HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Stan Van Gundy has a history of opposing the rule of law in regards to the rules handed down by the NBA. He did so as coach of the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic and still does in his new role as an analyst and partner of the NBC Sports Network.
“I think the attempt to try to address it is a good thing but I don’t see the rule having much effect,” said Van Gundy, the former Magic coach who is transitioning this season to broadcasting with NBC Sports Network and Dial Global radio. “First of all, I think the only ones that you will see penalized are very, very egregious flops. I’d be surprise if it even got to one a game, and I think anybody who watches basketball knows that there is far more than one every game.
“And I don’t even think this is the NBA’s fault. I just think it’s impossible the way the rule is written where they can ‘crack down’ on it. I think they will make sort of a cursory attempt, and make it look like they are trying to do something about it.”
Van Gundy did exonerate the league to a degree, admitting that it’s nearly impossible to crack down on the problem with the way the rule is written. But do you think he has a point?
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – We have our first official flops of the 2012-13 season.
The league announced Monday that J.J. Barea of the Wolves and Donald Sloan of the Cavs received warnings for flopping in games played on Friday.
Early in the fourth quarter of the Wolves’ win over the Kings, Barea took a forearm to the face from Jimmer Fredette, who was actually called for an offensive foul on the play. But Barea’s arm actions were clearly deemed to be an exaggeration of the impact…
Again, here’s a the “flopping” definition from the league…
A “flop” is an attempt to either fool referees into calling undeserved fouls or fool fans into thinking the referees missed a foul call by exaggerating the effect of contact with an opposing player.
HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – Before anyone else in Los Angeles points another finger at Pau Gasol, Mike Brown, Ramon Sessions or any of the other convenient scapegoats in the wake of a second straight second-round playoff exit, look in the mirror.
Stare long and hard and ask yourself if you didn’t see this coming. Didn’t you realize last season, when Andrew Bynumwas heading to visitor’s locker room in Dallas without his jersey, that this team was fatally flawed and had no chance of overcoming its own internal obstacles?
Like an aging heavyweight champ who gets K.O.’d in his last bout and then comes back into the ring the next time without truly understanding what went wrong, the Lakers got popped against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals. This time, it came by believing in their ability to overcome any obstacle with sheer talent alone.
Avoiding the sweep this time around shouldn’t ease the sting for Lakers fans, either. They knew (better than most) what they saw from this group during last season’s semifinal flame-out against the Mavericks exposed the team’s flaws.
Why would anyone, Kobe Bryant included, be surprised at Gasol’s struggles against the Thunder when you saw him crumble against the Mavericks?
You replaced a living legend in Phil Jackson with a good coach in Brown, but if Jackson couldn’t get this team over the proverbial hump in his final season, why would anyone assume Brown would be capable of pulling it off now? And Sessions was supposed to be the anti-Derek Fisher — a younger, more athletically gifted point guard capable of matching up better against the league’s younger and more athletic guards. He proved to be just as ill-equipped to handle Russell Westbrook as Fisher would have been.
This is a mess of the Lakers’ own making, whether they admit it or not. They are the ones that tossed Jackson’s hand-picked successor, Brian Shaw, aside in favor of Brown. They saw the cracks in their foundation and opted for some instant sealant instead of legit fixes.
HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – A 13-point deficit in a hostile environment, with a close-out opportunity fading away with every empty possession, would have worried most teams heading into the fourth quarter.
But not the Oklahoma City Thunder. And certainly not James Harden, the Thunder’s mercurial sixth man who came to the rescue and delivered the Thunder’s 103-97 series-clinching Game 4 win over the Dallas Mavericks Saturday night at American Airlines Center with a staggering 29-point performance that included virtuoso work in the crucial minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Thunder not only swept the defending champs out of the playoffs for the second straight year (the Mavericks got the Lakers in the Western Conference semis a year ago), they also became the first team in this postseason to punch their ticket to the second round, where they await the winner of the Lakers-Nuggets series.
Perhaps even more important in their own locker room, however, is that they vanquished the team that ended their dream run in the conference finals last year by schooling the young upstarts in the art of closing out playoff games.
“We learned a lot [from that series],” said Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, whose lockdown defense on Mavericks sixth man Jason Terry helped turn the series in his team’s favor. “We learned that we had to come back this season with a lot more toughness.”
And they did!
It’s far too early to crown the Thunder as anything but the first team to move on to the next round. But they showed resilience, some toughness and some maturity that many people wondered if they possessed after seeing the Mavericks take them apart in that five-game series last year.
“They’re a great young team,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “They have a certain look in their eye right now, not only that they belong but that this could be their time. I’m sure the addition of [Derek] Fisher has something to do with that. But they came at us like a buzzsaw in the fourth quarter … they’re going to be tough to beat.”
But it doesn’t really matter how many times you watch it, how many different interpretations there are of it and how many different ways World Peace tries to explain away the lick he passed as both “unfortunate” and “unintentional.”
And at this stage, it’s really only a matter of how severe a penalty it will be for World Peace and the Lakers, whose regular season finale is Thursday night in Sacramento. While the reaction from folks on both sides of this issue was as immediate (thanks to Twitter and other social networking sites) as it was passionate, discipline for World Peace will have to wait until the league doles it out.
But, as one prominent agent explained it, that does not mean the league is limited to game penalties in dealing with World Peace. The league is perfectly within its right to fine him an unspecified dollar amount on top of the games he would be forced to sit out, without pay. For a player who has already missed 111 games due to 13 previous suspensions and lost millions in related fines and penalties, this latest incident is a sobering reminder of a place he probably did not intend on revisiting after a relatively incident-free past couple of years.
“I would think at least five games and anywhere from 5 to 10 games,” the agent said. “I thought it was definitely an egregious act and a totally over the top move. It wasn’t a basketball play. There wasn’t a basketball involved at all. Bynum got five for knocking Barea out of the air. This was just as bad, in my opinion, if not worse. It wasn’t a basketball play. And it wasn’t a mistake. Harden never even looked at Artest, didn’t have his hands up and never knew that elbow was coming. This wasn’t Harden’s fault.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Welcome to the playoff chase, Minnesota. You have officially arrived.
The Timberwolves still have plenty of work to do if they want in on the NBA’s postseason party. The dream is fading. But they are not completely out of it yet and they are on the right path.
When your stars go after each other on the sideline before, during or after an ugly showing against a lesser opponent, you have the makings of a team that is serious about making some noise in the playoff hunt.
Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love and point guard J.J. Barea, who collected his ring while with the Mavericks last season, got into a dust-up on the bench during a timeout in a game they would eventually lose to the Kings (see a little of the argument at about the 2-minute mark in the clip above).
Barea stepped toward Love while the two exchanged words and Love rose from his seat on the bench until Luke Ridnour ushered Barea away and Martell Webster did the same with Love.
By then, the Wolves’ third consecutive loss was all but assured, six days after they began this seven-game, 13-day road trip with a victory at Phoenix.
Love and Barea both put the same name to an afternoon when they briefly turned on each other. Meanwhile, the struggling Kings ran away to a 20-point fourth-quarter lead and a 115-point total two days after they put 120 points on the scoreboard and beat the Boston Celtics by 25.
“Frustration,” Barea said.
Barea called the afternoon’s outcome “terrible, worst loss of the year if you want to put it timingwise” after the Wolves committed 21 turnovers and acquiesced in a fourth quarter when they gave up the good fight, after losing in overtime at Utah on Thursday and remaining respectable against the Lakers on Friday.
“Part of the game, competitors trying to win,” Barea said. “We’re frustrated that we’re losing, but it happens, every basketball team. We just got into it. It’s all right. He said something I didn’t like, I said it back and we’re all good. Nothing against him.”
This is one of those instances when a little overheating is for the greater good. The Timberwolves need to get upset. They are letting a playoff opportunity slip away with their recent play (losing three straight and going 4-6 in their last 10 games).
It’s rare that we would argue for this sort of public display of discontent between teammates, and we’re glad Love and Barea didn’t drag their temporary temper tantrums off the court.
But they are right to care enough to go at each other a little bit. Desperate times call for desperate measures, fellas.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For all the magic Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love or Rubio and Michael Beasley or even Rubio and Derrick Williams might make on the court, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ true dynamic duo this season should be Rubio and his new mentor.
Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman holds the keys to Rubio’s rookie season, and his career to some extent, and so far is driving flawlessly so far. Much like Paul Silas did with LeBron James so many years ago, Adelman has to press all the right buttons early on with a player that is dealing with pressures, internal and external, that not every top draft pick has to deal with.
Rubio is only four games his journey and raised the stakes already with masterful performances in a loss to the Heat on Friday and Sunday’s win over the Mavericks, the two teams that played for the NBA title last season.
Did you see him work against the Mavericks? (If not, check the video above.) His 14-point, seven-assist, four-rebound showcase included five consecutive points scored after the Mavs shredded a 15-point lead to just one.
It’s clearly a matter of time for Rubio to overtake Luke Ridnour as the starting point guard for the Timberwolves. But it’s up to Adelman to decide when to push that button. Adelman’s work with young point guards in the past — namely Jason Williams and also Mike Bibby in Sacramento — suggests that he is following a revised script that only he is privy to.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – That offseason work with famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach should come in handy for Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who will be the last player to experience the changes made to the team’s system by new coach Mike Brown.
With his body fat down to 5.1% from 9.5% and his 290-pound frame still intact, Brown will demand much more on both ends of the floor from his low-post anchor. Of course, the Lakers won’t get to unwrap their belated Christmas gift until this afternoon, when they unleash a new and improved Bynum on the Denver Nuggets at the Staples Center.
Bynum began this season serving the four-game suspension handed down after his take down of then Mavericks guard J.J. Barea during the Lakers’ final game last season, the fourth and final game of an ugly sweep at the hands of the eventual NBA champion Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals.
So even with all of this proposed changes to Bynum’s body and the system, he won’t be able to answer any lingering questions about what he might be capable of until today.
The San Antonio Spurs have emerged as a strong suitor for free agent forward Caron Butler, according to a source.
Butler, the Mavericks’ forward who is coming off a knee injury suffered on New Year’s Day that caused him to miss the rest of last season, is one of the most sought-after small forwards in free agency. He is currently being pursued by the Heat, Bulls, Spurs, Clippers, Nets, Pistons and Bucks, according to the source. The Sacramento Kings were also initially interested in Butler, but have fallen off the hunt in the last couple of days. Butler, who works out in Chicago in the offseason with trainer Tim Grover, is expected to meet with the Bulls sometime in the next few days before making a decision on where he wants to go.
Butler could still re-sign with Dallas, but the Mavericks apparently have concerns about their status as a luxury tax payer going forward. With several other free agents to also decide on, including center Tyson Chandler and guards J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson, the Mavs won’t be able to keep all of them.
San Antonio could be looking for a replacement for veteran Richard Jefferson, who has struggled in his first two seasons there after being acquired in the summer of 2009. Butler would be a perfect fit in the no-nonsense Spurs’ locker room, and with Tim Duncan entering the last year of his contract, and guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili on the backside of their careers, San Antonio is preparing to transition quickly from the post-Duncan era with a new core group including guard Gary Neal, center Tiago Splitter, forward/center DeJuan Blair and rookie forward Kawhi Leonard, acquired in a Draft night trade with Indiana for guard George Hill.
And when asked whether LeBron James was the best defender, he put Kobe Bryant ahead of the Heat forward, because Bryant has a little more of a winning mentality than James. He said that James might get that mentality someday, but Bryant has already proven it.
Whatever Barea decides to do in the future, we’re convinced this won’t go over well in the Heat locker room. Making nice about Kobe, on the other hand, might help Barea avoid future instances like this one: