Posts Tagged ‘Fran Blinebury’

Blogtable: Biggest takeaway from Spurs-Warriors?

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: Takeaway from Spurs-Warriors? | Thoughts on Griffin incident? |
Four players who should be All-Star reserves?



VIDEORelive the showdown between the Warriors and Spurs

> Biggest takeaway from the Warriors’ 120-90 victory over the Spurs on Monday?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: That even Kawhi Leonard can be, at least for a night, neutralized as a shutdown defender by Golden State’s amalgam of ballhandling, passing and shooting. Lost in their shot-making brilliance is the fact that the Warriors are as good as a whole passing the ball as any team I’ve ever seen. Ever. In all of their lineup iterations they have multiple people who are outstanding passers. That’s the only way to beat a team defense as good as the Spurs and an individual defender as great as Leonard. Scary.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’m going to give Gregg Popovich, R.C. Buford and LaMarcus Aldridge the benefit of the doubt, as far as Aldridge being a more helpful and strategic piece for the Spurs in a seven-game series against Golden State than he was Monday. But if that’s not my takeaway, then this is and it likely isn’t any more reassuring to San Antonio fans: The Warriors are in a different league this season from every other team, whether No. 2 or No. 30. Their crowd, their confidence, their chemistry and (to ride the alliteration) their Curry appear unbeatable. And their versatility ain’t bad either.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comFirst, coming on the heels of previous 30-point wins over Chicago and Cleveland, whipping the Spurs was the definitive statement that the defending champs are flying at a much higher altitude than everyone else and clearly are the team to beat. What has struck me all season about the Warriors is their clear sense of identity and purpose. There is no figuring things out. They like playing with each other. There are no external distractions. Second, it is January.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThat LaMarcus Aldridge needs to step up more in these kinds of games. A lot more. Really, though, I don’t assign a great amount of importance to one game in January. The Warriors are really good, which we already knew, and the Spurs are really good, even if that didn’t come through. Nothing from Monday in Oakland will follow the teams into a possible playoff matchup, for example. Another lopsided win or two by Golden State and then maybe you’ve got some big takeaway. But not now.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Without a doubt, Draymond Green’s defense on LaMarcus Aldridge. OK, sure, Stephen Curry went ballistic (although you knew that was coming). Fine. But the Spurs added the most valuable free agent on the market last summer in order to give themselves an edge, and Aldridge was totally freaked out by Green’s defense. Green guarded him tightly, knowing that Aldridge is actually a very poor athlete (very little quickness and lateral movement) and therefore couldn’t shake free. If I’m the Spurs, I’m worried about Aldridge, who has never played a big game in his life but will be asked to bring it in the playoffs and against the Warriors in the very likely event they meet again.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Primarily it was that the Warriors thrashed a team that had been playing a level of defense that we’ve never seen before and had outscored its last 26 opponents by an average of 18.3 points. But the other thing that was apparent after just one quarter was that they played at the Warriors pace. Even when the Spurs weren’t turning the ball over, they couldn’t keep the game under control. And the Warriors thrive in a fast-paced, haphazard environment.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: My biggest takeaway from the Warriors’ third straight 30-point smashing of a team that’s supposed to slow them down on their way to a second straight NBA title is believe the hype. It’s time for everyone to abandon all of these theories about the Warriors’ good fortune from last season and give it up. They are machine. And they are playing with a cosmic flow we haven’t seen from a team in quite some time. Stephen Curry (Mr. 37-points-in-three-quarters-against-the-best-defensive-crew-on-earth) is on another planet right now, but he’s far from the only Warrior operating at the next level. I think about a guy like Shaun Livingston, who shredded the Spurs in his limited early action. One virtuoso effort every now and then is one thing, but to do it basically every night for an entire seasons … believe the hype!

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comNo one is close to the Warriors. They are the most talented, most efficient and by far the hungriest contender midway through their title defense. The Warriors know exactly who they are, while the Spurs, relative to Golden State’s high standard, are still working their way through the transition around LaMarcus Aldridge. One thing we know for sure about the Spurs is that they’ll absorb this loss in a constructive way. It is more likely to inspire than demoralize them.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: That the Warriors are unbeatable. OK, perhaps not totally unbeatable, but to beat the Warriors when they are playing well, you have to play a near-perfect game. Can that happen? Sure, some opponents will occasionally have a game where they are able to keep possession of the ball without turning it over a dozen or more times, and they hit fifty percent of their threes, and maybe they catch Steph Curry on an off night. But here’s the thing I can’t figure out: How will any team do that four times in seven games during the postseason?

Blogtable: Thoughts on Griffin’s punching incident?

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: Takeaway from Spurs-Warriors? | Thoughts on Griffin incident? |
Four players who should be All-Star reserves?



VIDEODan Woike explains the impact of Griffin’s incident

> Blake Griffin has missed the last 14 games and will be sidelined four to six weeks after injuring his hand in an altercation with an equipment manager. Is this a big thing, a little thing, or much ado about nothing?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Oh, very much a big, big thing. This is the face of your franchise, who is not a kid anymore, making a series of increasingly stupid decisions (drinking, drinking in public, arguing, hitting someone, continuing to hit someone until you break your hand) that leave his team in a lurch after it had stoically excelled for a month without him. Not to mention that the Clips gave Josh Smith back to Houston anticipating Griffin’s return in the next few days. Bad, bad form. Gonna take a good long while for Griffin to earn back trust from his teammates and from Doc Rivers.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Little thing. Oh, it’s a big thing right now, in the dog days of the NBA season. And it will bubble up a little bit over All-Star Weekend – because of his absence and all the chatter there – and again when Griffin returns to the court for the Clippers. But this is a manageable “crisis” in that Griffin and the equipment manager are otherwise friends (presumably still), sizable checks can get stroked and there aren’t formal charges. As I see it, it’s a symptom of that team’s overall immaturity and unsuitability to seriously contend for a title. But nothing causal unto itself.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Of course, it’s a big deal. Regardless of the Clippers’ recent record without him, Blake Griffin is one of the top two players on the team and talent usually wins out. However, it also furthers the narrative that the Clippers underachieve each season in the playoffs because they are a loose collection of knuckleheads that won’t ever win a championship because they lack focus and professionalism. Breaking your hand on an equipment manager? Why not run head-first into a wall? At least that might knock some sense into him.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Big thing. Blake Griffin put his team’s season at risk, just when the Clippers had reason for optimism after a bad start. They were winning, they were about to get Griffin back from injury. And now this. Who knows how the hand will heal — or not heal. Who knows how many games this will cost L.A. in the standings and injure chances for homecourt advantage in a series. But his actions open up a lot of bad possibilities for the Clips.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I say it’s a big thing, because this is a franchise hauling a history of being Clipper-like, a stigma that was supposed to disappear once Doc Rivers took control. However, the Clippers got ambushed by a Rockets’ comeback in the playoffs last year and so far have nothing special to show for having Rivers, Chris Paul and Blake together. This team has plenty to prove and Blake’s silly and unnecessary “incident” doesn’t help matters at all.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Big thing. With how good the three teams ahead of them are, the Clippers’ margin for error is small. And though they’ve played well without him, his injury obviously hurts them with their need to build something toward the playoffs. It also feels like this is another step toward a summer-of-2016 break-up of the Clippers’ core, which has been very good, but not good enough, over the last few years.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: It’s a huge thing and a potentially season-altering blunder by Griffin that not only shatters any defense of him as anything other than a fake tough-guy. In the absence of any concrete details as to why the dustup with the equipment staffer started, it’s fair to crush Griffin for exhibiting the some of the poorest judgment possible. He’s already missed 14 games with the torn quad tendon and now he’s going to tack on another 4-6 weeks with the fractured hand. Just brutal.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: This is a big thing. The Clippers want to contend ultimately for the NBA Finals. This latest self-inflicted torment won’t necessarily knock them out, because Griffin may still have close to two months before the playoffs to regroup with his teammates. Will this be one of those events that convinces him and his teammates to refocus with greater urgency? Or are they going to enable another year to slip away?

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogThe injury should be a little thing — as it turns out, the Clippers have been able to endure without Blake this season. So, being without Griffin for another 4-6 weeks during the regular season should be something they can endure with some relative ease. This could turn into a big thing, however, when you consider the circumstances of the injury, or at least what has been reported as the circumstances thus far.

Blogtable: East, West players who need to be named All-Stars?

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: Takeaway from Spurs-Warriors? | Thoughts on Griffin incident? |
Four players who should be All-Star reserves?



VIDEOTNT’s crew reveals their East All-Star reserve picks

> Give me two players in the East and two players in the West who absolutely, positively need to be named All-Stars Thursday night.

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler in the East, and Chris Paul and Draymond Green in the West. All have been sensational all season for their respective teams.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: In the East, Jimmy Butler and Andre Drummond have to be All-Stars and in the West, it’s Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins who need to join the party in Toronto. Butler has taken his game to yet another level from his All-Star work in 2015 and the coaches surely respect his two-way excellence. Drummond puts up some monster numbers, is a fresh young face for the NBA and can’t be excluded by the Pistons’ record for a change. If Steph Curry is the motor of the Warriors’ dominance, Green is the transmission and it’s showing in is all-around impact. Finally, Cousins is the best center in the game and that still is a legit position in this league, regardless of “frontcourt” labeling in All-Star voting. One request: If Drummond and Cousins both go, please leave the typical All-Star cool-and-casualness to others and let’s see those bigs go at each other in the low post — hard — in a nod to a dying style and old-school fans.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: In the East, it’s Jimmy Butler and Andre Drummond. During this tumultuous start to the season, Butler has firmly taken over the role as the Bulls’ alpha dog with career-best numbers of 22.3 points and 4.2 assists to go with 5.3 rebounds an 1.7 steals per game while also being a All-Defensive team player. Drummond is having a career year averaging 17.1 points and 15.2 rebounds. He’d be only the fourth player since 1982-83 season to hit those marks for a full season.

In the West, it’s Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins. Green should get the spot denied him by sentimentality toward Kobe Bryant by acclamation of the coaches. While Steph Curry is the heart of the Warriors attack, Green is their relentless, unforgiving soul. I don’t want to hear any more excuses about the Kings’ bad record. Cousins has been nothing short of a monster putting up All-Star numbers by any standards.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: In the East, it’s Jimmy Butler and Andre Drummond. Butler is the best shooting guard in the conference, an elite player on both sides of the ball, while Drummond is a force inside, so much of a force that he is an automatic even playing for a team scrambling to hold on to a playoff spot. In the West, it’s Draymond Green and Chris Paul. Green would be (or should be) getting MVP votes if ballots went out today, though not for first or second place, so, yeah, he is the definition of “absolutely, positively need to be named” an All-Star. Paul clearly remains among the elite, particularly with his play that continues to give the Clippers a puncher’s chance in the West during Blake Griffin’s absence.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: In the West, it’s DeMarcus Cousins and Draymond Green. Cousins has finally shut his mouth and opened his game and the results have been nuclear — he’s the best center in basketball. Green proves his value to the best team in basketball on a nightly basis and is a most unlikely star. In the East, it’s DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler, a pair of shooting guards. Butler should be a starter instead of Dwyane Wade. Meanwhile, DeRozan will be a worthy addition to the game hosted by Toronto — the hottest team in the East.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: In the East, it’s Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan. Butler has been critical on both ends of the floor for the Bulls, while DeRozan has carried a huge load (and scored more efficiently) for the league’s sixth best offense. In the West, it’s Draymond Green and Chris Paul. Green has been a defensive anchor and the league’s best playmaking power forward. Paul hasn’t been as good as he was the last couple of seasons, but is still the best player on a top-four team and has helped the Clippers go 12-3 in the absence of Blake Griffin.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: In the East, it’s Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan. Butler’s performance this season for a Bulls team in disarray deserved a starter’s nod, so there is no doubt he better be on that seven-man list Thursday night. DeRozan has made a similar case for himself in Toronto and should enjoy the spoils of playing host during All-Star Weekend. In the West, it’s Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins. Both are, in a sense, locks. Green’s credential are found in the pile of highlights he’s amassed this season and Cousins has been spectacular (more often than not) for a Kings team poised to make a playoff push the second half of the season.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: In the East, it’s DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler. DeRozan is the leading scorer of the No. 2 Raptors and the All-Star Game will be played on his homecourt – that ought to suffice. Butler, who leads No. 4 Chicago with 22.3 points after scoring 53 a couple of weeks ago, is another must-select. In the West, it’s Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Both have been indispensable to the NBA’s far-and-away best team. They join Steph Curry as the most deserving All-Stars this season.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: In the East, it’s Paul Millsap and Kyrie Irving. I’ve been all-in on Millsap all season, so why stop now? He’s the best player on the Hawks and is averaging career highs across the board. And I know he’s been injured for most of the season, and probably won’t get named by coaches, but I’d love to see Irving in the All-Star Game. He’s the type of player that the All-Star Game is made for, with the ability to pull off crazy dribbling tricks and throw wild alley-oops. In the West, it’s DeMarcus Cousins and Will Barton. Cousins has simply been great all season and, in the spirit of Kyrie, Denver’s exciting scoring machine (Barton) is kind of made for this all-out scoring stage.


VIDEOTNT’s crew reveals their West All-Star reserve picks

Blogtable: Rookie you enjoy watching watching (and why)?

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: Thoughts on Cavs? | Biggest surprise at season’s halfway mark? |
Rookie you enjoy watching most (and why)?



VIDEOKarl-Anthony Towns had a December to remember

> Through 41 games, it looks like we have a talented, versatile rookie class. Which rookie do you enjoy watching most, and why?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: I want to cop out and say it’s a tie between Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, because they’re both really talented and impact the game. But, if you’re making me pick one, how can you not like “The ‘Zinger?” A 7-foot-2 kid with that kind of range, but who also has hops and will rebound and block shots? Plus, he doesn’t seem intimidated in the league playing in a city that has been known to inhale and spit out a lot of talented guys.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I enjoy watching a number of these newbies: Karl-Anthony Towns for how preternaturally developed he is (and critical to Minnesota’s future), Kristaps Porzingis for his extreme size and marvelous demeanor in winning over salty Knicks fans, and Stanley Johnson to monitor the boost he gets in Detroit from his boundless confidence. But the rookie I watch for sheer fun is Chicago’s Bobby Portis, who plays with the attitude of a grumpy old man, gives himself third-person pep talks on the floor (“Gotta get that rebound, B.P.!”) and isn’t shy about pointing and gesturing to rouse folks in the United Center stands. He’s a 20-year-old excitedly taking his NBA baby steps.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Karl-Anthony Towns. Watching the best is always fun. I would have guessed at the start of the season that my answer would be Mario Hezonja, but he’s not getting big minutes, and part of me thought about saying Emmanuel Mudiay, except that’s more the good theater of “anything can happen.” Towns is smooth. He scores inside and steps outside to shoot with range. He defends. He rebounds. A lot of teams thought he would need a transition period, but no rookie has made the jump better.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Kristaps Porzingis, because someone his height isn’t supposed to do what he does, or at least not this quickly. Not only is Porzingis’ development interesting, but so is the fuss being made of him in New York, which shows you how starved that city is for a young savior and a potential future star. You must go back to the mid-1980s and Patrick Ewing or Mark Jackson to find the last Knicks rookie who felt this much local love.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Karl-Anthony Towns. What I like most about these rookies is that there are several of them (Willie Cauley-Stein, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Justise Winslow) that like to play defense. Towns still has a lot to learn on that end of the floor, but he has the right teacher and is definitely a two-way player. Offensively, he’s incredibly polished for a 20 year old, with the skills to play inside and out.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: This is a hometown pick for me, what with Suns rookie Devin Booker hailing from the great city of Grand Rapids and state of Michigan. He’s been one of the bright spots in an otherwise dreadful start for a Phoenix team that has struggled to play anywhere close to expectations. His 3-point shooting has been as good as advertised, but his underrated all-around game is what’s been pleasantly surprising. I’ve seen talented rookies tainted by their surroundings and I don’t want to see that happen to Booker, so here’s to a much better second half in the Valley of the Sun.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: I like seeing Kristaps Porzingis playing with such intensity and desire. He’s performing in the biggest market for what has long been a disheartening franchise. And here he is, in his first year in America, just going for it and creating hope that hasn’t existed in New York for some time.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWell, let me first say that I think Karl-Anthony Towns is the best all-around member of the rookie class. But the rookie I enjoy watching the most? PORZINGIS! First of all, he looks like a character from a Tim Burton movie, elongated and stretched out, in desperate need of some meat on his bones. But when he gets the ball, he’s literally capable of anything — a 3-pointer from halfcourt, a Dream Shake, a powerful dunk over a defender. He’s been fantastic, and with the Knicks seemingly destined for the postseason, he might get to show off his game on the biggest stage.

Blogtable: Thoughts on Cavaliers at season’s halfway point?

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: Thoughts on Cavs? | Biggest surprise at season’s halfway mark? |
Rookie you enjoy watching most (and why)?



VIDEORelive the Warriors-Cavs matchup

> They lead the East, but in a five-day span they lost a close one to the Spurs on the road, then got blown out by the Warriors at home. What do you make of these Cleveland Cavaliers halfway through the season?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Something’s amiss in the Land. It’s a combination of things, I think, but at the base the issue is how to be the defensive-based team that blew through the Eastern Conference playoffs last spring and dismantled a 60-win Atlanta team in the conference finals while integrating the offense-first Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love into the mix. The Cavs played championship-level defense in the postseason, but couldn’t score enough, as evidenced by the load LeBron James had to carry in The Finals. They’re going to be very good offensively once Irving is back at full speed, but can he and Love defend their positions well enough to beat elite teams? Not putting Monday’s beatdown by the Warriors all on those two, but clearly, Cleveland had no concept as a team of how to stop Golden State. Who does Irving guard? Stephen Curry? Nope. Klay Thompson? Maybe David Blatt puts him on Andrew Bogut, and I’m not kidding. But it’s going to be a question against the best teams, and those are the teams the Cavs have struggled to beat this season.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com The Cavaliers are good enough and not good enough. They’re good enough to get past any rough patches, good enough to essentially control the East and good enough to get back to the Finals without too much angst or sweat. But they’re not good enough to beat Golden State or San Antonio in seven games, not yet, not as currently constituted. J.R. Smith is too erratic on and off the court to be relied upon to the degree Cleveland does, they need more outside shooting as it is and they’re almost starting over in cracking the LeBron JamesKyrie IrvingKevin Love code. They have lots on their plates for the final three months.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: They’re fine. Not perfect. Not the team to beat. But the Cavaliers are still the favorite in the East and, if you want the real perspective, in much better shape than a year ago as doubt flew in every direction and coach David Blatt was supposedly on the hot seat. You know, before they got to The Finals and then to a Game 6 without two of their best players for most or all of the series.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comI think the Cavs are fortunate to play in the East, and that all they need to do is win the conference, which last I checked doesn’t go through Oakland or San Antonio. Unless my math is wrong, that puts them in The Finals, right? Look, past history has proven that whatever happens in the regular season (losses to certain teams) often carries little weight in the post-season. Cleveland is fine, in the big picture. There’s a lot of basketball left to find a groove and seek answers.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com They’ve improved defensively and rank in the top 10 on that end of the floor, which is where they need to be. But yeah, that top-10 defense obviously didn’t hold up against the league’s best offense (Golden State), and their offense struggled against the league’s best defense (San Antonio). The Cavs could probably win the East in their sleep, but the Warriors and Spurs are playing like two of the best teams of all-time. The Cavs could wait to flip the switch in the postseason, but now would be a good time to play with some urgency, not let bad teams hang around through three quarters, and see if they can’t match the Spurs’ and Warriors’ point differential for a few weeks.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: They strike me as a team that is well aware that they are ill-equipped to handle either the Spurs or Warriors in a seven-game series right now. That narrative about a healthy Cavaliers team surely being able to finish what they started in The Finals against the Warriors seems a bit hollow to me now. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love would have made a huge difference, but I don’t know that they would have been the difference between winning and losing. And the Spurs and Warriors have taken it up a few notches since last season while the Cavaliers clearly have not. I think it’s a good thing, actually, because now the Cavaliers can assess exactly what they are and make whatever adjustments, tweaks and or trades necessary.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Let’s acknowledge that they’ve been without Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert for most of this season. But let’s also not dismiss the impression that they entered this year behaving as if they were de facto champs – as if convinced they would have won the NBA Finals if not for their injuries. If so, then they are learning is that it’s going to require more than talent and depth and potential. Instead of seeing them express the arrogance and indiscipline that led to their blowout loss to the real champions, maybe we’ll see the Cavs approach the second half of the year with humility – which is their only hope.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’m not sure what to make of them. Sure, they’re 28-11 and own the best record in the Eastern Conference. But LeBron’s wavering 3-point shooting numbers are at least mildly troubling to me, and while I know one game out of 82 can be viewed as an aberration, getting blown out at home by the Warriors is not ideal. I know the Cavs went all-in financially on this group of players, but I think they could still use an athletic 2/3 type who can hit 3-pointers and play defense. Things aren’t perfect right now, and the good news is that right now, they don’t have to be perfect. The question is whether things will get right by the time the playoffs roll around.

Blogtable: Biggest surprise at season’s halfway point is _____?

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: Thoughts on Cavs? | Biggest surprise at season’s halfway mark? |
Rookie you enjoy watching most (and why)?



VIDEOWhich team is the best at this point in the season?

> Biggest surprise to you at the halfway mark of this season?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: The rapid improvement of the East versus the West. You don’t hear much talk from the media about re-seeding the playoffs because of the dreadful East any more, do you? Not to sprain my wrist patting myself on the back, but some of us argued — and continued to argue –that there’s no magic potion or league-mandated jerry rigging that’s going to make the East better. If you hire good coaches (Brad Stevens, Steve Clifford, Stan Van Gundy), draft the right players (John Wall, Jimmy Butler, Andre Drummond, Kristaps Porzingis), make smart trades (Goran Dragic, Nicola Vucevic, Marcin Gortat) and sign the right free agents for the right amount of money (Pau Gasol, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap), it’s amazing how quickly you can make your team better. I am surprised, though, that Houston and Phoenix and New Orleans have fallen off so quickly this season.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: In the team category, I’m most surprised by Dallas. No way did I expect the Mavericks to be in the middle of things out West. I underestimated the contributions they’d get from Wesley Matthews, Deron Williams, Zaza Pachulia and Dwight Powell, didn’t fully account for the value in shedding Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis and took for granted Rick Carlisle‘s coaching. As for individual surprises, C.J. McCollum has been something of a revelation. Sure, he’s getting more opportunity – he already has played more minutes than in his first two seasons combined – but he still had to be capable of responding to it. The slender shooting guard hasn’t just scored more, he has spruced up his mid-range game and doubled his assist percentage. He’s a big Most Improved candidate in my view.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The Mavericks. I was like everyone else. I thought it was going to be tough several months. Through no fault of their own, but still. I thought losing DeAndre Jordan with little chance to find a replacement center, while also relying on Wesley Matthews coming off a serious injury and 37-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, was a near-certain invitation to the lottery. Instead, Dallas is tracking to the playoffs and 2015-16 is becoming another affirmation of the skill of coach Rick Carlisle. The Mavs knew it all along, signing him to an extension before this latest proving ground, and a lot of people around the league knew it, but the success should be the ultimate sign of Carlisle and the atmosphere around the entire organization.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The Pelicans. I thought by adding a decent coach and getting healthy and benefitting from one of the top-10 players in basketball would place them in the middle of the pack in the West (which isn’t that good this year). But they’re an awful team with major questions and, to be honest, Davis hasn’t improved a lick nor shown that he can transform a team (which is what superstars do).

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Kristaps Porzingis. The rookie was supposed to be a couple of years away from really contributing, but he’s helped the Knicks on both ends of the floor. He’s obviously big and skilled, but he’s also got a fantastic attitude, seems very comfortable living in a new country and in the league’s biggest market, and he even has Carmelo Anthony trying to play distributor every once in a while.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The biggest surprise for me is just how big a gap there is between the top teams in the league (Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland, Oklahoma City and, perhaps, the Clippers on a good day) and the rest of the field. Like most people, I didn’t see the record start coming from the Warriors. And the fact that the Spurs are hot on the trail is truly an amazing feat, given just how all-time great the Warriors have been. Even with the significant improvement from top to bottom in the Eastern Conference, there is still a wide space between the true contenders and everyone else.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The Warriors and Spurs are separating themselves fundamentally from the rest of the league. There is a long way to go, and things can change dramatically, but right now no other team is in the same league as Golden State and San Antonio.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: The Washington Wizards. For a team that pushed the Atlanta Hawks so hard in the 2015 Eastern Conference semifinals, they definitely seem to have regressed. Now, I know they’ve had injuries, and they’re trying to play more small ball, but they just can’t seem to turn the corner and escape this neighborhood of being a perpetual .500 team.

Blogtable: Most impressive thing about Warriors’ start is ______?

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: Player who needs to be an All-Star starter? |
Most impressive thing about Warriors is _____? | New coach and GM for Nets?



VIDEOWarriors focused as ever to dominate

> The Warriors continue to roll, and are already halfway to 72 wins. Watching this team night after night, what impresses you the most?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: The connectivity they have at both ends of the floor. When a team has an individual player as great as Steph Curry, the other guys on the floor with him often find themselves isolated, standing around watching. It happened a lot when Michael Jordan was with the Chicago Bulls. But with the Warriors, you never get the sense that Curry is just out there pounding the ball to create an opening for himself. Everything he gets seems to be on the move, whether it’s in transition or off their sets. But it seems like he’s always moving WITH his teammates; his action comes off of some other action. Same at the defensive end. There’s always someone moving, whether it’s a pre-rotation or something else. It’s five-man basketball. Beautiful to watch.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Equal parts optimism/confidence and versatility. It’s impossible in my opinion to separate those qualities because they build on each other. Golden State has been built to handle just about any situation and its players and coaches know it. No Steve Kerr? No problem. Harrison Barnes goes down? They got this. Chris Bosh hangs on the perimeter? Fine, Andrew Bogut will match up with Luol Deng and Justise Winslow. Having success with nearly every adjustment fuels their view that they can do it tomorrow and straight through June. The Warriors are unflappable.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: The sheer joy, enthusiasm and relentless sense of purpose that they bring to the gym every night.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: How they have been so locked in this early in the season. I’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating: The Warriors could have had a champagne hangover, they could have been fazed by the absence of coach Steve Kerr, they could have been tripped up by injuries, and yet they roll on. They have incredible focus, to the point of not merely accepting the big moments but searching them out.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The Warriors are ready to play every night. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but over the course of 82 games, most teams will take a night off, so to speak, in terms of energy or mental preparation or whatever. Not the Warriors, who take pride in putting themselves in position to win, no matter how good or bad the opponent. I haven’t seen this from a team since the 72-win Chicago Bulls of 1995-96.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: It’s the cohesion on both ends of the floor. Stephen Curry obviously has the ability to do things alone on offense, but he rarely does. The Warriors lead the league in assist rate and in the second year of Steve Kerr‘s offensive system, the offense is sharper than it was last season. There’s freelancing within the system, but guys are mostly on the same page when it happens. And while the champs have taken a small step backward defensively, they’re generally on a string on that end of the floor as well.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The energy they bring to the floor every night is flat out remarkable. To win 67 games last season, ride that wave to The Finals and handle their business there how they did, you’d expect the Warriors be a little fatigued by now. But they always seem to find the wind needed to run you off the floor. Night after night they always seem to find that extra gear, from Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green down the roster to Brandon Rush, James Michael McAdoo and Ian Clark, when they are called upon to contribute. I’ve covered a team that won 61 games and made the conference finals and the next season, you could see the wear and tear, both physically and emotionally, on that group. The Warriors, however, seem as fresh now as they did in training camp before the 2014-15 season. Simply remarkable.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: They play for each other at both ends of the floor. There is a spirit to their teamwork that is inspiring. The Spurs are efficient, while the Warriors appear to feed off each other emotionally. They reveal their hearts.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Their versatility. In the past when we’ve seen great teams, they seem to do whatever it is that they do, and that is what defines them. But the Warriors aren’t just one thing. Want to play big? They can play big. Trying to go small? They can go small. The Warriors can mix and match their deep collective of starters and bench players to meet any sort of challenge presented to them, without losing any potency, and to me that makes them such a remarkable group.

Blogtable: Your pick for who will be Brooklyn Nets’ next coach, GM?

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: Player who needs to be an All-Star starter? |
Most impressive thing about Warriors is _____? | New coach and GM for Nets?



VIDEOThe Starters have some pointers for the Nets moving forward

> Give me a good one-two combo – a GM and a coach – who can turn things around in Brooklyn if given the chance.

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: I’d love to see Troy Weaver (the assistant GM in Oklahoma City) get a shot at running his own shop. He’s smart and talented and knows everyone in basketball, and knows who can play. And if he got the job, you’d obviously think he’d look hard at bringing Scott Brooks in to coach. If he went another way, though, and went outside the list of the usual suspects (Tom Thibodeau, Jeff Van Gundy, etc.), someone like David Fizdale, the associate head coach in Miami, could do the job. Or, how about one Patrick Aloysius Ewing, once a basketball player of some accomplishment, but who is now an assistant coach in Charlotte — and an incredibly patient one — who’s been an NBA assistant for more than a decade. He should have been given shot to be a coach, about, oh six or seven years ago. I have no idea if Ewing would be a good coach or not. I had no idea if Erik Spoelstra could do it when Pat Riley gave him a chance to do it. And that’s what Ewing deserves–a chance, to succeed or fail on his talents and efforts. But none of those names/combos will work if owner Mikhail Prokhorov doesn’t give them the time to build the Nets from the bottom up. And, make no mistake — they’re at the bottom.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com My preferred package deal for this sort of intervention is Jeff Van Gundy as GM/POBO and buddy Tom Thibodeau as head coach. I doubt either would be interested in Brooklyn’s toxic combination of flawed roster, hobbled draft future and impetuous, now-more-inclined-to-tinker ownership. But they have the basketball chops, the street cred and the know-how to stage an impressive turnaround. And if it’s not in Brooklyn, maybe it ought to be in Minnesota, where both jobs are up for grabs this summer. My Plan B would be someone such as Jeff Weltman, currently working with Masai Ujiri in Toronto, getting hired and bringing in, say, Monty Williams (who should still be a coach in this league) or Luke Walton.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comMy first thought was Jesus of Nazareth and his Father due to the near miracle it’s going to take to dig out of that hole dug by Billy King. But of this earthly realm, I’ll go with the no-nonsense pairing of Tom Thibodeau as coach and Jeff Van Gundy as G.M. Oooh, but they’d need time. Lots of it. And frankly, I don’t think either would want the job.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThere is a lot of heaving lifting ahead, with few trade assets and no 2016 lottery pick, so lets start with the clarification that “turn things around in Brooklyn” will be a wide, slow bend. The 76ers just beat the Nets to my choice, Jerry Colangelo, who would not have had a lot of years left with the necessary energy but could have provided the smart statesman the Nets desperately need. I would love to see John Calipari get the job as coach/GM. Not because it would be a good choice, but just imagine Cal in full power play in New York. I feel better about the coaching decision: Ettore Messina, with a long look at Tom Thibodeau as well.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Jeff Van Gundy and whomever he hand-picks to be his personnel guy. Van Gundy has been away from coaching long enough to miss it, and now that his daughter is in college, he’s free to chase the dollars, and there will be plenty of that in Brooklyn. Plus, Van Gundy has experience in dealing with New York, where he’s respected. Give him the same power that his brother has in Detroit, and it could happen.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThere are more viable coaching candidates than GM candidates out there and success starts at the top, so I would open the vault for R.C. Buford and give him (and not Dmitry Razumov) final say on all basketball decisions, including the choice of who to coach this team. Scott Brooks, Mike D’Antoni and Tom Thibodeau are all fine picks in that regard. The one that can work best with my new GM should be the new coach.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’m a firm believer in new blood when you’re dealing with the situation the Nets are facing right now. No retread general managers or coaches. Scott Perry (assistant GM in Orlando) has paid his dues after holding the same position in Detroit during their glory days under Joe Dumars, and doing a similar job in Oklahoma City before landing in Orlando. Perry has earned the right to sit in the first chair. He’s as well respected as any executive I can think of around the league, both by his peers, players, agents and anyone who moves and shakes in the world of basketball. He also has no ego, which I think is a prerequisite for the job today. As for the coach, who better than Cleveland assistant coach Tyronn Lue. He’s learned from some of the very best (Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers) and has been an invaluable asset for David Blatt as he transitioned from coaching internationally to the NBA. His years as an apprentice are over. He’s ready. And the Nets could use the infusion of new energy both would bring to their organization.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: They should hire John Calipari for both roles. I have done a full 180 on this in recent years. It’s obvious now that his real strength is as a recruiter. He can bring recruiting in the NBA to an unprecedented level of sophistication. NBA teams tend to be amateurish when it comes to recruiting. Calipari understands that it is a science, and coaching in a market as big as Brooklyn will enable him to make the most of free agency. But it is only going to work if a team gives him total control – without the ability to reinvent the front office and change the entire point of view, Calipari will have little impact. Free agency is going to grow more important as NBA contracts are shortened and the cap is hardened. Someday someone is going to look like a genius for hiring Calipari.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog Here’s the thing: You could bring in Red Auerbach as GM and Phil Jackson as coach, and a Brooklyn rebuild isn’t happening overnight. The Nets are really in dire straits, and there is no quick fix for this. So you need a GM who is patient and shrewd, with a track record for success. Thinking broadly and creatively, why not throw a lot of money at Jerry West, a former executive of the year now consulting with the champion Warriors? As for a coach, why not try a system that could be transformative, so how about getting Mike D’Antoni out of Philadelphia and let him turn his 7 seconds or less system loose to his heart’s content?

Blogtable: Player who needs (and deserves) to be an All-Star starter?

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: Player who needs to be an All-Star starter? |
Most impressive thing about Warriors is _____? | New coach and GM for Nets?



VIDEOWhich players out East are in need of more All-Star love?

> There’s one more week to vote before All-Star starters are announced on TNT. Give me one player in the East and one player in the West who need (and deserve) a late push from fans to make the starting five.

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: With the caveat that I understand and have no problem with fans voting in the starters (it’s their game and they can choose to see whoever they want to see), from a merit perspective, John Wall in the East has certainly had a better season than Kyrie Irving so far. I’d also argue he’s having a better season than Dwyane Wade as well. Irving may be a better player — and he made his case clear by thumping Wall and the Wizards last week – but he just got back on the floor an hour ago. Wall has been sensational for the last six weeks. Out West (same caveat), it’s not debatable that Kawhi Leonard should be a merit-based starter over Kobe Bryant in the front court. He’s been sensational at both ends, and his team has been just as impressive as the Warriors, given its dependency on older players.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Toronto’s Kyle Lowry in the East and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard in the West. Lowry has been the most deserving guard in the East since the start of the season, an MVP candidate on his team for his play and his leadership, which started with his commitment to arrive in his best shape ever. Only 1,300 votes separated Leonard and Draymond Green in the most recent balloting results and both have earned the recognition. But if there’s no unseating Kobe Bryant as a starter, Leonard should leap-frog Green as a nod to the Spurs’ first half and for being, possibly, a more transferable talent than Green’s somewhat-system success.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: East: Kyle Lowry. His numbers are on par with other candidates Jimmy Butler and John Wall. But the home-court Toronto Raptors deserve a starter and Lowry gets an extra edge for making his personal commitment to Toronto. West: Kawhi Leonard. The best player on what is either the first or second-best team in the NBA deserves the starting lineup over the shadow of Kobe Bryant.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: East: Jimmy Butler. I thought about Kyle Lowry and John Wall, because both deserve to be in Toronto, or to stay in Toronto in Lowry’s case, but Butler needs more of a finishing kick than Lowry. West: Kawhi Leonard. He doesn’t even a push, based on the polling numbers from last week. Just a slight nudge. But Leonard, the best front-court player the first half of the season, obviously belongs in the first five for the All-Star Game, whether he will care for two seconds or not.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Jimmy Butler in the East and Kawhi Leonard in the West. You could make the argument that Butler is more deserving than any guard in the East. As for Leonard, he’s not catching Kobe Bryant in the popular vote, but based on his first half, he’s as good as they get in the West.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: In the East, it’s Kyle Lowry, who trailed Kyrie Irving for the second guard spot by less than 30,000 votes last week. It’s great that Irving is healthy, but he hasn’t played enough to merit an All-Star selection. Lowry is one of three East guards – Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan are the others – that deserve serious consideration here and is the closest to making the voting legit. In the West, Kawhi Leonard definitely deserves a spot, but not necessarily at the expense of Draymond Green, who led him by less than 2,000 votes last week. There’s no catching Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant, though.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: In the East, I’m going with Detroit’s Andre Drummond. He’s been an absolute monster this season, piling up double-doubles at a rate no one else in the league can keep up with. Drummond has done the one thing coaches have asked talented young prospects to do for years, and that’s work on the mechanics of his game and take advantage of all of his physical gifts. He belongs in that first five on All-Star Sunday. In the West, Kawhi Leonard shouldn’t need the push but he certainly deserves it. If you haven’t seen them much this year, please know that Leonard and the Spurs are the best thing going this season outside of Oakland. Leonard has made a compelling case for MVP this season, he should be a starter on the Western Conference All-Star team.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comToronto is No. 2 in the East and the host of the All-Star Game next month, so how have the Canadians failed to vote for DeMar DeRozan (or Kyle Lowry) ahead of Kyrie Irving, who has played in only 10 games for Cleveland? In the West, the fans have it exactly right, especially in their treatment of Kobe Bryant. He deserves to start in his final season. But for those who feel no sentiment or respect, I suppose the next-best choice should be Kawhi Leonard.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI can’t believe how far out of the running Atlanta’s Paul Millsap has been in the initial voting returns. He’s the best player on the fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference, leading the Hawks in points (18.3), rebounds (8.7) and steals (1.9) per game. He doesn’t make a lot of headlines and isn’t particularly witty on social media, but he deserves to be an All-Star this season. And out West, the season Dirk Nowitzki is having is incredible at any age, not to mention at age 37.

Pondexter needs season-ending surgery

The injury-stricken Pelicans need all the help they can get in trying to rescue a lost season and now comes word that it won’t come from Quincy Pondexter.

The small forward who has not played a game in 2015-16 will have season-ending surgery on his left knee, according to a report from Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

Pondexter started the final 28 games of the last season at small forward and averaged 7.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists after being acquired from Memphis. He has been bothered all the while by knee problems, but held off on having surgery until after the Pelicans were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round by Golden State.

It was believed that Pondexter was making progress when he began to take part in scrimmages just before Christmas. He was upgraded to questionable before last week’s game against the Mavericks, but Pondexter did not play.

The Pelicans have been plagued by injuries since training camp in a season that has gone south as they sit near the bottom of the Western Conference standings at 11-25. But Pondexter is the first player lost for the season.

According to Charania, the Pelicans have their eyes on Elijah Millsap, Orlando Johnson, and Bryce Dejean-Jones as candidates to sign a 10-day contract.