Posts Tagged ‘Indiana Pacers’

Morning shootaround — Dec. 10


VIDEO: The Fast Break — Dec. 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Scott’s job safe | Thompson continues development | Melo not getting calls | Jefferson suspended five games

No. 1: Report: Scott’s job safe After losing last night in overtime to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Lakers’ fourth loss in a row, the Lakers dropped to 3-19 on the season, the second-worst record in the NBA. While it seemed likely that the Los Angeles Lakers, with their mix of youth and veteran talent, would probably have to be lucky to qualify for the playoffs in Byron Scott‘s second season as head coach, few people expected it to be this bad, this early. But according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, Scott’s job is probably safe for the season

His star player has kept trying to fight Father Time with little success. His NBA lottery picks have accepted unexpected bench roles publicly, but admittedly expressed initial frustration.

He has also overseen the Lakers’ worst start in franchise history, a 123-122 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday at Target Center marking the team’s fourth consecutive loss as the Western Conference’s worst team.

But Byron Scott still has enough support from Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of player personnel Jim Buss that he is expected to coach through the rest of the 2015-16 season, according to team sources familiar with the situation. With Scott signing a four-year, $17 million deal last summer, the Lakers plan to evaluate his future once the 2015-16 season ends, according to a team source.

The Lakers are not happy with the persistent losing, obviously. But Kupchak and Buss sympathize with Scott on handling what one team source called “a no-win situation.”

On one hand, Scott has felt pressure to handle Kobe Bryant‘s workload in his 20th and final NBA season. Scott remains mindful of Bryant’s struggles, averaging 16.2 points per game average on 30.6-percent shooting in 31.3 minutes per game. But the Lakers also want to play Bryant significant minutes out of reverence for his five NBA titles and to enjoy his farewell tour.

But out of respect for Bryant’s extensive accomplishments that have spanned five NBA championships and his current retirement tour, the Lakers have understood Scott’s tendency to lean on him heavily. They are also mindful of the challenge it takes to manage Bryant’s competitive nature. “I want him to enjoy this as much as possible,” Scott said of Bryant. “You’ve never seen him smile as much on the basketball court or talk to his opponents as much as he’s done the last two or three weeks. He’s at a very good place in his life and his career.”

On the other hand, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell represent the Lakers’ long-term future after they selected them seventh overall in 2014 and second overall in 2015. Russell posted a career-high 23 points on 8-of-20 shooting in 32 minutes against Minnesota. Russell added 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting. But Randle and Russell both face learning curves with their development. Randle lacks consistency with his jump shot, while Russell has struggled on defense.

The Lakers have granted Scott the autonomy to coach his team without interference. But Kupchak and/or Buss will likely meet with Scott next week after the team’s eight-game trip to gain a better understanding of his thought process on how he will develop the team’s young players, according to a team source familiar with the situation.

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No. 2: Thompson continues development While the Warriors keep reeling off wins to start this season, Stephen Curry remains the headliner, drawing hundreds of fans each night just to see his warm up routine. But not far behind Curry in terms of popularity and skill is the Warriors’ 25-year-old shooting guard, Klay Thompson. As Thompson told Nima Zarrabi from SLAM, he’s continued evolving as a person while he keeps putting in work as a player

Despite his heavy off-court demand, the goal has not changed for Klay. He wants to continue to transcend his game — he’s only 25 and knows there is still plenty of room for growth. He is excited about working with new Warriors assistant coach Steve Nash to add new wrinkles to his arsenal.

“I worked out with him twice when I was in L.A. and learned a lot about what I need to get better at,” Thompson says. “We didn’t even shoot the ball that much — we did a lot of technical work on things like balance. He’s still in great shape and really gave me some great pointers on how to play at a lower level and work on my balance so I can be in a better position to make plays. I know how good he is going to be for me.”

Thompson’s heard the whispers about teams attempting to mimic the Warriors’ style of play. The notion that teams across the League are planning to attempt more threes, play a little more “small ball.”

“People seem to think it’s easy,” says Thompson, who’s averaging 18.2 ppg through the Warriors’ ongoing and insane 23-game winning streak. “To play our style you really need to have five guys on the court that can shoot, pass and dribble. Not a lot of teams have that, you know?”

His growth as a player has coincided with his development as a communicator. Thoughtful and insightful, he has become a media favorite when it comes to snagging a quality quote.

It once seemed as if he despised having to talk.

“Ask anybody on the team, I said very few words here my first year,” Thompson says. “I feel a lot more comfortable around the facility and all the guys. Even with Bob Myers and our owners Joe and Peter — it’s easier to joke around with those guys being in my fifth year. But they really may have only heard me say 10 words my entire rookie year. It’s been a drastic change.”

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No. 3: Melo not getting calls Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony has always played a physical style of basketball, which includes getting to the free throw line regularly. Except when he doesn’t get to the line: So far this season, Anthony is averaging 5.7 free throw attempts per game, a career low. And as Mark Berman writes in the New York Post, Anthony understands why he doesn’t get the calls he thinks he should be getting

A candid Carmelo Anthony explained his recent frustrations at not getting enough foul calls, saying he’s been told by referees he’s the most “difficult player” to officiate and vowing he will never flop.

Anthony, who had received a technical foul in two straight games before the Knicks’ 106-85 destruction at the Jazz’s hands on Wednesday, was in a five-game slump with his shooting percentage dipping to 40.6 percent on the season. He admitted his wife, La La, chastised him for yelling at female referee Lauren Holtkamp in Monday’s loss to the Mavericks.

“They just tell me I’m the most difficult player to referee in the NBA,” Anthony said at the morning shootaround in Utah before going 3 of 11 on the night. “I’ve heard that a couple of times. It’s unclear on who is creating the contact. My goal is to go to the basket. If I’m creating the contact going toward the basket [and] I get hit, it’s a foul.”

Anthony is one of the most physical drivers in the game, but said he feels he’s recently not being effective because he’s not getting to the free-throw line.

“I always get fouled,” Anthony said. “That’s what’s frustrating me. You play so hard, work so hard and don’t benefit from that. You look at other guys, you touch them and look at them wrong and get fouls. It’s a frustrating thing for me as a guy who likes to go to the basket, play in the paint. I like to play physical. It’s frustrating.

“I’m human,” Anthony added. “Those frustrations kick in at times, especially when you’re down there banging and know you’re getting banged on. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know how to play another way.”

So does he need to sell the foul more?

“See, I don’t know how to flop, that’s the thing,” Anthony said. “Nowadays guys know how to flop, get hit and put their head back. I don’t know how to flop. I won’t even look right trying to do that. I won’t even feel right trying it.

“A lot of times I get hit and I still continue to get to my spots just because I’m big and strong. A lot of guys get hit and they stop. I’m not saying they’re flopping, but they’re lighter than me. I can take a lot more physicality.”

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No. 4: Jefferson suspended five games The Charlotte Hornets have started to come together this season, winning three in a row and compiling a 13-8 record, the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. But while their All-NBA center Al Jefferson has missed a few games with a calf injury, it was learned yesterday that he’ll be out a bit longer: The NBA announced that Jefferson will have to serve a five game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, writes the Charlotte Observer‘s Rick Bonnell

“I’m a man and I have to take full responsibility for my actions,” Jefferson said during a media availability before Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat. “I have to ask for forgiveness and put it behind me and try to move on.

“Sometimes you’ve got to get knocked on your head for your eyes to open up; to handle certain situations.”

Jefferson said he was first made aware he had failed a drug test about two weeks ago. The league informed him and the Hornets Tuesday that the suspension was coming.

Jefferson becomes a free agent in July after the three-season contract he signed in the summer of 2013 expires. It is unclear how this suspension might affect the Hornets’ interest in re-signing him, but the team issued a statement saying it doesn’t condone Jefferson’s behavior.

“We are disappointed in Al’s decisions that led to this suspension. As an organization, we do not condone this behavior,” the team statement read. “We have addressed this with Al. He is regretful and understands that we expect him to learn from this mistake.”

This is the second time in as many seasons the NBA has suspended a Hornets player. Last season the league suspended small forward Jeff Taylor 24 games after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence in Michigan. Taylor now plays for Real Madrid in Spain.

Jefferson was arrested for driving under the influence in the winter of 2010 outside Minneapolis when he played for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves suspended him two games after that incident.

Jefferson declined to specify what the drug test revealed. A source familiar with the current situation said marijuana is the substance this time connected to Jefferson.

Based on wording in the collective bargaining agreement, a five-game suspension indicates Jefferson was likely already in the marijuana-related league protocol. Under terms of the CBA, a first violation places you in the league’s program. A second violation would result in a $25,000 fine. A third violation would result in a five-game suspension.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: There was a Joel Embiid sighting recently in Philadelphia … Kent Bazemore played the first half last night in Dallas with his shorts on backward, then hit a game-winner … Paul Pierce hasn’t made any decisions about his future … Gregg Popovich hates three-pointersReggie Miller on another great shooter, Steph Curry … The Pistons should be getting Jodie Meeks and Brandon Jennings back soon … The Pacers’ Solomon Hill may be on the trade blockNick Young joked that his defensive abilities are similar to Drake‘s “Hotline Bling” …

Blogtable: Who is the first-quarter Coach of the Year?

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: Are Cavs a lock in loaded East? | What makes Curry a great shooter? | Quarter-point Coach of the Year?



VIDEOLuke Walton explains early season success of Warriors

> Who’s your early, first-quarter-of-the-season pick for Coach of the Year? Why?

David Aldridge, NBA.com: I love what Scott Skiles has done so far in Orlando with a very young team. They’re not only playing very good defense, they’ve been good on offense. And bringing Victor Oladipo off the bench required expending a lot of capital — but so far, it’s working.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Gotta be Golden State’s Luke Walton. What he’s done is as remarkable as NASCAR’s Kyle Busch flipping the keys of his No. 18 car to a parking valet, only to have the kid veer onto the asphalt of the Talladega Superspeedway and lap the field in the Winn-Dixie 300. Besides, Walton officially has a 0-0 record, which would add a great, bizarre, historical asterisk — if, that is, first-quarter hardware actually existed.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Luke Walton.  I assume you’ve seen the standings.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comHow can it not be Luke Walton? I get that he was handed a championship roster with a proven system in place, and that the Warriors have yet to see a tough part of the schedule, but the guy has handled an unusual situation as well as anyone could have expected. He has maneuvered around injuries to Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes, and has faced the pressure of replacing the successful and well-liked Steve Kerr without flinching. Two other names: Steve Clifford and Rick Carlisle. There’s a reason the Hornets and Mavericks, respectively, didn’t fall apart even when their plans did.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comIn any year, if your team began the season on a 23-game win streak, then you’d be pretty much a slam dunk to win the award. Therefore, with all due respect to Steve Kerr, shouldn’t this be Luke Walton’s to lose? The only catch is if Kerr’s health improves and he returns to the bench before long. Can we have co-winners of the award, with the two finalists from the same team?

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThe Coach of the Quarter is certainly Luke Walton. Now, if Steve Kerr returns in January or February and damages Walton’s full-season candidacy, two coaches who have put themselves in good position with what we’ve seen so far are Steve Clifford and Frank Vogel. Expectations for both the Hornets and Pacers were relatively low, and they’re two of just five teams that rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency through Tuesday. Both guys have done a fantastic job of reinventing their team’s offense while staying strong on defense.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Since Luke Walton doesn’t officially own any of these wins the Warriors have piled up, he’ll have to be excused from this competition. There are a host of coaches in the Eastern Conference who have done fine jobs in the early going, but I’m going with Rick Carlisle in Dallas. Once again he’s shown an ability to take whatever group he has and squeeze the best out of them. The Mavericks whiffed on DeAndre Jordan and grabbed Zaza Pachulia as a replacement to hold down the center position and Zaza has been nothing short of fantastic for Carlisle and the Mavericks. Carlisle always seems to find a way. Guiding the the Mavericks into the top four in the Western Conference standings behind the Warriors, Spurs and Thunder at this point in the season is a reflection of the masterful job he’s done.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com How can there be any choice other than Luke Walton? It’s as simple as could be: He could not have done any better.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Come on, Luke Walton! 23-0! To quote a recent birthday boy and former NBA owner (Mr. Shawn Carter to you), What more can I say?

Blogtable: Has Leonard, Green, George or Butler developed most?

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: George, Leonard, Butler or Green — who has developed most? |
How will Warriors fare on their road trip? | East hierarchy after December?



VIDEOHas Paul George or Kawhi Leonard made the bigger jump this season?

> Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Draymond Green: Which player has surprised you the most with his development so far in the NBA? And, if you were an NBA GM, which of these four players would you move heaven and earth to trade for?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: As far as development, I’ve got to be honest and say Jimmy Butler. He’s the one who, in all my wisdom, I watched upon his arrival in Chicago in 2011 and figured, “End-of-bench guy.” I saw flaws – flat shot, short arms, straight-up-and-down stance, small reputation at Marquette – but obviously didn’t see the hard work and drive going on behind the curtain. Trade for? Kawhi Leonard, because I think he still has untapped offensive upside to go with his athleticism and size, on top of all that Spurs pedigree. Of course the Bulls guy probably will prove me wrong again.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThey’re all A-listers. But in terms of surprise would have to go with Paul George because he’s the only one of the foursome making a comeback from a horrific injury. He’s actually playing the best basketball of his career. As a GM, in a close race I’d go after Kawhi Leonard. He’s the best shooter and gets the edge as defender over Draymond Green.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Draymond Green. It’s not even close. He was drafted in the second round amid concern over whether he was a small forward or a power forward and then he turns into a critical part of a championship team while playing power forward and center. The Warriors didn’t even take him until their third pick of the 2012 draft, and now he’s going to be an All-Star in 2016. No one in any front office saw this coming. Who among the four players mentioned I break the bank to acquire depends on what my team looks like.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com The choice is Draymond Green, a second-round pick in 2012 who has developed into one of the league’s best all-around players (passing, defense, rebounding, 3-point shooting, leadership). Leonard had all the tools except outside shooting, Butler was already an ace defender and George was a lottery pick. That said, I’d go hardest to get Leonard, because he’s on a reasonable contract and I think his ceiling is higher than the rest. He’s just now learning how to score, and we know about his D.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I didn’t watch any of these guys in college, but Draymond Green has to be the biggest surprise, in that he’s gone from second-round pick to one of the dozen best players in the NBA. He’s the most important part of the best defense in the league and has become a terrific pick-and-roll playmaker who keeps a top-5 offense rolling when defenses take the ball out of Stephen Curry‘s hands. I’d love to trade for any of them, because they’re all impact players on both ends of the floor, maybe the four best two-way players in the league. But my vote is for Leonard, who’s more than a year younger than any of the other three, is becoming a go-to guy on offense, and still has more developing to do.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Kawhi Leonard’s development has surprised me the most, given that I was not well-versed on him or his game when he was drafted. His improvement on the offensive end, complete with 3-point range and deft ballhandling skills, give him a wealth of skills on both ends of the floor that few players in the league possess. It’s funny, Paul George, Draymond Green and Jimmy Butler are three of the other guys in the league I’d put in that same category. As far as which one of these guys I’d make moves to trade for as a GM, George would top that list, but any one of these guys would be an extremely valuable addition to your franchise.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com Green has been the biggest surprise — he was a second-round pick who within three years was winning a championship with Golden State. But right now you’d have to say that George is the only player on this list who could become the No. 1 star on a championship team, because he can create his own shot and can rank among the best wing defenders in the NBA. Here’s the problem: You’re not going to be able to trade for him unless moving “heaven and earth” means including someone like LeBron James, Steph Curry or Anthony Davis.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI’d say all of these guys have developed into great players, but for me the most spectacular development has been that of Kawhi Leonard, who along with a terrific offensive game has turned into the NBA’s best one-on-one defender. Which isn’t to detract from George, Butler or Green — they are all similarly great defenders and have the ability to score when necessary, with PG having perhaps the best offensive game of any of these four players. But for me, Leonard’s transformation into the player he is today is the most stunning, and the most promising, when you consider how much further he may still go.

Blogtable: What will Warriors’ record be after this long road trip?

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: George, Leonard, Butler or Green — who has developed most? |
How will Warriors fare on their road trip? | East hierarchy after December?



VIDEOStephen Curry talks about returning home to play the Hornets

> What will the Warriors’ record be when they return to Oracle Arena on Dec. 16? If you have them down for losses, tell us who they’re losing to and why. If they will still be perfect, explain why.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Golden State will be 24-1 by the time it gets back home. I see two possible land-mine games on its schedule: Dec. 8 at Indiana and Dec. 12 at Milwaukee. The former pits the Warriors against a Pacers team playing a variation of the Golden State game, in a building that can be tough, with its own Kia MVP candidate (Paul George) at the peak of his powers. The latter is the tail end of a back-to-back that starts in Boston, at the end of the Warriors’ long trip. The Bucks beat Cleveland at home last month and have the ability, under coach Jason Kidd, to get riled up on special occasions. (It’s the day-to-day that has been Milwaukee’s problem.) The Warriors might be thinking about getting home by then, too, although now that I type that, their focus on finishing the trip strong probably will be the thing that gets them past the Bucks.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: 24-1. Somebody’s got to beat them and a 7-0 road trip is just asking too much. I’m picking Indiana as the place the unbeaten season ends. Dee-fense!

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: 24-1 after losing to the Pacers to break the streak, the only way a 6-1 trip can be disappointing. The Raptors on Saturday would be another strong possibility, but the Warriors will be playing for the second time in five days, compared to the third time in four days for the Raptors. So much for home-court advantage. Why the Pacers? Because they’re good, Golden State will be five games into the trip, and I’m positive the Warriors will lose at some point this season. Or at least pretty sure.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: It ends Saturday in Toronto. Just a gut feeling more than anything. Raptors will bring players that can score in bunches, which is the only way to beat the Warriors. And explain this to me, schedule-makers — why is it that the Warriors and Spurs don’t meet until 2025?

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: 24-1. This is a tough trip, which has already given them one scare. They’re playing five good teams (Utah, Charlotte, Toronto, Indiana and Boston), and the other two games are the second night of a back-to-back. They’ve had some close calls already and Harrison Barnes‘ injury hurts. So my guess is that they pick up a loss in Indiana, and I would have added a loss in Toronto if Jonas Valanciunas wasn’t out.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: As much I love a good historical chase, I’ll be stunned if the Warriors make it home without at least one loss. This road swing they are on right now is treacherous, even for a team that has been playing in another galaxy this season. The Raptors and Pacers will give them fits. And if they don’t fall in Toronto Saturday, the Pacers will catch a fatigued crew at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Dec. 8 and put that first blemish on the Warriors’ record. As spectacular as they have played thus far, sooner or later the schedule will catch up to them.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: They’re going to be 24-1. There will be no shame in their upcoming loss at Indiana. I’m not saying the Pacers are the better team. But the Warriors will be five games into a seven-game trip, and in Paul George and George Hill the hot Pacers will have defenders capable of getting into the Warriors shooters. Now, do I feel confident in this prediction? Not really.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogHere’s the thing: The games I would be most worried about them losing are the second halves of back-to-back matchups, when they don’t have a night off coming into the game and would be more tired than they would otherwise. On this road trip they have two back-to-backs, and their opponents on those nights are: the Nets (5-13) and the Bucks (7-11)! So, not exactly the NBA’s elite. So I think they return to “Roarcle” at 25-0, and that much closer to 33 wins.

December schedule breakdown


VIDEO: Jabari Parker discusses the Bucks’ early struggles

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Milwaukee Bucks got an important win on Monday, holding the Denver Nuggets to just 30 points in the second half.

It was important for a couple of reasons. For one, the Bucks’ defense has been awful this season. It ranked 30th prior to Monday’s game and holding an opponent to 74 points could be the first step in the long journey back to the top 10.

It was also important because the Bucks have the toughest December schedule in the league. Wednesday’s visit to San Antonio will be the first of nine December games against top-10 offenses, the first of 10 December road games and the first of 11 December games against teams currently at .500 or better. No Eastern Conference team has more December back-to-backs then Milwaukee’s four.

The Indiana Pacers (11-5) and Charlotte Hornets (10-7) have both been pleasant surprises this season. And both will be challenged by December schedules that include 11 games against teams currently at .500 or better. The Chicago Bulls can find their footing with 11 December games at home, where they’re already 6-1.

The New York Knicks have lost four straight, but could benefit from nine December games against teams on the second night of a back-to-back. The Philadelphia 76ers, searching for their first win, don’t have any such games this month.

20151201_east_sched

A few more Eastern Conference notes…

  • The Hornets have been the league’s most improved offensive team by a wide margin, but have played just four of its 17 games against teams that currently rank in the top 10 in defensive efficiency. They play eight games against those teams in December, and the only game in their next eight which isn’t against a top-10 defense is on the road against an opponent — Memphis — that ranks seventh defensively over the last three weeks.
  • The Cavs have a nine-day stretch (Dec. 6-14) where they play just two games.
  • The Heat‘s Christmas Day game against the Pelicans is the start of a four-game-in-five-day stretch, two home-road back-to-backs to close the calendar year.
  • The Sixers‘ two best chances at a win are this week, Tuesday night vs. the Lakers and Saturday afternoon against Denver. They do have a chance to show increased improvement on defense throughout the month, with eight games against bottom-10 offenses.

In the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers will have a tough time climbing out of the basement, with 13 of their 17 December games on the road and five back-to-backs. They’re playing eight games in the first 12 days of the month. The Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, meanwhile, should be able to stay near the top with relatively easy December schedules.

20151201_west_sched

Some Western Conference notes..

  • The Warriors maintained their perfect record with a narrow win in Utah on Monday and the rest of their seven-game trip won’t be much easier. The only games on it against teams under .500 — Brooklyn and Milwaukee — are on the second night of a back-to-back.
  • But after that game in Milwaukee on Dec. 12, the champs play just two games over the next 10 days and they’ll be home until a Texas trip on Dec. 30 and 31.
  • Eight of the Rockets‘ first nine December games are against bottom-10 defenses.
  • After hosting Indiana and Orlando this week, the Clippers play 11 of their final 14 December games on the road (plus a “road game” against the Lakers), with two separate trips to the Eastern time zone.
  • It could be a roller-coaster month for the Timberwolves. From Dec. 9-20, they play seven straight games against teams that are currently under .500. Then they finish the month with six straight against teams currently at .500 or better.
  • It’s time for the Pelicans to start defending better, and they play only three of their 15 December games against top-10 offenses.
  • The Suns‘ 18-game month doesn’t included any 4-in-5s, but does include two stretches of six games in nine nights. One starts Tuesday and another goes from Dec. 13-21.
  • The Kings will have some practice time between Dec. 11 and 17, when they’re playing just one game.
  • The Jazz play six games in nine nights from Dec. 8-16. Four of those six games are against top-10 offenses.

Blogtable: What are you thankful for at this point in 2015-16?

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: Slowing the Warriors? | On Budenholzer’s fine … | What you’re thankful for this season



VIDEORookie Kristaps Porzingis has given Knicks fans something to be thankful for

> One month into the season, what are you seeing in the NBA that you’re most thankful for?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com I’m thankful that Charles Barkley still laughs loudest and longest at his own expense when his studio mates (and the rest of us) poke fun at him. I’m thankful that – in a league that can admirably come together for the likes of Lamar Odom and Flip Saunders – there still are guys like Draymond Green, Matt Barnes and Jimmy Butler who bring the “we don’t like them, they don’t like us” attitude that keeps game night from becoming one big ice-cream social. Mostly I’m thankful for current labor peace and the possibility that NBA commish Adam Silver and union chief Michele Roberts might nail down the next CBA in 2017 without games-lost rancor. Nothing would look sillier than two sides, used to divvying up a Large pizza, sharing an XXL and still fighting over the last piece.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comDo you mean beside the Blogmaster? It’s easy to say I’m thankful for any night that I can turn on my TV and see the beauty, joy and sheer fun of the Warriors. On an individual basis, I’m thankful that we’re getting a chance to see Paul George pick up his career right where he left off prior to breaking his leg. He might be having the best season of his NBA career and that possibility had some serious doubt when crumbled to the floor in Las Vegas.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com For long memories, so we can remember the previous Kobe Bryant, the old 76ers and the one and only Flip Saunders, the best memory of all. For the memories the established Warriors and the mostly un-established Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis are creating. For Gregg Popovich’s long-term commitment to stick around the Spurs and USA Basketball. For still having Lamar Odom.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Personally? That LeBron James keeps avoiding injury, that Kevin Durant is back on the floor after a brief brush with the trainer’s table and Steph Curry’s ankle issues are far behind him. The game is only as healthy as its stars, and one month into the season, these three are upright. Also, the next generation is off to a decent start with Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, Kristaps Porzingis, et al.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Paul George playing the best basketball of his life. Given what he’s been through, it doesn’t get any better than that. And holy cow, is he killing it.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Obviously, the Warriors make tuning into their games a Christmas present every night. But I’m most thankful for the bountiful rookie class. From the big cats, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor, to the surprising Kristaps Porzingis, Justise Winslow and Stanley Johnson and, really, all over the place, these youngsters have impressed. That’s always a good sign, when the rookie crop comes in and has multiple players making an immediate impact wherever they are. It strengthens the overall talent base of the league and provides some fresh faces and storylines for us to focus on.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: For the competition and its ongoing unpredictability. Every season the NBA race becomes more wide open. The Warriors, as good as they are, will be facing many obstacles and threats over the next seven months.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI live in New York City, and for the last 15 years I’ve had to watch as the Knicks continually attempted to rebuild on the fly, constantly sacrificing their future to get incrementally better in the moment. Which didn’t work, and it didn’t feel like the turn around really started until Phil Jackson stripped the thing down to its bones and hung onto a lottery pick and drafted young Kristaps Porzingis. Now the “Porzilla” has stormed Gotham, and Knicks fans finally have what looks like a young superstar who can be a long-term pillar of the franchise. For once, it’s sorta nice not to have a turkey on Thanksgiving.

Blogtable: Best comeback story?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes 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: Fallout in Houston? | Best comeback story? | Cousins or Karl in Sacramento?



VIDEOPaul George puts in a monster effort in a loss to the Cavs

> The better comeback story so far this season: Kevin Durant, Paul George or Carmelo Anthony?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: PG13, by a mile. Not belittling KD’s or Melo’s surgeries/injuries, but we all witnessed that horrible night in Vegas in 2014 when Paul George’s leg snapped. It was gruesome. I know he played at the end of last season, but he didn’t look anything like the old, dominant player he’d been. Now he’s rounding back into form (it may or may not be coincidence that the Pacers have effectively ended the PG-at-four experiment, with C.J. Miles now the primary power forward). The Pacers are still playing small, but they got their best player playing where he’s most comfortable and effective. Good coaching, and good adjustments.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Happy for all of them, but Paul George’s level of play has been nothing short of remarkable considering where we all were, emotionally and intellectually, on that August night in Las Vegas in 2014. Whatever, say, a guy like Jay Williams did with a motorcycle and a light pole to end his NBA career, it looked as if George had done against that basket stanchion, splintering his leg in two place. The initial sense was, he’d never play again. And even when the doctors said he would, a lot of us wondered how far back George really would get. Looks now to be all the way and beyond.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: They’re all good stories, but I’m gonna go with Paul George here, just because of the horrendous nature and degree of the injury that we all saw replayed dozens of times. He’s returned this season to a team that has been stripped down, rebuilt and is demonstrating that he wants to and can lead. No excuses from George, just results.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Paul George, but because he had farther to come back. He had six appearances last season, after also losing part of summer 2014. That’s a very long road to recovery, compared to Durant playing about a quarter of 2014-15 and Anthony half. On 2015-16 play along, though, it’s KD. He looks like Durant, the greatest compliment of all. Actually, considering that 3-point shot, he looks better in some ways. To look this good this soon is impressive even by his lofty standards.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comPaul George and it isn’t even close. ‘Melo and Durant are coming off injuries but never had their careers threatened by them. George saw his leg break in two. For him to re-elevate himself to a franchise-player level this quickly — or at all — that’s borderline amazing.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Paul George, because of the severity of the injury and because of the level that he’s playing at. Seeing Anthony and Durant playing as well as they have isn’t much of a surprise. George is playing better than he ever has before. When George put up 36 against the Heat and 32 against the Cavs earlier this month, it was only the second time in his career that he’d had 30-plus in two straight games. And that was part of an ongoing stretch where he’s averaging 28.9 over the last seven, shooting 51 percent from 3-point range. Anthony is 31 and Durant has already been an MVP. George is 25 and still on the rise.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Paul George, by far. He’s resumed the ways that made him one of the league’s most dynamic and intriguing players before he suffered that broken leg that cost him most of last season. He also had the toughest road back, considering the severity of his injury. And he totes a load on both ends that neither Durant nor Anthony does (defensively) for their respective teams. I know Durant is out right now with that sore hamstring, but it’s good to see all of them get back to normal, so to speak.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comHaving suffered the most frightening injury, Paul George has returned to find that his team has been rebuilt — essentially downsized — to suit his talents at both ends. The Pacers are looking like a solid playoff team because George’s comeback as both a go-to scorer and lockdown defender has been spectacular.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWell, considering Kevin Durant is out right now, I’m eliminating him from consideration. Which leaves Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. And while George has shown flashes of the elite athleticism that made him such a transcendent player on both ends, it doesn’t seemed to have regularly returned just yet, which is understandable. And while it may seem like I’m choosing Carmelo Anthony by default, I truly think he’s been very impactful this season for the Knicks. Sure, there’s a lot of talk about “The Zinger”, Kristaps Porzingis, and he’s had his moments, but the Knicks will only go as far as Anthony can take them, and when ‘Melo is playing like he’s played thus far this season — taking on double teams, knocking down jumpers, getting to the free throw line, hustling on the defensive end — this Knicks team could very well mess around and make the playoffs.

Morning shootaround — Nov. 8


VIDEO: The Fastbreak: Saturday, Nov. 7

NEWS OF THE MORNING

No call means no Clippers’ comeback | George eager to challenge James | Timberwolves throw OT shutout at Bulls | No holdout hangover for Cavs’ Thompson

No. 1: No call means no Clippers’ comeback — We’re not going to take seriously that old saying about a picture being worth a thousand words. If we did, this Morning Shootaround would wind up unacceptably short and fail to provide the minimum daily nutrients for hungry NBA fans. Still, if you sought out one thing to capture what happened to the Clippers in their game against Houston at Staples Center Saturday night, this shot of L.A coach Doc Rivers would pretty much cover it:

The trigger for that anguished, incredulous look was Dwight Howard‘s defense of the rim in the final half minute that wasn’t ruled a goaltending. Blake Griffin missed a layup and a tip-in, either of which would have tied the game at 107-107, but his tip never fully got a chance when Howard batted at the ball to send it across the rim and eventually squirting out of bounds. A review of the possession – reviewing Howard’s maneuver isn’t permitted per NBA rules – determined it was Rockets’ ball and Ty Lawson‘s free throws sealed it for Houston. There were other factors in the outcome, certainly – Chris Paul (groin) did not play for the Clippers, while Patrick Beverley (concussion), Terrence Jones (eye) and Donatas Motiejunas (back) were out for Houston – and James Harden‘s 46 points had a little something to do with it. Still, as reported by the L.A. Times’ Ben Bolch:

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said the play involving Howard should have been called goaltending.

“I just thought it was a very clear one to call, but that’s not why we lost the game,” Rivers said. “I didn’t think we played very well and I didn’t think we had a great sense of urgency.”

And the Associated Press chipped in:

Paul, dressed in street clothes, came on the court during a timeout to make a case with one of the referees.

“That’s textbook goaltending,” Griffin said

***

No. 2: George eager to challenge James — When Paul George and LeBron James clash Sunday afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET, League Pass) in one of the day’s two matinee games, it will be more than just a meeting of two guys with first-name-worthy surnames. It will be George’s first time on the court in opposition to James in more than 17 months. And if it doesn’t yet rekindle the same rivalry that existed between the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat during James’ time in South Florida, facing the Cavaliers star in his second tour with Cleveland still packs significance for the Pacers’ young cornerstone guy. George’s eagerness for the matchup was reported by the Indianapolis Star:

The NBA’s landscape, for years, has shifted on James’ play, his dominance and his free-agent decisions. Now back with the Cleveland Cavaliers, James has built his hometown team into the clear favorite to advance through the Eastern Conference and return to the NBA Finals.

George, after missing almost the entire season last year, is eager to once again face James.
“I’m excited. I’m very excited,” he said after a brief practice Saturday. “I’m one of LeBron’s biggest supporters. I look up to him, and he’s always been great to me. It’ll be exciting to have that matchup again. I’m one person in this league that really enjoys big matchups and enjoys competition.”

Their last meeting was Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. James wore a Miami Heat uniform, and the Pacers were anchored by Roy Hibbert and David West. George scored a game-high 29 points. James finished with 25 and led the Heat to a 117-92 win that clinched their spot in the NBA Finals.

Two months later, James returned to Cleveland. A month later, George suffered an open fracture of the tibia and fibula bones in his lower right leg during an intrasquad scrimmage of the USA Men’s Basketball team.

This season, James and Kevin Love have led the Cavaliers to a five-game winning streak entering Sunday’s game. George, after struggling to score in the Pacers’ 0-3 start, has found his rhythm and has led the team to three consecutive wins.

George said the Cavaliers are the ideal opponent for the Pacers to gauge themselves against this early in the season.

“That’s exactly what it’ll be,” he said. “Just finding our way, seeing where we’re at, where we compete, where we match up against the team that went to the championship last year. That’s where this team is wanting to go late in this year, so to be the best, you have to beat the best.”

***

No. 3: Timberwolves throw OT shutout at Bulls — It’s still early enough in the season to attribute the Chicago Bulls’ offensive inconsistency to the new style they’re playing under a new coaching staff headed by Fred Hoiberg. Nonetheless, when a team is celebrating its 50th season as an NBA franchise and manages to do something it never had done before in all that time, it is worth noting: the Bulls went scoreless in the extra five-minute overtime period in losing at home Saturday night to the visiting, and apparently underestimated, Minnesota Timberwolves. Chicago was outscored 9-0 in OT while suffering through a 1-for-20 shooting freeze that began midway through the fourth quarter. Mike McGraw of the suburban Daily Herald provided details of what bore little resemblance to the Bulls’ spirited victory Thursday over OKC:

“I just don’t understand it, how you can play with as much energy as we did two nights ago and then just to expect to show up, I guess, and win the game,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I don’t know. It’s tough to even fathom how that can happen.

“You get 82 opportunities to put your uniform and go out and get up for the game, play for your teammates and do everything you can to win. We didn’t do that tonight.”

Hoiberg is a first-year coach, but basing effort on the quality of the opponent has been a Bulls problem for a few years. Last season especially the Bulls made a habit of losing to subpar teams at home. Maybe Minnesota will end up having a good season, but for now this counts as a bad loss.

Derrick Rose did most of the fourth-quarter scoring against Oklahoma City. He didn’t score at all down the stretch against Minnesota, finishing with 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting.

“It’s all about effort. We’ll get tired of getting our butt whupped one day,” Rose said. “It’s all about just bringing out that championship-caliber effort every night. We’ve got to stay more consistent. We have to stay together while we’re out there.”

Rose wasn’t the only one who struggled. Jimmy Butler went 4-for-15 from the field. Nikola Mirotic was 1-for-8. Pau Gasol led the Bulls with 21 points and 14 rebounds.

Gasol, who won two championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, had some pointed words in the locker room.

“There are certain things you have to bring every night in the NBA in order to win games, and we didn’t bring that tonight,” Gasol said. “We allowed them to hang around all game long and at the end we paid the price.

“We’ve got to make up our minds on what we want to do going forward, what kind of team we want to be. Do we want to be an up-and-down team and a team that does OK but doesn’t really have a chance to win a title?

“So far, that’s what we’re showing.”

***

No. 4: Bucks reach back to own the future — Some NBA teams drip with history. Others have to grab it where they can. The Celtics and the Lakers never are going to lack for impressive alumni clubs and legacies that date back 50 and 60 years ago to some of the league’s most revered names and moments. Then there are the Milwaukee Bucks, who have known some really good times with the likes of Don Nelson, Sidney Moncrief and Ray Allen, but only one stretch of greatness. That run included the franchise’s only NBA title in 1971 and another trip to The Finals in 1974, and it was all made possible by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. The two Hall of Famers were in Milwaukee Saturday as part of new Bucks ownership’s ongoing, multi-faceted push to revive the NBA market. Gary D’Amato of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was there:

The Big O might be a few pounds over his playing weight and the Big Fella is looking a bit fragile physically after battling heart problems and leukemia, but if you squinted hard enough it was 1971 again and the Bucks were running roughshod over the NBA en route to a 66-16 record and the franchise’s only championship.

“Milwaukee was a great NBA town when I played here,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “We won the title once and vied for it a couple other years. People didn’t like coming here to play. They got whipped, pretty much.”

Can Milwaukee be that town again?

You wouldn’t have bet on it a few years ago, but unless we’re being sold a slickly marketed bill of goods — and that certainly doesn’t appear to be the case — it almost seems inevitable.

The franchise has been infused with energy, and even though the team hasn’t won a thing yet there’s an unmistakable swagger that starts at the top and permeates the organization. On opening night, co-owner Wes Edens introduced the Bucks as the “2016 champions” — a joke, perhaps, but one with a serious undertone of “Just watch us.”

“In talking with the new ownership, I’m really impressed with their vision and the fact that they’re looking to go all the way to the top,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “That’s their focus. They’re not going to wait for it to happen. They’re going to be proactive about it.”

The vibe seems to be catching on in a city that had been largely apathetic about its NBA franchise for far too long. Even Mayor Tom Barrett was emboldened at the tailgate party, shouting into a microphone, “The Bucks are back! The Bucks are back! Milwaukee is back!”

Of course, the most important piece of the puzzle is putting a good product on the court. Time will tell, but even Abdul-Jabbar thinks the Bucks are close to being a contender.

“I’ve seen them play a couple times this season,” he said. “I think they’ve got good players. They may be one or two players away from winning it all.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Coach Byron Scott said the Lakers, when evaluating Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis prior to the Draft, felt it would take the lanky young man a while to develop. Turns out the Lakers got that wrong. … Sometimes the most telling column on a score sheet is a fellow’s minutes played. Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker logged 24 Saturday, just 24 hours after playing 17 Friday, and that quick turnaround meant something in the Bucks forward’s recovery from ACL surgery. … Meanwhile, Toronto’s DeMarre Carroll might have to yield to the plantar fasciitis foot pain that has hobbled him lately. … And if we’re talking foot pain, it’s a good bet we’re talking Brooklyn center Brook Lopez at some point. The Nets big man with the history of right-foot issues had one again that forced him off the floor Saturday. Nothing broken, it turns out, but his status still is to be determined. … Deron Williams and the Dallas Mavericks got some positive reinforcement in beating New Orleans that they hope nudges the former All-Star point guard to bigger, more satisfying performances. … It might not seem fair to focus the burden of a team’s luxury-tax liability on the last player or two on a roster, but that’s how it goes for the players whose salaries aren’t guaranteed. Consider Jared Cunningham, whose $980,00 contract could end up costing the Cavaliers about $5 million by the time it and the taxes it triggers are lumped onto Cleveland’s massive payroll. …

One Team, One Stat: A New Identity


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Indiana Pacers

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Indiana Pacers, who are going through an identity change.

The stat

20151019_ind_rest_def

The context

20151019_ind_basicsThe Pacers are the only team to rank in the top five in both defending and preventing the best shots on the floor over the last three seasons. And their rim protection was a big reason they’ve allowed the fewest points per 100 possessions (98.1) in that time.

Roy Hibbert was a big part of that league-best rim protection and that league-best defense. But great defense wasn’t enough for the Pacers the get out of the Eastern Conference these last three years. They’ve ranked first on that end of the floor, but 24th on offense, the most unbalanced team in the league.

Poor shooting and turnovers have been the Pacers’ biggest issues. They’ve ranked 25th in effective field goal percentage and 23rd in turnover rate over the last three years.

Among 56 players 6-10 or taller who attempted at least 1,000 shots over the last three years, Hibbert ranks last in effective field goal percentage. Considering his size (7-2), he’s been an awful finisher at the basket. He has improved from mid-range, but those shots aren’t worth much unless you shoot them extremely well.

20151019_ind_6-10_efg

David West has been a solid mid-range shooter over the years, but hasn’t shot threes. So, the Pacers didn’t space the floor all that well and couldn’t keep up with the league’s best offenses.

Now, Hibbert and West are both gone and no team is looking to change its identity more than the Pacers.

The Pacers’ used their Lottery pick on a center – Myles Turner – who can shoot from the outside and will ask Paul George to play power forward (at least some of the time). They’re looking to space the floor as much as possible for the newly acquired Monta Ellis, who has ranked fourth in the league in total drives over the last two seasons.

20151019_ind_drives

With Hibbert gone, the Pacers won’t have the rim protection they’ve had in the last three years. They may fall out of the top 10 in defensive efficiency for the first time in five years.

But their identity change should make them a more balanced team with a much higher ceiling on offense.

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

Morning shootaround — Oct. 16


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 15

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Rose not ruling out return for opener | Kerr may soon rejoin team | George thinks Pacers can have elite defense again | Report: Pelicans sign veteran Robinson

No. 1: Rose not ruling out return for opener — Chicago Bulls fans are understandably skeptical when they hear any news about when Derrick Rose may return from an injury. This time around, the Bulls’ star is recovering from a orbital fracture that will keep him out of the preseason and has his status for the regular-season opener against Cleveland in jeopardy. Rose took part in yesterday’s non-contact practices and wore a protective mask. He said after seeing how he’d fit in new coach Fred Hoiberg‘s offense, he’s truly hoping to play in the opener. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune has more:

But in his first public comments since fracturing his left orbital bone Sept. 29, there was no hiding his excitement to play in Fred Hoiberg’s offense. That may be in part why Rose refused to rule out playing in the Oct. 27 regular-season opener despite not yet getting cleared for contact.

“Every day, it’s improving. It could be quick. Who knows? It’s no timetable. It’s whenever I can go play,” Rose said Thursday after his first non-contact workout with his new mask. “I want to play. I’m anxious to play. I’m getting jittery just watching the freedom we have playing. … If I’m willing to go and I know there’s nothing in my way, I’ll play (the opener.)”

Rose said he hasn’t experienced pain since the first two days after the Sept. 30 surgery, though his eye still is swollen and he occasionally experiences double vision.

Rose, in detailing how fully opening the swollen eye causes the double vision, offered a window into his confident mindset.

“With one eye open, I think I could play pretty good,” he said.

“He was moving, cutting full speed, getting full-speed shots up, so it’s encouraging,” said Hoiberg, who celebrated his 43rd birthday. “Now, a big part of it is getting the confidence that he can take a blow. I played with Reggie Miller when he did this, and he was really conscious of, ‘If I get hit again, is something going to happen?’”

Rose said he had input in which mask to wear, opting, like friend and workout partner Russell Westbrook, for a version that doesn’t guard the nose so he “can breathe better.” And, yes, Rose may become another Richard Hamilton.

“When I first put it on it was a little uncomfortable, but through practice I got more comfortable with it and it feels all right. I was able to shoot, my eye opened up a little bit more,” Rose said. “I hate getting my face touched so if it’s a thing where I come out and I’m hot, I’m feeling it, and we’re playing good, you might see it for the rest of my career.’’

“It’s a lot of open space, a lot of drives,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any reason why I shouldn’t average more than seven assists with all the shooters that we have and the way he lets us shoot the ball. … I’m cool with (being a facilitator). Whatever makes the game easy.”

Rose also worked out with Hoiberg and several teammates at the practice facility in September.

“(Hoiberg) yelled at me a couple of times for not pushing the ball and getting the ball up the court quick enough,” Rose said. “I just have to reprogram myself. My whole life, I was used to playing an uptempo game. Under (Tom Thibodeau), it’s kind of a slower offense. We’d run here and there. Fred, he wants one pace but under control.”

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