Posts Tagged ‘George Hill’

Report: Teague, Hill, pick swapped in three-team deal

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz and Atlanta Hawks are all trying to solve their point guard issues on the eve of Thursday night’s Draft, engaging in a reported three-team deal that would send Hawks All-Star Jeff Teague home to the Pacers, Pacers veteran George Hill to Utah and the No. 12 pick the Jazz own to the Hawks.

The proposed deal, first reported by The Vertical, cannot be finalized until July, for salary cap purposes.

Teague’s departure would indicate the Hawks are ready to turn over their starting point guard spot to Dennis Schroder. The Pacers, under new coach Nate McMillan, would have a homegrown product (Teague starred at Pike High School in Indianapolis) to pair with All-NBA forward Paul George. Pacers boss Larry Bird decided the franchise needed a new leader after this season, replacing Frank Vogel with McMillan, and clearly wants a younger and more dynamic floor leader for his team.

The Jazz, who have struggled to find the right fit at the position, would turn things over to Hill, who helped the Pacers to back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference finals while playing for his hometown team, in hopes that the veteran can stabilize a position of need for the franchise as they continue to chase a playoff berth.

Teague’s departure has been rumored for months. His name came up repeatedly in the run up to February’s trade deadline but the Hawks never pulled the trigger on any deals. This allows him a chance to continue his career in a more familiar environment and with an organization he grew up watching and rooting for. It also removes him from a contentious situation, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer inherited Teague when he took over and Schroder was drafted on his watch.

Teague earned his All-Star nod during the 2014-15 season, when the Hawks won a franchise-record 60 games, reached the Eastern Conference finals for the first time and placed four players on the All-Star team; Teague, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and Al Horford (an unrestricted free agent July 1).

 

Can Pacers survive with George off the floor in Game 7?

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Game 7 is when you leave it all on the floor. If you lose, you have all summer to rest.

In Game 7 in Toronto on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, TNT), the Indiana Pacers will need as many minutes from Paul George as he can give them. He’s their best player by a wide margin, their most important player on both ends of the floor. And they’ve been much better in this series with him in the game (plus-48 in 160 minutes) than with him on the bench (minus-33 in 59 minutes).

But part of the issue with the minutes when George is on the bench is who’s on the bench with him. About 10 of those 59 minutes that George has been on the bench have been garbage time (in four different games). But George Hill has been on the floor for less than five of the other 48 minutes that George has been on the bench. Monta Ellis has been on the floor for less than three of the 48.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel has generally rested all three together early in the second and fourth quarters. The Pacers were a plus-4 with George off the floor in the second quarter of Friday’s Game 6 (with Hill subbing in midway through the 4:26 span), but those minutes have generally been terrible for the Pacers.

In 43 non-garbage-time minutes with Ellis, George and Hill all on the bench, the Pacers have been outscored 93-66, scoring less than 80 points per 100 possessions.

If Vogel were to stagger the minutes of his three starting perimeter players, he’d obviously get less time with all three on the floor. But those minutes haven’t been all that great for the Pacers. The Ellis-George-Hill trio is just a plus-1 in 164 minutes in the series and they’ve been their best with two of the three on the floor.

George won’t be able to play 48 minutes on Sunday. But the Pacers don’t have to be awful when he steps off the floor. The Raptors’ first two wins in this series weren’t close, but Game 5 was decided by three points and things really started to go downhill in those first four minutes of the fourth quarter, when George, Hill and Ellis were all on the bench.

This has been an erratic series and you never know what you’re going to get from either of these teams on any given night or in any given period. But Vogel can maximize his team’s chances of winning Game 7 by making sure he has another playmaker on the floor in those few minutes that his best player has to rest.

Morning shootaround — April 24

NEWS OF THE MORNING


VIDEO: The Fast Break — April 23

Poise, passion pay for Portland | Curry back in body, but in spirit? | Nowitzki chooses to keep fighting | Celtics’ Thomas bonds with Boston’s best

No. 1: Poise, passion pay for Portland — Things were slipping away for the Portland Trail Blazers late in their game Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers, which meant their first-round Western Conference series also was slipping from their grasp. The Blazers couldn’t afford to dig their hole 3-0 deep and maintain any realistic hopes of coming back, and they knew it. That’s when desperation kicked in, in the form of a feisty point guard and follow-the-leader resilience of his teammates. Jason Quick of CSNNorthwest.com detailed Portland’s late-game resolve and push:

It’s when some of the Clippers’ warts became exposed – DeAndre Jordan’s free throw shooting, Blake Griffin’s rust among them – and when some of the Blazers’ uncanny ability to play above-and-beyond what conventional wisdom says a team of this experience and payroll should.

It’s when Portland closed on a 15-3 run to secure a 96-88 win to draw within 2-1 of the Clippers in this best-of-seven series.

It was the Blazers’ most important 3:52 of the season and that frenetic finish included a speech, a three-pointer, a steal and a dunk. And ultimately, it included a message.

“It says we want it,’’ Damian Lillard said. “ We aren’t here for fake just to say ‘We weren’t supposed to make the playoffs and we made it.’ We are here to compete. We are here to win. It said a lot about our team. We really showed some fight and some heart.’’

The crowd was buzzing. National television was watching. And a season still had a pulse, even though months ago some players admitted they figured by late April it would be forgotten in a three-margarita-haze somewhere in Mexico.

Soaking up that atmosphere, Lillard asked his teammates a question.

“I huddled the guys up and said ‘Are you all ready to go home? … We are going to finish this out,’’’ Lillard recalled later.

It wasn’t so much of a motivating, rallying cry as much as it was a crystalizing moment for the team, a now-or-never type of awakening.

“He basically came in there and said ‘I don’t want my season to be over,’’’ [Moe] Harkless said. “I felt the same way, so I was right there with him. Just to know everybody on the court had the same mindset … I mean, that’s big time.’’

[C.J.] McCollum made one of his two free throws. And after [DeAndre] Jordan split his free throws, Harkless darted from the baseline to rebound and dunk a miss from McCollum with 55 seconds left to give the Blazers a 91-86 lead.
“That play by Moe sealed the deal for us,’’ Davis said.

Who knows how much Lillard’s now-or-never speech had to do with the Blazers’ strong close to the game? Or whether it was more the Clippers’ undoing in the clutch rather than the Blazers’ rising to the occasion?

Doesn’t matter. Inside the locker room, this team looks to and listens to Lillard, and he usually delivers with something that resonates.

(more…)

Report: Ty Lawson agrees to deal with Pacers


VIDEO: Ty Lawson will join the Indiana Pacers for the rest of this season after being bought out by the Rockets

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Ty Lawson didn’t go long without a team to play for. Two days after being waived by the Houston Rockets, Lawson has agreed to a deal with the Indiana Pacers, according to Yahoo! Sports.

The seven-year veteran point guard played in 53 games with the Rockets this season, including 12 starts. But he never really fit in with James Harden and gave way to Patrick Beverley in the starting unit.

Lawson gives the Pacers added depth in the backcourt behind George Hill and Monta Ellis.

 

Data curated by PointAfter

Analytics Art: Hill, Booker, Morris among worst shooters of week


VIDEO: Pacers top Magic in Orlando

By Ben Leibowitz, Special to NBA.com

Throughout the 82-game grind of the NBA season, rest can mean a world of difference wherever players find it.

That can mean taking a day off on the second (or first) day of a back-to-back set, sitting out during the fourth quarter of blowout victories (as Stephen Curry has done often this season), or, more recently, the rest provided via February’s All-Star break. In theory, the hiatus provides a time for many players to refuel for the stretch run. Fresh legs generally translate into players performing to the best of their abilities, but that isn’t always the case.

As the PointAfter team discovered for the week following All-Star weekend, it sometimes takes more than rest to quash shooting slumps.

Note: Statistics in this article cover games between Feb. 19-25.

Guard: George Hill, Indiana Pacers

As a 29-year-old, eight-year veteran, George Hill has been around the block. San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich once extolled Hill as “my favorite player” prior to the trade that sent him to Indiana in exchange for Kawhi Leonard, according to Express-NewsJeff McDonald. That’s high praise coming from one of the greatest coaches in NBA history.

Of course, even those who gain favor from genius basketball minds are not immune to shooting slumps. And, boy, did Hill come out of the All-Star break cold.

Hill shot 3-for-11 on Feb. 19 in a win against Oklahoma City — though he nearly recorded a triple-double with 11 rebounds and nine assists to accompany his nine points.

From there, Hill was 2-for-11 against the Orlando Magic, and then he missed all seven of his field goal attempts in a loss to the Miami Heat.

He rebounded nicely against the New York Knicks by converting five of eight shots, but even that outing only managed to raise his shooting percentage to 27 percent over his last four contests.

Yikes.

Wing: Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

For Suns fans fishing for something (anything) positive during the course of a nightmare season, Booker has been a lifeline.

The 19-year-old rookie provides a glimmer of hope for the future in the desert. And while he deserves praise for his performance in the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout — finishing a respectable third place behind Klay Thompson and Curry — there’s a chance his shooting stroke lost its passport in Toronto before Booker’s trip back to U.S. soil.

In Booker’s best outing since his first go-around of All-Star festivities, he finished 3-of-9 from the field in a loss against the mighty Spurs. In the other three games, he went 3-for-11, 2-for-10 and 3-for-12.

Add it all up, and Booker shot a woeful 26.2 percent over his last four outings. All four of those games were Suns losses, and Phoenix has not won a game in over a month.

But hey, at least the rook shoots a respectable 39.6 percent from three-point range on the season.

Forward/Center: Marcus Morris, Detroit Pistons

The first Morris twin to be traded away from Phoenix, Marcus hasn’t even cracked 40 percent shooting in a single game since the All-Star break.

He shot a ghastly 30.6 percent from the field over the course of the week. His best game from a percentage standpoint over that stretch came in an upset win against the Cleveland Cavaliers in which “Mook” went 6-of-16 shooting. He converted just one of his six shots from beyond the arc in that affair.

Though Morris caught fire throughout December by averaging 15.2 points on 46.9 percent shooting from the field and 44.2 percent from deep, he’s come careening back down to earth since. In fact, his shooting percentages (mainly from beyond the arc) look ugly compared to the last two seasons spent with the Suns.

The Pistons continue to play better when Morris is on the court, but that can be tied to the fact that the 6-foot-9 forward plays most of his minutes with Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson.

In any case, Detroit needs Morris to lock in for the stretch run if the Pistons are going to have hope of making the playoffs in 2016.

Ben Leibowitz is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that’s part of the Graphiq network. Visit PointAfter to get all the information about NBA PlayersNBA Historical Teams and dozens of other topics.

Blogtable: Paul George the power forward?

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: Paul George the PF? | Do you believe Carmelo? | Is it time to deal D-Rose?



VIDEOPaul George scores 32 vs. Pistons

> Paul George doesn’t seem sold on the move to power forward, but the Pacers sure do. How do you see it working out for PG-13 if he plays PF all season? And what would you suggest to George to help him through the change?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The situation will work itself out for better or for worse, for this reason: You are what you can guard. I first heard that positional philosophy back in the day from Minnesota’s Flip Saunders and it’s true: George will be a “power forward” on those nights when he can defend the other guy’s. Given the number of stretch-4 types in the league nowadays, that’s not so grueling. As for advice, I’d suggest George not watch too many “Hardwood Classics” on NBA TV, where he’d risk being traumatized by seeing PFs such as Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Kevin McHale, Rasheed Wallace, Buck Williams, Maurice Lucas, Elvin Hayes and other greats who put the “power” in that position before the NBA downsized. 

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comI would suggest that George give it more than one preseason game. I would suggest that virtually every team in the league is using a variety of different big, small and in-between lineups that place an emphasis on versatility. I would suggest that he suck it up and go to work like a big boy.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comDepends how well he plays — and feels. It has a chance to work, and the benefit of the doubt should fall on the side of smart basketball minds with a successful track record thinking it is a positive. If it plays out for a little while and George does well, he will be fine. But since he already has hesitation, if he has a slow start to the regular season and the first few weeks is also filled with a physical pounding against power forwards, especially while defending bigger players, then the problem escalates. Let’s not assume the Pacers will forever force this on George. They want PG to get back to his previous level as much as he does. If the new look is not working, Frank Vogel can always make the switch back.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comWhen players say “I’ll do anything to help the team”, they don’t really mean it. Not 100 percent, anyway. The Pacers are lacking at that position and want to try a new style and he’s resisting. George is looking at it from the defensive end, where he’s giving up height and weight, rather from the offensive end, where he’ll be a matchup nightmare for most. Also, this will be his first full-season since his leg injury and as Larry Bird said, PG doesn’t need to spend his time chasing quicker players. He should give it an honest try (it’s only October!) and understand that the Pacers have his best long-term interests.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comLet’s note that George’s first preseason game at the four was against Anthony Davis and that he’s going to play 80 regular-season games against power forwards not named Anthony Davis. He’s also not going to play all of his minutes at the four. But I would advise him to give it some time and figure out how he can use the move to his advantage. Other power forwards won’t be able to deal with his quickness and stick with him on the perimeter, and he might actually have fun playing offense with the Pacers for the first time in a few years. Still, I’d advise the Pacers to keep an eye out for a better (bigger) fit at the stretch four position, who would allow George to play more or all of his minutes at the three.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I didn’t expect for this Paul George-at-power-forward experiment to go off without a few hiccups. George was apprehensive from the start and I suspect he’ll remain so until he gets more comfortable with this new wrinkle. I don’t know that he’ll have to log heavy minutes there all season. For as many advantages as he might exploit playing out of position like that, he’ll be at a disadvantage often enough that coach Frank Vogel will have to make some adjustments as well. I’d suggest he fight through whatever the struggles are and keep it professional. He’s already made clear that he’s not a huge fan of the move, but he’s looking out for the Pacers’ greater good above all else. His sacrifice will go a long way with folks inside of the organization and the fans who fill the seats at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comIf he’s concerned with playing against bigger opponents, his best response will be to attack them relentlessly. Force the other team to go small against him. The Pacers tried to play with a traditional 1980s-styled lineup and it carried them only so far. This move to power forward can enable George to be even more aggressive – and successful – if he buys in completely.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: If George thinks he’s still a 3, or maybe even a 2, that’s great. But has he seen the NBA the last few years? The NBA is going small, and positions are increasingly inconsequential. From a practical perspective, playing power forward shouldn’t make much of a difference for George, other than perhaps being asked to grab a few more rebounds than if he was on the perimeter. It might actually save his legs a bit on the defensive end, and on offense, if George is matched up against bigger power forwards, he can take them out to the perimeter and beat them off the dribble. Still don’t like the assignment? George can play NBA 2K16 and put himself at the 1 if he wants. But for the Pacers to have their best shot at winning, George may have to be open to playing where the team needs him most.

Blogtable: Ready for an East upset?

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: Spurs or Warriors out West? | Upset-minded East team? | Lasting moment of 2014-15?



VIDEOGeorge Hill lifts the Pacers to a big win over the Wizards

> The Pacers, Celtics and Nets are all battling for the last two seeds in the East. Which of those teams has the best chance to pull off a first-round upset?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Indiana, of the teams you’re offering, has the best chance of a first-round upset – and it’s itty-bitty. I like the Celtics the best of that bunch but there is no way they’re getting past Cleveland in the 2-7 showdown. If Brooklyn gets in, that’s it, they’re done – while they have some big-name players who might ordinarily give Atlanta or potentially anyone else some tough challenges, there’s a lack of spine or fortitude in that team dating back to its Game 7 loss at home to undermanned Chicago that still is an issue, in my view. That leaves Indiana, which couldn’t crack 100 in its double-overtime slog vs. Toronto Wednesday but would have to keep up with Atlanta’s high-octane attack. So yeah, Pacers, itty-bitty.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: The Pacers because of their roster loaded with veterans who have been through the playoff wars and because they are capable of playing elite level defense.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The actual answer is “Nobody.” But if I have to pick one, it’s the Pacers. They’re playing well now, the return of Paul George has been an emotional lift as well as an additional scoring punch despite struggling with his shot, coach Frank Vogel on the sideline is always a good thing, and defense, rebounding and playoff experience is a good place to start building an upset scenario.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The easy answer is “none of the above” but if I must choose, then it’s the Pacers. At least their core players know what playoff basketball is about, and there’s the Paul George factor. The basketball gods could repay the Pacers for all they’ve been through with George and take it out on the Hawks, which of course would confirm Atlanta’s status as the choking dog of all sports towns.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: None of them will win more than a game from the Hawks or Cavs, but Indiana is best suited to put a scare in ’em. They’re the best defensive team of the group, so they can keep games ugly and close. They’ve been the best team of the group (in regard to point differential) since the All-Star break and have gotten a boost from the return of Paul George. That being said, I don’t know if they’re even going to be playing this weekend, because they’ll need to win in Memphis on Wednesday to edge out the Nets for the No. 8 seed.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: These teams are doing whatever they can to claw their way into the playoffs and you want to talk about upsets? Actually, the Pacers have the best roster to pull an upset. They’ve got experience and size, decent depth and a star (Paul George, even on limited minutes) capable of going on a tear in a playoff series. They appear spent physically, which is not uncommon this time of year for a team that has been fighting uphill just to stay in the playoff chase. So they’d have to find a way to rest and recharge within the framework of the playoff schedule to even think about pulling off an upset. But again, for teams crawling into the postseason, an upset tends to be more pipe dream than reality.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comLet’s start by acknowledging that the Nets and Pacers won’t be able to run or execute with the Hawks, who went 7-0 against them this year. The Celtics are going to have problems of their own finishing close games against Cleveland, but their small lineup, quickness and ball movement could scare the Cavs for 42 minutes. What coach Brad Stevens has done with young role players over the last two months (23-12) is no fluke: He has been doing for the Celtics what he did for Butler.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: None of them? Honestly, I don’t think any of those teams really have a chance to win a first round series against Atlanta or Boston. But if I had to pick one, which I guess is what you’re saying, I’ll go with the Celtics. Boston has played Atlanta pretty well this season, even beating them once just before the All-Star break. And they beat Cleveland (resting players) twice recently. Adding Isaiah Thomas has given the Celtics another scorer and ballhandler. Is he enough to help the Celtics beat the Hawks or the Cavaliers? That’s a horse of a different color. But what the heck, let’s give them the nod.

Playoff scenarios aplenty in play on final day of 2014-15 season


VIDEO: Celtics coach Brad Stevens and his crew don’t have to sweat out the final night of the season

NEW ORLEANS — It must be nice to be Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics this morning. Your hard-earned playoff berth, the No. 7 seed, is locked up. You already know you have a date with LeBron James and the No. 2 seed Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

The mission, so to speak, is complete, courtesy of a 95-93 win over the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night.

But not everyone slept as soundly the night before the final day of this NBA season.

For plenty of teams on both sides of the conference divide this is the biggest night of the regular season. For teams still fighting to get into the playoffs and jockeying for postseason positioning, it all comes down to these final 48 (or more) minutes.

The constantly changing playoff picture is still a bit fuzzy for much of the field.

For some the math is simple — win and you are in. That’s the scenario the Pelicans are facing here tonight at Smoothie King Center (vs. San Antonio, 8 ET, League Pass). The Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder enter tonight 44-37, but New Orleans holds the tie-breaker over OKC. As such, the Pelicans need to at least finish tied with the Thunder record-wise, but a win tonight can secure them the 8th and final spot in the Western Conference.

The Spurs are locked in a fight to the finish for the No. 2 seed in the West behind the No. 1 seed Golden State Warriors, who locked up that top spot weeks ago and have not looked back. Knock off the Pelicans and the Spurs clinch the Southwest Division and secure that No. 2 spot. Lose and they could tumble to the No. 5 or 6 seed.

So much for that maintenance program Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is famous for employing with his veteran stars. There is too much at stake for all of the teams in that 2-through-7 mix.

In the Western Conference, the Warriors (No. 1 seed), Portland Trail Blazers (No. 4, but no home court) and Dallas Mavericks (No. 7) already have their seeds locked in.

In the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks (1), Cavaliers (2), Washington Wizards (5), Milwaukee Bucks (6) and Celtics (7) are set.

A quick look at what is at stake for teams still caught up in the crosshairs on the final night of the season

Houston (vs. Utah, 8 ET, League Pass): James Harden and the Rockets need a win over an improved Utah Jazz team, plus a loss by the Spurs, to secure the No. 2 seed and the Southwest Division title. The Rockets could finish with 56 wins, third most in franchise history behind the 1993-94 NBA championship team that won 58 games and the 1996-97 team that won 57.

L.A. Clippers (season complete): They’ve handled their business, winning seven straight games to finish the season and 14 of their final 15, only to have to sit and watch tonight to see who they’ll face in the first round. The Clippers can finish as high as No. 2 (if the Rockets and Spurs lose tonight) and no lower than No. 3 and will host their first-round series. Their opponent? It could be Memphis, the Rockets, Spurs or Dallas Mavericks.

Memphis and Indiana (vs. each other, 9:30 ET, ESPN): The Grizzlies face an energized and motivated Pacers team, fresh off of a must-have double overtime win over Washington Tuesday night. While the Grizzlies have a host of complicated scenarios that can move them up to No. 5, the Pacers are playing for their playoff lives. A loss by Brooklyn or a win by Indiana pushes the Pacers in, where they will face the Hawks in a rematch of last season’s first-round matchup (when the Pacers were the No. 1 seed and the Hawks No. 8). A loss by the Pacers plus a Brooklyn win would put an end to Indiana’s season.

Oklahoma City (at Minnesota, 8 ET, League Pass): The Thunder need to knock off Minnesota in their finale and the Spurs to handle their business against the Pelicans to make sure we get at least four more games of Russell Westbrook. (If the Thunder and Pelicans finish the season with 45-37 marks, the Pelicans get in because they won the season series with OKC 3-1.) The Thunder don’t control their own destiny, but that’s not a concern for a team that has been dealt one severe injury blow after another throughout 2014-15. A loss to the Timberwolves (or a Pelicans win) ends their season, literally and figuratively.

Chicago (vs. Atlanta, 8 ET, League Pass): The Bulls are locked in for home-court advantage in the first round and face the Hawks in a game that has ramifications beyond the first round (they are trying to avoid Cleveland in the second round, provided both teams make it through). They need a win over the Hawks to secure the No. 3 seed. A loss sends them to No. 4.

Toronto (vs. Charlotte, 7 ET, ESPN): The Raptors have a clear path. Beat the Hornets and couple that with a Bulls loss to the Hawks and they secure the No. 3 seed. They have home court either way and will try to exploit that much better than they did last season.

Brooklyn (vs. Orlando, 8 ET, League Pass): The Nets need the playoffs in the worst way, but could see their hopes go up in smoke tonight if the Pacers knock off the Grizzlies later in the night. They need to beat Orlando and hope that the Pacers used up all their mojo in that double-OT home win vs. the Wizards Tuesday.

The possibilities are endless tonight, when we close the curtain on a spectacular regular season and prepare for a postseason that should include much more of the same.

Blogtable: Upset-minded team in East?

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: Extend the season? | Rethinking age limit? | Upset-minded East playoff team?



VIDEOPaul George is holding out hope he’ll be able to return for a potential playoff run

> If I told you a sleeper team was going to pull off a major upset in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, which team would you tag to make that prediction come true: Bucks, Pacers, Hornets or Heat?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Pacers, though I say that without trying to predict the first-round matchups. Indiana already is a different team that most foes have faced this season, and if Paul George is able to return and blend into what’s already working, the Pacers could bite a top seed in the behind. Now, if they wind up eighth and Atlanta stays at No. 1, that’s a tall order because the Hawks came close to upsetting them a year ago and are better now. But given the Pacers’ pride and desire to salvage what had been a mostly lost season, I’d take them very seriously.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: The Bucks with their stingy, No. 2-rated defense, 3-point shooting ability, rising youth in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Michael Carter-Williams and the been-there-done-that smarts of coach Jason Kidd. They could be a we-having-nothing-to-lose handful.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Maybe I’m just getting caught up in the good vibrations of the moment — stringing together wins, Paul George back on the practice court — but I’ll go Pacers. Same problems scoring, but Indy defends and rebounds. Tough not to like that as a starting point for an upset, obviously depending on the matchup. I’d put the Bucks a close second.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Honestly, I don’t like any of their chances, but I’ll go with the Bucks. They’ll likely have a better seeding and therefore a more evenly-matched first round. Plus, they’re young with fresh legs that’ll come in handy in late April, and their coach, Jason Kidd, has been there and done that in this league.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Indiana is the clear pick. The Pacers have been the best team in the league (both in regard to record and point differential) since Feb. 1. They have a great defense and an offense that has improved with a healthy George Hill in the starting lineup and Rodney Stuckey coming off the bench. They have a coach and a roster with playoff experience, and maybe one of the league’s best players coming back. But I would still have a hard time picking them against Atlanta, Chicago or Cleveland. 

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’m tagging the Pacers and relishing the idea, based on the standings at this moment, of a Cleveland Cavaliers-Pacers No. 2 vs No. 7 first-round matchup. Talk about a major upset, this one would be colossal. Paul George comes back. Roy Hibbert rediscovers the All-Star within. Coach Frank Vogel gets his revenge for last season’s meltdown and the team’s staggering fall from grace. Doing it at the expense of long-time foe LeBron James would only add to the intrigue of a storybook scenario for the Pacers … and it is indeed an absolute fantasy. I don’t think there are any upsets to be had in the first round. Not based on what we see in the standings right now.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The Pacers are the East’s poor-man version of OKC. Based on their current trend with their best players – including Paul George – returning to health, then no one at the top of the standings is going to want to see Indiana.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I have a hard time pegging the Pacers as an underdog, even as long as Paul George is out. This is a team with guys like Roy Hibbert, David West, George Hill, Luis Scola — quality NBA veteran players. I know that they’ve been without George this season and have dealt with other injuries, but if anything, to me the Pacers have the pieces to be better than they’ve been for most of this season. And then it’s not if George returns, it’s which George might return — I don’t expect to see the George who was one of the best players in the NBA, because that will take time to find and get back to, even just mentally. But I do think if they can get back any version of George that provides depth and is able to knock down an occasional open jumper, that could be a huge postseason help.

Upset-minded East teams
For more debates, go to #AmexNBA or www.nba.com/homecourtadvantage.

Morning shootaround — Feb. 27


VIDEO: Highlights for games played Feb. 26

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bulls hoping for quick Rose return | Paul George returns to practice | Earl Lloyd passes away | Buyouts not working out for Clippers | Rip Hamilton retires

No. 1: Bulls hoping for quick Rose return — When it was announced earlier this week that Bulls point guard Derrick Rose would need knee surgery, many jumped to the belief that he would miss the rest of the season and postseason. But in a press conference yesterday, Bulls management was bullish on the belief that Rose could be back by the end of the season, and be ready for the playoffs, following surgery scheduled for today, writes K.C. Johnson in the Chicago Tribune

The procedure, which team physician Brian Cole will perform, is a removal of part or all of the meniscus. This type of procedure typically is used to address subsequent tears of the meniscus that Rose originally tore in November 2013.

In that surgery, which Cole also performed, Rose’s meniscus was repaired or reattached, and he missed the remainder of the 2013-14 season. A meniscectomy typically involves a shorter rehabilitation period.

The Tribune, citing sources, has reported there is considerable optimism that Rose’s second meniscus tear is small. Until the surgery is performed and Cole determines how much of the meniscus needs to be trimmed, it’s unknown what the timetable for Rose’s return is.

The Bulls said general manager Gar Forman will address that issue after the surgery. At the team’s annual charity event Thursday night, a feeling of hopeful optimism emanated from team officials.

“Nothing’s an easy procedure, but our anticipation is that there’s an area that’s going to get taken care of and the hope is that he will (play this season),” executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said.

Added Forman: “I don’t want to speculate until (Cole) goes in (Rose’s knee), but we’re certainly hopeful.”

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