Posts Tagged ‘Golden State Warriors’

Morning Shootaround — May 15



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played May 14

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Spurs await word on Parker’s injury | Pierce expects to play ‘one or two years’ at most | Fisher on Knicks’ short list of coaches? | Report: Van Gundy a fan of Monroe

No. 1: Spurs wait for word on Parker’s injury — The San Antonio Spurs made quick work of the Portland Trail Blazers in the second half of Game 5 to wrap up that semifinal series and clinch a third straight trip to the West finals. As happy as Spurs fans are to see the playoff train rolling along, there’s a bit of concern this morning surrounding point guard Tony Parker. Parker left Game 5 with about 8 minutes, 45 seconds to go with a hamstring injury. Our Fran Blinebury was on the scene and points out how this injury could put a severe cramp in San Antonio’s hopes of another run to The Finals:

In a season the Spurs have spent exorcising ghosts from Miami, it could just be an eerie coincidence.Or a scary bump in the night.

Tony Parker walked tenderly off the court with 8:46 left in the second quarter and limped to the locker room, followed by the team trainer and general manager R.C. Buford.

Tightness in the left hamstring. Tightness rippling throughout Spurs Nation.

The Spurs now advance to the Western Conference finals for the 13th time in franchise history, ninth time in the Tim Duncan era and for the third season in a row. It is a testament to consistency and excellence.

Yet it will not be enough if the Spurs don’t at least get a chance to return to the NBA Finals to clean up unfinished business that left them ringless.

That’s the Parker question. That’s the haunting flashback to last June. That’s the painful reminder that one small tweak can lead to big consequences.

Long before those ugly last 28 seconds of Game 6 became a lost championship, the Spurs watched Parker limp off the court in Game 3 against Miami with tightness in his right hamstring. He came back to play the rest of the series, but he was never quite at the same crackling level. He often looked tired, worn out and was no longer explosive.

Now Parker will have an MRI on Thursday to determine the extent of any damage to his left hamstring and the Spurs will likely, for a night at least, become Clippers fans. It’s all about getting their point guard time to rest and rehab. If L.A. can win Thursday to force a Game 7 against OKC, that would push the start of the West finals back to next Wednesday, giving Parker a full week off.

“We hope for him to be back and healthy,” said Manu Ginobili. “It is too early to tell. I don’t know what’s going to happen. If we want to have a chance to make it to The Finals, we need him healthy.”

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Morning Shootaround — May 11



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played May 10

NEWS OF THE MORNING

NBA believes it can oust Shelly Sterling, too  | Cavs close to naming permanent GM | Amar’e endorses Steve Kerr | Warriors don’t expect to land Kerr

No. 1: NBA believes it can oust Shelly Sterling, too — Shelly Sterling, the estranged wife of Donald Sterling, has a 50 percent ownership stake in the Los Angeles Clipper and she wants to keep it, despite the NBA attempting to remove her husband from the position. However, the NBA believes they can also remove Shelly Sterling because she was never approved by the NBA Board of Governors as a controlling owner. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com has more on the story:

The NBA believes it has the legal grounds to oust both Shelly Sterling and her husband as owners, despite the fact that commissioner Adam Silver’s punishments were specifically leveled only against Donald, according to sources with knowledge of the league’s legal strategy.

Shelly Sterling, the estranged wife of exiled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, has made it clear to the NBA that she intends to retain her 50 percent ownership interest in the team.

She has publicly and privately cooperated with the league in its actions to ban her husband for life and move to oust him from ownership. However, the league’s contention will be that Shelly Sterling — while entitled to a 50 percent interest in the franchise — has never been approved by the board of governors as the controlling owner. She and team president Andy Roeser, who went on an indefinite leave of absence this week, were only alternate governors.

In order to become the team’s new controlling owner, Shelly Sterling would have to be approved by the board of governors, which is unlikely given her association with her husband of 58 years.

Former Lakers great Magic Johnson said Friday that none of the current Clippers players would play for Shelly Sterling if she retains her ownership.

“Those guys are not going to play for anybody (named) Sterling,” Johnson told USA TODAY Sports and two other reporters at the Omni Dallas Hotel. “It’s just how it is. It’s hard to separate the two. … It’s going to be hard for them to sell that to the fans and definitely to the players.”

Miami Heat guard James Jones, the current secretary-treasurer of the players association, said Saturday that Shelly Sterling would not be a reasonable replacement for her husband.

“No, that’s not something that’s acceptable to us,” Jones said, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “That’s our stance, and it hasn’t changed, and it won’t.”

Shelly Sterling’s lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell, told ESPN on Friday that his client was “trying to resolve this” amicably with the NBA, but if that wasn’t possible, “We’re going to be in the courts.”

Her position, at this time, O’Donnell said, was to maintain her 50 percent interest in the team for the rest of her life. However, she does not want to be the team’s controlling owner and would welcome “a new, dynamic management team and investors to come in.”

That leaves open the door for a compromise that could avoid a protracted legal battle, sources said.

“Court cases can be protracted. We saw what [Frank and Jamie] McCourt did with the Dodgers. We don’t want to reprise the McCourt spectacle,” O’Donnell said. “This is a great franchise. Shelly’s been a co-owner in the darkest days. And now, ‘Go Clippers!’ maybe we can bring an NBA championship to this city this year. But if she has to fight, she’ll fight. We respect property rights in America. We have due process. And she will fight to retain her interests.”

Shelly Sterling has publicly distanced herself from her estranged husband -whom she’s been separated from for the last few years — since the scandal broke two weeks ago. “Donald’s on his own,” O’Donnell said. “She’s distanced herself from him, she’s repudiated his racist statements. He has nothing to do with the team anymore, he can’t go to the games. What happens to Donald, happens to Donald. She wants to retain her interests.

“Shelly was found by commissioner Silver to be blameless. This is about Donald. Push Donald out, but don’t throw his innocent wife over the cliff.”

 

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No. 2: Cavs close to naming permanent GMDavid Griffin has served as the Cleveland Cavaliers interim general manager since February 6, when owner Dan Gilbert fired Chris Grant. It now looks like Griffin will soon be the permanent GM for Cleveland, who hold the ninth slot in the NBA Draft Lottery which will take place Tuesday, May 20. Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Cleveland Plain Dealer with more:

After Griffin took over for Grant, the team responded with a six-game winning streak — its longest since the 2009-10 season — and went 17-16 the rest of the season, remaining in the playoff hunt until the final week of the season.

One of the key factors was that less than two weeks after being named, Griffin acquired Spencer Hawes from Philadelphia at the trading deadline.

Griffin, 44, joined the Cavs as vice president of basketball operations in 2010, after Danny Ferry resigned as general manager and Grant was promoted to that position. Before joining the Cavs, Griffin spent 17 years with the Phoenix Suns, starting as an intern in communications and working his way up to Suns senior vice president of basketball operations. He also was the Suns assistant general manager of player personnel, director of player personnel, assistant director of player personnel, basketball operations assistant and media relations assistant.

In addition, he also served as the tournament director of the Nike Desert Classic and was an assistant coach at Scottsdale Community College.

As a kid growing up in Phoenix, Griffin’s goal was to become general manager of the Suns. Before he even graduated from Arizona State in 1995, he was working for Jerry Colangelo‘s team in a variety of roles that prepared him for the job he is now about to begin.

“You never know what’s in someone’s future when you start off getting your foot in the door and getting your first job,” Colangelo told The Plain Dealer earlier this year. “He was always very diligent, a very hard worker and he just wanted a chance or an opportunity. He was ambitious. He had his sights set on much higher things. I’m not sure he knew at the beginning what that might mean, but he wanted to advance. He wanted to move up the ladder.

“So he paid his dues, he really did, in every sense of the word. Here’s a guy who has been somewhat of a lifer who now has his opportunity, but he’s earned that. It wasn’t gifted to him. It wasn’t handed to him. He paid his dues along the way and did a great job. Now he’s got a chance to pave his own future.”

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No. 3: Amar’e endorses Steve Kerr — New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire has experience with Steve Kerr from his time with the Phoenix Suns when Kerr was general manager of the team. Stoudemire “adored” his championship mentality and endorses his bid for coach of the Knicks. Ian Begley of ESPN New York has more:

Steve Kerr hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll become the head coach of the Knicks. But if he ends up in New York, Kerr will have a strong supporter in Amar’e Stoudemire.

“I like Steve Kerr. For one, when he was a GM (in Phoenix, when Stoudemire was with the Suns) he was always preaching about winning and winning a title and that’s something that I adored about him,” Stoudemire said earlier this week on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” on ESPN Radio. “And then also, secondly, he has a formula to win; he’s been a winner in this league before. He wants to win. And he reminds me of somewhat of a player-coach that knows the game and knows what players go through as far as ups and downs throughout the year and that’s going to help him.”

Kerr, according to an NBA source, is with his family in San Diego contemplating offers to coach the Knicks and the Warriors or remaining with TNT as a broadcaster. The Knicks are believed to be the favorite, thanks to Kerr’s strong ties to Knicks president Phil Jackson. It is unclear if either team has made a formal contract offer.

The Knicks are expected to offer a deal that is close in length to the five-year contract Jackson signed in March. If New York ends up in a bidding war with Golden State over Kerr’s services, it would surprise many around the league if Knicks owner James Dolan loses that fight.

There is one aspect of the Kerr-Golden State dynamic that appears in the Knicks’ favor. There is somewhat of a split in the Warriors organization in its support for Kerr. Two sources told ESPNNewYork.com on Thursday that management prefers Kerr but some players have privately expressed support for another candidate, Stan Van Gundy.

If Kerr ends up in New York, Stoudemire is confident he can thrive under the leadership of Kerr and Jackson. The 11-year veteran pointed out that versatile big men such as Pau Gasol have thrived in Jackson’s triangle offense.

“I think what he looks for in bigs are bigs that have multiple skills,” Stoudemire said. “You better shoot the ball from the outside, put the ball on the floor when need be, make great passes out of double-teams, sort of being a pressure-release guy. Versatile bigs are what I think he looks for and that’s what I am.”

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No. 4: Warriors don’t expect to land Kerr — More Kerr news. The Golden State Warriors reportedly would love to hire Kerr, as well. Especially since Kerr and Warriors owner Joe Lacob have been family friends for years. But they reportedly don’t expect to land him with Kerr deep in negotiation talks with Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks for their coaching position. Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports:

Sources told ESPN.com that the Warriors fear Kerr is “too deep” in talks with the Knicks and new shot-caller Phil Jackson to convince Kerr to rebuff Jackson now, despite Kerr’s close relationship with Warriors owner Joe Lacob and team president Rick Welts, as well as Golden State’s proximity to Kerr’s offseason home in San Diego.

But sources also stressed that Stan Van Gundy is actually the closest thing to a top target at this early stage of Golden State’s search for a successor to the fired Mark Jackson, based at least in part on the premise that an experienced coach can ensure that the Warriors maintain upward momentum in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

ESPN.com reported April 29 that the Knicks were pressing to try to get Kerr formally signed as their new coach when the first round of the playoffs ended, partly because they knew other teams would soon pursue the TNT broadcaster. The Knicks, though, were forced to relent on that timetable and continue to negotiate with former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannebaum, who is serving as Kerr’s representative.

The Warriors immediately joined the list of prime suitors for Kerr after firing Mark Jackson on Tuesday. ESPN.com also reported earlier this week that the Utah Jazz hoped to court Kerr for their opening as well.

Kerr has been huddling with family members in advance of his next TV assignment with TNT: Tuesday’s Game 5 of the Oklahoma City/Los Angeles Clippers series. A timetable for striking a deal with the Knicks remains unclear, but nothing has yet managed to threaten New York’s longstanding status as the favorite to land Kerr as its successor to Mike Woodson.

The longer it goes without New York and Kerr closing a deal, according to one source, does give the Warriors a small measure of hope that Kerr would give them renewed consideration. But the consistent word for days in coaching circles holds that Kerr — who, at 48, has never coached at any level — would find it hard to walk away from Jackson at this advanced stage of negotiations because of the pair’s close relationship.

Kerr is that rare individual in the NBA who can claim both Jackson and one of Jackson’s oldest rivals — San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich — as mentors. As such, Kerr is said to be highly optimistic about Jackson’s ability to make a major impact as a rookie executive with the Knicks, which runs counter to the more common skepticism about Jackson’s effectiveness in his new job. Only in New York, furthermore, would Kerr have the chance to be mentored by a championship coach, reminiscent of the way Pat Riley groomed Erik Spoelstra in Miami.

Sources say that the Warriors, meanwhile, are still establishing a list of candidates to consider, with Van Gundy — after successful stints coaching the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic — still at the front of that line.

ESPN.com reported last Sunday that Van Gundy and Kerr were Golden State’s top two choices if Mark Jackson were fired. Van Gundy doesn’t have the close ties with Warriors management that Kerr has, but he does have a decorated resume that undoubtedly intrigues Warriors officials, who are under some pressure to make a splashy hire to replace the ousted Jackson after all the public support he received from Golden State star Stephen Curry and other Warriors players.

In a radio interview Thursday with 740 AM in Orlando, Van Gundy admitted that he’s not sure if he’s ready to return to coaching after spending the past two seasons in broadcasting and focusing on family time.

“Part of me does, and part of me doesn’t,” Van Gundy told the network. “Look, we’re so happy in Central Florida. It would really have to be a great situation for me to get back in. I miss a lot of it. I really do. I miss the competition. I miss the challenge. I miss the camaraderie of it. But I also like the time that I’ve had, so we’ll just have to see what happens. You weigh every situation.

“Names come up on every job, and my name’s been mentioned in a few,” Van Gundy continued. “But I think the Warrior one comes up because I’m from out there. I went to high school in the Bay Area. I grew up out there. I said several times during my coaching career when we would go play out there that it was always important to me playing out there because I grew up [there].”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Lionel Hollins is expected to interview for the Warriors’ coach position this week in Chicago. … John Wall is hampered by a scratched eye he obtained in Game 3, which continues to affect his vision. … Giannis Antetokounmpo stars in a Greek commercial for chocolate milk. … LeBron James is excited to watch quarterback Johnny Manziel play football with the Cleveland Browns.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY: Celebrate Mother’s Day today by watching newly crowned MVP Kevin Durant discuss the importance of his mom on NBA TV’s Inside Stuff:


VIDEO: Inside Stuff: KD

Curry needs a bigger role for Warriors

By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com


VIDEO: Clippers-Warriors Game 6 preview

LOS ANGELES – In other Clippers-Warriors news, Stephen Curry is averaging 15 shots a game, had just 10 on Tuesday at Staples Center as Golden State reached the brink of elimination, and hasn’t stitched together back-to-back Curry-esque performances the entire first round.

The good thing for Curry is that the inconsistent play hasn’t received the usual attention because, um, something else is going on, and the encouraging note for all the Warriors is that they’re still in the series despite no confirmed sighting of their All-Star point guard who can carry a team. On the other hand, the Clippers are up 3-2 in the series and the Warriors’ season could end Thursday in Oakland, so this is no time to be feeling good about getting by.

“He knows he’s got to be better,” coach Mark Jackson said. “[Tuesday], he turned the ball over obviously a little too much. [The Clippers] did a good job being active in their pick-and-roll defense. The other night, he executed, he was aggressive. [In Game 4], at times he tried to thread the needle a little too much. We’ll make the adjustments and move forward, but I feel good about Steph and what he’s going to do on all accounts.”

Right on all accounts. Turnovers have been a problem, with eight in Game 5 and 22 in the series, just as they have been a problem all season for Curry in particular and the Warriors in general. Curry was 33-point, seven-assist, seven-rebound aggressive in Game 4, except that came just after 16 points on five-of-12 shooting (though he collected 15 assists) and just before 17 points on Tuesday to underline his struggles to have the same consistent impact as he did in the 2013 playoffs. There have been moments, but rarely beyond a quarter and never in back-to-back games.

Getting 10 shots, though, is an obvious problem. The Warriors, underdogs to begin with after finishing lower in the standings and now playing without the defense and snarly attitude of Andrew Bogut, really have no chance to advance if their offensive star is that neutralized.

Curry came close to that number on three-pointers alone in the regular season, 7.9. Overall, he got off 17.7 attempts per game. There is the factor of the slightly slower pace of the playoffs — the Warriors are down about three shots a game compared to the first 82 games — but 10 shots in a postseason contest is unacceptable for Curry no matter what. He’s the last guy who should lose looks.

“We still scored a hundred points,” Curry said after the 113-103 loss. “I’ll tell you one thing. We can’t win if DeAndre [Jordan] has 25. That’s for sure.”

Jordan did have 25 points, along with 18 rebounds and four blocks, in the latest example of the Clippers controlling the inside. Golden State has to do something about that as well.

“That’s just five guys playing better defense on possessions,” Curry said. “Putting a body on him and making sure he doesn’t get those garbage points — put-backs and alley-oops to the rim. He’s a difference maker if he’s allowed to do that in the paint. They’ve got a lot of talent offensively and if he has a big game then it’s tough.”

Jordan, mostly on defense and the boards, and Blake Griffin have bullied the Warriors much of the way,  and are an obvious factor in the 3-2 lead for the Clippers in the strangest series they’ll ever be part of. But Curry can’t have the second-most shots on the team, no matter how dangerous Klay Thompson is and especially not when Curry has played nearly 29 minutes more than Thompson. Then it’s really, really tough.

Morning Shootaround — April 30



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played April 29

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Parker iffy for Game 5 | Removing Sterling may not be easy | Strange times with Warriors’ coaching staff | Noah reveals he has knee injury

No. 1: Banged-up Parker iffy for Game 5 — Around February during the season, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich gave All-Star point guard Tony Parker significant time off to rest his myriad of injuries. That was done so that Parker would be healthy and ready to hold up for what San Antonio hoped would be a repeat run to The Finals. Parker, though, is suffering through a troublesome ankle injury and his status for tonight’s Game 5 against the Mavericks in San Antonio is unknown, writes Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News

Tony Parker is listed as day-to-day in advance of Game 5 after being diagnosed with a Grade 1 sprain of his left ankle, suffered in the first half of the Spurs’ 93-89 victory at Dallas on Monday.

“We’ll see how he is (Wednesday),” Popovich said.

The injury is not believed to have required an MRI or x-ray. Grade I sprains are the least severe among three classifications.

Parker finished with 10 points on 5-for-14 shooting in Game 4. He still played 14 minutes in the second half, returning late to hit an important jumper that gave the Spurs an 87-84 lead with 1:37 remaining. The Spurs’ victory knotted the series at 2-2 entering Wednesday’s game at the AT&T Center.

Parker had been uneven even before the injury, averaging just 3.3 in the second half of the first three games. He is averaging 15.5 points and 4.5 assists in the series.

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Morning Shootaround — April 29



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played April 28

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Pacers, Vogel ponder lineup changes | Heat soak in another sweep | Report: Ex-Warriors assistant taped conversations | Rockets’ Alexander offers solution for Sterling issue

No. 1: Pacers, Vogel ponder changes after Game 5 shocker —  As our own Steve Aschburner pointed out last night, the Pacers find themselves and their Finals-hopeful season on the brink after a Game 5 loss at home to the Hawks. A telling second quarter — in which Atlanta outscored Indiana 41-19, mostly on the heroics of reserve Mike Scott — has the Pacers thinking some lineup changes will be necessary for Game 6, although even that notion is a bit mixed. Mike Moneith at Pacers.com has more on the team’s state after the loss:

This qualifies as a desperate time, and therefore calls for a desperate measure.

Then again, is it really desperate to change the starting lineup when you’re down 3-2 and in danger of becoming the sixth No. 1 seed in NBA history to lose to a No. 8 seed? The bold thing would be to go with the status quo.

“I consider everything at this point,” Frank Vogel said in the wake of his team’s 107-97 loss to the Hawks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Monday.

Changes to the starting lineup, or even playing rotation, aren’t as simple they’re often made out to be, given the lack of time for preparation between games in a playoff series, but a team trailing 3-2 doesn’t have the luxury of getting virtually nothing from its starting center. None of the voices heard in the Pacers’ somber postgame locker room could be heard calling for a drastic change. David West even went so far as to say “we can’t change our starting group.”

When they were down 30 midway through the third quarter, the Pacers’ lineup consisted of Chris Copeland, C.J. Watson, Paul George, David West and George Hill. That group got Atlanta’s lead down to 20 by the end of the period. Lance Stephenson and Ian Mahinmi started the fourth quarter but Mahinmi was subbed out less than three minutes later and Stephenson was back on the bench with 5:23 left. The group that started the comeback from 30 down finished the game from there, and got within nine points twice before it was too late. Their last reasonable hope came after Paul Millsap missed twice and the Pacers got the ball back, but George missed a three-pointer with 1:10 left that could have made it a six-point game.

Still, the lineup worked.

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Morning Shootaround — April 25



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played April 24

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Hibbert, Hill still struggling | Warriors open to name change? | Westbrook, Durant not looking for each other? | Big O says Anthony should sign with Houston

No. 1: What to do about Hibbert, Hill? — The Indiana Pacers wake up this morning staring at a 2-1 deficit in their first-round series with the Atlanta Hawks and with the knowledge that All-Star center Roy Hibbert has been a non-factor thus far. How does top-seeded Indiana get back on track? How does it get Hibbert involved in things again? And, oh yeah, how does it get point guard George Hill — who has also struggled mightily against his Hawks counter part, Jeff Teague — on track, too? Mark Montieth of Pacers.com digs into the issues with both players:

Whether Hibbert starts or not isn’t that big of a concern. It’s how long Vogel stays with him when he’s struggling. Hibbert played just 19 minutes on Thursday, one less than his backup, Ian Mahinmi. The Hawks present an impossible matchup for him defensively, and if he can’t score he has little to offer. If he only rebounded and defended the lane, he’d be the role player the Pacers need, but he’s not doing that, either.

Hibbert grabbed 16 rebounds in the season-opening win over Orlando, and hasn’t matched that since. His rebound total reached double figures in 10 of the first 20 games, and he had eight or more in five of the others. But, he’s grabbed 10 or more rebounds in just seven of the last 39 games, none in the playoffs.

Hill presents another challenge for Vogel. He hit just 1-of-11 shots on Thursday, and was guilty of a crucial turnover and defensive lapse late in the game. Hill’s a point guard who admits he doesn’t really want to be a point guard, and is usually at his best when he’s playing off-guard. He’s not assertive by nature, and seems to have to remind himself constantly to be aggressive.

Hibbert and Hill – both of whom scored four points in the game – were hardly the only factors in the loss. The effort wasn’t playoff caliber, proven by the difference in free throw attempts. Atlanta had 37, the Pacers had 21. George, although producing his third double-double of the series, hit just 3-of-11 shots, and wasn’t the defensive force he had been in Game 2.

It’s easy to call for a new starting lineup, or for benching starters altogether. The best coaches, though, avoid over-reaction, and the ever-upbeat Vogel has done that well throughout his time with Pacers. This, however, is the most desperate circumstance he’s faced. He says he loves the chess match of coaching in the playoffs, but another loss on Saturday puts him in danger of checkmate.

He has to figure a way out. And he might have to do it without two key pieces.

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Blogtable: Flukes and real wins

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


BLOGTABLE: Indiana awakening? | Game 1 illusion or harbinger | Grading the Grizz’s chances



VIDEO: TNT’s Marty Snider looks ahead to the Blazers-Rockets in Game 2 on Wednesday in Houston

> Playoff-opening win that’s more likely a harbinger: the Warriors in L.A. or the Blazers in Houston? Why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Look at Mr. Blogtable, dropping words like “harbinger.” OK, I’ll play along: You mean precursor, foreboder and bellwether of what we can expect as each series plays out? Forced to choose, I’ll go with Portland. The Clippers already have fired back against Golden State, in a big way. Their talent level is superior, when accounting for both ends, and L.A. has been seen as a legit contender to reach The Finals. Few have argued that Houston can go that far. The Rockets’ gap vs. the Blazers is narrow and LaMarcus Aldridge might just prove he’s better than both Blake Griffin and Kevin Love among elite power forwards by the time these playoffs end. I still don’t think either the Warriors or the Blazers will advance, but as far as putting the bigger scare into its foe and possibly pulling off the upset, yeah, gimme Portland.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comWarriors winning. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 46 points, James Harden missed 20 shots and the Blazers still won by just two points in overtime. That will be tough to repeat three more times. Golden State goes home for next two and Steph Curry hasn’t heated up yet.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Blazers in Houston, no question. The Warriors without Andrew Bogut should not be an even match against the Clippers and I think we saw that in Game 2 with Blake Griffin being allowed to actually play. The Clips are by no means perfect, but this is a team that is getting better the longer they play together. As for Houston, losing that late lead is the same kind of stuff they pulled early in the regular season so that’s a bad sign. Portland has more weapons. Damian Lillard can hang with James Harden, and LaMarcus Aldridge is a far more offensively skilled player than Dwight Howard. Now, this should be a great series, and a long one, but I like the Blazers’ chances. They secured the all-important road split and nobody likes to play at their place no longer named the Rose Garden.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Now you’re forcing a lot of people to look up the definition of harbinger. Anyway, the Blazers in Houston. I don’t think the short-handed Warriors are capable of winning the series, though they probably don’t hate the skepticism. But Portland went in with a real shot against the Rockets. Game 1 was just the affirmation.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: This is unfair, because we’ve already seen Part 2 of one of these movies. But Portland’s Game 1 win in Houston could certainly foreshadow the rest of the series, because LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard will continue to be tough matchups for the Rockets, especially if Patrick Beverley isn’t 100 percent. If they choose to double-team Aldridge, Portland’s shooters will get better looks. If they choose to use Omer Asik more, their own offense will suffer. James Harden will play better, but Houston’s defense might not.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’m going with the Blazers in Houston. The 4-5 matchup on both sides of the conference divide in a given year always seem to provide a pretty fair fight. But this one has some serious issues for the Rockets to deal with in LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. After fighting the good fight for Dwight Howard the past couple of years, I’m starting to agree with the masses (well, the talking heads at TNT and NBA TV) that he’s no longer the force of nature he was earlier in his career. And if he’s not, that means the Rockets don’t have two stars that can match the Blazers’ two stars.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball Blog: I feel like the Blazers in Houston was the truer picture of what that series could be. Mainly because the Blazers/Rockets Game 1 was both teams at the fullest of their powers. We were one extra-session Harden jumper from this game going into infinite overtimes. But to me that opening Clippers/Warriors game was one of the worst games I’ve seen Los Angeles play in the last few weeks. Blake Griffin was in foul trouble throughout (he finished with 16 points in 19 minutes) and how often do you see Chris Paul with a 4:3 assist-to-turnover ratio? Even with all that, the Clips still were in the game down the stretch and nearly pulled off the win.


VIDEO: The Inside the NBA crew examines Golden State’s problems in Game 2

Analytics Art: Playoff team comparison

By Andrew Bergmann (@dubly), for NBA.com

See how your team fared against other playoff teams during the 2013-14 regular season.

NBA playoff team wins

Andrew Bergmann’s data driven design work can be found on CNN, NBA, Sports Illustrated, Deadspin, Washington Post, and USA Today. See more on www.dubly.com and twitter.com/dubly

Numbers preview: Clippers-Warriors

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Playoff Push: Los Angeles Clippers

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – No first-round series is more anticipated than the one that pits the Los Angeles Clippers against the Golden State Warriors.

It’s the league’s best offense against the Western Conference’s best defense. It’s Lob City vs. the Splash Brothers, Chris Paul vs. Stephen Curry, and Blake Griffin vs. a team that doesn’t like him very much.

These two teams split four explosive regular-season games, but the Warriors will be without Andrew Bogut to start the series. And that may be the difference.

Here are some statistical nuggets regarding the 3 and 6 seeds in the Western Conference, as well as the four regular-season games they played against each other.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Los Angeles Clippers (57-25)

Pace: 98.4 (7)
OffRtg: 109.4 (1)
DefRtg: 102.1 (7)
NetRtg: +7.3 (2)

Overall: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Golden State: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

Clippers notes:

Golden State Warriors (51-31)

Pace: 98.5 (6)
OffRtg: 105.3 (12)
DefRtg: 99.9 (3)
NetRtg: +5.4 (6)

Overall: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. L.A. Clippers: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

Warriors notes:

The matchup

Season series: 2-2 (Home team won all four games)
Pace: 100.5
LAC OffRtg: 107.3 (4th vs. GSW)
GSW OffRtg: 107.0 (9th vs. LAC)

Matchup notes:

Morning Shootaround — April 17


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played April 16

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Kobe readying for comeback | Irving still weighing Cleveland future | Thompson blasts Griffin’s style of play | Walker credits Clifford for his growth

No. 1: Kobe already gearing up for next comeback– All you need to know about how Kobe Bryant felt about this disaster of a Los Angeles Lakers season could be summed up in his tweet last night:

It should come as no surprise, then, that Bryant is already gearing up for a monster comeback now that he’s been cleared to resume running and shooting drills after recovering from a knee fracture. Ramona Shelbourne of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more on Kobe’s workout plans:

Kobe Bryant has been cleared to resume running and shooting and will begin an intense, six-month training program next week upon his return from a short family trip to Europe, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.

Bryant has been ramping up his activity level in recent weeks as he continues to recover from a fracture in his left knee suffered during the Lakers‘ victory Dec. 17 at Memphis, just six games into his return from a ruptured Achilles.

While he is in Europe, Bryant will visit the clinic in Germany where he had the platelet-rich plasma treatment known as Orthokineon on his knee, according to a source.

The visit to the clinic is a check-up to ensure all is structurally sound with his knee before he resumes intense training.

Bryant has rarely traveled with the team or appeared in public since, preferring to focus on his rehabilitation instead of a team wrapping up the worst season in Lakers history.

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No. 2: Irving: ‘Exciting’ if Cavs offer max deal — All season long, it seems, Cleveland Cavaliers star guard Kyrie Irving has been dogged by rumors of his desire to leave the team as soon as he possibly can via free agency. Now that the Cavs have wrapped up their season — one in which they fell well short of expectations of a playoff run — the team has some key roster decisions to make, the foremost of which may be signing Irving to a contract extension. For all the rumblings of Irving’s supposed displeasure with the team, though, it sure doesn’t sound like he wants to move on, writes Bob Finnan of The News-Herald & The Morning Journal:

The Cavaliers’ franchise faces several major decisions this summer.

None is bigger than the five-year, $80 million maximum extension the Cavs are expected to offer two-time All-Star Kyrie Irving.

“Obviously, I’m aware I can be extended this summer,” he said after the Cavs’ 114-85 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on April 16 before 19,842 at Quicken Loans Arena.

“It’s a big deal for me if they do offer me that. It will be exciting. I’ll make the best decision for me and my family. That’s what it will boil down to.”

Irving doesn’t sound like someone who wants out.

“I’ve been part of this, and I want to continue to be part of this,” he said. “We’ve made some strides in the right direction, especially as an organization. I want to be part of something special. I don’t have a definitive answer to that right now.”

The offer is expected to come on July 1.

Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert is attending the Board of Governors meeting April 17-18 in New York.

Brown has four years remaining on his original five-year, $20 million contract.

He said he won’t plead his case with Gilbert.

“I’m thankful to Dan for the opportunity he’s given me,” Brown said. “It’s his team. Whatever decision he makes, I’m going to support.”


VIDEO: Kyrie Irving talks after the Cavs’ season-ending win against the Nets

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No. 3: Thompson blasts Griffin’s style of play — Who isn’t excited to watch the L.A. Clippers-Golden State Warriors first-round playoff series? Aside from the fact both teams have two of the better offenses and defenses in the league, there’s the added drama of them not liking each other in the mix as well. That latter point apparently is getting racheted up even more as a little war of words in the media seems to be breaking out between the Warriors’ Klay Thompson and the Clippers’ All-Star, Blake Griffin. Thompson accused Griffin of “flopping” and Griffin had his rebuttal to that claim yesterday, as Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports:

The trash talking between the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors has started — even before their first-round playoff series became official late Wednesday night.

Earlier in the day, Warriors guard Klay Thompson called Clippers forward Blake Griffin out for flopping and playing “kind of out of control sometimes.”

“He is a good guy off the court but he probably just … I mean … plays pretty physical and flops a little bit,” Thompson told The Wheelhouse on 95.7 The Game radio in San Francisco.

“He flairs his arm around so you know you might catch a random elbow or something that doesn’t you know rub off too well on guys,” Thompson said. “He’s kind of like a bull in a china shop, kind of out of control sometimes. And then you do just see him flop sometimes like how can a guy that big and strong flop that much.

“I can see how that gets under people’s skin and be frustrating to play against.”

Griffin was ejected from a Christmas Day game between the Clippers and Warriors after an altercation with Warriors center Andrew Bogut and called the Warriors out after the game for playing “cowardly basketball.”

“If you look at it, I didn’t do anything, and I got thrown out of the game,” Griffin said. “It all boils down to they (the referees) fell for it. To me, that’s cowardly. That’s cowardly basketball… Instead of just playing straight up and playing a game, it got into something more than that, and it’s unfortunate because you want to play a team head-to-head. You don’t want to start playing other games and playing cowardly basketball.”

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No. 4: Walker credits Clifford for change in his gameFor the first time since the 2009-10 season, the Charlotte Bobcats are a playoff-bound team. Unlike that squad from a few years ago, though, Charlotte has a more solid future thanks to the standout play of youngsters like guard Kemba Walker. The third-year guard has become one of the leaders of the team and his improved playmaking skills have been key to Charlotte’s rise this season. However, he wasn’t always such a promising piece of the Bobcats’ future and as Jessica Camerato of BasketballInsiders.com reports, Walker credits coach Steve Clifford for challenging him to grow his game:

During an early-season game against the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats head coach Steve Clifford had seen enough of Kemba Walker’s defense of Jeff Teague – or lack thereof. Walker was lagging on the pick-and-roll, Teague was making plays at will.

Clifford and Walker had established a solid relationship shortly after Clifford was hired last offseason. The third-year guard jelled with the first-year coach, who he described as a “real down-to-earth, cool guy.” Walker saw another side of Clifford during that game, though, one that said more than the words he spoke.

“He really surprised me and he got into me. I really deserved it,” Walker told Basketball Insiders. “It motivated me and it helped me. … That’s kind of the first time an NBA coach has gotten into me. It was a mixture [of yelling and speaking]. It showed me that he cared about me because if he didn’t say anything, then I’m like he doesn’t care. But it showed me that he knows that I can do more. Looking back, I appreciate it.”

He added, “I think it definitely was (a turning point).”

Clifford made it clear early on he wanted to see Walker improve on the defensive end. He called Walker into his office to watch game film, pointing out clips where he played good defense and others where he was inconsistent.

“He’s made me a better player because he has so much confidence in me,” Walker said. “He told me that I could be a much better defensive player if I wanted to be. He challenged me with that.”

There are plenty of moments that go on between a player and coach that are not seen in practice or in games. Those are the instances that stand out to Walker this season – the conversations he has shared with Clifford, the times he has gone to him for advice, sometimes just as someone to listen.

“When a coach is able to help you with things off the court, that’s a lot more important than being on the court,” said Walker. “We’re all pros, but we still have problems just like regular people. Sometimes we need to vent, sometimes we need people to talk to. When you’ve got a guy like Coach Clifford whose been through so much in his life, a guy who knows things, can give you advice and you can talk to him, that helps a lot.”


VIDEO:Kemba Walker discusses the Bobcats’ win Wednesday night against the Bulls

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Wolves don’t have any idea about whether or not coach Rick Adelman will retire or not … Like his teammate (and fellow free-agent) P.J. Tucker, Suns guard Ish Smith is hoping to stick around in Phoenix … Cleveland center Spencer Hawes says he’s open to returning to the team next season …

ICYMI of the Night: It’ll be a good six months or so before we see some of the teams in last night’s top 10 plays again, so let’s give ‘em one last opportunity to shine here …


VIDEO: Relive the top 10 plays from the final night of the 2013-14 regular season

During an early-season game against the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats head coach Steve Clifford had seen enough of Kemba Walker’s defense of Jeff Teague – or lack thereof. Walker was lagging on the pick-and-roll, Teague was making plays at will.

Clifford and Walker had established a solid relationship shortly after Clifford was hired last offseason. The third-year guard jelled with the first-year coach, who he described as a “real down-to-earth, cool guy.” Walker saw another side of Clifford during that game, though, one that said more than the words he spoke.

“He really surprised me and he got into me. I really deserved it,” Walker told Basketball Insiders. “It motivated me and it helped me. … That’s kind of the first time an NBA coach has gotten into me. It was a mixture [of yelling and speaking]. It showed me that he cared about me because if he didn’t say anything, then I’m like he doesn’t care. But it showed me that he knows that I can do more. Looking back, I appreciate it.”

He added, “I think it definitely was (a turning point).”
Read more at http://www.basketballinsiders.com/cliffords-critique-led-to-walkers-success/#hDiVAClLkvlPCTqd.99