Posts Tagged ‘Hedo Turkoglu’

Morning Shootaround — Jan. 15


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Jan. 14

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Smith-Woodson tension boils in Charlotte | LeBron ‘jealous’ of Durant on offense? | Gasol’s return lifts Grizzlies’ spirits | Self-policing style marks Pacers’ success | Report: Clips may soon sign Turkoglu

No. 1: Smith sits vs. ‘Cats; Woodson mum on situation — Knicks swingman J.R. Smith was fined $50,000 by the NBA for his various shoe-untying incidents on Jan. 8 and since then, he has appeared in two of New York’s next four games, playing roughly 25 minutes in each game. Smith was a DNP-CD in the Knicks’ win over the Heat on Jan. 9 and was given the same treatment last night in New York’s loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. Smith’s relationship with coach Mike Woodson can best be characterized as tense of late and things may be coming to a head after last night’s game. Woodson refused to answer questions about Smith’s lack of playing time while Smith himself says “communication from my end is over” with the Knicks. Marc Berman of the New York Post has more on the fallout from last night’s game:

The J.R. Smith-Mike Woodson feud escalated Tuesday, putting the future of the Knicks’ sixth man under a dark cloud.

Smith didn’t play again, but this time the Knicks didn’t win again and afterward he called the whole thing “ridiculous.’’

Woodson’s latest sending-a-message-to-J.R. ploy backfired on a night the Knicks needed a spark. But Woodson stuck to his guns and benched Smith, and the team’s five-game winning streak ended in a 108-98 defeat to the Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Wednesday is the first day Smith can be traded under a quirk in the NBA bylaws for 2013 free agents, but a despondent Smith had his bags packed for Indiana and flew with the club. His future, however, is in question as a viable member of the team after being benched for the second time in four games.

But perhaps the sneaker-lace caper was the final straw for Woodson and Knicks owner James Dolan, whom The Post had reported was already irate over Smith’s public complaint of being “betrayed’’ by the recent waiving of his brother, Chris Smith.

“For [the sneakers] to be the trigger point and for all this to happen is ridiculous,’’ Smith said in the quiet of the Knicks’ locker room.

Asked if he wanted to be traded, Smith said, “I’m not worried about that. I’m trying to fix what’s going on here.’’

Woodson, who sat Smith on Thursday in the win over the Heat, wouldn’t reveal what went into his latest decision to bench Smith after playing him in Philadelphia on Saturday and against the Suns on Monday.

“I’m not even commenting on J.R.,’’ Woodson said. “I just didn’t play him tonight, just didn’t play him.’’

When asked if Smith would play in Indiana on Thursday, Woodson said, “I’m not commenting on that.’’

Carmelo Anthony said he hopes Smith plays in Indiana.

“The only thing I could do is keep giving him positive energy,’’ said Anthony, his teammate in Denver. “That’s the only thing I could do. Whatever’s going on with him and Woody, they have to deal with that. Of course we missed him. He’s a big part of our team. Sometimes the way he goes, we go. We miss him. Hopefully this will be it.’’


VIDEO: Mike Woodson refuses to discuss J.R. Smith’s benching vs. the Bobcats


VIDEO: J.R. Smith befuddled by his lack of playing time in Tuesday’s game

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No. 2: LeBron ‘jealous’ of Durant? — The battle for they mythical title of “best player in the NBA” in the minds of many fans is a two-man race between the Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and the Miami Heat’s LeBron James. While James sports multiple MVP trophies, two NBA championships and two Finals MVP trophies, Durant has three NBA scoring crowns and something that James apparently wants: near-complete offensive freedom. In an interview with ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh, James says he wishes he could shoot as much as he likes in the Heat offense (much like Durant does for the Thunder):

“I get jealous sometimes when I look over at KD and he’s like 16-for-32 (from the field) and then 14-for-34. … Man,” James told ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh.

While the Miami Heat star is shooting a career-high 59.1 percent from the field this season, he is tied for just 18th in the league in field goal attempts (580) with an average of 16.1 per game.

With that kind of efficiency, James could stand to take more shots but explained, “I’m not much of a forced-shot guy.

“But there are games where I have it going, and then at the end of the game, I’m like, damn, I shot just 12-for-16? Why don’t I get up at least six or seven more? I definitely notice it.”

“First of all, you have to have an unbelievable mindset to get up 30 shots,” James said. “I always think about it, though. If I get up high-20s, 30 shots a game, what could I do today, with the way I’m playing?”

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No. 3: Gasol’s return lifts Grizzlies’ spirits — Memphis, in short, has spent most of this season trying to rediscover the magic that made them a 56-win team and a Western Conference finalist last season. When All-Star center Marc Gasol suffered a knee injury on Nov. 22 that would lead to him being out eight weeks, Memphis went from a 7-6 team that evening to a 17-19 squad before last night’s matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder. But thanks to Gasol’s trademark passing and defense, the Grizz got a solid home win and are hoping things will pick up even quicker for them, writes Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal:

The shot clock running down, the ball found its way to Marc Gasol a good 20 feet from the hoop.

So he shot the thing. It went in.

Whereupon, Gasol laughed, headed back down the court, leapt in the air and — there is no other way to put this — slapped himself on the butt.

It was a joyful slap.

It was a slap of pure glee.

And let me just say that if any of you feel like leaping in the air and slapping yourself on the butt this morning, nobody will blame you.

Big Spain is back.

He played like the same grizzled guy you remember.

There was that set shot from 20 feet. There was a gorgeous high-low bounce pass to Mike Conley. But the most Gasol play of all may have come with 4:28 left, on the defensive end of the court.

Kevin Durant was eviscerating the Griz. He seemed bent on ruining the party. The Grizzlies were obliging him in this effort, letting him sail right to the basket.

“We got out of the way of four or five opportunities to take charges,” said Griz coach Dave Joerger. “You’ve got to step in there and take one.”

So Gasol stepped in there and took one. The guy with the bum knee. He went down, popped back up, and roared in triumph.

Gasol wound up with 12 points and four rebounds in 28 minutes. He will need some time to knock off the rust. But with that one play, he reminded everyone exactly what the Grizzlies had been missing.

“That was a big play by Marc,” said Joerger.

That was a huge win for the home team. Because now the Grizzlies are just one game under .500 and just three games out of a playoff spot.


VIDEO: Marc Gasol’s return helps lift Grizzlies to win over Thunder

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No. 4: Pacers’ players, not Vogel, do the policing in Indiana  — With last night’s blowout victory against the Sacramento Kings, Pacers coach Frank Vogel clinched the right to coach the Eastern Conference All-Star team in the 2014 All-Star Game in New Orleans. As much as the win was a milestone for Vogel and the rest of the Pacers’ brass, it also provided a prime illustration of how Vogel’s style and demand that the Pacers trust each other works for that team. Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star has more on the Pacers’ unique self-policing ways:

One of Frank Vogel’s best attributes as a coach is his unwavering belief in his players.

“It seems like we’ve grown together. I’m happy for him,” said Paul George, who will almost certainly join Vogel in New Orleans for the Feb. 16 All-Star game. “This is going to be a fun trip. I’m looking forward to being down there with him.”

Vogel does not have spend time shepherding egos, because he has shaped a locker room where the words “sacrifice” and “togetherness” spill from everyone’s lips. Neither does Vogel have to stay on Stephenson, the one Pacer most likely to explore the full range of his emotions for all to see, because he has empowered his players with responsibility over themselves.

Nearly 3 minutes had expired in the second quarter when Vogel stepped in and called a timeout to break up the momentum Sacramento was building with a 31-29 lead. On his way to the huddle, Lance Stephenson appeared rattled and fumed from an earlier pass he tried shoveling inside but that Ian Mahinmi couldn’t handle. So as Stephenson barked, Luis Scola followed his teammate back to the sideline and told him to cut it out. Then, David West took over, standing up with a menacing scowl and letting Stephenson hear it. Finally, Vogel and the coaching staff walked over. The players turned their attention toward his clipboard and listened. Back to business.

The scene described here does not color the Pacers as a divided team, but rather one that freely communicates and polices its own transgressors.

“We check each other,” West said. “Before it gets to the coaches, that’s something correctable by us. Obviously, we hold each other accountable and we coach each other up.

“I feel like that’s a good formula for success, so we go with it.”

This is the atmosphere that Vogel has worked so hard in developing since the day the ‘interim head coach’ tag dropped from his name. He might have been a relative unknown to the NBA back in 2011, but in Indianapolis, Vogel already had earned the respect.

“I came in here with him,” George said. “He’s the one dude I respect the most on this team. He’s really coached me through a lot of things and made me better as a player. So it’s amazing.”

“Frank has proven himself based on what he has done with this group,” West said. “Finding the right balance for this group, transitioning from assistant with some of these guys to taking on a different role as a head coach.

“He’s done his job and he’s done a good job in that.”


VIDEO: The Pacers talk about beating the Sacramento Kings

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No. 5: Report: Clippers close to signing Turkoglu — Ex-Magic swingman and former Most Improved Player of the Year winner Hedo Turkoglu was cut by Orlando on Jan. 3, but since then, his name has been closely linked to the Clippers. It appears that his move to Los Angeles could happen as soon as today, as both ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Arash Markasi report a deal seems likely for Turkoglu:

The Los Angeles Clippers could be signing veteran forward Hedo Turkoglu soon, coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday.

“We could. We’re looking at him strong. I can say that much,” Rivers said.

The Clippers brought in Turkoglu for a meeting and a workout Thursday and liked what they saw. The Clippers signed point guards Darius Morris and Maalik Wayns to 10-day contracts last week. Their deals will expire before the Clippers’ start a 12-day, seven-game road trip Thursday, when Turkoglu potentially could sign.

“He made shots from everywhere,” Rivers said after the free agent’s workout. “He looked good. It was a good workout.”

Rivers and the Clippers have had their eyes on Turkoglu since he became available.

“I just like him as a player,” Rivers said last week. “I think he’s out there and we should look at him. I’ve always liked him. He can play [the] three and four. It’s a position that we can use in some ways, so we’re looking.”


VIDEO: Clippers coach Doc Rivers addresses the media after Tuesday’s practice

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Does Oklahoma City need a more structured offense? … Cavs coach Mike Brown isn’t concerning himself with restricting Luol Deng‘s minutes … Surprise, surprise: Derrick Williams is just a little excited about playing the Timberwolves tonight … Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson are learning, slowly but surely, how to play together

ICYMI(s) of The Night: A sequence like this illustrates why Paul George is among the best two-way players in the game today …:


VIDEO: Paul George gets the steal and then caps the break with a fancy jam

Morning Shootaround — Jan. 7


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Jan. 6

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Kings interested in Nuggets’ Miller | Report: Deng balked on extension with Bulls | Report: Clips looking at Turkoglu, Vujacic | Z-Bo, Grizz excited about pending addition of Lee

No. 1: Report: Nuggets discussing trades for Miller — As we reported in this space yesterday, the Nuggets and Andre Miller seem destined for a parting of ways. The Denver Post reported yesterday that the team is actively looking for deal the point guard and Yahoo!Sports.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski has some news on prospective teams, which could include the Sacramento Kings:

Guard Andre Miller has possibly played his final game for the franchise, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

After a two-game suspension turned into an indefinite exile on Monday, the Nuggets are motivated to move Miller within the next 24 to 48 hours, league sources said. It has become clear to rival executives that Denver is moving quickly on engineering trade scenarios and completing a deal.

Sacramento Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro – a longtime Nuggets executive – has been at the forefront of trying to acquire Miller, league sources said. The Kings plan would be to use Miller as a mentor for the franchise’s talented young point guard, Isaiah Thomas.

Denver general manager Tim Connelly has had conversations with multiple teams, including Sacramento. Miller is owed the balance of his $5 million this season and a partial guarantee of $2 million in 2014-15 on his contract.

Connelly and Miller’s agent, Andy Miller, have been in regular communication about the next steps for the franchise and point guard.


Miller, 37, had a 239-consecutive-game streak end in the loss to the Sixers, and endured the first “Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision” of his 15-year career.

The frustration that started on the floor on Wednesday night extended into the postgame locker room, sources told Yahoo Sports. Before the bubbling over on Wednesday, Miller had recently addressed some issues to Shaw in a locker-room meeting forum, league sources said.

Connelly spoke with Miller for approximately an hour late Wednesday at the Pepsi Center, and the team suspended Miller on Thursday for its next two games.

***

No. 2: Report: Deng turned down extension with Bulls days ago — As you probably heard, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls pulled off a trade last night that sent disgruntled Cavs center Andrew Bynum and three future Draft picks to Chicago for All-Star forward Luol Deng. The Bulls moved Deng in part because he was an unrestricted free agent this summer and also, as our David Aldridge points out in his excellent breakdown of the deal, to lessen their immediate salary-cap burden. Over the summer, Deng and his representatives couldn’t reach an agreement on a contract extension and, according to Yahoo!Sports.com.’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bulls and Deng tried to hammer out an extension again before the Cleveland trade took place, but Deng didn’t want to sign:

Within days of the Chicago Bulls unloading Luol Deng for salary-cap relief and a first-round draft pick, the All-Star forward rejected a three-year, $30 million contact extension, a league source told Yahoo Sports.

Deng, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, turned down the deal on Friday, clearing the way for Bulls management to complete a deal with Cleveland for broken-down center Andrew Bynum and a package of draft picks on Monday night.

The Bulls and Deng’s representatives had informal talks about an extension over the summer, but Chicago never made a formal offer.

The Bulls were unwilling to pay Deng, 28, market value in the $12 million-to-$13 million-a-year range over four or five seasons. Deng spent nine-plus seasons in Chicago, where he often played hurt. Chicago is committed to re-signing shooting guard Jimmy Butler to a lucrative contract extension this summer, and after the loss of Derrick Rose for the season, the Bulls made a move for the long-term.


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses the Bynum-for-Deng swap

***

No. 3: Report: Clippers mulling veterans Vujacic, Turkoglu — The shoulder injury that star point guard Chris Paul suffered last weekend could potentially keep him out of the L.A. Clippers’ lineup for as long as six weeks. That means the Clips’ depth is going to be tested and as L.A. prepares to weather a bit of a storm without him, the team is thinking about adding free agents to the roster. The Clips, according to Marc Stein and Ramona Shelbourne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, have an eye on Hedo Tukoglu (who was recently waived by the Orlando Magic) and ex-Lakers and Nets guard Sasha Vujacic. Adding either of those players, though, would possibly force the team to part ways with Stephen Jackson:

The Los Angeles Clippers are looking hard at well-known veteran free agents Sasha Vujacic and Hedo Turkoglu as they try to fill the playmaking void created by Chris Paul’s shoulder injury, according to sources close to the process.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Clippers could make a new 10-day signing as early as Tuesday, with Vujacic and Turkoglu currently at the forefront of L.A.’s thinking.

Paul is expected to miss up to six weeks after suffering a separated shoulder Friday night in Dallas. The Clippers are still without starting shooting guard J.J. Redick, who is making progress in his recovery from hand and wrist injuries but is believed to be out for at least another week.

The Clippers, though, would have to open up a roster spot before making any further signings and face an immediate decision on Stephen Jackson, whose minimum-salary contract will be guaranteed for the rest of the season if he’s still on the Clippers roster beyond Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Vujacic, 29, has been working out in Los Angeles for months in hopes of getting back into the NBA after the former Lakers guard from Slovenia spent the previous two seasons playing in Turkey.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, confirming his interest in Turkoglu, said before Monday night’s game against the Magic, “I just like him. He’s out there and we should look at him. I’ve always liked him. He can shoot and play [small forward and power forward].”


VIDEO: Clippers coach Doc Rivers talks about the state of the team before Monday’s game vs. Orlando

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No. 4: Grizz, Z-Bo happy about addition of Lee — While the trade between the Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder has yet to be finalized, the folks in Tennessee are getting excited about the pending move. The deal — which will send Courtney Lee to the Grizz, Jerryd Bayless to the Celtics and Ryan Gomes to the Celtics (where he’s expected to be waived) — is thought to give some new life to the Grizzlies’ renewed playoff hopes. Michael Cohen of The Commercial-Appeal has more on the trade and how Zach Randolph and others are reacting to it:

It was late Sunday afternoon when the Grizzlies found out Jerryd Bayless was leaving, the players beginning to bubble with confidence after a convincing and reassuring win over Detroit. The 112-84 victory marked the end of a successful three-game road trip, protecting the flickering flame that is Memphis’ playoff hopes for at least a while longer.

Strengthening that postseason belief was the impending trade involving Bayless, one that sends the reserve guard to Boston in exchange for sharpshooter Courtney Lee. The players learned of the deal on their flight home after beating the Pistons, the atmosphere onboard equal parts sad and salutary.

“It’s very encouraging when you see the front office try to get better and see what we need to improve at,” Zach Randolph said Monday, before the team’s practice at FedExForum. “That’s what you’ve got to do, that’s what we’ve got to do. We want to be a top-echelon team.

“This season is far from over. For us to say that we’re out of the playoff hunt and we won’t make the playoffs is ludicrous because we still have a chance.”

The trade between the Grizzlies and Celtics is still not official, and coach David Joerger was unable to speak about the imminent deal Monday morning. But point guard Mike Conley said the players “knew something was going on” during the flight back from Detroit, prompting them to enjoy Bayless’ company for what they understood was likely the final time. The trade was a business transaction to make the team better, even if its members lost a friend in the process.

“We talked to him then and took that plane ride back and hung out as much as we could,” Conley said.

For the better part of a month the Grizzlies have toiled in inferiority, dropping five consecutive games in mid December before finally putting together a pair of wins against the Knicks and Jazz — two of the NBA’s worst teams. Since then, victories and defeats have alternated in agonizing fashion, with each step forward giving way to a disillusioning step back.

But the 28-point throttling of Detroit and a disposing of the Suns three days before has breathed life into a franchise one season removed from an appearance in the Western Conference Finals. The offense is more fluid, the bench more productive and now, thanks to the likely addition of Lee, a major hole filled: shooting.

Lee, who is shooting 44.2 percent from beyond the arc this season, joins a team ranked last in the league in 3-pointers made per game (4.9) and 18th in 3-point percentage (34.9). When asked if he would welcome more potency from beyond the arc, Randolph could barely contain himself. He grinned, then laughed, then stammered away with excitement. “Oh man, gosh, come on,” he said complete with a beckoning gesture.

Adding to Monday’s festive mood was a positive update from Joerger on Marc Gasol. The all-star center has been cleared for “light, light on-court action,” following an MRI to evaluate the sprained MCL in his knee that has sidelined him since Nov. 22.

Gasol was at practice Monday sporting a black brace on his left knee and he appeared to be in good spirits in the training room. There is no timetable for his return, but that he is on the court at all is a welcomed sign of progress for a team in need of a lasting spark.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: After the Bulls release Andrew Bynum, they will have 12 players and be below the tax line. They’ll have to add at least one more player for about $520K … The Salinas Bros. may soon see their long-standing annual TV rights payout from the NBA end soon … The Magic have suffered 86 losses since the start of the 2012-13 season, but last night’s to the Clippers might have been an all-time lowRonny Turiaf was more than happy to be back on the court at last for the Timberwolves

ICYMI(s) Of The Night: Blake Griffin with an in-game, alley-oop windmill dunk. There’s nothing more to be said here …


VIDEO: Blake Griffin’s in-game, alley-oop windmill jam vs. the Magic

Morning Shootaround — Jan. 5


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Jan. 4

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bynum-Gasol talk heats up | Rivers shoots down Griffin-‘Melo rumor | Sanders, Neal have postgame beef

No. 1: Bynum trade keys on Sunday — The on-then-off trade talks involving the L.A. Lakers’ Pau Gasol and their former big man Andrew Bynum, now on the outs with the Cleveland Cavaliers, might just be on again. And by on, we mean heating up big-time Sunday, since that represents the best last day to cross all t’s and dot all i’s by the end of business Tuesday. Trades of this nature typically take 48 hours to be finalized with NBA headquarters, and Jan. 7 is the date by which Bynum’s contract calls for another $6 million guaranteed for the balance of the season. The Cavaliers would prefer not to throw good money after bad, of course, and the Lakers are focused on the luxury-tax benefits of acquiring and then shedding Bynum to reduce payroll. ESPN.com reported the revival of talks that previously were said to be squelched, and USA Today offered a little more context of a deal that – despite the big names involved – is about as sexy as an investor culling stock losers from his portfolio with the IRS in mind:

The Los Angeles Lakers big man once again is the subject of trade talks, this time with the possibility that he’d swap spots with former teammate Andrew Bynum in a possible deal that is of very little relevance to this particular season when it comes to the competitive landscape. This is about failed ventures on both sides and mutually-beneficial attempts to fix bad teams.

… [According] to a person with knowledge of the talks between the two teams, the only asset Cleveland has offered as of Saturday night is a second-round pick, and that won’t be enough to get this deal done.

… By getting rid of Gasol in exchange for Bynum, the Lakers would escape the luxury tax territory this season while creating some badly-needed distance between them and the ‘repeater’ billing that is followed by such a huge, well, bill. …

… Whether it’s a first-round pick that the Lakers are pushing for or a young player who could be part of their cloudy future, the point of it all is that they want something besides the savings to hang their collective hat on. It’s a staring contest in that regard: the Cavs are well aware that the financial factor looms largest for the Lakers, and the Lakers are banking on Cleveland not wanting to cut Bynum for nothing in return and realizing that Gasol on a team that entered the season with playoff expectations but is now 11-22 would be a huge boon.

***


VIDEO: Doc sounds off on trade rumors

No. 2: Rivers disses favorite sports network — So stupid. A non-story. And “that network.” If anyone had any doubts about how L.A. Clippers coach Doc Rivers felt about speculation on ESPN’s various outlets about a Carmelo Anthony-for-Blake Griffin trade, Rivers removed them prior to his team’s game against the Spurs in San Antonio Saturday. In fact, while Rivers always is quick with the comic line about “Doc” merely being a nickname, he deftly performed a little-known surgical process, a rumorectomy, for the assembled media who were poking and prodding, as noted by Broderick Turner of the L.A. Times. Let’s all remember, too, how Rivers reacted to comments by ESPN basketball guy Bill Simmons‘ analysis of the coach’s departure (“quit on” was the pivotal phrase) from the Boston Celtics last summer:

Rivers said the Clippers aren’t engaged in talks to trade Griffin for Anthony and aren’t going to trade their All-Star power forward.

“My whole issue with any of that … is that that network to me reports a story that they created and then they do reports on it for the next two days, on a story that they created,” Rivers said. “But it’s stupid.”

The ESPN report, which was attributed to unidentified league sources, said the Knicks have discussed proposing an Anthony-for-Griffin trade with the Clippers, and that Clippers management has discussed such a deal internally. But the report said the teams haven’t spoken to each other about a possible trade.

With Chris Paul out three to five weeks because of a separated right shoulder he suffered Friday night at Dallas, Griffin becomes even more key for the Clippers.
Griffin leads the Clippers in scoring (22.1) and minutes played (36.6), and he is second in rebounding (10.6) and assists (3.1).

Griffin, 24, is in the first year of a five-year, $95-million contract that pays him $16.4 million this season.

Rivers said he didn’t talk to Griffin about the ESPN report.

“I didn’t say a word about it,” said Rivers, who is also the Clippers’ vice president of basketball operations and has the last word on trades. “I just thought it was such a non-story.”

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No. 3: Bucks’ Sanders, Neal squabble in locker roomBad things happen with bad teams, and based on the unseemly scene in the visitors’ locker room in Phoenix late Saturday, you could probably guess without a glimpse at the standings that the Milwaukee Bucks (7-26) lug around the NBA’s worst record. After a 116-100 loss at US Airways Center, Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders and Gary Neal got into what the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel termed a “bitter argument,” with Neal “going” where few in the fraternity of millionaire athletes dare to go: attacking Sanders’ new contract extension (which doesn’t even kick in till next season). “I earned my money. Why don’t you try it?” Neal said postgame in earshot of reporters, after Sanders questioned his attitude. Anyone paying attention to the Bucks this season could make a case that no one there – from the front office down – has been earning his salary, based on the results. Sanders’ notorious and YouTubed nightclub incident cost him 25 games with a hand injury, while Neal has underperformed and been criticized for selfish play since arriving as a free agent from San Antonio. Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel was there to chronicle some of the dreary ugliness:

It was the latest meltdown for a Bucks team that dropped to a 7-26 record as it lost for the second time in three games on its western swing.

And there were plenty of problems during the game as the Bucks committed a season-high 26 turnovers leading to 38 points by the Suns (20-12).

Bucks teammates did their best to downplay what was an ugly scene in the visitors’ locker room.

“Oh no, we’re good,” Bucks guard O.J. Mayo said. “A little team bonding, that’s all. A little kumbaya, man.

“It’s all good. When things aren’t going well, that’s when the real men reveal their true colors. Are you a grinder? Are you going to roll your sleeves up and get it done?

“People handle it different ways. We’re searching [for] ‘what do we need to do to get it going.’ “

.***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The downside of tanking (well, one more of the many downsides): Promising young players have to endure hard times. Pricey veterans often get shed by teams focused on the future, but a young desirable such as Philadelphia’s Thaddeus Young winds up waiting for the 76ers’ plan to kick into action. … Veteran big man Kurt Thomas would like to get back in, yet at age 41, even he is turning up his nose at his old team in New York. … We’ll leave the digit jokes to you, but can report that Portland’s Nicolas Batum has broken the middle finger on his non-shooting (left) hand. He might not miss any time. … Veteran Hedo Turkoglu, who has played just one more game than Derrick Rose since the end of the 2011-12 season, might be on the Lakers’ radar. Turkoglu, 34, was waived Friday by Orlando, with the Magic saving half of his $12 million by shedding him now. Turkoglu reportedly is eschewing opportunities in Europe for a chance to stay in the NBA.

Howard, Young Prove Some Thoughts Are Better Left Unspoken

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST –
 From the department of “Can we please start the season?” we bring you “Thoughts better left unspoken, but spoken anyway” presented by Dwight Howard and Nick Young.

Howard, the happy-to-be-here Houston Rockets center, opted to voice his dismay at how his old Orlando club just handed over his old No. 12 to an unproven (now promising) youngster named Tobias Harris without, apparently, a moment’s reservation.

Harris wore No. 15 with Milwaukee, but the one-five was occupied by forgotten Magic man Hedo Turkoglu. Luckily for Harris, No. 12, his number as a one-and-done freshman at Tennessee, had popped free a few months earlier.

Though Howard thinks the No. 12 he made famous (post-Chris Whitney) should hang in Orlando’s rafters when all is said and done.

“Despite how things ended, we had eight or seven great years. We went to The Finals,” Howard explained to Orlando Sentinel beat writer Josh Robbins last week. “A lot of those banners that are in the arena happened when I was there. I was a major part of that. A lot of the records that are there, I put them there.”

Sure, but It’s not like Orlando rushed to hang No. 32 in the Amway Center. Just don’t tell Dwight that it took a dozen years before Jeremy Richardson dared to don a No. 32 Magic jersey once Shaquille O’Neal headed west.

Now, Nick Young is an L.A. guy. He was born there in June 1985, the same month the Lakers celebrated title No. 9 of 16 while the Clippers had just wrapped up a 31-51 inaugural season in L.A. playing at the Memorial Sports Arena. Young was a hot shot at Cleveland High in Reseda and then at USC. He loved the Lakers.

He dreamed of wearing the majestic purple-and-gold. And now he does. Yet as luck would have it, the Clippers — the Clippers! — are the talk of the town. So when new Clips coach Doc Rivers decided to rid Staples Center, the shared home of both L.A. teams, of every spec of purple and gold when his team is playing, well, Young took exception.

At Friday’s preseason game, Clippers fans found Doc’s answer to sanitizing Staples on Clips game nights: giant-sized posters of their red-white-and-blue heroes completely boxing out the Lakers’ golden wall of fame: 16 championship banners, nine retired jersey numbers and the banner honoring late, great announcer Chick Hearn.

“He can do that?” said first-year Laker gunslinger, talking to reporters after the team’s practice on Sunday. “For real? That’s disrespectful. We got to talk to Doc. He can’t have that. We got to do something about that.

“That’s a lot of pull y’all are giving Doc,” Young went on. “I think he shouldn’t come in and have so much pull like that. He’s got to earn his keep.”

Love the charisma, Nick, but let’s not go there.

Doc’s move was wily (and frankly overdue by the Clips organization) and worthy of a back pat. Who needs Lakers glory constantly mocking his club’s empty trophy case (a 2012-13 Pacific Division championship — won under former coach Vinny Del Negro – is the best it gets) just as the franchise is rising from its doormat past?

“Listen, I think this is our arena when we play,” Rivers told reporters. “So I just thought it would be good that we show our guys. No disrespect to them [the Lakers]. But when we play, it’s the Clippers’ arena as far as I know.”

Quick reminder, too, the Lakers haven’t beaten the Clippers since April 4, 2012, and that skid doesn’t stand much of a chance of ending when the likely Kobe Bryant-less Lakers take on a ridiculously deep Clips team led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the season opener a week from Tuesday. Even though all all that shiny purple-and-gold hanging on the wall will be in full regalia because it is a Lakers home game.

The old veteran Steve Nash offered a more sensible voice to Doc’s coverup: “I guess if you were in the Clippers’ organization you’d probably want to do that, too. It’s their arena on their night, so I would try to make it feel like home.”

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, who knows what it feels like to be an outsider inside his home building, said about the same.

So good job Doc, you did the right thing. As for Nick, if you don’t want those giant-sized Clippers towering over you, you’ll have two chances (Jan. 10 and April 6) to shoot ‘em down, and earn your keep.

FIBA Update: Spain Upset, Puerto Rico Stays Unbeaten

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Thursday was a big day in FIBA qualifications, with the second round of FIBA Americas getting started and Day 2 at Eurobasket seeing a thrilling upset.

Down goes Spain

The story of the day was Slovenia coming back from 10 points down to beat Eurobasket favorite Spain. The Suns’ Goran Dragic led the way for the tournament’s hosts, registering 18 points, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

The game was more important for Slovenia, who now looks like a strong candidate to earn one of Europe’s six automatic berths to next year’s World Cup, than Spain. The two-time defending Euro champs have finished first (2011 Eurobasket, 2009 Eurobasket, 2006 World Championship) or second (2012 Olympics, 2008 Olympics, 2007 Eurobasket) in six of their last seven international competitions (the exception being the 2010 World Championship), despite losing preliminary-round games in almost all of them.

But there wasn’t any clear gamesmanship on Spain’s part. Marc Gasol played all but three minutes on Thursday.

Down to the wire

Slovenia-Spain was a great game, and it wasn’t the only thriller on Thursday. Latvia edged Montenegro on a jumper by Kristaps Janicenoks in the final seconds, Croatia beat Georgia on a Ante Tomic, pick-and-roll layup, and Belgium outlasted Germany in overtime.

The ends of these FIBA games can be really fun, because there are fewer timeouts in the final possessions. You’re not allowed to call a timeout on a live ball.

What happened to Turkey?

As someone who witnessed Turkey’s magical run to the 2010 World Championship gold medal game first-hand, it’s disappointing to see how much they’ve fallen off. They’ve been a mess offensively without long-time point guard Kerem Tunceri (whose absence on the roster was the coach’s decision, according to my Turkish friends on twitter) and with Hedo Turkoglu and Ersan Ilyasova combining to shoot 11-for-38 (29 percent).

More disappointing is the Turkish defense, which was dominant in 2010 and has allowed about 108 points per 100 possessions in their two games this week. With their size, they can extend their 2-3 zone out beyond the 3-point line, but they didn’t really go to it until the third quarter on Thursday. And when they did, Italy just picked it apart.

The good news for Turkey is that Hedo’s tan looks fabulous.

Greece back on top

The bad news for Turkey is that, after a day off, they next face Greece, who has the tournament’s best point differential after two games. Greece had a couple of down years (they didn’t qualify for last year’s Olympics), but has looked strong in wins over Sweden and Russia.

Greece is one of seven unbeaten teams. The most surprising of the seven has to be Finland, who has been led by former first-round pick Petteri Koponen. Also unbeaten is the Ukraine, coached by TNT’s Mike Fratello.

Big wins for Canada, Puerto Rico

While Spain can brush off Thursday’s loss, every game at the FIBA Americas tournament is critical right now, because the top four teams after this round of games will earn the automatic bids to next year’s World Cup of Basketball.

So Canada’s 89-67 win over Mexico, putting them in second place with three games to play, was huge. The Spurs’ Cory Joseph, now averaging 16.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists, has been one of the best players in the tournament.

Also big was Puerto Rico’s win over Argentina. Puerto Rico trailed by 16 midway through the second quarter, but came back and took control with a 13-0 run late in the third. They haven’t clinched a top-four spot just yet, but as the only undefeated team in the tournament, they’re in great shape.

Former Knick and Nugget Renaldo Balkman has been huge for P.R., averaging 20.6 points and 8.4 boards through five games.

Action in FIBA Americas and Eurobasket continues Friday.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 FIBA Americas champion
12 FIBA Americas 2nd place
13 FIBA Americas 3rd place
14 FIBA Americas 4th place
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

Redick Reflects on Magic, Dwight Opt-In

DALLAS – Now that J.J. Redick is gone from Orlando, and likely for good, he reflected Tuesday night on his six-plus seasons, all but this one spent with Dwight Howard, and how close the Magic seemed to a dominant run.

Orlando traded the 3-point sharpshooter to the Milwaukee Bucks at last week’s trade deadline. All that’s left of the 2008-09 Finals team that lost in five games to Los Angeles Lakers is Jameer Nelson and the suspended Hedo Turkoglu (who left as a free agent in ’09 and returned in a trade in ’10).

“I can remember being in my third year in the NBA and playing in The Finals,” Redick said Tuesday after scoring 14 points in the Bucks’ 95-90 win over the Mavericks. “You look at Dwight’s contract situation, you look at Rashard’s contract situation, Jameer’s contract situation, we had a chance to re-sign Turk, so you’d think maybe the team would have kept its core together. And you think you’re going to be back in The Finals the next year and the year after that, and it’s frustrating in that sense because I thought we would be back at some point, and we weren’t.

More from Redick in his own words:

Q: How close did you feel the team was to being a dominant force in the Eastern Conference?

A: We were very close. I think the big decision was what to do with Hedo. We didn’t necessarily want to give him a five-year deal and he had options out there, two five-year deals in excess of $50 million with Portland and Toronto. He made his decision and it was a good decision for him. As a player you have to strike while the iron is hot and take advantage of your small window to make a living. We made the trade for Vince [Carter] and for whatever reason we just couldn’t get over the top and beat the Celtics the next year. The following season we had a bunch of injuries and sicknesses early on and got off to a little bit of a slow start, and we made two separate blockbuster trades (Carter, Mikael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat to Phoenix for Jason Richardson, Turkoglu, Earl Clark and a first-round pick; and Rashard Lewis to Washington for Gilbert Arenas).

And, to me, that was the turning point. We never really got back to elite status after that.

Q: How did things begin to devolve with Dwight Howard’s ongoing situation?

A: Dating back to a year and a half, two years ago is when things started to get a little hectic in Orlando. It definitely changed the makeup of the organization and the franchise. And obviously, when you have a player of Dwight’s caliber you’re in contention to win a championship. When you lose a player like that there’s a strong possibility you’re going to have to rebuild and it might get a little ugly.

Q: It’s been a little ugly in Los Angeles. The Lakers are essentially backed into the same corner as the Magic were, waiting with bated breath for Howard to make a decision, one he says he won’t make until this summer. He says he doesn’t want another circus, but isn’t he creating another one by being non-committal?

A: I think he’s non-commital, I guess, for a reason. I’m not sure what that reason is, but if he wanted to explore his free agency he could have done it last summer. I’m not sure why he opted in [last year] because he wanted out of Orlando. I’m not really sure.

Q: You dealt with weeks of speculation about where you would be traded or if you would be traded at all. Now that you are with the Bucks, a team that appears, at worst, locked into the No. 8 seed and headed to the playoffs, is there a sense of relief?

A: Yeah, there’s definitely a feeling of relief. My feeling on just being traded in general is it’s part of the business. I’m a guy who just believes in making the best out of any situation. You can’t always change or control your circumstances, but you can change your perspective and your attitude. So no matter where I went, if I had stayed in Orlando, I would have made the most of it.

Duncan = The Big Discount?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Tim Duncan’s Hall of Fame credentials are set. His legacy needs no polishing at this late stage of his magnificent career.

And yet Duncan continues to shine.

He’s doing it this time without even touching the court. By taking a whopping 54 percent pay cut to remain with the Spurs, he abstained from the summer’s free-agent-palooza and allowed the Spurs to maintain their financial flexibility. That helped San Antonio keep its core group intact as it tries to mount one last championship run in the Duncan era.

As Jeff McDonald of the Express News reports, there was no need for a negotiating session:

“I’m an awful negotiator,” Duncan said, chuckling. “My agent was mad at me the whole time.”

Duncan was on hand at the Spurs’ practice facility Tuesday for the start of his 16th NBA training camp. That would have been surprising only if the notoriously casual dresser had arrived in something out of Craig Sager’s wardrobe.

Though technically a free agent for about a week in early July, the 36-year-old Duncan said he never seriously considered retirement and never remotely entertained the idea of playing elsewhere.

“I’ve been here for so long,” said Duncan, who took no calls from rival teams. “This is home for me.”

That’s a welcome statement for NBA observers who still cringe at the memory of Hakeem Olajuwon in a Toronto Raptors jersey or Patrick Ewing in Seattle SuperSonics green.

Taking that pay cut means Duncan instantly became The Big Discount. With his reported $9.6 million salary, Duncan moves from near the top of the league’s earnings list to a new spot behind the likes of Al Jefferson and Carlos Boozer, solid big men who will both earn $15 million this season but won’t rank anywhere near Duncan when their careers are over.

Two Gordons, Eric ($13.6) and Ben ($12.4), will both earn more than Duncan this season, as will Hedo Turkoglu ($11.8), Corey Maggette ($10.9), DeAndre Jordan and even former Spurs swingman Richard Jefferson ($10.1).

That doesn’t include the four amnestied players — Brandon Roy, Gilbert Arena, Elton Brand and Rashard Lewis — all of whom will earn between $21 (Roy) and $15 (Lewis) million for not playing with the teams that owed them that money. Arenas isn’t even on anyone’s training camp roster.

In an era when folks love to poke players for being all about the “Benjamins,” Duncan deserves some credit for being about everything but his own bottom line!

Dwight update: Not close to a trade with Rockets




Friday came and went, and just like all the other days that have passed since June 24, 2004, Dwight Howard was still a member of the Orlando Magic.

Despite the Houston Rockets using the amnesty provision to waive forward Luis Scola, there was no trade of Howard from Orlando to Houston, and sources briefed on the talks between the two sides said the teams weren’t nearly as close to a trade as many have speculated. That can change in an instant, of course, but late Friday, there was no deal.

Talks between the two sides are “not active,” one source said Friday.

“There’s nothing happening,” another source said.

The Rockets, according to a league source briefed on the discussions, are willing to take one bad contract back from the Magic, not two or three, as has been speculated. And in return, Houston will give up one of the their three first-round picks in last month’s Draft– Jeremy Lamb, Royce White or Terrence Jones –but only one.

The Rockets would be willing to send a future draft pick to Orlando –presumably the Lottery-protected first-rounder Houston received this week from Toronto for guard Kyle Lowry — and send a veteran player to the Magic, helping Orlando clear $10 to $15 million worth of cap room, in exchange for the six-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

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Houston’s Quest For Howard Revs Up





As another morning dawned on the Great Dwight Howard Trade Watch, there was no change in the All-Star center/diva’s whereabouts: still stuck in Orlando with those Brooklyn blues again. There was, however, some uncertainty about the rest of his Magic teammates. And, for that matter, the Houston Rockets’ roster as NBA followers once knew it.

At this point, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey lacks only the peg-leg and a harpoon to differentiate himself from Capt. Ahab in his impassioned, seemingly obsessive pursuit of Howard, his dunk-slamming, shot-swatting, free throw-clanging version of Moby Dick. It has reached quest proportions, revved up as the Brooklyn Nets essentially dropped out of the trade market for the unhappy strongman superstar.

No cost is too great, it seems, as Morey pursues Howard. Already, the Rockets have taken a cleaver to their roster and are prepared to forge ahead in 2012-13 without seven of the top 11 players in minutes from last season’s squad. Now the roster cost might include forward Luis Scola, who not only was on the court more than any other Houston player (2,067 minutes last season) but scored more points, took more shots and grabbed more offensive rebounds than any of his teammates.

Scola, a 32-year-old ironman in his five Rockets season, clearly has given them their money’s worth. But his future paychecks are the ones that might get him sacrificed to the cause, as Josh Robbins explains in the Orlando Sentinel:

According to Yahoo! Sports, the Rockets have decided to waive forward Luis Scola using the collective bargaining agreement’s amnesty provision. Although Scola still would be paid the remaining $21 million guaranteed to him over the next three years, the move would clear his contract off the Rockets’ books and would allow the Rockets to accept more of the Magic’s onerous salary obligations. (more…)

Rockets, Lakers In Latest Howard Talks



The Orlando Magic are talking to the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets in various trade scenarios involving Dwight Howard, according to league sources. However, a source directly involved in the discussions said Tuesday night that no deal involving Howard going to either team was likely at the moment — though the situation remains fluid and could re-heat at any moment.

Discussions with the Brooklyn Nets, the one team Howard has said he’d be willing to sign a contract extension with after this season, were “quiet,” the source said Tuesday. A proposed four-team deal involving the Nets, Magic, Cavaliers and Clippers never came near fruition, and the Nets started looking for different trade partners Monday. In that complicated deal, Howard would have gone to Brooklyn, with the Nets sending center Brook Lopez (in a sign and trade deal) along with three future first-round picks to Orlando, and Cleveland taking Nets free agent Kris Humphries in a sign-and-trade deal. A fourth team, reportedly at various points the Clippers, Bobcats or Timberwolves, would have taken another Nets player, guard MarShon Brooks. But another source said Tuesday reports that that deal was anywhere near close were “way premature” because of all the moving parts involved.

The basketball website HoopsWorld reported Tuesday that the Magic, Rockets and Lakers had initiated discussions with one another about potential trade scenarios involving Howard and Lakers center Andrew Bynum. The website said the Magic were talking about potential deals that would send Howard to the Lakers and Bynum to the Rockets, with the Magic getting what they want most of all: numerous future Draft picks. The Los Angeles Times reported later Tuesday that the Lakers would be willing to take the contract of guard Jason Richardson (three years and $18.6 million remaining) from Orlando to facilitate the trade. The Magic has also been looking for someone to take the contract of forward Hedo Turkoglu (two years, $23 million remaining) in a potential Howard deal.

The Lakers are uncertain that they’ll be able to re-sign Bynum, who made his first All-Star team last season and is entering the final year of his contract. Bynum has loads of talent, but has rubbed feelings raw within the organization with occasional bouts of immaturity and bad on-court decisions. But Howard has not yet said that he would be willing to sign an extension with the Lakers, leaving them leery to pull the trigger on any potential deal.

“Dwight does control this, still,” another source directly involved in the talks said Tuesday.

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