Posts Tagged ‘Jim Boylan’

Morning Shootaround — Nov. 15

VIDEO: The Fast Break: Nov. 14


Warriors keep streak alive | Cleveland win streak snapped | Tyler Zeller relegated to the sideline | Bosh is back, renewed

No. 1: Warriors keep streak alive The Golden State Warriors began the season with a 10-game win streak, and have looked, for all intents and purposes, like they were the most powerful team in the NBA. So perhaps we can understand if the Warriors came into last night’s game against the then-1-8 Brooklyn Nets thinking they had the game in the bag. The Warriors ended up winning, sure, but it took a crucial three from Andre Iguodala and an overtime session for the Warriors to overcome a red-hot Jarrett Jack and remain perfect, as Carl Steward writes in the San Jose Mercury News

All of the Warriors’ impressive streaks appeared primed to be taken down Saturday night by former Warrior Jarrett Jack and an unlikely cast of Brooklyn Nets.

But the Warriors simply would not let their slate be blemished, and that goes for those slate uniforms, too

Andre Iguodala’s 3-point basket with 5.9 seconds left in regulation tied the score at 97-all, and after surviving a virtual point-blank buzzer miss by Brook Lopez, the Warriors then blitzed Brooklyn with a 10-0 run to start overtime en route to a 107-99 victory at Oracle Arena.

Jack scored 28 points, including six in the final 1:45 of regulation, and appeared to have directed the now 1-9 Nets to the NBA’s biggest upset of the year. For all the 11-0 Warriors have accomplished to start the season, it would have been a mighty bitter pill to swallow.

But the Warriors, who played with starter Klay Thompson sidelined by back stiffness, wouldn’t surrender. Neither would the Nets. In the end, it came down to Iguodala’s make, Lopez’s miss, and who had the most left in the tank for OT.

It turned out to be the Warriors, who were just happy to get this one.

“No win is guaranteed in this league, and teams that are down are always the ones that come to bite you,” said Iguodala, who saved the day with his 3-pointer when everyone in building figured Stephen Curry would be the one to take the last shot.


No. 2: Cleveland win streak snapped Meanwhile, Golden State’s opponent in last season’s Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers, had put together 8 consecutive wins, until last night’s game in Milwaukee, when the Cavs lost in double overtime, 108-105. And it wasn’t the loss that bothered the Cavs so much as it was the way that it happened, including an inadvertent whistle during a fast break, as Dave McMenamin writes for

The Cavaliers’ eight-game winning streak ended in controversy Saturday night after an inadvertent whistle thwarted a potential Cleveland transition opportunity with 7.4 seconds remaining in OT in the Milwaukee Bucks’ eventual 108-105 double-overtime victory.

Chief official Marc Davis explained the error to a pool reporter after the game.

“I blew the whistle with 7.4 seconds because I was in my action refereeing the play, and off to the side I heard Cleveland’s bench ask for a timeout,” Davis said. “I granted them the timeout, at which I looked at the head coach David Blatt and realized that he hadn’t asked for the timeout. [I] made an inadvertent whistle, which allowed the offensive team to call a timeout, and, in fact, they wanted a timeout and asked for a timeout.”

According to the NBA rulebook, a timeout can be granted only to either the head coach or one of the players checked into the game when the ball is dead or in control of the team making the request.

A video replay showed at least five members of the Cavs — Kevin Love, Mo Williams, assistant coaches Jim Boylan and Larry Drew, as well as athletic trainer Stephen Spiro — all signaling for timeout from the bench after LeBron James blocked Jerryd Bayless‘ layup attempt with 9.9 seconds remaining in overtime and the score tied 96-96.

However, since Love and Williams were out of the game, they were ineligible to have their request granted, as were the staff members.

When play was stopped after the whistle, both James and J.R. Smith let their frustration be known, hopping in place after the call.

“Coach said if we get a stop, then go ahead and go, because they might expect us to call a timeout,” James explained. “We got a stop, Delly [Matthew Dellavedova] got the board, outletted to me and I had a full steam, and we had an inadvertent whistle, so I’m guessing that they heard someone call timeout. But the rules, I know the rules, and only the head coach can call a timeout, and Coach Blatt didn’t call a timeout, so, you know, it’s over and done with now.”


No. 3: Tyler Zeller relegated to the sideline — The Boston Celtics are currently dealing with the kind of problem most NBA teams would love to face: They have too many good big men. And, at least thus far, the odd man out has been Tyler Zeller, who started nearly 60 games for the Celtics last season and was expected to be a starter during this campaign. To Zeller’s credit, according to ESPN Boston, he’s handled the change in roles like a pro…

You can tell it pains [Boston coach Brad] Stevens to not be able to play Zeller. This is a 25-year-old 7-footer who started 59 games for Boston last season. But the Celtics brought in veterans Amir Johnson and David Lee; Jared Sullinger has been the team’s best player since the start of the season; and Kelly Olynyk is a plus/minus darling who helps Boston’s second-unit thrive. For a Boston team that likes to go small, there is little space for a fifth big.

Thus, Zeller must deal with bite-sized shifts until an injury or opportunity presents itself.

“Tyler’s a really good player. We just have a lot of bigs,” said Stevens. “I don’t know how else to say it. We haven’t shot it great, so you want to play some guys that can stretch the floor and be guarded when the floor is stretched. And that leaves at least one person out.

“And I don’t know that it will always be Tyler. In fact, I see him playing a huge role for our team and he knows that. But, nonetheless, it’s really hard to deal with. But we’ve won three of the last four games and he hasn’t played as much. But he’ll help us win three out of four in some other stretch and he’ll play a lot.”

The way Zeller has handled this situation has made it a positive for the Celtics. While some players might have moped or tuned out, the easy-going Zeller never allowed the situation to impact his work ethic. And that’s now set a standard for a Boston team that believes it runs 15 deep and will see similar rotation issues crop up over the course of the 2015-16 campaign.

Zeller has become the model that Stevens can reference when other players don’t get their number called on a regular basis. How can others complain when they see the way Zeller has handled himself?

“Every day I see Tyler, Tyler is doing conditioning because he’s not getting the minutes that he normally gets,” said Sullinger, who produced his third consecutive double-double on Friday. “He’s lifting, he’s constantly in the gym working on his game, and that’s a big-time hats off to Tyler because, him going from starting to sometimes not even thought about then he’s thrown into [Friday’s] game … Tyler was ready and that’s being a pro’s pro.”


No. 4: Bosh is back, renewed Last season, with the Miami Heat looking to made a late-season playoff push, they suddenly found themselves unable to relay on their 10-time All-Star power forward Chris Bosh, who was ruled out of action with a blood clot on his lung, which ended up putting Bosh in the hospital for a while. But after a long stay and rehabilitation, he’s returned to the floor for the Heat this season, and has played an important part in Miami getting off to a 6-3 start, writes Ira Winderman in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“I’m just happy every game day,” he said, reflecting on where he stands at this juncture of his NBA career.

He values his game days, grateful the blood clot on his lung — the potentially life-threatening and outlook-altering ordeal that sidelined him for the final two months of last season — didn’t rob him of these moments.

“I don’t let myself go through the motions,” he said of what has been inspired play over the season’s first two weeks, amid the Heat’s 6-3 start. “I don’t give myself excuses as to why I can’t go up and down the floor quickly or whatever. I just try to go out there and do it and go out there and try to win a game and each day that I feel I have an opportunity to really just do something I love.

“This is what it’s about: You have a gift to do something you really like.”

The passion has been undeniable. And infectious.

Hassan Whiteside has the locker next to Bosh. He is there for the pregame inspiration and, lately, the postgame exhilaration.

“When you’re in the hospital for as long as he was, it really opens up your eyes,” Whiteside said. “It gave him a chance to miss the game. He always loved the game, but it is different when you miss the game. I’m excited every time he plays.”

From the moment he received clearance to resume basketball activity, Bosh started to spread his passion through the roster.

“He’s been fantastic as a leader,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Everybody has been turning to him in practice, shootaround, film sessions, and then you love to see him back it all up on the court.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Knicks center Kevin Seraphin, who counts Paris as his adopted hometown and lives there during the NBA offseason, reflects on the recent terror attacksKyrie Irving is reportedly making progress in his return from offseason surgery … Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer will remain out indefinitely as his family deals with a medical emergencyGerald Green returned to practice for the Miami Heat … DeMarcus Cousins has volunteered to pay for the expenses of the funeral for a Sacramento teenager murdered while driving to football practice

‘Free agent’ coaches seek work in ever-shifting job market

One by one, in something approximating inverse order of desirability, the names of NBA free agents have come off the proverbial big board. What began with the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Pau Gasol has dwindled now to fellows such as Andray Blatche, Dante Cunningham and Ekpe Udoh.

This game of offseason musical chairs is played for even more blood among coaches. There are fewer jobs to be had in the first place (five or six per team vs. 15 player positions), and it’s not nearly the meritocracy that it is for players. Abilities, work ethic and results matter less than connections or change for its own sake.

There are a lot of coaching free agents still on the board, both former head coaches and notable assistants. Among the former, we have George Karl, Jeff Van Gundy, Scott Skiles, Mike Woodson, Doug Collins, Vinny Del Negro, Mike Brown, Mike D’Antoni, Keith Smart, Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Lawrence Frank and Maurice Cheeks.

The latter group, even bigger, includes Jack Sikma, Mario Elie, Terry Porter, T.R. Dunn, Igor Kokoskov, Scott Williams, Bill Peterson, Bernie Bickerstaff, Brian Hill, Bob Ociepka  and, hey, Rasheed Wallace. Actually, you could go dozens deep with solid coaching pros who once were in but now are out, the one place few of them want to be.

“There’s an old expression in the NBA, ‘Never get off the bus. Stay on the bus!’ ” said Jim Boylan, an NBA assistant for most of his 22 years in the league who survived a coaching change in Cleveland this offseason. “We all realize it too — it’s a privilege for us to be involved in the NBA and to coach athletes at this level.”

But it’s fleeting. Coaches face more scrutiny and grab more headlines when they’re fired, but their landings are often cushioned by seven-figure paychecks. Assistant coaches get flushed, and that six-figure salary — while comfy by most folks’ standards — doesn’t go quite so far when you account for the costs of multiple residences or constant moves.

Ociepka, who entered the league in the 1980s as a part-time volunteer scout after a storied career as a high school coach in the Chicago area, scrambled through five NBA teams in five years in the ’90s. Boylan and his wife, Jane, counted recently and realized they have owned or lived in 25 homes during his basketball career.

“It’s not a surprise when you’re an assistant coach in the NBA,” Sikma, the former Seattle and Milwaukee center, said recently. “You look at the number of staffs that have turned over in the last few years — it’s more of a constant than not. You know you’re probably going to have to bounce around a little bit.”

There are a multitude of factors for the turnover, most obvious the turnover at the top. When a coach gets fired, some or all of his staff typically gets shown the door with him. And there has been a LOT of turnover lately — nine new NBA coaches this summer, 13 such changes a year ago. Going back just five years, to the start of the 2009-10 season, only San Antonio (Gregg Popovich), Miami (Erik Spoelstra) and Dallas (Rick Carlisle) now have the same coaches. And both the Spurs’ and Mavericks’ staffs have changed considerably.

“Most people who are making the decisions probably have a narrow list going on, from relationships or what they’re looking for,” Sikma said. “It’s a transient line of work for sure. So you have to be quick on your feet.”

Here are glimpses of three assistant coaches whose dance cards are filled to varying degrees. Sikma would like very much to get back in after spending the past seven seasons working with now-retired Rick Adelman. Boylan beat the odds by surviving a coaching change in Cleveland, then beat them again when LeBron James’ yearning for home rocked the Cavaliers’ landscape. And Ociepka is at the point, after so many hirings and firings, where he might prefer more stable options. (more…)

Bucks Tunneling Way Out Of Mediocrity


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When Milwaukee fans finish flipping through their “Half-Season In Review: 2012-13” to relive their favorite J.J. Redick moments with the Bucks – it won’t take long – they can start calculating the true haul from trading away promising young forward Tobias Harris, guards Doron Lamb and Beno Udrih along with cash to Orlando not quite 4 1/2 months ago.

That won’t take long, either. With Redick headed to the Los Angeles Clippers along with Phoenix’s Jared Dudley, per Yahoo! Sports’ report Tuesday afternoon, and the Suns acquiring Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Caron Butler in the deal, the Bucks’ participation in the sign-and-trade portion with Redick earned them two second-round picks.

That’s it.

Which means that the package of players and money sent to Orlando in the deal that delivered Redick leaves Milwaukee now with guard Ish Smith, forward Gustavo Ayon and 28 games in which Redick, employed for his shooting, was about as inaccurate as at any point in his career.

He shot 40.3 percent for the Bucks, second only to his 39.1 in 2008-09 with Orlando, and his 31.8 percent from 3-point range dragged his career mark down to 39.0. Never getting into rhythm in a backcourt that already had issues with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, Redick’s game slipped across the board. He also chafed with Bucks interim coach Jim Boylan near the end of the eighth-seeded team’s odd spit-out-the-bit season (4-16 after March 19, including the first-round sweep by Miami).

Even if Redick had thrived, he wasn’t returning to the Bucks. He wanted more money, and more opportunity to win, than they would or could offer. So salvaging two second-round picks was, well, something.

But it continued a week in which the Bucks are waving a white flag on their recent history of plucky mediocrity. The Jennings-Ellis backcourt is kaput; one or both of the shoot-first guards will be gone via free agency, Ellis after opting out of an $11 million deal for next season, Jennings if the offer sheet he signs runs too rich for Milwaukee’s blood.

Also, general manager John Hammond just took the youngest player in last week’s Draft, grabbing 18-year-old Greek forward Giannis Antetokounmpo at No. 15. Hammond raved about Big G’s almost limitless upside but no one expects him to help much on the floor next season. Center Samuel Dalembert will play elsewhere next season – he was in coach Scott Skiles’ doghouse before Skiles exited in January – and so will swingman Mike Dunleavy, a veteran backup who hit almost 43 percent of his 3-pointers in 2012-13 but is headed to the Bulls.

In drafting Antetokounmpo, Hammond talked of what really is a reality check for a team such as Milwaukee. “How are we going to get our next All-Star?” the GM said. The implication was that, no, the Bucks aren’t going to land marquee free agents. So they’ve got to rely on drafts and trades.

Or maybe just drafts, because this trade stuff – Harris was given all of 70 games to develop and still won’t turn 21 until July 15 – is looking a little shaky now too. The level-headed product of Tennessee averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in 36.1 minutes in 27 games for the Magic.

If there’s a silver lining in Milwaukee aligning itself with Philadelphia, Boston and others already focused on the 2014 draft, it is this: Those rumors over the weekend about the Bucks’ interest in New York free agent J.R. Smith should stay mere rumors. Even if Milwaukee were ready to challenge for a top seed in the East, Smith would be a bad idea, a flashback through John Salmons, Corey Maggette, Stephen Jackson and even Bobby Simmons rolled into one.

For a fellow such as Smith, Milwaukee surely holds no appeal, either for where it is located or for where it is headed.

Jennings’ Funny Math No Laughing Matter

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — His demeanor has shifted. The smile is gone.

The gravity of what Brandon Jennings and his Milwaukee Bucks are facing, down 3-0 to the defending champion Miami Heat in their first-round playoff series, seems to have set in for the brash young point guard.

That funny math he used to predict the “Bucks in six” has crumbled over the past eight quarters of this series. It’s no longer a laughing matter, not when your season and potentially your career in Milwaukee is potentially coming to an end.

Jennings has vowed to play until the final buzzer in Sunday’s Game 4, hoping to stave off elimination for at least one more games. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that this series is every bit the mismatch most of us thought it would be on paper. And it’s even tougher to avoid the obvious question that will linger between now and free agency for Jennings and the Bucks. Do they stick together after four extremely productive years for Jennings, a restricted free agent at season’s end?

He’s helped the Bucks to the playoffs twice, his rookie season and this one, and he’s shown his many critics that his decision to bypass college for a one-season detour in Italy did nothing to damage his NBA stock. But in a league filled with as diverse and talented a group of point guards as its potentially ever had, where exactly does a player like Jennings fit?

“Great question,” an Eastern Conference general manager said. “His rookie season I felt like he was going to join that group of elite point guards, especially after what he did to the [Atlanta] Hawks during the playoffs. He showed off playmaking skills and scored at will in the postseason, doing things you don’t normally expect from a rookie. And he’s been solid ever since. But I don’t know that he’s moved into that tip tier of point guards. He’s not there, not yet.”

Jennings has averaged an impressive 17.0 points, 5.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 291 career regular season games. Considered more of a scorer than a facilitator, Jennings has proven himself capable of handling both responsibilities for the Bucks. Still, there is some uncertainty about his desire to stick around in Milwaukee during what could be a complete rebuilding situation this summer.

His backcourt mate Monta Ellis can opt out and become an unrestricted free agent this summer. And Samuel Dalembert, Mike Dunleavy, Marquis Daniels, J.J. Redick and Joel Pryzbilla will all be unrestricted free agents this summer.

The Halloween deadline for Jennings and the Bucks to agree on an extension of his rookie contract passed without either side admitting that they were even close to getting something done.

That’s one reason why this series against the Heat is such a showcase event for Jennings. It’s his final platform before free agency to remind the league that he’s a player a franchise can build around. The upset guarantee and his 26-point effort in Game 1 was the ideal buzz and result for Jennings early on.

But he’s managed just 24 points in the two games since the opener, shooting 8-for-30 from the floor and 1-for-14 from beyond the 3-point line. The Heat have stymied the Bucks’ offense late in all three games, eliminating the pick-and-roll as an option for Jennings and Ellis when the game is one the line.

“One of the problems we have with that is our size in the backcourt,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “We’re not a big team. So when they are out there trapping and staying with the ballhandler like that, they are putting a lot of pressure on you, first of all. Secondly, they have good size. It’s easy for me stand up in the huddle and say ‘we’ve got to make a quick pass, we’ve got to move that ball and take advantage of them double teaming.’ But sometimes it’s hard to do. They are flooding the strong side and cutting off passing angles and it makes it difficult to find the right man, the open man, with a pass. It’s usually a cross court pass and those are always dangerous because of their speed and activity.”

This is one of the premier defensive teams in the league we’re talking about in the Heat, who boast quality perimeter defenders in not only LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but also Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Ray Allen.

Chalmers and Cole have taken a particular interest in limiting Jennings, both of them no doubt smarting from the brash attitude and words Jennings has been sure to share with the world.

“They are really getting physical,” Boylan said. “It’s playoff basketball. So there is a lot more contact than in the regular season. And anytime we use any sort of pick-and-rolls, they are double-teaming him and putting pressure on him. That combination is difficult. And they are focused in on both [Jennings] and Monta. They did what they needed to do, be physical, be big and cut off those angles for finding people.”

At 23, Jennings is probably done growing. So there is nothing he can do about that size disadvantage and the fact that the Heat are executing flawlessly in wearing him down. But he has at least 48 minutes left to prove that his skill set can best whatever advantage the opposition brings to the show.

That Bucks in six stuff is obviously history.

Whether or not Jennings’ time with the Bucks is, however, … well, only time will tell.

Two Coaches With Everything To Lose

LOS ANGELES — Opposing playoff coaches Vinny Del Negro and Lionel Hollins have a lot in common. Both men have improved their clubs’ winning percentage each season as coach. The last two soared over .600 for consecutive top-five finishes in the rugged Western Conference.

Both won 56 games this season to set each franchise’s record for most wins.

And, finally, job security: Neither man has it.

In a rare, but not unprecedented occurrence, the first-round playoff series between Del Negro’s Los Angeles Clippers and Hollins’ Memphis Grizzlies, a rematch of last season’s seven-game, first-round thriller won by L.A., features two lame-duck coaches.

While both have produced excellent seasons by any measure, one will be going home earlier than hoped. And despite public stamps of approval this week from their superiors, neither coach’s future is certain, and prior to Monday’s Game 2, neither was pretending otherwise.

“Would I liked to have had a contract before this? Of course,” said Hollins, now in his fifth consecutive season and third stint as the Grizzlies coach, a relationship that dates back to the franchise’s roots in Vancouver. “But that’s a decision that’s made and you go and do the best job you can, and it’s not like it had to be done before the season is over. It’s just like players, you can extend players early or you can wait till later. Guys become free agents and they go out in free agency and sometimes it gives you leverage and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Del Negro, who guided the Clippers to the franchise’s first Pacific Division title and first 50-win campaign in his third season and second with All-Star point guard Chris Paul, has been one of the most scrutinized coaches since Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf hired him without any coaching experience five years ago. Del Negro lasted two .500 seasons there before being fired and then hired by the Clippers.

L.A. advanced to the West semifinals last season, but with Paul and Blake Griffin banged up, was swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Del Negro said this season’s goal is to go deeper, which implies a goal of achieving another franchise milestone, a first conference final. It would take finishing off Memphis and then likely ousting the reigning West-champion Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I believe in what we’ve done here,” Del Negro said. “I think my assistant coaches have done a phenomenal job and I’ve had great support from ownership and the front office … and everybody to try and put the best team out there possible.

“Right now the focus should be on the playoffs, should be on the players and the commitment that they’re putting in to help us be successful. And all those things (contract situation) will get answered at the end.” (more…)

Bucks’ Sanders Has To Be A Factor

MIAMI — When Brandon Jennings made that upset prediction involving his Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat, he did so with Larry Sanders factored into the equation.

The Bucks’ rim protector and Defensive Player of the Year nominee has to play more than the 18 minutes and 41 seconds he played in that Game 1 loss. He was in foul trouble early and never got into a rhythm. He sat out the final four games of the regular season after a hard fall during an April 10 loss to Orlando, so Sunday night’s game was his first real game action in almost two weeks.

It showed. Sanders barely made a ripple in the first playoff action of his career, scoring six points, piling up as many fouls (five) as he did rebounds and not registering a single block.

Credit the Heat for going after him early and often and doing it in all sorts of ways. LeBron James and Udonis Haslem challenged him at the rim on three first-quarter possessions and Chris Bosh made sure to follow through on the game plan by stepping outside for jump shots in an effort to drag Sanders away from the basket.

If the Bucks are going to avoid a repeat performance in Game 2 on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, they’ll need to make the proper adjustments and make sure Sanders leaves a much bigger footprint on the action. (On NBA TV, pregame 7 p.m. ET)

“I’m going to keep myself in the game and play better,” Sander said. “Every time we were aggressive on defense, we got good things out of it. When they came out and they were aggressive, we couldn’t really match their intensity.”

The Bucks couldn’t match the Heat’s balance or energy either, especially when it mattered most. Jennings and Monta Ellis were plenty aggressive on both ends, combining for 28 points and five of the Bucks’ 12 steals.

They didn’t do a great job of involving Sanders or anyone else, though, an adjustment that Ellis and Bucks coach Jim Boylan said must change for Game 2.

“A lot of guys that usually help us out on the offensive end didn’t have a good shooting night,” Ellis said. “You’re going to have nights like that. We just have to stay together as a team, keep trusting each other … we have to play a perfect game, everybody has to be engaged.”

Sanders in particular. It’s difficult to scheme against players like Jennings and Ellis, guys who are every bit as craft and athletic as the Heat defenders assigned to stop them. Designing an attack for Sanders is much more deliberate. And when it is executed properly, the way it was in Game 1, can make a guy who averages nearly three block night a non-factor.

“I had to be a little less aggressive with the fouls I picked up,” Sanders said. “I wanted to be more aggressive in the fourth (quarter) but I went into the fourth with four fouls. But they were really aggressive in how they attacked the basket for rebounds, they attacked us in pick and rolls. They were really aggressive. And that was so smart on their part, to use Bosh the way they did. Definitely, in Game 2, Game 3, Game 4, or however many games we play, you’ll see me more aggressive if I’m not in foul trouble.”

Bucks’ Need More Than Bravado To Beat Heat

MIAMI — Brandon Jennings is fearless. The Milwaukee Bucks’ point guard always has been and probably always will be. And it’s hard not to admire that trait in him.

You don’t skip college for pro ball in Italy, declare yourself better than than international teen sensation Ricky Rubio and then back that claim up with four fantastic NBA seasons and have an ounce of fear in you.

But that fearlessness alone won’t be enough to propel the Bucks in their first round playoff series against the Miami Heat. They’ll need All-Star work out of Jennings and equal doses of fearlessness and spectacular play from the entire roster just to make this thing as interesting on the court as it has been in the build up to Game 1 here tonight at AmericanAirlines Arena. (On TNT, 7 p.m. ET)

Thursday night at the Wisconsin Sports Award ceremony, where he was picking up an award for his work in the community, Jennings uttered these famous words: “I’m real confident. I’m sure everybody is writing us off but I see us winning the series in six.”

That’s a playoff guarantee even Rasheed Wallace could appreciate. And while Jennings said later that he was making that prediction after joking about it with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, his words took on a life of their own. If he was attempting to put the pressure on the Heat instead of him and Monta Ellis or Bucks coach Jim Boylan, it’s not clear whether that mission has been accomplished just yet.

There is, however, recent evidence that a No. 8 can actually pull this off.

Two of the five instances in league history when a No. 1 seed has been upset by a No. 8 have come in the past two seasons. The Philadelphia 76ers did it last year against the Chicago Bulls, but only after Bulls All-Star Derrick Rose tore his ACL in Game 1. And the Memphis Grizzlies stunned the San Antonio Spurs the year before that.

This Heat team, however, is a far superior outfit to either of those aforementioned upset victims. They won 66-games this season, including that monster 27-game win streak, and have been vetted like few other great teams when you consider all that has gone on with this Heat crew the past three seasons.

“We don’t feel we can be beat in a series,” Heat center Chris Bosh said. “We say that in the most humble manner possible. We’ve been humbled already. I think before, all those other teams [upset], they were either injured or just caught slipping or they were in a five-game series. We’re not in that predicament so it’s a little different.”

The Bucks also have to contend with a rested and hungry LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, two stars who have welcomed all challenges since joining forces with Bosh here in Miami.

Jennings might very well have the advantage in his individual matchup against Mario Chalmers, though the ultra-confident Chalmers would love to argue that. And the Bucks have the same fighting chance any No. 8 seed does before the games actually begin. But it’s not like the Heat don’t see the challenge coming. They’ve been on guard for three years running now.

That would explain the reaction of Bosh, Wade and the rest of the Heat. They’ve seen and heard it all before (you remember the Indiana series from last year or the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals last year?). All that’s left is to play the games.

“We’ve been in every situation where it’s happened,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ve been up in a series and it’s happened. We’ve been down in a series and it’s happened. It’s happened, so what? [Sunday] night, bring it. That’s the only thing we can control.”

It’s going to take more than a healthy dose of bravado for the Bucks, or anyone else for that matter, to beat the Heat.

Playoffs? Bucks Don’t Seem Interested


Whatever lack of enthusiasm or even dread the Milwaukee Bucks might be feeling about their rapidly approaching postseason public flogging is entirely understandable. Assuming the Bucks do eventually nail down the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference bracket, their reward will be worse than a lump of coal or a Miss Congeniality award.

They’ll get to face the Miami Heat in a best-of-seven series, requiring them to endure four spankings as the NBA’s defending champions rev up for their title defense.

So yeah, we get it. It’s not much to look forward to. But the way the Bucks have gone about their business lately, you’d think Milwaukee would rather not participate in the playoffs at all. There are several teams headed for the lottery, but playing smarter and harder than Milwaukee lately, that look as if they’d appreciate the opportunity more and give a better showing than the Bucks. Orlando, for one, bad as its record is. Minnesota, for another.

Losers in seven of their past 10 games heading into Saturday’s home clash with Toronto and just 4-10 since a moderately encouraging 2-1 West Coast trip a month ago, the Bucks have been busy fulfilling all the concerns about them when the year began. And squandering what was a legit chance to move up to No. 7 by catching Boston.

The dynamic backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis is undersized and defensively challenged. On too many nights, there’s a your-turn, my-turn pattern to their offensive probes, and a disjointed or absent playmaking that has Milwaukee’s frontcourt players all too happy to come off the bench if it spares them some standing around with that starting duo.

Short-timers abound, in contract terms, and the resultant lack of cohesiveness and long-term vision predictably has followed. Jennings is headed to restricted free agency and has handled it poorly, pouting in or after games, through actions or words, more like an immature rookie than a fourth-year floor leader. Ellis can opt out of his deal and, at times in the past month, has played as if on a salary drive.

Samuel Dalembert, acquired to stem some bleeding up front, was needed less once Larry Sanders finally got traction this season. So first coach Scott Skiles and then replacement Jim Boylan warehoused Dalembert – over there on the bench next to drydocked Drew Gooden.

Dalembert’s deal is up once the Bucks head into summer, as is Mike Dunleavy‘s, as is J.J. Redick‘s, who probably will test the free-agent market and revive criticism that Milwaukee maybe gave up too soon on the small forward shipped to Orlando in that deal, Tobias Harris.

Ersan Ilyasova only recently has played up to the deal he landed last summer in free agency. Sanders reverted to some bad tossed-from-games-habits in a recent stretch. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was hurt less and in better shape before he got paid a couple years ago. Whatever bump the Bucks got from parting ways with Skiles appears to have been temporary – they’re 20-23 under Boylan – and the defense (104.1 ppg over the past 14) hardly is Miami-ready

Meanwhile, the locker room has been light and largely unaffected by all of the sputtering. During postgame media time Wednesday, after the loss to the nowhere-bound Timberwolves, somebody kept humming the tune of “The Final Countdown,” loud enough to be picked up in audio reports. Their third-quarter collapse at New York on Friday kept their magic number for clinching the playoff spot at two.

They’ll get it soon enough. But it’s too bad the NBA has no surrogate system, in which the disinterested Bucks players could vote someone pluckier and more eager to take their place in the first round. The way they’re going, the playoffs will be an opportunity wasted on them.

Morning Shootaround — April 1

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: There must be something in the way Nuggets coach George Karl teaches the game, because several of his ex-pupils are getting it done for contenders in the Eastern Conference. On the Heat, his former big man Chris Andersen provided some solid minutes in the Heat’s surprising win over the Spurs in San Antonio. Over in New York, though, three ex-Nuggets are getting it done as the Knicks keep on rolling and their game against the Celtics is our one to watch. First, we had Carmelo Anthony doing what he does best — score and score often — as he led New York with 24 points and added 10 rebounds. Then we had J.R. Smith doing his best big man impression with a team-best 12 boards off the bench. And finally, Kenyon Martin provided some solid interior defense and rebounding work as New York picks up its eighth straight win.


News of the morning

Ginobili out three-to-four weeks | Jennings blasts Boylan on Twitter | Knicks’ Martin would love to stay put | Bynum not likely to give Sixers extra consideration | Anderson recounts career, NBA life

Spurs say Ginobili out three-to-four weeks As it is well known in NBA circles, Spurs swingman Manu Ginobili is bound to miss a few games every season — the Argentine blur has yet to play an entire season in his career. But the timing of Ginobili’s injuries the last few seasons — such as his elbow injury right before the 2011 playoffs — could not have been worse. Now Ginobili has a hamstring issue bothering him that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich tells the San Antonio Express-News’ Dan McCartney could keep Ginobili out for a while:

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich puts Manu Ginobili’s timetable to return from a strained right hamstring at weeks rather than days, a significant setback to the team’s pre-playoff preparation.

“It’s a huge blow for us,” he said, “because he’s the guy that allows our second team to do what they’ve been doing all year long.

“It’s a huge loss for that group, and in game situations it’s a tough one because he’s one of two guys, he and Tony (Parker), are the creators who make things happen for everybody else on the court. It’s an unfortunate loss at this point of the season.”

Popovich said it is unknown if Ginobili’s injury will stretch into the postseason, which begins on April 20. Excluding Sunday’s home game against Miami, the Spurs have nine games remaining in the regular season, with the last coming on April 17 against Minnesota.

“We don’t know how his leg is going to react,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can.”

Ginobili, 35, was injured in the first quarter of Friday’s victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s missed 13 games this season with a variety of ailments, including a strain in his other hamstring. The Spurs are 9-2 without him.

Jennings calls out coach on TwitterIt hasn’t exactly been all sunshine and roses for Brandon Jennings this season in Milwaukee. Before the season began, Jennings hoped for an extension with Milwaukee, but he never got it. Then, coach Scott Skiles — who seemed to chafe at times with Jennings — was fired and Jim Boylan took over and, initially, Jennings had nice things to say about his new boss. Around the trade deadline, reports came out that Jennings had irreconcilable differences with team brass, which Jennings almost immediately refuted. Jennings was benched the entire fourth quarter of last week’s loss to Philadelphia and, apparently, the boil-over point game in a Saturday loss to Oklahoma City. With the Bucks down 109-99, Boylan took a late timeout, which Jennings questioned over Twitter, writes Sean Highkin of USA Today (tweet image available at the USA Today post):

When you’re unhappy with a decision your coach made, there are better ways to handle it than calling him out on Twitter. That didn’t stop Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings from taking to social media to question a late-game timeout called by coach Jim Boylan in the Bucks’ 109-99 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jennings deleted the tweet shortly after posting.

Jennings has made no secret of his unhappiness with the Bucks in recent months. As far back as last year, he was looking ahead to free agency and expressing a desire to sign in a big market. He did not sign an extension to his rookie contract with the Bucks before the October deadline, and openly talked about being intrigued by the Dallas Mavericks earlier this season. Jennings has even hinted he might do something unprecedented for player as high-profile as he is, and bypass restricted free agency by signing the qualifying offer this summer, essentially killing the Bucks’ leverage to keep or trade him beyond next year.

Boylan isn’t the first coach Jennings has clashed with this season, either. Scott Skiles and the Bucks mutually agreed to part ways in January after Skiles essentially lost control of the locker room. The team has turned its season around since appointing Boylan interim head coach, and are currently on pace for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but Jennings’ own effectiveness has fallen off since the change. Under Skiles, Jennings averaged 18.5 points per game on 40.5 percent shooting with 16.5 attempts per game. Since Boylan took over, Jennings has averaged 16.8 points while shooting 38.2 percent on 15.1 attempts per game.

Martin wants to stick with KnicksKenyon Martin, 35, has made his bones in the NBA by employing a physical style and menacing on-court attitude that often rubbed opponents (and some coaches) the wrong way throughout his career. He spent part of the lockout-shortened season in China before joining the Clippers 20 games into the 2011-12 campaign and became a valuable member of L.A.’s bench crew. But talk of disharmony between him and coach Vinny Del Negro soured many teams on signing the former No. 1 overall pick and it wasn’t until Feb. 23 that the Knicks came calling, signing Martin to a pair of 10-day deals and then, eventually for the rest of the season. Martin has once again flourished, providing rebounding and defense for a New York frontline that has been harmed by injuries to Tyson Chandler, Kurt Thomas and Amar’e Stoudemire. Martin tells Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe he’s loving life in the Big Apple and would love to stay put, too:

Martin says he has found comfort with the New York Knicks after being a basketball vagabond for months, searching for an opportunity and seething because his reputation for clashing with teammates and coaches preceded him.

Such was the case last season with the Los Angeles Clippers, when Martin clashed at times with coach Vinny Del Negro, and word of those dustups spread to league executives, who were unsure whether they wanted an aging, crabby Martin on their roster.

He says those are misunderstandings. Martin, the No. 1 overall pick in 2000 by the Nets, plays with an attitude but is considered a likeable teammate. He still has a passion for winning, and perhaps that is mistaken for arrogance or bravado.

When asked about the Celtics passing on the opportunity to sign him despite being desperate for forwards, Martin said, “It just wasn’t them. It just wasn’t the Celtics. So everybody get [my wrath]. I’m just here to prove to people that I ain’t never lost it. I’m a better person than I am a basketball player.

“The chip I always play with, it ain’t got no bigger, but I’m here to prove that what I can do, that’s everybody every night. So it just don’t start with the Celtics. Whoever puts that uniform on that’s opposite of us, they’re going to see what they’re missing.”

Martin knows his reputation, and realizes there is little he can do to change perceptions. But his time in New York is gaining him equity around the league, perhaps making him a more marketable free agent this summer.

“It was upsetting before, but I don’t deal with it,” he said. “The people who know me, man, they know what I’m about. I’m about winning. I’m about my teammates. I care about the guys I suit up with. That’s what I’m about.

“So other people, ain’t been around me long, they gonna judge. I can’t help that. Somebody is always going to have something to say — good, bad, or indifferent — so I take it all with a grain of salt.”

Martin is enjoying his experience in New York.

“I would love to stay a Knick,” he said. “I don’t want to go nowhere. I am proving to this organization what I can be and who I am as a person on and off the court, and I think they see that. I’m here now and I’m going to make the best of this opportunity.”

Bynum not expected to give Sixers extra considerationOther than Jrue Holiday‘s turn from solid, young player into an All-Star, the season has been a major disaster for the Sixers. From the start, the Sixers were without their prized offseason acquisition (Andrew Bynum) and spent the entire season in a will-he or won’t-he return waiting mode (which, ultimately ended with Bynum not returning). Along the way we had a Doug Collins meltdown, the stunted development of Evan Turner and subpar seasons from fellow offseason acquisitions such as Dorell Wright and Nick Young. Granted, Turner, Young and Wright would have looked better getting wide open perimeter looks playing off Bynum, but the season is what it is. On top of a rough season, the Sixers have to decide whether or not to re-sign Bynum, who will be an unrestricted free agent. John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer says the Sixers shouldn’t count on a hometown discount from Bynum on a future deal:

Trading for Bynum, who may not re-sign with the Sixers (and who may never be healthy enough to warrant the franchise’s taking that risk) could have allowed GM Tony DiLeo to venture into free agency this summer knowing that he had at least the second-best center in the league and a legitimate all-star point guard in Jrue Holiday. Evan Turner – who theoretically was supposed to be vastly improved by Bynum’s presence – would have blossomed and Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, and Lavoy Allen would have increased their value as a result of playing alongside Bynum.

While it would be wonderful if Bynum – an unrestricted free agent – gave the Sixers special consideration in light of all that they lost in trading for him and the agonizing wait for him to return, a team source with knowledge of the situation said last week that he does not believe that will be the case.

The Sixers ultimately may have nothing to show for this deal – no Bynum, no Nik Vucevic, who looks as if he could be a budding star with the Magic, no Maurice Harkless, blossoming in his own way in Orlando, and one less first-round draft pick.

All once sparkling assets, they now are reminders of a potentially franchise-crippling mistake by the front office.

Ex-NBAer Anderson reflects on college days, NBA lifeKenny Anderson was perhaps one of the greatest point guards in New York prep basketball history, a McDonald’s All-American, a two-time AP All-American at Georgia Tech, the No. 2 overall pick of the 1991 NBA Draft and a one-time All-Star. He also played 17 seasons in the NBA and was an integral part of several exciting teams as a young player and a key veteran voice in the later stages of his career. All that to say that Anderson had quite the body of work in basketball and in a great interview with, Anderson looks back on his college days (including why he picked Georgia Tech over Syracuse), who is peaking in the NBA right now and more. It’s a great listen.

ICYMI of the night: If you’re not watching the Hornets, you’re missing out on the fantastic pick-and-roll combo that is Greivis Vasquez-to-Anthony Davis:

Kobe’s Bone Spur Worst Part of Lakers’ Long Night In Milwaukee


– The respective head coaches were asked prior to the game Thursday which of their teams was feeling more desperate.

By the end of the night, the Lakers’ Mike D’Antoni had it all over the Bucks’ Jim Boylan. For all the wrong reasons.

Snapshot of the night, the latest in this tortuous season for L.A.: Kobe Bryant hopping out of the BMO Harris Bradley Center on one crutch, his left foot burning from a bone spur diagnosed after the game. Bryant did not talk with reporters in the dressing room but did say to Yahoo! Sports as he maneuvered toward a waiting car: “Inflamed on me. I’ll be all right.” The Lakers were staying over in Milwaukee before flying to Sacramento Friday, where Bryant is expected to be examined again.

This came at the tail end of what already had been a lousy night. After the 113-103 loss the Bucks, their eighth-place counterparts from the East. After another defensive collapse and a blown 13-point lead. After point guard Steve Nash exited for good at 5:13 of the third quarter with an aching back and hamstring. After an old, banged-up team – still smarting from Metta World Peace‘s knee surgery earlier in the day – showed its age, D’Antoni said, then got a little older and more banged-up.

“It’s been a long year, there’s no doubt about it,” forward Pau Gasol said. “A lot of ups and downs. But we’re here. We believe in ourselves. We have the weapons. Hopefully we will stay healthy enough to be able to give it our best shot. But it’s been difficult, no doubt about it.”

Bryant, who sprained his left ankle in Atlanta two weeks ago and missed two games, led the Lakers with 30 points Thursday but shot 6-of-17 from the floor. He was 2-of-8 in the second half, when L.A. got outscored 60-47 by a Bucks club that had dropped four in a row and wasn’t playing at all like a team, ahem, peaking for the playoffs.

But Milwaukee, 35-36, perked up and crept within two games of seventh-place Boston in the East. Led by Larry Sanders’ career-high 21 points and 13 rebounds, all five starters scored in double figures, and Marquis Daniels‘ defense on Bryant led an effort that limited the Lakers to 37.5 percent shooting after halftime, including 1-of-11 on 3-pointers.

“When you’re losing, it seems like you’ll never win again,” Daniels said. “Finally we got a win, we can breathe a little bit. Not breathe, but it’s fresh air and we’ve got to continue to build off this.”

The fact that D’Antoni’s team, 37-36, is sweating out games in late March and figures to do so right through however many it has in April, sums up the failures of its season. Nash is expected to face the Kings Saturday and, given Bryant’s recuperative track record, maybe he won’t miss time either. But with just nine games remaining, a Lakers team that so often can’t control its own scoreboard will be eyeballing others’.

“We have to,” Gasol conceded. “We don’t need anybody else to be injured, to be out, missing games, especially at this point of the year. So let’s see what happens. Hopefully Kobe will be healthy for the next game. Steve will be healthy. I’ll get healthier and we’ll continue to move forward.”

Continue? There was a distinct shifting of gears Thursday but grinding, like something headed toward reverse.