Posts Tagged ‘Iman Shumpert’

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 15


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 14

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Mo Williams uses Trail Blazers win as therapy | Lakers call Knicks, talk trade | Rondo won’t play until New Year | Paul talks the talk 

No. 1: Blazers’ Williams rides emotional wave in Philly — Portland guard Mo Williams had a hand in the Trail Blazers’ 3-pointer-fueled barrage against the Philadelphia 76ers. But unlike his teammates, it wasn’t all smiles for the veteran point guard. He played with a heavy heart while dealing with the loss of a loved one. That didn’t stop him from joining the party as the Blazers made a franchise-record 21 shots from deep. On a night when LaMarcus Aldridge did his usual MVP work and Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nic Batum, Dorell Wright and rookie Allen Crabbe all took part in the 3-point party, the three 3s that Williams knocked down had extra special meaning, as Joe Freeman of The Oregonian explains:

On Dec. 5, Williams’€™ uncle, Jerome Coleman, died after a lengthy fight with colon cancer. He was 63. Coleman’s funeral was Saturday morning in Mobile, Ala., and Williams wasn’€™t about to miss the chance to say goodbye to “€œUncle Roni.”€
So after the Blazers’€™ Thursday night victory over the Houston Rockets, Williams left the Moda Center and boarded a charter flight to Mobile. He didn’t sleep a wink the entire way, touching down in Mobile at 8:30 a.m. What followed was an emotional whirlwind of consoling family, attending memorials and taking part in countless talks that reminisced about “Uncle Roni,” the older brother of Williams’€™ mother.
“I’€™m just emotionally drained,” Williams said after the game. “Time will heal. Basketball will help. But you still have those times where you just can’€™t let it go. Being at the funeral, holding my grandma, holding my mom, then jumping on the flight coming here. It’€™s been a draining day.”€
The NBA allowed the Blazers to set up a charter flight for Williams so he could play Saturday, and the moment he walked into the visiting locker room — about 90 minutes before tipoff –€” his stress and sadness washed away. LaMarcus Aldridge cracked a joke at his expense as soon as he saw his teammate, and Williams smiled for seemingly the first time all day. Then he dove into his pregame routine.
There were no deep talks. No one asked for stories about the funeral. It was as if it was any other day. And it was exactly what Williams needed.
“That was kind of therapeutic for me, being around the guys,” he said. “Throughout the game, they didn’€™t beat me up with the fact that they knew I was going through something. They just treated me like they treat me every day. I needed that.”€

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No. 2: Knicks fielding calls on Shumpert and Chandler? — Kyle Lowry is low-hanging fruit, as Kobe Bryant would say, when it comes to trade talks. The Los Angeles Lakers apparently have something a bit more aggressive in mind since they are now engaging the New York Knicks in discussions about two of the teams main rotation players, the seemingly always available Iman Shumpert and defensive anchor Tyson Chandler, according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard:

No trade is imminent, and sources say the Lakers’ call was more about doing their due diligence; it’s well-known Shumpert is available. The Lakers are unlikely to make a deal before the end of their current four-game trip, which concludes Tuesday night in Memphis.

But with Steve Blake, who is expected to miss at least six weeks with an elbow injury, joining point guards Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar on the injured list, the Lakers could be interested in strengthening their backcourt.

Shumpert is more of a shooting guard, but with Bryant taking on more of a playmaking role — averaging a career-high 6.7 assists while attempting fewer than nine shots a game — since returning from a torn Achilles tendon last Sunday, it’s easy to see the two playing together.

Shumpert is struggling through a disappointing season, and the Knicks have discussed trades involving him with several other teams, including the Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors.

Sources say the Lakers also are interested in another Knicks player — center Tyson Chandler. The Lakers did not inquire about Chandler when they called about Shumpert, but they are weighing whether to propose a Pau Gasol-for-Chandler trade, according to sources.

The Knicks are not looking to move Chandler — several teams have contacted them about him, sources said — but if a club agreed to take back struggling guard J.R. Smith, the Knicks would consider such a deal.

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No. 3: Rondo won’t play until January — There won’t be any speculation about an earlier than anticipated return date for Boston’s All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo. Now that he’s been cleared for full contact, Celtics coach Brad Stevens moved swiftly to ease the pressure on his star by announcing that he won’t play in a game until January, at the earliest. That gives Rondo a minimum of at least two and a half weeks to get himself ready for live action and potentially much more time if he doesn’t progress as the Celtics hope. But is he, as Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald examines, the missing piece for a Celtics team that has already surpassed most people’s expectations?:

And Rondo, according to Stevens, looked “pretty good.”

“Rajon is doing more and more in practice every day. He had a good trip yesterday as far as getting good news,” said the Celtics coach. “He’s on schedule to be closer, but it still seems like we’re not going to see him on the court this month. Hopefully, the beginning of January he’ll be closer.

“He’s been cleared for that in practice. He wasn’t cleared 100 percent until yesterday,” said Stevens. “But he’s done more and more, and today was the most he’s done. He looked pretty good.”

Though Stevens repeatedly has said his system is designed to fit Rondo back into the team as seamlessly as possible, the coaching staff actually has to start the implementation process.

“I haven’t thought a ton about it, because it really hasn’t presented itself,” said Stevens. “My focus is what we’re going to do on Monday, but certainly your focus is on not only getting him into it, but also how you’re going to manage everything around that.

“Certainly there’s a lot of players who play at a high level (on this team),” he said. “The key is to continue those guys playing very well, and add in another very good player.”

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No. 4: Paul lives up to his own words for Clippers — It’s a bit early in the season for must-win declarations, but the Clippers’ Chris Paul doesn’t care. He’s mandating that his team step their collective game up and that starts with the man in the mirror. And that meant he had to prove his point against the Wizards, wearing them out to the tune of 38 points and 12 assists. He joined Clyde Drexler as the only player in the last 40 NBA seasons to post a 38 and 12 line while also shooting 78 percent or better (he was 10-for-13) from the floor. Drexler did it when Paul was barely out of diapers ((Nov. 13, 1990). But Paul’s point was made, writes Jovan Buha of ESPNLosAngeles.com, so much so that Doc Rivers shouldn’t have to come up with any fire and brimstone speeches now that the Clippers’ road trip is over:

Paul stood by his bold statement, scoring 38 points — the most since his 42-point performance on Halloween against the Golden State Warriors — on 11-of-14 shooting and dishing out 12 assists in the Clippers’ 113-97 victory at Verizon Center. He’s the first player since 2009 to go for 38-plus points, 12-plus assists and three-plus steals in a game, and he already has done it twice this season.

While Clippers coach Doc Rivers disagreed with the notion that the game was a must-win at shootaround, he admitted that going 3-4 against mainly sub-.500 Eastern Conference teams would be a major disappointment at any point in the season.

“I think they’re a little frustrated on this trip,” Rivers told reporters. “They think it should have gone better. It still can go well. If you win this game, 4-3 on a seven-game trip — that’s good. It’s not what we wanted. We want to win all seven of them. But you just keep plugging along.”

With the win, the Clippers finished the trip above .500 at 4-3 and are now 16-9. That isn’t necessarily where they expected to be at this point in the season, but at the very least Saturday’s win showed that if they need to win a tough road game to ease their mental psyche, they can.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Bulls’ Joakim Noah insists we’re going to find out what his team is about now that they are facing another round of adversityMike Woodson has grown tired of J.R. Smith’s antics, the break up can’t be far off … and make sure and take a look at Ray Allen becoming the sixth active player to join the 24,000 point club.

ICYMI: Josh McRoberts didn’t have the Dunk of the Night, that honor was bestowed upon his Bobcats teammate Jeff Taylor, but he did get loose against his former team for Saturday night’s Play of the Day …


VIDEO: Josh McRoberts shows off his bounce against his former team

The Knicks And Their Roster Madness …




VIDEO: Mike Fratello breaks down the hole in the middle of the Knicks’ defense

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – A quick review of the injuries and roster make-up of the New York Knicks reveals exactly what ails this team this season. Not only are they missing their defensive heart and soul in Tyson Chandler, but even when he’s in the lineup, the pieces don’t exactly fit.

Their latest disastrous outing, Sunday’s 114-73 blowout loss to the Boston Celtics, only served to accentuate the faulty chemistry of the group Knicks coach Mike Woodson is trying to poke and push into playing the “right way.” Even Woodson’s best-laid plans haven’t produced the desired results.

And at 5-14 heading into tonight’s game (7 p.m. ET, League Pass) against an equally disheveled Cleveland team, Woodson’s search for the right roster mix continues. How much longer he’ll have to continue that search is anyone’s guess. Woodson is up for the task, he said as much to reporters, including Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com, Monday:

“Every day that I come to work, I work,” said Woodson, who repeatedly said how privileged he is to be Knicks coach. “I don’t take days off. I put my time in, I think my preparation is great with my staff. And we try to get our guys to play at a high level.”

“Unfortunately, we haven’t had a lot of the pieces,” Woodson continued of injuries to his squad. “I thought I got to a rotation in those two games with Brooklyn and Orlando which I felt was good, but got to the arena and Kenyon [Martin] couldn’t go … For me, it has kind of been a work in progress. I think I am up for the task.”

And I can vouch for him on that one. He’s endured nightmare stretches before in his coaching career. His first season as an NBA oach in Atlanta, his team was a league-worst 13-69. It was a miserable season on paper and in reality, one that left everyone — the players, coaches, fans and the entire city — with a bad taste in their mouths.

But Woodson fought off the drama and endless twists and turns of his brutal start to help the Hawks become the playoff regular they are today. It took a series of roster tweaks, however, to aid that cause. And it took time for the Hawks to assemble the right crew to help dig out of that initial sinkhole.

Despite the through-the-roof price tag, I’m not convinced he has the pieces in place to work similar magic this season in New York. Sure, it looks workable on paper. Shouldn’t any coach be able to win with Carmelo Anthony, Chandler (when he returns) J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, Andrea Bargnani, Metta World PeaceAmar’e Stoudemire, Martin, Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Pablo Prigioni as the core group?

Not when your only true two-way players are Chandler and Shumpert. And certainly not when two of your key components — Anthony and Bargnani, who has served admirably as the fill-in for Chandler — are absolutely brutal defensively when they’re on the floor together.

Anthony and Bargnani are the Knicks’ most-used two-man combination and they’ve allowed 109.8 points per 100 possessions with them on the floor together. That’s worse than Utah’s 30th-ranked defense. And their offense is bad, too, so they’re a -10.4 points per 100 possessions with those two on the floor. That’s just plain putrid.

In 205 minutes with Anthony on the floor without Bargnani, they’ve allowed 91.7 points per 100 possessions (better than the Pacers’ No. 1 defense) and are a +14.9, which is great.

Knicks pace and efficiency

On floor MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Anthony + Bargnani 535 91.9 99.4 109.8 -10.4 -94
Only Anthony 205 96.8 106.6 91.7 +14.9 +49
Only Bargnani 47 92.0 91.4 85.6 +5.7 +2
One of the two 252 95.9 103.9 90.6 +13.3 +51
Neither 130 91.0 102.4 115.8 -13.4 -30

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Not many coaches could whiteboard their way out of those dire numbers, not even one with Woodson’s years of experience and track record of turning a foul situation around.

Still, Woodson remains steadfast in his belief that he can grind away and eventually figure a way out of this mess:

“At the end of the day, the players are playing, but I’m still coaching the team,” Woodson said. “I’ve always had the responsibility as the coach to make sure guys are playing at a high level. We’ve done that for the most part since I’ve been here. We’ve had our lapses since I’ve been here.

“I’m still the head coach,” Woodson continued. “And I’m still going to push guys to play at a high level. Players have got to do their part as well. We can’t have games like that. That’s no fun for anybody.”

Woodson is right about at least one thing: the players indeed have to do their part. And so far, they have fallen down on the job in spectacular fashion.


VIDEO: Knicks coach Mike Woodson addresses the team’s injuries

Nets Take Laughingstock Title Away From Knicks


VIDEO: The Knicks thump the Nets in a 30-point win

BROOKLYN – As the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks accumulated a surprisingly sad 8-26 cumulative record, it became abundantly clear that neither team could defend to save its season. Entering Thursday’s matchup of the busted boroughs, the Knicks ranked 28th defensively and the Nets ranked 30th.

Only one of the two teams took advantage of this fact, and the Knicks ran away with a 113-83 victory at Barclays Center, ending their nine-game losing streak.

On Wednesday, Carmelo Anthony said his team was “the laughingstock of the league.” But 24 hours later, they’ve been stripped of that title.

The Nets have the worst 3-point defense in the NBA, allowing their opponents to shoot 40.3 percent from beyond the arc entering Thursday’s game. They’re slow and deliberate on both ends of the floor, but really lack the foot speed to help in the paint and then recover to the 3-point line. So it only takes a dribble drive or a ball reversal for their opponent to get an open look from the outside.

The Knicks knew this, moved the ball and fired away on Thursday, hitting a season-high 16 threes on 27 attempts. Anthony (six assists and only 12 shots) shared the ball, Iman Shumpert (5-for-7 from 3-point range) shot with confidence, and the Knicks looked like the team they were last season, when they set an NBA record for 3-point makes and attempts, ranked third in offensive efficiency, and racked up 54 wins.

Against the league’s third-worst defense, the Nets should have been similarly efficient. With Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire as two of their three rotation bigs, the Knicks have consistently been torched on pick-and-rolls this season, often escorting opposing ball-handlers to the basket.

Yet the Nets went a good 10 minutes of the first quarter without running a pick-and-roll once. They too often tried to run their offense through the post, which allowed Bargnani and Stoudemire to stay stationary. The few times they did make those guys move, they got good shots.

Part of that is coaching. Though Brook Lopez led all scorers with 24 points, the Nets’ offense could have been a lot more effective as a whole if he was catching the ball on the move more than in the post. Jason Kidd has to find a way to get the ball and his players moving offensively. It’s far too early to say that hiring him was a mistake, but we’ve seen enough to say that he’s not a very good coach right now.

Injuries are obviously an issue. The Nets are still without Deron Williams, by far their biggest threat off the dribble. With Williams sitting out for the 10th time in the last 11 games, point guard duties were again left to Shaun Livingston and Tyshawn Taylor. Livingston is athletic, but not all that quick. Taylor is quick, but shaky and inexperienced.

Still, Brooklyn could have run more pick-and-rolls with both, or with Joe Johnson, and just tried to make the New York defense move. They didn’t and they lost by 30.

Both Kidd and Kevin Garnett cited the injuries when discussing their struggles after the game. Garnett added that the Nets are making changes in the wake of Lawrence Frank‘s sudden departure from the bench.

“Those things play a big part into this,” Garnett said. “I’m a firm believer when we’re whole and we have our team full throttle, then that’s what I believe in. Obviously, I believe in the guys that’s put on the floor and we’re going to give it an effort, but when you’re playing teams, you want to play at your whole. That’s what I believe in. And I’m not going to believe anything else until we are whole.”

Before the game, Kidd said that “we all feel confident we have enough to win.” After the game, he asked not to be judged until his team is healthy.

“I think you get evaluated by being whole,” he said. “It starts there. And then once that occurs, then you’re evaluated. That’s as simple as it gets.”

Yes, the Nets are missing four of their top eight guys. And Williams’ importance became even more clear on Thursday. But the Nets still lost at home … by 30 points … to a team that hadn’t won in three weeks and is missing its most important player. The injury excuse only goes so far. And while Williams will help the Brooklyn offense, the defense isn’t going to start looking like that of the Heat upon his return.

Tyson Chandler’s eventual return isn’t going to solve all New York’s problems either. The Knicks are still a long way from digging out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves, especially because they don’t get to play the Nets again until Jan. 20. But they do have a relatively soft schedule over the next two weeks and certainly found some confidence Thursday.

Will that translate into a run up the standings? Even if it doesn’t, at least they’re not the laughingstock of the league anymore.

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 2


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 1

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Knicks continue to struggle | Report: Rockets want 2 first-rounders for Asik | Hollins wants another NBA coaching gig | D’Antoni pushing Young for Sixth Man honors | Beasley finding a role in Miami

No. 1: Arguments mark Knicks’ latest loss — At 3-13 and with nine straight losses to their name, the New York Knicks are the coldest team in the Eastern Conference and sit tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for the conference’s worst record. In short, it’s not pretty for New York right now and things were particularly unpleasant last night at the Garden, when in the course of losing to the New Orleans Pelicans, Knicks guard Iman Shumpert got into on-court arguments with both rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. and leading scorer Carmelo Anthony. Marc Berman of the New York Post details that tiff, while in another report, ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Begley has some telling words from Anthony and coach Mike Woodson on New  York’s slump:

A shouting match with Carmelo Anthony and rookie Tim Hardaway Jr.’s breakout game may have pushed Iman Shumpert closer to the door.

Hardaway is fighting for playing time with Shumpert, who got into a heated rant with Anthony on the Knicks bench during a third-quarter timeout. Anthony didn’t look at him as Shumpert raved. Shumpert, who was then benched for the fourth quarter of the 103-99 loss to the Pelicans, called his tiff with Anthony “a miscommunication’’ on defense.

“Of course I wanted to play,’’ Shumpert said. “Tim was making shots. J.R. [Smith] had it rolling. We were just trying to get a win.’’

Anthony declined to talk about Shumpert, who has been on the trading block since the middle of last month. Trades usually pick up Dec. 15, because free agents signed over the summer and draft picks can be dealt.

Anthony and Woodson both think the Knicks have been playing ‘not to lose’ of late and that the losing streak has affected New York in several ways:

Shortly after the New York Knicks dropped their ninth-straight game, star forward Carmelo Anthony said the team is “playing to lose” and appears “a little tense” as the losses pile up.

“I think we’re playing to lose rather than playing to win right now,” Anthony said after the Knicks’ 103-99 loss to New Orleans on Sunday. “When you lose games the way we’ve been losing them at home, on the road, you start thinking a lot. You start playing a little tense, you start playing on your heels.”

“We just can’t seem to get it together,” Anthony said after scoring 23 points and grabbing ten rebounds. “We can’t seem to figure it out.”

The Knicks’ last home win was Oct. 30 against Milwaukee in the season opener.

Head coach Mike Woodson admitted the obvious when he said the losing streak is weighing on his players.

“I thought coming down the stretch, we played on our heels. The [eight-game losing streak] we were looking at here was staring at us in the face [and] instead of relaxing and just playing, we just didn’t make one play,” Woodson said.

The Knicks have held two closed-door meetings in the past three weeks to try to turn things around. Anthony isn’t sure if another one will help.

“I don’t know what we have to do as far as coming together as a group,” Anthony said. “I don’t know if we’ve got to sit here for hours and talk and get it all out, but we’ve got to do something.”

Anthony said earlier this week that he worried about his team going into a “dark place.” He doesn’t think the Knicks are there yet.

“Anytime you’re fighting an uphill battle, you feel like you’re in a dark place. But we can’t go to that place,” he said. “I’ve never been to that place. I don’t plan on getting to that place.”

Firings and trades aside, Anthony believes the bigger issue for the Knicks right now is a lack of identity.

“Last year around this time we had our identity as who we were as a team,” he said. “This year we’re still searching who we are as a team and who we’re going to be as a team.”


VIDEO: Carmelo Anthony discusses New York’s loss to the Pelicans, nine-game slump

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No. 2: Report: Rockets want two first-rounders in Asik tradesOmer Asik has worked his way back into Houston’s playing rotation, logging 20 minutes in the Rockets’ thrilling win over the Spurs on Saturday night. However, Asik continues to be a popular name on the trading block and seems all-but certain to be dealt at some point this season. What the Rockets are apparently asking for Asik, though, might make the kind of deal they want hard to come by. Alan Hahn of MSG Networks explains and provides a bit of Knicks slant on any possible deal, too:

The name that is dominating the early rumors is Omer Asik of the Rockets. The disgruntled center can be had, but Houston isn’t just giving him away.

In fact, the Rockets are setting the market high for Asik, with a demand of two first round picks in any deal.

That eliminates the Knicks, who have given away enough first rounders over the last few years. They can’t move one until 2018.

Even if they did, Asik’s luxury tax hit next season is the same as Jeremy Lin‘s ($15 million), which would make it an expensive transaction.

It’s more likely the Knicks will target more of an “energy” big, if they can land one. Kenneth Faried, a recently rumored name, certainly would fit that mold, but the Nuggets have shown no interest in making a deal.

The Knicks, like many teams in the league, could use an upgrade at the point guard position but that’s like shopping for a BMW with a Kia budget.

And the competitive market for point guards has gone up even more now that the Bulls are shopping hastily for one in the wake of Derrick Rose‘s season-ending injury.

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No. 3: Hollins turned down chance to be assistant in Detroit — After being fired by the Memphis Grizzlies following a 56-win season and a berth in the 2013 Western Conference finals, coach Lionel Hollins has spent his down time playing golf, putting in some work for NBA TV and watching his son, Austin, play at the University of Minnesota. In an extended, insightful interview with ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelbourne, Hollins talks about his desire to coach again in the NBA and how he passed on a chance to be an assistant in Detroit this season:

Nice as the time off has been, however, Hollins is ready to return to the NBA.

“I believe I’ve established myself as a head coach and I’d like another opportunity to show that [my success] wasn’t a fluke,” Hollins said. “I feel like I’ve proven I can take a young team and develop it, then sustain what I’ve done by what I did in the last five years in Memphis.”

Hollins was let go by the Grizzlies despite winning a franchise-record 56 games and leading Memphis to its first Western Conference Finals appearance last season. The reasons were philosophical in nature, after a season in which Hollins didn’t always publicly embrace the moves or direction set by the Grizzlies’ new ownership and front office.

“We want to have the kind of organization where we get people in a room … who are going to disagree about what we should do and what the personnel moves should be,” Grizzlies president Jason Levien said in a radio interview with WHBQ after Hollins was let go. “We want to really dig in and get messy when we’re in that room talking about what the decision and direction should be. And then once we come to a decision, whatever that personnel decision is, we want to walk out of the room arm-in-arm, locked together in how we’re going to proceed.”

Hollins, who still makes his home in Memphis, declined to comment about his exit from the Grizzlies. He said that he has tried to keep a distance from his former players as well, out of respect for new coach Dave Joerger, who was an assistant for him last season. He occasionally runs into Tony Allen, whose wife is close with Hollins’ wife. He also sent a text message to center Marc Gasol recently, after he suffered a knee injury.

But mostly, he said he’s tried to move on with his life and career.

“I think Marc [Gasol] said it best, ‘It was odd knowing — from his perspective — that I wasn’t going to be there,’ ” Hollins said. “And from my perspective, it was odd knowing that we weren’t going to add a few pieces and build on what we’d already established. We were at a level where we needed to add the right pieces in order for us to take another leap. So it was just odd not being there and planning and going through the whole process that we normally do every summer with our young players, starting with the draft and then summer league and then the workouts that we have all summer, with players coming in and out. You get away from that routine. …

“I was antsy when training camp started. But once they started playing, I was comfortable not being there. I get to watch a lot of basketball on TV. And now I’ve gotten to re-evaluate what I like to do and what I want to do.”

Over the summer, Hollins said he had an opportunity to join Maurice Cheeks‘ staff with the Detroit Pistons as an assistant coach but declined.

“I had done it [serve as an assistant coach] for a long time before I was given the opportunity to be a head coach,” Hollins said. “But my thought process was, ‘I’ve established myself as a head coach. I’d like to stay in that state at the moment.’ But if it didn’t work out, yeah, I’d go back and be an assistant coach. I’d go to college and be a head coach there, if I had the opportunity. But my thought process is to be a professional head coach.”

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No. 4: D’Antoni hyping Young for Sixth Man of Year honors — Swingman Nick Young is averaging 14.2 ppg this season, only .1 ppg behind team leader Pau Gasol for the No. 1 spot on the Lakers. But while Gasol has started all 18 games for the Lakers this season, Young has notched just six starts, doing most of his damage off the bench. That big scoring punch and his vital role in L.A.’s offense has coach Mike D’Antoni starting some early buzz for Young in the Sixth Man of the Year campaign, writes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

Within a two-month span, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has viewed Nick Young as a a streaky shooter and inconsistent defender to a candidate for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.

“He should. If we can get our record [good],” D’Antoni said. “That’s going to be the product of the team. He’s playing well enough. But if we surprise people, get in the playoffs and do really well, yeah, he’ll have a really good chance at it.”

Ever since D’Antoni demoted him as a starting small forward to a reserve, Young has jokingly touted himself as a sixth man of the year candidate. Young has backed up those words said in jest with his play. Young has averaged 16.5 points on 47.4 percent shooting in 27.1 minutes through 11 games as a reserve.

“I’m loving it with his concentration and ability not to take a play off,” D’Antoni said. “We have a few guys who have home run trots and were not engaged. But for the most part, most guys have gotten that out of their game. They’re engaged. A lot of that is due to the chemistry of the team and how they feel about themselves. We can keep getting better. He’s playing both ends of the floor. He’s playing phenomenally.”

So much that Young has slightly altered his nickname.

“As he says, he’s changed his name to ‘Swaggy D,’” D’Antoni said with a smile. “We’ll see how that holds up.”

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No. 5: Heat finding steady role for Beasley — In the offseason, the Heat more or less took a flyer on their former No. 2 overall pick, Michael Beasley, after the Suns terminated his contact. Early in the season, Beasley’s role was that of mostly mop-up duty in blowouts with some sporadic minutes during games when the decision was not in doubt. That has changed of late as Beasley is averaging 19.5 mpg over his last four games and had a solid night against Charlotte last night (four points, seven rebounds) as Miami rallied for a win. After the game, coach Erik Spoelstra explained to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel how he and the Heat have started to find an appropriate role for Beasley in Miami’s stacked lineup:

If it looks only now like Erik Spoelstra is developing a role for Michael Beasley, you’re not too far off.

The Miami Heat coach acknowledged Sunday that it wasn’t until after training camp that he began formulating a plan for the Heat 2008 first-round draft choice. Before that, he said it was just about creating a fit with the versatile forward who had split the previous three seasons between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns.

“With Michael,” Spoelstra said, “it was more about, initially, we felt he was part of our family. We drafted him. We spent a lot of time with him, not only during those two regular seasons, but during the offseasons and we just wanted to open up our arms back into our family.  “That was our initial thought when we talked to him. I didn’t even talk role. I didn’t even talk specifics about anything. I didn’t talk about, ‘Hey, you’re going to learn from these guys.’ It was, ‘Hey, come back to the family,’ and just get back into the routine and we’ll take it from there. After training camp, that’s about the first time I really started to talk about a possible role with him.”

Spoelstra said it was more about allowing the Heat’s locker-room culture to envelop Beasley, who returned on a one-year, non-guaranteed, veteran-minimum contract.

“Our whole locker room is important for anybody we bring in now, that there’s a world-class professionalism we expect from everybody, and our guys live and breathe it,” Spoelstra said. “They take pride in it. There’s a culture and discipline and structure to how we do things. And so when we’re recruiting players, we always have that in mind, whether a guy will fit in. We love it that guys will get inspired by each others’ professionalism and work ethic.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Anthony Davis is out indefinitely after breaking his hand in last night’s game against the KnicksWesley Matthews says the Blazers aren’t a ‘cool’ team, but rather, a pack of ‘dogs’ … The Wolves were selling tickets that give fans the right to high-five the Heat as they come out of the tunnel when they visit Minnesota …

ICYMI Of The Night: All you have to do is watch what Steph Curry and Klay Thompson did last night in Sacramento to understand why they’re called the Splash Bros. …


VIDEO: Steph Curry & Klay Thompson run wild against Kings

Morning Shootaround — Nov. 18


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Nov. 17

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Knicks seeking Rondo deal? | Humphries frustrated with lack of minutes | Report: Asik certain to be traded | Old habits plaguing Kings | Warriors smarting over O’Neal’s injury

No. 1: Knicks trying to swing deal for Rondo? — Last week, trade rumors surrounding Knicks guard Iman Shumpert began to stir with the prominent deal being floated about was a Shumpert-for-Kenneth Faried swap with Denver. According to our own David Aldridge, that deal is unlikely to happen, but that hasn’t stopped the Knicks from keeping Shumpert in the trade rumor talks. ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Bagley reports that the Knicks are interested in trying to send Shumpert and forward Amar’e Stoudemire to Boston in an effort to land injured All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo. The chances of that deal coming to pass aren’t likely, though:

UPDATE — Celtics boss Danny Ainge tells the Boston Herald‘s Steve Bulpett there’s ‘nothing to’ the Rondo rumors:

The recent spate of rumors regarding the possible trade of Rajon Rondo are not based in any Celtic reality.

“I haven’t talked to any teams about Rajon Rondo,” Celts’ president of basketball operation Danny Ainge told the Herald this morning.

He has, however, fielded a number of calls wanting to now if the rumors are true.

“It’s frustrating,” Ainge said.

He went on to reiterate that Rondo, still rehabbing from ACL surgery, is a major part of the Celtics’ plans going forward.

The reports in the last two days have focused more on opposing teams being interested in Rondo, but the packages of lesser players being floated as a return make no sense for the Celts.

Here’s Bagley’s report on the trade talks:

The New York Knicks continue to dangle Iman Shumpert in trade talks, including a recent proposal to the Celtics that would send the third-year guard and Amar’e Stoudemire to Boston in an effort to obtain star point guard Rajon Rondo, league sources confirmed Sunday.

The Celtics, though, have yet to show interest in the deal, instead preferring to unload forward Gerald Wallace in a trade, sources said.

The Knicks have inquired about Rondo in trade talks before, but both times the Celtics made it clear they were not interested in trading him.

Sources did say the Celtics would be willing to take on Stoudemire’s contract if they could unload some of their longer deals, namely those of Wallace and Courtney Lee.

The Knicks may be reluctant to take Wallace back because they’re hesitant to take on salary beyond the 2014-15 season.

The Knicks have three large contracts (Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani) coming off their books at the end the 2014-15 season and would like to be in position to acquire a top-flight free agent.

A trade including Wallace and Stoudemire would seem to benefit the Celtics financially. Boston is in rebuilding mode, and Stoudemire’s contract expires a year before Wallace’s.

One factor that could complicate trade talks involving Shumpert is that the 2011 first-round pick had a second surgery on his left knee this summer, league sources confirmed on Sunday.

The Knicks and Nuggets discussed a Shumpert-for-Kenneth Faried swap last week. New York believed it had a deal completed on Tuesday morning, a league source told ESPNNewYork.com. But the trade fell through when Denver asked the Knicks to include at least one draft pick.

And then there are these tweets from ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard on a possible Rondo-Shumpert/Stoudemire swap:

***

No. 2: Humphries frustrated with minutes in Boston — Not since the 2008-09 season, when he averaged 9.1 mpg, has Kris Humphries seen his playing time dwindle as much as it has this season. Humphries is playing 11.2 mpg with Boston and has appeared in just six of the team’s 11 games. The veteran power forward is growing frustrated with his lesser role and future on the team, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNewEngland.com:

Humphries wants to play somewhere, even if it means leaving Boston.

He’s not quite ready to demand a trade, but it’s clear that the lack of playing time and erratic minutes he has played is weighing on him.

The 6-foot-9 veteran did not play (coaches decision) in Boston’s 109-96 loss to Portland on Friday, his fifth DNP-CD this season.

“I’m just waiting for a break or an opportunity to get in there more consistently,” Humphries told CSNNE.com. “It would have been great to have played better (Wednesday) night and us win. That would help. But as a guy playing inconsistent minutes, it’s not going to happen every night for you. You have to try and make it happen and do whatever you can to help your team win.”

The 28-year-old veteran has appeared in five games this season, averaging four points and 2.8 rebounds while playing 11 minutes per game.

But in the rebuilding process that the Celtics are currently in, there’s always some form of collateral damage along the way.

While he has often thought about what he has to do in order to get more minutes in Boston, he hasn’t asked for a trade.

“That’s why players have agents,” Humphries said. “We just have to as players, focus on what we can control. If you sit there and say, ‘hey I want a trade,’ it’s going to take away from the team and what you’re trying do to.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has praised Humphries often for his professionalism and work ethic throughout training camp and into the regular season.

And while it’s clear that Humphries doesn’t fit into the regular rotation now, the parity of so many players on this roster makes it such that everyone has to be ready to play every night.

“It’s been tough. I’m here so that’s what I’m focused on,” Humphries said. “I’m playing some 4 (power forward) now, which I think will help out a little bit. But nothing has ever been easy for me. I’e always had shorter-term deals, always had to prove myself.”

***

No. 3: Report: Asik certain to be dealt — Late last week, news broke courtesy of the Houston Chronicle that Rockets center Omer Asik had asked the team to trade him. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein confirms that Asik is a near-lock to be dealt, but the questions remain about not just where Asik will land, but what Houston does with him until it can find a trade partner:

The mystery here, apart from the obvious question about where he ultimately winds up, is what Houston does with Asik until it can locate that appealing deal.

The center was scratched from Saturday’s home game against Denver essentially because he’s so unhappy with his new role that he’s in no state to play. Word is Asik has been asking the Rockets pretty much once a week, since Dwight Howard‘s arrival in July, to please trade him elsewhere. And now losing his starting spot, on top of what was already a reduced role, has clearly knocked the 27-year-old back.

Sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com that Asik was challenged by coaches and teammates this week for not being “engaged” in the wake of the lineup change, which took effect when Asik was moved to the bench for Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia. And he hasn’t played since the challenge, logging zero minutes Thursday night in New York while in uniform and not even dressing against the Nuggets.

The new challenge for the Rockets, then, is getting Asik’s mind right and getting him back on the floor as soon as possible, given the very real chance that a workable trade won’t materialize until after Dec. 15, when dozens of players who signed new contracts in July become eligible to be moved.

Dec. 15, for those not inclined to count it up, is still 28 days away.

“I understand it’s tough for him,” Howard told reporters after Houston’s morning shootaround. “The only thing I can do is be his friend off the floor and help him any way I can. I understand it’s a tough situation for him, but we are all family and we have to learn to fight through frustrations.”

Rest assured, though, that eager suitors for Asik will materialize eventually, no matter how mopey he seems right now and even with Houston hoping for a front-line player in return. The rebounding ability and rim presence Asik can provide makes him a starting-caliber center for numerous teams in this league.

***

No. 4: Old habits keep holding Kings back — With a new arena in the works, new ownership leading the team and a contract extension for talented big man DeMarcus Cousins, excitement for the Kings was at a fever pitch as the 2013-14 season opened. Yet, nine games into the season, Sacramento finds itself in a familiar position: with a losing record and among the worst teams in the conference (they only have one more win than the NBA’s worst team, the 1-10 Utah Jazz). Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee talks about how the culture of the Kings and, perhaps, some of the players are keeping Sacramento from where it wants to go:

How the Kings continue to play with a lack of urgency is befuddling. They did so again this afternoon in losing to the Memphis Grizzlies, 97-86, at Sleep Train Arena.
Perhaps it’s a case of old habits dying slow. Or maybe this is just who the Kings are – a team with unpredictable levels of effort and focus – and that won’t change unless players change.

There was talk of changing the culture postgame, and how much work that takes.

The work will begin to take hold when the Kings realize they have to hold themselves accountable and not accept subpar effort from themselves and teammates.

“As a group, as a unit, as a team, we’ve just got to get tired of losing,” said forward John Salmons. “If you’re tired of losing when we’re down in the third quarter like that you wouldn’t come out with the lack of energy like we did. I think guys are used to it and it shows on the court. When you have that mentality it’s hard to break those habits.”

A lot of these players have been around in past seasons when players have admitted to being overconfident for games when most night the Kings had a losing record entering those games.

***

No. 5: Warriors hurting over O’Neal’s injury — For a squad led by youngsters Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, the stability a veteran voice like Jermaine O’Neal can provide to an up-and-coming squad is invaluable. O’Neal hasn’t just provided sagely words for the Warriors, though, as he’s proven to be a key cog in the team’s bench unit and had been hitting his stride. All of those factors made O’Neal’s injury in Golden State’s 102-88 win over Utah on Saturday all the more costly to the team’s chemistry, writes Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:

It’s not that the Warriors don’t have options to take the backup center’s place. It’s just that it’s nearly impossible for a single player to do everything the 35-year-old was doing for the team.

O’Neal, who was initially diagnosed with a sprained right knee and strained right groin before additional tests late Sunday afternoon, has been a steady defensive anchor on the second unit and the team’s most proven scorer from the low post. More importantly, since signing a free-agent deal in the summer and arriving in Oakland before his 18th NBA season, the six-time All-Star’s voice and experience have provided his younger teammates with a different focus level, toughness and mind-set than they’ve ever known.

…Though the Warriors could sign NBA Development Leaguer Dewayne Dedmon, who was with the team during training camp, they can’t issue 10-day contracts until Jan. 6. It was fitting that Draymond Green and Ognjen Kuzmic acted as O’Neal’s crutches as he was helped to the locker room, because those two probably will receive an increase in minutes.

Starting power forward David Lee will play some backup-center minutes, and backup power forward Marreese Speights can bump up a position. Still, the Warriors will need Green and/or Kuzmic to play more depending on matchups.

“I know he’ll bounce back,” shooting guard Klay Thompson said of O’Neal. “He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve ever met.”

In the meantime, the Warriors will need to find someone to match O’Neal’s production. Having found a comfort zone, he averaged nine points (on 75 percent shooting), four rebounds, one blocked shot and one steal over the past three games.

O’Neal said last week that his mind was going “100 miles per hour” because he was pressing to meet the team’s expectations, but after talking with his wife, brother and high school coach, and praying, he found a place of calm.

“I’ve been playing this thing called basketball for 20-something years,” O’Neal said Wednesday. “Nothing really changes. The same shots I could make in the past, I can still make now. There’s no difference from when I’m working out in practice and knocking a shot down than when I’m in a game, but I had to tell myself that.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Nuggets coach Brian Shaw is still mad at himself for using the Hack-A-Howard strategy … Detroit is taking a cautious approach with Chauncey Billups’ return from tendinitis in his knees … Is it time for the Raptors to consider gunning for a top pick in the 2014 Draft? …

ICYMI Of The Night: You’ve got to watch this alley-oop from Brandon Jennings to Andre Drummond a couple of times, first because it looks like it is a missed shot and, second, because once you realize it’s a great pass, you’ve got to see it again and again …


VIDEO: Brandon Jennings’ off-the-glass alley-oop to Andre Drummond

No Time For Knicks’ Finger-Pointing




VIDEO: Knicks coach Mike Woodson says his team “did not compete” against the Spurs

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The view from below is hazy these days for the New York Knicks. It always is at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, where the Knicks find themselves this morning after taking an epic beating from the San Antonio Spurs.

The inevitable next step for those observing the Knicks’ rocky 2-4 start to this season is, of course, the finger-pointing. Whether it’s fans pointing the finger at coach Mike Woodson or superstar Carmelo Anthony or media types pointing to Ray Felton or J.R. Smith (who made his debut against the Spurs), the finger-pointing phase of the game is upon the Knicks.

But now is not the time for this sort of tomfoolery, even in the aftermath of the worst loss of the Woodson era and a complete meltdown by that sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd that saw the beating. There are too many veterans on this Knicks team to just abandon ship after six games.

So there is a little adversity (Tyson Chandler‘s broken fibula, Smith’s delayed start, etc.) to deal with this season. The weight of the expectations that were sure to come after last season’s 54-win campaign should have been expected. The response needed for those challenges, however, is something that has been sorely lacking.

“It’s just unacceptable,” Woodson said of his team’s reaction to that 37-point hole they were in during the second half against the Spurs. “It’s my job to push them through it and try to get them over the hump. I know we’re a better team than what we’ve shown.”

There’s no doubt about it. The Knicks have the personnel to be among the top four or five teams in the East this season. But they’re not playing like a team that understands its limits, that realizes its potential.

And they can talk all about how embarrassed they are and how they have to compete to erase this ugly start. The fact is the Knicks are six games into an 82-game marathon (they were 6-0 at the same stage last season) and every player must do his own soul-searching to solve whatever issues New York collectively has.

This isn’t on just Woodson or Anthony, despite the boos and their status as the easiest possible targets. This is about a veteran cast of characters needing to remember what it was that made them a threat in the East last season and recapturing that vibe this season … before it’s too late.

Last season’s cosmic ride is over. This Knicks team won’t be able to (3-point) shoot its way out of trouble the way they did last season. They’ll have to dig in defensively, the way they did at times last season, and scratch, scrape and claw their way out of the basement (where they are currently being kept company by their neighbors in Brooklyn, another outfit struggling under great expectations).

Yes, Woodson has to play with his rotations and tweak a few things here and there. And Anthony absolutely has to crank up his energy and production to levels commensurate with a player who spent last season in the MVP conversation. By no means does that excuse everyone else from doing what they have to do to aid the cause.

Even a guy like Amar’e Stoudemire, who is clearly a shell of the All-Star he once was, needs to muster whatever he can to contribute to the greater good. When you’re in desperation mode, which is exactly where the Knicks must feel like they are now, a collective effort is what’s needed to mend things.

The finger-pointing, be it public or private, will only serve to hasten the Knicks’ demise as it tears away at the whatever is left of the fabric of a team that expected so much more of itself.

Just In Time For Knicks, Heeeere’s J.R.

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VIDEO: J.R. Smith’s top 10 plays of the 2012-13 season

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Get ready New York, here comes J.R.

And just in the nick of time.

J.R. Smith, the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, who has had little else go well since picking up that bit of hardware, will make his season debut today in a matinee tip at Madison Square Garden against the reigning Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs (12 ET, League Pass), who, by the way, are off to a 5-1 start.

Smith was suspended for the first five games for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy, but before that came his second-round disappearing act in the playoffs against the Indiana Pacers that made his Sixth Man trophy feel more like an old tin can. Still, it didn’t stop New York from re-signing the enigmatic shooting guard to a three-year, $18.5 million contract. Shortly after he underwent surgery on his left knee.

Like Smith, the Knicks, could use a little boost.

It’s a team that is, at least, in partial disarray with a 2-3 record out of the chute and plugging leaks. Superstar Carmelo Anthony started the season not by boldly stating how he’ll guide his team to the championship, but rather by explaining how he’ll happily go through free agency next summer. He’s leading the team in scoring at 24.6 ppg but while clanging far more shots than he’s making (40.5 percent overall and 31.8 percent from downtown). Heart-and-soul center Tyson Chandler is out four to six weeks with a small fracture in his fibula. And the guy credited with much of last-season’s level-headed approach, Jason Kidd, is coaching the Brooklyn Nets.

So here comes J.R. just as the Knicks need an infusion of anything positive. Atlanta, Houston, Detroit and Indiana follow the Spurs.

“I just want to do so well for my teammates,” Smith told reporters. “I feel like I’ve not really been a part of the team, but still being a part of the team is tough. You can’t get out there physically and help these guys. You can only do so much from a communications standpoint. …. There’s only so much you can do from the sideline. [I’m] just happy to get it over with.”

Smith, who averaged a career-high 18.1 ppg last season, will pop off the bench in his familiar sixth-man role, Knicks coach Mike Woodson told reporters. Woodson had publicly flirted with making Smith a starter in front of the 6-foot-5 Iman Shumpert, who’s averaging 10.8 ppg and is the team’s top perimeter defender. He’ll be needed against a Spurs squad loaded with sharpshooters.

Woodson said he expects to play Smith about 30 minutes in his debut. The Knicks will need a solid showing from him to dump Spurs, and to prevent an unsightly 1-3 start at the Garden.

No Love For The Knicks?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The ending was a bitter pill to swallow for fans of the New York Knicks last season. Falling to the Indiana Pacers the way they did in the Eastern Conference semifinals, getting pushed around and basically overwhelmed by a healthier and more defensively sound team, exposed the weaknesses that were there all along.

That crash landing in the playoffs might explain the lack of buzz surrounding these Knicks as the start of 2013-14 season nears. As we get closer to tip-off of the regular season, you hear about the Pacers, Chicago Bulls and even the Brooklyn Nets as teams the Heat need to worry about before anyone mentions the Knicks.

There’s no love for the Knicks these days and you have wonder: Why?

The reasons for the lukewarm interest in the Knicks are varied. There was no free agent splash over the summer (sorry Metta World Peace). There was no miraculous recovery for Amar’e Stoudemire. Carmelo Anthony needed time to heal his battered body in an attempt to recover from the pounding he took last season. J.R. Smith didn’t exactly distinguish himself in the offseason either with a five-game suspension looming at the start of the regular season.

It’s a lesson plenty of would-be contenders learn when their results don’t match the expectations. And for a time last season, the Knicks, not the Pacers, looked like the team that would challenge the Miami Heat for that trip to The Finals.

Everyone seems to have forgotten all of the positive work the Knicks did last year, finishing with a 54-28 record, winning their first playoff series in over a decade and coach Mike Woodson finishing third in Coach of the Year voting.

Woodson’s teams in Atlanta got progressively better in each of his six seasons without the Hawks ever making the sort of free agent splash that usually spurs a dramatic rise in a team’s fortunes. Woodson, despite a legion of vocal critics, is one of a handful of coaches in the league with a proven track record of taking a disjointed group and making sure they compete at a high level.

And disjointed might be a kind word for the group the Knicks will suit up this season. The Raymond Felton-Pablo Prigioni backcourt tandem is interesting, to say the least, and the Iman Shumpert-Smith battle at shooting guard promises to deliver plenty of drama (and potentially headaches for Woodson) throughout the season.

(Shumpert insists he’s playing with a “chip on his shoulder” that could help fuel the Knicks early on, and that’s a good thing.)

Call me crazy, but I think World Peace is going to be a fit and rookie swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. is certainly going to be a factor. The only glaring question for me is if Andrea Bargnani can revive his career as the floor-spacing stretch-4 the Knicks need to free everyone else up to play to their specific strengths?

You never know what you’re going to get with Amar’e because of his injury issues and even with an offseason worth of work on his jump shot it’s hard to lean too hard on Tyson Chandler for the offensive help Bargnani should be able to provide immediately.

Ultimately, the pieces are in place for the Knicks to battle for a top four spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. That’s just a fact, even if no one outside of the Knicks’ locker room believes it.


Morning Shootaround — Oct. 7

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Rose feeling ‘great’ after preseason debut | Bargnani likely to start in preseason | Karl discusses Denver ouster | McGee impressing Nuggets | Rivers shows improvement

No.1: Rose not sore after preseason debut: In his first NBA game (albeit a preseason one) in more than 17 months, Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose looked solid on Saturday night against the Pacers. Sure, there was some rust to his game, but he finished with 13 points in just over 20 minutes of play in Chicago’s 82-76 victory. Even better news for Bulls fans than a preseason win powered by their superstar is news that Rose is feeling fine after putting up such an effort, writes K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

The big question Sunday was how Rose’s knee felt the day after his first test.

Coach Tom Thibodeau limited Rose’s playing time to 20 minutes in the 82-76 exhibition win over the Pacers and took him out for good with seven minutes left in the third quarter.

“Feeling good,” Rose said Sunday before practice at Saint Louis University. “Thibs was asking me the same thing. I’m feeling all right. I could’ve played some more, but they took me out. If anything, (they were) just watching me, making sure I’m all right.”

Thibodeau joked Saturday that Rose was mad at him for taking him out so early. Even in a meaningless game, it was hard for Rose to sit and watch, knowing he felt strong enough to continue playing.

“Yeah it’s tough, especially for it to be a close game like it was,” Rose said. “To be sitting out, I just wanted to test myself a little more, but I wasn’t able to.”

Rose said he feels like he’s where we wants to be, crediting a rigorous training regime he has employed during his rehab.

“Conditioning and rehab and training definitely put me in the spot I’m in right now, where I’m recovering real quick,” he said. “I’m eating right. My diet has changed. It’s actually preventing a lot of (minor) injuries in the future, just preparing myself the right way and staying healthy. That’s the key.”

***

No.2: Woodson may opt for big-man heavy starting lineup: From the sound of what Knicks coach Mike Woodson had to tell reporters on Sunday, it seems that in terms of New York’s starting lineup, bigger is better. Woodson is more than likely going to start a frontcourt of Tyson Chandler at center, Andrea Bargnani at power forward, Carmelo Anthony at small forward, Iman Shumpert at shooting guard and Raymond Felton at point guard. That lineup pushes ‘Melo over one forward spot and shifts Shumpert to the guard line, displacing Pablo Prigioni, writes Peter Botte of the New York Daily News:

“I like the makeup of Andrea and Melo on the floor at the same time with Tyson,” Woodson said after the Knicks’ noncontact practice in Greenburgh. “In the scrimmage we worked that combination. It wasn’t bad. Again it’s got to be done in the game, in real-game situations and see how it looks. If it’s good, we can feed off of that. Until we get to that point, I don’t know.”

“We have such a logjam at the two and three,” Woodson said. “If I want to play Melo and (Metta World Peace) over at the three, you still have (Tim) Hardaway (Jr.), Iman and J.R. (Smith). You’ve got to respect their position and see if they can hold it this year. As soon as they can get back on the floor, it should be a competitive practice where they’re competing for that spot.

“I know I can always go back to Pablo and Raymond. But at this point I’m going to try a big guard if I can and see how it plays out.”

***

No. 3: Karl opens up about end in Denver: In a frank conversation with The Boston Globe‘s Gary Washburn, ousted Denver Nuggets coach George Karl opens up about his tenure in Colorado, his future as a TV analyst for ESPN and how changes in the NBA led to the reigning Coach of the Year being fired shortly after the Nuggets’ first-round loss to the Golden State Warriors. Karl does not come across as bitter in the interview, but, like many NBA observers, remains confused about why he was shown the door:

“I was amazed at how quickly I accepted what happened,” Karl said, “because I had 8½ great years and last year was probably my most fun coaching any basketball team I’ve ever been associated with.

“I don’t have a lot of bitterness other than I don’t understand. But not understanding — when you are working in a world of millions, millions, and millions of dollars, there’s a lot of things I don’t understand.

“There’s a lot of contracts we give players that I don’t understand. There’s a lot of trades that I don’t understand. There are a lot of decisions I don’t understand.

“I can’t deny there’s an anger and frustration. But there’s much more celebration in my heart than anything else.”

“There are a lot of truths that change,” he said. “You win 57 games and win Coach of the Year, the truth was it probably did once create security, but the truth now is it doesn’t.

Lionel Hollins did a great job. The truth is when you do a great job, you should be able to be kept. In today’s world, it’s different. The truth to that is if you don’t adjust to that, you’re probably not going to survive.”

***

No. 4: McGee out to prove his worth to himself, Nuggets: As our own Jeff Caplan detailed before training camps opened, Nuggets center JaVale McGee is determined more than ever to prove he’s not just a “Shaqtin’ a Fool” regular and an NBA punchline. That mentality has carried over into training camp as McGee has impressed team officials and new coach Brian Shaw by staying later after practice to hone his game and showing a commitment to the game the Nuggets were hoping to see last season, writes Christopher Dempsy of The Denver Post:

Nuggets center JaVale McGee was on his last-one-out grind. On Tuesday: free throws well after most everyone left the Pepsi Center practice court. On Thursday, post-practice offensive work, followed by full-court sprints with assistant coach Patrick Mutombo.

It is all by design.

No one does everything right in the first week of training camp, but McGee is going after it, from improving his skills on the low block to getting a better handle on his conditioning. The seriousness of his approach is in stark contrast to a year ago, when his sluggish training camp cost him a starting job — and ultimately significant playing time — just weeks after he signed a four-year, $44 million contract extension.

McGee is eager to show he is much more than a player who had become largely expendable by last season’s playoffs.

“That’s exactly what I’m trying to show,” McGee said. “What people didn’t believe I could do is possible.”

***

No. 5: Rivers gives Pelicans some hope for future: As a rookie for New Orleans a season ago, Austin Rivers struggled to live up to much of the hype that surrounded him following a standout career at Duke. Rivers played a regular role in the Pelicans’ rotation and struggled the first half of the season before improving a bit shortly before a hand injury knocked him out of the lineup for the last 23 games. Rivers had a solid night in his preseason debut (21 points, five assists) and his opener has New Orleans hoping he and new All-Star guard Jrue Holiday can make for a solid backcourt combo, writes Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune:

“I just think he is right where he should be,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “We’ve heard about Austin since he was in the seventh or eight grade and everybody wants him to be LeBron (James), but he is right where he should be.

“He works his tail off. He’s probably one of the most competitive guys in the league. He’s hungry. He does some things you like from a young guy. He works hard. He’s coachable. He’s not afraid. To me, you can’t ask for more than that.

“He’s going to have ups and downs because he is 20. But he competed and that’s what I wanted.”

Rivers, who’ll get another opportunity to build on his performance when the Pelicans play at the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night, said he was encouraged by his performance.

“It felt good,” Rivers said. “That was the whole purpose for me playing summer league this year, to get my rhythm back. I missed a lot of games last year. I missed the last 22, 25 games last year. That’s a lot of games for anybody. So it’s been a while since I have played a game.

“And I really feel like summer league helped me this year, just to go out there and get my repetitions and play the point guard. I told everybody before the year I wanted to play the point. I have no problem playing the two, but I want to play the point. And that’s what I did (against Houston).”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Just call Cavs veteran guard Jarrett Jack “Crusty” from now on … Damian Lillard will help rookie C.J. McCollum get through his foot injuryChauncey Billups gets the OK from coach Maurice Cheeks to miss some practice drillsJose Calderon not expected to play in the Mavs’ presason opener

ICYMI of the night: Darius Johnson-Odom, who spent most of last season in the NBA D-League, is trying to make the cut for the Lakers this season. Dunks like this one last night against Denver won’t hurt his cause …

Flattened Last Year, Stephenson Is Flattener Vs. Knicks


INDIANAPOLIS – A year ago, Lance Stephenson was comic relief and the Indiana Pacers’ resident knucklehead. Twelve months later, he is as serious as a flagrant foul and the single biggest reason the Pacers eliminated the New York Knicks in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Last May, Stephenson was the Indiana deep reserve, all raw talent and immaturity, who got caught by the cameras making a choke sign when LeBron James missed free throws in Game 3 of the teams’ playoff series. James ignored him, in the moment and when asked about him later. But a couple of his Miami teammates weren’t so detached; Juwan Howard got into a verbal confrontation with Stephenson before Game 4 and backup big Dexter Pittman seemed to be on the floor late in Game 5 for the express purpose of flattening him (Pittman winked to the Heat bench after the hit across the young Pacers guard’s throat).

Now, it’s Stephenson doing the flattening. Not quite all growed up but making a mad dash in that direction, the 6-foot-5 kid from Brooklyn – from the same Lincoln High that produced the likes of Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair – did New York’s NBA team wrong. He grabbed the game at both ends – grabbed it by the throat, one might say – and scored nine points in the first quarter to ignite Indiana in a game it couldn’t squander, then nine more (in not quite seven minutes) in the fourth when it mattered most.

His 25 were a career playoff high but then, just about everything Stephenson does this postseason is a career high, given how unused he was previously. Twice in the first half, Stephenson snagged rebounds and raced downcourt, going end to end through New York’s defense for buckets.

In the fourth, he picked off a pass by Carmelo Anthony and finished with a three-point play that broke a 92-92 tie. Next time down, he drew Tyson Chandler‘s sixth personal foul and hit two free throws. After an Anthony jumper made it 99-94, Stephenson backed his way first through J.R. Smith, then through Anthony for another layup. It wasn’t over, except that it was.

“Unbelievable,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s got no playoff experience whatsoever, but he’s got some of the best basketball instincts I’ve ever been around. There’s an old phrase – he’s a gamer.

“He’s not always going to look good. He’s not always going to be in the right spots defensively. … But you put him in a situation like this – Game 6, closeout game – the kid’s got a lot of guts and great basketball instincts.” (more…)