Posts Tagged ‘Jameer Nelson’

Improved ‘D’ Fuels Quick Start For Bobcats, Suns And Magic

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – It’s early.

But the Philadelphia 76ers aren’t the only surprise team of the 2013-14 season’s first 10 days. The Charlotte Bobcats, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns – three teams projected by most to finish in the in the bottom five of the league – are all 3-2 entering Friday’s 12-game slate.

When we look at these three rosters, we see a lack of talent. And from that we can predict that they will struggle offensively. But team defense is another story, especially when you have a new coach, like in Charlotte and Phoenix. Organization and energy on defense can help teams with limited talent overachieve. And defense is the common theme in the early success of these three squads, though one of the three has been much more successful on that end of the floor.

Again, it’s early.

But the Magic, Suns and Bobcats rank third, eighth and 13th in defensive efficiency, respectively. And they all rank among the six most improved defensive teams from last season.

Here’s a closer look…

Charlotte

DefRtg: 100.4 (13th)
Improvement: -8.6 (6th)

The Bobcats’ wins have come against the Cavs, Knicks and Raptors, by a total of 13 points. So just like last year’s 7-5 start, there’s a fool’s gold element here.

In only one of their five games – the win over Cleveland – have they held their opponent under a point per possession. And the Cavs currently rank 29th in offensive efficiency. Bobcats opponents have been a hair less efficient (100.3 points scored per 100 possessions) in their 20 games not against Charlotte.

That doesn’t mean that the future Hornets don’t have anything to feel positive about. They had a hobbled Al Jefferson for just their first game and scored 107 points per 100 possessions over their last two wins. Once they add a healthy Jefferson to their Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions pick-and-rolls, the offense should be even better.

And long term, the Cats will be more organized defensively under Steve Clifford than they were under Mike Dunlap. The early defensive numbers are a little inflated though.

Phoenix

DefRtg: 96.4 (8th)
Improvement: -9.3 (5th)

The Suns have beaten Portland, Utah and New Orleans by a total of 22 points. And they also hung in with the Thunder and Spurs on the road. Their opponents have scored 100.0 points per 100 possessions in their 18 games not against Phoenix.

The Suns had the worst 3-point defense in the league last season and were particularly bad at defending the arc (41.5 percent) with Michael Beasley on the floor. There’s definitely an addition-by-subtraction element here.

They’ve also improved quite a bit on the glass, ranking 11th in defensive rebounding percentage (74.8 percent) after ranking 23rd (71.9 percent) last season. More playing time for the Morris twins has helped in that regard. The Suns have grabbed 75.4 percent of available defensive boards and allowed just 90.6 points per 100 possessions in 148 minutes with one of the two twins on the floor.

Time will tell if Jeff Hornacek‘s defense will continue to hold up, but the signs are good so far. They host the Nuggets and Pelicans this weekend and could face their toughest defensive test on Wednesday, when they visit the Blazers, who currently rank sixth offensively.

Orlando

DefRtg: 94.8 (3rd)
Improvement: -11.9 (1st)

Of the three teams, it’s the Magic who have looked most legit, with wins over the Pelicans, Nets and Clippers by a total of 49 points.

Last season, the Magic defense was strong early in the season, but collapsed after Glen Davis got hurt. So the prospects of them being a decent defensive team while Davis was still recovering from foot surgery were not good. But here they are at No. 3 in the league, having held the Pelicans, Nets and Clippers under 90 points per 100 possessions.

Both Brooklyn and L.A. spoke about a lack of effort in their games in Orlando. The Nets were probably feeling themselves after last Friday’s win over the Heat, and the Clippers were maybe looking forward to their own game against the champs.

But Orlando’s defensive numbers are pretty darn impressive anyway. The Pelicans, Nets and Clippers scored a combined 89.5 points per 100 possessions against Orlando, compared to 108.0 in their other 12 games. L.A. currently ranks No. 1 in the league offensively.

Orlando opponents OffRtg

Team vs. ORL Other games Diff.
Indiana 101.0 99.4 +1.6
Minnesota 103.5 94.1 +9.4
New Orleans 91.4 103.7 -12.2
Brooklyn 89.0 102.5 -13.4
L.A. Clippers 88.0 114.5 -26.4
TOTAL 94.8 103.4 -8.5

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions

The Magic are forcing 1.2 more turnovers per 100 possessions than they did last season, but the early improvement has been mostly about shot defense. And there’s multiple elements to that.

They’re defending the rim better, defending the 3-point line better, and allowing less of those high-efficiency shots. Only 48.1 percent of their opponents’ shots have come from the restricted area or from 3-point range, the second-lowest rate in the league. Last season, that number was 56.7 percent, the 14th lowest rate in the league.

Of Brooklyn’s 89 shots in Orlando last Sunday, 50 came from between the restricted area and the 3-point line. On Wednesday, it was 55 of the Clippers’ 95 shots.

The Magic had a multiple-prong game plan against the Clips, and it worked. First, they sagged deep on Chris Paul‘s pick-and-rolls.

20131106_paul_sag

Paul stepped into some easy elbow jumpers, but the sagging strategy prevented him from getting past the Magic big men and really compromising the Orlando D.

Second, they dared Blake Griffin to shoot from mid-range.

20131106_griffin_space

Griffin was 3-for-13 from outside the paint before that game, but shot an impressive 7-for-13 from mid-range on Wednesday. Still, he got just three shots at the rim.

Finally, the Magic cross-matched in the backcourt, assigning Jameer Nelson to defend his old teammate J.J. Redick. And Nelson did a fantastic job of running Redick off the 3-point line. Here are a couple of examples…


Redick is a great shooter from everywhere, but three is greater than two, so if you can force him into more mid-range shots than threes, you’re doing your job. On Wednesday, Redick was 1-for-5 from 3-point range and 3-for-8 from mid-range.

One more time: It’s early. But an ability to execute a defensive game plan against a great offensive team like that early in the season is a good sign for the Magic defense.

Nelson Committed To Helping Young Magic

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DALLAS – The more change that comes to the Orlando Magic, the more Jameer Nelson remains true to himself, and devoted to his team.

Few would have blamed Nelson for becoming bitter over the Magic’s rapid descent. A survivor of the Dwightmare that cost the franchise its coach, the league’s most dominant center and its standing as an Eastern Conference contender, Nelson could have, without guilt or repercussion, forced his way out of this Orlando rebuild that enters Year 2.

Entering his 10th season, matching Nick Anderson as the longest-tenured player in Magic history, Nelson chose otherwise.

“It’s fun,” Nelson said prior to Monday’s preseason win against the Mavericks. “It’s fun to see the way things progress, where we’re trying to take the franchise and rebuild and do things with a young group. Me coming in 10 years ago, it was kind of the same scenario.”

Nelson finds himself surrounded by a young team beginning to create a bit of a buzz with players such as Moe Harkless, Tobias Harris, Nicola Vucevic and the summer’s No. 2 pick, Victor Oladipo in the fold. The Magic’s top prospect is an exciting player Nelson is eager to mentor while knowing Oladipo could ultimately replace him.

“He’s humble and he’s very talented,” Nelson said of the Indiana product. “He has great upside and I think he’ll be a great player in the league for a long time.”

Nelson took Monday night’s game off and watched an Orlando starting five that boasted six seasons, 358 games and 199 starts among them. Nelson has started 488 of his 583 career games.

The Magic could have, maybe should have, cut ties with him prior to last season. He’s now four years removed from his lone All-Star appearance and has been injury-prone, playing more than 70 games just once since 2006-07. At 31, Nelson has likely reached his peak. Orlando signed him to a three-year extension last summer, raising eyebrows around a league that asked what good Nelson could do for a franchise committed to its youth.

“I’m not a guy looking for accolades. I’m not a guy looking for publicity or notoriety,” Nelson said. “My job is to do my work on the court and off the court in the community and be the person I’ve been for the last 31 years. There’s a reason why I’ve been here for 10 years, a reason why the organization has kept me around.”

Still, Nelson isn’t naive. He knows he’s on the block this season and likely will be playing elsewhere before the February trade deadline as second-year general manager Rob Hennigan, who’s the same age as Nelson, marches onward with his post-Dwight blueprint. The 6-foot point guard could help a contender as a steady reserve, or slide into the starting role for a team needing a veteran in charge. Though neither seems to be what Nelson truly desires.

“I still want to play here in Orlando and see this thing turn around,” Nelson said.

He certainly witnessed it implode. The Magic played in the 2009 Finals and were in the 2010 East finals. By the end of 2013, they had a league-worst 62 losses.

“Just weird,” is how Nelson described the past few seasons through the Dwightmare haze and beyond. “We competed for a championship for four or five years in a row. We were one of the elite teams, so to see where I’m at now in terms of rebuilding, you know, it’s still fun. I’m doing something I love to do, I’m around a bunch of guys who are great, young guys. We don’t have any knuckleheads, we don’t have any guys who cause any problems. Everybody wants to be the best player they can be and wants to learn.”

Teaching and preaching is what Nelson is doing for this squad of early 20-somethings … and for his appreciative, 38-year-old, second-year coach, Jacque Vaughn.

“Since I’ve been here, he’s been a guy that I’ve been able to count on to carry my message in the locker room,” Vaughn said. “And that’s extremely important when young guys are doing this for the first time around. He’s been a leader for us and someone I can count on.”

Nelson passed on a question about his feelings toward Howard. He said he followed the big man’s free agency this summer: “How couldn’t you? You turn on the TV, he was everywhere.” He even said Howard made the right choice by leaving the Lakers and signing with the Houston Rockets because, ironically, “they have a similar system that we played with (former coach) Stan [Van Gundy].”

So how much progress can the Magic make this season? Even in an Eastern Conference that will provide playoff opportunity for an upstart, there’s little doubt this will be an ongoing struggle. And more upheaval is likely with Nelson, Arron Afflalo and Glen “Big Baby” Davis all available for the right price.

Nelson said he’ll keep pushing as long as the Magic let him.

“My job is to continue to be professional whether we win or lose and move forward,” Nelson said. “We’re trying to help these guys develop as much as we can and, with that being said, a lot of them look up to me.”

One Team, One Stat: Magic Missed Big Baby

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next is the Orlando Magic, who, after a decent start, sunk like a stone to the league’s worst record in the league last season.

The basics
ORL Rank
W-L 20-62 30
Pace 94.5 14
OffRtg 98.9 27
DefRtg 106.7 25
NetRtg -7.8 29

The stat

98.8 - Points per 100 possessions allowed by the Magic defense through Dec. 19.

The context

Does anyone remember that the Magic were 12-13 (ninth in the Eastern Conference) through their first 25 games last season? The key to that solid start was the sixth-ranked defense in the league. But from Dec. 20 on, the Magic went 8-49 and ranked 30th defensively, allowing 110.2 points per 100 possessions.

So what happened on Dec. 19? Glen Davis sprained his left shoulder and was lost for 11 games. He returned for nine games in January, but then broke his left foot and was done for the season.

Davis isn’t exactly Kevin Garnett when it comes to defense. He’s not as mobile, he’s not as intense and he’s not as vocal. Nobody is.

But Davis did spend four seasons learning from KG in Boston. And compared to the rest of Orlando’s roster, he has a ton of experience. That can go a long way when it’s time to defend a pick-and-roll…


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The Magic’s strength of schedule wasn’t great in those first 25 games, but they did beat Denver, the Lakers (on the road) and Golden State twice, allowing the Warriors (who finished with the 10th best offense in the league) to score just 96 points per 100 possessions in the two games.

Much was made of the offensive production of some of the Magic’s young players in the second half of the season. There’s a lot of promise in guys like Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson and Nikola Vucevic.

But over the last 57 games of the season, their team defense was absolutely dreadful. They didn’t defend the paint or the 3-point line very well, and they barely forced any turnovers.

It shouldn’t be any surprise that their defense in those first couple of months was at its best, allowing just 95.5 points per 100 possessions, with Davis on the floor with fellow vets Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo. The trio missed a total of 92 games last season.

Davis isn’t yet 100 percent recovered from foot surgery and the Magic are going to take their time with him. He told the Orlando Sentinel this week that his foot “will never be the same.”

His absence will likely keep them from being a decent defensive team at the start of the season. But if he can somehow come back at close to 100 percent, he could certainly spark an improvement and make Orlando much less of a walkover for opponents looking to pad their record.

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

Magic Need To Wake From Dwightmare?



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Closure.

That’s what is on tap for Orlando Magic fans tonight when Dwight Howard makes his return to the building built upon his broad shoulders, the one that was supposed to house the city’s biggest and brightest star.

A win over the Los Angeles Lakers would sweeten the deal, anything the Magic can do to damage the Lakers’ playoff chances serves that purpose. And a lousy game by Howard might also add to the feel-good nature of the evening for those Magic fans still wounded by Howard’s departure last summer via a blockbuster trade.

But after it’s all over, when the booing is finished and the Lakers are in the air and headed to Atlanta for a Wednesday night matchup against the Hawks, the Magic and the entire city of Orlando needs to close the door on this Dwightmare drama for good. It’s time to wake up from this mess and finally move on.

That’s an extremely tall order, what with Howard’s refusal to stop sticking his size 18s in his mouth at seemingly every turn. Howard, however, is someone else’s Dwightmare now. The Lakers have to sweat out this summer wondering what he’ll do, whether he’s willing to stick around or chase his fortunes elsewhere (the Brooklyn whispers remain).

Magic fans will get a fresh start after tonight, and a well-deserved one. They can thank their front office for only having to see Howard once this year anyway. The decision to trade him to the Lakers and not somewhere else in the Eastern Conference prevented us all from having to go through this exhausting exercise on more than one occasion.,

That said, tonight’s meeting between the Magic and Lakers (7 ET, League Pass) promises to offer up one of the more bizarre scenes of the season, which is saying a mouthful, given the traveling circus the Lakers have been all season long.

Howard’s recent comments about his time in Orlando and his words about his former teammates (that he insists were misconstrued) will have to be addressed again … and in the flesh. There’s no Stan Van Gundy around to serve as the punching bag/foil for Howard, as he did during that infamous hallways scene after a shootaround practice last season.

One-time Howard ally Jameer Nelson will be in the other locker room. The eyes and ears of former Magic players like J.J. Redick, Rashard Lewis and even Vince Carter will no doubt be tuned into whatever is said.

Nelson swears there are no hard feelings, as he told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“What’s said is said, and what happened is over and done with,” Nelson said. “I’m just here trying to look forward and not trying to dwell on the past. The decision was made and things happen, so it’s not like anybody could take them back or anything like that. And me personally, I’m not mad at him for doing what he did. I don’t know. Could things have been done differently? Yeah. But they weren’t. So, me as a person, I just have to move on and try to continue to be successful and do the things I need to do to help the team get back in the position we used to be in.”

Last week, Howard said he had reached out to former teammates after some of them, including Nelson and Rashard Lewis and J.J. Redick, took issue with a comment Howard made to a Los Angeles television station about his old Magic teams.

Howard said the statement was misconstrued and twisted by the media — that he was attempting to say that the Magic were always considered underdogs.

Nelson was asked whether he and Howard have conversed recently.

“No,” Nelson said.

There was silence before Nelson spoke again.

“Have me and Rashard conversed? Yes.”

To his credit, Howard has tried his best to apologize to everyone from his former teammates to the arena workers for how he handled himself during his season-long departure, which started with a trade request he refused to own up to during training camp. Howard was candid in a sit down interview with USA Today‘s Sam Amick, explaining his side of things as best he could:

“In Orlando, I handled a lot of stuff the wrong way,” he said. “If any of those people in Orlando are upset with how I did it, I apologize for the way I handled it and the way it was handled in the media.

“I really just got caught up in wanting to please everybody else. I really love that city. That was the hardest thing to do was to leave that city because I basically grew up there. That was my whole life. Orlando was it. I did not want to leave all that behind — the city, just everything about it. The fans. But I wanted a change for my life. I just felt like there was something else out there for me.”

That something else, for now, is trying to rebound from the Lakers’ disastrous start to this season and assist Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash in delivering his new team to the playoffs.

Howard would be wise to focus on that tonight and not the hate shower he’ll get from the crowd tonight in Orlando. Because it should get nasty.

But when it’s over, win or lose, the Magic need to wake up from their Dwightmare and just move on.

In fact, it’s time for everyone to just move on!

Morning Shootaround — March 7

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: Fourteen games on the slate all-but ensured plenty of drama around the Association … and that’s exactly what we got. There were several comeback games, but most notably Jazz-Cavs (which Cleveland won), Celtics-Pacers (which Boston won), Lakers-Hornets (which L.A. won) and Magic-Heat (which Miami won). Whew! Lot of great games to pick from just from that slate, and we’re not even getting to Blazers-Grizz (another rally, this time by Memphis) or Kings-Warriors (where Klay Thompson played the hero). Picking one comeback over another is never easy, but that is what we’re here to do: make the tough decisions. All that said, we’re going with Celtics-Pacers as our one to watch this morning. Indiana seemingly had this one in the bag thanks to some clutch baskets by George Hill, but Kevin Garnett showed why he’s a future Hall of Famer with his pinpoint pass to Jeff Green to clinch the win.

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News of the morning

Comeback win helps Lakers bond | ‘Melo suffering from fluid buildup in knee | Nelson, Lewis fire back at Howard | Nets decide to bench Humphries | Wolves’ Budinger, Love set to talk to doctors

Lakers bond stronger after rally — In case you were living under a rock last night (or even this morning) and missed the Lakers’ epic comeback from a 25-point hole in New Orleans last night, our multimedia crew has all the best moments from L.A.’s stunning win. A win like the one the Lakers experience last night not only helped get them closer to the No. 8 spot in the West playoff race, but also created more of a bond amongst the team. Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News has more:

The Lakers’ 108-102 victory Wednesday over the New Orleans Hornets didn’t just mark a game in which they overcame a 25-point deficit against a sub.-500 opponent.

This didn’t just mark the first time the Lakers overcame such a large gap since overcoming a 30-point deficit against the Dallas Mavericks in 2002. The Lakers’ latest win gave them renewed confidence they can overcome any obstacle.

“Games like this really strengthen the bond between us players,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “That’s really what the playoffs are all about. You have adversity. It’s about who’s going to stick together and who’s not going to break.”

It helps that the win improves the bottom line results, too.

With the Utah Jazz losing Tuesday to Cleveland, the Lakers (31-31) trail Utah (32-29) by only 1 games for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.

The Lakers sat in their locker room afterwards eagerly watching the final minutes of Houston’s loss to Dallas.

“Come on, Dallas!” Lakers forward Metta World Peace yelled from his stall. “Do what you gotta do!”

With Houston’s loss, the Lakers are only two games behind the Rockets (33-29) for the seventh seed.

Bryant took over the offense by scoring 18 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter. Dwight Howard overcame early foul trouble by taking a large defensive role, including blocking Robin Lopez’s layup attempt with 27 seconds remaining. Reserve guard Jodie Meeks posted 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter by making 4 of 5 three-point attempts.

“Dwight played big. When he’s like that and Kobe’s like this, that’s kind of what everybody envisioned it would be,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We hope we can build on this.”

The roles worked out perfectly.

Woodson: Anthony has fluid buildup in kneeAfter admitting that he should have pulled Carmelo Anthony out of Monday’s game in Cleveland when Anthony asked instead of letting him suffer a knee injury, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said his star forward will get his rest now. An MRI revealed that Anthony has fluid buildup in his injured right knee and will be taking a seat for a few games, writes Al Iannazzone of Newsday: 

Mike Woodson said the MRI on Carmelo Anthony’s injured right knee showed “some fluid buildup” in there.

“That’s what’s causing the stiffness,” Woodson said. “Rest will probably be the best thing for him.”

Anthony rested Wednesday night, sitting out against the Pistons. Woodson said Anthony would be evaluated again Thursday night and if he feels better, he could play against the Thunder at the Garden. Woodson said it will be Anthony’s decision.

“I’ll do whatever he wants to do,” Woodson said. “Trust me. Players know their own body. If he tells me he wants to play I’m going to play him. I’m not going to fight him on that . . . If he says, ‘Coach, I need to sit down and rest a game or two,’ I’m going to grant that, absolutely.”

The irony is Woodson said Anthony asked out of Monday’s game in Cleveland before he aggravated his knee and the coach didn’t listen to him.

“He just kind of nodded that his knee wasn’t right,” Woodson said. “I kind of ignored it somewhat. Maybe I shouldn’t have.”

After tripping over his own feet, Anthony fell in the second quarter in Cleveland. When he got up, he walked right to the locker room and never returned. The Knicks were down 22 at the time and rallied to win behind a strong game from Amar’e Stoudemire. This was the seventh game Anthony has missed all or part of this season.

“Obviously he was hurting,” Woodson said. “He asked me to bring him out. I kind of ignored it because we were down. I probably should have taken him out and then he took the spill and he left the game because he was hurting. I didn’t heed to it because I’ve seen him banged up and hit and things of that nature.”

Howard’s comments irritate ex-Orlando mates Lewis, NelsonIn the 2004 Draft, the Magic took Dwight Howard with the No. 1 overall pick and, 19 picks later, worked out a savvy trade with the Nuggets to add Jameer Nelson to the fold, too. Three seasons later, with the Magic as a budding young team in the East, Orlando added Rashard Lewis as a free agent. From there, the Magic began a steady climb in the East, culminating in a 2009 Finals appearance as well as three division titles. Nelson and Lewis joined Howard as All-Stars in 2009, but apparently Dwight’s memory of his teammates and his days in Orlando isn’t so clear. His comments to a local CBS affiliate in L.A. about his Magic teammates riled up Nelson and Lewis, who is now with the Heat. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has more:

Former Magic forward Rashard Lewis called Dwight Howard’s recent comments about his former Magic teammates “disrespectful” and defended Jameer Nelson, once one of Howard’s closest friends.

Howard told a CBS affiliate in L.A. that “my team in Orlando was a team full of people who nobody wanted, and I was the leader and I led that team with a smile on my face.”

Howard, Lewis and Nelson were on the Magic team that defied odds and reached the NBA Finals in 2009.

“It’s disrespectful more than anything. We helped Dwight become the player he was,” said Lewis, who signed this summer with the Miami Heat, which faced the Magic on Wednesday night.

“We made a good run. Hell, look at those (conference and division) banners hanging in the stands. They don’t say Dwight Howard on them…”

Nelson said after shootaround that he was disappointed in Howard’s professionalism.

“At some point, when are you a gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner,” Nelson told the Sentinel.

“I would be less of a man to comment on certain things that people comment on about me and my teammates. We had a great run as a group, as core guys, and he was a part of it (reaching the 2009 Finals) and for him to say things about anybody in a negative manner, that’s up to him.”

Nelson and Howard were close, drafted together in the first round in 2004.

But their relationship eroded after Howard said before he was traded to the Lakers last summer that he would love to play with some of the league’s elite point guards, such as Chris Paul.

Former Magic General Manager Otis Smith said that Howard “threw Jameer under the bus.”

Said Lewis, “Everybody on that team was very close friends. Not only that, but Jameer Nelson, out of all people. I don’t care. I got thick skin. That stuff bounces off me…but him and Jameer are supposed to be best friends.

“Jameer kept his mouth shut for a long time..you hear him (Dwight) say stuff like Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, this guy, that guy and Jameer Nelson is the one who took us to the Finals, who helped, even though he got injured.”

Nets opt to bench HumphriesEntering the season, Nets forward Kris Humphries was fresh off back-to-back double-double campaigns in which he had elevated himself as one of the free-agent gems of 2012. Humphries re-signed with Brooklyn and was the Nets’ starting power forward for the first 18 games, but since then has seen his minutes dwindle. He’s averaging a mere 5.5 ppg and 5.9 rpg this season, with averages of 2.1 ppg and 4.1 rpg since the All-Star break. It’s not much of a surprise, then, that the Nets are going to dwindle Humphries’ minutes even further as they gear up for the playoffs, writes Seth Walder and Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

Kris Humphries’ official divorce from Kim Kardashian is fast approaching, but his divorce from playing time will come much sooner. According to a league source, Humphries was informed by coach P.J. Carlesimo Wednesday morning that he will no longer be part of the Nets’ shortened rotation.

Carlesimo has said in recent days that he wants to limit the rotation to nine or 10 players as the Nets head into the stretch run before the postseason.

The 6’9″ forward is averaging 18.4 minutes per game this season, a number that has dwindled substantially since the beginning of the year.

The decision to bench Humphries is curious given how fervently the Nets have worked to keep him. In July, the Nets inked the forward to a two-year, $24 million contract. Two weeks ago, at the trade deadline, the Nets could have traded Humphries to their opponent Wednesday night, Charlotte, in a deal that would have brought back Ben Gordon. And yet, despite their commitment to Humphries financially and the value he could have returned in the trade market, his only spot on the team for the foreseeable future will be on the bench.

Carlesimo has preferred Reggie Evans to Humphries since taking over as coach, despite the fact that Evans essentially offers nothing in the offense department (3.4 points per game). Evans has shot just 46% from under and around the basket, according to NBA.com. Evans has had 22% of his shots blocked this year and 33% blocked in February and March. Though Humphries hasn’t displayed a vast improvement on the offensive end of the floor this year, he has been better, and has demonstrated some talent in that respect of the game in previous seasons.

Humphries hasn’t performed at the level that the Nets presumably hoped when they signed him to a lucrative contract in the offseason.

Carlesimo spoke about the rotation Wednesday morning in Charlotte, saying he wanted to limit it to 10 players and that MarShon Brooks will be part of that rotation.

“I think 10 for now. We’re looking more 10. We want to play minimum four bigs and it would be hard to take one of the smalls out of the rotation,” Carlesimo said. “I’m not hung up on the number as much as, for us, coming off the bench, there’s nights we need defense and there’s nights we need offense.”

Budinger, Love await word from doctors – As our own Steve Aschburner documented on Hang Time last night, the Wolves lost 242 man games through their first 57 games to injuries. Two key names on that list, Chase Budinger and All-Star Kevin Love, have missed a combined 90 games and have been a big reason why Minnesota has disappointed so much this season. Good news may be on the horizon for those two players, though, as they are scheduled to talk to their respective doctors this week, writes Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune:

Injured Timberwolves forward Chase Budinger will speak by phone with his Florida knee surgeon Tuesday, hopeful he’ll be cleared to practice again with his teammates soon thereafter.

On Wednesday, two-time All Star Kevin Love will revisit his New York City surgeon seeking clearance to play with a healing right shooting hand he has broken not once but twice this season.

Both could be back playing games within two weeks, three weeks at most for Budinger.

With such similar timetables, could both such long-awaited returns possibly come on the same night?

“You never know,” Love said. “You never know.”

Either way, both hope to play at least the season’s final 15 games, Love perhaps a little more than that.

Love said he’ll join the team in Houston the Friday after his Wednesday’s doctor’s visit. He said he won’t play immediately that night even if he does get doctor’s clearance —like he did when he came back the first time in November — because he had surgery this time, on Jan. 15.

But probably not too terribly long after that …

“It’s really up to the doctor and myself and Glen and David,” he said, referring to owner Glen Taylor and basketball President David Kahn. “But until I see what the doctor says, I just won’t know.”

ICYMI of the night: We aren’t sure if this Jamal Crawford-to-Blake Griffin is the dunk of the year, but it has got to be in the running:

Redick Reflects on Magic, Dwight Opt-In

DALLAS – Now that J.J. Redick is gone from Orlando, and likely for good, he reflected Tuesday night on his six-plus seasons, all but this one spent with Dwight Howard, and how close the Magic seemed to a dominant run.

Orlando traded the 3-point sharpshooter to the Milwaukee Bucks at last week’s trade deadline. All that’s left of the 2008-09 Finals team that lost in five games to Los Angeles Lakers is Jameer Nelson and the suspended Hedo Turkoglu (who left as a free agent in ’09 and returned in a trade in ’10).

“I can remember being in my third year in the NBA and playing in The Finals,” Redick said Tuesday after scoring 14 points in the Bucks’ 95-90 win over the Mavericks. “You look at Dwight’s contract situation, you look at Rashard’s contract situation, Jameer’s contract situation, we had a chance to re-sign Turk, so you’d think maybe the team would have kept its core together. And you think you’re going to be back in The Finals the next year and the year after that, and it’s frustrating in that sense because I thought we would be back at some point, and we weren’t.

More from Redick in his own words:

Q: How close did you feel the team was to being a dominant force in the Eastern Conference?

A: We were very close. I think the big decision was what to do with Hedo. We didn’t necessarily want to give him a five-year deal and he had options out there, two five-year deals in excess of $50 million with Portland and Toronto. He made his decision and it was a good decision for him. As a player you have to strike while the iron is hot and take advantage of your small window to make a living. We made the trade for Vince [Carter] and for whatever reason we just couldn’t get over the top and beat the Celtics the next year. The following season we had a bunch of injuries and sicknesses early on and got off to a little bit of a slow start, and we made two separate blockbuster trades (Carter, Mikael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat to Phoenix for Jason Richardson, Turkoglu, Earl Clark and a first-round pick; and Rashard Lewis to Washington for Gilbert Arenas).

And, to me, that was the turning point. We never really got back to elite status after that.

Q: How did things begin to devolve with Dwight Howard’s ongoing situation?

A: Dating back to a year and a half, two years ago is when things started to get a little hectic in Orlando. It definitely changed the makeup of the organization and the franchise. And obviously, when you have a player of Dwight’s caliber you’re in contention to win a championship. When you lose a player like that there’s a strong possibility you’re going to have to rebuild and it might get a little ugly.

Q: It’s been a little ugly in Los Angeles. The Lakers are essentially backed into the same corner as the Magic were, waiting with bated breath for Howard to make a decision, one he says he won’t make until this summer. He says he doesn’t want another circus, but isn’t he creating another one by being non-committal?

A: I think he’s non-commital, I guess, for a reason. I’m not sure what that reason is, but if he wanted to explore his free agency he could have done it last summer. I’m not sure why he opted in [last year] because he wanted out of Orlando. I’m not really sure.

Q: You dealt with weeks of speculation about where you would be traded or if you would be traded at all. Now that you are with the Bucks, a team that appears, at worst, locked into the No. 8 seed and headed to the playoffs, is there a sense of relief?

A: Yeah, there’s definitely a feeling of relief. My feeling on just being traded in general is it’s part of the business. I’m a guy who just believes in making the best out of any situation. You can’t always change or control your circumstances, but you can change your perspective and your attitude. So no matter where I went, if I had stayed in Orlando, I would have made the most of it.

Magic Get No Love From Dwight?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Lost in the fallout from the Los Angeles Lakers’ home loss to the Orlando Magic Sunday was the end of the game scene that didn’t include any warm and fuzzy handshakes between Dwight Howard and his former teammates.

With Howard and the Lakers smarting from the 10-point loss to the Magic, the All-Star big man reportedly left the court without so much as a handshake for the guys he battled alongside for years in Orlando.

While this wasn’t anywhere near the level of the Bad Boys Pistons shunning the Michael Jordan-led Bulls back in the day, it is yet another missed opportunity for Howard and the Magic to heal from their nasty break up last summer. To their credit, Howard’s Magic teammates are much more forgiving and understanding than some his critics might be (more from Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel):

Magic players said they weren’t upset that Howard didn’t shake their hands or wish them well after Sunday night’s win. Howard walked off the court once the final seconds of the fourth quarter ticked off Staples Center’s clock.

“That’s fine,” Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said. “Certain guys don’t shake hands after the game.

“I don’t have any hard feelings to the guy. He made a decision to do what he did. He’s on the team that he’s on. I’m here in Orlando, where I want to be. I just wish him the best of luck. I’m not going to go up and hug him and kiss him or anything like that. I think my coach would be mad at me.”

Magic power forward Glen Davis said he didn’t take any offense.

“If he wants to walk off the court, it’s cool,” Davis said. “No hard feelings, you know? He lost. I would feel bad, too. I wouldn’t want to shake anybody’s hand. So it is what it is.”

Howard and the Lakers have issues of their own to deal with. They’ll have to play another week without Steve Nash and another six to eight weeks without Steve Blake (abdominal surgery), the man who was slated to serve as Nash’s primary backup,

And we can’t forget about Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and that whole “Big Boy Pants” thing … but not even a quick, courtesy handshake and good luck to his former teammates?

If Jameer’s Back, Is Dwight Out?





Used to be, when a point guard re-upped to continue setting up the best center in basketball, it was a joyous occasion for both sides. The little man would keep playing with an ideal finisher for his passes, while the big man would stick with a playmaker he’s known, in this case, since they both arrived in the NBA eight years earlier.

Once upon a time, that’s how Jameer Nelson’s reported agreement Thursday to re-sign with the Orlando Magic would have looked too, strengthening his connection with Dwight Howard. But that fairy tale has fluttered away, and Nelson’s return looks more like another sign of Howard’s certain departure. He reportedly will sign a three-year deal, the dollar amount so far undisclosed, after averaging 11.9 points and 5.7 assists in 57 appearances.

The combo of Nelson out front and Howard down low once was vital to the Magic’s ambitions; they got to the 2009 Finals and reached the Eastern Conference finals a year later. But like many of Howard’s relationships in Orlando, his dealings with Nelson appeared to sour from the All-Star center’s self-indulgent embrace of his options and clout via impending free agency.

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Change Has Cost Magic Dearly!





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Let the Orlando Magic be the cautionary tale for any team embracing change, on their roster, this time of year.

Roster building in the NBA is a living and breathing thing, one that requires constant attention but not necessarily constant action. The Magic know this better than most, having not only flipped their roster several times in the past eight years but also swapping out the people in charge of roster building more than most.

Our main man Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel lists the count of “high-profile people who have parted ways with the franchise since December” at 17. That’s since Christmas time folks! And that number could grow in the coming hours, days and weeks depending on what happens in the Draft tonight, with Dwight Howard and others in free agency and trades.

But as Schmitz points out, the Magic are not exactly experiencing change anyone can believe in right now:

The casualties so far include one CEO, one head coach, six assistant coaches, one GM, one assistant GM, six scouts and one player-development director.

An entire basketball operations department could go on Craigslist.

The Magic have fired so many folks, they’re making Donald Trump look benevolent.

The 30-year-old kid in the hall, freshly appointed GM Rob Hennigan, whacked the last eight himself after taking the job last week. We probably can stop the concerns whether his tender youth might cloud his decision-making, so my last crack about Rob’s age will be the fact he no longer will be allowed to sit on Santa’s lap at the mall.

It’s a new launch for the Magic, and frustrated fans have no choice but to embrace the unknown. They’ll be saluting or blaming strangers, beginning with tonight’s draft, and that seems perfectly fine with the faithful now that Otis Smith isn’t near a contract and a pen anymore.

And the biggest change hasn’t even happened yet, speaking of Dwight Howard.

Hennigan fielded more questions Wednesday about Howard’s future than whom he might pick at No. 19.

Hennigan deflected the inquiries like a hockey goalie, including mine: What are the chances Dwight will be traded Thursday night?

“You know what? I don’t want to comment on that,” Hennigan said. “We’re going to continue to evaluate everything we can, analyze all the details, any options and scenarios. I don’t know the answer to that.”

Hennigan knows the answer, and a draft-day deal for Dwight is possible. He just can’t go there yet about Howard.

The Magic’s direction depends on Howard’s direction, and what we do know is this: Dwight hasn’t told the club he’s dying to sign an extension.

For fans, there could be some tells in the Magic’s poker game regarding Howard. If J.J. Redick is dealt on draft-day and Jameer Nelson opts out Friday, Hennigan won’t have to keep pretending publicly that there’s a chance Howard is coming back.

Hennigan’s job will turn into a rebuilding project.

There’s that “R” word that no fan of any team wants to hear at Draft time.

Any “rebuilding project” comes with a fair amount of pain for all involved. For a Magic franchise that played in the The Finals in 2009, it has to be a particularly painful way of heading into the summer.

Even worse for Magic fans, this might only be the beginning of an excruciatingly painful chapter in franchise history, depending on just how much change is ahead.

Rosen’s Report: New York at Orlando




Jeremy Lin is down for the count and who knows when/if Amar’e Stoudemire will return to action. That means what’s left of the Knicks’ roster will have to carry New York for the duration. While the Knicks are still battling for the last playoff slot, they also have their sights set on the No. 6 seed in order to play Orlando in the opening round instead of either Miami or Chicago. And on the heels of last week’s trampling of the Magic, a repeat performance would not only greatly enhance the achievement of both of these goals, but also make Orlando shiver in anticipation of encountering New York in the money season. After their fourth-quarter meltdown in Indiana on Tuesday, the Knicks also has to prove that they do have a necessary killer instinct.

On the flip side, the Magic need the win to demonstrate that their humiliating performance in New York was a fluke, and that they are indeed legitimate championship contenders.

HOW THE KNICKS CAN WIN

  • Forget about LeBron, Kobe and/or Kevin DurantCarmelo Anthony is the most versatile scorer in the game. If KD is a better long-distant dialer, Anthony’s 3-point shooting is more reliable than the other two elite scorers. The difference is ‘Melo’s dynamic post-up game. With Stoudemire out, Anthony is now filling the power forward slot, which makes his offense even more unstoppable (plus he’s a better rebounder than his predecessor). There’s certainly no way that either Hedo Turkoglu, Ryan Anderson (if he makes a miraculous recovery from a freshly sprained ankle), or Glen Davis can put up any meaningful defensive resistance without considerable help. The problem is the Knicks’ spacing forces defenders to come a long way to double Anthony. And should Anthony bring his A-game into the last period, the Magic will run out of tricks.
  • Assuming that Dwight Howard has recuperated from the infamous phantom punch, Tyson Chandler has the length and the defensive chops to make him labor mightily to score in the low post.  In addition, Howard gets flustered when he’s doubled on the move and tends to force shots, make wayward passes, or simply commit turnovers.  Chandler’s timely dive-cuts on high screen/rolls should also put him in dunk city. (more…)