Posts Tagged ‘Iman Shumpert’

Film Study: Dellavedova and Shumpert lock and trail Splash Bros. in Game 2


VIDEO: Matthew Dellavedova explains how he played defense in Game 2

OAKLAND — It may be time to declare that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ defense is, indeed, very good.

The Cavs became the lowest-ranked defense (20th in the regular season) to make The Finals since the league started counting turnovers in 1977. Yes, they were improved after making a pair of trades in early January. But they still didn’t reach the level (top 10) achieved by 34 of the 37 last NBA champs.

There was marked improvement in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but still some doubts, considering the level of competition.

And those lingering doubts were erased in the Cavs’ 95-93, overtime victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 2, the first Finals win in franchise history. The Warriors, who ranked second in offensive efficiency in the regular season, scored 93 points on 106 possessions, a rate of less than 90 per 100.

Stephen Curry had what was basically the worst shooting performance of his career. Klay Thompson had a strong start, but shot 5-for-15 after halftime. And nobody else could pick up the slack for the Western Conference champs.

The Warriors shot 8-for-35 (22.9 percent) from 3-point range, their fourth worst mark in 99 games this season. But just as important as the shots they missed from the outside were the shots they didn’t get on the inside.

Only 20 of the Warriors’ 83 shots on Sunday came from the restricted area, down from 31 (of 88) in Game 1.

Warriors Game 2 shot chart

Warriors Game 2 shot chart

The Warriors may be the league’s best 3-point shooting team and a three may be worth an additional point, but their shots at the basket still yield more points per attempt than their shots from beyond the arc. Limit their layups and you’re in decent shape defensively.

Timofey Mozgov has been a great rim protector for the Cavs, but for Mozgov to be able to protect the rim, the Cleveland guards have to put in work on the perimeter. If he’s helping them too much, he can’t be the rim protector that he’s supposed to be.

Against any offense, one of the guards’ biggest responsibilities is fighting through screens. Against the Warriors, it obviously becomes more important.

The Cavs’ guards do not want to go under screens set for Curry and Thompson, because that will give the Splash Brothers space to shoot. But if they get caught up in screens, Cleveland’s bigs must commit to the ball and the defense will be compromised.

So Matthew Dellavedova (the primary defender on Curry) and Iman Shumpert (Thompson) have been charged with locking onto their guy, trailing him around the screen, and getting back in front of him as quickly as possible, so that the helping big can recover back to the paint. (more…)

Game 2: 24-second thoughts

24 — If you were already a longshot to win the series and now have lost one of your two main offensive weapons, isn’t it a good time, at least, for an underdog to be led by a guy named David (Blatt)? Better be a big slingshot.

23 — National anthem singer Carlos Santana was a guest of the Warriors. But long ago in 1969, his featured number at Woodstock was Soul Sacrifice, exactly what the LeBron James and Cavs need here.

22 — That’s one way to slow down Klay Thompson’s 4-for-6 shooting, nine-point start. Get a bad call on Iman Shumpert drive that sends Thompson to the bench with his second foul.

21 — So much for the Cavs rolling over without Kyrie Irving. Took the early punch from Warriors and fight their way back end of first quarter. Doesn’t hurt when Stephen Curry shoots 1-for-6. Credit the pest Matthew Dellavedova.

20 — Despite two early fouls on Klay Thompson and Festus Ezeli, indication is you’ll have to withstand a bruising tonight. They’re letting them mix it up and play.

19 — How much longer can Blatt keep Delly on Klay here in second quarter? The mouse is having the whole house land on his head. Cavs have to get out of that matchup.

18 — About that getting everybody else involved plan by LeBron? His teammates are 5-for-20.

17 — Off night in the Stanley Cup Finals, but the Cavs might as well be wearing skates and carrying sticks for the way they’re mucking this game up in the corners. These are not comfortable Warriors.

16

15 — LeBron 20-6-6 at the half. Just as important, Cavs run two quarters off the clock and give themselves a chance. Now if somebody would just put a body on Klay.

14 — Cavs shoot 6-for-8 off passes from LeBron in second quarter. They did not take a shot off a LeBron pass in the first quarter.

13 — Maybe if Draymond Green would take off those headphones, somebody could tell him that he might want to turn the volume up on his game that so far has been forgettable in The Finals.

12 — OK, so the MVP finally got rid of the pest Delly. All it took was your average double-crossover, behind-the-back dribble only-by-Curry drive for a layup.

11 — You have to ask whether the Warriors are just missing all these open 3s — 4-for-22 middle thirrd quarter — or they’ve been rattled by the Cavs?

10 —Sums up the Golden State night. Marreese Speights blows the breakaway dunk to end third quarter. The Cavs have everybody but Klay Thompson looking over their shoulder and the 12-minute game they wanted. First time all season Warriors didn’t hit 65 after three quarters.

9 — If Cavs win this game, little point guard from Cleveland is going to get the Bucky Dent treatment forever in Bay Area: Matthew %$#!!*&# Dellavedova!

8 — Can Warriors stand up to the night long pounding by Cavs? Down five with 8½ minutes left, Steve Kerr goes back to the small lineup to pull it out. But Golden State looks beat up.

7J.R. stands for Just Remember, I’m J.R. Smith and dumb plays like that foul on Curry are what make me me. And then I do it again by fouling Harrison Barnes. And just for good measure, one more time on Curry in OT.

6 — Cleveland sports history: The Pass. The Fumble. The Shot. Next up: The Collapse? Cavs lead by 11 with 3:12 left and now LeBron’s miss sends it to OT.

5 — Tony Brothers, your guide dog could have made that call on Andre Iguodala’s hack of LeBron while helping you across the street.

4 — Green reaches and holds down LeBron by the shoulder on jump ball. Has there ever been an NBA superstar who didn’t get two consecutive huge calls in such a situation?

3 — LeBron 39 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists in 50 minutes and he’s so emotional seems on the verge of tears while talking to Doris Burke. Can we stop now with the nitpicking and cheap shots at James? He was all-in for the biggest win in Cavs history.

2 — Steph Curry (5-for-23), you’re on the clock.

1 — It’s Delly’s World and we’re all just living in it.

Who’s guarding the MVP?


VIDEO: Finals Media Availability: Stephen Curry

OAKLAND — When Game 1 of The Finals tips off on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ABC), we’re going to quickly get an answer to a key question: Who’s guarding Stephen Curry?

Keeping the MVP contained and contested will be priority No. 1 for the Cavs, because when Curry gets going, the Warriors are tough to stop.

Kyrie Irving, of course, is the opposing point guard. According to SportVU, Irving defended Curry for 13 minutes over the teams’ two regular season meetings, more than every other Cav combined (9 minutes and 24 seconds). But Irving might not be Curry’s primary defender in The Finals.

For one, Irving didn’t defend Curry very well in the regular season. The MVP scored 1.33 points per possession against Irving, compared to 0.81 against other Cleveland defenders.

Secondly, Irving is hobbled by a knee injury right now. He’s not a very good defender in the first place, so having him defend Curry in this condition might be like putting a hobbled zebra in front of a lion.

Most importantly, Iman Shumpert is now in the Cavs’ starting lineup. Shumpert was injured when these teams met in Oakland on Jan. 9. And he was coming off the bench when they played in Cleveland on Feb. 26. He guarded Curry for 2:24 in the game, holding him to just two shots (that both missed), two free throws and two points in that 2:24.

As a starter, Shumpert will share more floor time with both Curry and Irving, giving Cavs coach David Blatt an obvious alternative to a straight point guard vs. point guard matchup. J.R. Smith, the starting shooting guard in the February meeting, didn’t provide that.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday that he expects to see more cross-matching than there was in the regular season meetings.

“It usually happens in the playoffs when you have more time to prepare and you mix and match,” Kerr said. “You try different things and maybe try to throw the other team off balance a little bit. So we’re preparing for some of that.”

Shumpert wouldn’t say if he’d be Curry’s primary defender, but knows he’ll have the assignment at times.

“It depends on how the game’s going,” he said. “But I definitely expect to be on him.”

Of course, if Shumpert is defending Curry, Irving has to defend someone else, maybe Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes. That could be a mismatch if one of those guys wants to take Irving into the post. But the Warriors say that won’t divert from their offense to play matchup basketball.

“I still try to hunt the shots I’ve been getting all year,” Thompson said. “That’s what got us here. So for me, I don’t pay attention to who’s on me, because if I play within the offense, move without the ball, play a great flow and cut hard and stuff like that, I’m going to get open shots and make plays for others. So is Steph.

“You can’t make it an individual battle. You got to just do it as a team and we’ll make great shots.”

“We’ve seen [cross-matching] through every series,” Andre Iguodala said. “We’ll do what we do. We’ve done such a good job of evolving into this team that can find a mismatch within our sets. It’ll just get found ‘in the wash,’ as we like to say.

“So if we see Harrison has a mismatch, we’ll still run our set and Harrison knows when to cut to the block. We’ll run a few misdirections to get into something, so we don’t get stagnant.”

Versatility is key. The Warriors are no one-trick pony. And while slowing Curry down will give the Cavs a better chance at winning the series, it will also give the Warriors opportunities elsewhere.

Blogtable: Under pressure in The Finals?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Under pressure in The Finals? | Could Wade, Heat split up? | Assessing new coaches



VIDEODennis Scott and Rick Kamla reveal their Finals picks

> Fill in the blank: The pressure is on ________ in these NBA Finals.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comStephen Curry. He’s got to close this out, this MVP year of his. Consider it the pressure of the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Had James Harden and the Rockets prevailed in the West finals, it would have been a little bit of a referendum on Curry’s marvelous season and his ability to carry a team at his weight class. Now, facing LeBron James — another 2015 MVP candidate as well as a four-time winner — it’s even more so. Curry has to be his pesky, shot-making self and not let the big lug from Akron or any of the other Cavs drape themselves over him so effectively it swings the series in Cleveland’s favor.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comLeBron James. Because it’s always on LeBron James. He’s the best player in the game today, one of the greatest of all-time and yet he continues to come under more scrutiny and draw more criticism and than any athlete of the era. So even though the Warriors had a league-best 67 wins, have cruised to a 12-3 record in the playoffs and are the favorites to win the series, it’s somehow on LeBron to prove that he’s a winner. That’s why we’re already hearing so much about his 2-3 record in The Finals.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comDavid Blatt. Because the pressure has been on more when he was winning in the playoffs than when he was losing the first half of the regular season. Blatt has himself to thank for that, for almost calling timeout he didn’t have, and LeBron James to thank, for throwing his coach under the bus by waving off Blatt’s play and then going public afterward. The Cavaliers had a very good finish to the regular season and reaching The Finals is a big positive. But if Blatt has a rough series, it’s going to look very bad.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comUm, David Blatt? We all know the story by now, how he was hired before LeBron officially returned, how the Cavs struggled at the start, and the almost “timeout” and blah, blah, blah. Blatt has the chance to erase all the suspicion and doubt about his coaching ability with four more victories, and a Cavs win would be surely classified an upset. Of course, LeBron would likely get all the credit if that happens. Blatt cannot afford to be out coached by Steve Kerr and create a dark cloud over his head heading into next season.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comMy initial answer would be David Blatt. But really, how the Cavs’ offense performs is more in the hands of LeBron James than his coach. The Warriors are going to do their best to cut off the paint and keep James on the perimeter. It will be up to him to find ways to get to the basket, get his teammates open shots, or start making some jumpers himself. Thursday would be a nice time to break out of his 3-point shooting slump.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Draymond Green. The Warriors’ forward holds the key to his team’s championship dreams within him as this series nears. LeBron James always travels with two-ton boulders filled with pressure on his shoulders. He’s used to it by now. But Green will see much of LeBron in this series, perhaps on a one-on-one basis for a majority of that time. If he can have a Kawhi Leonard-like effect on LeBron throughout the course of the next 4-7 games, the Warriors will be celebrating with a parade these Bay Area streets haven’t seen the likes of in some 40 years (for their one and only NBA team). That’s serious pressure for a guy no one was sure would be a starter in this league.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comLeBron James. The Finals revolves around him. His team is the underdog and yet he is expected to win. Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao — his starting front line — are out and Kyrie Irving has been hurt, and yet Cleveland is counting on him to lead his newly-rebuilt Cavaliers (at both ends of the floor, no less) to the city’s first championship since 1964. Don’t think he doesn’t feel that pressure, and don’t think it’s a bad thing either — in the end he’s going to find a way.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogLet’s work backward here. I don’t really feel like the pressure is on Golden State, who had a terrific season and have reached The Finals for the first time in 40 years. With their young core, this should be Golden State’s first trip of many to The Finals. In Cleveland, for all the talk of the Cavs being cursed and unlucky, the reality is this is the Cavs’ second trip to The Finals in the last eight years. That’s thanks to LeBron, who has now made five consecutive Finals trips and shrugs off pressure. I guess if anything, the pressure is on Cleveland’s role players, who will have to chase the Splash Bros. and hit the open threes LeBron creates for them if Cleveland is going to have any chance.

Cavs still face questions about their D


VIDEO: GameTime: Comparing Andrew Bogut and Timofey Mozgov

CLEVELAND — Is the Cleveland Cavaliers’ defense good now?

That may be the most important question heading into The Finals.

The NBA started counting turnovers in 1977. Since then, no team had reached The Finals after ranking as low as 20th in defensive efficiency in the regular season … until now.

20150601_below_avg_d

Ranking anywhere outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency is not a good sign for your hopes of winning a championship. Only three teams — the ’01 Lakers (19th), the ’95 Rockets (12th) and ’88 Lakers (11th) – have won the title after ranking outside the top 10 in the last 37 years. And all three had won the championship (with a top-10 defense) the year before. (more…)

Cavs and Warriors: How they were built


VIDEO: Road to the Finals: Growing pains in Cleveland

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors reached The Finals in very different ways.

After making major changes last summer, the Cavs struggled out of the gate and made more changes in early January. Dion Waiters was sent to Oklahoma City. Timofey Mozgov was acquired from Denver, while Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith were brought in from New York.

In comparison, the Warriors have been rather stable. Like the Cavs, they made a coaching change a year ago. But while only 39 percent of the Cavs’ regular-season minutes were played by guys who were on the roster last season, that number was 82 percent for Golden State. And the Warriors were the best team in the league from start to finish, making only a minor change to their roster (swapping Nemanja Nedovic for James Michael McAdoo).

Still, if you look at the Warriors’ roster construction, it’s as much a mix of players acquired via the Draft, free agency, and trades as the Cavs’ roster is.

20150531_gsw_roster 20150531_cle_roster

Note: Andre Iguodala and David Lee were acquired via sign-and-trade deals, which are counted here as trades.

But the Warriors’ mix isn’t so even when you consider who’s getting minutes in the postseason. Steve Kerr is leaning heavily on the guys the Warriors drafted over the years.

20150531_gsw_minutes 20150531_cle_minutes

Only two of the six guys the Warriors acquired via free agency – Leandro Barbosa and Shaun Livingston – are in their playoff rotation. And those guys rank seventh and eighth in minutes played. Their top four guys in minutes – Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes – all came via the Draft.

The Cavs’ minutes pie leans more toward trade than free agency because Shumpert, Mozgov and Smith all rank in the top six in minutes, while Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and Kendrick Perkins aren’t in the rotation.

The contrast between the two teams is even bigger when we look at playoff production, as measured by the efficiency statistic.

Efficiency = PTS + REB + AST + STL + BLK – TO – Missed FGA – Missed FTA

20150531_gsw_production 20150531_cle_production

The Warriors are getting 2/3 of their production from guys they drafted, headlined by those four starters noted above. The Cavs, meanwhile are only getting about 1/4 of their production from guys they drafted (and didn’t lose to Miami for four years). Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson account for basically all of that. LeBron James was acquired (the second time) via free agency, and he accounts for about 1/4 of the Cavs’ production himself.

This is a copycat league at times, but there’s no definitive way to build your roster. For the Warriors, it’s been about the Draft. For the Cavs, it’s been about the best player in the world looking to come home, as well as some clever moves made in January.

20150531_gsw_roster_list 20150531_cle_roster_list

Numbers preview: The Finals


VIDEO: The Starters preview The Finals

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers each made history in reaching The Finals.

Since the NBA starting counting turnovers in 1977, no team had made The Finals after leading the league in pace — like the Warriors did — or after ranking as low as 20th in defensive efficiency — like the Cavs did — in the regular season. That’s 37 years of trends that have been bucked, in two different ways.

These are special teams. Statistically, the Warriors are the best team we’ve seen since the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls, outscoring their opponents by 11.4 points per 100 possessions in the regular season. The Cavs, meanwhile, have fought through a myriad of changes (via trades and injuries) to get here, improving defensively along the way.

And the Cavs have been statistically better, both offensively and defensively, than the Warriors in the playoffs, even when you account for weaker competition. Cleveland has better marks in adjusted efficiency (taking their opponents’ regular season marks) on both ends of the floor.

This is also a matchup of the MVP and the world’s best player, the two guys who lead the league in postseason usage rate. Stephen Curry and LeBron James won’t be guarding each other and have very unique games, but some of their playoff advanced stats are very similar.

20150529_curry_james

Curry has been the more efficient scorer, while James has provided more for his team on defense and on the glass. Curry has the deeper supporting cast, but James has been here before.

When this series is done, he’ll either be 3-3 or 2-4 in The Finals, and either the Cavs will have their first championship or the Warriors will have their first one in 40 years.

Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the Finals, with links to let you dive in and explore more. (more…)

Morning Shootaround — May 23


VIDEO: All the highlights from Friday’s Cavs-Hawks Game 2

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron leads Cavs over Hawks | Rockets look to win at home | Pelicans look to Jeff Van Gundy? | Wizards wait to hear from Pierce | Globetrotter Marques Haynes passes away

No. 1: LeBron leads Cavs over Hawks The Atlanta Hawks hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers last night in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and entered the game seemingly with several things in their favor. But even though the Hawks got a big night out of DeMarre Carroll while the Cavs rested Kyrie Irving (knee), Atlanta had no answers for LeBron James, who carried the Cavs to a 92-84 Game 2 win. As our man Shaun Powell wrote, James is proving that sometimes individual talent trumps that of a system

The Cavs were missing a starting point guard Friday and all that meant was his replacement would play the position … better. Yes, imagine if you’re the Hawks, and [Kyrie] Irving spends the day getting a second opinion on his aching knee by the famous Dr. James Andrews, and is a late scratch for Game 2.

You’re feeling decent about your chances to bring suspense to this series.

But suddenly, the emergency point guard whips an oh-my-Lord behind-the-back cross-court pass to Iman Shumpert. Swish.

Then finds James Jones. Three-pointer. Then J.R. Smith. Bucket. Then Shumpert again, wide open. Another three.

“Him snapping the ball at you, there’s energy in that ball when you get it,” Shumpert said.

On and on it went like this on the Hawks’ home court, with LeBron bringing the ball up and shouting instructions and putting his teammates in position to score and … oh, dropping 30 points himself. With 11 assists and one rebound shy of a triple-double, LeBron turned the series on its head and for all practical purposes shoved the Hawks to the brink. He reminded everyone that he can play all five positions on the floor, and play most if not all at All-Star level.

“When I was attacking I was seeing guys open,” said LeBron. “I have the utmost confidence in my teammates to make shots and make plays. So I passed the ball. The game presented that tonight. I did what was needed. I always try to be a triple-threat on the floor.”

This was not exactly as impactful as Magic stepping in for a hobbling Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1980 Finals and getting 42 and 16 and 7, although in the context of this series, LeBron’s version could prove just as damaging to the Hawks and helpful to the Cavs. Not only did LeBron seriously reduce Atlanta’s odds of staying alive past Tuesday, he seriously helped Irving’s ability to heal up and be a step closer to 100 percent should the Cavs as expected reach the championship round.

A sweep buys time for Irving, and LeBron evidently has the cash.

“I’ve got a good vocabulary,” said Cavs coach David Blatt, “but I’m sort of running out of superlatives for the guy. His greatness is evident.”

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No. 2: Rockets look to win at home After two close games in Oakland, including a Game Two in which they had the ball in James Harden‘s hands with a chance for a game-winner, Houston returns home for Game 3 tonight against Golden State. And while the Warriors play an aesthetically pleasing brand of basketball, the Rockets are just concerned with getting a win and getting back into the series, writes Jonathan Feigan in the Houston Chronicle

Though much has been made of the entertainment value of the play of the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Rockets’ James Harden, the Rockets said they could not share the excitement of a show when they came for a win. Rockets center Dwight Howard, however, said they could appreciate their part in a series that has already brought two outstanding games if the Rockets get some wins on their home court, too.

“I don’t think the Rockets’ fans had fun watching us lose tonight,” Howard said. “We’ve got to come back and play, but it’s going to be a great series. Two great offensive teams, two guys who battled for MVP all year going at it. It’s going to be fun. We definitely don’t take these moments for granted, because they don’t come by often. Like I said, it’s going to be a great series and we’re looking forward to coming back home. We want to see our fans loud and proud and ready for a battle, because there is going to be one.

“We don’t want to go down 0-3. So we have to come out and just play basketball — move the ball and do all the things we’ve done in the last two games to get us here and do that for 48 minutes. If we do that, then we should have a good opportunity to win.”

Rockets guard Jason Terry said the bottom line is the only thing that matters.

“We want to win,” Terry said. “That’s the bottom line. If we have a bad game and win, that’s cool. If we have a great game and lose, where is the solace in that? There is none. We want to go home and have a great four quarters of Houston Rockets basketball.”

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No. 3: Pelicans look to Jeff Van Gundy? — The New Orleans Pelicans ducked into the postseason out West before making a first-round exit, which wasn’t enough to save coach Monty Williams‘ job. But with all-world young big man Anthony Davis anchoring the middle, the Pelicans’ job is a plum gig, which might explain why, as ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy has supposedly expressed interest in the gig…

Jeff Van Gundy has emerged as a candidate for the New Orleans Pelicans’ head-coaching position, according to league sources. ‎Sources told ESPN.com this week that the ESPN analyst has expressed interest in the opening and is under consideration for the job, which opened when the Pelicans dismissed Monty Williams earlier this month.

Van Gundy joins Golden State associate head coach Alvin Gentry and Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau as confirmed candidates for the position, according to NBA coaching sources.

Gentry is the only candidate known to have formally interviewed for the post, with sources saying the uncertainty surrounding Thibodeau’s contractual situation with the Bulls has prevented the Pelicans and Orlando Magic from formally requesting to interview him. ESPN.com reported Monday that the Pelicans had been granted permission to interview Gentry before the Warriors began play in the Western Conference finals.

Van Gundy has been a popular TV figure since he coached the Houston Rockets in the 2006-07 season, and he has resisted interest from several teams in recent years, professing his desire to stay in broadcasting. But Van Gundy’s return to coaching has long been seen as inevitable, and the presence of rising star Anthony Davis as the centerpiece of an underrated roster has made the New Orleans job one of the most coveted in the league, with the Pelicans finishing strong under Williams to beat Oklahoma City for the West’s last playoff spot.

On an ESPN media call earlier this week, Van Gundy declined to discuss the prospect of pursuing the Pelicans’ post.

“I have too much respect for the coaching profession and the sanctity of a job search to publicly speak about any job openings,” he said. “That’s really not my style. So I’ll just leave it as I’ve said many times.

“I have the absolute utmost respect for Monty Williams. I coached him. I know what a class guy he is. He has integrity and humility, and I thought he did an outstanding job. I think he can be very, very proud of what he was able to accomplish there. You know, as far as the job search, I don’t get into the public domain on that. I just don’t think it’s right.”

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No. 4: Wizards wait to hear from Pierce Last summer, the Washington Wizards surprised many observers when they inked veteran small forward Paul Pierce to a two-year contract. And though Pierce is 37 years old, he was Washington’s most clutch performer in the postseason, taking (and usually making) numerous last-second shots. As Jorge Castillo writes in the Washington Post, now the Wizards wait to hear from the future Hall of Famer about his future, to find out when and where they go next…

About an hour after the his tying three-pointer was waved off and his Washington Wizards walked off the Verizon Center hardwood for the final time this season, 94-91 losers to the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Paul Pierce delivered a jolt by indicating retirement is on the table.

“I don’t even know if I’m going to play basketball anymore,” he declared late last Friday night.

Pierce must decide whether to exercise the $5.5 million player option to play his second season with the Wizards and 18th overall in the NBA. The future Hall of Famer will celebrate his 38th birthday in October. Last Friday, Coach Randy Wittman said he believed Pierce would return because he enjoyed his time in Washington but he and the organization await the decision.

“I don’t need to recruit Paul,” Wittman said Monday. “What Paul saw here and what he did here, not only with the team but with the city, all of that plays into it. His family was comfortable here. Will I sit down and talk with him? Yeah. But I don’t think I need to recruit him.”

After a lightened load over the regular season, Pierce shifted to power forward in the playoffs for long stretches, delivering his signature clutch shooting and trash-talking to propel Washington to a four-game sweep of the Toronto Raptors in the first round. Pierce remained an offensive weapon against the Hawks, but became a defensive liability at times, particularly in isolation situations opposite all-star Paul Millsap.

Pierce, who declined to speak to reporters Monday, averaged 14.6 points and shot a torrid 33 of 63 from behind the three-point line (52.4 percent) over 29.8 minutes in 10 playoff games – increases from 11.9 points, 38.9 percent from three and 26.2 minutes per game during the regular season. But he explained that the campaign, preseason through playoffs, was an exhausting experience.

Yet Pierce’s impact, Wittman and players around the locker room asserted, was invaluable and went beyond on-floor production. Players credited Pierce to supplying a load of confidence and readiness the Wizards had been missing before his arrival.

“He means a lot,” said forward Otto Porter Jr., who broke out in the playoffs and received nonstop tutelage from Pierce throughout the season. “I learned a lot from him this year whether he told me something or I just picked it up. And it’s going to stick with me throughout my NBA career, what to expect in the NBA and how to be a professional.”

***

No. 5: Ball-handling wizard Haynes passes away A member of the Harlem Globetrotters for more than 40 years, Marques Haynes died on Friday in Plano, Tex. He was 89. The New York TimesBruce Weber provides more

In two stints with the Globetrotters (his second was in the 1970s, a more showmanlike incarnation of the team), over decades with his own team, the Harlem Magicians (also called the Fabulous Magicians) and with a few other squads, Haynes traveled an estimated four million miles and played in an estimated 12,000 basketball games in 100 countries, give or take a few — in racially hostile Southern towns, in dim school gyms, on dirt courts in dusty African villages, in bullrings, soccer stadiums and emptied swimming pools, not to mention in Madison Square Garden, the Rose Bowl and other celebrated arenas all over the world.

Haynes was a brilliant player — a fine shooter, a tenacious defender and an expert passer. But as a dribbler he was nonpareil, and it was that skill that made him an ace entertainer.

The Globetrotters, who began life on the south side of Chicago — they didn’t play a game in Harlem until 1968 — had been playing competitively since the 1920s. But when Haynes joined them, in either 1946 or 1947 (sources are divided on when he made his first appearance), their reputation as basketball entertainers was still emerging.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Could Tom Thibodeau take next season off? … The Nuggets say they’re going to be “aggressive” this summer … Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak says if there’s a player in the NBA who plays like rookie guard Jordan Clarkson, it’s Russell Westbrook … The Pacers and Luis Scola reportedly have mutual interest in a reunionGordon Hayward underwent a “minor surgical procedure” on his heel …

Gasol likely out for Game 5; Irving won’t consider sitting


VIDEO: Irving talks to reporters on Monday

CLEVELAND – Injuries are an entirely individual thing. They vary in type, severity, discomfort and impact on an athlete’s ability to compete. One player’s plantar fasciitis, in other words, is another player’s sore foot, and there’s nothing to be gained from comparing and contrasting.

So the fact that Chicago forward Pau Gasol (strained left hamstring) is expected to miss his second consecutive game in the Bulls’ Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Cavaliers is unrelated to Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving‘s decision to keep playing on a sprained right foot that has led to tendinitis in his left knee.

Gasol, 34, a savvy veteran of 10 NBA postseasons and 114 playoff games, is being cautious with an injury that, if aggravated, could lead to a much longer layoff. Irving, 23, has a whole eight postseason games under his belt, knows his team already is down one star (Kevin Love) and can’t fathom sitting out when teammates such as LeBron James (ankle) and Iman Shumpert (groin) are playing hurt.

“I can’t do it,” Irving told reporters at the Cavaliers’ facility Monday. “Mentally, I can’t do it. I can’t look myself in the mirror and sit on the bench or sit in the locker room while I watch my teammates go out there.

“I’d rather give 30 percent, 40 percent, rather than give none at all. I just literally can’t do it. I can’t sit on the bench and be hurt and be OK with that. And still, I still know I can be effective.”

That’s open to debate, with Irving shooting 5-for-23 the past two games, contributing a combined 23 points and two assists. And if his foot doesn’t heal quickly, the pain in his left knee could worsen, because that’s how compensating injuries work.

“We’ve tried almost everything to get this feeling right,” Irving said. “When the right-foot injury happened, what I was most nervous about is what’s happening now: my left leg just compensating for my right one. It’s just my body talking to me. My mind just has to be stronger, and it is. I’m just going to continue to will myself through these playoff games the best I can.”

Gasol has done only rehab work, nothing on the court, since exiting Game 3 and having his hamstring injury verified by an MRI exam Saturday. The skilled 7-footer scored 21 points in Game 1 of the series, taking advantage of Cleveland’s defensive inattention. The Cavs subsequently adjusted, holding Gasol to a combined 17 points on 6-for-15 shooting in Games 2 and 3.

But the Bulls still missed his knack for easy scores in the paint and his versatility to pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop with mid-range jump shots. Without Gasol as a threat, Cleveland was able to challenge other Bulls sources of offense, such as Mike Dunleavy (1-for-7), Taj Gibson (2-for-7) and Nikola Mirotic (1-for-9).

The offense endured a drought of nearly seven minutes in the second quarter when Chicago got outscored 16-0. Then, across the third and fourth quarters, the Bulls were outscored again over a span of seven minutes, 16-2.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau felt his players’ concentration in finishing plays and seeing the ball into the basket wasn’t sharp Sunday. “We’ve got to make shots,” Thibodeau said after Monday’s film session. “We missed a lot of open shots and we missed layups. And I thought late, we didn’t run. We’ve got to make sure that we run late. We got some good looks that we’ve got to make.”

Morning shootaround — May 9




VIDEO: Check out all the highlights from Friday’s playoff action

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Rose back in bloom | Rivers runs through Rockets | Caution with Wall | Rockets embarrassed

No. 1: Rose shot overcomes the thorns of comeback — How many hours in an empty gym or vacant rehab facility, with only his thoughts and his drive to accompany him, went into that shot? How many times did he push past the notion that something like this might never happen again? How much pain and misery did Derrick Rose let go of with that buzzer-beating 3-pointer to take down the Cavaliers on Friday night? Our man Steve Aschburner was there to describe the very special moment:

Your second thought was, how many times has Derrick Rose made that shot over the past three years — in an empty gym, maybe with a kid rebounding for him, as he shot and shot and shot alone, the crowd and the clock and the stakes conjured only in his imagination on another lonely day of rehab from his three knee surgeries?

As dazzling as Rose’s shot was in winning Game 3 of the Bulls’ Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Cavs Friday night at United Center, his back story — this guy, having this moment, in this building, this way — pushed it exponentially along the “special” scale.

Racing as he did to the right along the 3-point arc in search of space, getting just enough from Taj Gibson’s pick on Iman Shumpert and launching just over the fingertips of Tristan Thompson, high and deep and banking in off the glass, Rose’s game-winner to beat the horn, 99-96, would grab a spot among the NBA’s 2015 postseason highlights even if he were, say, Aaron Brooks.

Factor in his season-snuffing injuries in 2012 and 2013, though, and the close call he and the Bulls got with his third, less serious knee trauma this season, Rose’s shot to win and put Chicago up 2-1 in the series that continues Sunday felt a little like closure.

Leaping into Joakim Noah’s arms, detonating the sea of red 22,000 strong in United Center, doing it all against a familiar foil in LeBron James and his latest crew, it would have been a clichéd ending, too Hollywood, had it happened in a Game 7. But for a Game 3, with so much more basketball to play, both teams revving up, it was a opportune time for the Bulls and their fans to pause and reflect a little on Rose’s long, tortuous road back.

“Everybody in this locker room knows how much pain he was in,” said Gibson, who had hit possibly the two biggest free throws of his life with 23.5 seconds left for a short-lived 96-93 lead.

“Through all the years, going through the ups and downs. And how frustrating it has been for him. I’m just extremely happy for him. I’ve known he was capable of making big-time shots. I’m just happy he’s back out there with a lot of confidence, wanting the ball late.”

***

No. 2: Austin Rivers lifts the whole Clippers family — On the night when all of Clippers Nation was holding its breath over the condition of All-Star point guard Chris Paul in his return to the lineup, it was his backup Austin Rivers who gave everyone at Staples Center reason to gasp. The kid who plays for his father grew up as a big-time playoff star by taking over the game in the third quarter as the Clippers blew out the Rockets to take a 2-1 series lead. Dan Woike of the Orange County Register says all the young guard got publicly was a brief hand-slap from father Doc, but all of his teammates wildly celebrated the big delivery and event:

A soldout crowd at Staples Center chanted his name after Rivers delivered a scintillating third quarter, helping the Clippers blow out Houston, 124-99, Friday night.

And all he got from his dad, Clippers coach Doc Rivers, was a brief hand-slap.

The Clippers lead the Rockets, 2-1, in the Western Conference semifinals, with Game 4 Sunday night at Staples Center.

Rivers scored 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting in an 18-0 Clippers run to end the third quarter.

Paul, who recorded 12 points and seven assists in 23 minutes, turned to Doc Rivers and gave him permission to do the one thing he’s fought since acquiring his son in mid-January.

“This is one time you can be Dad and not just coach,” Paul said.

Doc Rivers didn’t listen, he stayed engaged in the game, calling Paul’s message almost “white noise.”

But he couldn’t ignore the chants; they were that loud. Jamal Crawford motioned for the crowd to say it louder – “Austin Rivers, clap clap clap clap.”

“That moment is priceless,” Crawford said.

Austin Rivers attacked the basket, drawing fouls and finishing through contact. He juked his way into space and hit step-back 3-pointers. He hit all seven of his shots inside the 3-point line, and behind it, he made half of his six attempts.

Rivers finished 10-for-13 for 25 points, a career playoff high. It’s the third time in these playoffs he’s scored 16 or more points – as many times as he did it during 41 games with the Clippers in the regular season.

“I had so much fun out there,” Austin Rivers said.

Rivers’ play helped the Clippers keep Paul from over-exerting himself in the second half in his return from a two-game absence from an injured left hamstring.

“Tonight, it was really important for one of the guards to have that night,” Doc Rivers said. “It really allowed CP to ease into it. “

***

No. 3: Wizards will wait and see on Wall — Though it seems quite unlikely that John Wall will be back in the lineup for Game 3 against the Hawks today, the Wizards will keep the door open right up to the opening tip for their All-Star point guard in Game 3 against the Hawks today. Wall tells our own John Schuhmann that he doesn’t want to hear any talk of missing the rest of the series and he’ll do what it takes to get back onto the court and contribute:

So Wall and Wizards coach Randy Wittman will wait and see if anything is different on Saturday. And they seem to be keeping the door open for Wall to return at any point. Wall doesn’t want to hear anything that says, “7-10 days” or “2-4 weeks.”

“I don’t want no timetable, he said. “I’m just taking it day by day.”

And Wall couldn’t even tell you where the five fractures are in his hand and wrist.

“When [the doctor] started talking about that, I just put my head down,” he said. “I didn’t want to hear no more, to be honest with you.”

The Hawks and Wizards have had three days off since Game 2, but now play every other day through Game 6 (if necessary), with Game 7 in Atlanta scheduled for May 18.

“We just got to go, basically, 24 hours at a time here,” Wittman said.

The five fractures are in Wall’s non-shooting hand, but Wall needs that hand to get where he needs to go and make plays.

“I can’t do anything if I can’t dribble,” he said. “You got to be able to dribble. If not, it’s basically just taping my hand behind my back and saying, ‘play with one hand.’ It’s not happening in this league.”

Even if the swelling and pain go away, the Wizards will have to determine if Wall is risking more damage to his hand and wrist if he plays. The point guard believes that decision would be up to him.

“If the pain goes away and I can dribble and do those things again,” Wall said, “it’s all up to me. Do I feel like it’s a risk to hurt my hand even more down the road, or do I feel like I can take the risk to play? … and how competitive I am. If I’m able to do those things, dribble, do what I want to do, and be myself, then there’s a great percentage I will play. But if I can’t be myself, there’s no point in going out there.”

***

No. 4: Rockets lost their post along with game — It is one thing that get hit with the surprise tsunami that was Austin Rivers and to feel the energy of the Staples Center crowd. But when the Clippers turned up the heat in Game 3, the Rockets lost their poise and fell completely apart, according to coach Kevin McHale and Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

Rockets coach Kevin McHale could only feel sick.

While Rivers soared, the Rockets panicked. They launched early 3s. They did not get back defensively. They failed to pressure ball handlers at all as the Los Angeles offense that had been rolling from the start and for all but one half of the series’ three games pounded them for five minutes that took a close game and made it a spectacular rout.

“Well, we didn’t play much defense at that point,” McHale said. “They made a few shots on us, we had a couple turnovers during that stretch, and you know, they were running, we weren’t getting back, played very poorly during that stretch, needless to say.

“I mean, the game got completely loose at that point, and they were playing with a ton of confidence and we weren’t.”

Mostly, the Rockets did not play with much poise. They had recovered from the Clippers’ offensive assault through the first half to put together a 10-0 run to end the second quarter and begin the third, pulling them to within three. The Clippers recovered, but after a Corey Brewer 3-pointer with 3:50 left in the third quarter, the Rockets were down just five.

On the next possession, Josh Smith slammed into Blake Griffin for an offensive foul. He followed that with a missed layup and a missed 3. In the final 3:50 of the third quarter, the Rockets missed all seven of their shots, six coming from beyond the 3-point line off one or no passes, and three turnovers.

“We did not do a good job of handling all the pressure, all the things that came with that little bit of a run,” McHale said. “We just let go of the rope, and they piled on us.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Pau Gasol’s hamstring makes him a question for Game 4 in Chicago…LeBron James didn’t take kindly to what Joakim Noah had to say…Big decisions last summer could be what put the Warriors over the top…Could LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin swap places?  Really?…Deron Williams wouldn’t rule out a return to Utah…Good buddies Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan have put their friendship on hold while they beat each other up in playoff series…Raymond Felton is picking up his option in Dallas.

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