Posts Tagged ‘Fran Blinebury’

Is Overtime Pushing Spurs Over Limit?


VIDEO: Blazers hand Spurts 2nd straight 3OT loss

SAN ANTONIO — The last time an NBA team played back-to-back triple-overtime games in 1951, the United States and Cuba also had official diplomatic relations.

The last time an NBA team played back-to-back triple-overtime games, the shot clock had not yet been invented.

The last time an NBA team played back-to-back triple-overtime games, Tim Duncan had only been in the league for a dozen or so years.

OK, I made the last one up.

But you’ll have to excuse the 38-year-old Duncan if he stays in bed rather than makes it out for opening tip Saturday night in Dallas. Or the entire Spurs roster just pulls the covers over their heads.

In the space of three nights, the Spurs played the equivalent of more than 2½ games, lost them both and also found out that Kawhi Leonard is on the shelf for a couple more with torn ligaments in his right hand. Roughest stretch since those final 28 seconds in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals.

For the short-handed Blazers, playing without injured starters Robin Lopez and Nicolas Batum, the 129-119 decision was a testament to their resolve and sheer grit after falling behind by six in each of the first two overtimes and added another chapter to the growing legend of Damian Lillard ( 43 points).

“It turned into one of those games where players have to play and I thought our team did a great job in the first two overtimes of just overcoming the bad starts,” Lillard said. “We saw how they were guarding L.A. (LaMarcus Aldridge) on the block, really trying to give him a hard time, sending a lot of guys at him. I knew I was the next guy in line to start attacking. I got a few shots to go, got in a rhythm and I just decided to keep attacking.”

For the Spurs, who are always trying to balance rest for a veteran core with the need to compete in the rugged Western Conference, it was a physical blow that they just didn’t need. San Antonio has lost six of its last 11 games, is battling to hang onto the No. 7 spot in the West and now has run up big minutes on two key players. Duncan has played 91 minutes in the two interminable losses to Memphis and Portland and Manu Ginobili has played 71. The Spurs were without Tony Parker (hamstring) and Leonard.

“It’s a different group every night,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “It would almost be better if you had two guys injured and you knew it for three months. It is different every night and it keeps them out of rhythm. We are wearing some guys down. Timmy is a big worry in that respect and so is Manu.”

Duncan scored 23 points and had 16 rebounds in the loss to the Grizzlies came back with 32 and 10 against the Blazers and was still active at both ends, blocking shots deep into the overtimes.

“Unheard of,” Duncan said. “I didn’t think obviously it would get to this point. … We expended a lot of energy. We put everything into it and we played hard.

“In that situation I am not drained. I am running on adrenaline and I am ready to go. I know I will feel it tomorrow.”

Blogtable: Build with offense or defense?

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


BLOGTABLE: Build with offense or defense? | Who will get traded? | Your All-Star starters



VIDEOGameTime’s crew breaks down the Sacramento Kings’ coaching situation

> Sacramento GM Pete D’Alessandro says he wants to see his team play at a faster pace. What’s a better foundation for a championship team — a high-scoring offense, or a stout defense?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comGive me a stout defense. So much of a team’s and an individual’s success in this league (anywhere, really) hinges on the honing of habits. Come playoff time, possessions become more precious, pace throttles down and defense becomes more important, and I don’t see a Paul Westhead approach suddenly downshifting to out-stingy teams that have been playing that way all year. You want to make the highlight reels and fill a new building? High-octane offense is great. You want to win titles? Defense is king (even if it’s not Kings).

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThe truth, of course, is balance, but defense carries more weight. Say a top 10-ranked offense, but a defense in the top five. By the way, the past two years, the Spurs have been 7th and 3rd, respectively.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: High-scoring works, as the Spurs reminded last season, but defense has to be the foundation, as pretty much everyone reminds every season. A good defense leads to offense, as in easy transition baskets. Offenses will have bad nights, whether because of self-induced problems or the opponent, but a potent defense rarely breaks down.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The obvious answer is that it takes some of both to have any shot at a title, but of course, a defensive team will always have a slight edge in the postseason, when the court shrinks and rotations tighten. Going back to what D’Alessandro said for a minute: Your offensive system must always cater to the talent on hand. In theory, everyone wants to run. In reality, not everyone is equipped to run. The Grizzlies, for example, don’t push the ball often because they lack the Ferraris. But last I looked, they’re sitting pretty in the West, looking down on Sacramento.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: More teams have reached The Finals with a top-10 defense than with a top-10 offense. You have to be great on both ends of the floor to win a title, but last season’s Heat and Spurs each showed us the importance of defense. Still, as the only team that has been below average on both ends of the floor for each of the last eight years, the Kings have to take what they can get. Find something that works and build on it. Fortunately for them, DeMarcus Cousins has developed into an anchor on both ends of the floor. But they need to surround him with a better supporting cast, the right coach, and some stability.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comA stout defense has to be the bedrock for a championship team. For teams that want to be exciting, draw eyeballs and get fans in the seats, a high-scoring offense is fine. The Phoenix Suns of the Mike D’Antoni era come to mind when I think of a team that could fill it up and had the appearance of a championship team, that is until they ran back to the other end of the court and couldn’t slow anyone down. I think a team that has to work overtime on offense to be legitimate can be a championship team with an elite defense. I have yet to see a team that can do the same on the flip side (an offensive juggernaut with defensive deficiencies). Ideally, it’s best to have the sort of balance the Texas teams (Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs) that have won championships recently possessed. As for the Kings, all the pace and points in the world won’t help you if you can’t lock down and get stops when you need them.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: You need both, and for a team like the Kings — who haven’t been in the playoffs since 2006 — it doesn’t matter whether the offense or defense is established first. Just be good at something. Establish a winning identity, and then fill in at the weak spots. The Mavericks did it that way: They learned how to win and then added the defensive mindset. The Kings have no business thinking about championships right now; their first job is to win more games than they lose, and to establish a defining strength — somewhere, anywhere.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWhy does it have to be one or the other? A high-scoring attack is great — it’s fun to watch, it’s attractive to casual fans. But unless you have an above-average defense to go along with it, you don’t have much to fall back on when the offense inevitably slows. And for all the talk about wanting a more uptempo offense, the thing is the Kings weren’t a very good defensive team last season (they finished with a 109.5 defensive rating), and they haven’t been much better this year. (108.2). Bottom line, the Kings have a long way to go on both ends of the court before we start talking championships.

Blogtable: Your All-Star starters

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


BLOGTABLE: Build with offense or defense? | Who will get traded? | Your All-Star starters



VIDEO: The Starters reveal their early All-Star starter picks

> You’ll get a chance to you change your mind in about three weeks, but give me your starting five (East and West) for February’s All-Star Game, based ONLY on performance this season.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The guys I think earned it in the West are names who might actually get enough votes in the real balloting: Stephen Curry and James Harden in the backcourt, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge in the frontcourt. Out East, I’m not sure my five all would prevail in the popularity contest but on merit, they should go: John Wall and Kyle Lowry at guard, with LeBron James, Pau Gasol and Kyle Korver up front. Korver, you ask? He’s having a season to make analytics fans swoon, someone from Atlanta deserves a spot and I like the idea of two Kyles in a five-man lineup.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comEast: Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol. West: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol. Durability counts, that’s why Dwyane Wade loses out to Irving and DeMarcus Cousins to Marc Gasol.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comEast: LeBron James, Pau Gasol and Chris Bosh (forwards), Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry (guards). West: Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol and DeMarcus Cousins (forwards), Stephen Curry and James Harden (guards). The option to change my mind in three weeks comes in especially handy with Cousins. If he returns strong from the viral meningitis, he holds the spot. If he struggles physically for long, his place becomes more precarious. It gets even worse if the Kings continue to drop in the standings — which dooms Carmelo Anthony on the East front line –or Cousins has a choppy adjustment to the Kings’ coaching change increased emphasis on playing up-tempo. Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge are waiting.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comWest: James Harden, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol. Pretty clear-cut there. They’ve been healthy and productive. East: Kyle Lowry, John Wall, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony. Yeah, folks will hold their nose about ‘Melo, but that’s more because of the Knicks. He’s No. 6 in scoring and the East is lacking in star power on the front line.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Going by the positions on the ballot (veiled shot at my colleagues who included Lowry, Wall and Butler) … East guards: Kyle Lowry and John Wall.  East frontcourt: LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Pau Gasol. West guards: Stephen Curry and James Harden. West frontcourt: Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis and Tim Duncan. Duncan gets my final spot in the crowded West frontcourt (for now), because he’s more of a two-way player than LaMarcus Aldridge and his minutes are over 30 per game this season.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Based only on performance, in the East it has to be Kyle Lowry, John Wall, Jimmy Butler, LeBron James and Pau Gasol. In the Western Conference, where a preposterous surplus of candidates for five spots, I’m going with Stephen Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin and Marc Gasol. I don’t think I’ll need that mulligan in three weeks either, even with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant coming on the way they are for Oklahoma City and Kobe Bryant playing the way he has all season. I want to reserve my injury replacement spot for Klay Thompson, too. He’s been that good this season and the Warriors are rocking. He belongs in New York for the festivities.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: In the East, I’ve got LeBron James, Pau Gasol and Chris Bosh in the frontcourt, with Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler in the backcourt. In the West, it’s Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Anthony Davis up front, with James Harden and Stephen Curry in the backcourt.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogEast: John Wall, Kyle Lowry, LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, Chris Bosh. If I could put Kobe at the 3, I would, because I think he deserves to make the starting five. But there are literally only two players in the West that I’d rate ahead of him, and they are both guards. Sorry, Mamba. West: Steph Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol

For more debates, go to #AmexNBA or www.nba.com/homecourtadvantage.

Blogtable: A looming trade?

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


BLOGTABLE: Build with offense or defense? | Who will get traded? | Your All-Star starters



VIDEOShould the Warriors think about dealing David Lee?

> Give me a name or two, guys who you think almost certainly will be traded between now and the Feb. 19 trade deadline.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comLance Stephenson back to Indiana as a do-over of sorts would be interesting, because it’s not something we’ve seen often (ever?). David Lee done got “Wally Pipped” in Golden State – the team didn’t miss him and might be better without him – so he’d be a likely suspect to move, if someone were willing to swallow his contract. I would have said Ersan Ilyasova for sure until Jabari Parker went down, thinning the Bucks’ frontcourt.  If LeBron James wants Corey Brewer, then I’d imagine Brewer will be headed to Cleveland for something or other. Then there’s Greg Monroe, though any trade would hinge on his determination to leave Detroit (no more Bird rights) and the Pistons’ asking price for a half-season of his services.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comLance Stephenson and Dion Waiters. It seems there wasn’t a bigger mistake made during the offseason than the Hornets trying to add Stephenson as a pinch of spice. He’s been a bad fit since Day One and team owner Michael Jordan would most likely enjoy a shot at a do-over. The bad blood between Waiters and point guard Kyrie Irving might be in the past, but Waiters is still most often like a fifth wheel on the Cavs’ machine and is likely never going to stop being frustrating.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comIt’s tough not to think Lance Stephenson right away. The contract is very moveable — $27 million over three seasons, but the final campaign as a team option — and Stephenson can be a productive player, certainly more productive than he has shown so far in Charlotte. It’s early in the relationship, but the Hornets can’t wait much longer before deciding it’s a bad fit. Separately, the Pistons are a candidate to trade. Offloading Josh Smith would be an ideal scenario, but he won’t bring much in return. Greg Monroe is a possibility, before he becomes a free agent, but not at a fire-sale discount. He’ll still cost.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: There are dozens of players that teams want to dump, but for various reasons might be unable to do so. Case in point: Josh Smith, Pistons. Anyway, my candidates: Gerald Green, because the Suns may not want to pay him; Arron Afflalo, because his return to Denver has been largely a bust; Corey Brewer, because the Wolves will be crummy with or without him; and finally Lance Stephenson, just because.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: There are a lot of guys who teams don’t want anymore, and there are a lot of guys that other teams desire. But Draft pick compensation and the heftiness of certain contracts (hello, Joe Johnson) often get in the way of potential deal. Dion Waiters, in my opinion, should fall into the first category and is still on an easily-tradeable rookie contract. So I see him as the most likely to move. The Cavs need defense and have plenty of guards — Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Harris, James Jones and Mike Miller — who can absorb Waiters’ minutes.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comJosh Smith and Lance Stephenson serve as the easy picks and for good reason. I think one or both of them will certainly be on the move. There is no doubt they’re both being shopped by their respective teams. They are both talents with skills that will be coveted by teams convinced that they’ll be able to clean up whatever messes they’ve made in the past. Neither one of them is a great (or even good) fit in their current situations. The Pistons aren’t going anywhere this season, so they might as well start the rebuilding process at the deadline. The Hornets had high hopes and had them dashed early. They need to free themselves of Stephenson and allow him to start fresh elsewhere as well. My wild card at the deadline is the Phoenix Suns. They had a glut of point guards and should take a hard look at which one of them is expendable.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comI’m going to say Josh Smith and any other number of Pistons. The coach has the authority to make trades in Detroit, and after complaining steadily about the effort of his players, Stan Van Gundy isn’t going to allow the trade deadline to pass him by.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI wouldn’t be surprised to see the Knicks move Amar’e Stoudemire. He’s playing better basketball than he’s played in years, and could lend a hand on a contending team in need of frontcourt depth. Plus, with a $19 million expiring contract, maybe the Knicks can get something of value for him that will help with their rebuild going forward.

It’s official: Howard returns to Rockets lineup

HOUSTON — After going through warmup drills about 90 minutes before opening tip, Dwight Howard prepared to rejoin the Rockets lineup Saturday for the first time in nearly a month against the Nuggets.

“Dwight will play tonight,” said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. “He went through shootaround today. He went through a practice and ran a little bit on the road trip. We just haven’t had him on the floor a lot. He’s gonna play, as of right now. I hope. I sure hope nothing else happens.

“I’ll try to five him four- to five-minute stints and see what he’s got in the gas tank. When you consider how much he missed in training camp and consider how much he’s missed during the season, from us being together from the latter part of September till now, Dwight’s missed well over half our stuff.

“Catching a rhythm is hard when you do that. It’s just hard. NBA basketball is completely different than practice. It’s completely different than one-on-one workouts. So I don’t know what to expect. He’s a freakish athlete and he gets in shape real fast. So hopefully he’ll be able to give us something.”

Howard has not played since Nov. 17 at Memphis, suffering from a strained right knee. He has undergone platelet-rich plasma therapy in order to speed up the healing process, but still missed the last 11 games. The Rockets have gone 8-3 in his absence and are currently third in the Western Conference with a 17-5 mark.

Howard is averaging 18.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots in 10 games.

The plan is for Howard to play 20 to 24 minutes Saturday and McHale said he’ll use his usual eye-test and interaction with his player to gauge things.

“I usually talk to the guy: ‘How you doing? How you feeling? How’s your wind?’ ” McHale said. “There are times when you look out there go, ‘That guy can tell me anything he wants, but I’m not believing a word he said. I’m watching him play.’

“If a guy’s playing well and you say, ‘How you feeling? How’s your rhythm? How’s your wind? Do you need a timeout?’ You basically talk you way through with him. Then you get a better feel for that.

“But there’s some guys you watch play and go, ‘That poor guy’s got nothing. So I might as well take him out and save him from himself. A lot of these guys are competitive enough that they’re not gonna tell you.”

Blatt says LeBron knee “not serious”

LeBron James i

LeBron James — in his 12th season — will miss the 45th (out of 907) game of his career.

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Cavaliers say there is no cause for alarm and they only held LeBron James out of Thursday night’s game against the Thunder as a precautionary measure.

Coach David Blatt called it “general soreness” in the left knee and said it is not a problem that has bothered James for long.

“Not at all, as a matter of fact,” said prior to the opening tip in OKC. “Just after the last game (vs. Toronto) he felt some soreness in the back of his knee. Nothing major. Got up this morning and didn’t feel particularly good, so we decided to hold him out.

Matthew Dellavedova took his place in the Cavs’ starting lineup and at this point it is not known if James will play Friday night in New Orleans.

“(It’s) a day to day thing” Blatt said. “Again, not a serious problem. But we’ll monitor it, we’ll treat him and we’ll how he’s feeling tomorrow.”

There are currently no plans for James to have an MRI on the knee.

“At this point, no,” Blatt said. “But again, we’re monitoring and I really don’t believe we have any kind of serious situation. Just some soreness and we’re being cautious. It’s early in the day.”

In 20 games this season, James is averaging 24.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 7.7 assists and this was the first game he’s missed. Now in his 12th NBA season, this is only the 45th of 907 regular season games that he has missed.

“He’s not the easiest guy to replace, as you can well imagine,” Blatt said. “That’s part of the NBA season. You’re gonna have guys that occasionally miss games and you just make up for it with team basketball, other guys lifting their game, with at times even an extra motivation because maybe one of your main guys is out and you’ve got to pick it up. Guys recognize that and you do the best that you can.

James, who’ll turn 30 on Dec. 30, said back in training camp and again earlier in the season that he would like to reduce the minutes he plays. He logged more than 40 minutes five times in the Cavs’ first seven games. He averaged 37.7 minutes last season in Miami and is currently averaging 38 in his first season back in Cleveland.

“I think if you look at his average minutes, I think we’re pretty much exactly where we said we were going to be,” Blatt said. “There are games when he plays more and there are games when he plays less. But you have to look at the total body of work, so to speak, and I think we’re perfect as far as that’s concerned.”

Blatt empathized with the fans in OKC who were deprived of seeing an anticipated early season showdown between the four-time MVP and Kevin Durant, the reigning MVP.

“It is my concern as far as I understand the desire of the people to see one of the great players in history play,” Blatt said. “It is not desire on our part to disappoint them. It’s just reality of the NBA season. Of course, I understand. But they’re going to see a lot of great basketball players out there tonight and I hope they’ll see a great game as well.”

LeBron (sore knee) a game-time decision for Thursday’s clash

OKLAHOMA CITY — The early season showdown between would-be East and West superpowers could be on hold.

That’s because general soreness in his right knee has made LeBron James a game-time decision for the Cavaliers tonight against the Thunder (8 p.m. ET on TNT).

James, who did not miss any of the Cavs’ first 20 games this season, was not available to the media following the Thursday morning shootaround because he was getting treatment on the knee.

“It’s another opportunity for somebody to step up, losing LeBron,” said forward Kevin Love. “This will be a great opportunity to see ourselves against one of the best Western Conference teams, despite their record. But it’s just another opportunity, as I mentioned, for other guys to step up, if he’s out. If not, we’ll go at full strength.”

“Obviously, there will be a big piece missing if he doesn’t play,” said guard Kyrie Irving. “But right now he’s in our lineup and he can go get it tonight.

“It will be a good matchup for all of us. But if he can’t, then we’ll have to adjust and take it upon ourselves. Our bench has to play big. Everybody, including myself, has to go out and play bigger to fill that void if he can’t play. We got to make it up.”

Durant backs ‘I Can’t Breathe’ campaign


VIDEO: Lakers wear ‘I Can’t Breathe’ shirts before facing Kings

OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant didn’t commit to a wardrobe change, but says he supports the stand taken by his NBA peers who have worn “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts recently at games as a form of social protest in the aftermath of the Eric Garner case.

“I feel as though I really took my hat off to guys,” Durant said after playing his first home game of the season at Chesapeake Energy Arena. “Derrick Rose who started it off and then the Brooklyn Nets and then the Cavs, who stand up for what they believe in. That’s what I’m always about, even though sometimes it may make people uncomfortable.

“Those guys stood up for what they believe in. I felt as a citizen first, I was a little confused about the whole deal. Obviously I didn’t know the facts about everything. I just want what’s right for our whole country. That’s what I’m about. Helping everybody uniting, so I’m gonna try to do my part here individually every single day as a man and go from there.”

LeBron James and his Cavaliers teammates who wore the shirts on Monday night in Cleveland will be in OKC to face Durant and the Thunder on Thursday night (TNT, 8 p.m. ET).

Curry warns against distraction

Mark Jackson coached the Warriors (and Stephen Curry) for three seasons before being relieved after the 2013-14 season.

Mark Jackson coached the Warriors for three seasons before being fired after the 2013-14 season.

You watch the Warriors play, so free and easy, so loose and happy, almost as if dancing to a rhythm that only they can hear.

Best record in the league. Best start in franchise history.

So what could stop the music?

Only a distraction that would take everyone’s mind off the next game and the next game and dwell on a festering wound from the past.

That’s what leading scorer Stephen Curry seemed to be saying when he responded to team owner Joe Lacob’s recent remarks about why he replaced Mark Jackson with Steve Kerr as head coach.

Lacob had already issued an email apology when Curry felt compelled to put the focus back onto the basketball court.

Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle had Curry’s take on the situation:

“I think it’s unfortunate that it’s a distraction from what’s going on right now,” point guard Stephen Curry said after the team prepped for Monday night’s game against Minnesota.

“Obviously, we’re playing well. You can nitpick what’s different between this year and last year, but you’re talking about two great coaches. I feel like Coach Kerr is doing his job great, and Coach Jackson did his job the way he thought was right. Obviously, there was a lot of success with it.”

After initially saying he had no comment, Kerr said: “I’ll just repeat what I’ve said all year, which is ‘I inherited a hell of a team.’ There have been a lot of good things done in this organization — the front office, coaching staff, player development. I’m sitting here with a great team. We have the best record in the league. That didn’t happen because our staff showed up. It’s happened over the course of several years, and a lot of people deserve credit for that, including the previous staff.”

Until last week, the Warriors had gone out of their ways to heap equal amounts of praise on Jackson for changing the franchise’s culture during his three-season run in the Bay Area and Kerr for taking the organization to the next level this season. Speaking at a venture capitalists luncheon Wednesday, Lacob strayed from the company lines.

Lacob said Jackson didn’t really know X’s and O’s, refused to hire a top-notch assistant coaching staff and wasn’t very likeable.”

Curry seemed to appreciate Lacob offering the apology.

“For him to apologize, it’s a big gesture,” the point guard said. “My whole thing is not to discredit anything Coach Jackson did, because he was such a great coach for us and elevated a lot of our individual games. I’m proud of that and appreciate that. Obviously, it’s a new era and a new experience that we’re in right now and that we’re enjoying.”

You know the old saying about fish rotting from the head down. Give Curry credit for making the point that the Warriors don’t a lingering bad odor of past resentment to take their minds off the task of moving ahead.

Cunningham, Pelicans reach out to each other in time of need

cunningham

Dante Cunningham spent the past two seasons coming off the bench for the Timberwolves. (NBAE via Getty Images)

The Pelicans are struggling to keep their chins above the .500 mark water line in the rugged Western Conference playoff race.

Dante Cunningham was battling to keep his professional career afloat after a charge of domestic assault was filed against him last April.

So perhaps it is fitting that the pair has drifted together in search of mutual benefit.

The 27-year-old forward is expected to join the Pelicans for tonight’s game at Golden State (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT).

“It’s such a relief,” Cunningham told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “I just knew that with the time and the situation that was going on, I kind of had to wait it out and get the right opportunity.”

Cunningham was charged in April with felony domestic assault after his girlfriend at the time accused him of choking her and slamming her head against a wall. She also accused him of sending her threatening messages. The charge was dropped in August after an investigation uncovered inconsistencies in her story.

He was a free agent after his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves expired at the end of the 2013-14 season. But even after Hennepin County authorities dropped the charge, many teams were reluctant to consider signing him after the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal rocked the NFL. Cunningham said he had preliminary talks with a few teams but didn’t get any firm interest while the charge was being investigated.

The Pelicans were one of a number of teams to look at Cunningham, and last week they scheduled a workout. As talks progressed, team officials reached out to the NBA to try to determine whether Cunningham would face any kind of discipline for even being accused of domestic violence.

“We have commenced an independent review of the matter and the charges that were subsequently dropped against Mr. Cunningham, but at this point we have no basis to conclude that he engaged in conduct that warrants discipline from the NBA,” league spokesman Mike Bass said.

The Pelicans are desperate for some offensive help with guard Eric Gordon sidelined by a torn labrum. They had moved Tyreke Evans from small forward to the backcourt and used Darius Miller in the frontcourt. But that didn’t work and Miller was waived.

Cunningham, who spent the past two seasons coming off the bench for the Timberwolves, not only has to get back his game legs, but will also have to survive the increased scrutiny that has surrounded the topic of domestic abuse.

You can’t blame many teams that might have had an interest in him from backing away on Cunningham because of the intense focus on his situation specifically and how much the public’s view of domestic abuse in general has changed just in the past year with so many high profile cases.

Yet the sports world is filled with opportunities, from Michael Vick and Ray Lewis in the NFL to Latrell Sprewell and Metta World Peace in the NBA as players who were given a second chance and eventually made it a good move for their respective teams.

Out of desperate times can come hope and that’s where the Pelicans and Cunningham now are together.