Posts Tagged ‘Gordon Hayward’

Pool of talent exists beyond 1-and-dones


VIDEO: Damian Lillard has enjoyed the Blazers’ quiet rise to contention this season

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – On the one-and-done issue, second-year All-Star point guard Damian Lillard has no issue with commissioner Adam Silver‘s desire to raise the minimum age to enter the league from 19 to 20.

After all, the Portland Trail Blazers’ No. 6 overall pick in 2012 turned 22 a few weeks after the Draft. He played four seasons at little-known Weber State in Ogden, Utah. Lillard’s rookie teammate, guard C.J. McCollum, turned 22 a few months after the Blazers made him the No. 10 pick in the 2013 Draft. McCollum played four years at tiny Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa.

“I definitely don’t think guys should be able to leave [for the NBA] after high school,” Lillard said during the All-Star break. “Back in the day there were guys like LeBron James coming out, Kevin Garnett. I don’t think you have that anymore, guys that can come in and do what they do. As far as college, it’s different situations. My freshman year in college, I wasn’t ready to be an NBA player. What was best for me was to play four years of college. Some guys, Anthony Davis, 6-foot-10, great defender, it was perfect for him, it was time for him to be an NBA player.”

Every few years there will be a special talent such as Davis, who was the top pick in 2012. He seemed ready to enter the big leagues at age 18 or 19. But would it have benefited Davis’ Kentucky teammate, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, to spend another season with the Wildcats rather than go No. 2 overall (at 19 years old) to the Charlotte Bobcats in 2012?

“A lot of it is mental and having that college experience helps because I was in that situation so many different times when my team depended on me to make a play, to make a shot, bring us back, stuff like that,” said Lillard, who has hit four game-winners this season. “Just having that experience over and over and over those four years helped prepare me for whenever that came up in the NBA.”

Of course that’s the overriding argument for raising the age limit. The NBA wants players entering the league to be more physically and emotionally prepared for life on and off the court. Coaches at major programs crave more continuity for their programs.

But is the one-and-done issue really a problem?

Of the 18 first- and second-year players at last month’s Rising Stars Challenge game during All-Star weekend, 16 of them attended college (two were international players). Twelve played beyond one season. Six played two seasons and three each played three years and four years.

Only four were one-and-done: Davis, Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, Pistons center Andre Drummond and Thunder center Steven Adams.

One-and-done hasn’t exactly opened the floodgates to players declaring for the Draft after one college season. Still, the blue-blood collegiate programs, with such small windows to compete for a championship with top recruits, are on the hunt for high school players physically prepared to play as freshmen. It leaves a large pool of talented players to fall through the cracks and land at smaller, so-called “mid-major” programs.

Once there, they tend to stay for multiple years, allowing for maturation and development in bridging the gap from 18 years old to 21 or 22.

“We have a better understanding of everything because we’ve been through a lot,” said McCollum, whose rookie season was stunted by a broken foot late in training camp. “Going to small schools, not being recruited, you go through a lot, having to earn everything, having to work really hard, and you have to take advantage of moments because at a small school you don’t play a lot of big teams so you have to capitalize on a small window of opportunities.”

Since Blazers general manager Neil Olshey used consecutive top 10 draft picks on two four-year, mid-major players, it wasn’t surprising to find him in the stands at the University of Texas at Arlington on a bitterly cold early February night. He was there getting a first-hand look at a junior point guard in the Sun Belt Conference.

Elfrid Payton,” Lillard said, totally aware of the 6-foot-3 Louisiana-Lafayette prospect, a potential late first-round, early second-round draft pick.

Olshey wasn’t alone as Bucks general manager John Hammond also made the trip. In addition, 20 other NBA teams dispatched scouts to the game as front offices canvas smaller programs more than ever.

“I think there’s always been talent [at smaller schools], I just think guys like Steph Curry, Paul George, myself, Rodney Stuckey, I think that as guys are successful in the NBA, they’re [front offices] starting to pay closer attention to mid-majors,” Lillard said. “I don’t think it’s new. I think there’s probably been a lot of guys that just got overlooked, that didn’t get the opportunity. The good thing is the guys that I just named are opening up doors for guys like Elfrid Payton.”

Curry played three seasons at Davidson. George spent two years at Fresno State and Stuckey played two years at Eastern Washington. Lillard could have also named Kawhi Leonard (two years at San Diego State), Kenneth Faried (four years at Morehead State) and Gordon Hayward (two years at Bulter).

The few sure-fire one-and-done players at the marquee schools get the lion’s share of attention. But players are everywhere, players you’ve never heard of, but maybe should have and perhaps will.

Like Damian Lillard.


VIDEO: After a long wait, Portland’s C.J. McCollum got to make his NBA debut

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 19


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Feb. 18

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Howard happy in Houston as L.A. return looms | Report: Kings trade Thornton to Nets | Report: Knicks interested in Lin? | Report: Celtics eyeing Utah’s Hayward | James all business in win over Mavs

UPDATE: 1:03 p.m. ETDENG, SHUMPERT ON MARKET?

A few new names are starting to surface in the trade rumor mill, with the biggest being Cleveland Cavaliers small forward Luol Deng. According to ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, Deng, whom the Cavs acquired in a December trade with Chicago as they jettisoned Andrew Bynum, is on the block. Team officials are reportedly concerned they might not be able to re-sign the unrestricted free agent forward this summer:

As they evaluate the team and look to make a deal to help it secure a playoff berth, Cleveland Cavaliers officials are making recently acquired Luol Deng available ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, multiple league sources told ESPN.com.

The Cavs traded three future draft picks and Andrew Bynum to the Chicago Bulls to acquire Deng on Jan. 7. But the deal hasn’t worked out how either side hoped.

Cleveland isn’t determined to trade Deng, but with his impending free agency a concern, new general manager David Griffin is testing the potential market for the veteran forward. Getting value for Deng may be a challenge because his contract expires in June. He cannot be packaged with another Cavs player in a deal due to trade rules, though trades can be structured in a way to get around this issue if teams are motivated enough.

Sources say the Cavs are concerned about being able to re-sign Deng this offseason, as he’ll be an unrestricted free agent for the first time. Several teams with cap space, including the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, are expected to be interested in Deng.

Apart from Deng being put on the block, the Clippers and Knicks might also be working out a deal that would send guard Iman Shumpert to Los Angeles. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski has more on the trade that point-guard hungry New York might be working on:

The Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks are discussing a deal centered around guard Iman Shumpert, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

In proposed deals, the Clippers would send the Knicks a package that includes point guard Darren Collison for Shumpert and point guard Raymond Felton, sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Knicks are shopping Shumpert hard, and the Clippers have been receptive to listening on a potential deal, league sources said.

The discussions and proposed players are still fluid, league sources said, and a deal isn’t close to being reached. Nevertheless, Shumpert is an object of interest for the Clippers and the recent return of All-Star point guard Chris Paul makes Collison more expendable.

***

No. 1: Howard hoping it is ‘Rockets’ time’ to shine — No need to get into all the gory details here, but suffice it to say, Dwight Howard‘s one season as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t work out how either he or the team expected. After joining the Houston Rockets via free agency last summer, Howard has slowly but surely found his footing and is looking more like the dominant force he once was as a member of the Orlando Magic. As the Lakers host Howard and the Rockets tonight (10:30 ET, ESPN), Howard said he’s plenty happy in Texas and talks about how he’s moved on from L.A. Ramona Shelbourne of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more:

Dwight Howard isn’t regretting leaving the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s happy in Houston and confident he made the right decision last July to spurn the Lakers’ five-year, $118 million offer for the Rockets’ four-year, $87.6 million deal.

But on the eve of his first game against his former team at Staples Center, he did admit there were things that could’ve changed the outcome.

“There’s a couple things that could’ve been done, but that’s over with now,” Howard said with a coy smile Tuesday afternoon. “I’m in a better place, our team is doing great and the Lakers, they’ll come back. But hopefully this is the Rockets’ time.”

Howard’s Rockets won seven games in a row heading into the All-Star break. The Lakers (18-35) are lottery bound after losing seven straight home games. Their .340 winning percentage is the franchise’s worst since 1959-60.

“I think I still might follow them on Twitter, that’s about it,” Howard said, when asked whether he’d been following the Lakers season. “I don’t pay attention to what’s on TV and what’s being said. I just focus on my team.”

His new team is on a roll, sitting in a tie for third place in the Western Conference at 36-17 after a torrid February. Howard is averaging 18.8 points and 12.5 rebounds this season, nearly identical numbers to what he put up last season in L.A. (17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds).

But Howard has noticeably improved each month as he continues to recover from back surgery in April 2012. Howard averaged 25.8 points on 65.7 percent shooting from the field in February after scoring 18.8 points a game on 54.9 percent shooting in January.

Rockets coach Kevin McHale attributes that to health and chemistry with his new teammates.

“Dwight’s one of those guys, I think he plays better when he’s having a good time and is comfortable,” McHale said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. He’s a guy who plays better when he has a joyfulness about him.

“When I watched him last year, he just looked out of sorts the whole year. He didn’t look like the guy that I’d seen in Orlando. Now what caused that? I would say 70 percent of that was physical with the back and probably 30 percent of that was environmental. I guess it was a funky environment around here.”


VIDEO: Dwight Howard talks about his first return trip to L.A. to face the Lakers

***

UPDATE: 1:49 p.m. ET — KINGS, NETS PULL OFF TRADE

Per our own David Aldridge, the Kings and Nets have completed a trade that sends Marcus Thornton to Brooklyn in exchange for Reggie Evans and Jason Terry, confirming a trade first reported on by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski

No. 2: Report: Kings’ Thomas has sprained wrist; trade talks for Thornton heat up — Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas is in the midst of a career-best season, averaging 20.2 ppg and 6.3 apg. But he’s been dealing with a nagging wrist injury of late and an MRI reveals he has a wrist sprain that he’ll play through, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Aside from that, though, the Kings are apparently heating up trade talks to help their guard depth, with Marcus Thornton at the center of those discussions:

Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas has strained ligaments in his shooting wrist, an MRI revealed, and further complications could lead to him missing time, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Despite the recent diagnosis, Thomas has been determined to play through the pain, sources told Yahoo Sports. Nevertheless, there could come a time in the near future when Thomas could need to consider procedural remedies for the wrist, sources said.

The wrist issue is considered “a short-term nuisance,” one source said, and will have no long-term bearing on Thomas’ career.

In the aftermath of the Kings’ trading of Greivis Vasquez to the Toronto Raptors in December, Thomas, who is 5-foot-9, has flourished as Sacramento’s starting point guard. Thomas will be a restricted free agent in July and has expressed a strong desire to remain with the Kings as a centerpiece of the franchise’s rebuilding with center DeMarcus Cousins and forward Rudy Gay.

As the NBA trade deadline approaches on Thursday, the Kings are in a state of upheaval. Sacramento’s talks with Brooklyn on a deal to acquire guard Jason Terry and forward Reggie Evans for Kings guard Marcus Thornton have progressed to a serious stage, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Kings are discussing a trade of guard Jimmer Fredette with several teams, sources said.

***

No. 3: Report: Knicks interested in Lin? – Remember back in the 2011-12 season when Jeremy Lin took New York by storm with his inspired, out-of-nowhere play for the Knicks? Apparently, the Knicks themselves haven’t forgotten about it either — even after Lin left N.Y. for Houston as a free agent in the summer of 2012. According to ESPN.com’s Chad Ford via a podcast with fellow ESPNers Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe, the Knicks are reportedly interested in re-acquiring the point guard. Keep in mind, too, that yesterday New York was linked in trade talks that might net it point guards Kyle Lowry or Rajon Rondo, too:

The New York Knicks are interested in trading for Jeremy Lin.

The Knicks let Lin sign with the Houston Rockets in the 2012 offseason.

New York has been searching for trade possibilities at point guard.

Lin’s contract expires after the 14-15 season, which preserves their cap flexibility for 2015.

***

No. 4: Report: Celtics interested in Jazz’s Hayward — This is one trade rumor that isn’t that hard to understand if you can play a simple game of connect the dots. Before he was Utah’s leading scorer, Gordon Hayward was a star at Butler University from 2008-10 and helped the Bulldogs to the NCAA championship game in 2010. His coach at Butler? Brad Stevens … who is now the first-year coach of the Boston Celtics. A Hayward-Stevens reunion has been much talked about when it comes to Hayward, who will be a free agent this summer and could pair up with his old coach in Boston. But according to CSNNE.com’s A. Sherrod Blakely, the Celtics are interested in trying to get Hayward sooner than that:

The Celtics have expressed some interest in acquiring Utah’s Gordon Hayward, a league source tells CSNNE.com.

Hayward, who starred for Celtics head coach Brad Stevens while at Butler, will become a restricted free agent this summer after he and the Jazz could not come to terms on an extension this past fall.

The biggest challenge appears to be finding assets currently on the Celtics’ roster that are appealing to the Jazz.

Despite Utah’s desperate need for a point guard, there’s little interest in Rajon Rondo primarily because they don’t anticipate he’ll re-sign with the club beyond his current contract which is up in the summer of 2015.

Jeff Green is another option, but the Jazz aren’t all that interested in him, either.

It would appear the one thing that might nudge Utah towards giving serious thought to dealing Hayward, would be if the Celtics were willing to part with at least one of their stockpiled first-round picks.

But two league sources, both having had recent conversations with the Celtics, told CSNNE.com on Tuesday that Boston is “very reluctant” to part with any of their first-round picks in facilitating a deal.

In fact, Boston appears focused on adding more picks or assets with any deal they strike between now and the trade deadline.

***

No. 5: James all about business in win over Mavs — As part of NBA TV’s interview with LeBron James, one of the questions asked of him was who would be on his theoretical NBA Mount Rushmore. James told the interviewer, Steve Smith, that he saw himself as being one of the NBA’s four all-time greats when his career is over and since then, that comment has sparked much debate about all-time greats and LeBron’s place among them. More talk on that topic last night before the Mavs-Heat game from Dallas might have also motivated James as he dropped 42 points in Miami’s win. Our own Jeff Caplan has more from Big D: 

As news cycles go, Mt. Rushmore is burning Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman deep. James didn’t ask for it, but he did say it and now we, the media, can’t stop asking anybody associated with a round, orange ball whom they’d put on their own Mt. Rushmore.

Shawn Marion, the 6-foot-7 Mavericks small forward who did a magnificent defensive job on James during the 2011 Finals — and is just the type of savvy veteran (and a free agent this summer, to boot) Miami loves to place around its King sculptor — said after Tuesday morning’s shootaround that James wouldn’t be on his Mt. Rushmore, at least not yet.

By the time the news of this injustice got back to James during his pregame media session in the visiting locker room about 90 minutes before he buried Dallas with 42 points, nine rebounds and six assists in a 117-106 win, it came to him in the watered-down context that he flat-out didn’t make the cut on Marion’s Mt. Rushmore.

James was already in something of a foul mood, having decided to reveal a stern demeanor to show his teammates that the league was back open for business, and so was he. Less than 72 hours after rocking the stage with the The Roots at a New Orleans warehouse party, and 48 hours after playing in the All-Star Game, the Mt. Rushmore recurrence again put LeBron in a mood to scale the mountain.

“I really don’t care what people say or what people think, that’s not for me or my concern,” James said. “I think, once again, it was blown out of context. But, I feel like when it’s all said and done, my personal goal is that I can be one of the greatest to ever play this game, and I won’t sell myself short and I won’t continue to stop believing and saying and thinking what I believe in as far as personal goals. So, it doesn’t matter what Shawn Marion says, or what anybody says about the way I play the game of basketball.”

Is Mt. Rushmore becoming bulletin-board material? James was asked.

“I don’t need bulletin board material,” he answered. “My bulletin board material is the name on the back of my jersey and the name on the front of my jersey; and the youth and the kids that I inspire every day, every time I go out on the basketball court. And I witnessed that Saturday when I had my foundation event in New Orleans, when I was able to give back to a Boys And Girls Club and see over 30, 35, 40 kids smiling the whole time by my presence being there. My calling is much bigger than basketball. While everybody else focuses on just basketball, I’m focused on bigger and better things.”

He wasn’t finished: “And, you know, nobody can still guard me one-on-one.”


VIDEO: LeBron James talks about Miami’s win in Dallas

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Could the Kings be looking to part with star point guard Isaiah Thomas? … Celtics veteran forward Brandon Bass is plenty prepared to hear his name discussed in trade rumors … Gerald Wallace of the Celtics remains miffed at the Bobcats for trading him 2011Chris “Birdman” Andersen surprised fans and reporters last night by getting rid of his trademark mohawk. But after the game, he told Heat.com that it’s not gone, but merely “trimmed down” … Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger wants Mike Miller looking for his shot more on offense … Pacers center Andrew Bynum has been impressing coach Frank Vogel with his dedication to work out and improve himself … Bucks get swingman Carlos Delfino back in the mix soon

ICYMI(s) of The Night: Two posters served up last night, one by Nene (on Jonas Valanciunas) and another one from Gerald Green (on Kenneth Faried) …


VIDEO: Nene goes up strong and draws a foul from Jonas Valanciunas


VIDEO:Gerald Green posterizes Kenneth Faried with an alley-oop jam

Continuity Now A Strength For USA Basketball

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – USA Basketball announced its pool of 28 players that will make up the rosters for the 2014 World Cup of Basketball in Spain and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. The roster, which includes 11 of the 12 players from the 2012 Olympic gold medalists (Kobe Bryant is the only exception), can be seen below.

Some things to know about the roster:

  • Note the word “initial” in the press release. Names could certainly be added to the roster between now and 2016. Players get hurt and have things that come up and keep them from participating. Also, there are no rookies or college kids on the list, and USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo may want to bring a couple of young guys into the fold down the line.
  • Kevin Durant and Kevin Love have committed to play this summer in Spain.
  • The lack of continuity and stability were the USA’s weaknesses from 1998-2006, but have been strengths over the last several years. Even when the U.S. went to Turkey in 2010 with a new roster, the coaching staff was taking part in its fourth international competition and had a system in place. That coach Mike Krzyzewski is back for another run and so many players continue coming back is huge.
  • If the U.S. doesn’t win the World Cup later this year, they will have to participate in the FIBA Americas tournament in 2015 to qualify for the Olympics. After winning the Olympics in 2008, the World Championship in 2010, and the Olympics again in 2012, the U.S. has skipped the FIBA Americas tournament in 2009, ’11 and ’13.
  • If a player isn’t in the pool, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Colangelo and Krzyzewski didn’t want him. It’s possible that they asked and he declined.
  • Exactly half of the 28 players have experience in a major international competition. Blake Griffin was on the 2012 Olympic Team, but suffered a knee injury in training camp and was replaced by Anthony Davis. Colangelo often speaks of players earning “equity” with the program, so guys that have been on the roster before certainly have an advantage over those who haven’t.
  • Players’ NBA positions are listed below, but those aren’t necessarily their positions with the U.S. Team, which typically plays just one big man at a time and often has two point guards on the floor. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are power forwards, Love is a center, and Russell Westbrook is sometimes a small forward. The team wants to play fast and aggressive, especially on defense.
  • In 2008, ’10 and ’12, the team carried just three true bigs on the roster. There are 10 in the pool, including four with Olympic gold medals.
  • In addition to Bryant, active players with an Olympic or World Championship gold medal who are not in the pool: Chauncey Billups (2010), Carlos Boozer (2008), Chris Bosh (2008), Rudy Gay (2010), Eric Gordon (2010), Danny Granger (2010), Tayshaun Prince (2008) and Dwyane Wade (2008).
  • As noted by AP writer Brian Mahoney, the pool includes each of the top-10 scorers in the NBA. Also, Nos. 12 and 13.
  • Players who were at last summer’s mini-camp that aren’t on the roster: Ryan Anderson, Harrison Barnes, Mike Conley, DeMar DeRozan, Derrick Favors, Jrue Holiday, DeAndre Jordan, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ty Lawson, Greg Monroe, Chandler Parsons, Dion Waiters, Kemba Walker, John Wall and Tyler Zeller. It’s a testament to how deep the point guard position is that Conley, Holiday, Lawson and Wall aren’t in the pool. Rockets beat writer Jonathan Feigen tweeted Wednesday that Parsons was not happy about his exclusion.
  • The field for the 2014 World Cup of Basketball can be seen here. The four wildcard teams (there were 15 applicants) will be announced on Saturday, Feb. 1. Spain, playing at home, is obviously the U.S. Team’s biggest threat.

2014-16 Men’s National Team Roster

Player Team POS Height Age NBA Exp. National team experience
LaMarcus Aldridge POR F 6-11 28 8
Carmelo Anthony NYK F 6-8 29 11 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012
Bradley Beal WAS G 6-5 20 2
Tyson Chandler NYK C 7-1 31 13 2007, 2010, 2012
DeMarcus Cousins SAC C 6-11 23 4
Stephen Curry GSW G 6-3 25 5 2010
Anthony Davis NOP F-C 6-10 20 2 2012
Andre Drummond DET C 6-10 20 2
Kevin Durant OKC F 6-9 25 7 2010, 2012
Kenneth Faried DEN F 6-8 24 3
Paul George IND F-G 6-9 23 4
Blake Griffin LAC F 6-10 24 4
James Harden HOU G 6-5 24 5 2012
Gordon Hayward UTA G-F 6-8 23 4
Dwight Howard HOU C 6-11 28 10 2006, 2007, 2008
Andre Iguodala GSW F-G 6-6 29 10 2010, 2012
Kyrie Irving CLE G 6-3 21 3
LeBron James MIA F 6-8 29 11 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012
Kyle Korver ATL G-F 6-7 32 11
David Lee GSW F 6-9 30 9
Kawhi Leonard SAS F-G 6-7 22 3
Damian Lillard POR G 6-3 23 2
Kevin Love MIN F-C 6-10 25 6 2010, 2012
Chris Paul LAC G 6-0 28 9 2006, 2008, 2012
Derrick Rose CHI G 6-3 25 5 2010
Klay Thompson GSW G 6-7 23 3
Russell Westbrook OKC G 6-3 25 6 2010, 2012
Deron Williams BKN G 6-3 29 9 2007, 2008, 2012

Don’t Tell Rudy Gobert He’s A Project


VIDEO: Rudy Gobert misses but follows with a slam

 

RENO, Nev. — You can call Rudy Gobert young, inexperienced and maybe even still growing at 7-foot-2.

Just don’t call him a “project.”

“I know that’s the way a lot of people look at me,” said the Jazz rookie center from France with a shake of his head and crinkling of his face. “I don’t really like the word. I think it comes from people who have maybe seen me play maybe one time and they don’t really think that I know how to play.

“There are definitely things that I know I have to work on to improve my game, but I believer that there is much I can contribute if I get a chance to play.”

The 21-year-old Gobert has been assigned to the Bakersfield Jam for the NBA D-League Showcase and was impressive making 7-of-9 shots for 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in just 23 minutes of a win over Sioux Falls. It was the fifth game he’s played for the Jam, having gotten just limited minutes in 17 games with the Jazz.

“I try to work defensively on jumping straight up against my man,” he said. “That’s what the coaches want me to do. Work on my rebounding and offensively on my post game when I get touches.

“Everybody is probably not happy when they tell you they want you to do this, come to the D-League. I was not. I thought about it and I thought maybe it is not bad. I try to bring a positive attitude and say that it is good to get a chance to runs and play and see that it makes me better for the future. It’s good for me to get some playing time and just have fun.

“But I don’t want to say that it is better to be here than in Utah. I think anybody who is a professional would rather be in the NBA.”

Gobert set records at the NBA draft combine last year with a wingspan of 7-8 1/2 and a standing reach of 9-7 and was the 27th pick in the first round by the Nuggets before moving to the Jazz in a draft night trade. The physical traits are enough to make you drool even before combining them with a high revving motor that has him going after virtually every shot on defense.

“I think the main thing I have to do is build up by body and make myself stronger and I believe I am making progress,” he said. “I think I’m better at handling the physical parts of the game than when I came to training camp.”

In a season that the Jazz have committed to a youth movement with Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Trey Burke, Gobert can’t help champing at the bit to get more of his own opportunity.

“I know that I am not going to play ahead of Enes at the five position, so I understand how it is,” Gobert said. “But it’s hard. I’m not very patient. I tell myself I’ve got to keep working and just stay focused. When I come to these games I have to just have fun and play and everything will be alright.

“Like I said, it’s hard. We have a rebuilding year with many young players and I want to be a part of that. My hope and my goal is in about three years we can be trying for the title and, of course, I expect to be a big part of that.”

It’s Time For New Year’s Resolutions

VIDEO: The Starters review the year so far

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Ring out the old. Ring in the new. As the calendar turns, it’s time for resolutions throughout the NBA:

Atlanta Hawks — Look Back to the Future: This was supposed to be the start of a brand new era for one of the NBA’s most moribund franchises, and things were actually looking good until Al Horford tore a pectoral muscle. With their undersized big man done for the season, the Hawks will only stay afloat because they’re in the horrid Eastern Conference. But they’re going in the right direction under GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Budenholzer, and will get the lottery pick of the sinking Nets, so there’s reason for hope out of a draft class teeming with talent.

Boston Celtics — Move Fast on Rondo: According to the old saying, you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. When Rajon Rondo is finally able to get back onto the court and prove that he’s close to his old self, rookie coach Brad Stevens and GM Danny Ainge have to find out right away if he’s mentally ready to anchor the rebuilding project. If not, the Celtics could reap a windfall in new pieces ahead of the trade deadline.

Brooklyn Nets — Fuhgetaboutit: OK, it was a nice little pipe dream to think that a couple of old codgers like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce could shuffle up and down the court in slippers and robes to tangle with the Heat and Pacers. Fortunately, team owner Mikhail Prokorov can afford their salaries with the kind of change he finds in his sofa cushions. Pay them off, send them away and get back to building around Brook Lopez and Deron Williams with players who aren’t signing up for Medicare.

Charlotte Bobcats — Keep Him: For the first time in who can remember how long, Michael Jordan won’t have to spend next summer looking for a coach. The merry-go-round can stop. Steve Clifford has given Charlotte a sense of purpose, respectability and a solid identity on the defensive end. Now they’ve got to work on boosting production out of that woeful offense. One thing at a time.

Chicago Bulls — Play Derrick and the Dominoes: Even Layla couldn’t have knocked the Bulls off their feet like the second straight significant injury to their All-Star, MVP guard Derrick Rose. It might be time to reshuffle the bones on a club that hasn’t even won a conference title and already has significant money locked up in Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson before re-signing Luol Deng to a big contract.

Cleveland Cavaliers — Stop Winning the Draft Lottery: Of course, that would require the Cavs to actually make the playoffs and not qualify for the lottery. This is a team that was supposed to be on the rise with enough young talent to make LeBron James think about returning, but instead has Kyrie Irving trying to do everything, Dion Waiters angry and Andrew Bynum maybe ready to give up the game. Time for an adult to take control here, coach Mike Brown.

Dallas Mavericks — Embrace Reality: It’s a bit ironic that a guy like Mark Cuban that has made a name for himself in the world of reality TV shows rarely faces up to it with the Mavs. He’s fun. He’s entertaining. He’ll say anything, such as there’s no telling whether Houston getting Dwight Howard or Dallas getting Monta Ellis was a better free agent signing last summer. Now go get yourself some defense, Mark, before Dirk Nowitzki winds up running on his tongue trying to outscore everybody.

Denver Nuggets — Respect Yourself: There shouldn’t be a decent team that breaks camp without a solid sense of its identity. A year ago with George Karl pulling the strings from the sidelines and Andre Iguodala setting the pace on the court, the Nuggets had that. Now they are often just a bunch that is stuck in the middle of the pack on offense (18th) and defense (16th) and too often can’t defend its home court.

Detroit Pistons — Say It Ain’t So, Joe: A few years ago, it was signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva as big-money free agents. This time GM Joe Dumars figured it would be a good idea to upgrade the Pistons by tossing the combustible Josh Smith onto the fire to light up the frontcourt. So, Smith is already calling out coach Mo Cheeks and the Pistons are backsliding from the .500 mark. Things are getting ugly early again in the Motor City. And, oh yeah, nobody is coming to watch the Pistons, who are last in the league in attendance.

Golden State Warriors — Do the American Hustle: Like the hit movie, was last year’s magical little run through the playoffs by Mark Jackson’s team just one glorious con job? Yes, they’ve played a tough schedule, but something is missing. Lack of last year’s bench? A failure to take care of the ball? You get the sense that the Warriors were just trying to pick up this season right where they left off without putting in all of the gritty groundwork.

Houston Rockets — Rebound, Then Run: Everybody loves watching the Rockets run like methamphetamine-fueled hamsters on a wheel. But for a team that has Dwight Howard in the middle, they are horrible at giving up second-chance points to opponents and it has often proved costly. It’s nice to run, but better not to turn your back and head down the court while the other guy is dropping another put-back into the net.

Indiana Pacers — Don’t Stop Believing: The Pacers came into the season convinced that they could live up to the old axiom of playing them one game at a time and that grind-it-out method would eventually deliver the best record in the league and home-court all the way through The Finals. With Paul George tossing his hat into the MVP ring and Roy Hibbert making opponents ears ring with his physical style, it’s working quite well for coach Frank Vogel’s team.

L.A. Clippers — Say Goodbye to Hollywood: The sooner the Clippers can get rid of all the extraneous things in their game — yes, you, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan — and get down to the serious business of playing some real defense around the basket, the sooner we’ll take them seriously as real contenders in the Western Conference. At this point, despite all the good work by Chris Paul, the Clips are still one of those acts that gets eliminated early on “American Idol.”

L.A. Lakers — Lock Up Kobe: Yes, we know he’s the Black Mamba. We know that he’d be the guy standing out in the rain with a fork and still believe he’d quench his thirst. But the Lakers aren’t going anywhere this season and it doesn’t help their cause for next year if Kobe Bryant returns and pushes himself to the limit again in a debilitating run that winds up far short of the playoffs. It’s time to think about the limited — and high-paying — future he has left. Oh yeah, and trade Pau Gasol.

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Back And Forth With Bones: Bulls-Jazz

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Back and Forth With Bones is an email exchange between NBA.com’s John Schuhmann and NBA TV’s Brent Barry during a Monday night game. This week, they sat down (Schuhmann at home in New Jersey, Barry in the studio in Atlanta) to watch the 6-6 Chicago Bulls and the 1-14 Utah Jazz on NBA TV.

Pregame

Schuhmann: I think this game qualifies as the Saddest Matchup of the Season. The Bulls just lost Derrick Rose for the year and the Jazz are 1-14, having trailed three of their last four games by at least 28 points. But somebody has to win tonight!

Chicago has actually been much better defensively with Rose off the floor, and Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler is a pretty strong defensive backcourt. But for the time being, they’re also without Butler. So Marquis Teague and Tony Snell will each have a chance to prove they belong in the rotation. Long-term, they should be OK defensively, and they’ve been pretty poor offensively thus far, but they won’t be able to get much better without Rose.

And obviously, this puts more pressure on Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah to play big minutes and stay healthy. Noah’s minutes (29.3) are down below where he was two years ago (30.4) after a big increase last season (36.8), but I wonder if they go back up now that Rose is out.

Utah had two of their better offensive games upon Trey Burke‘s arrival, but they’ve actually been at their best with Diante Garrett playing point. This guy is a plus-24 for a team that’s been outscored by 67 points since he arrived.

Chicago can get points on second chances. They rank third in offensive rebounding percentage and the Jazz rank 29th in defensive rebounding percentage. It’s strange that Utah is such a bad rebounding team with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter (who’s out with a sprained ankle) up front. They’re actually worse with both of them on the floor than they are overall, but we talked a couple of weeks ago about how they extend out too much on their pick-and-roll coverage.

What are you looking for tonight?

Barry: So many things going wrong for both of these teams. Both are coming off very embarrassing performances and have a number of players in the role of proving they belong to be in the rotation, if not in the NBA.

The Kanter loss for the Jazz will greatly affect their ability to score points. Burke is trying to get his legs and conditioning back after just one start. And beginning his career with a team under these circumstances is very very tough.

I guess this game boils down to the identity of the teams. The Bulls have one and Utah has yet to establish one. I look for the Bulls to respond in a way that they have in the past without Rose. Even though the makeup of this team is different, they should be able to pull this game out with the experience of their roster.


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Back And Forth With Bones: Nuggets-Jazz

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Back and Forth With Bones is an e-mail exchange between NBA.com’s John Schuhmann and NBA TV’s Brent Barry during a Monday night game. This week, they sat down (Schuhmann at home in New Jersey, Barry in the studio in Atlanta) to watch the 0-7 Utah Jazz try to get off the schneid, hosting the 1-4 Denver Nuggets on NBA TV.

Pre-game

Schuhmann: Hey Bones, tonight we have the Nuggets and Jazz, who are arguably the two worst teams in the league right now. There are better games on League Pass, but this one isn’t without some intrigue.

Denver has obviously undergone a stylistic change under Brian Shaw. After attempting over 45 percent of their shots from the restricted area each of the last two seasons, they’ve attempted just 32 percent of their shots from there this year. They’re down to 10th and 20th in fast break points and offensive rebounding percentage respectively, after leading the league in both of those categories last year.

Their frontcourt rotation has been a mess without Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler (who is supposed to return tonight). I believe Shaw wants to work the offense through their bigs, but I don’t see any bigs on that roster that can function as a focal point offensively.

Meanwhile, I thought the Jazz would be better defensively after seeing their numbers with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter on the floor last season, but they rank 27th on that end, unable to get boards or keep their opponents off the line. Offensively, Gordon Hayward has the goods, but this team can’t hit a shot from the outside.

So, questions for you:
1. Are you on board with what Shaw is trying to do? Is it just a matter of time (and health) before the Nuggets get on track, or do they need to get back to running and attacking the basket?
2. Do the Jazz have more ability to be a decent offensive team (maybe the shots will start falling at some point) or a decent defensive team (as the bigs develop)?


VIDEO: Jazz broadcaster David Locke discusses Utah’s tough season

Barry: The Jazz are absolutely horrible at getting ball to go through the hoop, important that you can do that — it is called scoring. Last in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.

They’re getting exposed at point guard and can’t put pressure on opposing teams, most of which have pretty good ones, especially in the West.

It’s new territory for the team in terms of bearing heavy minutes, when and how to conserve legs and effort. Bigs worried about picking up scoring takes away rebounding focus. It will be interesting to see if they play confident or embarrassed to open up the game.

For the Nuggets, Shaw is still trying to find rotations that mesh with injuries to key players (Gallo, Kenneth Faried and now JaVale McGee). There’s no way Denver can play through bigs, so it will be interesting to see how Brian is managing the guard play.

Ty Lawson is playing a ton of minutes. Randy Foye next, but top three gunners are Ty (85 FGA), Nate Robinson (45), and Foye (44). They’re losing a bit of a defensive mentality/flexibility with Corey Brewer and Andre Iguodala gone.

Karl loved misfits, mismatches and mental games. It’s hard for new coach to get there without a better understanding, but even tougher when the old coach won a bunch too!

1st quarter

The Jazz got off to a strong start, scoring 26 points on a stretch of 16 possessions in the middle of the first quarter. The Nuggets shot just 8-for-21 in the period, but were only down six.

Schuhmann: The Nuggets are trying to post up Faried early on. I don’t get it.

Barry: And apparently are afraid to touch the paint on the defensive end. Some of the possessions are leaving them with bad floor balance and Jazz looking to run with purpose to score to start a game they really need to win.


VIDEO: Derrick Favors gets up to reject J.J. Hickson

They need a release from the winless start and a close game doesn’t do it.

Schuhmann: Turnovers have been an issue for the Jazz – 2nd highest rate in the league – and they don’t have any through 18 possessions. Favors looks more comfortable in the post than any of the Denver bigs.

Barry: Great patience vs. Mozgov. Fatigue moves the last two, but he responds with a block.

Barry: Good first quarter, but guys got a little tired for Jazz. Feels like Denver got away with one.

2nd quarter (UTA leads 26-20)

The Jazz scored on just three of their first 14 possessions and committed seven turnovers in the period after committing none in the first. The Nuggets had turnover issues of their own, but went on a 19-8 run late in the period to take a five point lead. Four points from Hayward made it a one-point game at the half.

Schuhmann: The Denver offense looks best when Lawson is attacking off the dribble. Not sure what else they can rely on.

Barry: They’ve just lost a lot of dynamic play on the wings with Brewer/Iggy gone and utility/tough matchups in Chandler/Gallo. You can see how they bog down.

Barry: But I do see signs of DHO (dribble hand-offs) and use of the pinch post in the Nuggets’ offense.


VIDEO: Andre Miller loses Jamaal Tinsley with a crafty crossover move

Schuhmann: That move by Andre Miller made my night.

Barry: And his.

Barry: Interesting for Utah to try to take advantage of Hayward in the post on Miller when doubles don’t result in anything good, because the Jazz can’t shoot it from distance.

Schuhmann: 10 combined turnovers in first six minutes of the second quarter. I’m starting to understand why these teams are a combined 1-11.


VIDEO: J.J. Hickson posterizes Jazz forward Marvin Williams

Halftime (DEN leads 46-45)


VIDEO: First half highlights from Nuggets-Jazz

Schuhmann: The Nuggets got things going in the second quarter when they – one – took care of the ball and – two – attacked the basket. 19 of their 26 points came in the paint or at the line.

Barry: And there lies the problem. Kanter and Favors will need to learn how to patrol and control the lower defensive box. Tonight, they are not having to deal with stretch bigs. It’s a technique/muscle game that they are struggling with.

Barry: Some worrisome numbers from PG for the Jazz. Lawson’s numbers at the half (eight points and six assists) might end up being more than the Lucas/Tinsley combo for the game. No playmaking to promote flow for the Jazz. All plays on one’s own to score.

3rd quarter

With the Jazz continuing to struggle offensively, the Nugget built a seven-point lead. But Favors scored seven straight points late in the period to keep it close.

Schuhmann: Lots of Favors in the post again. No double-teams = no ball movement. Denver willing to live with single coverage everywhere.

Schuhmann: Jazz had some pick-and-roll success in the third with a couple of nifty big-to-big passes between Favors and Gobert. Gets the defense moving more than straight post-ups.

Barry: When you can load up elbows and boxes the Jazz have very little room to find offense.

4th quarter (DEN leads 70-68)

The Jazz took a brief lead on an Alec Burks three-point play, but the Nuggets answered with a 10-1 run and scored 13 times in a 15-possession stretch to put the game away.

Barry: Penalty at 10:18 for the Jazz.


VIDEO: Nate Robinson lobs and Kenneth Faried finishes it off

Barry: Great dime by Nate. Pressure mounting on the Jazz, 0-7 and being down at home. Expect some roster change out of this timeout as Ty won’t want to put more pressure on guys to finish it out.

Barry: And there they are…

Barry: Offensive rebounds are crushing the Jazz.

Schuhmann: Yep. Pick-and-rolls are putting their bigs out of position.

Barry: But no reason to be extended that far. Strange injury to Manimal, if he doesn’t come back Utah will have a chance.

Barry: More Dre. Good call by B-Shaw.

Barry: Andre is fantastic… Great drive and shot before Gobert could get feet set to block. And Manimal is back. Not good for the Jazz.

Barry: Utah bigs just seem unaware of how far they are extending. They’re opening up drives and offensive rebounds for Denver. For the last three minutes, Ty can dictate tempo, whereas Utah has no point.

Final: Nuggets 100, Jazz 81


VIDEO: Nuggets pick up road win in Utah

Lawson led Denver with 17 points and 10 assists. Faried added 15 points and 13 rebounds and Miller added another 15 points off the bench for the Nuggets, who had a 48-36 advantage in the paint, a 52-35 advantage on the glass, and a 23-16 edge at the free throw line. Favors finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks, but the Jazz shot a brutal 3-for-17 from 3-point range and are shooting 23 percent from beyond the arc through eight games.

Schuhmann: It’s tough to score with no penetration and no shooting. We saw some decent post-ups from Favors, but the bigs don’t demand a double-team down there.

Denver looked good when they went to last year’s formula of dribble penetration from the point guards and crashing the glass, though with Brewer and Iguodala gone, they’ve lost a lot of their potency on the break. I’m not a fan of trying to work through Faried or Hickson in the post, but they went away from that in the second half. Of course, we can’t really evaluate their D from a game against the Jazz.

Barry: No, but the Horns set seemed to open up basic opportunities for Denver. They will look much different when they have a full complement of players.

But the Jazz have reasons for concern, as Trey Burke is not going to come in and take the Western Conference PG position by storm.

Morning Shootaround — Nov. 1

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Anthony wants to retire in N.Y. | Hayward, Jazz fail to reach deal | Suns pass on Bledsoe extension | Fredette to be a free agent; Kings don’t extend Vasquez | Adelman promises to give Williams a chance

No. 1: Anthony: ‘I want to retire in New York’Yesterday, we told you in this space that Knicks star Carmelo Anthony and GM Steve Mills had come to an agreement to not discuss a possible contract extension for Anthony during the season. During last night’s Knicks-Bulls game on TNT, Anthony opened up about his plans for the future, going as far as to say he wants to ‘retire in New York.’

“I think a lot of people jumped the gun when I said I wanted to be a free agent,” he said. “And yeah, I want people to come play in New York. I want them to want to play in New York. I want New York to be that place where guys want to come play.”


VIDEO: Carmelo Anthony on his desire to stay with New York

***

No. 2: Hayward, Jazz fail to agree to contact extension — Contract extension were doled out to several members of the 2010 Draft class during the offseason and training camp including John Wall, Larry Sanders, Paul George and Derrick Favors. Jazz forward Gordon Hayward and his representatives had been in talks with Utah’s front office about a deal, but nothing materialized before yesterday’s deadline. Sam Amick of USA Today has more on why the deal fell through and what’s next:

When it comes to NBA extensions, it’s a calculated risk any way you slice it. The only thing that changes is the side that’s rolling the dice.

So it was that the Utah Jazz and small forward Gordon Hayward couldn’t reach an agreement before the midnight ET deadline on Thursday night …

As veteran agent Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports and Entertainment explained it after months of talks with Jazz officials regarding Hayward didn’t pay off, it’s a tough task to pull off when both parties know that the now-or-never moment doesn’t happen until the offseason. The evidence supports that claim, as only six players from the draft class of 2010 signed extensions in the latest go-round: Indiana small forward Paul George, Milwaukee center Larry Sanders, Washington point guard John Wall, Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins, Utah forward Derrick Favors, and Memphis guard Quincy Pondexter.

“The most difficult deals to do are extensions — other than the max,” Bartelstein told USA TODAY Sports by phone just before the deadline passed. “When someone is offering you a max, then it’s easy. Those are easy. Other than that, they’re difficult because … there’s not a marketplace, so the teams sometimes have a view of wanting to get something for doing it early, and the player wants to get what he perceives his value to be, so they’re hard to do.”

As it pertains to Hayward, there were strong signs in the days leading up to the deadline that he was leaning toward taking the restricted free agency route. The Jazz were clearly hoping to secure Hayward after agreeing to terms with Favors on a four-year, $49 million deal, but they’ll now have the chance to match the highest bidder this summer when the 23-year-old may be the leading man among the younger class of free agents.

Bartelstein was quick to compliment the Jazz for their handling of the negotiations, and dispelled any notion that this is a sign that Hayward is looking to head elsewhere.

“The main thing is that the Jazz put in a tremendous amount of time and effort into wanting to get something done, and we put in a tremendous amount of time and effort to get it done,” Bartelstein said. “It was not due to a lack of trying. That’s for sure. There was a lot of time and a lot of energy spent the last few months in working at it, but sometimes you just can’t come up with something that both sides feel good about. That doesn’t change at all — at all — how Gordon feels about the Jazz.”

***

No. 3: Suns, Bledsoe can’t come to extension agreement — Suns guard Eric Bledsoe had an impressive preseason and led Phoenix to a victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in their season-opener. Those games represent all of Bledsoe’s career to date in Arizona and although the 2010 draftee was eligible for a contract extension up until last night, the Suns were have a hard time determining what, exactly, to pay him if they offered him such a deal. That lack of time together may have been one of the tipping points in the Suns’ decision to not offer Bledsoe an extension, writes Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic:

The Suns and Eric Bledsoe have been talking about a possible contract extension that could have locked up the point guard through 2018.

They could not find common terms by Thursday night’s deadline but the Suns still intend for Bledsoe to be part of their future.

“There is no rookie extension with Eric but that doesn’t in any way suggest that we are not excited that Eric is a Sun and we look forward to Eric being a Suns for a long time,” said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby, who has been engaged in extension talks over the past month with Mark Termini, the former agent who works as a negotiator for Bledsoe’s agent, Rich Paul.

“It’s a hard thing to do. We had numerous conversations over the past few weeks. We had a good, professional exchange of ideas.”

The task of extending Bledsoe was a challenging one, especially with Bledsoe logging one game as a Suns before the 9 p.m. deadline struck Thursday night. Bledsoe has been a backup for his first three NBA seasons with the Clippers but surely will increase his value this season as a starter and focal point for the Suns. He is only 23 and was highly sought when the Suns made a trade to acquire him from the Clippers in July.

“Both sides are trying to make projections on what Eric’s performance and new role are going to be,” Babby said Thursday night. “Those projections are not necessarily precise and, from the Suns’ perspective, it needs to be considered from the context that Eric will be a restricted free agent in the summer, which gives us matching rights. In the end, it seemed prudent to wait until July. In the meantime, we will be rooting for Eric to have a great season.”

Babby would not characterize how close the sides came in negotiations. The parties assumedly were talking about a four-year deal, rather than the option of a five-year deal for a designated player to get a maximum-salary contract.

The dilemma of what to pay Bledsoe was spelled out previously here.

It appears that the talks did not turn contentious, which is a danger in such situations.

“It was completely professional, not acrimonious,” Babby said. “Everyone understood the task was a difficult one because of the nature of the circumstances and the context of restricted free agency.”

No. 4: Kings decline to pick up Fredette’s option, pass on Vasquez extension — Back during the 2011 Draft, the Kings took part in a three-team deal that, in part, helped them land former BYU sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette. Since landing in Sacramento, though, Fredette’s playing time has been inconsistent and when it came time to decide to pick up his option for 2014-15, the Kings passed on it. As well, new starting point guard Greivis Vasquez, whom Sacramento acquired in the offseason in the Tyreke Evans trade, was eligible for a contract extension, but the team passed on that, too. Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee has more on the moves:

Those who have wanted the Kings to “Free Jimmer” might get their wish.

The Kings on Thursday declined to pick up the fourth-year option on guard Jimmer Fredette’s contract for the 2014-15 season, which would have paid the 2011 first-round draft pick a little more than $3 million. The deadline to do so was Thursday at 9 p.m.

Therefore, Fredette will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. The Kings could re-sign him at a reduced salary, but the decision likely means this will be Fredette’s final season with the team.

It also means Fredette probably would bring more value in a trade because his expiring deal would create salary cap space for next summer’s free-agent class. The trade deadline is Feb. 20.

During the offseason, the team drafted Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum and acquired Greivis Vasquez from New Orleans. The Kings’ front office likes Isaiah Thomas, and Marcus Thornton has two years left on his contract.

A huge crowd greeted Fredette at Sacramento International Airport when he arrived following the draft, and he remains extremely popular, even though his playing time with the Kings has been inconsistent.

Thursday also was the deadline to reach agreement on contract extensions for 2010 first-round draft picks.

The Kings had two players eligible for deals, Vasquez and forward Patrick Patterson. Neither landed an extension.

Sacramento can make both players restricted free agents after his season, giving the Kings the right to match an offer from another team and retain them.

***

No. 5: Adelman promises Williams will get his chance — Since being taken with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2011 Draft, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams has had a wildly inconsistent role on the team. Last season, he played in 78 games, starting 56 of them, and saw his averages in scoring (12.0 ppg), rebounding (5.5 rpg) and shooting (43.0 pct) hit career highs. Then came the season-opener on Wednesday night in which Williams failed to get off the bench despite being healthy. Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman and Williams addressed the player’s role after Thursday’s practice and Adelman vows that Williams will eventually get his chance, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune:

Wolves coach Rick Adleman had a couple things to say about Derrick Williams. First, the third-year forward will get his chance to play. Second, we should all calm down on the issue.

“I don’t worry about him as much as you guys do,” Adelman said after Thursday’s practice. Williams, who works at both forward positions, did not play in Wednesday’s opening-night victory over Orlando.  A former second-overall pick, Williams’ playing time has fluctuated since he joined the team.

“He’s going to get a chance to play when it looks like there is a good opportunity for him,” Adelman said. “But there are other guys, too. Right now Robbie Hummel’s played very well, the whole month he’s been here. It could be one of those guys. It could be (Shabazz Muhammad), who has played well. Nobody has separated himself. (Williams’)  best spot is the four spot, and it’s almost impossible to get him minutes at the four spot.”

Williams, asked about his situation, said he wasn’t disappointed. “No, we won, you can’t be disappointed when we win,” he said.

But on the matter of patience? “I’ve been patient two years now,” he said. “So we’ll see. I don’t know.’’

Interestingly, Williams retweeted an item originally tweeted by Los Angeles Clippers forward Jamal Crawford Wednesday night. “Watched a bunch of games tonight,” Crawford wrote. “One thing that is clear. Situation, and opportunity has a lot to do with success in the NBA.’’

“That’s all the NBA is, opportunity,” Williams said. “That’s why I retweeted it.”

But when will his come? The power forward position is where Kevin Love plays, and Dante Cunningham is usually his backup. That leaves the small forward position. And for Williams to play there, Adelman said he needs to see the right matchup.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Wizards guard John Wall got a warning about floppingJ-Smoove is enjoying the start to his career in Detroit so far … The Magic are readying for their home opener and the official kickoff to their 25th anniversary season … The reviews are in for Pierre the Pelican, and they’re not pretty

ICYMI Of The Night: We’ve got to imagine Clippers TV play-by-play man Ralph Lawler is a little horse after these three straight alley-oop jams by Blake Griffin


VIDEO: Blake Griffin converts three straight alley-oop jams

Morning Shootaround — Oct. 31

NEWS OF THE MORNING

‘Melo, Knicks agree to stay quiet on contract | Howard dominates in debut | Cavs get ‘grimy’ win | Thompson impresses in win vs. Lakers | Rookie Carter-Williams creates buzz for Sixers | Still no extension for Jazz’s Hayward

No. 1: Anthony, Knicks agree to not discuss contract during seasonPrepare to be disappointed if you’re rooting for another bout of ‘Melo-drama surrounding Knicks star Carmelo Anthony and his future. Anthony, who put the Denver Nuggets through some ups and downs during the 2010-11 season as his pending free agency hung in the balance, has an agreement in place with New York’s GM to not talk about his contract, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Knicks general manager Steve Mills, despite the sudden dismissal of Glen Grunwald four days before training camp, said there still are the highest of expectations from ownership.

“In terms of an edict, we try to win every year,’’ Mills said before the Knicks’ 90-83 season-opening win over the Bucks Wednesday at the Garden. “Our goal is to try to win the championship and be as competitive as we can possibly be.’’

Earlier in the day, ESPN reported Dolan told his coaches he “expects’’ to win it all despite removing the man who built the roster.

Nevertheless, a source said Dolan simply was expressing extreme confidence in his players.

As for Mills, he might have more pressure in delivering Carmelo Anthony on a long-term contract this summer.

“Any job like this is a high-pressured job,’’ Mills said. “I’m excited about being here. I feel very good about our team. We’re out to try to win a championship this year. You only feel pressure in this kind of environment but it’s a good pressure.’’

Mills said he and Anthony have agreed to talk only basketball and not about his contract future. That could mean Mills has no plans to even offer Anthony a three-year contract extension when he could do so in February.

Anthony already has said multiple times he wants to be a free agent to be in position for a five-year deal.

“Carmelo and I, the first day of training camp, we both agreed we wouldn’t have any more conversations about his ability to opt out or us negotiating an extension,’’ Mills said. “I’ll stick to what I had agreed to and not talk about his contract status.’’

***

No. 2: Healthy Howard dominates against Bobcats — Rockets center Dwight Howard has been saying all season that his back troubles are behind him, he’s happy playing in Houston and ready to prove he’s still the best center in the league. That much was on display last night in the Rockets’ home-opener as Howard dominated on the glass, collecting 26 rebounds to tie a career high. Our own Fran Blinebury caught up with Howard after the game, who is feeling great and wants to keep this hot start rolling:

All that mattered was that Howard was finally playing a game for the Rockets that counted in the standings, and for the first time after two tumultuous and dissatisfying seasons, things were different.

Looking dominant.

Having fun.

This was the way that Daryl Morey always hoped and wished it would be over all those months and years when he was trading players and draft picks and office furniture in an attempt to get the kind of super-nova stars in his lineup that would make the Rockets relevant again.

“I was nervous,” admitted the general manager.

It’s one thing to lie awake at night staring at a ceiling filled with fast-breaking fantasies and quite another to roll reality out onto the floor and expect it to work.

It did, if only in fits and start, and based on the overwhelming raw numbers of Howard’s work on the glass and around the basket.

He made eight of 14 shots from the field, blocked two shots and gobbled up 26 hungry rebounds, which equaled his career high.

“I really was trying to get 30,” Howard said. “I wanted to get 30 rebounds. I was upset that I didn’t do it, but I’ll try next time.”

More than numerical goals, it’s the fact that he can try without worrying about the effects of a surgically repaired back or a bad shoulder that make all the things he might do the next time and next time and next time a possibility again.

“He’s the elite basket protector in the league when he’s healthy,” said Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, who was an assistant on the staff when Howard was in Orlando and was Mike D’Antoni’s No. 1 aide last year in L.A. “I’ve gone through stretches of two-three weeks when we were in Orlando where he just dominated the game.

“Watching him on film and talking to him, I just think he feels a lot healthier. He’s moving a lot better and he’s playing with great energy. He’s such a physical force and he’s also a very smart player that when he’s right — and right now it looks like he is — he can impact every play at both ends of the floor.”

“He never last year moved like he’s moving now,” Clifford said. “He’s looking like a different guy. With all the frustrations that everybody had to deal with there last year…he’s got pride and he had played at a level in Orlando that he could physically never get to last year (in L.A.). I think that’s where it all started.

“People can say whatever they want about our team last year, but those guys fought hard. (Howard) could have sat out. We went 28-12 the last 40 games with our backs to the wall, playing every night to get to the playoffs. Those guys did a great job and he was right in the middle of it. He didn’t give in. Again, until Kobe got hurt, I think we were the team people were saying, ‘Man, I’m not sure I want to match up with them’ when we were seventh or eighth. Because we were playing well at that point.”

***

No. 3: Cavs get ‘Gritty-Grimy-Ugly’ in season opener — In his first go-around with the Cavaliers, coach Mike Brown was known for the defense-first mentality he gave to Cleveland during the LeBron James era. As he begins his second stint as coach in Ohio, Brown is sticking to his old tricks and trying to grind out wins however he can. Brown had nothing but praise for his squad after a season-opening win against the Nets, writes Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer, which was sealed by a free-throw line jumper by Anderson Varejao of all people:

Welcome back to Mike Brown’s world.

The Cavs didn’t just beat Brooklyn, 98-94, before a sellout crowd of 20,562 at Quicken Loans Arena, they did it Brown’s way.

The Cavs new/old coach called it: Gritty. Grimy. Ugly.

“And that’s how I like it,” said Brown.

How does Gritty-Grimy-Ugly look? It’s winning a game with Kyrie Irving scoring 15 of the hardest points of his career. What else can you say when the All-Star guard shot 4-of-16 from the field?

“He got seven rebounds,” said Brown, preaching the Gospel of Gritty-Grimy-Ugly.

It’s was more than Gritty-Grimy-Ugly. It was one huge human being defending the basket and setting some cement-truck picks. He is 7-foot, 280 pounds with arms that seemingly reach to the clouds.

Two seasons ago, before his knees became inflamed, Bynum averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds. That was with the Lakers under a coach named Mike Brown. He missed all of last season due to those knee injuries, and Brown is unsure how much he’ll play this season.

This was a Mike Brown type victory where no one scored 20 points, but six players had at least 10 points next to their name. It’s a game he called “ugly” at least three times, a game where the Cavs out-hustled the far more experienced and talented Nets. Brooklyn came to town with seven players who have been All-Stars and an $189 million payroll.

“I wanted us to fight, and I thought our guys did,” said Brown. “It was our ability to defend and rebound (that did it).”

***

No. 4: Thompson puts on a show against Lakers — If Warriors guard Klay Thompson keeps this up, Golden State is going to be even tougher to stop on offense than last season. Thompson ignited a rout over the Lakers last night, going for 38 points on 15-for-19 shooting, which included a 5-for-7 mark from 3-point range. More impressive to Thompson was he had this night while his father, former NBA star Mychael, was in attendance, writes Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:

Klay Thompson’s father can be awfully tough on him, but the third-year guard’s opening-night performance Wednesday was so spectacular, it earned a handshake from even one of the harshest of critics.

“He was probably proud,” Thompson said after his father, Mychal, found his way to the Warriors’ postgame locker room to offer congratulations. “It was a special moment.”

“It’s the best feeling in the world, especially when you win and the crowd is into it,” Thompson said. “When you’re scoring like that and your teammates are finding you, there’s nothing better.”

After a preseason in which the Warriors struggled to integrate four new rotation players and didn’t seem to completely find their footing following a weeklong tour of China, they looked like a true contender in beating the Lakers for just the sixth time in the past 39 meetings.

With as lofty expectations as ever swirling around a Golden State team and pregame introduction pageantry that only added to the hype, the Warriors thrilled the 39th consecutive sellout crowd at Oracle Arena with their largest opening-night victory ever. They had twice won openers by 28 points, in 1967 and 1978.

“That’s how big-time organizations do it, and I thought our guys did a great job of being ready after all of the (pregame) cheers,” head coach Mark Jackson said. “When the ball went up, they were ready and prepared, and it was a thing of beauty from the beginning to the end.”

Thompson made it pretty simple. He was the front line of the defense, being a consistent pest to Lakers point guard Steve Blake, and he was the game’s best offensive player – appearing simply unguardable.

The Lakers’ guards couldn’t stop him on the block, they didn’t realize he had the range to shoot from 5 feet behind the three-point arc, and they couldn’t rotate quickly enough to contest the seemingly instant release on his jumper.

Thompson said he knew he had it going in the pregame, when he knocked down about 95 percent of his shots. By game time, it was obvious to everyone else.

“He’s thirsty to score,” Jackson said. “He wants to shoot.”

***

No. 5: Carter-Williams creates buzz in debutMichael Carter-Williams couldn’t have asked for a better way to start off his NBA career. He was on fire against the defending-champion Heat last night, flirting with a triple-double as he put up 22 points, 12 assists and nine steals in Philly’s 114-110victory. The rookie was seemingly everywhere in the Sixers’ win, particularly on defense, and amazed the home crowd with his overall play, writes Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News:

But Sixers rookie Michael Carter-Williams outplayed pretty much everyone and posted a ridiculous line of 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals, seven rebounds and only one turnover to lead the Sixers to the improbable, 114-110 win in front of a near-sellout crowd of 19,523.

“I was just going out there and trying to play my part as a team,” Carter-Williams said. “I’m going to do as well as the team does. We had a lot of guys going. Evan was great, Thad [Young] was great [10 points, six rebounds], and Tony [Wroten] coming off the bench [14 points] was awesome. I was able to find some openings, and they were able to find me on some open shots, and that got me in the rhythm.”

Carter-Williams did a fantastic job of using his length to get into passing lanes all night. As the night progressed, the rookie seemed to gain more and more confidence in his first professional game.

“The stats speak for themselves, really,” Brown said of his point guard’s debut. “I actually thought he could have had one more steal. He was in the wrong place.

“We tried to come up with a game plan, and you try to come up with how the team is going to play overall, and he is a big part of that, and with his length and him cheating and reading gambles where we have to turn him loose a little bit. He was really good. What do you say? Just look at the win and look at the stat line. He was really, really good.”

***

No. 6: Still no deal for Utah’s Hayward — Last we heard, the Jazz and forward Gordon Hayward remained far apart on hopes of a contract extension. That was three days ago. Today is the deadline for him (and other 2010 draftees) to sign an extension with their team and there hasn’t been much forward movement in that direction, writes Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune. The sides are continuing to talk, though:

Gordon Hayward stepped into the center of the media scrum after Wednesday morning’s shootaround, ready for the same question he’s been asked just about every day for the last two weeks.

Any news?

Nope.

The Jazz and Hayward have until 9:59 p.m. MT on Thursday to reach a deal to extend the 23-year-old swingman’s contract; otherwise, Utah’s first-round pick in 2010 will become a restricted free agent this summer. So far, no deal has been reached.

If Hayward is thinking much about the ongoing talks, he’s not saying.

“The game is the only thing that’s on my mind right now,” he said. “That’s what’s important.”

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Pelicans will be will be without 3-point shooting power forward Ryan Anderson (fractured toe) for 1-3 weeks … New Mavs guard Monta Ellis and ‘Monta Basketball’ fit in pretty well with Dirk Nowitzki and Co. … Suns might not be as bad as everyone is predicting …

ICYMI Of The Night: On a 14-game night, it’s awful tough to pick the one play that stands out the most. But our vote today is going to this Anthony Davis finish off an alley-oop from Brian Roberts


VIDEO: Anthony Davis caps off the oop with a one-handed jam

Morning Shootaround — Oct. 25

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Durant responds to talk of him leaving OKC | Rivers explains why Clips covered Lakers’ banners | Report: Jazz, Hayward closing in on deal | Lakers concerned about Nash’s health | Report: Granger out opener

No. 1: Durant chimes in on chatter about his futureThe ESPN tandem of Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons over at Grantland.com have been rattling through their previews of every team in the league. In the course of doing so, there was a one-off video in which Rose predicted that Thunder star Kevin Durant will leave Oklahoma City for another destination such as Washington or Houston. Durant sat down for a Q&A with Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman and responded to Rose’s prognostication:

Q: Did you hear what Jalen Rose said about the Houston thing?
A: Yep.

Do you have any thoughts on that?
Nah, I’m here for the Thunder (laughs). I mean, that’s all I can say. I’m not thinking far down the line at all. It’s about today. Today we got better against the Chicago Bulls. I can’t tell the future. I can’t speak on that. That’s his opinion. I’m just going to keep playing for the Thunder. I love playing here.

People probably will continue to say that for the next three years.
Unfortunately.

How do you deal with that?
I mean, just let them know I’m not thinking that far down the line, I guess. I mean, I love my teammates. I love where I live. I love playing for this organization. So I’m just taking it a day at a time.

***

No. 2: Rivers explains why Clips covered up Lakers’ banners — When Doc Rivers announced in the preseason that the Clippers would be covering up the Lakers’ championship and retired-player banners at Staples Center during Clipper home games, it drew quite the response. From current Lakers player (and Los Angeles native) Nick Young to Lakers and NBA fans everywhere, the opinions — both positive and negative about the move — were flying around the NBA universe. So what led Rivers to make the banner move? He explains it during an interview with the Los Angeles Times‘ Melissa Rohlin:

Lakers fans have yet another reason to groan at the thought of Boston.

A Boston guy came up with the idea of covering the Lakers’ championship banners and retired jerseys  at Staples Center during Clippers games, according to Clippers Coach Doc Rivers.

Here’s how it went down.

“Last year when the Clippers were blowing us out, obviously I was sitting there with Eddie Lacerte, our trainer in Boston, and he taps me on the leg and says, ‘Look at that,’ ” Rivers said before Wednesday’s preseason game against the Utah Jazz.

“I didn’t want to look at anything at that point, we were down by 30 points, and I look up and you see all the banners. He said, ‘Man, I would never have that.’ This is what Eddie said. And I thought ‘Well, he’s right.’ Again, the Lakers can blame a Boston guy.”

Rivers said that since the Clippers announced the move, he’s received mostly positive feedback.

“The other day I was in a drug store and a Laker fan said, ‘I can’t believe you covered up our banners, but I was always wondering why you hadn’t done it in the past,’ ” Rivers said.

“It’s the Clipper court and that’s the way we feel. Again, it’s not a disrespectful thing at all, it’s not intended that way at all, it’s more that when we play our game it should be about us and only us.”

***

No. 3: Report: Hayward, Jazz working on extension — Last week, the Jazz locked up big man Derrick Favors with a multi-year extension and appear to be on course to do the same with swingman Gordon Hayward. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that the sides are discussing the finer points of a deal that they hope to have worked out before the Oct. 31 deadline for teams to offer extensions to eligible players:

The Utah Jazz, with less than a week to go before the league deadline, remain in talks with swingman Gordon Hayward on a contract extension, according to sources close to the process.

The Jazz have already struck a deal with big man Derrick Favors and have until 11:59 p.m. on Halloween to come to terms on an extension with Hayward or see the player widely regarded in Utah as the next face of the franchise become a restricted free agent in July.

Sources told ESPN.com that Hayward remains likely to land an extension before the deadline, with negotiations expected to pick up in pace this weekend after the team returns from a weeklong road trip in Southern California.

Official numbers on Favors’ extension obtained by ESPN.com show that 2010′s No. 2 overall pick received a four-year deal that guarantees just over $47.7 million. Sources indicate that Hayward’s deal could still wind up higher than Favors’ contract, given the strong interest leaguewide in the former Butler star and the fears in Utah that Hayward would attract even more lucrative offer sheets in free agency from rival bidders next summer if he gets that far.

Five players from the 2010 draft have received extensions since July 1. Washington’s John Wall and Indiana’s Paul George landed five-year max extensions that are expected to exceed $80 million. Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins received a four-year max extension worth in excess of $60 million. And Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders, similar to Favors’ range, scored a four-year deal worth $44 million.

Other 2010 draftees besides Hayward who remain alive for deals before next Thursday’s deadline include Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, Memphis Grizzlies forward Ed Davis and Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley.

***

No. 4: Lakers wondering if Nash will be healthy all season — In his first campaign as a member of the Lakers, point guard Steve Nash‘s season was limited to 50 games as various injuries sapped him of playing time. He entered training camp healed from the injuries of last season, but as he’s worked himself into shape, there are growing concerns amongst some of the Lakers that Nash may not be healthy all season again. ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin has more on the Lakers’ concerns about their No. 1 point guard:

After giving his 39-year-old body some time to rest during the summer, Steve Nash has been walking a fine line all preseason of trying to round into shape without pushing too hard and risk falling back into the cruel injury cycle that sabotaged his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers.

With the regular season set to tip off in less than a week, some of Nash’s teammates are starting to wonder when, or even if, they’ll have the full services of the surefire Hall of Famer in their lineup this season.

Coach Mike D’Antoni brought it up first after the team’s exhibition game against the Sacramento Kings in Las Vegas, suggesting that Nash would be in and out of the lineup all season. Pau Gasol followed this week, saying he was “concerned” about Nash after the point guard played only 15 minutes in the Lakers’ win over the Utah Jazz, sitting out the second half because of a neck injury.

“Steve hasn’t been able to complete a practice yet, so that’s the bigger issue,” Gasol said of Nash, who is averaging just 3.5 points and 3.5 assists in 16.7 minutes per game in the preseason, sitting out one of the exhibition games altogether. “I’m a little bit concerned because I want him to be healthy, I want him to play. I want him to play and I want him to do well. I want him to help us. I hope that he can.”

D’Antoni said Nash was able to make it through a full practice Thursday but cautioned that he could hold Nash out of the preseason finale Friday in Anaheim.

The Lakers aren’t necessarily lost without Nash — they have two viable backups at point guard in Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar — but there are intangibles that are hard to match from the former two-time MVP.

“We’ll just try to manage it as best we can,” D’Antoni said. “But we did add Jordan Farmar, who is going to give us a lot. So, we’re trying to cover our bases a little bit. But, again, you don’t substitute a Nash or a Kobe or Pau. They’re still going to have to carry a lot of the load.”

Nash recognizes there are capable players behind him, but he doesn’t look at it as a preferred fallback plan.

“I think the luxury is there, but that’s not my mentality,” Nash said. “Definitely, we’re in good hands with three point guards. I’m not going to give an inch, but at the same time, our team does have that luxury.”

Nash is admittedly having to teach himself to adjust to life as the oldest player in the NBA.

“It’s a different stage in my career,” Nash said. “I used to be able to get out, run up and down and feel like a world-beater every day, and now I have to try and get myself into some sort of form to try and execute for my team. It’s a different frame of mind. It’s a different challenge, but like I said, I’m up for it. I’m positive about it, I feel optimistic, I’m inspired by my teammates and I’m going to keep pushing through.”

***

No. 5: Report: Granger likely out for Pacers’ opener — Fans in Indiana have to be hoping they’re not looking at their own version of the Derrick Rose saga with their own hobbled star, Danny Granger. Rose missed all of last season as he recovered from ACL surgery despite at times teasing Bulls fans with the prospect of his return. Granger missed all but five games last season as he dealt with lingering knee issues. He played in five of the Pacers’ seven preseason games, but has been troubled by a strained calf and is expected to miss the season-opener against Orlando, writes Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star:

Danny Granger’s return to the Indiana Pacers likely will be delayed a bit longer — although no one knows exactly how long.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel said after practice Thursday that the strained calf suffered by Granger last week is worse than previously thought and he doubts the former All-Star forward will play in the team’s regular-season opener against Orlando on Tuesday.

The calf strain, suffered Oct. 16 against Dallas, is not directly related to the knee injury, but Granger has not practiced for more than a week and Vogel is concerned that has kept the knee from being as strong as it needs to be.

“That could be what makes this more than a day-to-day thing,” Vogel said.

Granger refused to rule himself out for Tuesday, however.

“That’s why we keep saying ‘day to day.’ ” he said. “They’re kind of bringing me in to see how I’m feeling, so I don’t know.”

Granger had been the Pacers’ leading scorer for five consecutive years before last season. He is in the final year of his contract. Entering camp, he was in a close battle with Lance Stephenson — who replaced him in the starting lineup — for the fifth starting spot this season.

The setback with the calf ensures Stephenson will start, Vogel said.

“We’ll see where Danny is as he heals and that could change down the road,” Vogel said. “If Danny was healthy and playing great, and Lance is healthy and playing great, I could see stretches throughout the season where Lance was starting, and I could see stretches where Danny is starting.”


VIDEO: Coach Frank Vogel on Granger’s status

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Sixers have parted with troubled forward Royce White … The Grizzlies’ Tayshaun Prince lost 12-15 pounds due to a stomach illness … Bulls star Derrick Rose has some advice for Russell Westbrook as the OKC guard continues his rehab … Al Jefferson expects himself to be ready for the Bobcats’ season opener … John Wall‘s shooting stroke has taken a bit of a step back in the preseason …

ICYMI Of The Night: For a four game night, we had a ton of fancy dishes from Kyle Singler (to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), James Harden (to Chandler Parsons) and Will Bynum (to his favorite target, Andre Drummond). But our favorite is this nice little behind-the-back number on the fast break from Draymond Green to Klay Thompson.