By NBA.com staff
According to multiple reports, the Grizzlies have offered their coaching position to Miami Heat assistant David Fizdale.
By NBA.com staff
According to multiple reports, the Grizzlies have offered their coaching position to Miami Heat assistant David Fizdale.
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Clash of styles for Warriors-Thunder — The most devastating small-ball lineup in basketball against the most dynamic, big-boy lineup in basketball. That’s the clash of styles that will be on display when the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder square off in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals tonight at Oracle Arena (9 p.m. ET, TNT). There are stars all over the place on both sides (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green for the Warriors and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for the Thunder), and yet the style of play and the work of support players will likely be the determining factor in the series. Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman has more:
NBA fans remember the Stephen Curry 37-foot rainbow that won it in overtime. Thunder fans remember the Kevin Durant desperation turnover and foul that sent it to that extra session. But five minutes before, the Warriors trailed by 11 points when Steve Kerr made his last substitution of regulation.
Klay Thompson entered, joining Curry, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green. It’s a five-man group nicknamed the Death Lineup, a small-ball mix of versatile shooters, defenders and playmakers that demolished opponents this season. Including that February night in OKC.
They outscored the Thunder by 11 in the final 4:50 but also dictated the style of play. Coach Billy Donovan took Steven Adams out, played a group of wings and tried to match small with small. It didn’t work.
Three months later, the teams meet again, this time with a spot in the NBA Finals on the line. The rosters remain the same, but the Thunder’s identity has morphed, creating a potentially intriguing contrast of styles should OKC stay big when the Warriors unleash their speed.
“Is that the word on the street?” Steven Adams said when told of OKC’s bruising reputation. “Yeah, I’ll take it then. That’s good. I’ll stick with that.”
In beating up the Spurs on the interior — often with a twin tower frontline of Adams and Enes Kanter — OKC embraced its size. The Thunder has maybe the world’s best possible small-ball power forward — Durant — but the rest of its roster doesn’t form around him in that way.
Donovan continues to laud his team’s versatility publicly, saying they can and likely will play varying styles. But the trade-off is simple — should Donovan go small, he’ll be dipping into his thin bag of wings at the expense of his loaded set of big men. More minutes for Kyle Singler, Randy Foye or Anthony Morrow means less for Kanter, Adams or Serge Ibaka.
“Second half of Game 6 against the Spurs, they went small,” Durant said. “I thought Coach made a great adjustment staying big and not panicking.”
The Warriors, of course, are a different beast, both lethal and experienced playing that way. Curry is the star. But Green is the key.
While starting a rookie at center was largely prompted from attrition, it was a couple of veterans who did the heavy lifting for the Heat, helping them even the series with a 103-91 win. When the Heat were looking at a possible end of their season in Game 7 of their first round series against the Charlotte Hornets, Goran Dragic took control, scoring 25 points. Facing elimination again Friday, Dragic shredded Toronto for a career playoff-high 30 points, and chipped in seven rebounds.
“I didn’t want to go home to Europe,” Dragic joked. “I wanted to stay here.”
Dragic got significant help from Dwyane Wade, who finished with 22 points, giving him 110 points in his last four games. While Justise Winslow looked Lilliputian lined up against Toronto center Bismack Biyombo, he finished with 12 points and three rebounds, and more than held his own in the paint.
Miami’s rotation shuffles were mostly due to injuries — Miami center Hassan Whiteside went out during Game 3 with a knee sprain, which made the series “go sideways,” according to Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. But the Heat’s smaller group was also a way to give Toronto a fresh look after five games against the same team.
“It’s just unconventional,” said Wade of the smaller lineup. “And sometimes unconventional works… at this time of the series you need something a little different.”
No. 2: Magic talk with Vogel — Suddenly confronted with an unexpected coaching vacancy when Scott Skiles quit after one season, the Magic are planning to reach out to former Pacers boss Frank Vogel about taking over the job. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel caught up to Magic G.M. Rob Hennigan, who might as well have been talking about Vogel when describing the traits he’s seeking in a new coach:
On Thursday and again on Friday, Hennigan said the Magic would seek to hire someone who places a high value on the defensive end of the court.
“Sort of the fulcrum of what we’re looking for,” Hennigan said Friday, “is someone who puts an emphasis on the defensive end of the floor, someone who puts an emphasis on player development and also someone who puts an emphasis on building lasting connections with the players on our roster.”
No. 3: Spurs decisions beyond Duncan — The first question to be asked in the seconds after the Spurs were eliminated by the Thunder was whether Tim Duncan had just walked off an NBA court for the final time after a 19-year career. But as Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News points out, the organization that was shockingly upset after a franchise best 67-15 season has plenty of questions that go well beyond their Hall of Fame big man:
Barring trades, the Spurs will bring back at least seven players from a 67-win team: LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, and Kyle Anderson.
Duncan, Manu Ginobili and the 35-year-old David West hold player options that, if exercised, would add their names to the list. Those decisions don’t have to be made until July.
The Spurs own a team option on rookie guard Jonathon Simmons, which they are likely to exercise.
Depending on how those answers shake out, the Spurs could create salary-cap space to pursue another maximum-dollar free agent. They have already been linked to OKC star Kevin Durant and Memphis point guard Mike Conley.
West, who famously gave back $12.6 million in Indiana last summer to accept a veteran minimum deal with the Spurs, says he has no regrets about that decision.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said West, who remained non-committal about his future. “I needed this for where I am in my career and where I am as a person. It kept me sane. It kept me in basketball.”
Once the free-agency horn sounds July 1, Boban Marjanovic will become the most interesting internal decision for the Spurs’ front office.
He is a restricted free agent, meaning the Spurs retain the right to match any offer he receives, and a provision in the collective bargaining agreement limits the amount he can earn next season to $5.6 million.
Competing teams could choose to structure an offer sheet for Marjanovic with a salary spike in the third year. The Spurs would then have to decide whether to swallow that so-called “poison pill” and match.
No. 4: Howard could top Mavericks wish list — The Mavericks have not exactly had a great deal of luck in the past landing big name free agents. Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan are just a few names that have slipped away. But now the Mavs might be turning their attention back toward Howard this summer, according to Dwain Price of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:
At the top of the Mavericks’ wish list this year is Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard, who plans to opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent this summer. Howard, it would seem, has absolutely everything the Mavericks need from a center.
Plus, Howard constantly draws a double team, which would allow Dirk Nowitzki to hang out on the perimeter and basically enjoy target practice during the twilight of his career.
Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, Chicago’s Pau Gasol and Atlanta’s Al Horford are the other centers the Mavericks will probably pursue if they can’t land Howard, who is good friends with Mavs forward Chandler Parsons.
The negatives with Howard are many: He wants a long-term contract with an annual salary of around $30 million, he’s a career 56.8 percent shooter from the free-throw line, and, according to his critics, he doesn’t take the game seriously.
No. 5: Ewing interviewed by Grizzlies — With general manager Chris Wallace having already been spotted dining out with ex-coach Lionel Hollins, the Grizzlies have also spoken with Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing about their bench opening, says CBS Sports and Ron Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:
Ewing, a 53-year-old Hall of Famer, reportedly interviewed for the Memphis job Thursday. He previously talked to the Sacramento Kings about their head coaching job that Dave Joerger filled two days after he was fired by the Grizzlies.
Ewing is a retired player who paid his dues as an assistant yet hasn’t been seriously considered for a head position.
“All I can do is continue to coach, continue to work, be good at my craft, and hopefully, one day, that will help me when and if I get that opportunity,” Ewing once told USA Today after being elevated to associate head coach of the then-Charlotte Bobcats under Steve Clifford.
Ewing started coaching as an assistant for the Washington Wizards in 2002. He spent three years on the Houston Rockets bench. The New York Knicks legend also worked under Stan Van Gundy with the Orlando Magic.
“I know he is an excellent coach, and he has more than paid his dues,” Clifford told USA Today. “If you’re around him every day, you see it. I lean on him for a lot of things, the tough times … He helps me in every imaginable way.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Dwyane Wade passed Hakeem Olajuwon for 12th spot on playoff scoring list … Hassan Whiteside says he will not play in Game 7 vs. Toronto … Jerry Sloan talks openly about his battle with Parkinson’s Disease … Kevin Durant says beating the Spurs was “not our championship.”… Rockets fans want Kenny Smith as the next coach in Houston … The Spurs will pursue free agent point guard Mike Conley … The Celtics and Danny Ainge ready for this most important draft … LeBron James would have voted for Terry Stotts as Coach of the Year.
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Lue, Cavs anxious to get started against Hawks — A long layoff works in different ways for different teams. The San Antonio Spurs used their extended time off before their Western Conference semifinal opener against Oklahoma City to perfection (and blew out the Thunder). Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue hopes his team can do the same. That’s why he’s so anxious to get started against the Atlanta Hawks tonight (7 p.m. ET, TNT), as Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com explains:
The Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t played a game since completing the sweep against the Detroit Pistons one week ago. The East’s top team has been waiting patiently, first for the opponent, and then for the opening game of the next round.
“Very anxious,” head coach Tyronn Lue said following Sunday morning’s practice. “A lot of messin’ around, not messin’ around, but you could tell we’ve been off for eight days and guys ready to start playing and getting ready and getting focused for the game. It’s time and we’re ready to play.”
The wait is almost over, with the Cavaliers set to begin their second-round matchup with the fourth-seeded Atlanta Hawks on Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
“This is a long layoff,” veteran Richard Jefferson said. “You look at San Antonio after a long layoff and they came out and played well so you have to use this rest, but at the same point in time you have to try to stay sharp mentally and physically you have to stay sharp — not just eat, hang out and chill. You have to stay locked in this whole time.”
Lue admitted that he didn’t start formulating his plan for the Hawks until the series ended on Thursday night when Atlanta topped Boston in Game 6. Instead, the Cavs focused on themselves, looking at what they had to do to get better.
“Game 1 is a new series and it doesn’t matter what you shot, how well you played, what adjustments you made in the first series,” Jefferson said. “The second series is different against a better team.”
During off days, the Cavs did conditioning work and players stayed in the gym late, getting extra shots. To stay loose following practice, they played other sports — throwing the football around or grabbing mitts to toss the baseball back and forth.
But this time of year, there’s always the question of rest vs. rust, especially after the rhythm Cleveland found against Detroit in Round One.
“Obviously, you can’t get cute and overthink it,” Lue said. “We have our principles, we know what we want to do going into a game and then if things don’t work and you have to adjust. But we know what we want to do right now and we’re ready.”
CHARLOTTE — It’s playoff basketball, not professional boxing or mixed martial arts or anything of the sort. It’s just playoff basketball.
So don’t fix your eyes on this first round playoff series between the Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets and look any deeper into any of the scrappiness between the two teams. Just because guys have to be separated now and then and words are exchanged, neither the Heat nor the Hornets are interested in any of the playoff dramatics going on elsewhere in this postseason.
“It’s the NBA, there aren’t really any fights,” Heat veteran Luol Deng said. “Not really, not during my time in the league. Guys don’t want to fight. There might be one punch and then it gets broken up. But no real fights. This isn’t hockey.”
Tell that to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook or LeBron James and Andre Drummond or Isaiah Thomas and Dennis Schroder. All of them have been been caught up in the first round dramatics, in one way or another.
Durant was ejected late in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Game 3 win over the Dallas Mavericks for smacking Justin Anderson in the face. Both Drummond and Thomas will not be suspended for contact against James and Schroder, respectively, that would have seemed to warrant suspension.
Game 3 of the Heat-Hornets series Saturday night featured plenty of opportunities for things to escalate and maybe even get out of hand, but cooler head prevailed time and again.
Hornets point guard Kemba Walker had one heated exchange with Heat center Hassan Whiteside that seemed like it was headed for craziness, only to have players on both sides calm each other down before things got completely out of hand.
“It’s the playoffs,” Walker said. “The intensity is up. Trying to win a series here. Both teams are going to be scratching and clawing, trying to do anything possible to win a basketball game. They have great ball pressure and so do we, so guys are going to get hit. It’s going to be tough out there … anything possible to win a game.”
Walker, however, went to make sure he set the right tone for Monday’s Game 4 showdown at Time Warner Cable Arena.
“I’m not a troublemaker,” he said and then smiled. “It’s just basketball, playoff basketball.”
CHARLOTTE — It happened in Boston Friday night. So why not here today?
The Charlotte Hornets need to find a way to reverse their fortunes against the Miami Heat in Game 3 of this first round playoff series, and they hope to use a little home-court magic to do so.
The Boston Celtics rebounded from a franchise-low seven-point first quarter in their Game 2 loss to the Atlanta Hawks by scoring 37 points in their Game 3 win at home Friday night, behind a monstrous effort from All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas.
The Hornets need a similar boost from their star point guard, Kemba Walker, who promises that the environment and energy provided by the home fans will factor into his team’s performance.
“I know it’s going to be live, exciting and electrifying and our fans will be great,” Walker said, “We definitely would love to feed off the energy of our crowd.”
The Hornets finished the regular season with a 30-11 record at Time Warner Cable Arena, the third best home record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland and Toronto.
“We’re expecting a big boost,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “Our fans have been great all year and our guys love playing here. Right from the get-go, we’ve played really well at home and I think we’ll play a lot better [today].”
The Hornets need to shore up their defense after giving up an average of 119 points on 58 percent shooting, 53 percent from beyond the 3-point line, in Games 1 and 2. They’ll also have to work without second-leading scorer Nic Batum, who is out indefinitely with a left foot sprain suffered in Game 2.
“We’re just trying to get a win,” Walker said. “That’s it. But we want to be locked in and to do the things we need to do to get a win, and that’s to be better defensively overall.”
The Heat have pounded the Hornets with their size advantage in the first two games, so Clifford has to decide whether he wants to go big with Batum’s replacement and insert rookie 7-footer Frank Kaminsky into the starting lineup. Or he can go with a smaller and potentially more explosive lineup and go with sixth man Jeremy Lin alongside Walker in the first five.
Clifford said the Heat’s size, at every position, has been the key difference in the series so far. But the versatility a smaller lineup provides cannot be overlooked. So he’ll continue to analyze his options right up until the final moments and reveal his decision right before the game.
Whatever he decides, the Hornets will have the added boost of their home crowd fueling whatever starting lineup they trot out onto the floor for what breaks down as their most important game (home or otherwise) of the season.
The playoffs. It’s the time of year when everybody has a little extra bounce in their step, when everybody can’t wait to get to the arena.
But probably nobody more than Miami assistant coach Keith Smart, who finished up the last of his cancer treatments and will return to his regular duties as the Heat take on the Hornets.
The inimitable Michael Wallace of ESPN.com caught up to Smart:
“They beat me up pretty bad,” Smart said Saturday of the cancer treatments. “I still have some of the recovery scars, but overall, the plan was to get Keith Smart’s life healthy again. Wherever that fell at some point — it just so happened that I finished up my treatments and went through a couple of rehabilitations — I got healthy enough to fly back here.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Smart will have a vital role in the team’s playoff preparation, but wasn’t certain if Smart will coach from the bench during the games. Smart said he continues to work on his conditioning and stamina in hopes of working with players on the court during practice sessions.
“He’s here for good right now,” Spoelstra said Saturday of Smart. “He’s going to be involved. Whether or not he’s on the bench, he’s going to be involved every meeting.”
It’s been a long and challenging road back for Smart, who discovered the cancer in November, just four games into the Heat’s regular season. He first left the team a month later for surgery and returned in late January before leaving again to undergo more rounds of aggressive chemotherapy. Heat players, coaches and staff members kept in contact with Smart through calls and text messages.
The most difficult moment came midway through the schedule of chemo treatments, when Smart said he grew too weak to file the game reports.
“My focus has always been on what we’re doing and the details,” Smart said. “I would present that to Coach. I told him at one point between treatments 15 and 18, that’s when it really hit me and I couldn’t concentrate — I was so tired. I told him, ‘Well, the reports are going to now start dropping, because I can’t keep up with them.’ And he said, ‘Well, why are you still doing those things anyway?’ But I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be close to it, and I was able to do a little bit of that.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The rookies are for real.
Don’t rub your eyes … they’re absolutely real.
From Karl-Anthony Towns and his seemingly nightly double-doubles for the Minnesota Timberwolves to Jahlil Okafor and his scoring prowess with the Philaelphia 76ers to the truly pleasant surprise of the group, Kristaps Porzingis (they are already chanting his name at Madison Square Garden), and his highlight reel work for the New York Knicks, this year’s rookie class appears to be ahead of the curve.
The prevailing wisdom was while this bunch was loaded with intriguing talents, players like Emanuel Mudiay in Denver and Mario Hezonja in Orlando joining the aforementioned group of budding young stars, like almost every rookie class they would need time to flourish. But you can dig down deeper into the late lottery for guys like Miami’s Justise Winslow and Detroit’s Stanley Johnson and find youngsters ready for prime time.
The impact in many instances has been immediate.
NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper has tracked these players from the start of the process to now and will continue to do so with his weekly updates on the NBA.com’s Rookie Ladder. Our Draft and rookie guru saw this group coming before the casual fan could match names and faces. We took more than a few minutes with Howard-Cooper to address the Houston Rockets’ firing of Kevin McHale and the Golden State Warriors’ 12-0 start, too.
All that and more as he joins us on Episode 217 of The Hang Time Podcast.
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.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The best.
The best there ever was.
It’s an amazing distinction, one that can be argued for eternity when it comes to NBA champions, given that being the best in any given season in the best basketball league on the planet automatically qualifies a team for the best ever conversation.
Well, theoretically, of course.
There is no way to accurately compare champions from one era to the next. It’s a subjective endeavor, no matter what sort of data you bring to the party.
So do you go with the 1985 Los Angeles Lakers or the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers? The 1986 Boston Celtics or the 1989 Detroit Pistons? The 1972 Lakers or the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers?
What about the 1992 Chicago Bulls or the 1996 Bulls? Or perhaps you’re a believer in the 2001 Lakers or the 2003 San Antonio Spurs?
Those are just some of your choices in settling this age-old debate that will be addressed this season with NBA TV’s Fan Night #NBABEST Tournament. The bracket (above) is set.
The matchups are broken down by decade, the 16-best championship teams from bygone eras (we stopped at 2010, so there’s 2012 or ’13 Heat, no 2014 Spurs or the reigning Champion Golden State Warriors … sorry LeBron James and Stephen Curry) battling it out for top honors.
We start things today with the 2006 Miami Heat against the 2008 Celtics. Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal going head-to-head with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and the “Big 3” Celtics. Pat Riley matching wits against Doc Rivers.
Yes, the possibilities are endless.
Join the conversation on who would win via social media (Tweet @NBATV #NBABEST1 for the 2006 Heat or #NBABEST2 for the 2008 Celtics). The results will be announced during NBA TV’s postgame coverage of tonight’s Fan Night game between the Heat and Atlanta Hawks from Miami with TNT’s and NBA TV’s Ernie Johnson, Greg Anthony and Chris Webber (7:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV).
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Bradley Beal insists it’s the best the Washington Wizards have looked during his time with the team.
So what if he’s talking about the often flimsy sample size that is NBA preseason.
When you basically pass on free agency (until next summer’s Kevin Durant free-for-all), install a new offensive system and ask everyone to buy into new and tweaked roles heading into what is sure to be a pivotal season, a seamless transition to a decidedly different way of operating offensively should ease whatever tensions might have lingered.
A comfort zone for Beal and All-Star point guard John Wall has to be the top priority for a Wizards team few people mention a contender in the Eastern Conference this season. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are at the top of everyone’s list, followed in some order by the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat … and then the Wizards.
That dynamic backcourt is not only the key to the Wizards’ season, they’re also the selling point for the future, along with this new, player-friendly offense that coach Randy Wittman unveiled during the preseason. If the Wizards are serious about making noise this season in the Eastern Conference playoff chase and carrying that momentum into the summer of 2016, it all starts with this emphasis on the faster pace, which takes advantage of what Wall and Beal do best.
The Wizards had the highest offensive rating in the preseason (106.8 points per 100 possessions) and were fourth in pace (104.45 possessions per 48 minutes), a stark contrast from a team that finished 19th and 16th, respectively, in those categories last season.
We saw signs of the shift in the playoffs, when the Wizards threw a scare into the Hawks in the conference semifinals with their small-ball lineup. A summer of tinkering, training and a preseason of on-the-job training gives a team with basically the same core personnel (sans Paul Pierce, of course, who moved on to the Los Angeles Clippers) a chance to reinvent itself on the fly.
Otto Porter and Jared Dudley inherit the minutes and responsibilities Pierce handled last season, including the floor-stretching duties that opened things up for Beal and Wall in the postseason.
Beal spoke of improved team camaraderie, better focus on the details and the always important good health that evaded him and the Wizards this time a year go. An improved and more efficient offensive system that the players “love,” according to Wall, paired with a top-10 defense that’s been a staple under Wittman, could serve as the wrinkle the Wizards need to move into the East’s upper echelon.
“Well, I think the Wizards obviously are a dangerous team, and they’ve proven that,” ABC/ESPN analyst Mark Jackson said, “and Randy Wittman has done an outstanding job coaching that team, leading that team, being strong in the face of tough times, holding on to the rope, which became contagious with the players where they bought in.
“I think it’s a different look for them because they certainly have post-up players that are skilled that they can take advantage of, at certain points of the game, but it really gives — adds versatility to that basketball team when you look at that dynamic backcourt in Wall and Beal, playing at a faster pace, creating an offense, stretching the floor is only going to make them tougher to defend, and I think ultimately a tough out in the Eastern Conference.”
If anyone knows about the importance of playing to the skills and abilities of a dynamic young backcourt duo, it’s Jackson. It’s what led to the rise of the Golden State Warriors during his tenure as he catered his system to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Wall and Beal are not Curry and Thompson, and there’s no one suggesting as much.
But they are talented in their own right and on a trajectory that could very well push the Wizards into the realm of teams capable of upsetting the projected East order before whatever free agent splash the team is planning for the summer.
Yes, we’re working on the fumes of the preseason, and that’s always a dangerous predicament.
But if you’re trying to both engineer a revolution and outperform expectations, as Beal and the Wizards are this season, you have to start somewhere.