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Posts Tagged ‘George Karl’

Morning shootaround — Feb. 7



VIDEO: Highlights of Saturday’s 10 games

NEWS OF THE MORNING

George Karl hanging by a string? | Mark Cuban says leave hacking strategy aloneKobe reflects on Lakers-Spurs, Popovich | What’s in the future of the struggling Wolves?

No. 1: Karl hanging by a string? — If it’s Sunday, then George Karl‘s job must be in jeopardy. Every other week, it seems, the Kings coach is headed out the door, and the most recent reports of trouble were intensified when the Kings were clobbered in Brooklyn, of all places, and DeMarcus Cousins said some cryptic statements that hinted of a possible coaching change. Well, Karl will coach Sunday in Boston — at least we think — and did take time to answer questions about his future (or lack thereof). Would the Kings really fire Karl and bring yet another coach to the franchise? Yikes. Here’s Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston writing about the latest on Karl:

Karl seemed amused by a string of questions about his future after he led the Kings through a 90-minute off-day workout Saturday at Harvard’s Lavietes Pavilion, but he kept steering the conversation back to Sunday’s game against the Boston Celtics.

“I don’t have any control over what other people are thinking or saying. That’s their storm,” Karl said. “My preference would be it wouldn’t be there. But there’s always energy today. Then once something gets out, it magnifies and grows and becomes a storm. That’s not my storm. My storm is the Boston Celtics.”

Added Karl: “I have no control of what other people think or whatever people are circulating. My job is to get prepared for Boston. We had a good practice [Saturday], and I’m happy with the practice. Boston’s playing at a great level. Probably the best they’ve played in two years. Their win [Friday] night [in Cleveland] was pretty impressive. They kept coming after a team that thought they had them beat about four times and stole the end from them. It was really a gutty win by the Celtics.”

Increasingly concerned about their floundering play under Karl, the Kings entered the weekend hoping to delay any decision about the coach’s future until the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.

Sources said the nature of the team’s 128-119 loss Friday night to Brooklyn — Sacramento’s sixth defeat in seven games — and the fallout it generated have the Kings contemplating an immediate coaching change.

Does Karl believe he’s in danger if the team is mulling a change?

“I don’t think I’m in limbo,” he said. “I think I’ve got a heckuva challenge [against] a team that’s played damn well — probably it’s best basketball in the last six weeks. If you want to overreact to the last four or five games, that’s somebody else’s reaction, not my reaction. I think this team is still in a place that we can solve some problems and be good.”

Kings point guard Rajon Rondo said he hasn’t paid much attention to the chatter surrounding his coach.

“I haven’t heard it,” he said. “I talked to my agent this morning, but it was just about how the team is doing, how the team morale was. But I haven’t bought into it or read into too much of [the Karl reports]. It’s just part of the business. Coaches fired, players being traded — there’s no difference.”

Both Rondo and Karl noted that the Kings had been playing better before a recent funk. Rondo said it’s not time to panic … yet.

“When we don’t have an opportunity to get into the playoffs, that’s when we can panic,” Rondo said. “But the last 10 games, I think our record is 5-5. It’s not the worst; it’s not 3-7. We started off the season 1-7, so we’ve hit a tough stretch, some games we could have won. Brooklyn played amazing [Friday] night, shot the heck out of the ball. That’s part of it. There’s going to be games like that. Hopefully we can turn it around and get a win [Sunday] afternoon.”

Added Karl: “Ten days ago, we were on a five-game winning streak. … Every NBA season has scheduled parts that say, ‘Hey, this is a tough time.’ And since our beginning, our bad start, we’ve been a .500 team. We’re still a .500 team.”

Karl said it has been a process to get everyone on the same page, given the roster turnover this past summer.

“The whole season, when you change your roster with 10 players, you’re consistently trying to build better communication and a better connection and trying to get a commitment that’s a winning commitment,” Karl said. “Players question coaching. Coaching questions players. That’s the way it’s going to be. The truth of the matter is I think this team has hung together pretty well through a lot of ups and downs this year.

“Our perseverance level has been maybe not an A but a B-plus. And when we play good teams, we usually play well. Our weaknesses have been home court, intensity and maybe overlooking a team with a bad record. But you can watch that film last night. Brooklyn played damn well.”

***

 No. 2: Cuban says leave hacking strategy alone — The technique of intentionally fouling poor free throw shooters is the rage among coaches and another kind of rage among fans. There’s the belief that the game is worse off when DeAndre Jordan is shooting 15 free throws, although others believe that it’s part of the game and the league shouldn’t alter the rules just to relieve pressure from a half-dozen players with severe free-throw issues. Count Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in the latter group. Cuban doesn’t feel it’s necessary to make drastic, if any, changes to the intentional fouling rule, or fouling players off the ball. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said last Friday that he may favor a change. We’ll see. Here’s Tom Haberstroh of ESPN on Cuban:

On Friday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told USA Today Sports that he was “increasingly of the view” that the league will implement new rules this summer to prevent intentional fouling of poor free throw shooters.

“At the end of the day,” Silver said, “we are an entertainment property, and it’s clear when you’re in the arena that fans are looking at me shrugging their shoulders with that look saying, ‘Aren’t you going to do something about this?'”

Cuban disagrees with the notion that it is hurting the game’s entertainment value and told ESPN.com on Saturday morning that he believes fans actually feel more part of the game in hack-a-player situations, citing the example of fans getting on their feet to challenge an opposing player at the free throw line.

Cuban also said hacking adds an element of intrigue.

“Will they leave him in or leave him out?” Cuban said. “How do both teams feel about it? How will they foul? Is it a new creative way, or is it just chasing?”

The hack-a-player strategy has been on the rise around the league. As of Friday, according to tracking by ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton, there had been 266 hack-a-player instances this season, already far exceeding last season’s total of 164. There were 52 instances through the All-Star break last season, and the NBA has surpassed that total by more than 200 ahead of next week’s All-Star Weekend in Toronto.

The majority of intentional fouls have come against tall, poor free throw shooting big men such as Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond and Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard.

Cuban said hack-a-player strategies offer a teachable moment for fans and young athletes, especially parents who could spend time “watching the shots and telling your kids why practice matters and how amazing it is that they can do something that an NBA player can’t.

“Will a 7-foot man try to run and escape a foul so he doesn’t have to do what so many 12-year-olds do in games every day?” Cuban added.

Cuban argues that the chess match of hack-a-player makes the game more fascinating for fans.

“Does he make the free throws?” Cuban said. “If he makes one or two, will they do it again? Did the strategy work?”

Cuban contends that the league might be overreacting to a small minority of “basketball purists” outside the media.

“We have to realize that the number of basketball purists that aren’t in the media is probably under 1,000 people globally,” Cuban said. “There is no special basketball beauty in walking the ball up the court and dribbling around the perimeter. Will we change that too?”

***

No. 3: Kobe sounds off on Lakers-Spurs, Popovich — If nothing else, Kobe Bryant is in a reflective mood in this, his final NBA season, especially in places where his memories are deep and meaningful. San Antonio is such a place, and Kobe spoke glowingly about the Spurs, and what they’ve meant to his development as a future Hall of Famer, and also his thoughts on Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich. As Kobe spoke, his thoughts were recorded by Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

What do you recall of the Spurs-Lakers battles?

It was fun. The most fun was when they had home-court advantage, and we had to come up here and play, and we wound up getting both games up here. It was intense — we knew what they could do, we knew how they would play, we knew their momentum, we knew how they liked to execute — but their were just some nights where we never could get in front of them. Their ball movement, we were always kinda chasing the game. I do miss The Dome, though. I do miss that. I remember playing in there, there was something about the rims there that I really enjoyed. Then when they moved here, the first couple of games really threw me off. I hated playing here. I couldn’t shoot for crap. But, playing at The Dome was a lot of fun.

How has your relationship with Gregg Popovich evolved?

It’s been amazing. I mean, he’s been so open with me and I’ve been a sponge every chance I get to be around him. I talk to him a lot about the game, I ask him questions about the game, how he teaches the game. One of my favorite times that I spent with him was during the All-Star game when he was coaching. He came up to me right before practice and he said, ‘Hey, should I do a real practice or like a whatever walk-through All-Star practice?” I said, ‘Do a real practice, because I want to see what the hell goes on in San Antonio, so you’ve got to do all the real stuff.’ The guys were kind of looking around like ‘What the hell.’ Tim just looked at me like, ‘You’re killing me.’ I wanted to see what goes down.

Is that going to be the plan for this All-Star Game?

“I hope it is because it’s rare to play for one of the all-time greatest coaches. I’ve been very fortunate in my career. I’ve had Phil and played under Pop for several times. It’s been great.”

Was Tim’s success ever a driving force for you?

“It’s strange. No, because the competitiveness was always centered around us vs. them. You have to beat them. In the process of us getting to the next level you wind up beating Tim Duncan but against San Antonio you cannot afford to think individually for one second because they’ll burn you so I never had that personal rivalry with him.”

Is it weird to play them without Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan suiting up?

“Nah. I’ve played against them for so many year, it’s like, ‘enough already.’ We’ve had all those battles before.”

Can you compare facing Bruce Bowen to facing Kawhi Leonard?

“It’s very difficult to give you a very intelligent … I could give you a BS answer but it’s hard to make that comparison. I saw Bruce so many times. Kawhi I’ve only played against one-and-a-half times and nothing at a really high level of a matchup. So it’s very hard for me to compare the two. From what I see on TV Bruce uses length a lot more. He was kind of in and out, tapping the arms and trying to break your rhythm, things of that nature. Kawhi tends to use his body a lot more and plays position a lot more. But they both have phenomenal hands.”

Could you have imagined playing for Pop for 20 years?

“Of course.”

That wouldn’t have been a problem?

“Nah. I’d have won a lot of championships.”

Does this rivalry mean more to you than the Celtics?

“It’s more personal because it’s the rivalry that I played through. The Celtics rivalry is something I grew up watching. IK played against them a couple of times in The Finals. But San Antonio was year in and year out. The year we won the championship it was like, ‘Well, Tim was hurt so it really doesn’t count.’ So the second run it was, ‘OK, you guys had a shortened season and we had Tim when he was hurt so now let’s see what’s up.’

“That rivalry was what fueled the majority of my career.”

How do you think you would have dealt with Pop wanting to sit you if you were dinged up or tired?

“I’d have been fine because he never would have known I was dinged up or tired … ‘You on the training table? No. I’m good.’ “

You said last year there is some jealousy Tim’s had the same coach all these years … you had that a bit with Phil but he’s gone. Is there a jealousy factor for Spurs having that continuity, the group of players who have been with him so long?

“I think that starts at the top with Pop, starts at the top with the ownership. They’re very clear on what the identity is, very clear on what they stand for, what they represent. They’re very clear on the style of player that they want to have. They’ve been consistent with that year over year. That’s why it becomes easier for them to select certain players to draft, certain players to trade for. Because they’re looking for certain type of player. That leads to consistency.

We’ve had changes. We have Dr. Buss passing away, have Jeannie and Jim, you have Phil coming and going. You have all these things going on and so as a result system changing as well. So there’s a lot of inconsistency. What they’ve done here which is phenomenal, probably compared to the Patriots, is had so much consistency from top to bottom.”

Ever wonder what you could have done with that kind of consistency around you?

Of course, you wonder that. But just for fun. I can’t sit here and complain. I’ve eaten pretty well. So I can’t complain that there’s no dessert left.

***

No. 4: What’s in the future for the struggling Wolves? — These are interesting times for the Wolves. On one hand, they appear headed in the right direction for the first time in over a decade, with a batch of intriguing young players on the roster and a possible lottery pick coming in June and plenty of room under the salary cap. However, there are questions about the leadership of this team, from Glen Taylor (who has resisted overtures of selling the majority of the team) and GM Milt Newton and the coaching staff led by Sam Mitchell, a situation that was thrown in question with the passing of Flip Saunders. Despite all of their promise, the Wolves have struggled this season and therefore it wouldn’t be surprised if they underwent an off-season shakeup. Here’s a report from Chip Scoggins of the Star-Tribune:

Kevin Garnett joined the chorus of people who have offered reviews of Sam Mitchell’s coaching acumen, stumping last week for his head coach and friend like a savvy politician.

“I feel real good about the progression of this team since Day 1, and I think it needs to be said and needs to be understood that I’m endorsing Sam Mitchell and our coaching staff and this organization,” Garnett told reporters.

KG’s comments served as a rebuttal to a groundswell of public sentiment that believes Mitchell’s stint as Timberwolves interim coach should last only until the end of this season.

Mitchell’s job performance rating has become a popular talker with respect to the nucleus of young talent in the organization and whether he’s the right coach to oversee their future.

The attention paid to Mitchell has deflected focus from an issue of equal importance, if not greater: What will owner Glen Taylor do with his top leadership position?

Will he keep interim basketball boss Milt Newton in place, or look outside for someone else to run the operation? Another theory floated is that Taylor perhaps could retain Newton as general manager and hire a president of basketball operations.

Kevin Garnett joined the chorus of people who have offered reviews of Sam Mitchell’s coaching acumen, stumping last week for his head coach and friend like a savvy politician.

“I feel real good about the progression of this team since Day 1, and I think it needs to be said and needs to be understood that I’m endorsing Sam Mitchell and our coaching staff and this organization,” Garnett told reporters.

KG’s comments served as a rebuttal to a groundswell of public sentiment that believes Mitchell’s stint as Timberwolves interim coach should last only until the end of this season.

Mitchell’s job performance rating has become a popular talker with respect to the nucleus of young talent in the organization and whether he’s the right coach to oversee their future.

The attention paid to Mitchell has deflected focus from an issue of equal importance, if not greater: What will owner Glen Taylor do with his top leadership position?

Will he keep interim basketball boss Milt Newton in place, or look outside for someone else to run the operation? Another theory floated is that Taylor perhaps could retain Newton as general manager and hire a president of basketball operations.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Are the Bucks simply experiencing growing pains, or is it something more troubling? … Jimmy Butler is feeling good about his chances of returning to the court soon, maybe within days … Can Russell Westbrook average a triple-double for a season and pull an Oscar Robertson? .. The Sixers should extend their talent search overseas, given their dire straits …

Morning shootaround — Dec. 7


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 6

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: No structural damage to Wall’s kneeWarriors just keep on winning | Young says ejection a result of frustrating season | Cousins blames himself for Kings’ slideSpurs’ West just wants to win

No. 1: Report: No structural damage to Wall’s knee; status for game vs. Heat — Washington Wizards fans can breathe a sigh of relief a little bit this morning. Star point guard John Wall left last night’s loss to the visiting Dallas after hurting his right knee in a collison with the Mavs’ Jeremy Evans. The Washington Post‘s Jorge Castillo reports Wall did not suffer any structural damage to the knee but his status for tonight’s game against in Miami against the Heat (7:30 ET, NBA League Pass) is unknown:

Washington Wizards point guard John Wall exited Sunday’s 116-104 loss to the Dallas Mavericks because of a right knee injury, although he does not have any structural damage, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. His status for Washington’s meeting Monday night with the first-place Miami Heat remains uncertain.

Wall collided knees with Mavericks forward Jeremy Evans late in the fourth quarter. He gingerly exited the contest with help from teammates and without putting any weight on his right leg with 1 minutes 14 seconds left.

“I tried to take a step to go contest, and I didn’t have the strength and I just stopped,” said Wall, who said that the right knee was already bruised before the injury.

Wall said the knee was sore, but an X-ray did not reveal any structural damage and he was walking on his own after the game with a slight limp. He is traveling with the team to Miami and will be reevaluated Monday.

“You try and think positive,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said. “You hate to see a guy go down for one. And two, it being John. But you know I’m positive at all times and we want him to be smart. So if he can’t go, another guy has to step up.”

The Wizards were already dealing with a depleted roster; they played Sunday with just 10 available players for the third time in eight games and will be shorthanded again Monday.

Starting center Marcin Gortat has missed the last two games because of a family matter and isn’t expected to rejoin the team Monday, while backup Nene (calf) won’t be on the trip to Miami and Alan Anderson (ankle) won’t be available. Big men Kris Humphries (ankle) and Drew Gooden III (calf) are questionable.


VIDEO: John Wall leaves the game with a right knee injury

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Morning shootaround — Dec. 2


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 1

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bryant reveals how he knew he’d retire | Rondo, Cousins have ‘powerful’ meeting with Karl | Wizards leave Cavs feeling exposed in loss

No. 1: Bryant explains how he knew he was going to retire — The road to Kobe Bryant’s retirement is underway and last night in his adopted hometown of Philadelphia marked the first of his many farewell stops around the NBA map. While the Sixers won the game (and ended both an 0-18 start and a 28-game losing streak that stretched to last season), Bryant received a warm greeting (as well as a fond farewell) from the Philadelphia crowd and called the game ’emotional beyond belief’. So how did Bryant come to know that this would be his final season — in the middle of said season. In an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, he talks about that, who would win a matchup between he and Michael Jordan and more:

“You know, going through my entire career, I’ve never really understood what athletes meant when they said, ‘You — when you know you know.’ But now I certainly understand it … So once I knew this was it, might as well say it,” he said in the interview that aired Wednesday on “GMA.”

The married father of two daughters told Roberts how he came to his decision.

“I try to have at least 15 minutes of still time and just kind of sit in my thoughts in the morning and just kind of meditate. And normally what happens with me is my mind would always drift to the game. Always,” he said in reply to Roberts’ question during the Tuesday interview. “And then I found myself sitting there. My mind wouldn’t drift towards the game all the time anymore. And that’s when I started realizing, ‘You know what? It’s getting close. It’s getting close.’ Because now I’m not obsessively thinking about the game anymore. It’s not wired into my subconscious the way it used to be.”

Bryant told Roberts that getting to the decision was “a slow process.”

“It was something that kind of evolved over the last three years, you know, with the Achilles injury, that really frightened me. Because you know, it was like, ‘My career could be over now.’ It scared me. ‘What am I going do next?’ sort of thing. So I took that time to start trying to figure that out,” he said, referring to his 2013 injury that left him unable to play for close to nine months.

After training hard, he returned to the game the following season and fractured his knee in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies in December 2013. He came back from that injury and then suffered a torn shoulder last January, sidelining him again for close to nine months.

“And it was just like, ‘Oh my,’ this is one thing after the next, you know? And so it was kind of a slow three-year process of kind of evolving to get to where I am,” he said.

Asked whether he had accomplished everything he want to on the court, he replied: “No. No. I wanted eight championships, as a dreamy kid, growing up … I wanted eight.”

Roberts asked him about the significance of the number eight.

“Because Magic (Johnson) had five,” Bryant replied. “And then Michael (Jordan) had six. And then I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to win eight.’ And had the opportunity to have seven and didn’t work out. But that was my — that was my childhood dream was to try to win eight (championships)– how ridiculous does that sound?”

Bryant has talked about wanting to have his place in the history of the game, and Roberts how he saw himself compared to other great players.

“Top five players of all time, who were those five players? And would you crack the starting five?” she asked.

“No, I would never put myself in the starting five ever,” he said. “I put the people that I’ve actually learned the most from, being Jordan, Magic, (Larry) Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Jerry West. Those are the players that personally I’ve learned the most from.”

“To be mentioned in the same breath as those players, honestly, to me is — I mean, that’s everything. I mean, we’ll sit and debate endlessly who was better, who would win in a one-on-one matchup between myself and M.J. And you can debate that till the cows come home,” he said.

Asked who would win that match-up, Bryant replied: “Oh, he would win some. I would win some.”

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Morning shootaround — Nov. 30


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 29

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Kupchak knew all along this season was Kobe’s last | Warriors will experiment without Barnes | Kobe’s long walk has finally begun | Kings try to stay strong without Cousins

No. 1: Kupchak knew all along this season was Kobe’s last — The timing might have caught some off guard. But Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak knew all along that this season would be Kobe Bryant’s last in the NBA and in purple and gold. Kobe’s Sunday announcement, via poem on the Players’ Tribune website, stunned many in the sports world, though not anyone paying close attention to the struggles Kobe and the young and inexperienced Lakers have been going through. And certainly not Kupchak, whose charge it will be to craft the post-Kobe rebuilding plan in Los Angeles. ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes was there for Kupchak’s media session Sunday that provided some perspective on the past 19-plus years, the announcement and perhaps most important, what comes next:

Reaction [to the news]?

Kupchak:I’m not surprised. The surprising part of this is that he made the announcement today. My understanding all along was that this was going to be his last year. Certainly there’s been speculation and this puts an end to any speculation that he may come back for another year. But it was my understanding all along.

Right time?

Kupchak: We didn’t make it any easier for him with the group we have on the court. And that’s not to say that they’re not a talented group of players, but they’re certainly young and unaccomplished.

Awkward having Kobe and the young players — that balance?

Kupchak:It is awkward. It’s awkward, but there was really no other way to go about it. When you have a player of Kobe’s caliber that wants to continue to play and you think he can play at a high level, you’re going to let him play until he no longer wants to play. Yet it’s clear that we had to begin the process to rebuild the team. Now we were hopeful that we would get off to a better start this year. We think we added a couple veterans, along with a bunch of young players, and I thought we’d be better than two wins into the season. That’s not to say that we’d be on pace to win 50 or 60 games. But I thought we’d be a little bit better. But clearly we’re not playing at the kind of level that a player of Kobe’s age and experience finds challenging.

[It’s] kind of like, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not surprised that he would make the announcement now. I think the game will be easier for him now. I think he’l be able to enjoy the rest of the season. We haven’t had a chance to huddle up to see if we’ll use him any differently in terms of minutes. I don’t think that’s something that’s going to be decided today. But since he has made it clear [that] this is the last season for him, I think it will be more enjoyable. I think people will appreciate what he’s accomplished, not only in our building, which has always been [filled] with loads of love, but I think more so on the road.

Want him to change his approach and not be so shot-heavy?

Kupchak: I gave up hoping he would change his approach like 15, 18 years ago. He is what he is, and I’m thankful for it.

[When did you] find out the news?

Kupchak: This afternoon. My son is a freshman in college right now. He’s going to be 20 and he was born on the night of Kobe’s first game. So I did not see Kobe’s first game. So that kind of puts it in perspective. Twenty years. I have a son who’s a freshman in college, and that’s how long he’s been playing.

What has he meant to Lakers?

Kupchak: It is impossible for me to sit here and describe what he’s meant. Five championships, 20 years, 17 All-Star Games. MVP trophy. I’ve watched him get hurt, play hurt. We’ve watched the last three years with serious injuries [and] having to come back. Most players would not come back. So it’s hard to describe in two or three minutes. But he’s a winner. And he came into this league with an unprecedented desire to compete and get better and be the best and he remains that exact same person today and that’s with the good and the bad that come with it. But he remains that exact same person.

Did you think it would be this hard?

Kupchak: When he tore his Achilles, it took me completely by surprise. In fact, I thought it was a sprained ankle … Until John Black came to me and he’s walking to the locker room, I thought it was a sprained ankle. And he was 35, 34 years old then. So it’s not that surprising to think after a serious injury at 35 years old. Your body has a way of compensating or under compensating — if you hurt this leg, then you lean more that way and now that leg gets hurt and so forth and so on … at least this is what [Lakers trainer] Gary Vitti tells me. So it’s not that surprising that one injury would lead to another. Inactivity for half a year, then come back — there’s no way to duplicate an NBA game. And he’s 36, 37. How surprising can it be?

Watching him last 15 games?

Kupchak: Like everybody else, I go back and forth. I talk to Kobe about it and he says it’s timing and getting my legs under me and conditioning, getting used to playing with different players. And I buy in. Then I watch the games on TV and I read the paper and I remind myself that he’s 37 years old and maybe it’s more than that. So I go back and forth on it.

What’s his role for the rest of the season?

Kupchak: Not sure yet. Once again, this is something that was brought to my attention late this afternoon and I have not discussed it with ownership or our coaches yet. I would hope that he has more fun and appears less frustrated and also gets more appreciation. He’ll get it at home, but on the road as well, because people will now have to recognize that this is the last year watching one of the all-time greats.


VIDEO: Kobe Bryant speaks on his decision to retire at the end of this season

***

No. 2: Warriors will experiment without Barnes in the lineup — The Golden State Warriors will have to continue their undefeated march without Harrison Barnes for at least a week. It’s a basketball experiment the versatile and deep Warriors are prepared to deal with, but not one they are necessarily looking forward to. Barnes has fantastic start to his season and has played a huge role in the Warriors setting the record for the best start in NBA history. Now comes the tricky part for Luke Walton and Steve Kerr, figuring out what direction to go while Barnes rests that sprained ankle. Carl Steward of the Bay Area News Group has more:

Harrison Barnes had been such a reliable component to the Warriors’ rotations — 205 consecutive games, 120 straight starts — that they hadn’t needed to do a lot of lineup experimentation that didn’t include him.

That all changed when Barnes missed his first game in nearly three seasons Saturday against the Sacramento Kings. Interim coach Luke Walton, after brainstorming with ailing head coach Steve Kerr, went to a number of novel lineups either rarely employed or never seen before in achieving the team’s 18th win without a loss.

The lineup laboratory work likely will continue on the Warriors’ seven-game road trip, which begins Monday night in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz, for as long as Barnes is out with a left ankle sprain. That is expected to be at least a week, which will cover four games of the trip, and he could possibly miss them all even though he’ll be along for the entire ride.

Brandon Rush, who started in place of Barnes and delivered an explosive 7½-minute third quarter stint, wasn’t the only revelation. Big man Marreese Speights, who has been aching to get back in the mix, played 17 minutes and was effective, scoring 13 with five rebounds. Veteran guard Leandro Barbosa played 21 minutes, including a good chunk alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Even end-of-the-bench guard Ian Clark got some important time, playing alongside Curry and Thompson in a three-guard alignment. Within the groupings, Draymond Green played both big and small forward, and Speights played both center and power forward.

“It’s kind of a learning curve right now, because we use Harrison at so many different positions, we’ve got to find rotations that we haven’t had to use before,” Walton said. “So we’re going to keep trying different things.

“We know we’re going to need contributions from Mo and other guys so we’re going to keep getting them out there,” he continued. “If it ends up an awkward lineup, we’re going to ride with it for awhile and see how it goes. We’ll get a better feel for life without Harrison until we can get him back.”

***

No. 3:Kobe’s long walk has finally begun — Father Time finally got his hands on Kobe Bryant and refused to let go. The news that this would be his final season hit hard in Los Angeles, where the love for Bryant is just about the only thing the masses in the Southland agree upon. Longtime Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke offers his unique perspective on the moment:

Bryant’s jersey will be going from his back into the Staples Center rafters, and his body will leave the court and be immediately bronzed for a Staples Center statue.

“I was shocked,” Coach Scott said upon hearing the news. “And then after I had a chance to kind of think about it, I was sad.”

There would have been more sadness in watching Bryant, whose $25-million-a-year deal expires after this season, attempt to earn another contract. Now, perhaps for the first time in the career of one of the greatest competitors in any sport, he can relax and enjoy the ride. Maybe, too, fans of opposing teams who have jeered him can enjoy that ride with him.

“The game will be easier for him now. I think he’ll be able to enjoy the rest of the season,” Kupchak said. “I hope he has more fun and appears less frustrated and gets more appreciation. People will now have to recognize this is his last year and they’re watching one of the all-time greats.”

An outpouring of affection from notoriously tough New York fans during the Lakers’ recent visit to Madison Square Garden felt like the beginning of the farewell tour. The first stop on the now-official tour will be Tuesday in Philadelphia, where Bryant attended high school.

The last stop will be at Staples Center on April 13 against the Utah Jazz, an otherwise meaningless game that will become one of the hottest tickets in Los Angeles sports history.

In the months between those games, here’s hoping Lakers fans will stop complaining about how Bryant is stealing minutes from the team’s younger players and hindering the team’s ability to rebuild. With his retirement imminent and the Lakers’ playoff hopes already dashed, here’s hoping fans will now cheer for Bryant to play as many minutes as his body will allow, understanding that they will never see a player like him again.

Even in his struggles, there is a certain nobility to Bryant attempting to squeeze the final ounces of greatness out of a body whose game has brought so much joy to so many.

“What we want from Kobe is basically his last game to be able to walk off the court, wave to all the fans, and be able to go into the locker room standing up,” Scott said.

That long walk has now begun.

***

No. 4:Kings try to stay strong without Cousins — Before this season there was a healthy debate about whether or not the Sacramento Kings would be better off without their enigmatic big man DeMarcus Cousins. That debate ended weeks ago. The Kings are just 1-7 this season without Cousins in the lineup and are struggling to find their identity without arguably the best big man in the game healthy enough to set the tone this season. Cousins has missed three straight games (lower back strain) and is questionable for tonight’s game against Dallas. Kings coach George Karl insists his team has to stay the course until Cousins returns and is healthy enough to do what he does. But that’s easier said than done when Cousins isn’t in the mix, as Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee explains:

“I think you’ve just got to stay strong,” Karl said. “This is the time of the year where Cuz has missed (eight) games. We’ll get back on the right track, but right now we’ve got to hopefully get healthy with Cuz, and once he gets in the lineup, I think we’ll get our confidence in a good direction.”

The Kings appeared to be heading in a good direction last Monday. They had a 22-point lead at Charlotte and looked poised to win back-to-back road games.

But Cousins did not finish the game because of his back, and Sacramento blew the lead and lost. The Kings won at Milwaukee last Wednesday but have since lost to Minnesota and at the Warriors.

Sacramento is 1-7 without Cousins this season. His status for Monday’s home game against Dallas is uncertain.

The Kings touted their improved depth as being key to withstanding injuries, but replacing Cousins’ 27.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game and his impact on defense is difficult.

“I think everybody knows that we’ve got to continue to keep our poise, staying together,” said guard Ben McLemore. “Even though we don’t have the big fella right now, we’ve still got talented guys who can go out there and compete every night.”

The Kings avoid panicking by keeping perspective. Since starting the season 1-7, they have gone 5-5, so they feel they’re improving.

And they realize they will have issues over the course of the season.

“Never too high, never too low,” said guard Rajon Rondo. “It’s a long season There will be ups and downs; it’s a roller coaster. Hopefully we can get this thing smoothed out pretty soon.”

The Kings could use a stretch of improved health and better defense to begin meeting their expectations.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Just so we’re absolutely clear on what Kobe Bryant has accomplished in his stellar career, take a look at Kobe by the numbersMike Dunleavy‘s return from back surgery might have hit a bit of a snag, as the Bulls’ swingman is set to see doctors today about sorenessJahlil Okafor is in desperate need of some veteran assistance in that Philadelphia locker room, so says a couple of former prized veterans who helped their teams to championships … A strange scheduling quirk to test the Oklahoma City Thunder, who visit the Atlanta Hawks tonight at Philips Arena … No fear! The Utah Jazz are eager for a crack at the undefeated Golden State Warriors … Check out these archival images of Larry Bird like you’ve never seen him before

ICYMI of the Night: Dwight Howard welcomed Kristaps Porzingis to the NBA with a wicked facial …


VIDEO: Dwight Howard smashes all over Kristaps Porzingis

***

Blogtable: Will DeMarcus Cousins or George Karl last longer in Sacramento?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes 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: Fallout in Houston? | Best comeback story? | Cousins or Karl in Sacramento?



VIDEOCharles Barkley voices his opinion on DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings

> DeMarcus Cousins or George Karl? Which one will still be working for the Kings at the end of the season?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: I don’t really want to address this, ’cause so many Kings fans are so sensitive about any notion of getting rid of Cousins (the hate mail is still rolling in on my trade idea to move Boogie to Boston). But if I had to guess, I’d say that Vivek Ranadive sticks with his franchise center rather than the mercurial coach with more than 1,100 coaching victories. Maybe Vlade Divac can calm the waters and get these two to coexist, but he’s rolling that rock up a big, big hill.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI’d like to think that sanity prevails and the answer is both. But since you’ve given us a fork in the road and we have to take it (h/t Lawrence Peter Berra), I choose Cousins. It’s a player’s league and, as I’ve noted before, even if all was copacetic in Sac, the big man will be posting 20-10 games long after George is sipping umbrella drinks on a Maui beach with his pal, Don Nelson. And DMC knows it, which is part of the reason things aren’t copacetic. I don’t think Cousins will spend his whole career with the Kings – a change of scenery is inevitable when a young player is handed as much clout as he has – but I think Karl will beat him out the door in the short term.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Cousins. He’s temperamental. He’s trouble. He’s also 25 and the best young big man in the game, at least until Karl-Anthony Towns gets a year or two under his belt. Besides, coaches usually take the fall and Karl has been on shaky ground with the Kings almost from the moment he arrived. Can we change the timetable on this question to Christmas? Or even Thanksgiving?

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comI’m tempted to say neither. I do think that is possible. But at this rate, with Cousins reminding everyone how good he can be, the Kings are either going to refuse to part with him or set the asking price so high that no one will come close to matching the offer. Any outcome is far from playing out. While firing the coach is always easier than going nuclear with the roster, and therefore Karl is atop the leaderboard for Most Likely to Go, Sacramento does not want to dump him. They were looking for a reason to fire Michael Malone. They’re looking for a reason to keep George.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Cousins, because Karl is replaceable. Still … rarely would I ever side with a coach over an All-Star big man but my hunch says the Kings will never flourish as long as their best player is toxic. Look, Cousins has good intentions; he’s competitive, hates to lose and in some ways a perfectionist. But if he hasn’t gotten a grip on his emotions by now … what, should the Kings bide their time until he reaches maturity at age 30?

John Schuhmann, NBA.comI would guess that it would be both, because it would really be embarrassing for the Kings to need to hire another coach before the season is done. But Cousins is still more likely to be around, because giving up on a coach is easier than giving up on a star.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Cousins. Talent over everything is the motto of most teams. And Cousins has proved to be as good or better than any other player in the league at his position. That said, Cousins and Karl could find a way to make this work. I truly believe that to be true. But it would take some serious humbling on both sides. There is way too much pride and ego involved right now. Cousins will not be denied this season, though, and the Kings can choose to ride his momentum into the future or make a colossal mistake and side with the tutor over the talent.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe Kings appear to be showing little interest in supporting Karl. If they go onto fire him, it’s a good bet that they will be casting him as a victim of their own mismanagement. In the meantime they’ve made it clear that Cousins is their priority. But are they bringing out the best in their best young player — or just placating him?

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: The answer should be DeMarcus Cousins, who is one of the best young players in the NBA, signed to a long-term contract that is affordable, and is exactly the type of building block every team in the NBA should want to construct around. So why would the Kings deal Cousins? The answer, of course, is that the Kings have a recent history of doing things people haven’t anticipated. I’ll just say this: If it came down to choosing between Boogie Cousins and Coach Karl, I know which way I’d choose. Then again, it ain’t my team.

Morning shootaround — Nov. 13


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 12

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Blatt: Irving still has ‘a ways to go’ | Report: Taylor selling 20 percent of team | Ranadive to blame for Kings’ woes? | Nowitzki plans to ‘definitely’ ride out Mavs contract

No. 1: Blatt: Irving still has ‘a ways to go’ — Point guard Kyrie Irving has likely been on the minds of many Cleveland Cavaliers supporters even as Mo Williams has done an admirable job holding down the fort in his absence. Irving’s latest Pepsi commercial featuring his alter ego of “Uncle Drew” dropped yesterday, if you missed it, and seeing him put in work — even on a commercial set — had to get Cavs fans excited. Coach David Blatt is here to temper that, though, writes Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Blatt has seen progress from his point guard but notes he still has a long road ahead:

After practice on Thursday, Cavaliers head coach David Blatt made it sound as if point guard Kyrie Irving isn’t close to a return to action.

“[We’re] not rushing things and not letting up from the day-to-day work, but still a ways to go,” he said. “And how much, I can’t honestly tell you, but he’s working at it every day.”

Irving fractured his left kneecap in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors on June 4. His recovery timetable was set to 3-4 months. It has been a little over five months since he’s played in a live game.

He has yet to participate in a practice session. His daily work includes building up his legs and some on-court work. He will not join the team for their three-game road trip beginning with the New York Knicks on Friday, cleveland.com is told.

Since the Cavaliers are off to a 7-1 start, there’s no sense in activating their three-time All-Star prematurely. In the meantime, he’ll continue to work.

“We’re just taking small steps,” Blatt said. “Small and sure.”


VIDEO: David Blatt talks after the Cavs’ practice on Thursday

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Morning shootaround — Nov. 12


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 11

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Mavs get some last shots in on Jordan | Strife still lingers in Sacramento | Bryant hoping to play Friday

No. 1: Mavs get some last digs in on Jordan — The Los Angeles Clippers’ much-anticipated visit to Dallas last night ended in a 118-108 Mavericks win fueled by Dirk Nowitzki. The ‘return’ of DeAndre Jordan to the team he famously spurned in free agency was the main talking point and Mavs fans let Jordan have it all game long. After the game, some of Dallas’ players (and of course, owner Mark Cuban) couldn’t resist getting a few last parting shots in on Jordan, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com:

The sellout crowd booed Jordan from pregame warm-ups to the final buzzer — “I thought it was going to be a lot worse, honestly,” he said — during Dallas’ 118-108 win over the Clippers. Jordan finished the game with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes, during which the Clippers were outscored by 23 points.

“He’s not a priority to us,” Mavs small forward Chandler Parsons told ESPN.com when asked whether the Jordan drama was done. “And by the looks of their team, he’s not to them, either.”

That was a thinly veiled shot at Jordan’s role with the Clippers, who promised during the recruiting process that he would be more of a focal point in the offense. With Parsons serving as their lead recruiter, the Mavs had sold Jordan on coming to Dallas to be a franchise player instead of a complementary piece with the Clippers.

Cuban, with whom Jordan has not communicated since the night before he re-signed with the Clippers, attempted to downplay the drama before the game while still taking some verbal shots.

“It’s not like DeAndre and I pinkie swore,” said Cuban, who was giddy when Jordan originally accepted his offer of a max contract worth more than $80 million over four years. “It’s not like we’ve been friends forever. It’s not like he broke some trust we had. You know, he turned out to be who we thought he was.”

Cuban continued to reference text messages that he kept from his July conversations with Jordan, saying he would release them publicly “if there’s ever a good reason.” To that, Jordan joked that he doesn’t care “as long as it’s not naked pictures of me.”

Cuban said, however, that his recent jabs at Jordan and the Clippers were mostly in good fun.

“I have fun playing with this,” Cuban said. “You guys know me. I have fun messing with it, without any question. But it’s not that I’m mad or pissed off or bitter. Excuse my French, but if you f— with me, I like to f— with you back. It’s just my nature.”


VIDEO: Dallas prevails in showdown with DeAndre Jordan, Clippers

*** (more…)

Morning shootaround — Nov. 11


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 10

NEWS OF THE MORNING

MRI next for Durant | Davis’ status for next game unclear | Kings air grievances in meeting | Cuban still has Jordan texts

No. 1: MRI next for Durant in wake of hamstring injury — Kevin Durant‘s return to his hometown of Washington, D.C., was a newsworthy one as expected. But it wasn’t because of what Durant said about his looming free agency and the Wizards’ expected courting of him. Instead, it was notable because Durant logged only 16 minutes and 45 seconds of game time before a hamstring injury forced him out of the game. He finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in OKC’s 125-101 romp and afterward, addressed his injury. Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman has more:

For the Thunder, this night went almost ideally.

Likely due to Durant’s recent comments about the “disrespectful” nature of cheering for an opponent, the Wizards crowd barely made a peep when he was announced pregame. There was even a ‘KD stay in OKC’ sign spotted in the lower bowl.

Then every time he touched the ball during the first half, light boos sprinkled down.

“They were?” Durant asked of the fan’s booing. “I don’t care.”

Led by KD’s quietly dominant 14 points and 10 first half rebounds and Russell Westbrook’s loud 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists before the break, OKC burst out to 68-50 halftime lead. The Thunder lead only widened from there.

OKC’s offense looked crisp. Dion Waiters popped 25 points off the bench. Westbrook finished with a 22-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist triple-double in only 28 minutes. All 13 active Thunder players scored.

But the tenor of the game changed late in the first half.

On a slicing drive with 54 seconds left, Durant was fouled by Kris Humphries and landed a bit awkwardly on his left leg. He immediately grabbed his hamstring, grimacing and reaching for it the rest of the half.

Durant slowly went to the halftime locker room with Thunder trainers by his side. He didn’t return, icing and watching the Thunder blowout from the bowels of the Verizon Center with what the team deemed a left hamstring strain.

“I mean, I can walk,” Durant said postgame. “It’s just a little sore.”

KD is scheduled for an MRI back in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. The Thunder doesn’t play again until Friday and that comes against the 0-7 Philadelphia 76ers at home. So there’s a window to get some rest.

But at this point, he doesn’t know how serious a strain it is. Durant said he’s never had one before.

“I don’t know (if I’ll miss time) right now,” Durant said. “It’s unfortunate but it’s part of the game. Can’t hang my head. Just gotta work to get back. I’ve been here before.”

One of the toughest parts of this setback for Durant is it came right as he was hitting a stride. Against Phoenix on Sunday, KD went for 32 points in 32 minutes, adding 11 rebounds and a 12-of-19 shooting line. On Tuesday, he had a first half double-double in only 17 minutes.


VIDEO: Kevin Durant addresses his hamstring injury

***

No. 2: Davis’ status unknown after suffering hip injury — The good news for the New Orleans Pelicans last night was that they finally got their first win after an 0-6 start. The bad news was superstar Anthony Davis had to leave the game with a hip contusion. Injuries have played a big part in the Pelicans’ awful start to 2015-16 and they’re hoping Davis doesn’t join a lengthy list of wounded players that already includes Tyreke Evans, Norris Cole and others. John Reid of The Times-Picayune has more:

Despite ending a six-game losing streak to start the season by beating the Mavericks, 120-105, Pelicans star forward Anthony Davis suffered a right hip contusion injury in the second quarter that forced him out from playing in the second half.

While his teammates were in the locker room explaining how they got their much needed victory, Davis was going through a series of tests after the game to determine the exact extent of his injury, but X-rays came back negative.

The injury occurred in the second quarter after Davis took a knee to his hip area.

”I just know he had some problems and I don’t know if it is a groin or hamstring,” Gentry. ”But we’ll just have to wait and see. Nothing surprises us here.”

Gentry could not say after the game if Davis would be making the trip to Atlanta for Wednesday night’s game against the Hawks.

Now, there is a chance Davis could be joining an injury list that already includes guard Tyreke Evans, who underwent arthrscopic surgery to remove bone chips from his right knee Oct. 20. There is no timetable on Evans’ return, but he was initially projected to miss six to eight weeks.

Backup point guard Norris Cole has been out since last month with a high left ankle sprain, and there is no timetable on his return. Small forward Quincy Pondexter continues to go through rehabilitation after undergoing surgery on his left knee in May. He could return later this month, but no set date has been released yet. Veteran center Kendrick Perkins said last week that he will miss two-to-three months with a right pectoral injury.

Starting center Omer Asik, though, made his return against the Mavericks after missing three games with a sore right calf. Asik played 15 minutes and scored two points five rebounds. Point guard Jrue Holiday remains under a minute restriction and will miss Wednesday’s game against the Hawks because he has not been cleared yet to play in back-to-back games to avoid any problems from recurring with his surgically repaired lower right leg.


VIDEO: Alvin Gentry discusses Anthony Davis’ injury and the Pelicans’ first win

***

No. 3: Kings hold team meeting to air grievances — Sacramento Kings superstar DeMarcus Cousins hinted after Monday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs that the team needed to have a “players-only” meeting to try and right the ship after a 1-7 start. That apparently happened … and some other folks had meetings, too, in an effort to fix what’s ailing the Kings. According to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, players, coaches and the front office all held meetings yesterday:

A meeting that was supposed to be just for the players became a group therapy session for Kings players, coaches and the front office Tuesday.

With Cousins missing four games because of injury, the players lacking trust in the system and coaches unhappy with the players’ effort and attitude, there’s already been enough tension to force everyone to gather around the figurative campfire and speak their minds.

“Guys and the coaching staff and the front office talked about how comfortable players are with plays, coaches with the attitudes and stuff like that,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac said. “When you have a problem in the family, you address it, you talk about it. I was very pleased how we talked about it openly.”

The player-coach dynamic is most likely between Cousins and George Karl stemming from their feud in the summer.

But the Kings’ issues go deeper than Cousins and Karl. Multiple players are concerned about the defensive schemes. The Kings rank among the worst defensive teams through eight games.

The Kings are giving up 110.6 points per game, third most in the league. Opponents are shooting 49.3 percent, highest allowed in the league.

Conversely, coaches had reason to be upset with the effort on some nights. The Kings have started games sluggishly, and some defensive performances have looked lackadaisical at best. Karl even noted last week the Kings had “lazy” defensive possessions.

Then there is the lingering notion of players not being all-in with Karl and his style of play. For some players, like Cousins, their only measure of success as a pro came last season, when the team started 9-5 under Michael Malone before Cousins became sick. The Kings fell to 11-13, and Malone was fired.

Some players still yearn for Malone’s defensive-minded approach that led to last season’s good start. Perhaps the Kings need similar success under Karl (he’s 12-26 since taking over last season) to gain confidence in him, even as he experiments with lineups searching for the right mix.

“I never said they don’t like the system,” Divac said. “They just didn’t buy in, yet.”

Karl did not speak with reporters Tuesday, but said he would Wednesday morning following shootaround. That’s noteworthy considering home coaches are not required to do so per NBA media access rules.

Caron Butler was signed to be a leader in the locker room for situations like this. He’s known to speak his mind. He and swingman Omri Casspi were the only players to address reporters Tuesday.

Casspi said Cousins’ outspokenness Monday night was part of being a leader. While some might fear the bad start again could spark trade rumors of Cousins going to the Los Angeles Lakers or Boston Celtics, Cousins still has never asked to be dealt.

And he reached out to his teammates Monday night to remind them he’s committed to playing with them.

“(Cousins) was the one to send out a text to the players (Monday) night about how he cares about the team, wants to win and he feels like he has the right pieces here,” Casspi said. “So we’ve all got to step up.”

***

No. 4: Cuban says he kept all his texts with Jordan — The free-agency signing saga between the Dallas Mavericks and DeAndre Jordan was the story of the offseason and tonight (8 ET, ESPN), things come to a head of sorts as Jordan’s Los Angeles Clippers visit the Mavs. It’s the first time the center will play against the team he famously committed to (and then spurned) in free agency, a move Mavs owner Mark Cuban hasn’t forgotten about at all. The Los Angeles TimesBen Bolch, via Twitter, reports that Cuban still has all the texts he exchanged with Jordan from the big man’s reversal of field:

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey sees some Dirk Nowitzki-like skills in New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis … Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson says he should have rested his back more to start the seasonKevin Durant heard some boos from the Washington Wizards’ crowd last night … Miami Heat rookie Justise Winslow is impressing the team’s veterans with his defense … Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder and Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Sasha Kaun once shared a dinner of ‘meat jello’ when both men were in Russia … Rookie R.J. Hunter is turning heads in Boston

ICYMI of the Night: Lakers rookie Marcelo Huertas submitted a potential #ShaqtinAFool play last night … 


VIDEO: Marcelo Huertas’ buzzer beater goes all wrong

… and we loved this strong finish here by Utah Jazz forward Trevor Booker …


VIDEO: Trevor Booker dunks with authority against the Cavs

Morning shootaround — Nov. 10


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Cousins hints at ‘players-only’ meeting | Beal doesn’t want fans cheering for K.D. in D.C. | Report: Pelicans bring back Fredette

No. 1: Cousins hints at ‘players-only’ meeting after loss to Spurs — The Sacramento Kings in 2015-16 were expected by many to, at best, push for a playoff spot in the Western Conference and, at least, show marked improvement from the last several seasons. Yet this morning they are 1-7 after a 106-88 home drubbing at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. Following the loss, Kings star DeMarcus Cousins — back in the lineup after missing four games with an Achilles injury — said the team has issues to work through. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee has more:

The Kings are 1-7 and have lost six in a row. This time the Kings fell apart in the fourth quarter and were outscored 34-19.

Again, the Kings’ defense did little to slow down an opponent, which has been the case often this season. The lineups were unpredictable again as the group that started the game didn’t start the second half.

Cousins, who missed the previous four games with a strained right Achilles’ tendon, was asked if he learned anything about the team while injured.

“Everything I can’t really speak on,” Cousins said. “We got some issues that we got to carve out. Can’t really speak on that. But one thing is, us players, we got to stick together. And just with that, that’ll get us through most battles. We got some issues in-house we need to figure out.”

Cousins was asked if these were issues that could be fixed before the Kings host Detroit on Wednesday.

“Can’t answer that,” he said.

Are these on-court issues?

“Not at all,” Cousins said.

Cousins was asked if the Kings needed a players-only meeting.

“It’ll be a players-only meeting,” Cousins said. “… Just to make it clear I believe in every single person in this room. We just got to stay together. That part I’m not worried about. But there are issues we need to figure out.”

Cousins was asked if the issues would be fixed with a few wins.

“I feel like when those issues are fixed, the winning will come,” Cousins said.

The Kings have used a different starting lineup in the last six games and seven different starting lineups overall.

Anderson was benched to start the second half and did not re-enter. Ben McLemore went from the doghouse to starting the second half.

“It’s different lineups, man, so people we haven’t necessarily played with before and it’s tough,” Rudy Gay said. “Not just on the people that do play, it’s tough on everybody. The guys that do come in and try to fill in the pieces. And we have a lot of young people who are expected to do a lot of things. We just have to be better.”

Coach George Karl was also asked about the mood of the locker room. The optimism from preseason is being overtaken by the frustration the Kings have only one win.

“Right now it’s probably a little angry and frustrated and confused,” Karl said. “Fortunately we have a day tomorrow to straighten that out and get back on track.”


VIDEO: DeMarcus Cousins hints at Kings’ need for a ‘player-only’ meeting

***

No. 2: Beal, Durant: D.C. fans cheering for Durant ‘disrespectful’ — There’s a big matchup tonight on NBA TV as the Oklahoma City Thunder visit the Washington Wizards (7 ET) in a Fan Night showdown featuring two contenders. Aside from that, of course, is the storyline of D.C. native Kevin Durant and whether or not he’ll use his looming free agency in 2016 to leave Oklahoma and head back home come 2016-17. That’s unknown at this point and Durant has done all he can to stay away from the topic. Still, there will be D.C.-area fans at tonight’s game purely cheering for the native son, which is something Wizards star Bradley Beal (and Durant) doesn’t endorse. J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com has more:

Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal are on the same team when it comes to this, before the Oklahoma City Thunder arrive to square off the Wizards on Tuesday: They don’t want Verizon Center fans cheering their favorite son in an attempt to placate him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. In fact, both loathe it.

“It is disrespectful because he plays for Oklahoma City,” said Beal, who is questionable because of a sore left shoulder, when asked if he agreed with Durant’s assessment. “He doesn’t play for Washington.”

Earlier in the day, Durant spoke about his experience playing here last season. While he’s a native of D.C. and the Wizards (3-3) have made moves to clear cap space to make a run at him in 2016, the adoration makes him uncomfortable.

“It was cool to see all my family there but if our team did that to somebody coming into our arena, I wouldn’t like it. I didn’t really like it,” Durant told reporters after practice in Oklahoma City. “We’re playing a really good team in the Wizards, a great team. Great young talents. Good coach. I think that was disrespectful so I didn’t like it.”

Wizards center Marcin Gortat was more understanding, knowing that’s how fans can be and doesn’t take it personal.

“They are fans. At the need of the day, they pay my salary. They can do whatever they want to do,” said Gortat, who is in the second year of a five-year, $60 million contract. “Kevin Durant has a huge fan base. Wherever he goes he’s got thousands of people cheering for him. We can’t be mad about that. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll have some fans that cheer for us and hopefully we’re going to get a win because we need that win.”

Durant coming to the Wizards would be a game-changer. It’s still a year away but it’ll continue being a hot topic until there’s a resolution less than a year from now.

“That’s why the NBA is better than a lot of sports. … In basketball, one or two stars going to a different team, your expectations are different,” said Jared Dudley, who is an unrestricted free agent next summer and acknowledged he might not be around to see what happens first-hand. “This is a star league and he’s a top three player. … Hopefully he does (come to D.C.).”


VIDEO: David Aldridge discusses the likelihood of Kevin Durant joining the Wizards in 2016-17

 

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No. 3: Report: Pelicans bring back Fredette — Just before the start of the 2015-16 season, former lottery pick Jimmer Fredette seemed to have run out of NBA chances after he was cut by the San Antonio Spurs. He was taken No. 2 overall in the NBA D-League draft by the Westchester Knicks and was seemingly on the long path many failed draft picks and NBA hopefuls take. That road didn’t last long for him, though, as Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania reports the 0-6 New Orleans Pelicans are set to bring Fredette back to the team:

Jimmer Fredette – the No. 2 pick in the NBA Development League draft by the Westchester Knicks – has re-signed with the New Orleans Pelicans under the injury hardship exception, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

edette will provide insurance to the Pelicans’ backcourt, with Jrue Holiday still on a playing restriction. The Pelicans weren’t granted an injury exception to sign a player during the first week of the season, but were given one Monday, sources said. New Orleans, hampered by numerous injuries, is off to a 0-6 start this season.

Fredette played 50 games with the Pelicans last year, averaging 3.6 points and 10.2 minutes per game.

Fredette, 26, was waived by the San Antonio Spurs during training camp. He had signed a partially guaranteed contract to compete for an open roster spot, which ultimately went to veteran Rasual Butler.

Fredette’s D-League rights will remain with Westchester.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Golden State Warriors roundly agree they have the ‘best’ bench in the NBA. Do you? … Knee soreness kept Joakim Noah from making what would have been his first start of the season … The Washington Wizards say Bradley Beal’s injury is not serious … How these Detroit Pistons are different from coach Stan Van Gundy‘s Orlando Magic teams of the 2000s … Dwyane Wade is really looking forward to however many clashes he has left with Kobe BryantWhat in the world is wrong with the Memphis Grizzlies this season? … Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr was at shootaround and participated in a free throw shooting contest with Stephen Curry … Former NBA player and collegiate star God Shammgod is enjoying his new gig at his alma mater, Providence CollegeDewayne Dedmon is making the most of his opportunity with the Orlando Magic

Morning shootaround — Nov. 3


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 2

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Warriors seek that ‘next level’ of play | Kobe gets break from practice after postgame rant | Emotions high at Wolves home opener | Rondo enjoying ‘underdog’ status

No. 1: Warriors all about that ‘next level’ of play — Just four games into the season of defending their NBA title, the Golden State Warriors are a team everyone is targeting (and everyone wants to play like). Our Fran Blinebury raised a good question the other day: will reigning Kia MVP Stephen Curry surpass the season he put up in 2014-15? The better question is: are the Warriors as a whole better than they were in their dominant 2014-15 campaign? Ethan Strauss of ESPN.com was on hand for last night’s 50-point win over the Memphis Grizzlies and reports that surpassing 2014-15 is all part of the plan for Golden State:

Draymond Green stood before the media, arms akimbo, and gave the motto. “The one thing coming into training camp, Coach Kerr’s one go-to line was ‘next level,'” he declared. “Next level in the offense, next level in the defense, next level in focus, next level in intensity.”

This level isn’t supposed to exist. After a 67-win season and subsequent championship, the Golden State Warriors weren’t expected to get better. That’d be lunacy, especially in a climate in which many basketball pundits are still slow to accept last season’s greatness. Lunacy might be reality, though.

After beating their first four opponents by more than anyone has (plus-100), after strangling the Memphis Grizzlies into a 26-of-96 shooting night and 50-point loss — 119-69 — the champs are looking better than ever. They’re doing it without head coach Steve Kerr and center Andrew Bogut, and both could return at any moment.

Stephen Curry has been beyond impressive, scoring more points (148) through the first four games than anyone other than Michael Jordan. He has also done this in 127 minutes on 84 shots.

“It’s about us, it’s not about sending a message really,” Curry said of Golden State’s recent approach. It’s easy to draw conclusions from how the Warriors have battered four former playoff opponents, but Curry insists their motivation is internal. “We know that we’re capable of being a better team than we were last year. We have so much potential in here and so much talent that we don’t want to waste it.”

The Golden State defense has grown more comfortable, and they’re dabbling in new tactics. This early season has seen a lot of blitzing double teams from the baseline and traps further out. When asked about the trapping, Golden State assistant coach and defensive coordinator Ron Adams said, “We’re being a little more active this year in that regard.” He continued, “We can play in different ways defensively. I would say this about our defense: I think we have grown, and we’re still growing. That’s exciting.”

“I think we’re trying to get to that next level,” Green repeated, “but there are still more levels to get to.”


VIDEO: Warriors impress in rout of Grizzlies

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