Posts Tagged ‘Joel Pryzbilla’

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.

Pressure Growing For Jennings, Bucks

HANG TIME, TEXAS – Coming off their impressive run to the NBA championship, LeBron James and his Heat teammates are undoubtedly in the firing line with every team from Oklahoma City to New Jersey to a pair of them in Los Angeles taking aim at that title.

The Lakers, reloaded and rejuvenated with the additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, are back in their familiar place in the spotlight.

The Knicks, as usual, are in the glare of the media capital and once more under the unrealistic and misguided notion that they can turn the clock back to 1973.

But as we tiptoe through the calendar toward the opening of training camps, there might not be a team sitting collectively in the heat of the frying pan as the Bucks.

Consider that point guard Brandon Jennings has not yet signed a contract extension, while coach Scott Skiles and general manager John Hammond are also entering the final year of their contracts.

None of those facts have gone unnoticed on a team that has missed the playoffs the past two years, as Jennings noted to Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“To be honest, I think everybody is (feeling pressure),” Jennings said. “We’re all on the bubble right now,  because we need to win. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on all of us, not just the coaching staff or the GM. We all know this could be it so we need to turn it around right now.” (more…)

Hawks’ Horford Out 3 To 4 Months

***

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – What looked like a serious shoulder injury Wednesday night turned out to be a devastating injury for the Hawks and their All-Star center Al Hoford, who will miss the next “three to four months” with a torn pectoral muscle.

Horford, a two-time All-Star and a third-team All-NBA pick last season, left the Hawks’ loss to the Pacers in Indiana at the 6:08 mark of the first quarter with an apparent left shoulder injury.

The severity of the injury wasn’t clear until after the results of an MRI this afternoon revealed the tear. Per the statement the team released, Horford’s injury “typically requires surgery,” but Horford will seek a second opinion before making a decision on what route he will take.

The Hawks, 7-4, lose not only their low-post anchor and team leader, they’re also losing the services of one of the league’s elite big men for what would appear to be the remainder of this abbreviated regular season.

*** (Hawks VP of Public Relations Arthur Triche tweeted just after 5 p.m. that he had spoken with Horford, who said he planned to have surgery and try to return before the end of the regular season.) ***

For a team that’s already battling depth issues at the position, this is a blow that will be hard to overcome, especially with the competition for playoff slots in the Eastern Conference heating up this season.

“We are very disappointed for Al and our team and we wish him the best as he moves forward in the rehabilitation process,” Hawks’ Executive Vice President and General Manager Rick Sund said in a statement released by the team.  “He has contributed greatly to our success since his arrival in Atlanta, and that’s evident by his selection to the NBA’s All-League team last season (third team pick).”

Horford, who averaged 12.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 blocks to go along with .553 FGs  in 11 games this season, joins the growing list of stars that will be sidelined for a significant portion of this season with injuries. San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili (hand) and Memphis big man Zach Randolph (knee), being the biggest names.

The Hawks will have to scour the current free agent pool to see if there is a big man out there that will help provide some depth. And in the meantime, either Zaza Pachulia or Jason Collins will have to move into a starting role to replace Horford.

Prior to the start of tonight’s Hawks-Bobcats game at Philips Arena, our Matt Winkeljohn reported on the Ten Before Tip blog that Hawks coach Larry Drew said the franchise will consider all of the available options before deciding what to do next:

Drew said the Hawks have not yet spoken in earnest about the possibility of replacing Horford on the Atlanta roster. Joel Pryzbilla is among un-signed big men, Erick Dampier is out there, and Greg Ostertag is laboring in the D-League. “It’s hard to replace unless you make a trade for it,” Drew said. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to [general manager] Rick Sund yet about the direction we’ll go from here.”

Whatever their choice, the Hawks will be at a severe disadvantage in the middle without Horford in uniform. Because none of the available big men come close to giving the Hawks what Horford has during his career.

Wallace Still Sore About Trade

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We suspect the standing ovation Gerald Wallace will receive at Time Warner Arena tonight in Charlotte will be as long and thunderous as any heard in Bobcats’ history.

After all, it’s not every day that the very first face of the franchise walks through the door with an opposing team. Yet that’s exactly what Wallace and his new team, the Portland Trail Blazers, will do this evening.

And it’s far from the happy homecoming you might have imagined. Wallace is more than happy to be toiling on a Blazers team steaming toward the playoffs with a renewed energy, due in large part to their last-minute acquisition of Wallace at the Feb. 24 trade deadline. And few players have exhibited the sort of no-nonsense approach to their work that Wallace does on a daily basis.

His description of the way he was shipped out of Charlotte, though, doesn’t sound like the sort of treatment the only All-Star in Bobcats history deserved. Wallace used phrases like “stab in the back” and “slap in the face” to capture his feelings about the trade, a move he insists Bobcats coach Paul Silas told him would not happen just hours before it did.

“Basically, he told me before the practice that I was good, that no trades were going to go down and I was OK and I didn’t have anything to worry about,” Wallace told reporters in Charlotte Thursday, his first day back in town since the trade. “Then I get home and bam, I’m traded.”

In this era of players dictating the terms of their own careers, the one that has some people crowing about a ruinous takeover of the league by star players demanding to play with their All-Star friends, Wallace is a victim of the age-old flip side practice of teams making moves in their own financial best interest with little regard to what that means to the player or players involved.

(more…)

Blazers Deciding To Pull Back?

A six-game winning streak before the All-Star break may have changed the Portland Trail Blazers from sellers to buyers before Thursday’s trade deadline.

Several league sources say that Portland has changed its mind about trading most of, if not all, of its veteran big men for youth before the deadline. The Blazers had informed teams around the league that they would likely be tearing down their roster after hearing the severity of guard Brandon Roy’s knee maladies, and after losing center Greg Oden for yet another season due to a knee injury.

Teams believed the Blazers would definitely trade point guard Andre Miller before the deadline, and perhaps move both Marcus Camby and Joel Przybilla as well.

But the inspired play of forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who took on a bigger scoring burden with Roy out, and the team’s rally before the break have the Blazers now thinking they could not only maintain their fifth-place standing in the Western Conference, but perhaps get a spot higher with a couple of targeted trades. Portland is looking for a backup point guard and a scoring big man to play in the rotation behind Aldridge–and perhaps alongside Aldridge when he plays center. That would likely explain Portland’s interest in Charlotte forward Gerald Wallace, as reported by multiple outlets Wednesday. But getting Wallace, who makes $9.5 million this season in Charlotte, would have to include at least one of Portland’s veterans to make the deal work–though the Blazers do have Oden’s $6.7 million salary as a potential chip to use.

Life for Mavs & Blazers

Life is a little better today for the Mavericks, not so much for the Blazers. Let’s start with Portland, which announced today that “center Marcus Camby underwent successful arthroscopic surgery to repair a partial medial meniscus tear in his left knee this morning.”

The procedure was performed in Vancouver, Wash., and leaves the Blazers without the league’s fifth-leading rebounder (11.3) for approximately three weeks. Throw that on top of Greg Oden being out for the year — again — and Joel Przybilla contemplating retirement, and the Blazers might as well put up a Help Wanted sign in the unpainted paint in the Rose Garden lane.

General manager Rich Cho tried to put a happy face on the Portland’s latest surgery.

“We’re pleased with the outcome of today’s surgery, and look forward to seeing Marcus back on the court soon,” he said. “In the meantime, we have confidence in our frontcourt players to step into the void left by Marcus and help us continue to win games.”

In 39 games (all starts) this season, Camby averaged 5.9 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.87 blocks in 28.7 minutes. He’s the only player in the Western Conference averaging at least 11.0 rebounds and 1.50 blocks.

The Blazers went with a three-forward look of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Dante Cunningham in the starting lineup in Wednesday’s win over Sacramento, with Przybilla being the first off the bench. Wonder if they’ll do the same in tonight’s TNT nightcap (10:30 p.m. ET) against the BlakeShow, aka the Los Angeles Clippers.

In the TNT opener, Dallas takes its much-needed one-game winning streak to run with the Bulls at 8 p.m. Chicago beat the Mavs on the road earlier this season, but Jason Terry and Co. are coming off Wednesday’s huge win over the Lakers.

“I’ve been here seven years and had never been through a stretch where we lost six games in a row,” Terry said. “I think the big thing was realizing and assessing the situation and then aggressively attacking from the beginning.”

Rip City Karma

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We will understand if Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan spends the rest of his days looking over his shoulder, avoiding cracks in the sidewalk wherever he walks and ducking for cover at the sign of a cat any shade other than albino.

We’re just as confused here at the hideout as McMillan must be in regards to what he and the Trail Blazers have done to incur the wrath of the basketball gods the way they have the past two seasons.

Now comes word that Brandon Roy, who was already out indefinitely, will have an arthroscopic procedure on both knees next week. McMillan should have requested Ashton Kutcher deliver the news, as opposed to whatever member of the beleaguered Trail Blazers’ athletic training staff had to deliver the crushing news.

Roy’s knees give the Trail Blazers a total of seven knees that have cost players their seasons, or at least large chunks of the season. Greg Oden is out for the season after having microfracture knee surgery. Second-yard forward Jeff Pendergraph injured his knee and required season-ending surgery. And rookie guard Elliot Williams has undergone surgery this season on both knees. Veteran center Joel Pryzbilla is working his way into normal shape after missing 26 games recovering from offseason knee surgery.

Dan Gilbert and LeBron James toss the word “karma” around without knowing the true dark side of the word. Folks in Portland know all too well what the wrong side of that coin can do to a team’s hopes and dreams.

(more…)

Knuckle Up!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Desperate times call for desperate measures.

And prior to Sunday’s game at the Rose Garden, the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers were the living, breathing, jump-shooting and dunking embodiment of desperate.

The Blazers were trying to snap a six-game losing streak. The Clippers were trying to win on the road for the first time this season. The result was a fantastic wrestling match with some pretty good basketball mixed in for good measure.

Seriously, though, both of these teams will continue to fight to save their seasons. They have to, with so much drama swirling around their respective camps.

(more…)

Did You See What We Saw?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Who in the name of Naismith would be crazy enough to try to watch all 13 games on Wednesday night’s NBA schedule, completely ignoring Game 1 of the World Series, Modern Family and whatever else was going on last night?

You know we did.

The crew here at the hideout managed to view significant portions of all 13 games and we must admit, we came away impressed more often than not, even by some teams that ended up on the losing end at the end of the night.

The most anticipated season in league history? However preposterous it might have sounded to hear that in recent weeks, we’re warming up the idea now.

Back to Wednesday night’s games, though. It was an absolute embarrassment of basketball riches on display from coast to coast all night. Did you see what we saw?

CLEVELAND 95, BOSTON 87

Looking good: Now you know why the Cavaliers refused to part with J.J. Hickson last year in a proposed Amar’e Stoudemire deal. He was a force (21 points on 8-for-11 shooting) and is poised for a breakout season. Boobie Gibson rebounded from an ugly start (0-for-8) to finish with 16 points and a team-high eight assists.

Sound the Alarm: The Celtics can’t afford many off nights in the revamped Eastern Conference, where the Magic, Heat and even the Hawks plan to push the pace. There was bound to be an emotional letdown, of sorts, after Tuesday’s season-opening home win over Miami. There just can’t be many more like it.

HT’s Take: They say the best way to get over a breakup is to dive right back into the game. And the scrappy, LeBron James-free Cavaliers proved they’ll do just that by out working the Celtics down the stretch. But I wouldn’t go making travel plans for the NBA Finals yet.

NEW JERSEY 101, DETROIT 98

Looking good: All those new additions, rookies and otherwise, showed well in the Nets’ debut in their new arena. Even Jay-Z and Beyonce showed up, a rare occurrence compared to last season when, our Twitter family informed us, Jay never showed up. You expect an Avery Johnson-coached team to play a certain way and the Nets did that down the stretch. He’s already got the Nets 18 games ahead of last season’s win pace.

Sound the Alarm: The Pistons’ inability to finish this thing off, they were up seven with 1:40 to play, doesn’t bode well for a team that enters this season without a whole lot of confidence in each other.

HT’s Take: We tuned in hoping to see something from Nets rookie Derrick Favors and he didn’t disappoint. The eight points and 10 rebounds are fine, but he was much more physical around the basket than even we expected. Our initial fears about the Pistons were confirmed. They just don’t look like a team on a mission of any sorts.

MIAMI 97, PHILADELPHIA 87

Looking good: Welcome to the season, Dwyane Wade. We knew he needed more than those four minutes he played in the preseason to get warmed up. His 30-point outburst against the Sixers is much more like normal. When James Jones sinks six of his nine 3-pointers against anyone, the Heat become nearly impossible to deal with for anyone other than the league’s elite.

Sound the Alarm: As NBA.com’s Andy Jasner pointed out, the Sixers’ starting five did not attempt a single free throw all night. That’s either some sever disrespect for their games or a serious lack of force being used by Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Jason Kapono, Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes.

HT’s Take: The Heat will do the same things they did to the Sixers to most of the teams in the league. The fact is, few teams will be able to match their firepower and depth. And any team that can’t protect the rim will see Wade, James and Chris Bosh have their way attacking the basket. We did see another solid rookie debut, this one out of the Sixers’ Evan Turner (team-high 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists).

(more…)

Time To Show And Prove

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You waited all summer for this.

And now it’s here.

We get a monster three-game appetizer tonight to kick off the NBA season, Wednesday’s 13-game slate is the outlandish first course and we’ll have eight months worth of goods to work through before a champion is crowned.

Thankfully, the powers that be in the scheduling department decided to give us an opening-night preview, with three NBA Finals favorites on display.

Miami at Boston, 7:30 p.m. ET on TNT

Phoenix at Portland, 10 p.m. ET

Houston at Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT

It’s show and prove time for all of them, too, not just those cats in Miami (who obviously enter this season with unprecedented hype for a team that’s been together for mere months).

All six teams taking the floor tonight have questions that need answering, things that we need to know right now, before they dive in and pledge allegiance to a team they think is the real deal:

HEAT

Who cracks first, the Heat or the competition? Erik Spoelstra‘s team (we can call them that, at least for now, right?) has already adopted the “us-against-the-world” mantra needed to chase a title. In fact, I can’t remember a team preparing itself better for a theoretical championship run than the Heat has done since July, which started with the LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade mega-merger. But now the theory must be applied in an ultra-competitive environment where the Heat will be the hunted team every single night.

That said, you have to give them credit for making all the right moves. Mike Miller goes down with a hand injury that will sideline for months, so the Heat quickly snag veteran swingman Jerry Stackhouse to fill the void (same way he did for the Bucks last year). There have been no major missteps up to this point … but now it’s time to play the games. And we’re going to see if the Heat can hold up to the pressure, internal and beyond.

CELTICS

With five players 32 or older, everybody is wondering the same thing: can the Celtics will hold up to the rigors of the 82-game regular season and a second straight extended playoff run? Their championship window is clearly much smaller than the one those young whippersnappers in Miami are working with, which will no doubt fuel the Celtics’ fire all season. Can the old men hold up?

(more…)