Posts Tagged ‘J.R. Smith’

Morning Shootaround — Jan. 10


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Jan. 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Smith’s future with Knicks uncertain | Report: Miller back in Nuggets’ lineup? | Manziel signs with LeBron’s marketing firm | Should foes wear KD’s shoes?

No. 1: Smith’s future with Knicks in limbo – The NBA handed J.R. Smith a $50,000 fine for his shoe-untying incidents over the last week, but that was apparently just the start of a bad week for him. According to Frank Isola of The New York Daily News, the Knicks are losing patience with the mercurial shooting guard with coach Mike Woodson refusing to address any questions about Smith either before or after last night’s eventual victory over the Miami Heat. Smith was benched for the entire game and spoke briefly with reporters after the Knicks’ win about whether or not his time in New York is coming to an end:

As crazy as this sounds, Smith once believed that he would spend the rest of his career with the Knicks, which either proves he’s a big dreamer or incredibly naïve.

Patrick Ewing didn’t retire a Knick. Neither did Charles Oakley or John Starks. Of course, two better examples for J.R.’s purposes would be Latrell Sprewell and Stephon Marbury.

The motto is “Once a headache, always a headache” until you get on Dolan’s bad side and the ugly divorce begins.

“Honestly I don’t even know,” Smith said when asked if he has a future with the club. “At one point I was, for sure, and now it’s rocking the boat.”

No one rocks it like Smith, Dolan’s onetime golfing buddy whose list of transgressions is as numerous as the tattoos that cover his body. The latest screwup was harmless in some ways but also incredibly foolish, especially after the NBA warned Smith not to untie an opposing player’s sneakers like he did to Shawn Marion on Sunday in Dallas.

To be fair, it was reported to be a warning, but in J.R.’s world, warnings are open for interpretation. So here it goes:

“Yeah, pretty much. They warned me, but it wasn’t one of those warning where you go ‘Oh damn,’ it was one of those warnings where you really don’t know the outcome of it. You don’t even know if it was a warning or what it was. But at the end of the day it doesn’t really change anything now. We won. We beat Miami, a championship team, so you can’t complain.”

Woodson refused to address Smith’s status before or after Thursday’s victory, which only added to the confusion. That is a Knicks specialty, of course.

Smith claims he arrived for work, albeit $50,000 poorer, fully expecting to play against Miami. He also claims that Woodson never addressed the fine or the benching with him.

“That’s the most misleading part of it,” Smith said. “I can see if I was told, but there was no conversation about it. But it is what it is. We got the ‘W.’ ”

This doesn’t make Smith a martyr, the way Dolan famously turned Sprewell into one more than a decade earlier. Still, it wasn’t handled well, and it was pretty weird seeing Smith seated within 15 feet of actress Katie Holmes and Smith’s enabler, Dolan.

Dolan is trying to distance himself from Smith the way Holmes ran away from Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology. Dolan should have been smarter last summer when he foolishly signed Smith to a three-year contract when the team knew the guard was headed for knee surgery.

Smith has never been right physically, and his conduct deteriorated rapidly last week once the club informed him it was cutting his younger brother, Chris. J.R. tweeted a reference to feeling betrayed, and a few nights later in Houston, he took an ill-advised shot in a tie game because he mistakenly thought the Knicks were losing.

On ESPN Radio in New York on Thursday, Smith’s former coach in Denver, George Karl, said it perfectly: “He’s going to wake up some day and he’s going to realize that he’s thrown away some great opportunities and great years because of this mockery that he brings to the game.”


VIDEO:The Inside the NBA crew discusses J.R. Smith’s benching vs. the Heat

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No. 2: Report: Miller could get back into Nuggets’ lineup — Since his on-court outburst against coach Brian Shaw on Jan. 1, the future of Nuggets point guard Andre Miller in Denver has looked more and more like he was headed out of town. The Nuggets have reportedly had several trade offers for Miller (the Kings seem the most interested in him), but the player may not end up leaving Colorado after all. Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post reports that there is a slim chance Miller sticks around with the team:

There is a chance that embattled Nuggets guard Andre Miller could find himself back in Denver’s lineup in the near future.

A league source indicated that there is a slim chance, but one nonetheless, that Miller could suit up again. Miller has missed four straight games after being dismissed from the team for a mandatory two games for his part in an on-court verbal confrontation with coach Brian Shaw in the Nuggets’ game against Philadelphia on Jan. 1.

Miller worked out on the Nuggets practice court as recently as Thursday, keeping himself in as good a shape as he can while he sits out. The Nuggets continue to explore deals to trade the veteran, but have been unsuccessful to this point.

Any Miller return would come with the understanding that playing time still would be scarce or non-existent. Miller’s beef is with his declining role, which bottomed-out in the first “Did Not Play – Coaches Decision” of his career in that game against Philadelphia.

Afterward, he left quickly and hasn’t been around the team since.

Shaw still has not spoken with Miller since the incident, but has said before that he could definitely co-exist with the point guard.

He re-iterated that point after Thursday night’s game against Oklahoma City.

“I’m willing to coach anybody on our roster that’s willing to play and do what the best thing is for the team, whatever role that is,” Shaw said. “And so right now he…is dealing with what he wants to do. But in the process, my concern is what’s best for the Denver Nuggets and right now that is continuing with the guys that are here right now and just looking ahead to our next opponent and what we need to do to prepare for that.”


VIDEO: Inside the NBA’s crew discusses the Andre Miller situation

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No. 3: LeBron’s marketing firm to represent Johnny Manziel — Former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who won the Heisman Trophy last season, announced this week that he was declaring for the NFL Draft. Manziel is expected to be a first-round pick — perhaps taken very early in that round — and as such, he is starting to get his life together for a professional career. As such, the man known as “Johnny Football” has hired LeBron James‘ marketing firm to handle his publicity efforts, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

LeBron James has gotten into the football game. More to the point, he has gotten into the Johnny Football game.

The Miami Heat forward confirmed before Thursday night’s game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden that his marketing firm will represent former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

James said the relationship with his LRMR firm was the product of an ongoing relationship.

“They reached out to me when he was going through a lot of off-the-field things, that I thought was just overblown,” James said of the former Texas A&M quarterback. “He’s not the only college kid that’s ever went to a frat party, or the only college kid that ever had fun. But obviously, he’s Johnny Manziel so it’s blown out of proportion.

“When the opportunity was brought to me, I basically just told him, if he’s willing to listen, if he’s willing to take my advice then I’m willing to give it. And throughout this whole season, I would text him weekly before the games and after the games. I didn’t know it would lead to us being together now because of business, but I was happy to help him.”

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No. 4: Should foes wear Kevin Durant’s shoes? — Three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, not surprisingly, has his own line of shoes from Nike that have become popular with players not named Durant around the NBA. Apparently, wearing his shoes when facing him has become a big point of contention for some around the league, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman, and was an issue Nuggets coach Brian Shaw went in depth on before last night’s Thunder-Nuggets game from Denver:

Denver has at least two players who routinely wear Durant’s line of “KDs,” forward Wilson Chandler and center Timofey Mozgov.

But should players wear them against Durant?

“We were actually having a conversation about that with the players,” said Nuggets coach Brian Shaw. “When I came (into the NBA) in 1988, shortly after that, (Michael) Jordan started with his Jordan One. They only made them in red, white and black, Bulls colors. I remember Nike wouldn’t let you wear his shoes. They only let him wear it. You could order them through your account, but you couldn’t wear them in games.

“And then, when they started making different colors, they started allowing guys to wear them in games. Obviously, the most important thing is that it’s a shoe that fits your foot and (if) you’re comfortable in it then you’ll want to wear it. But I always thought that that gave; like being on the Lakers, when guys would wear Kobe (Bryant’s) shoes when we were playing against them, he always would, in his mind, feel ‘I got him because he’s wearing my shoes.’ So the guys who do wear KD’s, we were talking yesterday, ‘Are you really going to wear those tomorrow when we play him?’ So it was a debate back and forth about the comfort of the shoe as opposed to what message it sends when you’re wearing a guy’s shoes.”

Durant downplayed the potential psychological advantage angle.

“I’ve seen a few guys wear my shots,” he said. “It’s flattering to me. I don’t really look at it as an advantage at all. More so, it’s just cool seeing “KD” on other guys’ shoes, because I’ve grown up watching people wear Jordans and play in Jordans. And now, to have my own signature shoe and have my peers wearing it, it’s pretty fun to see.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Nets guard Deron Williams will miss the next two games and possibly the team’s game to London … Cool preview of this Saturday’s “Inside Stuff” with Kevin Love, who gives you a taste of how he works his rebounding magic … ICYMI, the Rockets’ mascot, Clutch, does an awesome job of scaring Houston’s players … Does Eric Bledsoe actually want to stick around with the Suns?

ICYMI Of The Night: We love Kenneth Faried around here, but he got banged on last night by the Thunder’s Reggie Jackson


VIDEO: Reggie Jackson throws down a power jam on the Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried

Coaching The NBA’s Hardheaded Players


VIDEO: Brent Barry and The Starters crew talk about J.R. Smith’s shoe antics

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – A sucker’s born every minute, or so they say. So maybe the Knicks can find one to dump their stupefying sixth man J.R. Smith upon. More likely, Knicks coach Mike Woodson is stuck with the shoelace bandit.

The NBA nailed Smith with a $50,000 fine Wednesday for “recurring instances of unsportsmanlike conduct.” One day after the league warned Smith after he untied the shoelaces of Mavericks forward Shawn Marion as the two stood side by side awaiting a free throw, he tried it again in the very next game to Pistons forward Greg Monroe.

The New York Daily News reported that Smith has now been fined $105,000 since joining the Knicks in 2012, not to mention his one-game suspension in the playoffs for throwing an elbow at Boston’s Jason Terry, and his five-game suspension to start this season for violating the league’s drug policy. Meanwhile, the Knicks awarded Smith a three-year, $18 million contract during the summer.

A fed-up Woodson on Wednesday lit into his juvenile shooting guard on New York radio station 98.7 ESPN:

“I don’t condone things that I know you shouldn’t do. No, I’m not happy about this. Because again, he was warned, he comes back and he makes the same mistake, and it’s not right. I just got the information, I’m going to address it tomorrow when he comes in here for work, because it’s unacceptable. It really is.

“It’s unprofessional. That’s the only word I can use. Or two words. You just can’t do that. You just cannot do it.”

And …

“There’s no question, he’s done a lot of things this year that has put him in a bad position and our team in a bad position. Somehow, we’ve got to clean that up. This is unacceptable…I keep saying this every time something pops up, but it’s got to stop.”

But really, what can a coach do when dealing with a volatile, hardheaded (but also a needed) player such as Smith? I was talking about this very topic recently with Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who has such a player on his roster in Matt Barnes and just released another in Stephen Jackson.

Barnes is more of a hot-tempered, playground bully/team-bodyguard type whereas Smith is more of a loose cannon and silly prankster. But both are emotional, off-the-cuff players who do inexplicable things at any given moment that can hurt their teams either by drawing a technical foul, an ejection and/or suspension.

Rivers’ answer to what a coach can do to reign in such behavior? Not a lot.

“I just let them explode and then move on,” Rivers said, laughing. “There’s not much you’ve got to do. I had Rasheed [Wallace]. He probably was the test market for any emotional player. Rasheed was a great teammate, he was a great guy, but when he lost it, he lost it, and listen, better coaches than me coached Rasheed. … I came to the conclusion if they couldn’t stop it I’m not going to try.”

Barnes has played in only 19 games this season due to various injuries, but has already been fined two times for $25,000 each for lingering on the court after being ejected. Last month, Barnes put a hard foul on Timberwolves forward Kevin Love in the third quarter, drawing a flagrant 1. The referees reviewed it on replay and upgraded it to a flagrant 2, resulting in automatic ejection. Barnes flipped. The upgrade proved to be more about Barnes’ reputation, a problem in itself. The league reviewed the foul and acknowledged it should have remained a flagrant 1.

“You never want to put your team in a position of vulnerability or giving away extra free throws or extra points, especially down the stretch of the season or if it’s the playoffs; everything has to be calculated,” Barnes told NBA.com last week. “It used to be a good, little game. Now it’s like a flag football-type game, so you really have to be smart about everything.”

His first ejection and subsequent fine came during a November game against the Thunder in which Barnes unnecessarily came to the defense of a teammate and got into an altercation with Thunder forward Serge Ibaka in the first half. Both players got tossed.

“My situation is I look at my teammates as my family, so it’s never really an altercation to me,” Barnes said. “It’s more if your teammates get into something, you get into something; that’s the way I was raised. I was raised to protect my brother and sister and my friends, so I look at my teammates as my family. I’m going to do whatever I can to help.”

How do you coach that?

“With Stephen and Matt, they are emotional and their emotions, for the most part, are in the right place; they want to help their team win,” Rivers said. “Yeah, you don’t want them to ever cross that line where it can hurt your team and when it does, it does, and you remind them of it and you just hope they get better. But that’s all you can do.

“I don’t know, it’s a tough one. I’d rather have it, I guess.”

Woodson and the Knicks aren’t so sure anymore in regard to Smith. The 10-year veteran had an excellent last season, earning Sixth Man of the Year honors, and many professed that he was a changed man, done with frivolous conduct and serious about taking care of business on the basketball court.

Going back to his playoff implosion and the multiple incidents since, that certainly does not appear to be the case. As Woodson said during his Wednesday radio appearance:

“If you look at what happened last year, everybody played a role on that team and J.R. was a big piece of the puzzle. Yeah, it can come from Carmelo [Anthony], it can come from his teammates, it can come from his coaching staff, it can come from me being there, it can come from the GM, the owner. At the end of the day, he’s got to grow up.”

Morning Shootaround — Jan. 9


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Jan. 8

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Eight teams interested in Bynum | Report: Knicks gauging trade market for Smith | Deng denies he sought $15M-a-season deal | Report: Blazers’ Williams will opt out of deal | Rivers: I’m ‘always a Celtic’

No. 1: Report: Suitors lining up for Bynum — Despite his fallout with the Cleveland Cavaliers that resulted in his being traded to Chicago for Luol Deng (and the Bulls’ waiving of him a day later), no less than eight teams are pursuing Andrew Bynum. According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, Bynum is expected to sign with a team by the end of this week. Which team it will be, however, remains very much up in the air:

Eight teams have contacted Andrew Bynum’s representatives about adding the 7-foot center to their rosters, according to a source close to the situation.

The Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers are widely believed to be among the teams interested in acquiring the two-time championship center.

One league executive who recently spoke with Heat president Pat Riley told ESPN.com, “I’m certain that Riley is going to go hard after Bynum.”

Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein on Wednesday that the Dallas Mavericks are among the eight teams that have registered interest in Bynum this week. But Dallas — one of the prime bidders for Bynum’s services this past summer before he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers — is limited to offering him a minimum salary.

Sources say, furthermore, that the Brooklyn Nets are not planning to pursue Bynum despite being granted a disabled player exception worth up to $5.25 million in the wake of Brook Lopez‘s season-ending foot injury. The Atlanta Hawks, meanwhile, are “unlikely” to lodge a bid for Bynum to replace the injured Al Horford, according to one source close to the process.

Bynum’s decision will come down to several factors, according to the source. He will consider playing time, the club’s chances for playoff success and money.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a contender,” the source said of Bynum’s choice. “He’s looking to play and be utilized.”

Miami has its midlevel exception available as well as a need for a viable big man to combat Indiana’s Roy Hibbert.

The Clippers, on the other hand, are limited to offering Bynum the veteran’s minimum.

Bynum is expected to clear waivers Thursday at 5 p.m. ET.

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No. 2: Report: Knicks gauging trade interest in Smith — A season ago, J.R. Smith was the Sixth Man of the Year Award winner and a key component to a division-winning New  York Knicks team that reached the Eastern Conference semifinals. Little of that is the same this season for both Smith and the Knicks as player and team have struggled to find a rhythm on the court. As well, Smith has gained some of his most notoriety this season not for his 3-point shooting or his contributions on the court, but for his efforts at untying opponents’ shoes that netted him a $50,000 fine from the league office. While Smith’s shoe incidents hasn’t led to him being on the trading block for New York, writes Ian Bagley and Marc Stein of ESPN.com, it hasn’t necessarily helped, either:

While they acknowledge that a trade may be difficult to pull off, the New York Knicks in recent days began exploring the potential market for guard J.R. Smith, ESPN.com has learned.

Sources close to the situation said Wednesday that the organization has become increasingly frustrated with Smith’s on- and off-the-court transgressions and may feel that a fresh start would be best for all parties.

Wednesday’s fine didn’t necessarily push the Knicks over the top, but one source with knowledge of the team’s thinking said the organization has become “fed up” with Smith’s erratic behavior.

Coach Mike Woodson hinted at that frustration Wednesday when he called Smith’s conduct “unacceptable” in an interview with ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s “The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show.””I’m not happy about this, because he was warned, he comes back and he makes the same mistake, and it’s not right,” Woodson said.

“It’s just got to stop. I keep saying this every time something pops up, but it’s got to stop.”The coach later added that Smith has been “unprofessional about how he’s approached this whole thing. Something’s gotta be done. It has to stop. I’ll address it tomorrow when I see him, and then we’ll go from there.”

Smith can’t be traded until Jan. 15 because the Knicks are over the salary cap and Smith signed for more than 120 percent of his previous salary.

The Knicks, furthermore, privately acknowledge that it will be difficult in the current climate to trade Smith, who has two seasons left after this one on a three-year, $18 million contract.

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No. 3: Deng denies asking Bulls for $15M-a-season deal — As we told you in this space on Tuesday morning (the day after the Andrew Bynum-for-Luol Deng swap between the Cavs and Bulls), Chicago apparently made one last-ditch effort to keep Deng in the fold before trading him. According to Yahoo!Sports.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bulls offered Deng a three-year, $30 million extension that he balked at days before the swap with Cleveland. But Deng, in his first news conference with the Cavs, told the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson that he never asked the Bulls for a $15 million-a-season extension — as was reported during the summer — as he detailed his departure from Chicago:

He’s not bitter. And despite reports, he never asked for $15 million a year from the Bulls, who traded Deng to Cleveland on Monday in a financial move to create flexibility for the future.

“My thing is in the summer, I never came with a number,” Deng told the Tribune. “I heard on the radio that I asked for 15 (million). I would never ask for a number. We came to (general manager) Gar (Forman) last summer and we wanted to sit down and talk. And Gar didn’t want to talk. They felt like they wanted to wait and see how everything goes with Derrick (Rose).

“Three days before the trade, Gar called me upstairs and put three years, $30 million on the table. Take it or leave it. No negotiation. I said no and that was it. But 15? That’s the only thing that upset me. I’m not upset with the organization. I want everyone to understand that. If I was a GM, would I make that move? Maybe.

“I wanted to be in Chicago. I thought I was going to end my career there. Not talking during the summer, did that hurt me? Yeah. And then you come back with 10 (million). Who knows what I would’ve taken in the summer? That’s the part that is really bothering me. Other than that, I have no issues at all.”

“They paid me,” Deng said, referencing the $71 million extension he signed in 2008. “I can’t be mad at that. You don’t have to tap me on the shoulder every day. That’s not me. That’s not my personality.

“I had an opportunity to play for a great organization. I’ve been very lucky to play 10 years for the only team that I ever knew as a kid. I only knew Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the Bulls when I was 7 years old and in Egypt. For me to be the fourth-leading scorer on that team, did I ever think a refugee kid in Egypt would even play for the Bulls? There’s a lot of amazing things that have happened.”

Deng saw the comments his teammates made in the wake of his trade, the ones that made it clear he’ll be remembered for more than being a two-time All-Star. He appreciated those.

“I wish (the trade) was face-to-face so I could say good-bye to my teammates,” Deng said. “I had to call them and talk to each one. There are workers at the stadium, people at the Berto, I wanted to say good-bye face-to-face. After nine or 10 years, those are not just people you work with. Some of them, I’m closer to them than teammates. The way I went down, I wish it wasn’t a phone call.”


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew breaks down how Luol Deng will help the Cavs on the court

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No. 4: Report: Blazers’ Williams will opt out this summer — Point guard Mo Williams has been a vital part of the Portland Trail Blazers’ revival season and often teams with star guard Damian Lillard in the backcourt for key stretches each night. But Williams, who signed a two-year contract with Portland last summer, says he’s opting out of his deal this summer. The good news for Blazers fans, though, is that Williams wants to stay in Oregon and is simply looking for a longer term deal, writes Chris Haynes of CSNNorthwest.com:

Portland Trail Blazers guard Mo Williams tells CSNNW.com he will opt out of his deal with the team at the conclusion of the season and become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The veteran guard, who head coach Terry Stotts considers the best backup point guard in the league, says this decision was always the plan and adds that his main objective is to secure a lengthened contract with the Trail Blazers.

“I would like to be here long term,” Williams revealed to CSNNW.com. “My goal is to work something out with Portland this summer. I like it here and I want to make this place home.”

Williams said team chemistry, camaraderie and fan support are why he and his family are drawn to the city.

“With our team, we have a makeup of individuals that do something really, really good and when we mesh together, it’s like gumbo,” he explained. “That’s the best example I can give you of our team. Some teams have a dish where you got your steak, potatoes and asparagus. We’re gumbo. Without one of the ingredients, the gumbo just doesn’t taste well. But when everything is in that pot, it’s just like grandma did it.”

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No. 5: Rivers ‘always a Celtic’ in his heart — One of the key storylines of the offseason was Celtics coach Doc Rivers leaving Boston to head to L.A. to try and work his magic and turn the Clippers into a Finals-qualifying team. But in leaving Beantown, Rivers angered a fan base that remembered him saying he was a “Celtic for life” after signing his last contract extension in Boston. Rivers addresses that departure and many other topics in a wide-ranging interview with The Boston Herald‘s Steve Bulpett and Rivers says that no matter what team he coaches, Boston will always be a part of his heart:

It was less than three years ago that this newly baptized Angeleno, having signed a five-year contract extension with the Celtics, proclaimed his undying loyalty to Boston. Most people believed him, but Kris Rivers wasn’t buying it.

“My wife would tell me all the time,” said Rivers. “She’d say, ‘You love it there and I get that, but you know who you are. You need something.’”

That it would be the Clippers isn’t something he could have foreseen. But as he sipped on a glass of pinot noir Sunday, Rivers admitted last summer wasn’t the first time he’d made a move for the door in Boston.

“I left three times,” he said. “I really did. The year we won it, I was done after the year. I was going through my dad thing (his father’s passing), and I was just going to go home and do nothing. In 2010, I was definitely gone. After that last game, I almost said it. I was very close to saying it in the press conference after we lost to the Lakers. I was emotional and I was just going to leave.

“After the Miami loss (in 2011) when I said, ‘I am a Celtic,’ that’s when I got defiant about not leaving. It’s amazing how you go up and down. But I felt like I couldn’t leave then. It wasn’t the right time. We had Paul (Pierce), Kevin (Garnett) and, at the time, Ray (Allen), and I just thought it would be bad form. I couldn’t do it to them.”

Looking back on a trail of mixed messages and emotions, Rivers shrugged.

“It’s what you believe at that moment,” he said.

Back on the deck at Shutters, he insisted that he’s moved on from last summer’s Celtics divorce, but he hasn’t completely reconciled the departure.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable with it, honestly,” he said. “I don’t think you can get comfortable with it. Danny and I did get together on it at the end, but I just thought after a while it got to the point of no return.

“It was just hard for me. I’m not sure anyone can understand. I fell in love with where I was at, but after the season I realized I just didn’t want to get into the whole rebuilding thing. I didn’t have it in me. Once I came to that conclusion, now I’m a mess. Do I stay and do it anyway? I thought about it and decided I just couldn’t.

“I’ve never had that type of feeling for a place. I was in Atlanta eight years and it was great. Orlando is nice and playing for the Knicks was nice, but nothing like Boston. And I don’t think I can ever get that again, no matter what I do. That’s just hard.”

“I don’t give a (expletive) what I do the rest of my life, I’m always going to be a Celtic,” he said. “It’ll never go away. I don’t give a (expletive) what I do. I think even if I win 10 championships here, it’s different when you win with the Celtics. There are only a few organizations in sports that have that history and have that following, and I was with one for nine years.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Raptors are fairly convinced that Kyle Lowry will sign a long-term deal with them this summer … Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo has a must-read blog entry on the Greek sports site Sport 24 (h/t BrewHoop for the translation) … For some reason, Blazers center Robin Lopez has a beef with the Toronto Raptors’ mascotLeandro Barbosa is happy to be, as he puts it, “back with the purple” in Phoenix

ICYMI(s) Of The Night: In the first quarter of last night’s game against Boston, Blake Griffin gave his dunking partner in crime, DeAndre Jordan, a fast-break slam thanks to his nice outlet pass. Then, in the third quarter, Griffin targeted Kris Humphries and made him his latest dunk target …


VIDEO: Blake Griffin gets up to dunk over the Celtics’ Kris Humphries

Morning Shootaround — Jan. 6


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Jan. 5

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Nets get good news on Lopez | Cavs have no deals for Bynum | Report: Nuggets trying to deal Miller | Report: Barbosa set for 10-day with Suns | Wade is back … to back

No. 1: Nets get good news on Lopez surgery — Not only are the Brooklyn Nets winning games in 2014, but the reeling franchise got some good news about Brook Lopez after he had surgery this weekend on his right foot. He’s still done for the season, but at least there is light at the end of the injury-filled tunnel for the Nets’ big man, according to Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News:

For once, the Nets received a bit of good medical news when it comes to an injury. Nets center Brook Lopez underwent successful surgery to fix a fractured fifth metatarsal of his right foot on Saturday morning, and Nets general manager Billy King expects Lopez back for offseason workouts this summer, fully recovered. A second procedure — a first metatarsal osteotomy — was also completed on Saturday to “unload and protect the injured area” and to reposition the bone to lessen the strain and reduce the chance for another injury, according to a press release put out by the Nets. Lopez, who was injured on Dec. 20 at Philly, is out for the remainder of the season.

“With this procedure, we both fixed the broken bone (fifth metatarsal) in Brook’s right foot and repositioned another bone, so that his sole of his foot will bear weight more evenly than before,” said team medical director Dr. Riley Williams, one of three doctors who were involved in the procedure.

Still, despite the positive tone of the statement by Williams, King admitted before Saturday’s game to the uncertainty involved with a surgery such as this.

“They said it was going to be a successful recovery, so I mean, we can’t sit here today on Jan. 4 and say what’s going to be when he starts playing (again),” King said. “We can’t speculate and that’s what I’m not going to do.”

“Right now, he had(the surgery), and I expect him to have a full recovery and be playing next year,” King said.


VIDEO: Take a look at Sunday’s Top 10 plays

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No. 2: Cavaliers running out of time with Bynum? — The countdown clock is ticking on the Cleveland Cavaliers and their attempts to make something of the mess that is the Andrew Bynum affair. They’ve engaged several teams (most notably the Los Angeles Lakers, for Pau Gasol) in trade talks about their disgruntled center in advance of Tuesday’s deadline, but still have nothing concrete to choose from in terms of options. They’ll obviously push it to the deadline, but there is nothing imminent, writes Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:

Any team that acquires Bynum must waive him by Tuesday in order for him to clear waivers in time to have his salary removed from their cap, but any players the Cavs acquire will have to first pass a physical unless the team agrees to waive it.

ESPN.com reported the Cavs and Lakers were hopeful of completing a deal Sunday for Pau Gasol, but that didn’t happen. Gasol played for the Lakers on Sunday night while the two sides continue negotiating. The Lakers are insisting on assets beyond luxury tax relief, but thus far Cavs General Manager Chris Grant hasn’t budged. The Cavs are offering tax relief and little else.

One source described the talks as stalled late Sunday night, but another source said talks have been off and on throughout the negotiations. No deal is considered dead until 5 p.m. Tuesday, when the deadline is reached for Bynum to be waived for cap relief.

Bynum’s agent, David Lee, said Sunday he has been told nothing by the Cavs. Wherever Bynum is traded, his stay will be brief. He is expected to be released, since only about half of his $12 million contract is guaranteed. Any team that acquires Bynum can waive him without paying him a dollar and shed $12 million off their cap. He will then be free to sign with any team in the NBA, likely for the league minimum.

Cavs coach Mike Brown didn’t want to discuss the trade talks prior to Sunday’s game against the Pacers.

“Those are great questions for Chris,” Brown said. “I’m coaching the guys in the locker room.”

Yahoo! Sports reported Sunday the Lakers were seeking Dion Waiters as part of the trade, but a league source said Sunday the Cavs weren’t interested in parting with Waiters for what will likely be a brief rental of Gasol.

***

No. 3: Report: Nuggets actively looking to deal Miller  — In a loss to the Sixers last week, Nuggets point guard Andre Miller blew up at coach Brian Shaw during the game in a vocal outburst that was witnessed by practically everyone in attendance. As a result of that outburst, Miller was suspended by the team for detrimental conduct, but the team rescinded that move on Friday. Miller was not with the team as he was granted leave to deal with a personal issue, but it seems more and more unlikely that Miller will ever suit up for the Nuggets once he returns, writes Christopher Dempsy of The Denver Post:

Andre Miller, who was excused from all team activities for four days, won’t be part of the Nuggets for long after he returns.

The Nuggets are actively trying to trade Miller, according to a league source. If accomplished, it would be the second time Denver traded him. He was traded in 2006 in a package that brought Allen Iverson to the Nuggets.

It has been a dicey few days for Miller, who had harsh words for Nuggets coach Brian Shaw during Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia. Miller was initially suspended, but then the suspension was rescinded, in part so Miller would be able to continue getting paid during his time off.

Miller has spent all or parts of seven seasons in Denver, in two stints, this latest one starting in 2011, when Portland traded him back to the Nuggets.

***

No. 4: Report: Barbosa set for a (10-day) return to Suns  — Eric Bledsoe‘s knee sprain could be the New Year’s blessing Leandro Barbosa was hoping for as he readies to sign a 10-day contract with the Phoenix Suns, according to a report from Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. The Suns, who remain one of the surprise teams in the league this season, need the added depth in the backcourt and are turning to a familiar face in Barbosa:

Barbosa has not played in the NBA since Feb.11, 2013, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury while playing for Boston when Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough was the assistant GM there. Barbosa was part of a later trade to Washington but the torn ACL made him just a salary-slotting part of the Jordan Crawford deal while he was at home rehabilitating in Brazil.

After going unsigned this season, Barbosa began playing for Pinheiros in Brazil to try to get his body ready for a NBA opportunity. Barbosa averaged 20.8 points, 3.1 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals in eight games while making half of his 3-pointers.

Barbosa is expected to join the Suns in Chicago, where they begin a five-game road trip Tuesday and where Barbosa made a game-winning shot for the Suns in 2007. The 10-day contract is pending a physical. Barbosa was recently considered by the Lakers, who later signed ex-Suns point guard Kendall Marshall.

Barbosa played the first seven of his 10 NBA seasons with Phoenix, playing a key bench role for the winningest era in franchise history. Barbosa was the 2006-07 Sixth Man Award winner, when he averaged a career-high 18.1 points per game. He averaged at least 13 points for four consecutive Suns seasons and is a 39.1 percent career 3-point shooter.

Barbosa last played with the Suns in 2009-10, when he was bench teammates with current Suns starters Goran Dragic and Channing Frye.

NBA teams can begin signing free agents to 10-day contracts Monday. Signing Barbosa will put the Suns roster at the 15-man maximum.

***

No. 5:  Wade goes back-to-back, ready for the grind? — Dwyane Wade chose the first weekend of the New Year to test himself and his knees to see if he was ready for the grind of the remainder of this NBA regular season. Wade played on back-to-back nights for the first time this season, gauging his own progress from July shock-wave knee therapy, a process that Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel points out, is believed to take six months to recover from. The two-time defending champs can afford him all the time he needs (it’s easier to do with LeBron James and Chris Bosh healthy and rolling) but Wade is ready to push it now. The Heat, by the way, are 4-4 in games Wade has missed this season:

“I just want to be able to go,” he said of Sunday’s start. “I got a good workout in. It felt OK. There’s no guarantees. But there’s got to come a point where I feel comfortable with trying it. So I thought this would be a good time.” …

“It’s getting better,” he said. “I feel like it’s less sore now in the beginning of January than it was in the beginning of December.

“So, it’s all about continuing to progress. So hopefully it’s better as the months go on.”

He wound up playing 35 minutes in Sunday’s 102-97 victory, after playing 36 in Saturday’s victory over the Magic. He closed with 14 points, nine assists and four rebounds, making a pair of critical late free throws.

“He was competitive, particularly in that fourth quarter,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “His legs were live and he had to make some defensive plays at the end.”

Wade has missed eight games this season, seven as part of his knee maintenance program.

The last time Wade played both games of a back-to-back set was Nov. 15-16 against the visiting Dallas Mavericks and at the Charlotte Bobcats. He said he felt compelled to play in Charlotte because of the suspension of starting point guard Mario Chalmers due to a flagrant foul the night before. He scored just four points in that game in Charlotte.

Wade later said he regretted playing on those consecutive nights, sitting out the next two games, inactive for six days.


VIDEO: A career night for Reggie Jackson worked wonders for the Thunder

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kobe Bryant doesn’t want your All-Star votes, and get off his lawn while you’re at it … The Warriors did their best to break the scoreboard Sunday night … Russell Westbrook speaks about his three surgeries since last spring and where he goes from here … The Colts are following the Pacers’ postseason lead in Indianapolis … The Nuggets care, they really do!

ICYMI(s) Of The Night: J.R. Smith continues his weird ways with the New York Knicks, this time checking into the game and promptly going to work on Shawn Marion‘s shoelaces. At least the Knicks won this game without Smith’s antics interrupting their flow …


VIDEO: JR Smith unties Shawn Marion’s shoes at the free throw line

Morning Shootaround — Nov. 21


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Nov. 20

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Blazers use defense to stay hot | Smith ‘panicking’ after Knicks’ latest loss | Nowitzki, Ellis spoil Howard’s night | J-Smoove makes his Atlanta return

No. 1: Blazers turn to defense to keep rolling — If you missed it yesterday, our own John Schuhmann had a tremendous breakdown piece using NBA.com/Stats that delved into the Blazers’ hot start and how formidable Portland truly is. One of the key points of the piece is how the Blazers are using a Pacers-type defensive philosophy and that seemed to be apparent last night in Milwaukee. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian has more details on the Blazers’ eighth straight win, their defense and more:

The Blazers continued their improbable early-season march Wednesday night, defeating the Milwaukee Bucks 91-82 before 11,789. It was the Blazers’ eighth consecutive win, including their sixth in a row on the road, and moved their record to 10-2.

What’s more, the victory delivered the Blazers a rare sweep of four-game trip through Boston, Toronto, Brooklyn and Milwaukee — the franchise’s first sweep of a trip at least four games long since January 2003.

And, in a change of pace, the Blazers won Wednesday with what most consider their Achilles heel: Defense.

“We didn’t really shoot the ball well,” Damian Lillard said, smirking. “So we had to do something to win the game.”

No one would mistake Wednesday’s game for a work of art, as play was sluggish and sloppy throughout. Neither team generated consistent offensive momentum and rhythm and a sparse, dormant crowd created a lifeless, uninspiring environment. But in the middle of the muck — at least in the second half — was a Blazers defense that was physical, effective and stingy.

In the second half, the Blazers limited the Bucks to 31 points, 14 field goals and 37 percent shooting, while forcing 13 turnovers. Only one Milwaukee player — reserve John Henson — scored more than five second-half points, and he had six.

The Blazers’ offense has been so good during their hot streak — ranking second overall and third in offensive efficiency in the NBA over the previous seven games — that it was bound to have a hiccup. But they had enough to win ugly against the reeling Bucks (2-8).

The national media has started to take notice of the Blazers’ sizzling start, and multiple publications and websites have poked around at this team and what it’s doing. Most have noticed the Blazers’ offense is dynamic and fun to watch, while the defense is average at best. But the team sees things differently.

“We’ve won a lot of games shooting under 45 (percent),” Matthews said. “It’s got to be something.”

The Blazers have feasted on teams with losing records this season as eight of their 10 wins have come against teams with sub-.500 records. The popular question to ask: Are the Blazers for real? The answer could surface by the end of the week.

The Blazers host the Chicago Bulls (6-3) on Friday and travel to the Golden State Warriors (8-3) on Saturday as part of a challenging home-and-away back-to-back.

“That’s going to be a huge test,” backup big man Joel Freeland said. “It’s really going to show us where we’re at. We’ve been playing great, and hopefully we can keep going with the flow and ride it into these next games.”

***

No. 2: Knicks’ Smith says he’s ‘panicking’ on court — It’s doubtful things could be going much worse for the Knicks of late as they have lost four straight games and have the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference. Last night against the East-leading Indiana Pacers, New York held the lead for much of the game, but made several mental errors down the stretch and ended up falling in OT. What’s worse is that shooting guard J.R. Smith tells ESPNNewYork.com’s Ohm Youngmisuk that he is often panicking on the court during games:

J.R. Smith said the New York Knicks are mentally “frustrated” and that he personally is panicking after they lost their fourth straight game.The Knicks’ 103-96 overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday was the team’s sixth in a row at Madison Square Garden.

“We’re frustrated,” Smith said of where the team is mentally, despite most saying it’s too early to panic. “Like you say, it’s too early to panic, but me personally, I’m panicking. I don’t like this.

“I don’t want to play 3-8 basketball,” Smith continued, in regard to the Knicks’ record. “I don’t want to play 50-50 basketball. If we’re going to be a championship-caliber team and call ourselves that, then we’ve gotta play like that. It can’t be no other way.”

The Knicks are 2-5 since losing Tyson Chandler to a fractured right fibula. Carmelo Anthony had 30 points and 18 rebounds, and the Knicks led by three with 9.2 seconds left. But Iman Shumpert was called for a foul on a Paul George 3-point attempt, and George (35 points) made all three free throws to force overtime.

The Knicks put forth effort Wednesday night, but it hasn’t always been there this season. And that has been frustrating for Smith.

“Lack of intensity,” Smith said. “I hate to say it, but our defense’s backbone is on Tyson and Tyson’s not here right now and we know that and he’s not going to be available for a few weeks now, so we’ve gotta step it up individually. It’s team game but individually we’ve got to take pride in guarding the ball, guarding our man. We have to enjoy stopping the other team.”

Smith, who scored 21 points but missed an open 3 with 57.1 seconds left and a tip at the end of regulation, said the Knicks can’t just talk about putting forth effort. They have to do it if they want to be a contender.

“We play too up and down,” Smith said. “When we are on the highs, we are great. When we are on the lows, we are terrible. We got to have that steady pace throughout the whole year.”


VIDEO:
J.R. Smith talks about New York’s OT loss to the Pacers

***

No. 3: Nowitzki, Ellis spoil Howard’s big nightThrough three quarters in Dallas last night, it looked like Dwight Howard was going to have the last laugh against Mavs owner Mark Cuban and Co. Cuban, who famously said this season that Howard made a mistake by not signing with Dallas over the summer, got the last laugh as his free-agent addition, Monta Ellis, and his go-to star, Dirk Nowitzki, powered the Mavs to a thrilling win, writes our own Jeff Caplan:

This was Dwight Howard‘s big night, a made-for-national-TV highlight reel. His coming-back party.

The big man couldn’t miss from the floor, flushing alley-oops at will and swooping through the lane for lefty hooks as if he invented it. He made his first 11 shots, not missing until three minutes deep into the fourth quarter. He was even on fire, as much as Howard can be on fire, from the free throw line.

Through three quarters, Ellis was putting on a show to be sure, but it was Dwight truly announcing his presence and taking names.

Until Ellis, the erratic shooting guard Cuban signed with his leftover free-agent cash, and the venerable all-timer, Dirk Nowitzki ended the party. The duo hijacked Dwight’s night with one of the great two-man performances of the season — and in recent memory — in a rousing 123-120 win, rallying all the way from 93-75 late in the third quarter when the capacity crowd actually started to file out.

In the fourth quarter it all ground to an inexplicable halt for Howard and Houston, which officially has a closing problem. It left coach Kevin McHale bleary eyed and exasperated.

Nowitzki and Ellis outscored the Rockets, 22-19 on 9-for-11 shooting. Heck, Nowitzki and Jose Calderon outscored them 21-19. Howard suddenly couldn’t buy a bucket, going 1-for-5 in the quarter, and he got stripped late by Nowitzki in the paint as everything fell apart. Harden missed shots and hopelessly chased foul calls. Chandler Parsons, 4-for-5 from beyond the arc and playing beautiful basketball with 11 assists through three quarters, didn’t take a 3 or dish a dime in the final 9:17 he played.

In the first three quarters, Houston scored 40, 28 and 33 points. Then poof. Again. Rockets fourth quarters are becoming as collapsible as a rickety lawn chair. One reason they’re now 8-5 and looking up in the standings at the surprising 8-4 Mavs.

“It’s growing pains,” Howard said afterward. “Something we have to learn from. We’re a young team. We’ve got to realize what we have in the locker room and what we can do as a team when we play the right way on both ends. We didn’t do that at the end of the game.”

***

No. 4: No tearful reunion for Hawks, J-Smoove — After recording more than 10,000 points, 1,400 blocks, 800 steals and (to the chagrin of Hawks fans) 900 3-point attempts, Josh Smith returned to Atlanta for the first time as a foe. Although Smith’s new team, the Pistons, ended up losing to the Hawks 93-85, Smith wasn’t getting overly emotional about his comeback. Our own Sekou Smith, who was around for much of J-Smoove’s rise and fall in Atlanta, has more on his return:

Wednesday night was supposed to be his moment, the first time homegrown star Josh Smith walked into Philips Arena as a member of the “other” team.

His first steps down that hallway he’d walked so many times was supposed to be cathartic, a chance for Smith to finally put his near-decade with the Hawks behind him. It was also a chance for the fans who endured that roller coaster ride from the impetuous, sky-walking teenage J-Smoove to the matured husband, father and veteran that is today’s Smith to either pay their last respects or bid him farewell in a not-so-special way.

The hype was better than the actual event itself. Smith was introduced to an equal smattering of cheers and boos, which is pretty much the way he was greeted throughout his tenure here. Few players in my years covering the league have inspired such a spirited split from the home fans, love and … hate is such a strong word, perhaps “loathe” is better, for the way they play the game.

The mixed bag is also what Smith expected, “a few cheers and a few boos,” he said. “But it’s all good.”

It certainly seems that way. There’s nothing to see here anymore. The time for holding grudges or being upset, on either side, is over. The moment has passed for Smith and for the Hawks, who chose to move on from their homegrown star in free agency this past summer when they allowed Smith to sign a four-year, $54 million contract with the Detroit Pistons without so much as making an offer to him.

Smith didn’t offer up any colorful soundbites. He noted that it was a bit surreal, the whole homecoming thing, and insisted that he wouldn’t let any of it affect him or his approach to the business at hand (his 5-for-15 shooting effort, 0-for-4 from beyond the 3-point line, much to the delight of the Hawks’ partisans in the crowd, would suggest otherwise).

He’s focused on the Pistons  now, on making them better and on making sure he does whatever he can to enjoy the second chance he’s gotten in Detroit.

“I have to admit, it’s been humbling to play in front of those fans [in Detroit] with the way they support the home teams,” Smith said. “To play in a first-class organization that has the championship history that we have in Detroit, it’s something I had to experience to appreciate. It’s from the ownership level to the front office and coaching staff all the way down to the last man or woman in the organization. It’s just a different feel, and something that I never understood since I spent my entire career in one spot.”

The most surprising part for me, having covered Smith from his rookie season through his the trials and tribulations that preceded the Hawks’ six-year (and potentially counting, based on what we’ve seen from coach Mike Budenholzer‘s team so far) playoff run, was seeing the way the fans eased up on him from the start.

It was a pleasant surprise. One that you wish Smith’s father, Pete Smith, had been in his customary baseline seat closest to the Hawks’ bench to witness himself. He wasn’t able to do so since he was home battling off the ill effects of the flu.

It would have been nice for him to see that not everyone in this town holds his son in contempt now that everyone has moved on. I know deep down both father and son feel that Josh has never been properly appreciated for what he did to help revive the hometown franchise.

“I just hope they show my son a little love,” the elder Smith said by phone before the game. “I think he earned it, he deserves that much.”


VIDEO: Josh Smith talks about his return trip to Atlanta

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Lakers big man Pau Gasol is donating $1,000 for every point he scores Friday to the Typhoon Haiyan relief fund … The Bobcats, after last night’s win over the Nets, are looking more and more like a solid squad

ICYMI Of The Night: Pacers star Paul George got a nice chasedown block in the season-opener against the Magic and recorded another solid one last night at the expense of Iman Shumpert


VIDEO: Paul George hustles back to swat Iman Shumpert’s shot

(Supposedly) Stumbling Knicks Somehow Find A Way To Recover




VIDEO: Knicks handled the Hawks at Philips Arena in a “must-win” game

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Is this what passes for pressure these days in the NBA? This is desperation mode?

You couldn’t tell from watching the New York Knicks in the lead up to their “must-win” victory over the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night at Philips Arena, a game that was overshadowed by loads of off-court drama and the guarantee from Knicks owner Jim Dolan that his team would prevail on this night.

Not when the rookies, led by Tim Hardaway Jr., show up with a chocolate cake (lit candles and all) for Metta World Peace on his birthday at the post-shootaround team luncheon in a hotel ballroom. (That rousing rendition of Happy Birthday won’t get any of the Knicks’ youngsters or veterans on The Voice, by the way.)

Not when your current trade rumors swirl around Iman Shumpert and he and his coach, Mike Woodson, brush them aside and move on to the business at hand like nothing’s going on.

It’s not that the Knicks weren’t smarting from their sluggish start to this season or their humiliating home loss to the San Antonio Spurs Sunday at MSG. They were and they still are and will continue to do so with another test tonight against the Houston Rockets at the Garden (8 p.m. ET, TNT).

But they’re not going to let the drama consume them. They issued their own guarantee with their win over the Hawks, a game they led at one time by 17 points, only to have to come back in the fourth quarter to secure the win. They’ll find a way out of this current rut, even if it takes a little longer than the outside world (mainly Knicks fans and Knicks haters) can stomach, guarantee from the owner or not.

“He said what he said but we had to come out here and play,” Carmelo Anthony said after leading the Knicks with 25 points, which included a six-point spurt in the fourth quarter that helped preserve the win. “We had to win for ourselves first and foremost. But now that we’ve won, we can give him that satisfaction.”


VIDEO: Carmelo Anthony on the Knicks’ win in Atlanta

The Knicks are taking their cues from Woodson, who has spent as much time in the pressure cooker this season as any coach in the league. But Woodson has done some of the best work under pressure at Philips Arena over the past decade (including his six seasons as the Hawks’ coach) than most any coach anywhere.

There’s no sense in driving his team to the brink when everyone outside of it assumes they are already there. Sure, he tweaked his starting lineup, inserting J.R. Smith in just his second game back from a five-game suspension. His lineup tweak also served Andrea Bargnani well. Bargnani will never be able to replace the defensive presence that Tyson Chandler (broken fibula) is for the Knicks. But Bargnani played well, finishing with 20 points and a season-high 11 rebounds while knocking down two critical fourth-quarter 3-pointers.

Anthony, in particular, seemed surprisingly at ease after the game.

“This was a great way to kind of get back on track,” he said. “Anytime you can win on the road, it’s always a big win. We came through with a much better effort than we had against San Antonio. I’m glad to see how we responded and put that game behind us.”

The drama won’t go away, of course. It never does in New York. The trade rumors, the overreaction after every stumble, the seemingly never-ending speculation about Woodson’s job security, it’ll all be there again in the next 24-hour cycle of panic.

It’s how they handle it that matters.

The Knicks’ renewed focus on defense and a return to their low turnover ways (just three against the Hawks) plus Woodson’s unwavering approach will help the Knicks find a way.

“Bottom line,” Woodson said, “we’re here to win. And when we step on the floor I expect guys to play to help us win.”


VIDEO: Knicks coach Mike Woodson pleased with team’s effort vs. Hawks

Blogtable: Fixing The Knicks

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


What to do with Kobe? | Can the Knicks be fixed? | Disappointing should-be contender?



VIDEO: The Starters discuss the Knicks early-season woes

Fix the Knicks. Can it be done with this roster? If not, do you have a midseason trade in mind for them?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The Knicks are not the stuff of honey-do lists and home weekend projects. They are a contractor’s annuity, a sort of endless renovation. I haven’t bought into New York as a legit contender since Patrick Ewing perspired in the world’s most overrated sports arena. I’d suggest a Carmelo Anthony trade because of the gap between his real value and his assessment of his value, but I know that’s not happening. So I’d suggest a backcourt fix — too much of the frontcourt already is fossilized — to upgrade from Raymond Felton (they’re stuck with J.R. Smith). Contrary to what many New York media folks think, however, the other 29 teams don’t exist as incubators for personnel to help the Knicks. Shaky management has consequences

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Fix the Knicks? Not without pixie dust. It’s pure fairytale fantasy.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Fix the Knicks? Hmm, I don’t think so. Trades? Sounds great, but New York’s stuck with Amar’e Stoudemire and who else on that roster is going to fetch anything that can put this ship on a championship course? IMO, The Knicks are tied to their contracts until the summer of 2015 when they can reset. I’m sure Kevin Love waits with bated breath.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Better yet, fix the people who keep thinking the Knicks are a serious threat out of the East. Hey, you trade for Andrea Bargnani, you’re on your own. Losing Tyson Chandler is obviously a big hit, and it would be nice if Carmelo Anthony could hit a shot, but guess which team took players other clubs did not want and spun it as getting better. Bargnani, Metta World Peace — this is a roster with few trade chips.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No and no. Assuming that the “it” in the “getting it done” means reaching the conference finals, the Knicks won’t come close. They’re a dreadful defensive team without Tyson Chandler, and even if he comes back at 100 percent, they don’t have enough guys who can make positive impacts on both ends of the floor or the floor spacing that they had last season. Iman Shumpert is the one guy other teams would covet, but trading him for a band-aid would be shortsighted, because this team isn’t getting past the Heat or Pacers with its current, flawed core.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: It cannot be done with this roster. And no mid-season trade will fix what ails these Knicks. The fix for the Knicks is a much more long-term operation. The salary-cap disaster they are dealing with right now (the expiring $49.7 million in salary owed to Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani doesn’t allow for any seismic moves before the summer of 2014) isn’t as easy to fix as it once was. The new collective bargaining agreement doesn’t have the loopholes it once did. That means the Knicks are basically stuck with trying to make this current roster work. That means Carmelo Antony has to play above and beyond the pale and Mike Woodson and Co. have to locate something that works and allows this team to climb out of their funk and make the playoffs. Ride this season out, get to the summer and then the heavy lifting begins.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: The best way to fix the Knicks is to wait until 2015, when Stoudemire and Chandler and Bargnani all come off the books and you’ve got salary room. And if you really want to be bold, Carmelo’s a free agent then as well. With this current team, I’m not sure what there is you can do to improve the team other than maybe sending some guys to Germany for medical treatment.

Karan Madhok, NBA.com India: This Knicks’ roster was always weird, and with the injury to Tyson Chandler, it seems to have gotten even weirder. The Knicks need an inside presence, and Bargnani, despite his height, isn’t an inside player. The combined efforts of an injured Amar’e Stoudemire, Kenyon Martin, Cole Aldrich, and maybe one free-agent big man signing can be the temporary answer. Being far above the salary cap make them really unflexible when it comes to midseason trades. The Knicks need defensive help and they need it desperately. The in-house solution is to bench Bargnani and move Metta World Peace to the starting five. On offense, New York were at their best last season when they played Carmelo Anthony at the power forward position and surrounded him with shooters. Mike Woodson needs to go back to that system. If it wasn’t broke, why fix it?

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA.com Brasil: I don’t think so. They need to either speed up the pace to make up for that “matador” defense, or switch things up. They definitely need a backup big with a defensive mindset. I can’t think of trades for them, but I could see them shopping Stoudemire and even Bargnani around.

 

Morning Shootaround — Nov. 13


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Nov. 12

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Knicks ponder lineup changes | Lakers not planning on Nash retiring | Howard says he’s overthinking FTs | Sullinger has MRI on knee | Nowitzki surpasses West in record books

No. 1: Woodson mulling starting lineup changes – A 2-4 record after a 31-point blowout loss to the Spurs on Sunday has Knicks coach Mike Woodson pondering his starting lineup and how to make it more effective. The names that could join the fray? Metta World Peace and J.R. Smith. Woodson could start Smith tonight against the Hawks (8 ET, ESPN), which could change the role for either Pablo Prigioni or Iman Shumpert. As for World Peace, Woodson is still deciding whether or not to start him as well. Marc Berman of the New York Post has more on the potential changes:

At Tuesday’s practice, Smith wore the starter’s blue uniform while point guard Pablo Prigioni was in the white. In the past two games, Woodson has started two point guards — Prigioni and Raymond Felton.

Smith, the reigning Sixth Man Award winner, would replace either Prigioni or Iman Shumpert. If he replaces Prigioni, the team would have a three-guard alignment of Felton-Shumpert-Smith.

“I’m going to sleep on it tonight,’’ Woodson said. “I tinkered with some things today. I’ll sleep on it and make a decision [Wednesday].

“I’m just searching, trying to get a unit that starts the game on a good note. I thought we overcame that in the Charlotte game [Friday]. I’m hoping we don’t start the game where we’re down 15-20 points right off the bat.”

Woodson called Smith “a possibility’’ to start. Smith’s season debut Sunday in the 31-point loss to San Antonio was dreadful — five points, four turnovers — but Woodson had his eyes on making Smith a starter all offseason.

Asked about Metta World Peace joining the starting fray, Woodson didn’t rule it out. But Smith is a favorite of team owner Jim Dolan and since last May’s exit meeting, there has been a movement to promote him to starter.

“He’s only been back a game,’’ Woodson said. “Yes he was rusty the other night. We just got to be patient and help him grow to get him to play the way he’s capable of playing.

“I’m trying to get a good rotation down and I’ve had trouble with that,’’ Woodson added. “I haven’t found the rotations that I want yet. I’m going to work my butt off to get us to where we need to be.’’


VIDEO: Woodson on potential starting lineup changes for Knicks

***

No. 2: Lakers aren’t pondering Nash retirement — Former two-time MVP Steve Nash has played in just six of the Lakers’ nine games this season (although, in his defense, he was held out of a back-to-back set in an effort to help preserve him for the season). Still, Nash is now out at least two weeks with nerve root irritation and, overall as a Laker, has played in 56 of a possible 91 regular-season games with L.A. Some in Lakerland are calling for Nash to just hang it up, but as Eric Pincus and Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times report, the Lakers aren’t doing likewise:

“There’s always going to be a debate but we’re not going to debate it, talk about it,” Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said Tuesday. “He’s going to try to get ready, he’s going to try to play and we’re going to try to win. It’s really simple for us. It’s not real difficult.”

Nash has already missed three of nine games and is out at least two more weeks because of nerve damage in his back, the latest injury to hit him since he joined the Lakers.

But should he retire?

He makes $9.3 million this season and $9.7 million next season. If he’s found physically unable to play by Lakers back specialist Robert Watkins, Nash still receives full compensation.

The NBA would then do its due diligence, sending a league-appointed physician to verify the findings of Lakers doctors.

If the league signed off, the final year of Nash’s contract would be completely removed from the Lakers’ salary cap — as long as he played in fewer than 10 games this season.

The Lakers have nearly cleared their books for next summer: Nash, Robert Sacre ($915,243) and Nick Young ($1.2-million player option) are the only ones with guaranteed contracts.

Even if the NBA didn’t approve a Nash retirement, the Lakers could use their “stretch provision” to waive him next summer and spread out his final $9.7 million over three seasons.

For now, Nash will work to return to the court, with medical retirement an option only if he is truly unable to make it back.

“Steve will just have to get back as soon as he can and then we’ll see where we are,” D’Antoni said.

***

No. 3: Dwight says he’s overthinking free throws – In his 10 seasons in the NBA, Houston center Dwight Howard has led the league in free throw attempts four times and is on pace to do so again this season. It’s a common ploy opponents use against Howard, who is a career 57.6 percent shooter from the stripe. Howard says his reason for shooting so badly at the line is easy to figure out, though, as Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle reports:

Rockets center Dwight Howard has been a target this year for his sub-par free throw shooting. Opponents have gone to the “hack-a-Dwight” method to put the big man at the line.

After another poor performance from the line on Monday night against the Raptors (Howard was 4-of-12), he told reporters he just didn’t want to talk about free throws anymore.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Howard said. “So much has been talked about free throws, just let it go. We talk about it so much, I think about it at the line. I don’t want to think about it. I want to shoot.

“That’s what I do in practice. I shoot in practice and I dont miss because I am not thinking about it.”

Howard said that he is overthinking free throw shots in games, and missing them because of it. He said he is making up for the lack of free throws in other ways.

“I get in the game and I think so much that I tend to miss,” Howard said. “The best thing to do is to let it go. If I make it, I make it. If I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. Even if I do miss, I will be out on the other end, playing defense, getting rebounds, blocking shots and paying back for fouling in that way.”


VIDEO: Howard says he thinks too much about FT misses

***

No. 4: Sullinger OK after having MRI on knee – Since his days as a standout performer at Ohio State, Celtics big man Jared Sullinger has dealt with recurring back injuries and issues. That was the case in his first NBA season as well as a back injury sidelined him after just 45 games. He’s been off to a good start this season, averaging 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds as a valued reserve for the surprisingly successful Celtics. Sullinger banged knees with Orlando’s Maurice Harkless during Boston’s 120-105 win on Monday and needed an MRI yesterday, but the results look good, writes Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com:

Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger underwent a precautionary MRI on his right knee at New England Baptist Hospital on Tuesday and the results revealed a bone bruise, according to the team. Sullinger is listed as day to day.

Orlando’s Maurice Harkless slammed hard into Sullinger’s right knee, forcing Boston’s second-year forward to crash backwards late in the first half of Boston’s 120-105 triumph. Sullinger did play 14 minutes, 33 seconds in the second half. He sat out practice Tuesday and departed with trainer Ed Lacerte near the end of the session.

“He’s got a sore knee and they are doing an MRI just to check out and see what’s wrong,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Nothing conclusive, and certainly day to day it sounds like they are looking at, but we just don’t know yet, so we want to make sure.”

If Sullinger is unable to go, it would likely mean an elevated role for veteran Kris Humphries, who has played well (second best on the team at plus-27 overall) in small bursts while waiting for an extended opportunity.

***

No. 5: Nowitzki climbs the all-time scoring ranks — With his 3-pointer late in the third quarter of Dallas’ eventual victory over Washington, Dirk Nowitzki surpassed NBA legend and Hall of Famer Jerry West for No. 16 on the league’s all-time scoring list. Our own Jeff Caplan was on hand for the event and points out that Nowitzki can still pass more names on the list while also etching a unique place in NBA history as well:

Nowitzki, in his 16th season, now has 25,197 career points. With West’s 25,192 points behind him, Reggie Miller’s 25,279 points is reachable likely within the next three to five games. Soon, only 14 players will have scored more points than the big German, and only a handful are safe from Nowitzki’s final charge over the next few seasons.

“It’s another great milestone, but for now, got to keep working and that’s really about it,” said a rather subdued Nowitzki, whose re-tooled Mavs improved to 5-3. “Like I always say, all these milestones are great once my career is over.”

Nowitzki is on pace to become the all-time leading scorer among international players. Houston Rockets Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon, a native of Nigeria, leads that group. The Dream sits No. 9 all-time with 26,946 points. Nowitzki can catch him this season if he averages 21.3 points over the next 74 games.

He’s currently averaging 18.3 points on 47.5 percent shooting from the floor and 38.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. Nowitzki is in the final year of his contract, but has said he plans to play another two or three seasons, and his intention is to do so with the Mavs.

Seemingly the only thing that can keep Nowitzki, 35, from finishing in the top eight, at least, on the all-time scoring list is health. He’s been extremely durable throughout his career, but has experienced right knee troubles the past few seasons, needing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee prior to last season.


VIDEO: Nowitzki talks about passing West on the all-time scoring list

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The little brother of Knicks guard J.R. Smith, Chris Smith, is being paid $2 million as an NBA D-League player, by far the richest amount in the league … Warriors guard Toney Douglas is out 2 weeks with a stress reaction to his left tibia … Bulls have brought in ex-Warriors and Bobcats forward Reggie Williams for some workouts … Blazers star LaMarcus Aldridge has an interesting way of keeping pressure on himself

ICYMI Of The Night: Monday night, we saw a veteran (Marvin Williams) get posterized by another veteran (J.J. Hickson). Last night, a rookie (Jeff Withey of the Pelicans) got victimized by a veteran (Lakers swingman Xavier Henry), and the results were just as vicious …


VIDEO: Xavier Henry elevates over rookie Jeff Withey for the power jam

Sound The Early Alarm For These Teams

Despite the anguish that occurs each time LeBron James misses two shots in a row or his team loses back to back, nobody is really worrying about the Heat. The Larry O’Brien Trophy still travels through Miami. We figure the Bulls will get everything sorted out whenever Derrick Rose becomes totally comfortable back out on the floor. Golden State will be entertaining and dangerous as long as Stephen Curry stays healthy. The Spurs will grind on. The Thunder will roar. Those are the stories for the long haul.

Then there are the teams that even two weeks into the season might as well have a fire pole and a Dalmatian inside their home arenas, because the alarm bells are already ringing:

Utah Jazz: It was always going to be a transition year in Utah as the team cleared out Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap and made a full commitment to the youth movement. But with Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks finally getting their shot, the transition was not supposed to be a crash all the way into the basement. The Jazz have been missing first-round Draft pick Trey Burke (broken finger) at the point, but that’s hardly an excuse for their rarely even competing. They just completed a winless four-game road trip where they trailed Brooklyn by 26, Boston by 25, Chicago by 29 and Toronto by 38. This is the worst offensive team in the league by any measure — points (86.9), rating (90.4) and shooting percentage (40.1) — and are barely better on defense, ranking fourth from the bottom. They give up layups, dunks and wide-open 3s. It’s the worst start to a season since the Jazz moved to Utah in 1979 and if there aren’t at least signs of this bunch becoming regularly competitive, this always-patient franchise could push coach Tyrone Corbin out the door.


VIDEO: Jazz radio play-by-play man David Locke on Utah’s winless start

New York Knicks: What’s more embarrassing: Losing by 31 points at home to a Spurs team that might as well have been floating on its back while sipping an umbrella drink in the third quarter? Or having team owner James Dolan make a bold guarantee that the Knicks would win their next game over the thoroughly mediocre 3-3 Hawks? Really? We’re at the promising-our-guys-will-show-up-and-remember-to-tie-their-sneakers point in the season already? Look, when you go “all-in” with your pile of old chips last season and once more get only as far as the East semifinals, the talk of being a championship contender is just so much self-deluding smoke. Yes, J.R. Smith is back after missing the first five games of the season due to suspension under the league’s substance abuse policy, but center Tyson Chandler is out four to six weeks with a broken leg. The highest paid player on the roster, Amar’e Stoudemire, can’t help a lick and is more dead weight with another $23 million owed next season. Their best player, Carmelo Anthony, is shooting a career-low 41.3 percent from the field, and calls the Knicks play “embarrassing.” Coach Mike Woodson called the effort against the Spurs “unacceptable.” Get ready for Woodson to pay the price is it doesn’t change quick. Never mind beating out Indiana, Miami, Chicago and Brooklyn for one of the top four seeds in the East. The bigger question is how the Knicks do it after next season and beyond?


VIDEO: Knicks coach Mike Woodson blasts team’s effort in loss to Spurs

Los Angeles Lakers: After #bearhunt and #blackout, maybe Kobe Bryant’s next hashtag on Twitter should be the not-so-cryptic #lottery. It is one thing to hope — maybe even expect — the ultra-competitive Black Mamba to not only return to the Lakers lineup from Achilles’ tendon surgery sometime in the next month or two, but to do so at All-Star form at 35 years old. But it is more than a bit unrealistic to think he’ll be able to do much more than simply pull this purple and gold limousine out of the ditch. Anybody who’s given just a glance this season already knew the Lakers didn’t play anything resembling defense (as a 47-point first quarter against Minnesota on Sunday night proved). The hobbling Steve Nash (back) is out at least two weeks. Coach Mike D’Antoni is fiddling desperately with lineups and combinations. They got their only road win of the season when old buddy Dwight Howard gift wrapped it by clanking seven missed free throws in the fourth quarter. When Pau Gasol has to body up and play defense for a full game in the middle, it leaves him sapped on offense. Knowing Bryant, he’ll come galloping back in at full speed and do everything he can to keep his team on the periphery of the playoff race. Even if he beats the odds and succeeds, the Lakers are going nowhere next spring. If the intent is to re-sign Kobe going forward, it would be better off to get him fully healthy for the rebuilt roster in 2014-15.


VIDEO: Kobe Bryant on his rehab progress, return date plans and more

Brooklyn Nets: Oh, nobody’s saying it’s time to write off owner Mikhail Prokorov’s big, expensive plaything just two months into the season. But this is a team and a whopping payroll that wasn’t assembled to show patience and slow growth. With geezers like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce holding down key spots, the Nets have a window of two seasons at most — and maybe even just this one — to make a real Finals bid. The vital cog in the whole machine is point guard Deron Williams, who has been unable to get back to the level where he was one of the league’s top three at his position in his Utah days. His numbers looked good on Saturday night against the Pacers, but down the stretch he committed a big turnover, then a foolish foul on a George Hill 3-pointer. He looks like anything but the strong quarterback this team needs. Brooklyn stumbles late and can’t close games. Garnett is saying that he’s got to take charge of the team and that’s not practical with the limited minutes he’ll play, no matter his Hall of Fame resume. At 2-4, the Nets can’t afford to dig themselves too deep a hole in the race at the top of the East with Indiana, Miami and Chicago and need some urgency to their game.


VIDEO: Nets forward Paul Pierce talks about life in Brooklyn

Memphis Grizzlies: We know former coach Lionel Hollins got to clean out his desk when he left the FedExForum, but couldn’t a security guard or somebody have stopped him from taking the defense? You can talk about Memphis’ need for a consistent perimeter scorer, solid backup guard or anything else. But the reason the Grizzlies are below .500 (3-4) is they’ve lost their claws and their identity, the part that made them the Grizzlies and carried them to the 2013 Western Conference finals. They’ve gone from the second-rated defense in the league last season to 21st. They’ve fallen from among the leagues in steals and forced turnovers to ranking in the bottom third in the league in both categories. They’re simply being outscrapped, outhustled, outworked. That rarely happened under Hollins and it’s becoming too much of an early trait under new coach Dave Joerger. “We have to get it together,” said Grind House founder Tony Allen, “and get it together soon.” The alarm bells are ringing.


VIDEO: Grizzlies put up little fight in road loss to undefeated Pacers

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.