comfortable with how I can help him from an offensive standpoint. He’s getting more comfortable with our defensive system. He’s still understanding the dynamics of our team.”

How much time he will get to learn those dynamics remains unclear. Maynor will be a free agent at the end of the season and while the Blazers can guarantee he stays by extending him a qualifying offer this summer — making him a restricted free agent — it would come at a price. Maynor’s qualifying offer is $3.4 million, with a hefty $5.85 million cap hold that would eat a substantial amount of the Blazers’ offseason spending money.

Early reviews suggest that the Blazers and Maynor are a good match. But it seems unlikely the team would mortgage so much of its offseason spending power on a backup point guard. It seems more likely the Blazers will allow Maynor to become an unrestricted free agent and pursue him with the rest of the NBA. It’s the same move the Blazers made last offseason with JJ Hickson and he ended up returning.

Pachulia done for season?With their win in Milwaukee in yesterday’s matinee, the Atlanta Hawks are maintaining their grip on the No. 5 seed in the East and have won five of their last seven games. While Atlanta is merely .500 in March, they’re holding things together without key reserve big man Zaza Pachulia, who has been out the last 15 games. Chris Vivalamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has more on when Pachulia may (or may not) return:

Zaza Pachulia did not accompany the Hawks on the road trip as he continues to rehabilitate a sore right Achilles. Pachulia remains out indefinitely with the injury that will have cost him 21 games, including the past 15, by the time the Hawks return home.

A decision on Pachulia’s status for the remainder of the regular-season could come next week.

Report: Teams interested in Iowa State’s HoibergFred Hoiberg the NBA player spent 10 seasons in the league, carving out a solid niche as a 3-point marksman, most notably for the Kevin Garnett-era Minnesota Timberwolves. After his playing days were cut short by a heart condition, Hoiberg had a front-office role with Minnesota before returning to his alma mater, Iowa State, where he eventually became coach. In three seasons as coach of the Cyclones, Hoiberg has taken them to two consecutive NCAA tournament berths, ending a seven-season drought of postseason play. His work in Ames hasn’t gone unnoticed by NBA types, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, and some teams are showing interest in Hoiberg as an NBA coach:

Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg has emerged as an intriguing NBA head-coaching candidate, multiple front-office executives told Yahoo! Sports.

After resurrecting the Cyclones program and nearly pushing them into the Sweet 16 of the 2013 NCAA tournament, Hoiberg’s college coaching success, combined with his pro pedigree, has convinced league officials he’s the ideal college coach to make the transition to pro basketball.

 “If I had to make a hire this year, [Hoiberg] would be one of the first calls I’d make,” one NBA general manager told Yahoo! Sports on Sunday. “He is a natural for our league.”

Among seven GMs contacted on Sunday, there wasn’t a single one who expressed skepticism about Hoiberg’s ability to make an immediate leap to an NBA coaching job should he have a desire to do so.

Two GMs who expect to have openings told Yahoo! Sports that they planned to feel out Hoiberg’s interest in the NBA once they begin search processes.

Prying Hoiberg out of Ames, Iowa, won’t be easy. He grew up in Ames, graduated from Iowa State and has shown a strong inclination to coach his alma mater for the long term. Long ago, his popularity and loyalty in the community gave him his nickname of “The Mayor.” Hoiberg has long expressed a desire for his children to have a similar upbringing in Ames as he did.

Eight years ago, Hoiberg’s NBA career ended prematurely with heart surgery for an enlarged aortic root. Doctors inserted a pacemaker into Hoiberg and future heart procedures haven’t been ruled out.

Nevertheless, Hoiberg has the perfect disposition, proven Xs-and-Os acumen and understanding of the NBA to make himself an attractive candidate. The Cyclones play a fast, pro-style offense.

“It would need to be a long-term commitment, because he could stay at Iowa State forever,” says one assistant GM who stays in contact with Hoiberg.

ICYMI of the night: A little bit of point guard-on-point guard rejection makes for a nice Monday morning treat … :


Deadline Deals Don’t Equal A Fresh Start

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Not everyone can be J.J. Redick and get traded at the deadline to a playoff team that has 28 minutes of playing time carved out and instantly make a positive impact.

Just ask Anthony Morrow, who was virtually nonexistent in Atlanta only to become invisible in Dallas; or Ed Davis, who is only now, thanks to injuries to Zach Randolph, beginning to break into Memphis coach Lionel Hollins‘ rotation. Ronnie Brewer lost his rotation spot in New York and has yet to find one in Oklahoma City and Jordan Crawford, whose low minutes in Boston are at least better than no minutes in Washington.

“I landed in a place that is pretty much a great fit for me,” Morrow said a few days after being freed from the Hawks. “Coming out of my last situation I just wanted to get somewhere or anywhere where I could have an opportunity in terms of working hard and letting that pay off.”

Judging by comments from the Mavs’ brass, Morrow, a free-agent-to-be, figured to have gotten exactly what he wanted. President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson went so far as to call Morrow “one of the top stretch shooters maybe in the history of the league.” That might have been stretching things a bit, but owner Mark Cuban seemed happy to get the 3-point specialist for a playoff push in a straight-up deal for defensive-minded shooting guard Dahntay Jones.

“He’s one of those guys you just can’t leave,”  Cuban said. “If you do he’s going to make you pay for it and that’s going to be really valuable for us.”

It might be if Morrow ever gets on the court. Coach Rick Carlisle has played Morrow a whopping six minutes. Six total minutes. He finally got up his first 3-pointer as a Mav on Sunday against Minnesota — he missed it — when he played 2:28, a shade under his Mavs high of 3:40 to go with stints of 16 seconds and four seconds.

The Thunder acquired the 6-foot-7 Brewer after trading backup guard Eric Maynor to Portland, a move that has worked well for Maynor on the Blazers’ thin bench. Brewer has played limited minutes, but his true value should come in the playoffs as a sturdy wing defender that coach Scott Brooks can utilize in specific situations. Brewer got a brief, late fourth-quarter assignment against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers last week.

“Those are minutes I have to somehow work in, but it’s hard to play 10, 11 guys,” Brooks said. “But Ronnie knows what he has to do and what he will do, he’s a professional, he understands what we do. He knows how to play, he’s a hard-nosed defender, he’s a team guy, so he just has to keep working until he gets his number called.”

Which is what the 6-foot-10 Davis is doing in Memphis. The three-team deal that sent Detroit big man Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince to Memphis and Rudy Gay to Toronto (Raptors point guard Jose Calderon now starts for Detroit) happened about three weeks before the deadline.

Daye surprisingly was getting the bulk of the bench minutes while Davis sat. But in the last four games, Davis is starting to emerge as a key player for the hot Grizzlies, if only because of injuries to the starter, Randolph, and top reserve forward, Darrell Arthur. In his last four games, Davis is averaging 27.0 mpg, 9.2 ppg and 8.5 rpg. In the prior three games, he played a total of 21 minutes and had averaged less than 10 minutes since joining the Grizzlies.

Hollins offered up a pretty good indication of what he expects from Davis following Saturday’s win at New Orleans where Davis produced 12 points, nine rebounds and five blocks.

“When he is focused, he’s good. It’s a different focus; a different concentration level when you are on a good team,” Hollins said. “You can’t float, you can’t be in and out. You have to be focused for the whole time you’re on the court. Last [Friday] night, I thought he was great in the second half. He was not very good in the first half. [Saturday night], it was just the opposite. There were shots that he should have blocked. There were rebounds he should have had. It’s just something he has to grow into.”

As for Crawford, what seemed like a savvy deadline move for the Celtics to add some scoring pop off the bench with Rajon Rondo and Leandro Barbosa out for the season, hasn’t panned out. Crawford remains an inefficient scorer and a poor decision-maker and, not coincidentally, he has provided little impact.

In a trade season where Redick — whose Bucks are 6-2 since his arrival (he missed Sunday’s win at Sacramento with a sprained ankle) — was the biggest name moved, role players in new homes are finding that it can be difficult to fit in.

Sarcastic Cuban Fires Shots At Fisher

DALLAS — On Derek Fisher‘s first day of practice with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban didn’t miss an opportunity to fire a few shots at his former short-time employee.

Fisher signed a contract with the Mavs in late November when no other teams showed interest and three weeks later Fisher asked Dallas to release him so he could return to his family in Los Angeles. On Monday, Fisher, the NBPA president, resurfaced, signing a deal with the title-contending Thunder, the team he also joined late last season.

“Look, I understand, completely,” Cuban said Tuesday prior to the Mavs’ home game against Milwaukee. “From the time Derek was here to him signing with OKC, his kids are older, so they can deal with things better. So I understand him having more comfort in being away from them.”

Cuban, obviously, had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. But the Mavs organization wasn’t laughing when it learned that the 17-year veteran had signed with the team 200 miles to the north two months after Dallas agreed to release him from his contract on Dec. 22.

While Cuban did not respond to multiple email inquiries on Monday, an NBA.com source described the Dallas front office as being “agitated.” Cuban on Tuesday confirmed the source’s statement that Fisher and his representatives did not call Dallas to gauge its interest in bringing Fisher back once he determined he wanted to play.

“They did not come back and say he’s interested in playing again, do you want him back?” Cuban said.

Cuban also denied that Fisher and the Mavs had a prearranged understanding that a family situation could force him to ask to be released from his contract.

“Any time you sign a vet like that, whether it’s Mike James or whatever, you say ‘Look, if something comes up, health, family, whatever, we’ll always work with you,'” Cuban said. “No, there were no preconditions because you’re not allowed to have preconditions, right? But we always talk to our guys and say, look we recognize with age comes different responsibilities, so we try to be, with anybody, you know, that’s why teams let guys go home on personal days and stuff like that. When your wife has a baby, this generation we let you go home even if it means missing a game. The better way to put it is we always try to be considerate of any player’s needs, but there was no side deal.”

The Mavs signed Fisher on Nov. 29 just as starting point guard Darren Collison was benched and the Mavs had cooled to 7-7 after a 4-1 start. Fisher immediately took over as the starting point guard. They wanted his veteran leadership and crunch-time savvy, an element Dallas has sorely lacked during this disappointing season.

Fisher injured his knee in his ninth game and was granted his release just days later.

At the time, Fisher thanked Cuban and the Mavs organization in a prepared statement, and said he was making a decision to put life ahead of basketball. Although he also said he wasn’t ruling out a return to basketball.

And so he joins a Thunder team just 26 games before beginning a championship-or-bust postseason. OKC has a need for a playoff-hardened point guard to back up Russell Westbrook. Second-year guard Reggie Jackson won the job over Eric Maynor, who was traded to Portland at last week’s deadline.

“I knew that I still wanted to play the game. I knew I still had the love, the work ethic, the passion,” Fisher told repoerters in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. “The injury was a setback. The biggest struggle was for me, even after 16 years (in the NBA), playing in a different city, being away from my family. Those are things that I struggled with. But as I was leaving Dallas, I understood the risks that that could possibly be my last game or my last opportunity.”

By Tuesday, all that was really left for the the jilted Mavs owner was to have a little fun at Fisher’s expense.

“Like I said, his kids are older now,” Cuban said. “It’s easier to fly in and out of Oklahoma City than it is to Dallas. I understand that. It’s just a decision a parent has to make.”

Winners, Losers In Deadline’s Big Chill

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DALLAS –
The Big Chill.

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.”

WINNERS

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.

LOSERS

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.

Landscape Unchanged As Deadline Passes

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The 2013 trade deadline will be remembered more for the lack of movement than for any deal that was made. We had a handful of transactions in the final hours before the deadline, but the best player dealt this week was a guy who has started a grand total of 52 games over seven seasons.

That would be J.J. Redick, who is heading to Milwaukee in a six-player trade. The Bucks are also getting Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith from Orlando. The Magic will receive Beno Udrih, Doron Lamb and Tobias Harris in return.

Redick is a role player, but one who should help the Bucks, who have struggled on both ends of the floor as they’ve lost eight of their last 10 games, dropping below .500 for the first time since early December. Now in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, they’re just three games in the loss column ahead of ninth-place Philadelphia.

The Bucks were reportedly the leaders in the race for Josh Smith, who is surprisingly staying in Atlanta … for the next few months or so. The Hawks apparently did not have a deal they liked, and will have to hope for a sign-and-trade deal in July if they want something in return for Smith. Our own Sekou Smith says that the Hawks will have “no chance” to re-sign Smith.

Atlanta did make a minor move, sending Anthony Morrow to Dallas for Dahntay Jones.

As much as the lack of a Josh Smith move was a surprise, so was the fact that the Utah Jazz stood pat. With Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter waiting in the wings, the Jazz have both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap on expiring deals. We don’t know if the Jazz had an opportunity to upgrade their backcourt this week, but maybe, like the Hawks, they’d prefer to let one (or both) of those guys walk in the summer.

The Boston Celtics made a minor deal, but held on to both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for the stretch run. They’ll be adding Jordan Crawford to their backcourt, sending Jason Collins and the contract of Leandro Barbosa to Washington in exchange for the volume scorer who has been out of the Wizards’ rotation for the last couple of weeks.

Other moves:

  • The Heat sent Dexter Pittman and a second-round pick to Memphis.
  • The Bobcats traded Hakim Warrick to the Magic for Josh McRoberts.
  • In order to get under the luxury tax line, the Warriors are sending Jeremy Tyler to Atlanta and Charles Jenkins to Philadelphia.
  • The Raptors traded Hamed Haddadi and a second-round pick to the Suns for Sebastian Telfair.
  • The Thunder sent Eric Maynor to Portland.
  • The Knicks sent Ronnie Brewer to OKC for a pick.

In addition to Smith, Richard Hamilton (Bulls), Andrea Bargnani (Raptors), Kris Humphries (Nets), Ben Gordon (Bobcats), DeJuan Blair (Spurs) and Evan Turner (Sixers) aren’t going anywhere. The Denver Nuggets didn’t get a shooter, the Brooklyn Nets didn’t get any of their targets (Smith, Millsap, etc.), and the Los Angeles Clippers will try to get past the Spurs and Thunder with what they have.

The new collective bargaining agreement certainly had a role in the inactivity. The new, steeper luxury takes goes into effect next season, so contracts that don’t expire this season are a heavy burden to bear. Two years from now, the repeater tax goes into effect, so there’s plenty of incentive for teams to get under the tax line this year as well.

And now that the deadline has passed, we can get on with the remainder of the season, knowing that the landscape hasn’t changed one bit.

Can Thunder Just Blow Off Westbrook Outburst?

 

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Is it just the dog days of a long season? Are the Thunder bored? Or are the Oklahoma City boys spending too much time together at the frat house?

We’ve been seeing some odd behavior lately from the reigning Western Conference champs. Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka have sniped at each other on the court, more than once, of late. And in Thursday’s 106-89 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Russell Westbrook absolutely blew his top.

OK, so maybe Westbrook going all hot-head isn’t all that odd. But, he added a new twist when he stormed off the bench during the game to seek refuge and cool off in an arena tunnel. Getting things started was Westbrook barking at teammate Thabo Sefolosha, then putting up a shot so wild that coach Scott Brooks had to pull his All-Star point guard with just under eight minutes to go in the third quarter.

After a brief sitdown next to assistant coach Maurice Cheeks, Westbrook stood up, flipped a chair out of his way and marched off the floor.

At the time, he was having a tremendous game, too. The Thunder were leading 65-44 and Westbrook had 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting. When he left, Memphis went on a 20-10 run. When Westbrook returned to start the fourth quarter it was if nothing happened. He continued his strong play and helped the Thunder increase their lead.

He finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

Afterward, TNT’s Craig Sager caught up with Westbrook in the Thunder locker room for a brief exchange.

Sager: What got you so upset?

Westbrook: Nothing, just a little miscommunication.

Sager: Between you and Thabo?

Westbrook: Nah. Just miscommunication.

Sager: At times do you think you need to control your temper more?

Westbrook: I control it like a man, like I did.

Sager: What’s that mean?

Westbrook: (doesn’t answer)

Sager: Put it behind you and go ahead and win?

Westbrook: If that’s what you say, bro.

Perhaps Oklahoman columnist Barry Tramel puts it best:

And maybe the basketball world will be better off if we accept what Westbrook is. Part hot hand, part hothead. Uncorrallable, not just by NBA opponents, but by Thunder brass.

“There’s no question he was frustrated with himself,” Brooks said. “Russell’s an emotional guy … not trying to downplay that. He has to be able to control his frustration. But that’s part of it.”

Exactly. Westbrook’s wild emotions are part of it. Maybe those wild emotions help make him who he is. Which is a ballplayer so good, he can wipe out the NBA’s best of the West the way Peter Pan took care of Captain Hook.

Only this type of disruptive behavior has been going on for years now, dating back to Game 2 of the 2011 Western Conference finals when Brooks benched Westbrook for the entire fourth quarter at Dallas and played Eric Maynor instead.

At some point, Brooks and his staff have to gain some control over Westbrook and his temper, or it will rear its ugly head during the postseason for a team that now has just one goal: NBA championship.