ORLANDO — General manager Rob Hennigan would not say he’s suspended trade talks for disgruntled All-Star center Dwight Howard, but did admit the process has stalled and the Magic will take a step back to regroup.
Hennigan had been in talks in recent days with the Lakers, Rockets, Hawks and Howard’s preferred destination of the Nets.
“As currently constructed, there’s not much there,” Hennigan said of his talks with the Nets. “I’m not sure there’s much more to discuss.”
The Nets signed center Brook Lopez, the centerpiece of a package that Orlando would receive in return for Howard, to a maximum contract. That eliminates the salary cap space the Nets would have to trade for Howard and, according to NBA rules, make Lopez ineligible to be traded before Jan. 15.
“We tried,” Hennigan reportedly told Howard during their conversation.
Hennigan denied that the Magic were turning away from the Howard situation entirely in order to concentrate on hiring a new head coach for the team.
“That’s not accurate,” Hennigan said, though admitting that he hoped to have the job filled soon.
Warriors assistant Michael Malone, Spurs assistant Jacques Vaughn, Jazz assistant Jeff Hornacek, Suns player development coach Lindsey Hunter and Pacers associate head coach Brian Shaw are said to be the prime candidates for the position. (more…)
ORLANDO — Only part of the action is taking place on the court. While wannabes and might-have-beens are trading shots, rebounds and passes in the AirTran Orlando Pro Summer League, most of the talk swirls around the host team off the court.
Remember, whenever the Dwight Howard trade circus finally concludes, the Magic still need a head coach.
The latest candidates to get into the running are Jazz assistant coach Jeff Hornacek and Suns player development coach Lindsey Hunter. They join a list that includes Spurs assistant Jacques Vaughn, Warriors assistant Michael Malone and Pacers associate head coach Brian Shaw. Former Lakers assistant Quin Snyder passed up on an interview with the Magic and chose to take a similar job with CSKA Moscow.
Shaw and Hornacek are both currently in Orlando and buttonholed constantly by media, peers and friends in the hallways just outside the Amway Center practice court.
Shaw told the Orlando Sentinel that he is “playing the waiting game” and has no indication when new Magic general manager Rob Hennigan will make his decision.
Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes 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.
Ray Allen: Best pure shooter the NBA has ever seen? If not, who’s your favorite?
David Aldridge: I never thought I’d say anyone was a better pure shooter than Dale Ellis — when Dale was on, the net didn’t move — but Ray is. Reggie was a great, great shooter but I think Ray has him beat, too. Everyone has their favorite spots on the court but it seems like Ray is more comfortable in more places than anyone I’ve seen (and I didn’t see the likes of Jerry West or Sam Jones in person).
Steve Aschburner: I’m always leery of superlatives in a public forum, because the moment you proclaim anyone or anything to be the “-est” in some category, someone or something pops up whom you neglected. Also, our culture’s collective memory goes back approximately 37 minutes, so it’s easy to forget or underrate someone from way back when. I can’t say with certainty that there’s anyone who was a better pure shooter than Allen, but I can produce a list of fellows who’d be in the discussion. Such as: Drazen Petrovic, Jeff Hornacek, Peja Stojakovic, Glen Rice, George Gervin, Ricky Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Rick Barry, Chris Mullin and of course Reggie Miller. Then there’s my favorite, especially as the stakes went up: Larry Bird.
Fran Blinebury: Jerry West, Rick Barry, Pete Maravich, Bob McAdoo, Freddie Brown, Dale Ellis, Reggie Miller and Ray Allen are one helluva hallelujah chorus when it comes to making the nets sing. But front man will always be Larry Bird — for the form, the clutch makes, for the cold-blooded confidence. At the 1988 All-Star Weekend in Chicago, he walks into the locker room prior to the 3-Point Shoot-out and asks: “Who’s going to finish second?” ‘Nuff said.
Art Garcia: Since I can’t include Jimmy Chitwood — the question does specify NBA — I’ll go through some of my favorite marksmen over my years watching the grand game. In no particular order other than rough chronology, I’d throw these guys into my list of faves: Larry Bird, Dale Ellis, Mark Price, Steve Kerr, Allan Houston, Glen Rice, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic. But above all, I’m going with Ray Allen. The release, the timing, the fundamentals, the temperament. All pure.
Scott Howard-Cooper: I’m not sure he’s even the best in the game now, never mind ever. Part of the debate is defining “pure shooter.” Does that mean strictly a catch-and-shoot guy? Dirk Nowitzki is a special talent, but with a repertoire that spans from the dangerous range of a spot-up shooter to fall-aways. Steve Nash is historically good as a perimeter threat, but never will never be among the scoring greats because so much of his focus has been getting the ball to other people. Allen definitely has the pure-shooter element, though, with the lightning release and feathery, arcing shot. He’s definitely very high in the discussion, along with Reggie Miller and others. I’m just not sure he’s ahead of Larry Bird.
Shaun Powell: Strictly from a visual standpoint, Allen’s form is so perfect, it should be a logo. The levitation, the soft yet secure grip, the fingertip release and follow through, so velvet. Best pure shooter? Best I ever saw. I notice you didn’t say best all-around shooter, though. While Ray could probably knock a tangerine through a loop earring, give me Steve Nash, whose career numbers are 90 percent from the line and 43 from 3-point, all the more impressive because of the added burden of ball-handling. And his hair often obstructing the view.
John Schuhmann: When I was covering the Heat-Celtics series last April, I showed up a few hours early for one of the games at American Airlines Arena. When I got there, I walked out to the court and encountered the Heat dancers warming up to my right and Ray Allen shooting to my left. And when it came to deciding which of the two to sit down and watch, the former NBA.com Dance Team Bracket champions were no match for the greatest shooter ever. His form is perfect, he’s shooting better than ever, and he’s been ridiculously clutch since arriving in Boston.
Sekou Smith: I’d love to hand Ray the crown since I’ve watched his entire (future) Hall of Fame career play out. But someone I know and trust, someone who has seen roughly 40 more years of basketball than I have so far in my life, warned me against calling anyone the “best ever” without careful examination. It’s easy to hand Allen the title right now because all of the other contenders can’t make a live impression upon us, since they’re no longer playing in the league. Allen is no doubt the best pure shooter of his era and certainly in the conversation for the best pure shooter the league has ever seen. And there is no doubt that he will finish his career as the most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history. But I think this is a question that requires more than just a casual conversation. We’d need to slice and dice this topic in so many different ways (best from distance, best from the mid-range, best off the dribble, on the run, etc.) before we could come close a conclusion. There have been too many great pure shooters to come through the NBA for me to hand the title to Ray Allen, or anyone else, right now. As far as my favorite, I’ve always felt like Larry Bird’s stroke was sweeter than anything I’ve seen.
The Phoenix Suns’ season is spiraling downward, with the six-player trade they made on Dec. 18 failing to light a spark. The Suns are 2-5 since the deal and just 3-9 going back to Dec. 7.
As usual, defense and rebounding are issues No. 1 and 1a in Phoenix. The team ranks dead last in both defensive efficiency, allowing 109.9 points per 100 possessions, and rebounding percentage, grabbing just 47 percent of available boards.
Offensively, the Suns are doing just fine. Though this may be the first season since 2000-01 that a Steve Nash team doesn’t have the most efficient offense in the league, the Suns’ are still in pretty good shape on that end of the floor. They currently rank third offensively, scoring 108.6 points per 100 possessions.
Nash is doing his part (at least offensively). He’s shooting better than he did last season and he’s averaging 13.0 assists per 40 minutes.
Nash will need to shoot a little better from beyond the arc to record his fourth straight 50/40/90 season (50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the line), but he’s still one of the league’s best shooters.
The latest evidence of that is Nash’s second perfect game of the season. In Sunday’s loss to the Kings, Nash made all eight shots he took from the field (including two from 3-point range) and both of his free throws.
Perfect shooting games aren’t all that uncommon. Fourteen times this season, a player has taken at least five shots from the field and not missed from the field or the line.
But Nash is the only one to have done it twice. In a Dec. 5 win over the Wizards, Nash hit all eight of his shots from the field (one from 3-point range) and all three of his free throws. Just for good measure, he had 17 assists in the game, too.
In the shot clock era (1954-55 to present), only once before has a player pulled off two perfect shooting games (with at least eight field goal attempts) in the same season. That was Tyson Chandler, playing for the Hornets in 2007-08. Chandler was 8-for-8 from the field (without a free throw) in a Dec. 17 loss in Portland and 8-for-8 from the field and 2-for-2 from the line in an April 11 loss to the Lakers (in L.A.) that season.
More “perfect game” numbers…
Chandler grabbed 19 rebounds in that game in Portland. That’s the most rebounds by anyone shooting a perfect game (minimum of eight field goal attempts), going back to the 1986-87 season.
Nash had 17 assists in the Dec. 5 game and 12 on Sunday. The only other player to dish out double-digit assists in a perfect shooting game (min. 8 FGA, going back to 1986-87) was Jeff Hornacek, who had 15 assists for the Suns while shooting 8-for-8 from the field in a win over the Cavs on Feb. 25, 1988.
The most total makes (from the field and the line) without a miss in the shot clock era is 19, a mark held by three different people. Kelly Tripucka was 8-for-8 from the field and 11-for-11 from the line for Utah in a loss at Denver on March 11, 1987. Charles Barkley was 10-for-10 from the field and 9-for-9 from the line for the Sixers in a win over the Spurs on March 24, 1989. And Buck Williams was 5-for-5 from the field and 14-for-14 from the line for the Blazers in a loss in Phoenix on April 21, 1991.
Pau Gasol came just short of that mark earlier this season. Gasol was 10-for-10 from the field and 8-for-8 from the line in the Lakers’ win over the Warriors on Nov. 21.
Of course, the most famous perfect game belongs to Christian Laettner, who shot 10-for-10 from the field and 10-for-10 from the line in Duke’s regional final win over Kentucky in 1992 at the Spectrum. The last shot was the incredible buzzer-beating game-winner off a full-court baseball pass from Grant Hill, current teammate of Nash. And the circle is complete.