Posts Tagged ‘Golden State Warriors’

Golden State clinches West All-Star coaching role for rookie Kerr

curry

Steve Kerr becomes the first rookie coach to earn the All-Star berth since Larry Bird in 1998 (NBAE via Getty Images).

Steve Kerr woke up Thursday as the coach of the 2015 Western Conference All-Stars. He went to bed that way, too, but not everyone realized it late Wednesday.

The NBA officially crunched the numbers Thursday morning, noting that Kerr’s Golden State Warriors already had clinched the West’s best record through games played Feb. 1. That’s the cutoff date for designating the All-Star coaches. Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer and his staff had earned the honors with the East All-Stars with the 35-8 Hawks’ home victory over Indiana earlier Wednesday evening.

Kerr’s spot on the West sideline for the annual showcase Feb. 15 at Madison Square Garden was assured with the Warriors’ 126-113 victory over Houston in Oakland. It left Golden State with a league-best record of 34-6 with five games remaining through Feb. 1. Even if it were to lose all five, Kerr’s club would sit at 34-11, .7555, at the cutoff.

Portland, at 31-12 with six games before Feb. 1, could get no higher than 37-12, .7551. Memphis would reach 35-12, .744, if it were to win its five games over the next 11 days. Dallas would max out at 36-13, .734, while both Houston and the L.A. Clippers can do no better through Feb. 1 than 34-14, .708.

Had Portland beaten Phoenix Wednesday, the Trail Blazers and coach Terry Stotts might have gotten to 38-11, .7755, pushing the All-Star honor closer to the deadline. But few can quibble with Golden State’s status as the conference’s and the league’s most successful team through the first half of 2014-15.

The Warriors, who won a franchise-record 17th consecutive game, are off to their best start in the Golden State era. They are one of only 10 teams in NBA history to have won at least 34 of their first 40 games. Golden State ranks No. 1 in field-goal percentage (.487), as well as No. 1 in defensive field-goal percentage (.421). Its average margin of victory (11.8) is the fattest since Kerr played with the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (12.2).

Kerr becomes the first rookie coach to earn the All-Star berth since Indiana’s Larry Bird worked the East’s bench in 1998. He will be Golden State’s first All-Star coach since Don Nelson in 1992.

Kerr, a former 3-point specialist for Chicago and San Antonio, general manager in Phoenix and savvy broadcast analyst, downplayed the achievement as he and the Warriors drew close. “It’s more just keep getting better to me,” he told reporters. “Keep improving, keep taking another step forward. And if we do that, there’s a lot of good stuff to come.”

Most head coaches cite their staffs, who join them on All-Star Weekend, and Golden State is no exception, with Ron Adams, Alvin Gentry, Luke Walton, Jarron Collins, Bruce Fraser and Keke Lyles all contributing. The Warriors players seem to value their input, according to a report Wednesday on MercuryNews.com.

 

“They do a great job of preparing us,” center Andrew Bogut said. “Ron Adams and Alvin Gentry and those guys, they do a really good job for us with our scouting reports and their preparation.”

Bogut noted that the biggest thing he noticed with Kerr’s staff members was that they had “no agendas” and didn’t play favorites.

“It happens on a lot of teams, just to try to align themselves with certain guys in case there’s coaching changes or whatever, and that happens I’d say in 80 percent of NBA teams,” Bogut said. “I don’t see that on this team with this coaching staff. They’re comfortable in their own skin. I think that starts from Steve Kerr because he’s told these guys, ‘Do your job. I don’t expect you guys to get involved in politics.’ “

With both All-Star coaching staffs in place, the players come next. All-Star starters will be named on TNT Thursday evening, with reserves coming next week after a vote of conference coaches. Stephen Curry is expected to start for the West for the second straight year, but Kerr called it “criminal” if Golden State were to have just one All-Star. In his view, backcourt ‘mate Klay Thompson should go to New York, too.

Said Kerr: “Klay deserves it. To me, the thing with the All-Star game that I’ve always felt long before I came to Golden State is the best teams deserve the benefit of the doubt. Players who put up stats are really good. Players who put up stats and help their team win a ton of games are All-Stars, and that should absolutely put Klay in the game.”

All-Star starters announced tonight on TNT

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Can the King stay on top?

The race between Cleveland’s LeBron James and Golden State’s Stephen Curry to be the overall leader in voting for the 2015 All-Star Game looks to be coming down to the wire.

NBA All-Star 2015We will discover the winner tonight with the announcement of the 2015 NBA All-Star Game starters, which airs live on TNT at 7 p.m. ET.

LeBron has led in both the Eastern Conference and overall voting since initial totals were announced, totaling 971,299 votes in the most recent returns. Right on James’ heels was Curry, with 958,014 votes.

Sandwiched around the announcement of those voting totals, James missed eight games to rest injuries. Whether that absence will cut into James’ overall vote total remains to be seen. Since returning, he’s played in five games, averaging 30.6 ppg, 7.o rpg and 6.0 apg.

With attention focused on Curry and James at the top of the charts, it’s probably also worth keeping an eye on New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis, who at last count was third overall with 922,381 votes, nearly 50,000 behind James but making Davis the only player besides James and Curry with over 900,000 total votes.

There haven’t been any changes in either Conference’s starting five since the initial voting totals were announced, but a significant surge happened in the last announcement totals. Toronto’s Kyle Lowry leapfrogged Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving to move into third among Eastern Conference guards behind John Wall and Dwyane Wade. The Raptors have mounted a significant social media campaign to get out the vote for Lowry, though at last count Lowry was still well behind Wade (406,974 votes to Wade’s 507,326).

If voting patterns hold, joining James, Wall and Wade as starters for the Eastern Conference should be Carmelo Anthony and Pau Gasol.

For the Western Conference, Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin and Marc Gasol look to hold on to their spots alongside Curry and Davis in the starting lineup.

With last night’s Atlanta win over Indiana, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer clinched the job of coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars and Golden State’s Steve Kerr will helm the Western Conference. Yet aside from Curry, no other players from either team were in the top five at any position in either conference in the most recent voting.

The starting lineups will be revealed during a special one-hour edition of the Emmy Award-winning pregame show “Inside the NBA,” featuring Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith. The special will air prior to TNT’s exclusive doubleheader featuring the Spurs at the Bulls (8 p.m. ET) and the Nets at the Clippers (10:30 p.m. ET).

The 64th NBA All-Star Game will be played in New York City’s iconic Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks, on Sunday, February 15, 2015. The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and State Farm All-Star Saturday Night — including the Sears Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and Sprite Slam Dunk — will be held at Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 186) Featuring Tim Roye

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The halfway point of this or any NBA season can be a strange place, especially for those of us who have chronicled these things for years and years.

A team that serves as a doormat for years that finally flips the game and becomes the team walking over that doormat forces you to do a double take. How did this happen? Who or what made it happen? And is what we’ve seen halfway through this season a legitimate indication of what’s to come or is it just a mirage?

Fans in Oakland and Atlanta, where the top teams on each side of the conference divide reside, hope the halfway point dream is real and that he rest of the world will have to live through a Warriors-Hawks series in June.

That dream is, of course, a long way from coming to fruition for all involved. But what good is playing as well as the Warriors have this season without a little dreaming on the side? Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest of Steve Kerr‘s crew were supposed to be dealing with the transition of a new coach and system, circumstances that don’t always lend themselves to hot starts (just ask LeBron James and the folks in Cleveland). And yet here they are, even better under Kerr than they were under former coach Mark Jackson.

We dig down on how the Warriors got here, where they could be headed and a whole lot and more with Tim Roye, the radio play-by-play voice of the Golden state Warriors, on Episode 186 of the Hang Time Podcast.

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the new best sound designer/engineer in the business,  Andrew Merriam.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.


VIDEO: Warriors All-Star point guard Steph Curry puts on a show as usual

Morning shootaround — Jan. 10


VIDEO: Trevor Booker taps in possibly the shot of the year

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Booker practices those ‘circus’ shots | Tarpley, dead at 50, ‘could do it all’ | Cavs find sunshine through dark clouds | Rock bottom in 5 seconds for Nets

No. 1: Booker practices those ‘circus’ shots — Necessity is the mother of invention, but it occasionally can be the father of ridiculous. That’s how it felt Friday night in Oklahoma City, when Utah Jazz forward Trevor Booker took resourcefulness to an outrageous level and made not just the play of the night but the shot of the 2014-15 NBA season, at least based on rarity and degree of difficulty. Booker’s back-to-the-basket, no-time-except-to-tip, underhanded flip of a field goal attempt stunned pretty much everyone in the gym. Here’s Jazz beat writer Jody Genessey on the play:

With 0.2 seconds remaining on the shot clock, the Jazz got the ball out of bounds on the far sideline. The only shot that can even be completed in that amount of time is a tip, and that’s what Jazz coach Quin Snyder called for.

Booker said he didn’t even know the play that his coach barked out, so he headed to the hoop thinking Gordon Hayward would probably throw a lob. When that didn’t materialize, Booker rushed over toward Hayward and stopped with his back toward the basket.

That’s when, as the NBA marketing department might say, amazing happened.

Hayward made a bounce pass to Booker, who creatively and instinctively tipped the ball with both hands and flipped it up and over his head in the nick of time. It’s a move that might come in handy next summer when he plays volleyball again.

Incredibly, the ball plopped into the net, helping the Jazz take a 50-44 lead into the break.

“We try to cover a lot of game situations. That was not one,” Jazz coach Snyder said. “I have to say they manufactured that.”

While Snyder, Hayward and everyone else was startled, Booker grinned and immediately thought to the hours he and his cousin, Lakers forward Jordan Hill, spent practicing – yes, practicing – such goofball shots and situations. As cited by Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune:

“I know you won’t believe me, but I really do practice those shots,” he said in the locker room afterward. “My cousin [Lakers forward] Jordan Hill, he texted me after the game and said, ‘They’re not going to believe we practiced those shots all the time growing up.’ I guess you could say the hard work finally paid off.”

The Jazz lost the game, 99-94, and dropped to 13-24. But Booker was buoyant afterward about his team as well as that shot.

“That’s a good [team] right there,” he said of the Thunder. “Let’s not forget that they went to the Finals a couple years ago. We’re playing good ball right now, playing hard. I told the group, there’s no group I’d rather go to war with than these guys. We’re still trying to figure everything out, but as long as we keep playing hard the way we are, we’re going to be fine.”

***

No. 2: Tarpley, dead at 50, ‘could do it all’ — He was a child of the ’60s, which meant that Roy Tarpley was a young professional athlete in the ’80s, and while no decade has held exclusive rights to illegal drug use among major sports figures, that one ranks high. Tarpley was the seventh player picked in the 1986 NBA Draft – five spots after Len Bias, the poster guy for squandered dreams and tragic ends even today. Others taken early that day included Chris Washburn and William Bedford, two more whose careers washed out to substance abuse. Other sports had similar tales, and Tarpley’s came to an end with the news Friday that the former Dallas Mavericks forward had died at age 50. Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News chronicled the sad news:

Cause of death was not immediately known Friday night, although when the Mavericks arrived in Los Angeles for their game Saturday against the Clippers, several members of the traveling party had been informed that liver failure was at least partly to blame.

The 6-11 Tarpley was the seventh pick in the 1986 draft by the Mavericks out of Michigan. In his second season, he was the NBA’s sixth man of the year before drugs and controversy shrouded the rest of his six seasons in the league.

According to a medical examiner’s report, Tarpley’s death happened at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. It is a sad ending to one of the most gifted players in franchise history. Tarpley had a rare combination of strength and speed that made him one of the best athletes of his era.

“Our condolences go out to the family of Roy Tarpley,” Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban said via Twitter. “RIP Roy. Mavs fans everywhere will remember you fondly.”

Tarpley’s off-court troubles probably followed him into the NBA from the University of Michigan and largely defined his time in Dallas, with the Mavericks assisting in significant ways. When he was right, he was very right; the 6-foot-11 native of Detroit averaged 12.6 and 10.0 rebounds in 280 regular season games over parts of six seasons. In 24 playoff games, his numbers were even better: 17.0 points, 12.8 rebounds and a 20.8 PER. He led the NBA in total rebound percentage (22.6) while winning the Sixth Man Award in 1987-88 and he led in that category again two years later. That’s the Tarpley fans would prefer to remember.

“If Roy had stayed healthy, he could have been one of the top 50 players ever,” said Brad Davis, the Mavericks’ radio analyst and player-development coach who played with Tarpley. “He could do it all, shoot, score, rebound, pass and defend. We’re all sorry to hear of his passing.”

Tarpley would spend most of his career battling personal problems. He was suspended by the NBA after five games in the 1989-90 season after being arrested for driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest. In 1991, he drew another suspension after a second DWI arrest and, a few months later, had a third violation and was banned from the league for violating the NBA’s drug-use policies.

He returned to the Mavericks briefly in 1994 but then was permanently barred in December 1995 for violating terms of his aftercare program.

***

No. 3: Cavs find sunshine through dark clouds — Some of us at Hang Time HQ have chided some of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ knee-jerk critics for ignoring the one thing everyone said that team would need in 2014-15, namely patience. Then again, a stretch of seven defeats in eight games, a four-game losing streak and two weeks without LeBron James – all while nearing the mid-point of January – might be an appropriate time to … PANIC! And yet, there was a calm of sorts about the Cavs after their 18-point drubbing at Golden State Friday and even some rays of optimism, as Cleveland beat guy Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com saw it:

It’s amazing how much the direction of a team can change once its members change the perception of their situation.

Monday in Philadelphia it seemed as low as you could go, with the Cavs blowing an early lead and losing to the laughingstock of the league with Kyrie Irving not making the trip because of a back injury and LeBron James away from the team, also nursing strains to his back and left knee while making a quick rehab trip down in Miami.

Five days later, with the team having pulled off two trades (in essence Dion Waiters for J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, and a couple of first-round picks for Timofey Mozgov and a second-rounder), Irving back in the lineup, and James back with the team for its five-game road trip — and even going through “minor” on-court activities for the first time since sitting out Dec. 30 — there’s some sunshine peaking through the clouds, according to coach David Blatt.

“It’s tough right now and I know it’s tough to see, but when we do get back to full strength, we’re going to be good,” said Kevin Love.

It was particularly noteworthy that Love was waving the encouragement flag because he took only 11 shots — compared to 23 apiece for Smith and Irving — but instead of focusing on his involvement in the offense after the fact, he set his sights on what the Cavs will look like in the near future.

Blatt took the same tone.

“I think you see we’re a better team today than we were yesterday and we were a week ago,” Blatt said. “I’m not even going to talk about the guys that aren’t playing, because we’re a better team today.”

The signs are more encouraging than sappy stuff like playing tough teams close – Houston, the Warriors – without their best player. There are no guarantees, but at least there have been some changes and the LeBron arrow is pointing up:

The new faces are already making their presence felt, whether it was Smith’s 27 points against the Warriors (“I told you coming in; I had nothing but a good feeling about J.R. joining our team,” Blatt said), or it was Mozgov’s nine points and eight rebounds in his debut and his reaction to how he was received (“The guys meet me so good,” the Russian-born Mozgov said in endearing broken English, “make me be the part of the family on the first day. … So, I love it”), or Shumpert’s competitive side relishing the fact he was leaving a sinking ship for a team that’s playoff-bound (“I didn’t want my season to end early,” Shumpert said).

There are no “gimme” games in the Western Conference, but Sacramento should be a winnable game on Sunday; and then, if James comes back just slightly ahead of his two-week rest schedule he could be in the lineup Tuesday in Phoenix, and if that happens you get the lame-duck Lakers next, and possibly have picked up a full head of steam going into the trip finale Friday against the Clippers.

***

No. 4: Rock bottom in 5 seconds for Nets — Realists in this league have a saying they occasionally invoke: “You are what your record is.” Pessimists around the Brooklyn Nets woke up Saturday believing that their team is about 10 games worse than its record, though, because the 16-19 Nets somehow blew a game against the 6-29 Philadelphia 76ers Friday night at the Barclays Center. The blog TheBrooklynGame.com had an intriguing snapshot of the team hitting rock bottom – actually, it was more of a film analysis, second-by-second, of Brooklyn’s best last chance in the game. It began with coach Lionel Hollins‘ admonitions that the Nets really aren’t a good team and then dissected an inbounds play that led to center Brook Lopez launching a prayer from beyond 3-point range on a failed attempt to win or tie:

With may-day approaching after three failed screens and little misdirection, Lopez shot up towards [Alan] Anderson, extending his left arm away from Nerlens Noel to catch the ball, as the only player left who had a chance.

The option was doomed from the start. The seven-footer, who has never made a three-pointer in the regular season, caught a wide pass from Anderson one-handed, spun counterclockwise to the middle of the floor, performed a ball-fake against the long and talented Noel to no avail, and flung a contested, fallaway three-pointer wide right, officially listed at 27 feet away but might as well have been from the Wookiee planet of Kashyyyk.

“We’re honestly playing down to these teams these last few games,” Lopez said. “We’re better than this, and we’re doing it to ourselves. And we have to be better than this for the entirety of the game.”

It should’ve never come down to Lopez taking that final shot, because it never should’ve come down to a final shot at all.

“When we executed and made good decisions, and defended, and rebounded, we were ahead. Soon as we relaxed and made some bad decisions on offense, made some bad decisions on defense, they came back.”

Now, the Nets can only look ahead, and the road is ugly. 13 of the team’s 17 games before the All-Star break (and the trade deadline) come against teams slated to be in the playoffs, and that’s not including tomorrow night’s contest against the Detroit Pistons, who had won seven straight games before barely losing to the Atlanta Hawks, the Eastern Conference’s best team, Friday night.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Phoenix Suns considered Brandan Wright the “best backup center in the league” even before they acquired him from Boston. … Skip the soap-opera stuff, Mark Jackson‘s return to Golden State scarcely could have been more moving. … Don’t assume the Boston Celtics are done, even after they spend the weekend working out the kinks of their Jeff Green-to-Memphis trade. … No Kobe, no problem for the Lakers, who got a big boost off the bench from new guy Tarik Black. …

Curry closes on James in final All-Star voting update

HANG TIME BIG CITY — The King is still on top … but just barely.

LeBron James remains the overall leader in voting for the 2015 All-Star Game in the latest results released today, with 971,299 votes. But Golden State’s Stephen Curry is right on his heels with 958,014 total votes. In the third and final 2015 All-Star voting update, James and Curry remain atop their respective conferences, as they have been from the start.

NBA All-Star 2015The top ten vote-getters remain unchanged. Joining James in the East are Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, with a backcourt of John Wall and Dwyane Wade. Along with Curry in the West are Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol and Kobe Bryant in the backcourt alongside Curry.

There was some movement in this latest round of results. Toronto guard Kyle Lowry was a big gainer, passing Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving for third among Eastern guards, but with 406,974 votes, Lowry is still over 100,000 votes behind Wade for a starting spot.

Washington’s Marcin Gortat passed Chicago’s Joakim Noah to move into sixth among Eastern Conference big men.

The Eastern Conference leading Atlanta Hawks still don’t have a player in the top ten; Hawks forward Paul Millsap is 13th overall among Eastern Conference forwards.

This is the final voting update before the All-Star starting lineups are announced live on TNT on Thursday, Jan. 22, during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader.com at 7 p.m. ET, featuring Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kenny Smith. Balloting concludes on Monday, Jan. 19.

This year, for the first time ever, fans have the power to vote for any active player in the NBA using the new online ballot. The 64th NBA All-Star Game will be played in New York City’s iconic Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks, on Sunday, February 15, 2015. The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and State Farm All-Star Saturday Night — including the Sears Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and Sprite Slam Dunk — will be held at Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets. The recently-debuted uniforms feature nods to all five boroughs of New York City.

Morning shootaround — Jan. 8


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 7

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Unique challenge in Oakland | Pistons keep chugging along | Report: Grizz pursuing Deng, Green | Scott: Lakers ‘soft’ in loss to Clips | Cavs chime in on new faces

No. 1: Kerr’s unique challenge in Golden State Klay Thompson scored 40 points last night in the Golden State’s win over the Indiana Pacers, keeping the Warriors two games ahead of the surging Atlanta Hawks for the NBA’s best record. The good news continued for Golden State in that game, too, as injured center Andrew Bogut returned to the lineup after a lengthy absence. So with so many things going right in Oakland, life has to be golden for coach Steve Kerr … doesn’t it? Of course it is, but finding minutes for so many talented and clicking players could be his next hurdle. The Oakland Tribune‘s Carl Steward has more:

Draymond Green said it best: “Coach has some problems now. We don’t.”

Indeed, Steve Kerr has a pleasant problem of trying to find enough time for all the players who are playing well and want time and need time to continue being effective. It’s not going to be easy keeping everybody happy with a roster that got deeper with Andrew Bogut’s Wednesday night return, and one that will be ridiculous once Festus Ezeli returns soon from a sprained ankle.

“We have a lot of guys that can play and a lot of guys that are playing at a high level, but only so many minutes to go around,” Kerr said after the Warriors’ hard-fought win that was closer for a good long while than the final result indicated. “I told our players the sacrifice that they are going to have to make will not be easy. But they have to make it if we are going to be good. From one night to the next, it might be your night and it might not be. They have to accept that.”

Kerr and his assistants arranged their rotations on the fly after it was determined Bogut would in fact play. It resulted in some strange breakdowns. David Lee only played six minutes in the first half — Lee himself said it felt like two — and 11 in the second. Harrison Barnes played 18 first half minutes and only six in the second. Justin Holiday played eight first half minutes and none in the second.

It’s going to be like this for awhile and who knows how it is going to shake out. Kerr noted that he brought Bogut off the bench because Marreese Speights has earned the right to continue starting for now, and after a Speights had a rough start, he finished with 18 points with the strong fourth quarter. It might stay that way for awhile. But at some point, Bogut will be a starter again and then what happens to Mo Buckets, particularly if he’s competing for minutes with Lee? It remains to be seen how Lee handles being a bit player after a decade as a 30-40 minute starter. As he becomes more productive, as he was Wednesday night, will he continue to be happy with 15-18 minutes a game?

The reality is that it’s pointless to make these speculations because as healthy as the Warriors are now, more injuries are bound to occur over the final 49 games that will change everything. Hopefully not any serious ones, but the Warriors are well covered when they do come up. The best-case scenario is that the most indispensable players — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Green and Bogut — won’t be overtaxed in the regular season because of the team’s remarkable depth and they’ll be more than ready for the second season come mid-April.

Our rotations are so deep, it’s going to be a struggle for Coach to figure that out,” Curry said. “We have so many guys who can come in and play and who are hungry to play, too. But we have good character guys in the locker room that hopefully handle it well. Certain nights it might not be a certain individual’s night to go out and impact a game, but everybody needs to stay ready and it’s great problem to have when you can go 11-12 deep and still not miss a beat with how you’re playing.”


VIDEO: Klay Thompson runs wild on Pacers in Golden State’s win

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Morning shootaround — Jan. 6


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 5

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Durant: We’ll make Waiters feel ‘wanted’ | True test for Knicks lies in offseason | How will Cavs’ new faces fit in? | Report: Spurs’ Leonard back in 2 weeksWarriors keep on trucking

No. 1: Durant: We’ll make Waiters feel wanted — If you somehow missed it last night or this morning, there was a decent-sized, name-worthy, three-team trade in the league. In the deal, the New York Knicks sent J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland, the Cavs sent Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk and a 2019 second-round draft choice to New York, OKC sent Lance Thomas to the Knicks and a future first-round pick to Cleveland, and the Thunder got Dion Waiters. The Cavs and Waiters struggled to make their relationship work in the team’s new, LeBron James-led world. Waiters may now have a better opportunity in OKC and reigning MVP Kevin Durant told Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman he plans to do what he can to make Waiters feel welcome:

Late Monday night, a disappointed Thunder locker room was still in the process of digesting an ugly 117-91 loss to the Warriors.

But at the same time, players were also still gathering all the facts surrounding the three-team trade that netted Dion Waiters as their new teammate. The deal actually didn’t become official until the game had actually started.

But the news had spread. And Kevin Durant — the voice of the Thunder — was peppered with questions about it. Here were his answers:

Kevin, your initial thoughts on Dion and the trade?

“I’m excited about bringing Dion aboard. A guy that has a lot of toughness. Being from the East Coast, I know a lot about Philadelphia, South Philly, where he comes from. Those guys are tough and they play with an edge. And that’s what we need here.”

Any kind of relationship with him prior to this?

“Just knowing him from playing against him. We’re gonna make him feel wanted. I don’t think he felt that the last couple years. He’s gonna fit in well. He’s gonna get comfortable real quick. It’s on the leaders — Russell, myself, Nick — to make him feel at home and feel special and let him play his game.”

Can he be James Harden-like for you guys?

“I’m not saying he’s James’ replacement, we’re far past that. But, yeah, he can play, can come off the bench for us and score and make plays. He’s a really good player, man. A lot of people take him for granted, I think. Because he’s been around and you hear different things about him that’s not true. But he can play basketball. So he just needs to come out here and be himself, be aggressive and make plays.”

Have you reached out to him yet?

Nah, probably gonna talk to him later on after this. It’s pretty late on the East Coast, but I’ll probably shoot him a text soon.

In a separate story, Slater also details how this trade will help OKC going forward:

For the Thunder, this is a deal that clearly bolsters its talent level. Waiters is a score-first shooting guard — taken fourth overall in the 2012 Draft — who averaged 15.9 points and 3.0 assists last season. This year, his third in the league, Waiters production has dipped and his role has changed. He’s averaging 10.5 points coming off the bench, struggling to fully adjust to a LeBron James-led team that has a ton of talent around him.

That led to this deal, which nets the Thunder some scoring punch likely for its bench. But it also puts OKC slightly over the luxury tax by around $1.5 million, something they’ve been unwilling to pay in the past.

Presti has said that the franchise would be willing to exceed it at some point for the right move. But there’s also a possibility that the Thunder isn’t done making moves. Waiters arrival would seem to make Jeremy Lamb expendable, with Anthony Morrow, Andre Roberson and now Waiters likely to remain in front of him in OKC’s rotation.

Waiters is making $4.06 million this season and $5.1 million next season before he can become a restricted free agent.


VIDEO: Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick explains how Dion Waiters will fit in with the Thunder

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James, Curry remain All-Star voting leaders

HANG TIME BIG CITY — The King still reigns.

In the latest NBA All-Star balloting results, released this morning, Cleveland’s LeBron James remains the leading overall vote-getter. James, who had 552,967 in the initial voting results, has 775,810 votes in the second balloting totals.

Golden State’s Stephen Curry, who was the leading Western Conference vote-getter in the first results, remains atop the Western Conference though just behind James in overall balloting, with 755,486 votes.

NBA All-Star 2015The top five players in each Conference remain unchanged in the second results. Kobe Bryant and Curry are the top guards in the Western Conference, with Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin and Marc Gasol the top three frontcourt players. Tim Duncan and James Harden are the two Western Conference players closest to moving into the starting five, with Duncan roughly 50,000 votes behind Marc Gasol, and Harden about 180,000 votes behind Kobe Bryant.

In the Eastern Conference, the only move among the starting five is a flip-flop between two starters. Chicago’s Pau Gasol, who was roughly 18,000 votes behind New York’s Carmelo Anthony in the first voting returns, has moved into second place among Eastern Conference forwards, with 372,109 votes to Anthony’s 365,449.

Chris Bosh is currently in fourth place among Eastern Conference forwards, about 70,000 votes behind Anthony for a starting spot.

John Wall and Dwyane Wade remain atop the Eastern Conference guards, with Kyrie Irving about 90,000 in third, about votes off the pace.

The biggest gainer overall is Portland’s Damian Lillard, who was eighth among Western guard in the first results, but has jumped to fifth in these second results, leapfrogging Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson and Rajon Rondo. Lillard, however, remains about 550,000 votes behind Bryant for a starting guard position.

The team most under-represented in regard to their record is the Atlanta Hawks, who currently have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 23-8, but their highest-ranked player in the second voting results is Paul Millsap, who is 13th among Eastern Conference forwards (34,751 votes).

This year, for the first time ever, fans have the power to vote for any active player in the NBA using the new online ballot. The 64th NBA All-Star Game will be played in New York City’s iconic Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks, on Sunday, February 15, 2015. The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and State Farm All-Star Saturday Night — including the Sears Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and Sprite Slam Dunk — will be held at Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets. The recently-debuted uniforms feature nods to all five boroughs of New York City.

Morning shootaround — Dec. 26


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 25

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Kobe is growing old before our eyes | LeBron has bittersweet return | Warriors have a ‘jolly’ Christmas?

No. 1: Lakers move on without Kobe for nowKobe Bryant did what many did on Christmas Day: He sat around and watched a basketball game. The Lakers played the Bulls without their leader and leading scorer and it was what you would have expected: Not much of a contest. And the biggest news of the game was on the Laker bench. Kobe complained about “old age” and sat for another game, and at this point, this pattern could repeat itself throughout the season. Kobe said “my knees are sore, my Achilles are sore, both of them. Metatarsals are tight, back’s tight. I just need to kind of hit the reset button.” Oh,  if only the Lakers could do the same. They’re now 9-20 after losing by 20 to the Bulls and ex-Laker Pau Gasol. Kobe is a very old 36 and in his 19th season, and given how the Lakers are losing even when he’s in the lineup, you must seriously wonder about the wisdom of playing him heavy minutes, anyway.

Here’s Mark Bresnahan‘s report from the Los Angeles Times:

Most of the talk centered around Bryant, who said there was only a “slim” chance he would return Friday against Dallas. He worked with a team physical therapist for an hour and a half Thursday morning, “taking care of every part of my body,” he said.

“It’s tough with our health team here, trying to find new ways of doing it because there’s really no blueprint for playing this long, at this position at least, in the NBA. We’re really trying to figure new things out, trying to see what’s out there, trying to see what works, what doesn’t work. It’s constantly experimenting.” On the court, Bryant said he would try to find areas that were best for him efficiency-wise.

“It’s habit for me to move around and be active offensively all over the place from different spots on the floor,” he said. ” I don’t think my body can hold up to that anymore.” He seemed especially disappointed to sit out a Christmas Day game, let alone in Chicago against Gasol, his former teammate and still good friend. He did have a pledge, though.

“I’ll get back to being healthy, like I was at the start of the season,” Bryant said. “We’ll probably cut down the minutes.” Bryant is averaging 35.5 minutes per game, only one below his career average.

His scoring has been solid — 24.6 points per game — but he’s only 8% below his career accuracy before the season.

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No. 2: LeBron has a bittersweet trip down memory lane – Well, that was interesting. The Cavaliers-Heat game was all about one man’s trip to his second home and the reception he would get. LeBron James heard the good and the not so good when he was honored with a video tribute and a standing ovation, and then treated like any other visitor to American Airlines Arena, where he hoisted a pair of trophies as a member of the Heat. Now, of course, he’s back with the Cavaliers and emotions tugged at him on Christmas Day. He was with his pal Dwyane Wade although on the other bench, and his current team never really had much of a chance to straighten their disappointing season out, losing 101-91. It must be weird being LeBron right now. He’s back in Ohio and with the team he broke in with. He has rejoined the hearts of Cavaliers fans. He has a ton of money, his good health and soon a newborn girl. He has a pair of championship trophies. But he cares deeply about his place in the game, from a historical perspective, and knows that he’ll never be considered the greatest to ever play unless he multiplies his trophy collection. That might not happen this season because the Cavaliers are 16-11 and showing no signs of turning it around anytime soon. Anderson Varejao is out for the season with a torn Achilles and Kevin Love remains in a fog. LeBron’s dreamy return home is laced with issues, writes Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

It’s tempting to read too much into this, and maybe we shouldn’t. OK, we should. And we will. Did anyone think it was odd that LeBron James had more camaraderie, more genuine interactions with the former teammates that were all around him Thursday than his current ones? Think about that for a minute … when you’re the most prominent player in the game and you spend for years with people and make four trips to the NBA Finals with them and win two championships, those bonds “last forever” as James said before his return to Miami on Christmas Day. This is especially true when one of those players, Dwyane Wade, has been your friend and rival — like a brother to you — for virtually your entire basketball career.

Those bonds can’t be formed in your new city (not even if it’s your old city, and not even if it’s your hometown) over the course of 28 regular season games. But man, oh man, James and his new teammates in burgundy and gold uniforms look more like strangers than teammates. They’re all lost, and nobody has directions.

That’s a problem.

It’s a problem that cuts much deeper than the inconsequential 101-91 loss that James and the Cavs suffered at the hands of Wade and the Heat on Thursday. And it speaks to something very interesting about the dynamic that James left behind in Miami and the one that he voluntarily rejoined in Cleveland.

The NBA always has been, and always will be, a player’s league. The best coaches are the best coaches because they usually have the best players. Carmelo Anthony isn’t so great and has virtually no chance to win on any given night because he is surrounded by bad players. That part of the game is easy to figure out.

But there’s something else that gets often overlooked, something that we shouldn’t need help recognizing after witnessing the championship blueprint set forth by San Antonio Spurs all these many years. While it may be true that you cannot win without good players, it’s equally true that you can’t win without a strong, winning culture and foundation.

That was the fundamental reason James left Cleveland in the first place and decided that he needed to be a part of what Pat Riley had built in Miami. More than anything — more than teaming up with Wade and Chris Bosh, more than flexing his free agent muscle — it was about immersing himself in an organization with strong leadership, an unconditional partnership between the coach and the GM and an owner who let people do their jobs. Four Finals trips and two championships later, it worked — for all parties involved.

Now the Heat are below .500 and just trying to tread water in the woeful Eastern Conference. But if you thought that James was going to leave behind a steaming pile of rubble — a team lacking discipline and any discernible style or direction — think again.

That’s James’ new team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Every game for us is a learning experience,” James said. “We’re not that good right now.”

They’re 17-11 and once they figure out how to replace the injured Anderson Varejao, chances are they’ll walk backwards into the Eastern Conference finals by accident. James is right about not being very good right now, but he missed something.

They don’t even seem to know what they’re trying to be.

***

No. 3: Maybe the Warriors should take their angry pills — Understand that nobody should ever promote violence in the NBA or anywhere for that matter. We strive to be a peaceful band of citizens, loving our fellow man and promoting a sense of brotherhood whenever given the chance. Especially on Christmas Day; what evil person would ever stoop to doing anything dastardly? Well, whenever the Warriors and Clippers play, it’s usually a contest that takes on a bit of an edge. They have a history, let’s just say. And they’re both very, very good here in the early going, and want the same thing: The Western Conference championship. There’s a decent chance that the road through the West will wind through one either LA or Oakland, and maybe both, with all due respect to San Antonio and OKC and Portland and Houston. The Warriors are the hottest team in the NBA while the Clippers, after a brutal schedule and a stumbling start, are starting to gather themselves and play in a manner that satisfies coach Doc Rivers. So when they met on Christmas Day, a pair of forces colliding at the Staples Center, something had to give. Blake Griffin, as he usually does against the Warriors, refused to shake hands or even offer a fist bump with any Warrior before the tip. And the pro-Clippers crowd was loud from the jump. The Clippers were in full message-sending mode and it showed when they clobbered the Warriors, which annoyed one Golden State player in particular. Draymond Green, who’s having a fine season, thought the Warriors were simply too soft and nice.

Here’s Rusty Strauss of the San Francisco Chronicle on the state of mind of Green and the Warriors:

“I don’t think we were intense as far as having that fire, but I don’t think they were, either,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “I don’t know what the cause of it was. Maybe everybody was a little too jolly. But it was too nice. It was too boring. I’m sure it wasn’t the prime time game everybody expected.”.

More Green: “There was no, ‘I don’t like you’ and ‘You don’t like me,’ ” Green said. “There are some guys on that team that I really respect, but there was no fire, no dog. It’s no secret that we don’t like them. They don’t like us. I don’t know why the game was that nice, trying to act like we like each other when we don’t. It was a boring game.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: John Wall and Quincy Acy exchanged Christmas Day pleasantriesJosh Smith excited to join the RocketsNBA Christmas ratings are friendly …

LeBron, Curry lead initial All-Star voting

HANG TIME HQ — Two weeks after voting began for the 2015 NBA All-Star Game, despite finding a new home in the offseason, the King remains on top.

The first results for the 2015 All-Star Game starting lineup voting were announced, and Cleveland’s LeBron James is the overall leading vote getter, with 552,967 overall votes. But right on James’ heels is Golden State’s Stephen Curry, voting leader in the Western Conference and second overall with 549,095 votes.

NBA All-Star 2015James, who finished as last season’s leading vote-getter while a member of the Miami Heat, is followed in the Eastern Conference by Washington’s John Wall with 299,209 overall votes. In the Western Conference, close behind Curry is New Orleans’ do-everything big man Anthony Davis, with 524,623 votes. If the voting holds, Curry, Wall and Davis would all be making just their second All-Star appearances.

Interestingly, the third place spot in each Conference is currently occupied by an All-Star veterans, Los Angeles’ Kobe Bryant (521,542 votes), a 16-time All-Star, and Miami’s Dwyane Wade (265,917 votes), a 10-time All-Star.

Just several hundred votes behind Wade in the East is New York’s Carmelo Anthony, while Chicago’s Pau Gasol currently rounds out the East’s starting five. Out West, Blake Griffin and Marc Gasol are are currently leading in the race to win the remaining starting spots.

Several starters from last season’s game are, at least initially, off the pace to make the starting lineup. Kevin Love started for the Western Conference last season, but since being traded to Cleveland over the summer, Love is fifth among frontcourt players in initial voting with 169,818 votes. Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving started for the East last season and ended up winning the All-Star MVP award after going for 31 points and 14 assists. But in these first returns, Irving is third among Eastern Conference guards, behind Wall and Wade, with 237,356 overall votes.

Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, the reigning NBA MVP, also started for the West last season, but after missing 17 games due to a foot fracture, Durant is currently fifth in the West with 191,881 votes. His teammate Russell Westbrook, a three-time All-Star who missed 14 games this season with a broken hand, is seventh among guards in the West with 84,686 votes.

This year, for the first time ever, fans have the power to vote for any active player in the NBA using the new online ballot. The 64th NBA All-Star Game will be played in New York City’s iconic Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks, on Sunday, February 15, 2015. The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and State Farm All-Star Saturday Night — including the Sears Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and Sprite Slam Dunk — will be held at Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets. The recently-debuted uniforms feature nods to all five boroughs of New York City.