Posts Tagged ‘J.A. Adande’

What’s Wrong With The Clippers?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – That rant Vinny Del Negro unleashed on his team after Saturday night’s blowout loss to the Houston Rockets (sans James Harden) was not an elaborate pre-April Fool’s Day ruse. It was real.

“They played harder than we did,” Del Negro said. “We were terrible. Our effort was terrible, our attitude was terrible, our urgency was terrible. Very disappointed. I didn’t see the fight in us tonight, and we need guys to step up.”

“We’re fighting for a spot, and we come out with that second-half — pretty much the whole game — effort. It was poor.” Del Negro said. “I know it’s the fourth game in five nights, but that’s no excuse. We’ve got plenty of depth. No excuses. I don’t believe in that.”

The vitriol … the disappointment … all of it was real.

With seemingly everything to play for — a top-three seed in the Western Conference playoffs, home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, simple professional pride — the Clippers cannot find the energy to finish the season the way they started (with a bang).

The Clippers have fallen off the mark in the second half of the season, squandering a league-best 32-9 start by stumbling their way to a .500 finish (17-17) with seven games remaining in the season. Chris Paul‘s MVP turn during All-Star weekend might very well serve as the lone highlight for the Clippers during the season’s stretch run if they can’t shake out of their funk.

They managed a 7-7 record in March and didn’t exactly get off to a rousing start to this final month of the regular season with Monday night’s home loss to the Indiana Pacers, a game that saw the Clippers trail by as many as 24 points before closing the gap late in a 109-106 loss.

Deciphering exactly what’s wrong with the Clippers from a schematic standpoint is basically a waste of time. They have certain deficiencies that cannot be cured this season unless both Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan magically locate reliable post moves overnight. That’s not meant as a slight to either of the talented young big men, it’s just a fact.

The Clippers are not capable of playing inside-out for long enough stretches to make other high-level teams uncomfortable. Kicking off a crucial, four-game home stand with a deflating loss to the Pacers is no way to inspire confidence. And when Paul, Jamal Crawford and the rest of the Clippers’ perimeter stars are taking turns struggling as well, it confirms all of the fears we’ve been expressing about this team since their second-half struggles began.

This is code red time for the Clippers. They’ve lost four of their last five games and the finger-pointing (direct and otherwise) has already begun. The effort and energy from the players seems to be lacking, suggesting an underlying issue between the players and the coach that is undefeated in terms of the final results (the coach always has to go).

Del Negro has taken a rather aggressive approach, tinkering with his rotations and even benching starters in an effort to jumpstart his team.

“It’s up to them,” Del Negro said of his players to ESPN.com‘s J.A. Adande after the loss to the Pacers. “All I can do is take them in and out of the games.”

For any of this to be said on a team with some of the best locker room leadership in the league (Paul, Caron Butler, Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups) is a bit startling.

Just as startling is Del Negro’s pointed criticism at his biggest stars, particularly his benching of Paul and Griffin recently, moves that are sure to erode the coach-player dynamic on a team that has always had issues in that regard under Del Negro. This madness is going on with a team that needs just one more win to clinch the franchise’s first 50-win season in history.

This puts the entire operation on alert for the postseason. If the Clippers slide in and then slide out just as quickly, then it’s anyone’s guess as to where the Clippers go from there in the offseason.

Start the playoffs on the road and suffer the fate then that you did during your recent tour through the Southwest Division, a 1-3 plank walk, and whatever is wrong with the Clippers will be someone else’s problem.

Del Negro won’t have to worry about it anymore!

Warming Up To The D’Antoni Era




HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Kobe Bryant smiling.

Dwight Howard playing like the low-post behemoth we all know him to be. Paul Gasol at ease and Metta World Peace fitting in as well.

Seeing the Los Angeles Lakers in a groove and playing like the contender the world expected them to be has an almost eerie feel to it after months of uncertainty about exactly what this super team might be.

If this is what the Mike D’Antoni era is going to look like, it won’t be hard for the Phil Jackson loyalists in the party to get on board with the new regime.

The Lakers halting the Brooklyn Nets’ five-game win streak Tuesday night was just the latest in a string of winning performances from the same team that started this season 1-4 and greased the skids for Mike Brown‘s ouster. No one was asking for the Lakers to look like a championship team right away. They only wanted to see them win in a manner befitting of a roster stocked with several future Hall of Famers.

So even when they perform without the sort of spectacular offensive flair people have come to expect from D’Antoni-coached teams and show obvious reasons why they cannot (and will not) do so in the coming weeks, there is still reason for optimism. The promise of a long and bountiful future together is what has to excite Lakers fans about this Lakers-D’Antoni pairing.

Steve Nash isn’t even healthy right now, with no real timetable set for his return, and the Lakers are toe-deep in learning the system that has served so many so well over the course of D’Antoni’s career.

More than anything, the Lakers looked more comfortable in their own skin now than they ever did under Brown, who is no doubt watching now and wondering where the disconnect was during his tenure.

“We know what we’re doing out there and that helps,” Gasol told J.A. Adande of ESPN.com. “There’s not much hesitation and that contributes to limiting the mistakes. That’s the main key. Even though it’s a new system, we’re playing out of pick-and-rolls, pistol actions, pindowns, post-ups. Very familiar, basic stuff that, thanks to our personnel, we get so much out of.”

Any outstanding concerns about the Lakers’ defensive effort or Howard’s longstanding issues at the free throw line (which included the Nets employing the “Hack-A-Howard” defense down the stretch) should be eased by the fact that this is only the beginning. And in defense of big men with no shooting touch from the foul line, Howard’s struggles there didn’t prevent the Orlando Magic from making it to The Finals in 2009. Plus, the Jackson-era Lakers were certainly able to overcome Shaquille O’Neal‘s career-long deficiencies there, too.

There seemed to be a nervous energy surrounding D’Antoni’s true arrival (on the bench), a feeling that lasted all the way until the final seconds of his first outing. And that’s a good thing for a franchise trying to relocate that edge that fueled them to back-to-back titles just three seasons ago.

Don’t let the aw-shucks routine fool you … D’Antoni knows his stuff. And by now he is fully aware of the magnitude of the job he has signed on for.

Coaching the Lakers isn’t just one of 30 NBA coaching gigs. It’s like being the manager for the New York Yankees, the starting quarterback at Notre Dame or any one of a handful of truly iconic positions in sport that come with an extra set of rules, regulations and expectations.

Winning big but not winning it all, the way D’Antoni did in Phoenix, will not be good enough in L.A.

D’Antoni’s in an all-or-nothing situation with these Lakers and the clock is ticking. The same rule he applied for playing his biggest stars the biggest minutes apply to his situation as well and his knee replacement surgery rehab won’t get him any kind of pass.

“They make a lot of money,” he quipped. “They’re going to earn every cent of it.”

And so it goes for everyone associated with the Lakers these days.

Howard Or Bynum … For The Future?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This is a dangerous game to play with such a small sample size and this penchant of ours to rush to judge based on the emotion of what we’ve just seen, as opposed to what history has taught us and reality will in the future.

But after watching Andrew Bynum serve as the Lakers’ primary option for the fifth straight game (while Kobe Bryant rests) and Bynum look and play like the No. 1 option the Lakers hoped he would when they gambled on the 7-foot higher schooler years ago, the thought has crossed our minds a time or two.

Is Bynum ready to assume the position as the future centerpiece of one of the proudest franchises in all of sports? And, perhaps even more importantly within the realm of the NBA, is he ready to seriously challenge Dwight Howard as the league’s premier center?

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Labor: Where Do We Go From Here?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Stunning is the only way to describe the mood shift here at the hideout in the past 24 hours.

From giddy anticipation for potential progress that could come from the first full bargaining session since the lockout began to the depths of despair in the aftermath of said meeting producing nothing of the sort. I tried to warn folks. No deal would be struck. The two sides were probably not going to move off of their initial positions. They did not.

The owners and players (and their representatives) are as far apart right now as they were when this entire ordeal began. It’s as if the calendar hasn’t moved one bit since July 1.

NBA commissioner David Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter might even agree on that. There is no next bargaining session scheduled. Not even a brief get together for coffee. Nothing.

The labor talks have “Hit a wall,” as our very own Steve Aschburner points out, but he is not the only one shining a light on the hard cap vs. soft cap debate that seems be at the center of the impasse (this week).

You can choose sides all you want, but as far as these eyes can see the only real losers in this entire affair are those of us who love the game and want to see it played as soon as possible.

Still, we have to gauge the reactions from all sides and examine the fine points of each and every argument. More importantly, we have to sort through the rubble now and figure out exactly where we go from here. Because optimism is no longer a part of this equation …

The Union’s Next Test … Decertification

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: When [Hunter] goes to Las Vegas on Wednesday for the most important players meeting of his tenure as executive director, does he find a coup awaiting him?

“Now Billy has to go to Las Vegas with nothing to bring the players,” a prominent agent told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday night.

“He’s chosen a particular path, and there hasn’t been any progress on that path. There was all this false optimism in the last week about how the league was going to come with a new proposal that he could take back to the players, and they came with nothing. Stern wants to stall, and stall until the players start missing paychecks.

“Billy was hoping that he could keep the players engaged, excited that a deal was coming. There was all that rhetoric of good feelings, and today was the day that Stern was going to come with a proposal. He was relying on the fact that Stern would negotiate in good faith with him, that he didn’t want to lose games. He thought that Stern would blink, start to negotiate. He was relying on the fact Stern didn’t want to hurt the game, and he was wrong.”

Yes, there had to be a pit in Hunter’s stomach. Three hours waiting for the owners to debate among themselves, big markets wanting to cut a deal, and small markets willing to lose games – lose the season – to get guaranteed profits and maybe a better chance to chase championships.

There’s a big labor meeting in Las Vegas on Thursday, and Hunter is competing for the hearts and minds of his rank-and-file players. He’s already lost the top agents, who are laying the groundwork for a coup, sources told Yahoo! Sports. The decision to make a move on Hunter could come as soon as this week, agents privately said.

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Lakers Eyeing The Replacements

DALLAS – One by one the Los Angeles Lakers sat before us earlier this week, and to a man professed their allegiance (in so many words) to Brian Shaw as the obvious and reasonable replacement for Phil Jackson.

Everyone from Kobe Bryant to Luke Walton made it clear that they would like Shaw as their next coach. Yet his is just one name that has popped up on the early (and unofficial) list of replacements for the legendary Jackson, whose 11 NBA titles present humongous shoes to fill for any coach.

In addition to Shaw, names like Rick Adelman and Jeff Van Gundy  (per ESPNLosAngeles.com) and Mike Dunleavy (Los Angeles Times) are on the early short list.

I’m with the Lakers’ players. Shaw seems like the obvious choice to us here at HT, and apparently to the folks in Golden State as well, considering they’ve received permission to speak with him about their opening.

Forgive me for not being terribly excited about those retreads, but has anyone noticed that new-school coaches like Tom Thibodeau and Erik Spoelstra, and either Scott Brooks or Lionel Hollins will be coaching teams in the NBA’s version of the Final Four?

Shaw would seem to be cut from that same mold. In addition, Shaw played on three of the Lakers’ championship teams in 2000, 2001 and 2002 and was an assistant coach on the 2009 and 2010 championship teams. (more…)

‘Not The Same Old Mavs’

LOS ANGELES – It takes years to live down a reputation in the NBA.

Mavericks guard Jason Terry knows that better than most, having been wrongly accused of being a bust by some when he didn’t work out as a starting point guard early in his career.

But much like their scoring machine off the bench, these Dallas Mavericks are slowly chipping away at their reputation as a team that shrinks on the big stage.

Again, it won’t come overnight. Not even after nights like the Mavericks had Monday, when they rose up late and stunned the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal. But the Mavericks are on the road to recovering from being bounced in the first round of the playoffs in three of the four years prior to this one.

“There’s no quit in us,”Terry said. “We’re a veteran team. We’ve seen it all. And we pride ourselves on not giving in to adversity. When we were down 16 (Monday night), we knew there was still plenty of time left. There was a lot of game left to be played. And to be honest, we just don’t get rattled in those situations.”

Relative newcomers like Tyson Chandler, who has infused the Mavericks with his confidence and defensive presence, made it clear after Game 1 that the fragile Mavericks of the past are exactly that, the past.

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The ‘Melo-drama Continues


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We told you a few weeks ago on Episode 26 of the Hang Time Podcast that this Carmelo Anthony trade drama wasn’t done.

And after a brief bout of silence, the ‘Melo-drama is back, courtesy of Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com. The latest round includes the New York Knicks reviving their pursuit of the Nuggets’ All-Star armed with young players, expiring contracts and just about anything else it might take to pry Anthony away from the Nuggets.

Sheridan provides some of the details:

The offers the Knicks have proposed have always centered around packages including Anthony Randolph, the expiring contract of Eddy Curry and a first-round draft pick they would acquire from a third team, and New York has softened its stance on including forward Danilo Gallinari in a trade.

The most recent obstacle, according to the source, was for the Knicks to use one of those assets, likely Randolph or Gallinari, to acquire a player from a third team that the Nuggets value more highly than either of the Knicks forwards. The source said that obstacle can now be overcome, with the Knicks confident they can get their hands on a player the Nuggets would prefer.

The source also cautioned that the Chicago Bulls remained in the Melo mix, although the contract extension Chicago reached earlier this month with Joakim Noah would preclude him from being included in any deal the Bulls would put together for Anthony.

Also, New Jersey has faded from the Anthony sweepstakes, growing disinclined to include rookie Derrick Favors in a trade, a league source told ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande.

At this stage of the game, if Anthony doesn’t end up in New York it’ll be a shocker.

Has there been a more consistent trade rumor that didn’t come to fruition in recent memory, save for all the Amar’e Stoudemire drama that went on with Phoenix last season?

Anthony’s public stance on the whole issue has been rather noble (or twisted, depending on your mood), considering no one believes him when he talks about wanting to remain in Denver.

Stoudemire has already acknowledged how difficult it will be for the Knicks to make the playoffs this season without Anthony or another proven No. 2 scoring option.

But would you be willing to gut your team, even a 29-win team, to land Anthony?