Posts Tagged ‘John Salmons’

Casey, Raptors want to ride continuity

 

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Dwane Casey will be looking to build on last season’s 48-win campaign. (NBAE via Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – Back in December it hardly seemed possible that Dwane Casey would be standing here at Summer League with a smile on his face and his lightweight button-down shirt casually untucked, and most of all still as the coach of the Toronto Raptors.

This misbegotten big-market franchise with the redundant roster was floundering again, off to a 7-12 start, and the well-liked, but lame-duck Casey looked to be running out the clock on his three-year contract.

Then, on Dec. 8, new general manager Masai Ujiri, having built a reputation as a next-generation whiz, made the deal to send Rudy Gay and his massive contract to Sacramento for depth help in point guard Greivis Vasquez and forwards John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes. Around the same time, Knicks president James Dolan vetoed a trade that would have landed Raptors starting point guard Kyle Lowry in New York.

Suddenly, a feeling of stability overtook the team. They looked around, looked at themselves and liked what they saw. And everything changed.

“After the trade happened, I thought it brought our team together — camaraderie,” said Casey, who signed a three-year contract extension in May. “They made the decision that we were not going to be a lottery team — I think that’s what everybody expected — and we kept teaching them the principles of what we wanted to be doing and it just came together.

This wasn’t a referendum on Gay, who went to have a surprisingly efficient offensive season with the Kings. Gay and DeRozan are friends off the court, but ill-fitting parts on it, and as the parts fit better and the floor opened up, the Raptors’ offense, also buoyed by Lowry’s uprising, took off.

“It was a fit,” Casey said. “A lot of times you have talent and it doesn’t fit. DeMar and Rudy were similar and Terrence Ross is sitting there, he’s similar, so once you took all the pieces out it opened up things and we went from 29th, I think, in the league in assists to 16th or 17th. That really changed things for us. It helped us tremendously.”

On Dec. 8, the Raptors ranked 30th in assists and 28th in offensive efficiency (101.4 points per 100 possessions). From Dec. 9 to the end of the season, they ranked 13th in assists and ninth in offensive efficiency (107.2). They went 41-22 after the Gay trade and played a rousing seven-game series in front of madhouse crowds, plus gatherings of 10,000 fans in Maple Leaf Square. It was truly one of the great scenes of the postseason.

And it was enough to convince Lowry to stay put, making him the rare Raptor to re-up when he had a chance to leave. He signed a four-year deal worth $48 million. Free agents Patterson and Vasquez also re-signed. Amir Johnson, Landry Fields, Jonas Valanciunas, Ross, Hayes and Tyler Hansbrough are all back, giving the Raptors a real sense of continuity in roster and process.

Toronto also traded Salmons to Atlanta for guard Lou Williams and intriguing developmental center Lucas Nogueria, and signed long, athletic wing James Johnson, who is coming off something of a breakout season with Memphis.

“I don’t know if [Lowry] is the first player to be a free agent to re-sign that had an opportunity to leave, so that says something about what we’re trying to do, where we are, trying to build,” Casey said. “For the first time in his career he was able to say, ‘this is a team that I’m one of the leaders of,’ and for him to come back, it does make a statement of where we are in our growth process and the kind of program we have, and kind of opened some eyes to what kind of city Toronto is.

“The continuity is huge,” Casey said. “You can just see it turning, guys are getting comfortable with the defensive system, the offensive system. We can be top 10 in both offense and defense. Now we just have to continue to do that.”

The Raptors could get some votes as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference when the preseason predictions start to hit the newsstands. LeBron James’ return to Cleveland has shaken up a conference that might boast a favorite in Chicago, but mostly has a handful of what should be entertaining squads, including Toronto, Cleveland, Washington, Indiana and perhaps Brooklyn and still Miami.

“There’s opportunity for somebody to step up, it’s so balanced right now from top to bottom,” Casey said of the conference. “It gives us an opportunity to move up and take another step.”

Back in December, that hardly seemed possible.

Hawks set up well to add a star


VIDEO: East Draft Review: Atlanta Hawks

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The big free agent destinations for this summer are Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami.

But what about Atlanta?

Few teams are set up to sign a star better than the Atlanta Hawks, who created more cap space with a trade reportedly agreed to on Sunday.

John Salmons is under contract for $7 million next season, but the Hawks only have to pay him $1 million if they waive him by Tuesday. That’s exactly what they’re expected to do, so by trading Lou Williams‘ $5.45 million deal (Lucas Nogueira doesn’t have a contract), the Hawks have created an additional $4.45 million of cap space.

As it stands, that gives the Hawks more than $13 million of cap space total. Assuming they extend qualifying offers to restricted free agents Shelvin Mack (more important now that Williams is gone) and Mike Scott and don’t extend one to Gustavo Ayon (who played just 26 games last season), they have a little more than $15 million in cap space.

That’s not enough to offer a max contract to LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, but it’s enough to make a serious upgrade on the wing, where DeMarre Carroll started 73 games last season.

It’s just not cap space that makes a star player a good fit in Atlanta. It’s the supporting cast.

The best way to complement a star who draws the attention of extra defenders is with shooting. And starting with Kyle Korver, the Hawks have an abundance of that. They ranked fifth in 3-pointers last season and fifth in effective field goal percentage from outside the paint. It was their ability to space the floor with all five guys that gave the Indiana Pacers a world of trouble in the first round of the playoffs.

Bigs Paul Millsap and Pero Antic can step out beyond the 3-point line and Al Horford — expected to make a full recovery after December surgery on a torn pectoral muscle — has been one of the league’s best mid-range shooters over the last few years.

Those bigs are also good rebounders, and Jeff Teague is a solid point guard who can make defenses scramble on the pick-and-roll. That takes pressure off a star to carry the offense by himself.

Of course, beyond James and Anthony, there’s not a real offensive star (on the wing) to be had in free agency. Lance Stephenson might be the closest thing, but he doesn’t quite fit into the Spurs East model that Danny Ferry and Mike Budenholzer are trying to build in Atlanta (neither does Anthony, really).

And so, while Ferry did well in clearing contracts to get to this point, his tenure with the Hawks can’t be ruled a success until he actually gets the team back where they were — making three straight trips to the conference semifinals — before he got there.

Joe Johnson‘s contract is kind of ridiculous, but the Joe Johnson that we saw in the playoffs this year is exactly the kind of the player that would fit in well with the Hawks right now. Ferry has done well to set up a strong supporting cast, but there’s one more big step to take.

Six factors that can separate the Nets and Raptors in Game 7

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Nets-Raptors: Game 7 Preview

TORONTO – How silly of us to think that one of these teams would win this series in six games. We should have realized that the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets have some sort of reciprocal gravity that keeps one team from ever pulling away from the other.

They’ve played 10 games this season. They’ve each won five, with a total combined score of Raptors 767, Nets 766. Eight of the 10 games have been within five points in the last five minutes.

So it’s only fitting that this first round series will come down to a Game 7 on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, ABC).

For the Raptors, this is an opportunity. A win would give their young core 4-7 more games of playoff experience against the defending champion Miami Heat. It would give head coach Dwane Casey additional job security. And it would help establish the franchise’s place on the NBA map.

For the Nets, this is another referendum. If they can’t get past the first round, what exactly did they spend $104 million in salary and another $92 million in luxury taxes on? And where the heck do they go from here?

“They have more to lose than us,” DeMar DeRozan said Saturday.

Indeed. But payroll won’t determine which team gets their first Game 7 victory (since the Nets came to the NBA). These six factors will.

The nail

Though the Nets lost Game 5, they established some things offensively. One of those was Joe Johnson operating from the middle of the floor, a set that made it difficult for the Raptors to double-team him. The Nets didn’t go to that set much in Game 6, instead using Johnson back in the low post and in pick-and-rolls with Deron Williams more often.

But the Nets did take the middle of the floor away from Kyle Lowry, who scored just three points in the paint or at the free throw line in Game 6 after scoring 14 in Game 5. They took away the Raptors’ primary offensive actions and often had them trying to improvise with less than 10 seconds left on the shot clock.

DeMar DeRozan will make some tough shots, but if it’s only tough shots that he’s getting, Brooklyn is in good shape.

Minutes distribution

The Raptors have been at their best when reserves Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson are on the floor. They may sacrifice some defense by playing big minutes with Lowry, Vasquez, DeRozan and Patterson on the floor together, but their regular small forwards have come up empty offensively all series.

Terrence Ross is gaining experience and John Salmons is a bigger body to put on Johnson. But Raptors coach Dwane Casey shouldn’t hesitate to go to the three-guard lineup early and often, because the positives on offense will outweigh the negatives on D.

Lowry, Vasquez, DeRozan and Patterson are a plus-23 in 54 minutes together, but played just 12 minutes over the last two games.

The 3-point line

Neither team has shot well from 3-point range in the series, but both teams have attempted 22 threes per game. If one team – or just one player – gets hot, it could be the difference. With the attention that Johnson draws, Brooklyn is more likely to get open looks. That’s why Alan Anderson has replaced Shaun Livingston in the starting lineup.

Patterson, of course, puts a fourth shooter on the floor for Toronto. He can punish the Nets’ defense for its focus on Lowry and DeRozan.

Toronto on the roll

One of the bellwethers of this series has been Amir Johnson, who has averaged 14.7 points in the Raptors’ three wins and 4.3 points in their three losses. A lot of Johnson’s production has come as the roll man, catching passes from Lowry and Vasquez. The Nets’ weak-side defender needs to meet the roll man – whether it’s Johnson or Jonas Valanciunas – before he gets too close to the basket.

Transition

Both teams have averaged less than 10 fast break points per game, but have been at their best when they’ve been able to get out into the open floor. Williams pushed the pace from the start in Game 6, which allowed the Nets to get into their offensive actions early in the shot clock and before the Raptors could get set. That produced easier shots.

When the Raptors made a little bit of a run in the fourth quarter, they were getting some easy baskets in transition as well.

Turnovers

After averaging 19.3 turnovers in the first three games, the Raptors have averaged just 13.0 in the last three. But it was an issue that popped up again in the fourth quarter on Friday, keeping them from being able to cut the Brooklyn lead to single digits. Any extended turnover issues in Game 7 (for either team) could end their season.

Report: Gay Traded To Kings In 7-Player Deal


VIDEO: Raptors deal Rudy Gay as part of a seven-player swap

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Kings made a risky reach for immediate credibility and agreed to acquire Rudy Gay, his bloated contract and his ever-declining shooting from the Raptors in a seven-player deal Sunday that is mostly a salary dump for Toronto.

The Raptors will get Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes, with only Hayes ($5.9 million) and Salmons (a $1-million buyout on his $7 million guaranteed) on the books next season. Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy are also headed to Sacramento as the new management team continues to follow through on plans to aggressively pursue deals, so aggressive that the Kings just countered two moves made in the five months since Pete D’Alessandro was hired as general manager.

The Kings got Vasquez from New Orleans as part of the three-team deal that sent Tyreke Evans to the Pelicans in a sign-and-trade, started him at point guard, and now traded him 18 games into the season, returning Isaiah Thomas to the opening lineup. And, the Kings traded for Derrick Williams on Nov. 26, said they were committed to him as the starter at small forward, and now bring in Gay four games later, unless they have another immediate deal in place for Gay.

Gay is a name, has an active run of six consecutive full seasons of averaging at least 18 points a game and, whether with Williams or in place of Williams, addresses what had been the biggest position need for the Kings. But it says something that he has been traded twice in 10 1/2 months, including when the Grizzlies were willing to break up a lineup with a proven history of long playoff runs and now by a Toronto team trying to build something.

Gay will make $17.8 million this season and has a player option worth $19.3 million for 2104-15 that he almost certainly will exercise. After mostly shooting between 45 percent and 47 percent earlier in his career, though, the 6-foot-9, 220-pounder dropped to 41.6 percent last season with the Grizzlies and Raptors and is all the way down to 38.8 the first 18 games of 2013-14.

The deal will not become official until a trade call with the league on Monday, but Gay, Acy and Gray were all out of uniform Sunday night as the Raptors played the Lakers in Los Angeles, indicating the terms of the move that could save Toronto some $12 million next season were set.

Kings Pushing Hard For Trades


VIDEO: Suns vs. Kings recap, Nov. 19

HANG TIME WEST – The Kings are aggressively pursuing trade possibilities in hopes of accelerating the rebuilding process, NBA.com has learned, with one executive saying the team is looking to swap veterans for prospects and picks.

While it is believed some conversations have advanced beyond preliminary talks, it is not immediately clear whether any deals are imminent. One league source rated Sacramento’s interest level in making a move soon as “very high,” and said the new front office led by owner Vivek Ranadive and general manager Pete D’Alessandro has had discussions with several clubs in hopes of generating activity long before the Feb. 20 trade deadline.

The Kings (3-7) have several veterans that could be of interest to playoff-bound teams looking for depth, although some of those players have sizable guaranteed contracts. John Salmons just lost his starting job at small forward, as did shooting guard Marcus Thornton and power forward Patrick Patterson.

The Kings are looking for young players or draft picks in return as additional pieces of the reconstruction that centers on DeMarcus Cousins, Ben McLemore and their own pick, destined for the lottery, in the loaded 2014 draft.

News of a potential roster shakeup comes amid the poor start that has included a five-game losing streak, a series of large deficits, lineup changes and an obvious lack of effort in stretches that would ordinarily come late in a disappointing season, not at the beginning of one surrounded by positive energy from the offseason. As coach Michael Malone said Sunday, after a loss to the Grizzlies: “We’ve changed the lineup twice now. The first was Marcus and Patrick, and then tonight we’re starting Luc (Mbah a Moute, for Salmons). When you’re 2-7, I guess sometimes I find myself constantly searching for a group that’ll go out there and play the right way. We made those subs pretty quickly in that third quarter because the group that was out there, as a group, was not playing the way that we need to play, and it’s unacceptable to me.”

Tuesday night, the Kings improved to 3-7 by rallying from 14 points down in the third quarter to beat the Suns with reserves Patterson, Isaiah Thomas, Travis Outlaw and Jimmer Fredette playing large roles, along with Cousins, in the final period. The teams meet again tonight in Phoenix before heading into a very difficult stretch in which four of the next five games are against the Clippers, Thunder and Warriors.

Fredette is widely known to be available after the decision in October to decline his option for next season. But the third-year guard, mostly out of the rotation, would bring little in return. One executive was asked if Fredette could bring as much as a pick late in the 2014 first round and said, “Not this year.” The Kings could try to package him as part of another deal, but they won’t take on a bad contract or another player unable to make an impact with a longer contract. Letting him walk as a free agent in the summer could turn out to be the best plan.

Bucks Again Getting A D In ‘O’

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Scorers come, scorers go and still the Milwaukee Bucks struggle to light up the scoreboard.

For the second time in as many offseasons – or what passed for one this time in the post-lockout rush job between Thanksgiving and Christmas – the Bucks have tried to spruce up their offense. With dreary results.

Prior to 2010-11, it was Corey Maggette, John Salmons and an offensive-boarding Drew Gooden who were going to get buckets for the Bucks. Instead, Milwaukee slipped from 23rd in points per game to dead last in the NBA (91.9), from 29th in field-goal percentage to last (.430) and from 12th in 3-point shooting to 24th (.342).

This time around, Stephen Jackson, Mike Dunleavy and Beno Udrih were brought aboard with similar hopes and expectations. And yet, after 10 days and five games, Milwaukee is having trouble scoring again. It ranks 24th, 25th and 27th in the three categories above, while its raw numbers have declined – 90.8 ppg, .412 and .253 – in part due to lockout rust but in part, frankly, because the Bucks and coach Scott Skiles earn their scoring shortcomings.

The 85-73 loss at Utah Tuesday was the latest example of Milwaukee putting the uh-oh in offense, as blogged by Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Drew Gooden, starting in place of Andrew Bogut after the Bucks starting center had to leave the team for personal reasons, scored 24 points and was the only Milwaukee player to shoot better than 50% from the field (12 of 20).

Take Gooden’s shots out of the mix and the rest of the team made 22.7% on field goal attempts (17 of 75).

“We’ve got to recognize when we’re not scoring, and when we’re going through droughts, slow down and try to execute,” Bucks guard Shaun Livingston said. “Try to get great shots, not good shots.”

An asterisk was in order, because Bogut was joined in absentia by Dunleavy (groin injury) and Udrih (shoulder). Also, Milwaukee did average 98.3 points in its first three games, hanging 95 on the Bobcats, 98 on the Timberwolves and 102 on the Wizards. But then the Bucks’ output dropped to 86 at Denver Monday, followed by 73 last night. And remember, this is with Jackson and Carlos Delfino presumably green-lighted by Skiles and his staff and Ersan Ilyasova firing away as if he is, at least, healthy.

One contributing factor is point guard Brandon Jennings, who is back down to 37.6 percent (32-of-85) after bumping his accuracy ever so slightly from 37.1 percent as a rookie in 2009-10 to 39.0 last season. And let’s face it, bad shooting can be contagious same as good; if a defense can sag off one or two men, it can devote more attention to others. Utah contested a lot of shots at Energy Solutions Arena – Derrick Favors had five blocks and Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap swatted two each – but there were open clangs as well that made life a little easier on the Jazz.

The question now is whether the Bucks have both the personnel and the wherewithal to improve offensively. Michael Redd is gone. Ray Allen, Marques Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar aren’t walking through that door, either. The pattern under Skiles isn’t promising: Since he took over in 2008-09, Milwaukee has not ranked in the top 10 in any of the three areas above, getting as high as 12th in 3-point shooting two seasons ago.

Everyone knows, and many appreciate, the bulldog defense that Skiles preaches. But it seems odd that the guy who, as a Magic point guard, holds the NBA record for most assists in a game – 30, Orlando vs. Denver, Dec. 30, 1990 – can’t set up his team for more easy buckets.

Bobcats, Kings, And Bucks Rumored To Have 3-way Deal In Place

A three-way deal involving the Bucks, Bobcats, and Kings is in place. The particulars:

  • Milwaukee gets Beno Udrih, Steven Jackson, Shaun Livingston and 19th pick (which currently belongs to Charlotte).
  • Charlotte gets Corey Maggette and 7th pick (via the Kings).
  • Sacramento gets John Salmons and 10th pick (Milwaukee’s pick).

That’s a pretty big trade, and an excellent way to get the night underway.

Obviously we have to wait and see which players get chosen with the swapped draft slots, but if it happens, which team do you think gets the best end of this one?

Blogtable: Disappointing players

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.

Which player has let you down like none other this year, expectations-wise? No fair picking someone who’s hurt.

David Aldridge: Nobody’s “let me down–“; it’s not like I loaned somebody $20 and they haven’t paid it back. I would say I’m surprised that Steve Blake didn’t play better for the Lakers this season. I know it takes a couple of years to really learn the triangle, but I thought he’d pick it up quicker than he has and not have to be coaxed to shoot. I suspect he’ll play a lot better in L.A. next year.

Steve Aschburner: Seeing as how I picked Indiana center Roy Hibbert to be the NBA’s Most Improved Player and Hibbert, in many ways, has actually regressed, he’s my pick again for all the wrong reasons. Hibbert did not boost his game in significant ways — his shooting percentage is way down, his scoring and assists are off on a per-minute basis and his rebounds have ticked up only a little. The Pacers’ pivot man did not take responsibility as a leader on or off the floor, and his inconsistent, largely lost season was a major factor in coach Jim O’Brien’s firing. He did get in a great shape and worked hard last summer, but a couple of days working with (and hearing about John Wooden’s pyramid of success from) Bill Walton didn’t have much carry-over.

Fran Blinebury: Though he’s played better lately, Hedo Turkoglu has the distinction of under-performing for two different teams this season.  He never was a fit in Phoenix and overall hasn’t been the same Hedo who was a key factor in Orlando’s run to the Finals in 2009. (more…)

Blogtable: Stretch run

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.

Team that will gain the most ground down the stretch run of the season?

David Aldridge: I’m going with Philly. Doug Collins has his players believing in the system and in each other, and one would expect bigger second-half contributions from rookie Evan Turner after he struggled early. The Sixers also have a +4 home/road split the rest of the way, and they’re 17-9 at Wells Fargo Center this season. They have a long west swing in mid-March and they have road games afterward at Miami and Chicago. If they’re still in the race after that, it’s mostly downhill sledding the rest of the way.

Steve Aschburner: The Milwaukee Bucks have the most room for improvement. Their lineup has been riddled by injuries to the point that coach Scott Skiles hasn’t yet had a full complement for practice. The guys who have been on the floor have struggled mightily to score: The Bucks are last in offensive rating (101.0, compared to 107.0 league average) and are 24th in field-goal percentage overall and from the arc. Signees such as Drew Gooden, Corey Maggette and John Salmons have disappointed. But that mess has produced 22 victories already. The schedule is friendlier now and Skiles got a surge down the stretch last season that they might be able to replicate. (more…)

Start The Camp Countdown

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We can see the starting blocks now.

Training camp is around the corner.

The official start is still a few weeks away, but if you pop your head into the practice facility of just about any team today you’re guaranteed to see NBA players getting a head start on the 2010-11 season.

They realize what’s at stake. They know how important the first steps of a marathon can be for anyone with playoff or even loftier expectations.

Summer school is over folks — and don’t you wish the folks grading your papers in college were the same folks handing out these summer report cards around here (not a single F was delivered, not one)?

The pressure is on all around the league, on players, coaches and front office types that understand the time to make a move up the league’s food chain is now. Kobe Bryant and the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers were the only ones that could go into the summer with any feeling of satisfaction, knowing full well that the good vibrations could last for only so long.

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It’s time to the make the donuts again, or close to it, and that means there are questions we need answered.

(more…)