Another Thursday night, another batch of NBA fools. This week Shaq calls out Will Bynum, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James (!!), Tony Paker and Iman Shumpert. Vote for your favorite Shaqtin’ A Fool moment!
DALLAS – Orlando Magic guard and wanted sharpshooter J.J. Redick is so tired of receiving texts from friends with the latest trade rumor and being asked by reporters where he thinks he’ll play after Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, that he proposed his own three-way trade Wednesday night.
It’s a doozy: “Between the Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Ravens,” Redick said. “[The Magic] pick up [Joe] Flacco.”
So where’s Redick headed?
Apparently the Reds player in the deal is TBD.
“For me, it’s just annoying if anything,” said Redick, who struggled for a second consecutive game with just 10 points on 3-for-12 shooting in yet another loss, 111-96, to the Mavericks. “I want to play, no matter what happens, I just want to play and not have to deal with this. I’m getting a new phone number; friends have been texting me crazy stuff all day. Probably should have just cut it off the last couple of days. You know, it comes with the territory, I guess. It’s for the birds, though.”
Redick is a coveted 3-pointer shooter that any contender would love to have coming off the bench. While Redick has said he’d be fine finishing the season with the only team he’s ever known in his seven-year career, he also dropped some hints that suggest he wouldn’t mind escaping a losing situation for the chance to chase a ring.
After saying he wouldn’t be “disappointed” if he is not traded, Redick followed by saying, “Look, if any player is in this situation and they’re on a team that’s one of the five or six teams in the league that has one of the worst records and they go to a contender, it’s not a bad thing. If I were to stay here, though, it would be great.
“Again, the issue is if I get traded to the Reds. That’s the issue.”
Redick said he’s had no conversations with Orlando management about the remainder of this season or beyond. He will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He said he is open to a return and he believes the Magic are, too, but that there has been no commitment from either side.
Orlando (15-39) has lost 15 of their last 16 and have the worst record in the league since Dec. 20, at 3-26. Redick had a key blunder late in the third quarter, having a layup that would have put the Magic up eight, blocked from behind by O.J. Mayo. It led to an alley-oop dunk and a complete reversal of momentum.
Dallas outscored Orlando, 28-14, in the fourth quarter and 21-2 after it was a 90-88 game.
Wouldn’t a trade be a refreshing reboot to a season that has provided little relief from last season’s Dwightmare?
The Magic head to Memphis on Thursday for a game on Friday night. At least Redick’s bags are packed if gets the call that he’s gone.
“In terms of speculating, there’s no point,” Redick said. “You’ve obviously seen 72 different trade rumors regarding Josh Smith and different players around the league. Iman Shumpert has been rumored to go to every team in the NBA. Until something happens, there’s really nothing to make a worthwhile comment on.
“Wherever I am when tomorrow afternoon, I’ll just be focused on finishing the season well.”
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: The triple-OT classic between the streaking Nuggets and equally hot Celtics is pretty hard to pass up … as is the Lakers-Heat showdown in Miami that saw LeBron James showing off all his MVP-type skills. But we’ve got to go with the Clippers-Knicks game as our must-see today. It’s impressive to see what this fully stocked L.A. team can do. The boost that Grant Hill gave off the bench — particularly in the fourth quarter — was special. Chris Paul was back to his usual MVP-contending self, Blake Griffin was soaring in from here and there, the Raymond-Felton-to-Tyson-Chandler alley-oop was working … all around, a good one to rewatch.
Nets chasing Hawks’ Smith | Suns getting active in talks | Shumpert in trade rumors? | Redick thinks he’s staying put | Rockets, Harden have long-term view | Nets fall apart against Spurs | Miller questions ‘star-less’ system
Report: Nets in pursuit of Hawks’ Smith — As our man David Aldridge reported on Friday, the Hawks are open to trade offers for star forward Josh Smith. Obviously, trade talks for Smith have picked up over the weekend, with the Nets being the rumored frontrunners. ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard — who also had news of the Nets’ interest in Bobcats guard Ben Gordon over the weekend — has more on Brooklyn’s pursuit of Atlanta’s star:
The Brooklyn Nets are aggressively pursuing a trade for Atlanta Hawks star forward Josh Smith, league sources told ESPN.
The two teams are engaged in discussions, but one source said while “there has been lots of talk, nothing is close yet.”
As the NBA’s Feb. 21 trade deadline nears, Brooklyn is proving to be one of the most active teams in the league. As reported by ESPN.com on Friday, sources said the Nets also are talking with the Charlotte Bobcats about a Kris Humphries-for-Ben Gordon trade.
While the Nets certainly want Gordon, sources said acquiring Smith is their higher priority. A trade for Smith would seemingly kill a deal for Gordon, because Humphries is one of the players being discussed with Atlanta.
The Nets are willing to give up Humphries and second-year shooting guard MarShon Brooks for Smith. But it almost certainly will take more than a Humphries-Brooks combination to pry Smith away from Atlanta, and one source said the Hawks want Brooklyn’s first-round pick.
Some scenarios that have been discussed include the Hawks’ Anthony Morrow, who played the past two seasons with the Nets, returning to the club.
ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported Saturday that the Hawks want a young center in return for Smith.
The Nets may have to get a third team involved to pull off a trade for Smith.
Smith will become a free agent this summer, and Atlanta is deciding whether to trade him before the deadline. One source close to the situation estimated there is a 60 percent chance the Hawks will move him.
Suns in midst of many trade talks? — As we mention below, the Suns might be interested in working out a deal to acquire Knicks swingman Iman Shumpert, but that might not be the only deal on the table. Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic reports that Phoenix has also been linked to potential trades with Utah and its star big man, Al Jefferson:
The trade deadline is 11 days away, but the Suns already are linked to talks with New York and Utah. Multiple media outlets reported the Suns have ongoing interest in Iman Shumpert, a guard they considered drafting in 2011 when they took Markieff Morris and Shumpert went 17th to New York.
Swingman Jared Dudley is mentioned as a possible swap target, but the Suns would have to get more salary in return to satisfy trade rules because Dudley makes $4.25 million annually through 2014-15. The possibility of a pick going to New York also was reported, but the Suns covet their first-round picks, especially if the Lakers miss the playoffs and the Suns wind up with two lottery picks.
The Suns would have to be concerned with Shumpert’s left knee. He was out from late April to mid-January with a torn anterior-cruciate ligament. Shumpert, 22, was living up to billing as a perimeter defender with a 6-foot-5, 220-pound body to play both guard spots, but he has been a 39 percent shooter.
“Anytime you’re on a team that’s a losing team and they’ve got a lot of draft picks, it’s going to be up in discussions,” said Dudley, who had not heard from his agent. “In the NBA, 90 percent of the rumors don’t come true. It comes with territory and doesn’t faze me at all.”
Dudley said he takes the buzz about him to be a compliment, including the Suns’ interest in Rudy Gay.
“When my name came up before, I was a throw-in,” Dudley said. “Now, I think I’ve worked on my game where I could be a good piece or asset for the Suns or any team.”
The Suns also have shown interest in a bigger splash for Utah’s Al Jefferson or Gordon Hayward. Dudley could be a part of either of those deals with center Marcin Gortat likely needed to make one work for Jefferson, a 28-year-old power forward who makes $14 million and is averaging 17.4 points and 9.5 rebounds. Hayward, a 22-year-old swingman, is averaging 13.5 points in a reserve role.
“We all realize this is a business,” Suns interim head coach Lindsey Hunter said. “I was a player once, and I was traded a couple times. It’s nothing personal. It’s just business, and I think guys understand that now.”
Shumpert finds self in trade rumors — After a dozen games in New York’s lineup following an extensive rehab stint following ACL surgery, ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Bagley reports that the Knicks are listening to offers for Shumpert (one of which includes a swap of him for Phoenix’s Jared Dudley), but a move may not be likely. Still, this is the second season in Shumpert’s two-year NBA career that he is in the midst of trade rumors:
The New York Knicks are listening to trade offers for Iman Shumpert, but a team source said a deal that would send the second-year guard to the Phoenix Suns for Jared Dudley as part of a multiplayer package is “unlikely at this point.”
“I don’t really care,” Shumpert said following Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. “I’ve just got to play ball. I can’t control it anyway. There’s nothing to worry about — something I can’t control.”
Knicks coach Mike Woodson downplayed the situation when asked about it Sunday.
“Those are just trade rumors,” he said.
The Suns have shown interest in acquiring Shumpert, a league source confirmed.
The Suns’ interest in Shumpert and their willingness to include Dudley in a deal was first reported by Yahoo! Sports on Saturday night.
The Knicks have been monitoring the trade market for a shooter in recent weeks, but there is a faction in the organization opposed to giving up Shumpert, who is widely viewed as one of the top young perimeter defenders in the league.
One team source characterized the Knicks’ listening to the Suns’ offer as the team performing its due diligence as the trade deadline nears.
Still, the same team source said not everyone in the organization is convinced of Shumpert’s long-term value to the Knicks.
This is not the first time the Suns have shown interest in Shumpert. Phoenix requested the Knicks include him in a sign-and-trade package for then-Suns guard Steve Nash last summer.
The Knicks enter play Sunday in first place in the Atlantic Division, four games ahead of Brooklyn. They are 1½ games behind first-place Miami in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks are the oldest team in the league, and coach Mike Woodson and general manager Glen Grunwald have said they are dealing with a finite window to compete for an NBA title.
Dudley could help them offensively. He is a career 40 percent 3-point shooter and is averaging 11.8 points in 29.8 minutes this season.
Redick doesn’t anticipate deal — Orlando’s J.J. Redick isn’t just a longtime fan favorite there, but has also made the eighth-most 3-pointers in the NBA this season (115) and is shooting 40 percent or better from 3-point range for the second straight season. That makes him a valuable trade chip for Orlando — and for teams looking for 3-point shooting — but the ex-Duke star tells the Orlando Sentinel’s Brian Schmitz he isn’t worrying about being dealt:
Magic SG J.J. Redick told the Sentinel after Sunday’s win that the club has told him they “are not actively trying to move me.”
Various teams, however, are actively trying to land him.
A fan favorite, J.J. followers might see the fact that the Magic aren’t pushing Redick out the door as a good sign.
But the NBA trade deadline isn’t until Feb. 21, meaning other clubs have plenty of time to present a trade offer to the Magic.
If the Magic have decided they can’t afford to keep Redick – J.J. makes $6 million in the final year of his contract and starter Arron Afflalo will be over $7 mil the next three seasons — they need some kind of compensation. They might want a favorable draft choice or a young promising player.
Or they could demand that one of their bad contracts needs to be packaged in any Redick trade — a tough sell if the Magic are parting ways.
Redick can ultimately control his destiny and destination after if he’s dealt. He can be rented for the rest of the season, but he can become a free agent this summer.
Some teams trading for him, such as the Milwaukee Bucks – who have been linked in rumors to Redick – likely will see if they can afford to sign him longterm first.
Along with the Bucks, the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics have reportedly shown interest.
Redick has heard the scuttlebutt. He prefers to stay in Orlando and didn’t seem too concerned when I spoke with him after the club’s win over Portland.
Rockets, Harden taking the long view — Behind first-time All-Star guard James Harden, the Rockets find themselves this morning at No. 8 in the West, 1/2 game behind Utah for No. 7. That puts Houston squarely in the playoff picture, mostly thanks to Harden’s breakout campaign. Now Houston is hoping that Harden’s play, combined with a decent playoff showing, will help entice some marquee free agents to look their way come the offseason, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
The Rockets considered landing Harden, 23, the most significant step in their rebuilding but far from the final move necessary to build a contender.
His success in his first season as a go-to scorer and offensive focal point has been key to their 28-24 record and will bring him his first All-Star Game appearance Feb. 17.
The Rockets hope his play will just be the start of his contributions, to be followed by a role as a compelling draw for their next star.
It is a job he welcomes as much as handling the ball in pick-and-roll.
“I hope so,” Harden said. “I’ve built some friendships these last couple years, this summer and throughout the time playing. They know what kind of person I am, how hard-working I am, knowing I want to win. I hope that becomes a factor of wanting to come to Houston and trying to win championships.”
When it comes to discussing his recruiting efforts, he was considerably more reticent.
James Harden might have the All-Star power to attract a complement or two, but the Rockets would have to show the willingness to make the deal.
Asked if he had begun making his sales pitch, or at least laying the groundwork for next summer, he said he has chatted with “a couple guys.”
Asked who has received his initial recruiting attention, Harden smiled broadly and said, “A couple guys.”
The Rockets can create enough salary-cap room to sign Dwight Howard or another max-contract player (Chris Paul will be a free agent, but even more likely to remain in Los Angeles) and with that in mind expect to be cautious about using cap space at the trade deadline than they have ever been with Morey as general manager.
Several players who could become free agents could be moved at the deadline, but Morey is more likely to wait for summer free agency when Howard, Andrew Bynum, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Josh Smith, Andre Iguodala and David West could hit the market.
“I think it’s pretty well established to win a title you need great players and need more than one,” Morey said. “Having a great player like James and with him showing what he can do, puts us in a good light in our situation in Houston.”Not only has he been on big stages early in his career … he’s been around the other great players.”
Less than two weeks before the trade deadline, Morey reiterated he will be more cautious this season. Though he would make a short-term move such as last season’s acquisition of Marcus Camby, he said he would not do it at the cost of long-term options unless it also suits that goal.
“Except if something unexpected comes along, someone signed that is very good and wants to be moved, we plan to keep our flexibility as an available destination for whatever free agent is available in July,” Morey said.
Nets hear it from home crowd — Losing to the Spurs with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker is an almost understandable defeat for most any team in the league. Losing to that squad when Duncan and Ginobili rest is a little tougher to swallow. Such was the case for the Nets on Sunday as the Parker-led Spurs demolished the fully stocked Nets by 25 points and Brooklyn’s crew drew the ire of the hometown crowd, writes Howard Beck of the New York Times:
The fade was gradual and then instant — a few harmless missteps, followed by a sudden, spectacular free fall. Tony Parker charged. The Nets stumbled and wheezed. And the Barclays Center soundtrack morphed from the warm, familiar “Brook-lyn” chant to something more wrathful: “Booooo.”
The Nets have had an extended honeymoon in this maiden season in Brooklyn, but the fans finally lost their patience Sunday night, screaming their displeasure as the San Antonio Spurs, playing without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, drilled the home team, 111-86.
As the Spurs completed a dominating second half, outscoring the Nets, 60-29, the angry voices began to boom.
“Deserved,” the Nets’ Deron Williams said. “These people pay money to come see us play, and play better than that.”
They were the first sustained boos the Nets had heard since arriving in Brooklyn. But then, this was as listless and demoralizing as any loss the Nets have had. They failed to take advantage of the Spurs’ depleted lineup, failed to hold an 8-point lead in the third quarter and utterly failed to contain Parker, who carved up their defense for 29 points and 11 assists.
The Spurs pushed their league-best record to 40-12, while the Nets continued to fade, slipping to 29-22. The Nets have lost six of their last nine games, all but one by double digits, and their psyche has never looked more fragile.
There have been more Nets trade rumors — including Ben Gordon and Josh Smith — in recent days than Nets victories.
From Coach P. J. Carlesimo to every starter, the Nets bemoaned an inability to fight through trouble, to keep their heads, to respond constructively and to play with a singular purpose. In the aftermath, there were hints of a fractured locker room.
“We got to understand that this is a team game,” Gerald Wallace said. He added: “You’re allowed to get mad. But instead of going your own individual way, we got to pull together as a team, buckle down. And that’s when we got to tighten up our defense a little bit more, instead of going into five different guys out on the court.”
The Nets have enough fight, “but the fight right now is in the wrong direction,” Wallace said. “Everybody is wanting to fight individually, instead of pulling together as a team. And that’s fighting as the Brooklyn Nets.”
Nuggets’ Miller questions star-less system — We didn’t address Andre Miller in this space on Friday, but he might mentioning now. On the heels of Denver’s rout of Chicago at home on Friday, the Nuggets’ veteran guard voiced that he’s looking for more minutes than what he’s getting with Denver. After last night’s triple-OT defeat in Boston, Miller was talking again — although this time taking issue with the Nuggets’ overall roster gameplan than with his own minutes. Coach George Karl has spent the entire season preaching how his team can win without a bona fide superstar, but Miller doesn’t seem to agree with that philosophy, as Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post reports:
Last May, Nuggets guard Andre Miller said this in an interview with The Denver Post on the subject of whether any team could win big in the NBA without a superstar.
“The question is, can you win without a superstar? This is a superstar’s league, and you can’t win without a superstar.”
Miller recently repeated those words in another report. It’s what he’s always believed, and why not? The NBA hasn’t shown him, or anyone else, anything different.
But coach George Karl believes it can be done, and he’s out to prove it this season with the Nuggets, who don’t have a superstar or even an all-star.
Miller’s comments got back to Karl, who was asked what he thought about them. Karl shook his head.
“Andre and I got to have a talk in Toronto,” said Karl, a mini-chuckle present at the end of the sentence. “The only thing it comes down to is 10 or 15 superstars. I think (Andre) Iguodala and Ty (Lawson) and Gallo (Danilo Gallinari) and Andre Miller and Kenneth Faried are in the next 40 players on that list.
“As I said, the best team is who wins the NBA championship 90 percent of the time, it’s not who has the most talented team.”
But throughout January and into February, the Nuggets, if not yet counted as serious contenders in the Western Conference, have at the very least moved into the category of dangerous — the team you don’t want to face come playoff time.
That was underscored by Boston coach Doc Rivers.
“They run. They play together,” Rivers said of the Nuggets. “I love watching them. I tell George that all the time.
“They’re agenda-less when you watch them play. Nobody cares. They have six guys (scoring) in double figures. That’s what you see when you watch them play.
“They’re a very difficult team to load on. We load on a couple guys a game. (With the Nuggets) you’re sitting there picking which guy we do that to. It’s just hard with them.”
ICYMI of the night: We love some nice big man passing around these parts and, surprisingly, some of the best dimes of the night were found in the Blazers-Magic game. First, we had Nicolas Batum going five-hole on Andrew Nicholson to get the ball to J.J. Hickson for a dunk. But the winner of the night was this pretty behind-the-back number from Gustavo Ayon to Nicholson:
HANG TIME, Texas – Sometimes the decisions are made for you.
Danny Ainge can stop wondering about what to do, which direction to take with his Celtics as the NBA trade deadline of Feb. 21 draws near.
The future arrived in Boston like a punch in the gut with the sickening news that Rajon Rondo has a torn ACL in his right knee and is lost for the season.
Now it’s time to start over.
If Ray Allen having swapped jerseys for Sunday’s homecoming to the TD Garden with the Heat was first crack in the Celtics 21st century golden run that began in 2007, then Rondo’s injury sent the remnants crashing to the parquet floor.
Rondo was averaging 13.7 points, 11.1 assists and had just been named an All-Star starter for the first time. He was coming off back-to-back triple-doubles, including the double-overtime loss in Atlanta, where the injury evidently occurred.
After complaining of pain while trying to warm up prior to Sunday’s game, the point guard was taken to New England Baptist Hospital where an MRI revealed the tear.
The rest of the Celtics were given the bad news during the game and word circulated like whispers of a death in the family through the arena and the rest of the NBA world.
“We just got to rally round each other,” teammate Paul Pierce told ABC’s Doris Burke. “I feel for him. He was having such a great season … It’s disappointing news. Guys just got to step up.”
But it is one thing for Pierce to come through with a gutty triple-double performance of his own and for the Celtics to persevere through a double-overtime against Miami. It is quite another to believe that a Boston team without Rondo could take down the defending champion Heat in a seven-game playoff series. That is, assuming the Celtics even limp into the playoffs.
The win over Miami ended a six-game Celtics losing streak that already had coach Doc Rivers threatening to get one-way tickets out of town for anybody that couldn’t step up. He changed his lineup, putting rookie Jared Sullinger in to start at center in place of Brandon Bass. The Celtics are still two games below .500.
The harsh truth is that the blow is not just the end of a season for Rondo, but the end of the road for this core group of Celtics that won a championship in 2008 and lost in The Finals to the Lakers in 2010.
Ainge and Rivers might have been tempted to shake things up last summer, but wishful thinking and, perhaps, sentiment told them to try making one last run with their aging warriors. But Garnett at 36 is already playing greatly reduced minutes and Pierce at 35 had been mired in a slump of his own before Sunday and is no longer the workhorse.
Rondo, for all of his personality quirks and clashes with Rivers, was the on-court leader of these Celtics and had been for the past several seasons. He had developed a knack for rising up on nationally-televised games and in the playoffs and his efforts that often came with the gale force of a hurricane were what gave the Celtics any so-called puncher’s chance that existed.
The time now is to find out if there is a market to move Pierce as a “designated hitter” on a contending team. He’s got just one more year on his contract at $15.3 million. The two years and $23.5 million owed to Garnett could be problematic.
The bottom line is the Celtics can take a day to celebrate an emotional win in honor of their fallen star. But whenever Rondo does return, it has to be as the centerpiece to a new era in Boston.
Sometimes the decisions are made for you.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Raymond Felton‘s prize for his first game action in a month was a recurring blur named Jrue Holiday.
The Philadelphia 76ers point guard and first-time All-Star ripped Felton and the New York Knicks on Saturday night for 35 points in a game that was never close and the Sixers won 97-80.
Felton’s return as the Knicks dropped to 26-15 in reaching their official 41-game halfway point, gave New York as close to a fully healthy roster as it’s had all season. Iman Shumpert played his fourth game back and Amar’e Stoudemire, in his 11th game back, posted his first 20-point game, getting 20 on 8-for-13 shooting.
Just .500 in their last 10 games, the Knicks are now sort of in re-start mode, although a jump-start was needed in Philly.
With only Rasheed Wallace still out, coach Mike Woodson is now charged with meshing Felton and Shumpert — Saturday was their season debut together — figuring out the best way to limit Jason Kidd‘s minutes and the best lineups to play him with, as well as determining if the improving Stoudemire is best suited to keep coming off the bench — although Woodson has said he likes Stoudemire off the bench with J.R. Smith and Steve Novak.
Against the Sixers, Woodson opted for a three-guard starting lineup with Felton, Kidd and Shumpert. Kidd, overplayed during Felton’s absence, was scoreless in under 15 minutes, limited by a bad back.
Felton, playing for the first time since breaking his right pinkie on Christmas Day, was rusty, missing six of his eight shots and he was a step slow against Holiday, which was true for the entire Knicks team.
And it’s not like Felton was the only offensive culprit either. Shumpert missed all six of his shots and Smith’s struggles took him to 0-for-8 overall and 0-for-4 from beyond the arc. Carmelo Anthony needed 28 shots to score 25 points.
So where are the Knicks as they begin the second half tonight back at home against the Atlanta Hawks?
That’s to be seen.
The Knicks at least have their point guard back. Before Saturday’s game, they were 20-8 with Felton and 6-6 without him. They’ve got Shumpert back. They’ve got Stoudemire back.
In addition, the schedule turns favorable with the start of a five-game homestand, and only two of their next seven games are against teams with winning records.
Now it’s a matter of how long it will take for the team to mesh and to get back to the higher rate of winning Knicks fans were getting used to.
HANG TIME, Texas – It was a two-point game with three minutes left to play. There was all the set-up for another contested and contentious finish.
After their squabble from 17 days earlier, would either Kevin Garnett or Carmelo Anthony wind up down on the floor?
As a matter of fact, K.G. did hit the parquet at T.D. Garden. But there was a pleasantly accommodating ‘Melo to lend a helping hand to get a brother back onto his feet.
The only thing missing was a chorus of “Kumbaya” in place of the national anthem as the Knicks-Celtics blood feud tip-toed quietly into the night, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:
“There’s no grudges between myself and KG,” Anthony said. “He fell, and I helped him up.”
No one knew exactly what to expect, but an outbreak of politeness and a tepid home crowd were not on the menu. Other than a few benign shoves between Garnett and Tyson Chandler in the midst of the fourth quarter and a handful of rogue heckles referencing Garnett’s supposed infamous insult, there was nothing extraordinary.
“I was expecting it to be a hostile environment,” Anthony said. “It was kind of quiet.”
Said Amar’e Stoudemire: “I was thinking the crowd was going to be a little more rude.”
This could be either the city of Boston rejecting hundreds of years of reputation or — and this is much more likely — a fan base and a Celtics team that had bigger worries than meting out retribution for a guy who stood half-menacingly in a loading dock surrounded by a dozen security guards as Anthony did back on Jan. 7.
In other words, rather than the anticipated clamor of a Melo-K.G. Showdown II, was this the sighing sound of the Celtics running into reality while the Knicks gallop onto bigger things?
At this point, these are two teams circling in different orbits. Boston lost its fifth straight game, is under .500 and walking with one foot in the gutter of the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
So much for the effect of coach Doc Rivers flipping his usually cool lid and threatening to buy one-way tickets out of town for any of his players who didn’t buy into the program and start playing better.
A lot of us have been looking at that storied name across the front of those green-and-white jerseys, read the famous and accomplished names across the back and been trying to convince ourselves that it was only a matter of time before Boston shifted into gear.
But maybe this is as good as it gets for the Celtics. While Rajon Rondo put up a triple-double and Paul Pierce played showed some of the old fire, the reason that the Garden was so quiet — dare we say it, so meek? — was perhaps the fans understand that there is no torch to be passed. It has already been extinguished.
On the other hand, after four losses in six games, the Knicks could be out of their funk and back in the business of resuming their chase of Miami for the role of top dog in the East (while holding off the charging Nets).
Even with a loss on Monday night, the Knicks still split the season series with Brooklyn and got their best game to date from Stoudemire. They could get Raymond Felton (broken finger) back in the lineup as soon as Saturday at Philly.
Coach Mike Woodson’s new challenge could be finding time and space for all of his healthy players and, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
Felton’s return will result in the Knicks having all their guards healthy for the first time all season.
Shumpert is expected to remain in the starting lineup, and Woodson hinted that he may play Shumpert at small forward and start Felton and Kidd in the backcourt.
“I don’t know,” Woodson said. “I’ll have options when Raymond comes back. And I’m not saying that Kidd’s possibly going to go to the bench.”
The original plan was to use Kidd as the first guard off the bench while limiting his minutes. In all likelihood that’s what Woodson will do, because a starting lineup with Anthony, Shumpert, Kidd and Felton makes the rebounding-challenged Knicks small.
“I’m killing Kidd in terms of not having Raymond in a uniform, playing him a lot of minutes,” Woodson said. “We need Kidd for the long haul.
“If it means starting him or coming off the bench, Kidd’s going to play.
“I don’t care if he starts or if he comes off. I don’t think it really matters to him either. He’s going to play because he’s a big piece to what we do.”
Of course, those are the good kinds of problems to have in New York. Plus, it’s far different from what’s going on in Boston, where the sounds of silence speak volumes.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Jason Kidd is piling up heavy minutes and it’s only the second week of January.
With injured point guard Raymond Felton sidelined until at least later this month, New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson must find ways to win games — they’re 3-3 without Felton following Monday’s heated home loss to Boston — while not running Kidd into the ground.
In the six games since Felton fractured his right pinkie on Christmas against the Los Angeles Lakers, Kidd’s minutes have actually decreased slightly to 30.7 minutes a game from his rugged December workload of 33.2. That, however, is thanks to a 21-minute outing in a rout of the San Antonio Spurs, the one game in his last 10 that Kidd hasn’t logged between 31 and 35 minutes.
Take away the Spurs game and he’s averaged 32.6 minutes in Felton’s absence, same as his season average during the 2010-11 title run with Dallas. His minutes per game dropped to a career-low 28.7 last season, but he’s averaging 29.8 mpg this season and that figure is rising.
Overall, Kidd’s minutes have skyrocketed since the season’s opening month and it’s certainly worth monitoring as the All-Star break nears.
In 12 November games, Kidd played a very manageable 26.1 mpg and logged 30 minutes or more just three times. In the 18 games he’s played since, Kidd has gone 30-plus minutes 14 times, and 10 times he’s played at least 34 minutes. Last season, Kidd hit the 34-minute mark just 13 times in 48 games as he fought a rare spat of three separate injuries. Those were perhaps more a result of a shortened training camp and rushed start to the season following the lockout than being the league’s oldest starting player (and historically one of its most durable).
Still, as Kidd approaches his 40th birthday on March 23 and is in the midst of his 19th season, it would seem detrimental for him to continue to log such leg-sapping minutes.
So far, it has not affected his shooting. Of Kidd’s 196 shot attempts, 150 are 3-pointers and he’s made 66 of those for 44.0 percent, fifth-best in the league. He’s went 17-for-38 in his last six games, including 8-for-15 in his last two games following a potential red-flag pair of games when he missed 7 of 8 shots.
Woodson will likely have to continue to lean on Kidd. But once Felton and eventually Iman Shumpert return this month, it will be wise for Woodson to ease off the old man and begin planning for the stretch run and the most important Knicks postseason since 2000.
KIDD’S MINUTES BY MONTH
Month Games Avg min. 30+
November 12 26.1 3
December 14 32.9 11
January 4 30.5 3
NEW YORK – Jeremy Lin returned to Madison Square Garden on Monday. New York fans gave him a great ovation when he was introduced and then booed him when he touched the ball. The loudest crowd noise of the night came when he airballed a 3-pointer late in the second quarter.
“It was great to be back and playing on that court again,” Lin said after his Rockets handed the Knicks their first home loss of the season. “I had fun out there. I’m thankful to the fans. A lot of people showed out and supported and wore my old jersey. I am still thankful for the fans and it was a lot better than I had thought.”
The night wasn’t quite as electric as it could have been though, because the Knicks played without Carmelo Anthony (sprained ankle), because the game was essentially over by the end of the third quarter, and because the early-season performances of Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd have already softened the blow of losing Lin in July. But while the Knicks are better off without Lin this season, he did help show them where they still have some work to do.
The funny thing about the Linsanity phenomenon that captured New York 10 months ago is that the Knicks’ success over those magical 26 games was more about defense than it was about Lin’s points and assists.
Lin certainly had a marvelous run, averaging 18.5 points and 7.7 dimes over those 26 games, but the Knicks were still just an average offensive team in that stretch. Defensively, however, they were excellent.
Linsanity was about more than just basketball, of course. But it wouldn’t have reached the heights it did if the Knicks weren’t winning games. And they wouldn’t have won games if they weren’t getting stops. Remember those 38 points Lin scored against the Lakers? The Knicks won that game 92-85. Remember that game-winner in Toronto? The final score of that one was 90-87.
Right now, the Knicks are a bad defensive team, one that couldn’t contain Lin or James Harden off the dribble on Monday, allowing 52 points in the paint in a 109-96 loss to the Rockets at Madison Square Garden.
Though the Knicks were clearly missing Anthony, Lin appropriately pointed to another absence as critical.
“They’re not their full team,” Lin said after the game. “They’re missing very key guys. And I think right at the top of the list is Shump. He’s definitely a difference maker.”
Iman Shumpert, the Knicks’ best perimeter defender last season, is still rehabbing from knee surgery. But the Knicks can’t wait for his return to turn things around defensively. They’ve been able to get by thus far — they still lead the Eastern Conference at 18-6 — with a historically potent offense. They’re easily the most improved offensive team in the league this year. But they’ve also taken a big step backward on the other end of the floor. And when the threes aren’t falling, they don’t have a top-five defense to fall back on like they did last season.
It was the Knicks’ improved defense that helped them win six of the seven Lin-led games that Anthony missed last February. And it was the Knicks’ regressed defense that allowed Lin’s Rockets to score 240 points in two meetings over the last month.
It was the Knicks’ defense that allowed Lin to play one of his better games this season on Monday, scoring 22 points and dishing out eight assists. It was the Knicks’ defense that failed to get back in transition, allowing 25 Houston fast-break points, including several after made baskets. And it was the Knicks’ defense that allowed Lin and Harden to comfortably coexist.
“Tonight I think we complemented each other really well,” Lin said. “We took a big step in the right direction in figuring it out.”
The Knicks don’t have to worry about Lin and Harden anymore. But they certainly have to figure some things out themselves. With or without Anthony, their defense has seriously regressed over the last few weeks, allowing over 106 points per 100 possessions over the last 15 games, a rate that would rank as a bottom-five defense this season.
“The defense wasn’t there tonight,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “We have to go back to the drawing board and get some practice time under our belt when we can try to correct it.”
No, the Knicks don’t need Jeremy Lin anymore. But they do need to remember what Linsanity was all about.
HOUSTON – In his wildest flights of fantasy, maybe this is the way Jeremy Lin might have hoped it could turn out.
There were fastbreaks leaving burnt-rubber tire tracks all over the court. There were 3-pointers raining down from the sky.
Oh, and there were the Knicks, his old team, running for cover.
But Lin’s Rockets had finally dropped the curtain on their 131-103 blockbuster show on Friday night, it was less about Linsanity and more about a third-year NBA player making steps in his progress.
Lin scored 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dealt three assists. Those were hardly the kind of eye-popping numbers that made him the darling of Madison Square Garden and world wide marketing phenomenon last February.
But for a guy playing his 13th game with a new team and in a whole different atmosphere, it was satisfying after the struggles he’s endured, not because it came against the Knicks.
“Not really,” Lin said. “The team is pretty different. Some guys are still there, but for the most part there are a lot of different guys. But it was good to just compete with some of my old friends.”
He exchanged a warm pregame embrace with the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony before the opening tip and Lin was greeted after the final horn sounded by Anthony and Iman Shumpert for a few more words of encouragement and friendships.
Away from the white-hot glare of New York, Lin isn’t living in the giant fishbowl and is no longer concerned with trying to live up to the level of last season’s “Linsanity.”
“I’m fine,” he said. “I’m not really too worried about it. I have a lot of people around me giving me a lot of perspective in terms of understanding where I am in my career and where we are in the season.
“It’s just about building, staying focused on what I need to do to get better every day.”
In shooting 6-for-12 from the field, Lin made half of his shots for only the second time all season. There were times when he drove the ball to the basket like the old days in New York. He even pulled up and stroked in a 3-pointer with a look of the old confidence.
But for the most part, he was not the one-man traveling carnival and road show of the New York experience. He was part of a young Rockets team that had a bust-out performance behind the leading efforts of James Harden (33 points) and Chandler Parsons (31).
“That team looked like they wanted to beat us,” said Knicks center Tyson Chandler. “I don’t think they were doing it for anybody. They came out ready to play. They kicked our butts for four quarters and they were better than us tonight.”
It was Anthony’s return to the lineup from injury last season that brought an end to the “Linsanity” and it was supposedly Anthony who didn’t want to share the spotlight or the ball with him.
“I don’t have no problem with him,” Anthony said. “That was my teammate. He’s a cool guy. I don’t have no problem with him as a person.
“I don’t think he’s playing with any pressure at all. All the pressure was when he was in New York. I don’t think he’s facing any pressure.”
Lin maintained that beating the Knicks held no special bit of significance.
“I would say moreso the fact that they’re playing so well. They’re an elite team and might be playing better than any team in the league,” he said. “So for us to be able to use this as a measuring stick to see where we are meant more than it being New York.
“I’m thankful that today was a step in the right direction. I’m glad I was able to move in that direction. I still have a ways to go. I think I’m capable of a lot more, but I’m definitely happy the way I’m progressing and the way my body’s progressing and the way our team is, too.”
Lin has struggled badly with his shot and had difficulty finding the rhythm that let him set the beat during that stunning and record-setting two-week stretch last February and he’s been hard on himself.
“It’s just part of it,” he said. “Obviously, no one ever wants to go and play the way that I started the season. But that’s the reality of the situation. Right now, it’s kinda just forgetting about the past and moving forward.
“I feel like I’m not like looking to recreate what happened in New York. I want to be a consistent player. I want to get better. I don’t know what my potential is and I don’t know if I can play any better than I did in that one-week stretch, but I’m gonna find out and see how close I can get.”
We’re just about one month into the 2012-13 regular season, and several players are exceeding their preseason fantasy expectations. Now the question is, should you sell-high or ride it out? To that end, I have picked five players currently ranked in the top 25 of the 8-cat rankings to put under the fantasy microscope:
1) Nicolas Batum, Blazers: Many of us were expecting a breakout season from Batum, who flashed signs in the second half of last season. But few of us foresaw Batum emerging as an elite fantasy player, currently in the top five on the 8-cat charts thanks to all the fantasy gold: aka, blocks, steals, and threes.
Batum probably won’t stay in the top five all season, but he likely won’t fall below 15th either, meaning first-round value should be there all season. And why would you trade a dude who can score 35 points and block five shots in the same game, which he did last Friday against the Rockets?
2) Jrue Holiday, 76ers: If you watched Dennis Scott, Rashan Ali, and myself on NBA.com Fantasy Insider during the preseason, then you probably have Holiday on your team because we could not have been higher on the Sixers’ floor general. And Jrue is backing up the hype, currently giving owners first-round value, hovering around 20 points and 10 assists per game.
And with Andrew Bynum nowhere near returning to the court due to problems with both knees, there is no reason to expect a decrease in value from Holiday, who is Philly’s undisputed No. 1 player at this point. As such, I recommend riding it out with Holiday, who may take your team all the way to the Fantasy Promised Land.
3) Damian Lillard, Blazers: Lillard whetted our appetite at the Vegas Summer League, racking up impressive stats and Co-VSL MVP honors. Well, Lillard has carried over that fine play to the regular season, hovering around 20 ppg and ranking in the top 5 for threes made.
The Blazers have hitched their wagon to this young stud out of Weber State, and he will form a potent 1-2 combo with LaMarcus Aldridge for years to come. Not only would I resist selling high with Lillard, but I think it’s safe to expect even better numbers going forward as he continues to polish his craft.
4) J.R. Smith, Knicks: It wasn’t hard to see J.R. getting off to a fantastic start given the knee injuries to Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert. But I’m not sure anyone — including his family members — saw J.R. maintaining top 25 value across 8 cats through the NBA’s first month.
Enjoy all of these goodies while they last, however. When Amar’e and Shump get back to work in the new year, J.R.’s minutes and shots will decrease, and he likely will shift from fantasy starter to fantasy bench player. As such, I would be shopping J.R. for someone who has a better chance of keeping his value all season.
5) Kemba Walker, Bobcats: Kemba is the straw that stirs the drink in Charlotte, so you have nothing to worry about in terms of his value going forward. Currently, Kemba ranks in the top 25 across 8 categories, with 18.8 points, 5.5 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 86 percent from the free-throw line.
Perhaps best of all, after shooting .366 from the field as a rookie, Kemba is shooting .423 from the field as a sophomore. I was shocked to so him shoot so poorly last year, so I think this year’s percentage is more indicative of his talents. Do not sell-high with Kemba, who’s career arrow is pointing straight up.