Shane Battier and George Karl, two of the most loquacious and illuminating fellows in the NBA to step or sit in front of the microphones and cameras, were recognized officially for their chatty and cooperative ways Tuesday.
Battier, a veteran role player for the Miami Heat, was selected as the 2013 winner of the Magic Johnson Award, presented annually by the Pro Basketball Writers Association to a player who combines excellence on the court with cooperation with the media and fans. Karl, coach of the Denver Nuggets was named winner of the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, the PBWA’s coaching version that recognizes the same traits.
Also, the Indiana Pacers’ media relations staff became the first two-time winner of the Brian McIntyre Award, presented by the PBWA to the staff deemed most helpful to the media in anticipating and fulfilling coverage needs.
Battier was one of 12 players nominated for his award, including Heat teammates LeBron James and Ray Allen. Others nominated were Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks, Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers, Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs, Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks, Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks and Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Magic Johnson Award is the longest-running honor from the PBWA, dating back to Allen in 2002-03. Among this year’s nominees, he and Durant are former winners.
The Rudy Tomjanovich Award was added in 2011, with Jerry Sloan as the inaugural winner. Boston’s Doc Rivers won in 2012 and was a nominee again this season, along with Scott Brooks of Oklahoma City, Rick Carlisle of Dallas, Doug Collins of Philadelphia, Larry Drew of Atlanta and Lawrence Frank of Detroit.
The Pacers, headed by media relations director David Benner, also won the McIntyre Award in 2011. Other staff nominated include Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Golden State, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Toronto. The Bucks won the award, named after longtime NBA publicrelations director Brian McIntyre, in 2012. The Warriors, Trail Blazers, Raptors and Suns staff are other past winners.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – It took longer than expected during this difficult season marred by an onslaught of injury and a family illness, but Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman reached 1,000 career wins Saturday night.
Adelman’s Minnesota Timberwolves got the job done at home, knocking off the Detroit Pistons, allowing the home crowd to join in the celebration. In attendance was Adelman’s wife, Mark Kay, who was hospitalized during the season with an illness that still has no definitive diagnosis. Adelman, 66, took time away from the team to care for her and he has contemplated retiring after the season to stay by her side.
For the moment, through a tumultuous season full of disappointment, Saturday’s victory provided a rare chance to smile and reflect on a tremendous coaching career. Adelman’s career record stands at 1,000-703 (.587). In his 22nd season, Adelman became the eighth coach to reach 1,000 career wins (joining Don Nelson, Lenny Wilkens, Jerry Sloan, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, Larry Brown and George Karl) and he is the fifth-fastest to reach the milestone
“Glad we got it done tonight,” said Adelman, one of the game’s most innovative if also most understated coaches, said after the 107-101 victory. “It was tough game; they played well. Our guys hung in there and made some plays down the stretch to win the game. Like I said earlier, it’s a great group of players who stayed with us all year long and never stopped playing. They kept battling it through; the coaching staff too. It was good to get it here especially at home.”
Here’s Adelman in his own words, courtesy of The Wolves’ media relations department:
On moment with Mary Kay making everything worthwhile…
“She had to be part of it. I told her I was going to bring her down. She wasn’t very happy about that but she has been there all the years. When you go through a job like this in situations and you move and raise six kids and everything else; if it wasn’t for her I couldn’t have done it. So I’m really glad we did it here. It relieves a little bit of stress. Like I said to you before the game, I think it was in some ways when I look back, it was good for this group. We have had such a tough time that you are just trying to scrap wins out. When you have something like this that you are actually working for there is expectations; there is a little bit more pressure and I think that is good because this group we have to learn what that is all about. To be a good team that’s where the expectations are. It’s not just to win a game, it’s to keep going. I’m really happy with the way they have played the last week.”
On the list of coaching names he has joined…
“It’s special people. Some of the names up there, it’s incredible. I never ever expected to be with that group. But like I said before, I have had some really special situations and we were able to stay a couple of places for a long time, which doesn’t happen in this league very often. To get that many wins, there are good players involved and good coaches staffs involved and good organizations involved. It was special to get this.”
On it being more special to have his sons on his coaching staff…
“That was one of the big reasons why I came here. You always want to win, you always want to have good situations to give yourself a chance because it’s a tough job, but I learned in Houston when we lost Yao [Ming] and lost Tracy McGrady and a bunch of guys that busted our tails every night. It was a lot of fun coaching that group. When I looked at this group this year it’s the same thing. I think there is other ways to get enjoyment. Everybody talks about how you have to win; yeah that’s part of it, but to get around a group of guys you can coach you see them grow individually and as a team, that’s also part of it. And to have my two sons involved, yeah it’s special. That is a huge reason why this was an attractive situation to me. They just didn’t tell me about April before this year that it was so hard to win games in April. I think we have a really group. Like I said, they have really maintained this whole year.”
On where this milestone ranks…
“It’s way up there. Now that it’s done you think about all the years and everything else. It’s pretty special. This has been a difficult year. You have to give credit. You have to thank Glen, David and the whole organization for staying behind me because it was a tough situation. There was never a doubt that I was going to be able to do what I thought I needed to do because of their support.”
On the journey to get here and knowing son Ricky and Derrick weren’t born when he got his first victory…
“Well thanks a lot (laughs). I feel older. I feel older. There is a thousand wins that everybody keeps talking about but I don’t know how many losses too. [He's told 703] Yeah, okay thanks. I knew you would know. I didn’t know (laughs). It is something that you learn as you go on in this league. Like I said, great situations where you walk on the court and you know you have a great chance to win every night. This situation it was tough going out there every day. You learn that it’s a tough business. You have to learn to handle that as well as you do the wins. I think the players have to learn you can’t accept it. It’s part of your job and we got thrown a really tough curveball this year with everything that happened. Even last year at the end of the year. But again, I compliment them for staying with it and hopefully we can get some more before the season ends.”
HANG TIME, Texas — There were just over two minutes gone in the fourth quarter when the door seemed to swing open, the red carpet rolled out and Kevin Durant was all but ushered down an empty aisle through the San Antonio defense for a slam dunk that practically screamed out.
It’s still our house and it’s still our Western Conference.
Maybe more than ever. As the days dwindle in the regular season, the inevitable rematch in The Finals with Miami seems more, well, inevitable.
It’s been more than two months now since anyone has looked capable of taking down the defending champion Heat. But it’s been thought all season that the West half of the bracket was going to be a minefield fraught with peril.
When Tony Parker limped up and down the court and finally had to be removed from the game Thursday night by coach Gregg Popovich, the path became clearer for the Thunder. It not only enabled OKC to finish off a 100-88 win and essentially take over the top spot in the conference, but could show the cracks that could eventually crumble highly successful regular season for the Spurs.
There had been a sense for much of the season that the Spurs were a more complete, more capable all-around team than the Thunder this season. That was in part due to the absence of James Harden in OKC and the development of the Spurs supporting cast of Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Danny Green.
But San Antonio is still a wheel that turns around the aging Big Three axis and Manu Ginobili is already sidelined for the start of the playoffs with a strained hamstring. If Parker’s problem (ankle? shin?) can’t be solved in short time, the Spurs could have problems in the first two rounds, let alone a conference finals showdown with the Thunder.
At the same time, a Nuggets team that has already lost its blasting cap in Ty Lawson to a torn plantar fascia in his right heel sees Danilo Gallinari go down with what could be a torn ACL in his left knee.
Yes, George Karl was the Western Conference Coach of the Month in March and will certainly manipulate his lineup to keep it from jumping completely off the track. But the beauty and the effectiveness of the Nuggets all season long has been the fitting together of so many different pieces to excel in a league usually built around individual stars. Take away one piece and you’ve got a challenge. Take away two and the entire structure begins to teeter.
Despite ringing up their first 50-win season in franchise history, the Clippers have fallen from grace since their 25-6 start. Whether it’s Vinny Del Negro’s coaching, Blake Griffin’s moodiness, DeAndre Jordan’s immaturity or Chris Paul’s carping at his teammates, there is unrest in Lob City and less a sense that the Clippers are a championship contender.
There is no reason to believe the Warriors, Rockets or Jazz are capable challengers. Even if the Lakers were to hang onto the No. 8 spot, does anyone have faith that this uneven, turmoil-filled season will suddenly take a path straight up for six or eight weeks once the playoffs begin?
That leaves the rock ‘em, sock ‘em get, get-up-in-your-face Grizzlies as perhaps the only solid, healthy challengers to the reigning Western Conference champs. If you think back two years ago to the contentious seven-game series between Memphis and OKC, there is most definitely potential for the Thunder to be tested.
But what was supposed to be round after round of roadblocks and difficult obstacles is starting to clear out like Durant’s path to the basket for a slam dunk.
HANG TIME, Texas — So now the question becomes just how far the Nuggets can drive their Playoff Express without the spark plug?
A short time before Denver rang up its 50th win for the fifth consecutive full NBA season, the best little Western Conference team without a superstar got the bad news that the nagging injury to point guard Ty Lawson is a torn plantar fascia.
Just when it was looking like the Nuggets could make more noise than a firecracker in the silverware drawer of the playoffs comes the bad news.
Originally diagnosed more than a week ago as a heel strain/contusion that would have him back in the lineup shortly, Lawson’s status for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs is now a huge question.
Surgery isn’t needed. The docs in Denver are saying rest and ice. But a torn plantar fascia is the injury that kept the Lakers’ Pau Gasol on the sidelines for just over six weeks.
That puts coach George Karl in a spot without his leader in minutes (34.8), points (16.7) and assists (6.9) per game as the Nuggets try to stay ahead of the Clippers and Memphis for the No. 3 slot in the West playoffs.
According to Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post, there is no timetable for Lawson’s return and Karl appears almost eager to assume the challenge of piecing all of this together, game by game, until his backcourt star returns.
“So many things come into my thought process,” Karl said. “I told my coaches, last night it was Iguodala, (Friday morning) it was (Evan) Fornier. The guy that I think probably is playing as well as any of those guys is Anthony Randolph. I could play really big for a period of time, playing Anthony at the four with Wilson (Chandler) at the three and A.I. and Corey (Brewer) in the backcourt. That doesn’t give you a really great playmaking team, but you’re athletic, you can run, you can do some things defensively.
“To me it’s flow and pace. It has nothing to do about are we capable of playing basketball. We’re going to be capable of playing basketball. I just don’t know how much rhythm and flow, and the pace.”
On Friday night, the Nuggets got 17 points out of the rookie Fournier in Lawson’s place in thumping the Nets, while Karl also used Iguodala and Danilo Gallinari at the point.
While there’s no doubt that Karl can keep juggling his lineup and the Nuggets can play effectively enough at home, where they’ve won 18 straight, to finish up the regular season, there’s no doubt they need Lawson’s raw speed and slashing ability if they’re going to the wild card that makes noise in the playoffs.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Yes, the Heat kept their win streak rolling (it’s at 27, in case you’ve been living in a cave or something). No, the Nuggets’ didn’t keep theirs rolling (it ended at 15 games, one shy of breaking the franchise’s all-time mark). But the game we’re going to focus on in this space is, surprisingly, Grizzlies-Wizards. The final score (107-94 Washington) give the impression we had a blowout on our hands all night. That would be wrong, though, as Washington only lead 76-74 heading into the fourth quarter and needed a truly amazing performance from John Wall to put away the always hard-fighting Grizz in this one. As hard as the Wizards have had it this season, there’s a real future for this team if Wall can stay healthy for an entire season.
After recording a career-high 47 points in Washington’s 107-94 win against playoff-bound Memphis, Wall is now averaging 25 points and 9.3 assists during his past nine games. The Wizards have gone 6-3 during that stint and are now 21-16 since Wall’s return from a leg injury.
“I believe in my ability,” Wall said. “I’m very confident and I think whenever you’re in your zone or you’re in a great rhythm like I’ve been in the last couple months, you don’t feel nobody can guard you no matter who it is.”
Wall’s 47 points against a strong defensive team like Memphis puts him on a short list with Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. They’re the only two players to score more points than Wall in a game this season, with 54 and 52, respectively.
Before and after Monday’s game, Wizards Coach Randy Wittman touched on how he felt many have underestimated the transition Wall had to go through after missing the first 33 games with a knee injury.
“I think he’s showing you right now what he can be,” Wittman said when asked if Wall was a franchise player. “You don’t really understand what he went through this year. It’s tough to sit for three and a half months and not do anything. And then I get him, the doctor says I can play him and I throw him to the wolves.”
Wall has also shown patience with his jumper, steadily working to eliminate the hitch in his shot and add another dimension to a skill set built on speed and flash. By doing so, he also seems to be indirectly addressing the questions surrounding his value as a franchise and max-contract player.
“The work that he did all summer leading up to his injury in September is starting to pay off,” Wittman said. “And he’s continuing to do that work now. He’s 22. I think we’re beginning to see who John Wall can be.”
Injuries wreak havoc on Pacers’ roster — Last night against Atlanta, Indiana trotted out a starting lineup of D.J. Augustin, Paul George, Tyler Hansbrough, Gerald Green and Roy Hibbert — a group that had started zero games together. Although the Pacers won, they built a monster lead earlier in the game but had to sweat out a 100-94 victory in the fourth quarter. The unfamiliar lineups may be more of a common thing for Indiana as the season wears down thanks to injuries to the Pacers’ regular starters, writes Phillip B. Wilsonof The Indianapolis Star:
Two more Indiana Pacers were affixed the dreaded “day-to-day” injury tag Monday as the starting backcourt of George Hill and Lance Stephenson sat out against Atlanta at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Hill, the starting point guard, is bothered by a left groin strain. Stephenson has a right hip flexor. The Pacers were also without starting forward David West (back strain) for a fifth consecutive game and 2009 NBA All-Star forward David Granger, who has played just five games as a reserve due to a seasonlong knee problem.
“George’s is probably more serious than Lance’s,” Vogel said before the game. “(Hill) still has a good chance of playing on Wednesday, (but) they’re more concerned with his groin than they are Lance’s hip.”
“David is going to be still day-to-day,” Vogel said. “There’s an outside chance he could play Wednesday, but not 100 percent sure. And Danny as well. Those guys both could see action in Texas.”
The tape on George’s left hand was gone, so perhaps that ends the All-Star forward’s pinkie pain. He had taped up his hand for the previous four games.
“They didn’t even tell me about it, that’s how much the trainers were worried about it,” Vogel said. “I didn’t even know about it.”
Lakers revert to bad selves — Don’t look now, L.A. fans, but your squad might be getting back into the funk that dogged the most of the season. After picking up wins this month against the Hawks, Bulls, Pacers and scoring romps over the Magic and Kings, it looked like the Lakers were hitting their rhythm and locking in on a playoff berth. Then came the last three games, all of which have been losses, including last night’s defeat in Oakland to the Warriors. That loss, coupled with Utah’s win over Philly at home, trimmed L.A.’s lead for No. 8 in the West to one game. Worse yet, writes Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register, the Lakers seems to be fracturing again:
Dwight Howard staring at teammates after their defensive gaffes.
Mike D’Antoni leading huddles that featured multiple players fragmented and away from the group.
Kobe Bryant shooting and shooting and shooting.
Just 10 days after the Lakers looked like a bonded team in their best road victory of the season in Indiana, they dropped back into their early-season mode of not doing the little things that make a team work together and lost to the Golden State Warriors, 109-103, on Monday night.
In a familiar refrain this season, the Lakers only tried harder once they were already being embarrassed.
Apparently the previous two games – losses to also-rans Phoenix and Washington – weren’t enough to get the Lakers’ attention. They lost their third consecutive game, their second since Bryant’s return from the left ankle sprain that limited him to advising teammates beautifully in Indiana.
Bryant scored 36 points but shot 11 for 27 from the field a game after D’Antoni came away steamed at the Lakers’ lack of ball movement in their home loss to the Wizards.
Bryant stressed the need for improved execution, especially in team defense, saying: “I don’t think it’s time to get emotional. Just got to maintain our poise.”
Said D’Antoni: “I don’t know if we have the speed sometimes to play harder.”
Howard got just eight field-goal attempts in 38 minutes and took three stitches to his lower lip from a David Lee elbow. Metta World Peace, the team’s iron man in an injury-filled season, sat out the second half because of a strained left knee. In his second game back from a foot injury, Pau Gasol was three steps slow at both ends.
Nuggets’ Karl shares his playoff idea — Although Denver’s 15-game win streak came to an end last night in New Orleans, the Nuggets’ streak has helped them elevate themselves from the No. 6-8 seeds in the West into the upper-crust of the conference. As it stands today, Denver is the No. 4 seed and would play Memphis in the first round with the Nuggets holding home-court advantage. But there are scenarios in place in which the No. 4 seed could end up as the team without home-court advantage in the first round. Nuggets coach George Karl has thoughts on that notion as well as the overall playoff setup in a playoff-based conversation he had with Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post and other area writers:
So basically, here’s Karl’s idea: The top eight teams from the Western Conference and the top eight teams from the Eastern Conference are put into a playoff pool. At this point, conference affiliation no longer matters. Instead, it’s all about record.
The team with the best record plays the team with the 16th-best record and so on.
And then, like he said, they reseed hockey-style for the next round. And so, the NBA’s “Final Four” could be four teams from the same conference — but, as proven by this system, perhaps the four best teams in basketball.
“I think it would get fans excited, man. It would be crazy,” Karl said. “And we travel with private jets now, so I think you can schedule it to where you’d get two days of rest between games. I think it would be really fun and interesting to see the matchups.”
So if you were commissioner, you would try to make this happen? Like, for real?
“I would advocate it,” he said. “I don’t know if the Board of Governors would pass it, but I would advocate it.”
After George had gone off the map with this idea, I chimed in with a thought — why not just get rid of conferences altogether? Why punish a team that’s ninth or 10th in the West that’s way better than, say, seventh and eighth in the East?
Promptly, Chris Marlowe from Altitude suggested that my thought was “Draconian,” and Karl himself said: “I think you’re going off the map.”
The coach had one other idea on Saturday. Cut the 82-game season to a 62-game season, and then in the middle of the season, “You can take a three-week break and have an NCAA-like tournament. Single elimination is a lot different than a seven-game series.”
World Peace pondering opt out after season — Metta World Peace is averaging 12.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg and shooting 40.5 percent — all numbers which make for his overall best statistical season with the Lakers since joining them as a free agent back in 2009. While World Peace has experienced a bit of a statistical renaissance, he is also carrying a weighty player option on his contract this summer and can choose to opt out of his deal. Given the new CBA world of the NBA, most players wouldn’t dream of such a move as it sacrifices a guaranteed payday for the uncertainty of free agency. But the Lakers have yet to use their one-time amnesty provision and there is thought that World Peace could be their selection this summer. Our man Scott Howard-Cooper has more on what World Peace may do this offseason:
World Peace has a player option for 2013-14, the final year of his contract, at $7.7 million. He said his agent, Marc Cornstein, will approach the Lakers about an extension, but that will be a very short conversation unless the 33-year-old small forward is willing to take a severe pay cut. And it may be short no matter what.
If World Peace does not terminate the deal, he immediately becomes a candidate to be cut under the amnesty provision. If he does terminate, likely (one would hope) after conversations with team officials to gauge the chances of getting more years at a lot less money annually, it is nearly impossible to imagine the Lakers committing more than two seasons on a new deal to maintain the possible cap room in the summer of 2014.
The choice for World Peace could be to risk free agency in what figures to be a cold market in 2013 or keep the final season of the contract in place at the $7.7 million and possibly have his Lakers career end before he wants. He could also stay in the deal and be traded as an expiring contract to an undesirable destination.
“I think my agent is trying to see if he can get an extension to stay here in L.A.,” World Peace told NBA.com. “I’m really excited about the possibilities of staying here in L.A.”
But would he take a pay cut to help make it happen?
“It’s too early to say those types of things right now,” he said Monday night at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors beat the Lakers 109-103. “It’s too early to say. I don’t know what the Lakers are thinking. I don’t know what anybody’s thinking. I don’t even know what other teams think. I don’t know what’s going on because I haven’t told my agent, ‘Hey, go out there and ask around’ and things like that. I don’t know what anybody’s thinking at this point in time. I just try to keep my game. I’m playing at a good level.”
ICYMI of the night: The move Steph Curry puts on Steve Nash makes the former MVP (an notoriously poor defender) look just silly on defense …:
Back in 1985, give or take a generation depending on what year was dialed in, Doc Brown retro-fitted a campy DeLorean with a few spare parts he had around his workshop and spawned an entire time-traveling series of Hollywood comedies.
Nearly 30 years later, Denver Nuggets VP of basketball operations Masai Ujiri has cobbled together a roster largely out of spare parts, discards and items from the NBA’s great cutout bin and essentially made time stand still. As in another multiplex favorite, the one with Bill Murray and the rodent in which every day and night ends up the same: Win, win, win, win …
Consider the two hottest teams in The Association at the moment and how they came to be. The Miami Heat, aiming for their 26th consecutive victory Sunday evening against Charlotte, were conceived in a lightning bolt and thunderclap moment of AAU-comes-to-NBA inspiration, the brainstorm of the three key Hall of Fame-caliber players involved. Then there are the Nuggets.
Denver, which extended its lower profile winning streak to 15 games Saturday night, have made do – and made dangerous – with far more humble pieces than the crew in south Florida. At the risk of putting a silly “NBA.com has learned…” spin on something that’s been hiding in plain sight, it is worth looking again (if you haven’t done so recently) at the how the Nuggets’ roster was built:
Trades (9): Corey Brewer, Wilson Chandler, Jordan Hamilton, Andre Iguodala, Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos, JaVale McGee, Andre Miller and Timofey Mozgov.
Free agents (2): Anthony Randolph and Julyan Stone.
Looked at as a group, the ensemble nature of what Denver and coach George Karl are doing this season – 15 straight, 49-22, fourth-best record in the league with a legit chance to catch OKC to claim the Northwest Division and the West’s No. 2 seed – is amazing and undeniable. That whole sure had better be greater than the sum of its parts, because its parts, on paper especially, wouldn’t scare hardly anybody.
Faried’s sleeper status out of Morehead State has gotten wide play by now. But it’s indicative of Denver’s recent draft history, with the Nuggets stuck at No. 20 or lower for their last 10 picks overall. The last single-digit guy – heck, the last lottery guy – by the Nuggets? Carmelo Anthony in 2003.
As for player acquired via trades, look how many current Nuggets were disappointing Something-Elses before they made it to Denver. Brewer, Randolph and Koufos, huge contributors on a surging team, were left at the curb by Minnesota. So, in a pre-arranged draft night trade, was Lawson, on the same date the Timberwolves spent the No. 6 pick on Jonny Flynn.
Andre Miller was considered old and broken-down by some at age 34, after five teams and 12 seasons. Chandler, Gallinari, Mozgov (and Quincy Miller, as a future pick) were, at the time of the Anthony trade, the best Ujiri and the Nuggest could do when faced with a marquee player who wanted out. Hamilton was a throw-in from Dallas to Portland to Denver on the night he was drafted in June 2011 at No. 26.
McGee? He was classic addition-by-subtraction for Washington, eager to reduce the knuckleheads quotient of its locker room. Even Iguodala, so helpful at both ends and in a leadership role, had fallen out of favor in Philadelphia.
Ujiri, early this season, referred to the process as a “rough two years.” Yet the Nuggets did not drop out of the playoffs in that span. They did not, obviously, sit and pine for pricey, big-name free agents they weren’t going to get anyway.
They took what was available and, with Ujiri working as hard in the front office as Karl on the sideline and the players on the court, rigged it MacGyver-style into something special. Gourmet chefs, three-star restaurants and the finest meats and veggies often make for great meals, but occasionally so do leftovers used creatively in perfect balance.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Corey Brewer is no longer just a smiling, string-bean of a kid who likes to remind people he’s a two-time NCAA champion. Nope, the 6-foot-9 Brewer is now a smiling, string-bean of an NBA man.
Finally having found a home with the Denver Nuggets where he can stretch his legs and exploit his raw athleticism, Brewer is also becoming something else: Clutch.
Brewer saved the Nuggets’ winning streak that reached 14 Thursday night with a career-high 29 points that included outscoring the Philadelphia 76ers, 6-0, in the final 9.2 seconds to secure the improbable 101-100 victory. Brewer first drilled his fifth 3-pointer of the game on a play out of a timeout in which Danilo Gallinari, Denver’s most dangerous 3-point threat, got the ball to Brewer open on the wing to make it 100-98.
Sixers guard Evan Turner then missed both free throws with 7.1 seconds left to set up Brewer’s final act, calmly sinking three consecutive free throws after inexplicably being fouled by Damian Wilkins on a deep 3 that didn’t seem to have a prayer. Brewer, a 67.5 percent foul shooter this season (but much better the last two months), hit them all.
After the first and second free throws, he walked to mid-court, could be seen talking to himself, then walked back up to the line and buried the shots that kept the streak alive.
Nuggets coach George Karl has talked a lot recently about his high level of trust with his team and he showed it in leaving Brewer in for the crunch-time minutes. The emerging sixth man has done it before. According to NBA.com/Stats, Brewer has scored 12 points in eight minutes while playing in the final minute of games that Denver either trails or is tied.
During those confidence-building opportunities, Brewer is 3-for-4 from the floor, 2-for-3 from 3-point range — where he’s just 30.4 percent on the season — and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. His plus-minus rating is a plus-16.
Brewer, who turned 27 on March 5, has been coming on strong over the last couple months and particularly during the win streak. Traditionally an inconsistent shooter, Brewer has averaged 14.9 points in March and is shooting 48.9 percent from the floor and 34.4 percent from beyond the arc. His free throw shooting is also vastly improved — 76.3 percent in February and 72.4 percent in March.
His plus-minus rating might be the most significant jump of all. In November, December and January, Brewer was a plus-two overall, meaning the Nuggets outscored their opponents by two points with Brewer on the floor. In February and March he’s an astounding plus-87.
Brewer has found the perfect home for his raw talents with Karl’s up-tempo Nuggets. Brewer languished on a young Minnesota Timberwolves teams in the post-Kevin Garnett era, and as part of the blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade, he landed with the New York Knicks, but was released and signed by the Dallas Mavericks.
He played sporadically for the Mavs, but provided the key energy boost in the third quarter of Game 1 of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals against the Lakers. He then played a total of 11 minutes the rest of the way as the Mavs won the title.
Dallas then traded Brewer and Rudy Fernandez to Denver for a bag of beans (2016 second-round draft pick).
On Thursday, Brewer provided the energy and scoring punch (10-for-18 shooting and 5-for-6 on 3s) for a Nuggets team playing without Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler. It marked his 12th double-digit scoring game during the win streak and eighth in a row, and it was his third game in the last 10 to score at least 20 points.
But none were bigger than six he dropped on the Sixers in the final 9.2 seconds.
“It’s a pretty big highlight,” Brewer told the Denver Post of the frantic finish, “Probably my best highlight since I was in the NBA.”
HANG TIME, Texas – It’s no wonder most NBA coaches are constantly moving on the sidelines. Theirs is a peripatetic lifestyle, usually with one hand gripping a suitcase and one foot out the door.
Among many other things about his worldly background and his puckish personality, it is his stability that makes Gregg Popovich unique.
With a win tonight at home against the Jazz (8:30 ET, League Pass), Popovich will become the 12th coach in NBA history to win 900 career games, but will be the first to claim each and every victory with a single team.
Over the past 17 seasons, the Spurs have been Pop as much as much as they have been David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and the other 130 players who have worn the silver and black uniform.
In a league that is teeming with exceptional coaches — Denver’s George Karl, Boston’s Doc Rivers, Minnesota’s Rick Adelman, Memphis’ Lionel Hollins, Dallas’ Rick Carlisle, Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra – Popovich stands a step apart and above.
He is always the first and usually the last to tell you that it’s all about the players, but to a man, they will tell you he is the one whom they are all about in the way the prepare, work and attack every game and play.
Pop’s Way. That’s what they call it around the executive offices and on the practice floor and in the locker room.
“It’s about us, not me,” he said, sheepish from the attention.
But year after year, season after season, it has been about him getting the most out of his team by being willing to change the pace of play — from slogging, powerful inside ball to Duncan to a microwave fastbreak that is sparked by Parker — but never his principles or his own personal style.
He just wears suits, doesn’t model them.
“They’re not Italian,” he told an inquiring mind years ago.
He doesn’t do TV commercials or endorsements.
“I refuse,” he said another time. “I’d rather spend time in other ways.”
Pat Riley, the Hall of Fame coach and stylist, once said the Spurs are “the most emotionally stable team in the league.”
That’s because it is a team in Popovich’s image. He picks the players, he builds the team, he molds them and has constructed a franchise that has always eschewed endearing to be enduring. It’s all added up to the best record in the Western Conference again, an NBA record 14 consecutive 50-win seasons, 16th straight trips to the playoffs and puts him on the doorstep of history, all in one place.
After 900 wins, Pop won’t be going anywhere but straight ahead. (more…)
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: It was pick-a-wild-finish night in the NBA after the thrilling endings to Heat-Cavs, Celtics-Hornets and Thunder-Grizz. We liked the finishes of all three — how could you not like the frantic action in Cleveland? — but our pick goes to the grit-and-grind guys in Memphis. The mostly unappreciated (by non-League Pass fiends) Marc Gasol came up with a big bucket in OT to seal the win (although, if you’re an OKC fan, you might have thought there was a little push-off going on there) after Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook seemed to vanquish the Grizz time after time in the fourth quarter. Our guy Zach Randolph struggled (thanks to killer down-the-stretch defense from Nick Collison), but Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless provided some smart guard play to offset Z-Bo’s absence in what was a playoff-type game through and through.
Round of ‘H-O-R-S-E’ gets Lin going — Entering Wednesday night’s showdown with the Jazz in Houston, Jeremy Lin had been hot, averaging 16.7 ppg, 5.2 apg and shooting 52 percent. But he was a bit worn down from the season’s grind and Alicia Keys taking over the Toyota Center, Lin headed to a different court and played a few rounds of H-O-R-S-E with his brother, who was visiting him. The light-hearted game obviously helped as Lin torched Utah for 24 points and six assists (most of which coming out of the pick-and-roll) as Houston got a big win to help its playoff hopes. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle has more:
With a day off and orders to clear his mind, Jeremy Lin took the opportunity to head to the gym.
He did change things up a bit. With Alicia Keys taking over Toyota Center, Lin found a different court and a few different teammates. But Lin’s idea of a day off included basketball.
“It’s therapeutic,” he said.
After Sunday’s 30-point loss to Golden State, he and the Rockets needed the therapy, so Lin spent a chunk of Monday launching jumpers and playing HORSE.
When the Rockets reconvened at Toyota Center on Wednesday, Lin spent the night as if still goofing with his brother and buddies far from the cameras and lights. He repeatedly pierced the Utah Jazz defense, helping to drive the Rockets to a 26-point lead. And when the Jazz rallied in the fourth quarter, Lin knifed through them again, with one drive to a layup and another and a pass for a Chandler Parsons dunk that finally closed out the Jazz 100-93.
Lin made eight of nine shots in the paint as the Rockets went from launching 3-pointers to beating the Jazz at the rim, and from a series of slow starts to a rapid bolt from the opening tip that set the tone for the game.
“JLin made them pay,” Parsons said. “He’s a good player, especially in pick-and-roll. He’s fast. … He can get in the paint.”
“Jeremy really attacked the rim well,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “I thought that Jeremy made some big hoops coming down the stretch when we needed them. They were really intent on staying with James (Harden) in the second half and really not giving him a lot of room, so Jeremy really broke free. Jeremy kept turning the corner and got in the paint. We needed all of those.”
“Sometimes, when you do that, you get the feel of the joy of the game back in you again,” Lin said of his day off in the gym. “I went and shot. My little brother is in town. My buddy is here. We just went out and messed around, played some HORSE. But we didn’t get to finish because other people started playing. Everyone had S.”
Karl amazed by Nuggets’ revival — Nuggets coach George Karl is the man with whom former Denver star Carmelo Anthony experienced his greatest NBA successes as well as some of his biggest letdowns, particularly in the playoffs. It’s hard to believe, but it has been more than two years since Denver sent Anthony to New York for a package of players that included Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and others. At the time, it looked like the Nuggets were embracing a full-scale rebuild, but Karl has kept Denver competitive and, this season, the Nuggets are one of the Western Conference elite and sport a 13-game win streak. Karl talked with USA Today’s Sam Amick about the Nuggets rise, the post-’Melo era and more in a solid Q&A:
Q. So you having fun yet?
A. You know, in coaching you don’t ever really have that joyful fun, but there’s no question that it’s enjoyable. It’s winning. And when you win and you’ve lost, what, four games in 60 days or something like that, it’s nice not having the headache of that day of losing. In the NBA, you win, and you think you’re going to win tomorrow. But as soon as you lose, you don’t think you’re ever going to win again.
Q. Are you as surprised as most people are with how quickly your franchise recovered from the Anthony deal?
A. I definitely think that the speed that we’ve built ourselves back into being a contender in the Western Conference has surprised me. We have one player on the team that played with Melo. The Melo trade was, what, two years ago in February? And you have to remember that one of those years was a lockout year. So probably the team has only played together less than 100 games … And then you had the Nene trade last year. Nene was another piece that we changed up. That was kind of the final addition that “we’re going to go with young players.” During the year, we played Kosta (Koufos) and Timo (Timofey Mosgov) a lot more than we played Bird (Chris Andersen) and Nene. We turned it over to all the young guys. The team has evolved. It’s worked hard. It has stayed focused … My team even last year always thought they could play with the big boys. Now that they have the consistency to play an 82-game season together and show that they’re good enough, that’s what we’re doing this year.
Q. Has your longevity and success allowed you to have a wall up between you and the fires that coaches are always putting out or is that still always there?
A. I don’t think there’s any question that I don’t think young coaches can maybe take the risks that I take. But in the same sense, I think my staff and I work very hard on explaining what we’re doing. And we have no problem with a player wanting to play, and we have no problem answering a question of why you’re not playing — in fact we encourage it, we like it, we want players to want to play, we want them to be angry when they’re not playing, but we don’t want them to degrade the team or negate the team (with) a negative attitude during the game or during practice or in the locker room. Do that one on one with me, do that one on one with (general manager) Masai (Ujiri), do that one on one with my assistants, and let’s talk this through. I try to tell players all the time — I’m 61 years old. It’s not personal man. I mean this is not personal. I’m past the time when I’m making a personal decision. I’m making a basketball decision based on who is playing well, who is playing hard, and who is more focused and more disciplined on that given night.
Q. That record is good enough at this point to have your group be in the discussion about title contention. I know that’s not where your head is at this point, but how do you see this idea that this deep and balanced group can take it to that level?
A. My first step is to get this team to win in the first round. And then, once you win in the first round, there’s confidence. Coach (Tim) Grgurich (formerly a longtime Seattle SuperSonics and Denver assistant) have talked about how this team responds me a little of my first full year in Seattle (in 1992-93). I think we played Utah in the first round, beat them in a Game 5 in the first round. We were down 2-1 in that series, and could’ve lost in Utah in Game 4. But we won Game 4 — that made us grow up. We won Game 5 in a really crazy game. I think it’s actually a record, where in the same game we had the lowest scoring half and the highest scoring half for a SuperSonic basketball team (the Sonics scored 30 points in the first half and 70 in the second half) … And that whole momentum of learning to win in that series, and then we took Houston to a seven-game series and beat them in overtime (in Game 5). It was really one of those weird series, where we won at home easy and they won at home easy and Game 7 was an overtime game. We won that game, and then we play Phoenix and we’re growing up right in front of ourselves (the Sonics lost to the Suns in seven games in the Western Conference Finals). You could see the confidence happen.
Now can we do that this year with this group? I think we can. I hope we can. I really think we can. That’s where I want to put this team. I want to put them in that place, the best chance possible to win a first round (series), and then see where our confidence goes from there.
Teague steps up against Bucks — Milwaukee boasts one of the more explosive backcourt combinations in Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, with Ellis hot of late after a 25-point fourth quarter that helped the Bucks to a comeback win over the Magic. Hawks guard Jeff Teague has quietly established himself as one of the more solid guards in the East and took the challenge of playing against Jennings and Ellis to heart on Wednesday night, particularly with playoff positioning between the Hawks and Bucks on the line. Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution details just how Teague stepped it up against Milwaukee:
Teague finished with 27 points and 11 assists as the Hawks held off the Bucks 98-90 at Philips Arena in a key Eastern Conference game. It was one point shy of Teague’s season- and career-high point total.
The Hawks (38-30) won for the fourth time in five games and kept hold of the fifth spot in the conference playoff race.
Teague was challenged by Player Development Instructor Nick Van Exel at halftime to pick up his energy and play. The guard responded with 12 points in a decisive third quarter.
“C’mon,” is what Teague said Van Exel simply told him. “Me and him a little way we talk to each other. I knew what he meant.”
The Bucks (34-33) had a two-game win streak snapped. They lost for the ninth time in the past 10 games at Philips Arena. Jennings finished with 21 points but Ellis had just five. Larry Sanders had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Bucks.
“Not letting them get in a rhythm,” Devin Harris said of the success against the guard combination. “Obviously, Jennings did that a little in the third and the fourth (quarters). We try to take away easy baskets. Don’t let them getting any open looks. They run a lot of stuff off each other and (Teague and I) are able to switch and keep them in front of us.”
Both teams struggled offensively in the early going with the game tied 18-18 after the first quarter. The Hawks shot 30 percent (6 of 20) and the Bucks shot 25 percent (8 of 32). The Hawks made 12 of 19 shots in the second quarter to push to the lead at intermission.
Ellis and Jennings combined to make just 2 of 14 shots for four points in the first two quarters.
“I don’t get caught up in that,” Teague said of the challenge of the Bucks’ duo. “I just go out and play. They are talented players. They do what they are supposed to do for their team. I just try to help my team.”
Shumpert scared by knee pop – The good news for the Knicks last night? Carmelo Anthony returned to the lineup and New York romped past a downtrodden Magic squad. The (possible) bad news for the Knicks? Iman Shumpert heard a pop in his knee — the same knee he had surgery on and that caused him to miss much of the early part of the season. Howard Beck of The New York Times has more on Shumpert’s injury, which doesn’t sound serious and hopefully isn’t for a Knicks team that counts Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Kurt Thomasamong its wounded:
The Knicks are still awaiting the return of Chandler, who is dealing with a bulging disk in his neck, and they are moving on without Kurt Thomas, who was lost this week to a broken foot that might end his season.
But the Knicks could not escape the night without another injury, this time to their youngest player. Iman Shumpert tweaked his left knee — the same one that was surgically repaired last spring — late in the first half. He was held out of the second half as a precaution.
Shumpert said he felt a pop in the knee while pushing off toward the rim. The medical staff later told him it was probably scar tissue.
“Last time I felt it pop, I was out eight months, so I was just a little nervous,” Shumpert said, referring to the torn ligaments he sustained last spring. “It scared me more than anything.”
Doctors will re-evaluate Shumpert on Thursday, but no tests are planned.
Kurt Thomas sounded much less optimistic than team officials about his potential return this season. Thomas has a stress reaction surrounding a stress fracture in his right foot. The Knicks are projecting a recovery of two to four weeks. But when Thomas was asked if he would play again, he said simply, “We’re going to see.” Asked if the chances were 50-50, he said, “I think that’s a good number.” Thomas confirmed that he initially sustained the stress fracture in 2006-7, when he played for the Phoenix Suns, and that it never completely healed. The injury was aggravated last Thursday in Portland.
Bynum has surgery, starts rehab soon — Andrew Bynum is done for the season after having arthroscopic surgery on his gimpy knees and our crew on the weekly Blogtable chimed in on exactly where Bynum would fit in best for 2013-14. While we all sit back and wonder where the former All-Star big man will end up and, if he’ll ever be an elite-level center again, Jason Wolfof The (Wilmington) News-Journal reports that Bynum is starting rehab work on his injury this Friday:
One-time All-Star center Andrew Bynum had arthroscopic knee surgeries Tuesday to remove debris from both joints and will begin physical therapy Friday, the Philadelphia 76ers announced.
The 7-foot, 300-pounder, who did not appear in a game this season because of bone and cartilage damage in his knees, will refrain from any weight-bearing activities for about three weeks and will spend an additional three weeks on crutches, according to the team.
Bynum’s longtime orthopedist, Dr. David Altchek of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed the operations. The primary focus of the procedures was to clean out loose bodies from his knees in an attempt to alleviate pain and swelling.
Bynum, 25, was originally diagnosed with a bone bruise in his right knee in September, a month after the Sixers acquired him from the Los Angeles Lakers in a blockbuster four-team trade in August. The Sixers nevertheless expected Bynum to be ready to play in the season opener, but as the season progressed, the team and player repeatedly delayed the date of his expected debut. Bynum was diagnosed with a “mirror issue” in his left knee in November, when a piece of cartilage broke loose and his joint swelled after going bowling.
Overlooked is fine. Underrated? No problem. Neglected isn’t an issue with the Denver Nuggets even, because it’s a fairly easy thing to do at the moment. Coach George Karl and his bunch headed into their game Tuesday at Oklahoma City with the NBA’s second-longest active winning streak. Trouble is, that’s a distinction that’s akin to Sham’s “place” finish in the 1973 Kentucky Derby, what with the Secretariat-like Miami Heat out front chasing history.
But underestimate the Nuggets at your own peril.
Asked for the umpteenth time this week about Denver, its perceived shortcomings (no superstar to serve as “closer,” playing too fast a pace) and its prospects for reaching The 2013 Finals, Karl bristled a bit. “Definitively yes. I’m tired of the damn question,” he told a group of reporters at Chicago’s United Center Monday.
“First of all, 50 percent of all games are won at the defensive end – I think 70 percent of the games are won with your defense,” Karl said. “The go-to mentality, Ty [Lawson] has gotten good there, Gallo [Danilo Gallinari] has been very good there. Have they gotten into the echelon of a Kobe or a Lebron? I remember you all saying LeBron wasn’t a closer three years ago. Maybe two years ago.
“It’s about making basketball plays. It’s not about a guy making shots. It’s about stops, possessions and efficiency.”
The Nuggets knew they were going to be stronger in the second half of this season. They opened with 22 of their first 32 on the road and lost 14 of the roadies. Since then, though, they are 8-5 away from Pepsi Center and 29-7 overall. Their home mark is 30-3.
Denver leads the NBA in assists per game and in scoring points in the paint, a by-product of playing at the second-fastest pace. It ranks third in offensive rating (110.2) and 12th in defensive rating (105.2).
The improvement in defense can be traced to a good degree to Andre Iguodala‘s arrival. Karl stops short of calling him the best defender he’s ever coached only because he doesn’t want to “get shot” by former Seattle star Gary Payton. But Iguodala’s versatility, athletic ability and demeanor have been a huge influence.
“Any time you have a player you can put on the point guard one night, Kevin Durant the next night and probably, if he had to, [Carlos] Boozer [another night]… He can cover almost anybody on the court,” the coach said. “That’s a great luxury to have as a coach. I think his intensity, his focus is somewhat contagious to some of our younger players.”
The closer-by-committee approach, while it doesn’t five the Nuggets any one player who can reliably get to the foul line late in games, does afford them options.
How does Karl choose from game to game?
“It’s a combination of matchups, what has worked successfully as a play and what player is having a good game,” he said. “And do I want to make a decision or do I want to make a shot? If it’s a decision, you might put the ball in Andre’s hands because he’ll make the pass. I’d say Gallo, because of his size and length, to go get a shot within three seconds, you might put the ball in his hands. And Ty has gotten to be pretty good in situations where teams are giving soft pick-and-roll coverage. So it comes in different packages.
“I think that’s enough. I think it’s more than enough.”
The Nuggets players are aware of the limits being placed on them by outsiders, based on perceptions of what a Finals team should or must be. They like it about as much as Karl does.
“That’s all on how people view the game,” Iguodala said after Denver’s overtime victory against the Bulls Monday. “Sometimes fans, sometimes even players, they don’t know the game sometimes and they look at numbers or they use smoke-and-mirrors as far as who’s a top 15 player, who’s a top 20 player. I think we have guys like that on our team.
We can match up with anybody. I just think as a team we have to mature. And not feel satisfied with the regular season.”