Posts Tagged ‘Ersan Ilyasova’

Morning shootaround — Dec. 17


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 16

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Kings talk with Jackson | Reports: Cavs, Rockets still interested in Brewer | Bucks’ next moves after Parker’s injury | Kobe offered support to George

No. 1: Report: Kings’ brass meets with Jackson — Two days ago, the Sacramento Kings fired coach Mike Malone and replaced him with his top assistant, Tyrone Corbin, on an interim basis. Since then, there have been names aplenty — the foremost being George Karl and Chris Mullin — who have popped up as potential Sacramento hires for the coaching gig. Add another name to the list, writes Sam Amick of USA Today, as the team has also spoken with former Golden State Warriors coach and current ESPN analyst Mark Jackson:

In the days that have followed the Sacramento Kings’ surprising firing of coach Michael Malone, the only thing certain about where they go from here has been the uncertainty.

Tyrone Corbin was deemed the interim for the foreseeable future, though no one was quite sure how long that term might last. Longtime head coach George Karl was widely seen as a frontrunner to replace him, but his reported candidacy was followed by proverbial crickets. Golden State Warriors legend and current Kings advisor Chris Mullin was and remains an intriguing possibility, but early indications are that he won’t be taking on the head coaching title anytime soon.

Yet late Tuesday night at Sleep Train Arena, after the Kings fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-92, another possible candidate emerged in the most convenient of ways: former Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson. After calling the game courtside for ESPN, Jackson had a lengthy meeting with Mullin, Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro and franchise centerpiece DeMarcus Cousins inside the “Chairman’s Lounge” where they had requested that arena workers and others give them some privacy.

Jackson, Mullin, and Cousins entered the room at approximately 10:20 p.m. Pacific time, with Cousins sporting a black suit as he continues to recover from his bout with viral meningitis that has kept him out of action since Nov. 26. D’Alessandro joined them approximately 20 minutes into the meeting, and the group finally exited just before midnight, long after the room had been cleared so that they could have a moment to discuss, well, connect the dots yourself.

Or, of course, maybe it was just a couple of old childhood pals sharing stories with their Kings friends. Mullin and Jackson have been the best of friends since their high school days, when Jackson was coming up at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn and Mullin was a star at Power Memorial Academy in New York City. They played together at St. John’s University as well, then later spent three seasons side by side yet again with the Indiana Pacers (1997-2000).

What’s more, D’Alessandro was a video coordinator at St. John’s during Jackson’s senior season. Jackson, Mullin, and D’Alessandro have made a habit of visiting in this nature whenever their paths may cross, but the involvement of Cousins was certainly enough to warrant notice.

The Jackson possibility was previously known, and the dynamics on display leading up to their meeting said everything about why the Kings might be seriously interested in bringing him aboard. According to one of the participants, Cousins expressed a desire to meet Jackson, whose ability to connect with his players during the last three seasons with the Warriors was a very real and valuable part of his successes there.


VIDEO: Who should be the next coach of the Sacramento Kings?

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Top shooting performances of 2013-14

Some nights that basket just seems as big as the ocean and it looks as easy as dropping the ball in from the beach. Other times, it’s just about sheer power from the big guys who have their way on the inside.

Last season produced some of each to make up this look at the top individual shooting performances of 2013-14. To be eligible for this list, players needed to shoot at least 90 percent from the field on at least 11 field goal attempts:

8. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
Dec. 28, 2013 vs. New Orleans Pelicans — 24 points, 10-for-11 FG (90.9 percent), 18 rebounds

For the first couple of months last season, Howard was trying to prove that he was over his back problems while re-establishing himself as the premier center in the game. This was another statement with an overpowering low-post game that produced six dunks, three little jump hooks and a layup in a 107-98 victory. He seemed intent on showing his physicality and committed a handful of offensive fouls to pile up eight turnovers.


VIDEO: Dwight Howard pounds on the Pelicans for 24 points and 18 rebounds

7. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
February 21, 2014 vs. Atlanta Hawks — 22 points, 10-for-11 FG (90.9 percent), 11 rebounds, three steals

If the frontline combination of Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith had played so well from the start, it’s likely coach Mo Cheeks wouldn’t have been fired and Joe Dumars might still be Detroit’s GM. It was the third time in the season that the trio of big men all had double-doubles in the same game. It was a demonstration of sheer power, not a shooting clinic by Drummond. Six of his 10 buckets were dunks and he went 0-for-8 from the free throw line. (more…)

Ilyasova Stays Put In League Of Change

Milwaukee's Ersan Ilyasova (Joe Murphy/NBAE)

Milwaukee’s Ersan Ilyasova (Joe Murphy/NBAE)

MILWAUKEE – Some players are the socks. Ersan Ilyasova is the feet. But the end result is the same: Change, constantly.

If you’re Nate Robinson, Mike James, Chucky Brown, Joe Smith and dozens of others who leave forwarding addresses as often as most of us leave gratuities, you know the drill: Signed here, traded there, employed, waived, paid, packaged and dumped time and again back into the hamper.

If you’re Ilyasova, you don’t go anywhere, yet everything around you changes. Argyle, tube, crew, silk, solid, patterned, support – the Milwaukee Bucks’ 6-foot-10 forward from Eskisehir, Turkey, has gone through a veritable sock drawer in his NBA career.

Consider: Of the 60 players taken in the 2005 NBA Draft, Ilyasova (No. 36 in the second round) is the only one still with his original team. All the big names that night – former Buck Andrew Bogut, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Raymond Felton and so on – have moved at least once, as have the sleepers (David Lee, Monta Ellis, Marcin Gortat). Indiana’s Danny Granger was the last of the “originals,” besides Ilyasova, until he got dealt to Philadelphia on Thursday at the league’s trade deadline. Many have dropped off the NBA map entirely.

And because there is no one from the 2004 Draft still with the team that selected him and, from 2006, only Portland’s Joel Freeland remains with the team – he’s an asterisk case who came over from Great Britain prior to last season – Ilyasova’s specialness spans three drafts and 179 others whose names got read by David Stern or former second-round maestro Russ Granik.

Had Ilyasova, 18 when he was picked, played for the Bucks immediately (he spent 2005-06 in the D League with Tulsa), he would have been a teammate of Ervin Johnson and Toni Kukoc, who were 20 and 19 years older than him that season. He stayed overseas for a year, dipped his toe into the NBA in 2006-07 at 19, then went back to play in Spain for two years.

By the time Ilyasova returned for 2009-10, only four players remained from his first NBA roster (Charlie Bell, Dan Gadzuric, Michael Redd and Bogut). After Bogut was traded to Golden State during the 2011-12 season, all four of them were gone, too.

Now it’s two years later, the Bucks are on their fifth head coach since Ilyasova was drafted – he missed the Larry Krystkowiak era entirely – and he’s one of just four players left from last year’s roster. He has been supplanted as the team’s resident Euro phenom by 19-year-old “Greek freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo, the youngest player in the NBA.

He has had 67 Milwaukee teammates, by the team’s count, from the start of 2006-07 till now.

The irony in all this is that Ilyasova, that rare individual who has been spared the endless uncertainty of role players and journeymen everywhere, actually might be better off had he been forced to relocate a time or two.

Staying with the Bucks has been easy on the wardrobe and his friends’ contacts lists. He met his wife Julia in Milwaukee. And his early Bird rights with the Bucks made him eligible for the five-year, $40 million contract he signed in July 2012.

But he has sniffed the air of a winning season just once, in 2009-10, and is a cumulative 72 games under .500 while general manager Larry Harris first and John Hammond second have re-painted, laid new carpeting and moved the furniture around him.

Worse, Ilyasova has regressed as a player. Mostly starting yet struggling – first from an ankle injury in camp, then in coach Larry Drew’s new system – he is putting up the shakiest numbers of his career: 10.5 points and 6.0 rebounds a game, 38.5 percent shooting, 29.6 percent on 3-pointers. Per 36 minutes, he’s about where he was as a nervous teenager. Better paid but more frustrated.

Ilyasova, who watched as NBA vets Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal were freed at the deadline from the NBA’s losingest team (via their trade to Charlotte), talked recently with Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times about his Groundhog Day permanence in Milwaukee:

Ilyasova downplayed talk about him wanting out of Milwaukee and declined to comment on whether he or his agent, Andy Miller, had requested a trade.

Ilyasova made it clear, though, the Bucks’ revolving door policy with players has irritated him.

“The thing I’m upset about is each year, each season, we go through the same thing,” Ilyasova said. “Last year, we make the playoffs and now we start all over again. That’s really frustrating.

“Hopefully, we’ll find right pieces for the team. Hopefully, we’ll turn it around.”

Then the deadline passed, Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien came aboard as possible (though minor) pieces and Ilyasova stayed put. Ilyasova reportedly is a favorite of owner Herb Kohl, who remains enticed by Ilyasova’s potential.

Ilyasova is a complementary player who constantly has had to adapt to another new crew and new vision. The things he does best – 13.0 points a game, 5.6 rebounds, 45.5 percent 3FG the year before he got his contract – have slipped.

Still, he is the last man standing in the same spot from that June night nine years ago. Too often, though, you’d have a hard time proving it by his impact. He and the Bucks are due for a change.

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 15


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for All-Star Friday

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bucks falling apart? | History of basketball in New Orleans | Good news for Knicks | Pistons take one to gut

No. 1:  Do Ilyasova, Neal want out? –Milwaukee has dealt with injuries, rough transitions to new players and the new coaching staff, and losses. A lot of losses. Now the Bucks could be confronted with Ersan Ilyasova being frustrated to the point of wanting to be traded, the Racine (Wisc.) Journal Times reports, and the possibility that Gary Neal already wants out as well:

lyasova is arguably the Bucks’ best trading chip and several teams are believed to be interested in him. According to multiple sources, Ilyasova has expressed a desire to be traded, apparently having had his fill of the Bucks’ continual rebuilding project.

Ilyasova downplayed talk about him wanting out of Milwaukee and declined to comment on whether he or his agent, Andy Miller, had requested a trade.

Ilyasova made it clear, though, the Bucks’ revolving door policy with players has irritated him.

“The thing I’m upset about is each year, each season, we go through the same thing,” Ilyasova said. “Last year, we make the playoffs and now we start all over again. That’s really frustrating.

“Hopefully, we’ll find right pieces for the team. Hopefully, we’ll turn it around.”

***

According to league sources, Bucks veteran backup shooting guard Gary Neal and his agent, David Bauman, have talked to Hammond in recent weeks about the possibility of a trade.

The Bucks signed Neal to a three-year, $9.75 million contract over the summer. While Neal played a key role off the bench in helping San Antonio advance to the Finals last season, he has had a roller-coaster season with the Bucks, averaging 10.2 points.

However, Neal has played quite well in the last two games, having scored 18 and 17 points, respectively. In those two games, he connected on 14 of 23 shots from the field.

***

No. 2: Rich basketball history in New Orleans — Before the Pelicans of today, there were the Hornets and the same franchise with a different name. But before that, New Orleans had the Jazz and the ABA’s Buccaneers and the Hurricanes of the Professional Basketball League of America. Fran Blinebury of NBA.com goes down memory lane:

The American Basketball Association was the young, defiant upstart league that burst onto the scene in 1967 with a red-white-and-blue ball, a 3-point shot and a wide-open, slam-dunking style of play that challenged perceptions and authority.

And what better place to do that than rowdy Bourbon Street and New Orleans?

The Buccaneers were coached by the legendary Babe McCarthy with his honey dew Mississippi drawl and his pocketful of down-home sayings:

“Boy, I gotta tell you, you gotta come at ‘em like a bitin’ sow.”

“My old pappy used to tell me, the sun don’t shine on the same dog’s butt every day.”

McCarthy’s team was loaded with talent. The first player signed was Doug Moe, the talented forward out of North Carolina who had been connected to a college basketball betting scandal. Even though nothing was ever proven, Moe, along with Connie Hawkins, had been banned from the NBA for life.

The Buccaneers then added Moe’s good buddy Larry Brown, the 5-foot-9 point guard who’d been dismissed by the NBA for simply being too short.

***

It was four years later when the NBA finally came to town with an expansion team. The aptly named Jazz fittingly brought in the greatest improvisational artist in the game in “Pistol” Pete Maravich, who’d played college ball at Louisiana State in Baton Rouge and made music with a basketball like Louis Armstrong did with his trumpet.

Avery Johnson, who won an NBA championship with the Spurs, coached the Mavericks to The Finals and is now an ESPN analyst, grew up on the streets of New Orleans’ Sixth Ward, within walking distance of the Superdome. He joyously recalls watching the show.

“As a young kid, the Jazz really sparked my interest in basketball,” he said. “Growing up, my two favorite guys to watch were Nate ‘Tiny’ Archibald and ‘Pistol Pete.’

“Since the Jazz were playing at the Superdome and had all those seats to fill, they were practically giving tickets away. So my friends and I were going to as many games as we could, even on school nights.”

“All the kids in our neighborhood wore our [floppy] socks like Pistol and anytime we saw him make a great shot or an amazing pass, we’d all be out there on the schoolyard or playground the next day trying to do it. For a kid my age, it really didn’t get any better than that.”

Trouble was, most of the NBA was always better than the Jazz. In five seasons, the Jazz never finished with a record of .500 record. When Maravich was beset by a series of knee injuries and couldn’t play, the big show lost its headline attraction.

***

No. 3: Melo offers to take pay cut for Knicks — Whether it actually happens in July remains to be seen, but for now, free agent-in-waiting Carmelo Anthony is saying he would take less money from the Knicks in the next contract if it meant the team would be in better position to add pieces to the roster. That was part of Anthony reiterating that his priority is to re-sign with the Knicks, as Scott Cacciola explains from New Orleans in the New York Times:

“I tell people all the time: If it takes me taking a pay cut, I’ll be the first one on Mr. Dolan’s steps saying, ‘Take my money, let’s build something stronger,’ ” said Anthony, who was referring to James L. Dolan, the team’s owner, who surfaced here earlier in the day at an off-the-record summit about N.B.A. technology.

Anthony added: “As far as the money, it don’t really matter to me. If I go somewhere else, I’ll get paid. If I stay in New York, I’ll get paid. So as far as the money goes, that’s not my concern. My concern is being able to compete on a high level, at a championship level, coming at this last stretch of my career.”

The Knicks, of course, are not competing at that level — at least, not this season. They lurched into the All-Star break with a 20-32 record, and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul said he could tell that Anthony was still fuming over the Knicks’ loss Wednesday to the Sacramento Kings when they met Thursday night in New Orleans.

***

No. 4: Barkley rips Pistons — The Pistons found no escape from ridicule during the All-Star break. Charles Barkley took them to task during the TNT broadcast of the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, a game that included Andre Drummond piling up 30 points and 25 rebounds. From Brian Manzullo of the Detroit Free Press:

Barkley, now an “NBA on TNT” analyst, ripped Drummond’s Pistons during a break in action.

“He’s a terrific player who’s playing with those other idiots up in Detroit. And they’re not going to win,” Barkley said.

When the rest of the “NBA on TNT” panel, including Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith, questioned that statement, Barkley continued: “They’ve got some idiots on that team. They’ve got some talented players who are not going to ever get it.”

FIBA Update: Spain Upset, Puerto Rico Stays Unbeaten

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Thursday was a big day in FIBA qualifications, with the second round of FIBA Americas getting started and Day 2 at Eurobasket seeing a thrilling upset.

Down goes Spain

The story of the day was Slovenia coming back from 10 points down to beat Eurobasket favorite Spain. The Suns’ Goran Dragic led the way for the tournament’s hosts, registering 18 points, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

The game was more important for Slovenia, who now looks like a strong candidate to earn one of Europe’s six automatic berths to next year’s World Cup, than Spain. The two-time defending Euro champs have finished first (2011 Eurobasket, 2009 Eurobasket, 2006 World Championship) or second (2012 Olympics, 2008 Olympics, 2007 Eurobasket) in six of their last seven international competitions (the exception being the 2010 World Championship), despite losing preliminary-round games in almost all of them.

But there wasn’t any clear gamesmanship on Spain’s part. Marc Gasol played all but three minutes on Thursday.

Down to the wire

Slovenia-Spain was a great game, and it wasn’t the only thriller on Thursday. Latvia edged Montenegro on a jumper by Kristaps Janicenoks in the final seconds, Croatia beat Georgia on a Ante Tomic, pick-and-roll layup, and Belgium outlasted Germany in overtime.

The ends of these FIBA games can be really fun, because there are fewer timeouts in the final possessions. You’re not allowed to call a timeout on a live ball.

What happened to Turkey?

As someone who witnessed Turkey’s magical run to the 2010 World Championship gold medal game first-hand, it’s disappointing to see how much they’ve fallen off. They’ve been a mess offensively without long-time point guard Kerem Tunceri (whose absence on the roster was the coach’s decision, according to my Turkish friends on twitter) and with Hedo Turkoglu and Ersan Ilyasova combining to shoot 11-for-38 (29 percent).

More disappointing is the Turkish defense, which was dominant in 2010 and has allowed about 108 points per 100 possessions in their two games this week. With their size, they can extend their 2-3 zone out beyond the 3-point line, but they didn’t really go to it until the third quarter on Thursday. And when they did, Italy just picked it apart.

The good news for Turkey is that Hedo’s tan looks fabulous.

Greece back on top

The bad news for Turkey is that, after a day off, they next face Greece, who has the tournament’s best point differential after two games. Greece had a couple of down years (they didn’t qualify for last year’s Olympics), but has looked strong in wins over Sweden and Russia.

Greece is one of seven unbeaten teams. The most surprising of the seven has to be Finland, who has been led by former first-round pick Petteri Koponen. Also unbeaten is the Ukraine, coached by TNT’s Mike Fratello.

Big wins for Canada, Puerto Rico

While Spain can brush off Thursday’s loss, every game at the FIBA Americas tournament is critical right now, because the top four teams after this round of games will earn the automatic bids to next year’s World Cup of Basketball.

So Canada’s 89-67 win over Mexico, putting them in second place with three games to play, was huge. The Spurs’ Cory Joseph, now averaging 16.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists, has been one of the best players in the tournament.

Also big was Puerto Rico’s win over Argentina. Puerto Rico trailed by 16 midway through the second quarter, but came back and took control with a 13-0 run late in the third. They haven’t clinched a top-four spot just yet, but as the only undefeated team in the tournament, they’re in great shape.

Former Knick and Nugget Renaldo Balkman has been huge for P.R., averaging 20.6 points and 8.4 boards through five games.

Action in FIBA Americas and Eurobasket continues Friday.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 FIBA Americas champion
12 FIBA Americas 2nd place
13 FIBA Americas 3rd place
14 FIBA Americas 4th place
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

Playoffs? Bucks Don’t Seem Interested

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Whatever lack of enthusiasm or even dread the Milwaukee Bucks might be feeling about their rapidly approaching postseason public flogging is entirely understandable. Assuming the Bucks do eventually nail down the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference bracket, their reward will be worse than a lump of coal or a Miss Congeniality award.

They’ll get to face the Miami Heat in a best-of-seven series, requiring them to endure four spankings as the NBA’s defending champions rev up for their title defense.

So yeah, we get it. It’s not much to look forward to. But the way the Bucks have gone about their business lately, you’d think Milwaukee would rather not participate in the playoffs at all. There are several teams headed for the lottery, but playing smarter and harder than Milwaukee lately, that look as if they’d appreciate the opportunity more and give a better showing than the Bucks. Orlando, for one, bad as its record is. Minnesota, for another.

Losers in seven of their past 10 games heading into Saturday’s home clash with Toronto and just 4-10 since a moderately encouraging 2-1 West Coast trip a month ago, the Bucks have been busy fulfilling all the concerns about them when the year began. And squandering what was a legit chance to move up to No. 7 by catching Boston.

The dynamic backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis is undersized and defensively challenged. On too many nights, there’s a your-turn, my-turn pattern to their offensive probes, and a disjointed or absent playmaking that has Milwaukee’s frontcourt players all too happy to come off the bench if it spares them some standing around with that starting duo.

Short-timers abound, in contract terms, and the resultant lack of cohesiveness and long-term vision predictably has followed. Jennings is headed to restricted free agency and has handled it poorly, pouting in or after games, through actions or words, more like an immature rookie than a fourth-year floor leader. Ellis can opt out of his deal and, at times in the past month, has played as if on a salary drive.

Samuel Dalembert, acquired to stem some bleeding up front, was needed less once Larry Sanders finally got traction this season. So first coach Scott Skiles and then replacement Jim Boylan warehoused Dalembert – over there on the bench next to drydocked Drew Gooden.

Dalembert’s deal is up once the Bucks head into summer, as is Mike Dunleavy‘s, as is J.J. Redick‘s, who probably will test the free-agent market and revive criticism that Milwaukee maybe gave up too soon on the small forward shipped to Orlando in that deal, Tobias Harris.

Ersan Ilyasova only recently has played up to the deal he landed last summer in free agency. Sanders reverted to some bad tossed-from-games-habits in a recent stretch. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was hurt less and in better shape before he got paid a couple years ago. Whatever bump the Bucks got from parting ways with Skiles appears to have been temporary – they’re 20-23 under Boylan – and the defense (104.1 ppg over the past 14) hardly is Miami-ready

Meanwhile, the locker room has been light and largely unaffected by all of the sputtering. During postgame media time Wednesday, after the loss to the nowhere-bound Timberwolves, somebody kept humming the tune of “The Final Countdown,” loud enough to be picked up in audio reports. Their third-quarter collapse at New York on Friday kept their magic number for clinching the playoff spot at two.

They’ll get it soon enough. But it’s too bad the NBA has no surrogate system, in which the disinterested Bucks players could vote someone pluckier and more eager to take their place in the first round. The way they’re going, the playoffs will be an opportunity wasted on them.

Morning Shootaround — March 18

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: We tend to like the closer games as our nominees for the one to watch each morning, but we’re going with a game that, score-wise, wasn’t so pretty. Still, last night’s Rockets-Warriors game was worth watching for several reasons: two teams fighting it out for the right to avoid San Antonio or Oklahoma City in the first round, Golden State with revenge on its mind for the rout Houston put on them the last time at Toyota Center and a chance to see some good young talent (James Harden, Steph Curry, Omer Asik, David Lee, et al) square off. Save for a Rockets surge in the third quarter, the Warriors never really lost control of this one and won in a rout, strengthening their grip on the No. 6 seed out West.

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News of the morning

Bryant to sit out vs. Suns | Rose added 3-point shot during rehab | Lakers may be Hill back by playoffs | Ilyasova finds his groove again with Bucks | Marbury to coach in China?

Bryant doubtful vs. SunsSince injuring his ankle on a potential game-winning shot in Atlanta on Wednesday night, Kobe Bryant has played 12 minutes, gone 0-for-4 from the field and sat out one game (Sunday, a win over the Kings). It appears Bryant won’t be suiting up anytime soon, writes Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register, and that Bryant is unlikely to play in the Lakers’ next game:

Kobe Bryant’s sprained left ankle didn’t feel strong enough for Bryant even to test it on the court Sunday before skipping the Lakers’ game against Sacramento.

Bryant is considered doubtful to play Monday in Phoenix, according to a Lakers spokesman.

If Bryant doesn’t play against the Suns, he will have three more days of rest and treatment before the Lakers play their next game Friday night against Washington.

Two days after that is the Lakers’ only multigame trip left this regular season: at Golden State, Minnesota, Milwaukee and Sacramento.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni had expected Bryant to test the ankle in the hours before the game vs. the Kings on Sunday night, but Bryant opted to save the effort given the minimal chance he would actually play vs. Sacramento, which was shorthanded without leading scorer DeMarcus Cousins (quadriceps).

It was Bryant’s first game of the season not playing. He played one quarter on the ankle in Indiana on Friday before telling Lakers coaches: “I can’t go.”

Jodie Meeks was the replacement starter at shooting guard in Bryant’s place Sunday night, though D’Antoni said he has already learned not to count Bryant out too early.

“I didn’t think he had any chance (Friday in Indiana), and he played,” D’Antoni said.

Bulls’ Rose adds more consistent 3-pointer to arsenalEntering the 2010-11 season, Derrick Rose was a career 24.2 percent shooter from 3-point range and had made 32 3-pointers in his career. That season, the one in which Rose was named league MVP, he showed off a 3-point stroke that had him making a respectable 33.2 percent of his attempts and 128 total 3-pointers. Though he fell back a little bit last season (54 3-pointers made, 31.2 percent), Rose had become a serviceable 3-point shooter. After suffering a season-ending ACL injury in the 2012 playoffs, Rose has been rehabbing away, and, not surprisingly, adding to his game. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports reports that Rose has put in particular work to make his 3-point shooting game as consistent as possible:

Rose hasn’t played since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the playoff opener against the Philadelphia 76ers on April 28. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau says the franchise is not pressuring Rose to return.

“This kid has done everything to come back,” Thibodeau told Yahoo! Sports. “When he is ready, he’ll be ready and we will know. He is getting closer. We don’t want him out there unless he’s completely comfortable. He’s handled his part great. Everyone has to remain patient, let him work through it and he’s going to be fine.”

Rose has not shot over 35 percent from 3-point range in his NBA career, but during his layoff he has spent time working on his 3-pointer and says he’s more confident in it now. The right-handed shooter also has been working on his left-handed runner shot. If Rose’s athleticism is close to what it was with his improved shooting, he can be even more dangerous offensively than he was before.

“I see his improvement each and every day,” Thibodeau said. “And as I’ve told him, we’ve waited this long and we don’t mind waiting until he is completely comfortable to play. And if that means a couple more games, five games, whatever it is. And that would be for any player, we don’t want to put someone out there that is not comfortable with being out there.”

“You can only imagine what [Rose] would bring,” teammate Carlos Boozer said. “You can’t even put that into words. If you get an MVP player like him back it changes your whole outlook.

“Remember, last year before he got hurt we were thinking we were going to be the champs. We felt we had every component to be champions last year.”

Lakers’ Hill may be back for playoffsDespite an ankle injury to Kobe Bryant that sidelined him for Sunday’s game against the Kings, the Lakers topped Sacramento to maintain their ever-so-slight lead over Utah for the West’s N0. 8 seed. The Lakers have been shackled by depth issues all season, some of which began when young forward Jordan Hill had hip surgery in early January and was thought to be done for the season. Turns out, Hill is healing up nicely and could be on the active roster once playoff time rolls around, writes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

It remains a long shot, but Lakers forward Jordan Hill said doctors have told him there’s a slim possibility he could return in late April or early May after spending the past two months rehabbing from a surgically repaired left hip.

Hill said he’s been off crutches for the past three weeks has performed exercises on bike and elliptical machines. Though he’s occasionally come out to the practice court at the Lakers’ training facility dressed in basketball gear, Hill says he hasn’t performed any basketball exercises.

Hill said he plans to meet with team doctors in three weeks to reevaluate the possibility he’d return assuming the Lakers remain in the playoffs by then. The Lakers (35-32) have a half-game lead over the Utah Jazz (34-32) for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Lakers play their last regular-season game April 17 against the Houston Rockets. Assuming the Lakers make the playoffs, their best-of-seven first-round series would start at an away venue either on April 20 or 21st.

After having surgery Jan. 23 on his left hip, the Lakers expected Hill to stay sidelined for at least six months. Hill injured his left hip in the Lakers’ loss Jan. 6th against the Denver Nuggets. He had appeared in 29 games averaging 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in 15.8 minutes.

“People keep forgetting about Jordan Hill,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant recently said. “We’re missing him. He’s a big part of our team. What he does on the glass and his ability to stretch the defense, he’s a really big part of what we do defensively as well.”

Ilyasova in rhythm again with BucksAfter a breakout campaign a season ago in Milwaukee, Ersan Ilyasova became one of the marquee free agents of the summer of 2012. Although some teams showed interest in the multi-faceted forward, he eventually re-signed with the Bucks for four years and $31.6 million. But Ilyasova struggled to regain his form from a season ago and was often on the outs with former coach Scott Skiles early in the season. In a great feature on not just Ilyasova’s season, but his overall NBA career, the Racine Journal-Times’ Gery Woelfel looks at how the Bucks’ big man has switched his fortunes:

After a sluggish start to this season, when former Bucks coach Scott Skiles shuffled him in and out of the starting lineup while reducing his minutes, Ilyasova is thriving for the 32-32 Bucks, who hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

While he is averaging 12.3 points and 6.7 rebounds for the season, Ilyasova has scored at least 19 points in eight of the last 13 games. That included a 29-point, 11-rebound outburst against Toronto and a 26-point, 17-rebound outing against the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat Friday night.

Jim Boylan, who promptly inserted Ilyasova into the starting lineup when he assumed the head coaching reins, is delighted with his young starting power forward.

“Ersan has been really, really consistent with his scoring, his effort, his rebounding,” Boylan said. “He’s done so much for us. When we didn’t have him for those games (against Golden State and Sacramento last week), it showed how much we missed him.

“It’s incredible the amount of progress he’s made as a player.”

Boylan is more impressed with Ilyasova’s growth off the court.

“Ers came from a foreign country into a new environment,” Boylan said. “ I played myself over in Europe. I lived in another country (Switzerland) for six years, so I understand Ers’ situation. People think it’s easy to come in and hit the ground running. It isn’t.

“So to see how far Ers has come is amazing and a credit to him.”

Marbury to help coach Chinese national team?Stephon Marbury hasn’t played in the NBA since a 23-game stint with the Celtics during the 2008-09 season (remember that?). Since then, Marbury has made a name for himself playing for the Bejing Ducks in China, leading them to a championship in 2012. His team is out of the playoffs after losing in the semifinals, but Marbury reportedly has a new gig to fulfill. According to Niubball.com, Marbury says he will serve as an assistant coach for the Chinese national team:

In an interview on BTV, the 36 year-old guard announced that he will serve as an assistant coach for Beijing as they prepare to participate in the 2013 China National Games. He will work under his CBA head coach Min Lulei, who serves the same position for the Beijing Ducks.

The National Games, which happen once every four years, are completely separate from the Chinese Basketball Association season. As a sort of intra-China Olympics, the National Games pit the country’s different provinces against each other in various athletic events, including basketball.

The two-week competition will start in late August in host-province Liaoning. However, there will be a qualifying tournament in late April for basketball. Guangdong won the basketball tournament in 2009, which was held in various cities in Shandong.

Marbury’s addition to the coaching staff comes on the heels of other big news this week. The Beijing team got a boost when it was announced that Sun Yue, who plays for Beijing Aoshen — a team that is not part of the Chinese Basketball Association — will be representing Beijing at the Games, in addition to several other Aoshen players. A longtime key contributor for the National Team, Sun will be one of the best players in the tournament.

The National Games, though technically centered around athletic competition  are the epitome of not only basketball, but sports with Chinese characteristics. With the eyes of provincial governments focused directly on their teams, the Games’ main purpose serves government officials, who can be gain status and be promoted to bigger and better positions if their teams achieve good results. Though the Olympics trump all in terms of importance, the National Games is a major event and one that places great pressure on athletes to perform for the glory of their province.

ICYMI of the night: Blake Griffin‘s alley-oop against the Knicks is getting the viral buzz today (and rightfully so), but don’t overlook this game of a jam from Russell Westbrook:

Blogtable: A Struggling Star

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


Week 14: Has it clicked for the Lakers? | A healthy star who’s struggling | Clips without CP3


Give me a healthy player who has not met your high standards so far?

Steve Aschburner: Rudy Gay has heard his name bandied about enough already via the trade rumors, so I’m going with Indiana’s Roy Hibbert. The big fella remains vital to the Pacers’ defense, but this is his fifth season and he was supposed to continue his onward-and-upward trajectory offensively and overall. His shooting is down (41.4 percent vs. 48.1 through last season) and 9.8 ppg and 8.2 rebounds just doesn’t cut it. Each summer, Hibbert gets a lot of attention for his intense workouts — one year tutored by Bill Walton, the next embracing an MMA regimen. It all needs to translate better to what really counts.

Fran BlineburyErsan Ilyasova has not lived up to his payday. Kawhi Leonard has not stepped up to the next level. But it’s still Deron Williams who has yet to fulfill the expectations the Nets want and need. Though he has kicked his game up in recent weeks under P.J. Carlesimo, his horrid shooting and an assist average that is his lowest since his rookie season were major factors in getting Avery Johnson fired. After complaining his way out of Utah, Williams has not shown the the maturity to be handed the keys to a playoff-contending offense and, for all intents and purposes, the Nets franchise. That’s evidenced by his being left off the Eastern Conference All-Star team when a spot on the roster practically had his named engraved on it in October.

Jeff CaplanPau Gasol‘s the easy answer here or even the continuing underachieving ways of Michael Beasley. But, I’m going to go with a guy that I thought would have a pretty good year in Dallas and that’s center Chris Kaman. He signed a one-year, $8 million deal to play next to Dirk Nowitzki — they were teammates on the German National team in the 2008 Olympics — and although his stats aren’t terrible (12.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg), he’s averaging just 23.7 mpg (fewer than only his rookie season) and has been in and out of coach Rick Carlisle‘s doghouse. Most recently Kaman was removed from the starting lineup in favor of little-used rookie center Bernard James. In a season in which Kaman, seemingly perpetually injured, missed just his third game of the season on Tuesday after sustaining a concussion during Monday’s practice, he’s finding it hard to stay on the floor due to production. Defense has been at the root of the issue for Carlisle. Kaman’s been a sieve and next to Nowitzki it doesn’t make for a sturdy combination.

Jeff Green, by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Jeff Green, by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Scott Howard-CooperDeron Williams. He has been much better the last few weeks, but after two underachieving months. D-Will has not shot the ball well most of the season, an obvious problem. His assists were way down for a while as well. But the biggest problem is that he hasn’t looked like a star point guard who wants the responsibility of being a franchise player. Williams has too often played like someone who didn’t want the burden of expectations.

John Schuhmann: When Jeff Green defends LeBron James as well as he did on Sunday, it just makes me wonder why he can’t make an impact like that every night. Green has all the tools — length, athleticism, a decent shooting stroke — to be a very good player on both ends of the floor. He’s shown flashes of being the player the Celtics need him to be, both offensively and defensively. And the opportunity is certainly there for him to be one of the most important bench players in the league. But there hasn’t been any consistency from game to game, quarter to quarter, or possession to possession, whether he’s playing in OKC or Boston. Maybe I’m overestimating his potential or maybe he just doesn’t have the drive to maximize it.

Sekou SmithAndre Iguodala in Denver. And he might just be a victim of my own overblown expectation of what he would do with the Nuggets. After an All-Star season and a gold medal-winning summer at the Olympics, the news of Iguodala going to the Denver in that Dwight Howard mega-deal had me thinking he’d show up there and continue his All-Star-caliber play. But he joined a team with catalysts (Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari) already in place. Iguodala isn’t playing poorly by any stretch. The Nuggets are rolling, too, with him playing his role. Still, he hasn’t had nearly the impact I (and plenty of other people who picked the Nuggets in the preseason as the No. 2 team in the Western Conference) expected him to have on this team.

Bucks’ Dream Comeback Is Bulls’ Nightmare Collapse

CHICAGO – Jon McGlocklin, Milwaukee Bucks guard-turned-broadcaster, got stopped courtside the last time his team played at Madison Square Garden. It was Spike Lee, the hardcore Knicks fan and occasional movie director, tugging on McGlocklin’s arm.

“He said ‘Jon, I want to talk to you about that game!’ ” McGlocklin recalled Monday night in the bowels of United Center. “I didn’t even know he knew who I was. I told him, ‘Aaargh, I don’t want to talk about that.’ “

The game in question: New York’s comeback from an 86-68 deficit deep into the fourth quarter, convulsed into an 87-86 victory when the Knicks scored the final 19 points on the night of Nov. 18, 1972. Pulled off against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and the rest, it generally is considered the most famous regular-season NBA game in Knicks history, ranking right behind the two championship clinchers for lifelong fans like Lee.

McGlocklin recalled it anew Monday, after the Bucks wound up on the other side of something equally improbable: A comeback from 27 points down deep in the third quarter, 78-51, engineered by an all-bench crew that outscored the Bulls 42-14 over the final 14:29. On the road. With McGlocklin there to flash back.

“You’re flailing around like in a dream,” he said of his Bucks way back when and the Bulls just moments — nightmarish moments — earlier. “You can’t quite reach the ball. You try to take a step, and it’s like an out-of-body experience.”

That was the Chicago side of things Monday, as the Bulls starters saw what had been a cushy lead cut to 17 points by the start of the third quarter. Then — whoosh! — to 10, 80-70, just 96 seconds into the fourth on Beno Udrih‘s 3-pointer. Another Bulls turnover, a run-out dunk by Ekpe Udoh and it was 80-74.

A jumper by little-used rookie Doron Lamb, whose defense on Rip Hamilton was equally important; A 3-pointer by Ersan Ilyasova, moved to the bench after 11 starts as coach Scott Skiles searched to spark him; And another one from the arc, this one by Mike Dunleavy, after Chicago let a defensive rebound bounce and wind up back in the Bucks’ hands.

That made it 82-82 with seven minutes left. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau already knew what was coming.

“In an NBA game, you can lose 10 points in a minute,” Thibodeau said, his sideline growling over for the night. “Everyone says that doesn’t happen, but I see it all the time. If you don’t play tough with the lead, this is what happens.”

Said Dunleavy: “When it was 27, it was like, ‘This is almost physically impossible.’ But when we got it to [17] at the end of the third, we felt, ‘This has happened before.’ “

Chicago had gone through something like this three years ago, when Sacramento came from 35 points back to win at the UC. Even though Udrih was a part of that epic comeback, few of the Bucks could recall being involved in something similar — and so satisfying.

“I was in a game once with Phoenix where we came back from 27 down, I believe it was to start the fourth,” Skiles said. “It was at Miami and [Dan] Majerle hit a 3 for Miami with like 50 seconds left. We came all the way back but got beat. … You know, this doesn’t happen that much. It’s hard to do. You’ve got to play perfectly, and then you need some help from the other team. Kind of both things happened for us tonight.”

Several things, frankly, happened for the Bucks Monday. They put behind them the sour memories of their loss Saturday to Chicago, a game in which they got pounded on the boards while Skiles played bigs Samuel Dalembert, John Henson and Drew Gooden a total of 1:18.

They got a performance for the ages from the bench crew, outscoring their Chicago counterparts 56-10. They shook off the rust or whatever it was hindering Ilyasova’s game since his return from free agency. His fourth quarter — 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting, four boards, an assist, a steal and a block — seemed better than his first 47 quarters this season combined.

“There’s a little bit better flow with that unit,” Dunleavy said. “That probably enabled him to relax a little bit — make his shots, make his plays. It didn’t feel like he was having to find his way as much.”

In other words — ahem — that dynamic offensive backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, which does tend to dominate the basketball, was nowhere to be found over the final 15:26 as Skiles swapped subs for starters. Ilyasova found some rhythm, while Lamb was more active than any of the other Milwaukee defenders against Hamilton, who had his best night as a Bulls player but missed a 10-footer in the lane as time expired.

“[Ilyasova] is new to it, but that group plays together every day in practice and we more than hold our own,” Dunleavy said. “We know how to play. We share the ball. Whoever’s open takes the shot. That’s how you beat a good defensive team like this.”

After four consecutive defeats that Milwaukee felt it could have, maybe even should have, won — tight ones to Boston and at Charlotte, an overtime loss at Miami and the first Bulls clash, a one-possession until the final half-minute — it tucked one away Monday that it had no business winning.

No business, but more than a little fun.

Ilyasova Still Searching For His Game

In spite of can be a good thing, if the outcomes are happy even when the inputs are sad. And for a while, the Milwaukee Bucks were doing just fine in spite of Ersan Ilyasova.

But Milwaukee’s 6-2 start was turned into a 6-4 mark after road losses this week at Charlotte and at Miami. Now the Bucks face a home-and-home test against their Central Division rivals, the Chicago Bulls. And Ilyasova is running out of cover, it not quite time.

He was, after all, a big-expenditure guy for a team that doesn’t make big expenditures readily. Milwaukee re-signed Ilyasova when he hit free agency, committing to the 6-foot-9 forward in a five-year, $40 million deal. It was based as much on potential as performance, earned by what Ilyasova did last season (enough of a bump in scoring, rebounding and 3-point accuracy to finish second in Most Improved balloting) and by the promise that held with him in a bigger role.

Trouble is, Ilyasova’s role so far in 2012-13 is smaller, not bigger. His impact is too, according to Charles F. Gardner’s story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Ilyasova’s numbers are way down across the board through the first 10 games, all as a starter. He is shooting 31.3% overall and just 25% from three-point range and 42.9% on his free throws. He is playing 22.5 minutes per game and averaging 6.3 points and 4.7 rebounds.

In 60 games last season he played 27.6 minutes per game and averaged 13 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting 49.2% overall.

“The main thing is I can’t find my rhythm yet,” Ilyasova said. “We’ve got a lot of big guys. Coach has tried a lot of rotations. It’s not the same as it was last year.

“We had just three or four guys last year and we knew our minutes. It was kind of stable.”

The Bucks, particularly coach Scott Skiles, aren’t about to apologize for stiffer competition up front. They were seriously undermanned last season after center Andrew Bogut got hurt in January and traded in March, and with added size have boosted their rebounding and shot-blocking production. Larry Sanders, Samuel Dalembert, Ekpe Udoh and rookie John Henson have pushed Drew Gooden, the veteran thrown into duty at center in Bogut’s absence, completely to the bench. Meanwhile, Ilyasova shooting and bouts of tentativeness have him spending more time there, too.

It’s early still, and Ilyasova – never the most forceful at asserting himself – might grow his game with a few encouraging stats lines. For the moment, though, he is in that funky class of player such as Chicago’s Carlos Boozer and Indiana’s Roy Hibbert (to name only two) who gets paid more yet produces less. The season unspools too quickly to wait around for guys like that, and even when their coaches seem to forget about them, their team’s fans generally don’t.

And if the team falters, in spite of can become an ugly because of rather quickly.