Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

Blogtable: Will DeMarcus Cousins or George Karl last longer in Sacramento?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Fallout in Houston? | Best comeback story? | Cousins or Karl in Sacramento?

VIDEOCharles Barkley voices his opinion on DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings

> DeMarcus Cousins or George Karl? Which one will still be working for the Kings at the end of the season?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: I don’t really want to address this, ’cause so many Kings fans are so sensitive about any notion of getting rid of Cousins (the hate mail is still rolling in on my trade idea to move Boogie to Boston). But if I had to guess, I’d say that Vivek Ranadive sticks with his franchise center rather than the mercurial coach with more than 1,100 coaching victories. Maybe Vlade Divac can calm the waters and get these two to coexist, but he’s rolling that rock up a big, big hill.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI’d like to think that sanity prevails and the answer is both. But since you’ve given us a fork in the road and we have to take it (h/t Lawrence Peter Berra), I choose Cousins. It’s a player’s league and, as I’ve noted before, even if all was copacetic in Sac, the big man will be posting 20-10 games long after George is sipping umbrella drinks on a Maui beach with his pal, Don Nelson. And DMC knows it, which is part of the reason things aren’t copacetic. I don’t think Cousins will spend his whole career with the Kings – a change of scenery is inevitable when a young player is handed as much clout as he has – but I think Karl will beat him out the door in the short term.

Fran Blinebury, Cousins. He’s temperamental. He’s trouble. He’s also 25 and the best young big man in the game, at least until Karl-Anthony Towns gets a year or two under his belt. Besides, coaches usually take the fall and Karl has been on shaky ground with the Kings almost from the moment he arrived. Can we change the timetable on this question to Christmas? Or even Thanksgiving?

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comI’m tempted to say neither. I do think that is possible. But at this rate, with Cousins reminding everyone how good he can be, the Kings are either going to refuse to part with him or set the asking price so high that no one will come close to matching the offer. Any outcome is far from playing out. While firing the coach is always easier than going nuclear with the roster, and therefore Karl is atop the leaderboard for Most Likely to Go, Sacramento does not want to dump him. They were looking for a reason to fire Michael Malone. They’re looking for a reason to keep George.

Shaun Powell, Cousins, because Karl is replaceable. Still … rarely would I ever side with a coach over an All-Star big man but my hunch says the Kings will never flourish as long as their best player is toxic. Look, Cousins has good intentions; he’s competitive, hates to lose and in some ways a perfectionist. But if he hasn’t gotten a grip on his emotions by now … what, should the Kings bide their time until he reaches maturity at age 30?

John Schuhmann, NBA.comI would guess that it would be both, because it would really be embarrassing for the Kings to need to hire another coach before the season is done. But Cousins is still more likely to be around, because giving up on a coach is easier than giving up on a star.

Sekou Smith, Cousins. Talent over everything is the motto of most teams. And Cousins has proved to be as good or better than any other player in the league at his position. That said, Cousins and Karl could find a way to make this work. I truly believe that to be true. But it would take some serious humbling on both sides. There is way too much pride and ego involved right now. Cousins will not be denied this season, though, and the Kings can choose to ride his momentum into the future or make a colossal mistake and side with the tutor over the talent.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe Kings appear to be showing little interest in supporting Karl. If they go onto fire him, it’s a good bet that they will be casting him as a victim of their own mismanagement. In the meantime they’ve made it clear that Cousins is their priority. But are they bringing out the best in their best young player — or just placating him?

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: The answer should be DeMarcus Cousins, who is one of the best young players in the NBA, signed to a long-term contract that is affordable, and is exactly the type of building block every team in the NBA should want to construct around. So why would the Kings deal Cousins? The answer, of course, is that the Kings have a recent history of doing things people haven’t anticipated. I’ll just say this: If it came down to choosing between Boogie Cousins and Coach Karl, I know which way I’d choose. Then again, it ain’t my team.

Blogtable: Best comeback story?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Fallout in Houston? | Best comeback story? | Cousins or Karl in Sacramento?

VIDEOPaul George puts in a monster effort in a loss to the Cavs

> The better comeback story so far this season: Kevin Durant, Paul George or Carmelo Anthony?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: PG13, by a mile. Not belittling KD’s or Melo’s surgeries/injuries, but we all witnessed that horrible night in Vegas in 2014 when Paul George’s leg snapped. It was gruesome. I know he played at the end of last season, but he didn’t look anything like the old, dominant player he’d been. Now he’s rounding back into form (it may or may not be coincidence that the Pacers have effectively ended the PG-at-four experiment, with C.J. Miles now the primary power forward). The Pacers are still playing small, but they got their best player playing where he’s most comfortable and effective. Good coaching, and good adjustments.

Steve Aschburner, Happy for all of them, but Paul George’s level of play has been nothing short of remarkable considering where we all were, emotionally and intellectually, on that August night in Las Vegas in 2014. Whatever, say, a guy like Jay Williams did with a motorcycle and a light pole to end his NBA career, it looked as if George had done against that basket stanchion, splintering his leg in two place. The initial sense was, he’d never play again. And even when the doctors said he would, a lot of us wondered how far back George really would get. Looks now to be all the way and beyond.

Fran Blinebury, They’re all good stories, but I’m gonna go with Paul George here, just because of the horrendous nature and degree of the injury that we all saw replayed dozens of times. He’s returned this season to a team that has been stripped down, rebuilt and is demonstrating that he wants to and can lead. No excuses from George, just results.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Paul George, but because he had farther to come back. He had six appearances last season, after also losing part of summer 2014. That’s a very long road to recovery, compared to Durant playing about a quarter of 2014-15 and Anthony half. On 2015-16 play along, though, it’s KD. He looks like Durant, the greatest compliment of all. Actually, considering that 3-point shot, he looks better in some ways. To look this good this soon is impressive even by his lofty standards.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comPaul George and it isn’t even close. ‘Melo and Durant are coming off injuries but never had their careers threatened by them. George saw his leg break in two. For him to re-elevate himself to a franchise-player level this quickly — or at all — that’s borderline amazing.

John Schuhmann, Paul George, because of the severity of the injury and because of the level that he’s playing at. Seeing Anthony and Durant playing as well as they have isn’t much of a surprise. George is playing better than he ever has before. When George put up 36 against the Heat and 32 against the Cavs earlier this month, it was only the second time in his career that he’d had 30-plus in two straight games. And that was part of an ongoing stretch where he’s averaging 28.9 over the last seven, shooting 51 percent from 3-point range. Anthony is 31 and Durant has already been an MVP. George is 25 and still on the rise.

Sekou Smith, Paul George, by far. He’s resumed the ways that made him one of the league’s most dynamic and intriguing players before he suffered that broken leg that cost him most of last season. He also had the toughest road back, considering the severity of his injury. And he totes a load on both ends that neither Durant nor Anthony does (defensively) for their respective teams. I know Durant is out right now with that sore hamstring, but it’s good to see all of them get back to normal, so to speak.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comHaving suffered the most frightening injury, Paul George has returned to find that his team has been rebuilt — essentially downsized — to suit his talents at both ends. The Pacers are looking like a solid playoff team because George’s comeback as both a go-to scorer and lockdown defender has been spectacular.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogWell, considering Kevin Durant is out right now, I’m eliminating him from consideration. Which leaves Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. And while George has shown flashes of the elite athleticism that made him such a transcendent player on both ends, it doesn’t seemed to have regularly returned just yet, which is understandable. And while it may seem like I’m choosing Carmelo Anthony by default, I truly think he’s been very impactful this season for the Knicks. Sure, there’s a lot of talk about “The Zinger”, Kristaps Porzingis, and he’s had his moments, but the Knicks will only go as far as Anthony can take them, and when ‘Melo is playing like he’s played thus far this season — taking on double teams, knocking down jumpers, getting to the free throw line, hustling on the defensive end — this Knicks team could very well mess around and make the playoffs.

Blogtable: Take your pick — Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Advice for the Lakers? | Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond? | Early-season surprise?

VIDEOTake a closer look at Andre Drummond’s hot start to 2015-16

> My initials are A.D. I stand about 6-foot-11, I’m 22-years old and I’m the best big in the NBA. Am I Detroit Pistons big man Andre Drummond or New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Ooh, you’re tricky, Blogfather. But it’s Anthony Davis. His offensive game is much more diversified than Drummond’s, though Drummond is getting better with every minute, I grant you. I need more than a few admittedly great games from the other AD before I overthrow The Brow as the best young big in the L.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comSome might say you’re a bad speller because the best big man in the NBA has the initials D.C. (DeMarcus Cousins) or soon maybe KAT (Karl-Anthony Towns). But for the purposes of this question, I’ll go with Davis. Love Drummond as a paint dominator and his 20-20 games for Detroit definitely are welcome throwbacks in a “strettttch” era. But New Orleans’ cornerstone guy is more versatile, more mobile and more refined as a defender. I’m not wild about having him hoist 3-pointers – as an opponent I’d welcome that compared to other damage Davis could do – but he’s more of a moving target in terms of game-planning to cope with him.

Fran Blinebury, Not to dismiss the strong start to the season by Andre Drummond, but Anthony Davis has more skills at more places all over the court. He’s still the pick as the one player to build a team around.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Anthony Davis. While the start for Andre Drummond has been swimming in positives, Davis is still the better two-way threat. Drummond has the chance to become the best interior presence in the game and Davis the biggest presence, period. If anyone wants to get off the Davis bandwagon after a couple weeks of the season, I’ll take the extra seats.

Shaun Powell, Right now? Andre Drummond, if only because he’s doing a Wilt Chamberlain on the league. This is the Drummond we thought we’d see once the Pistons waived Josh Smith last season and let Greg Monroe go in free agency. That doesn’t mean Anthony Davis isn’t more valuable (he is) or won’t eventually put his name in the Kia MVP discussion (he will). But for now, give Drummond his due.

John Schuhmann, Anthony Davis, because you’re more skilled. Both guys are big and bouncy, with the ability to run the floor, catch and finish, and protect the rim. Drummond is a monster on the glass and has a burgeoning post game, but Davis can step out and make a jumper, which is the most important skill in this league. Coach Stan Van Gundy has done a nice job of building around Drummond, but Davis’ versatility makes that job a little easier.

Sekou Smith, You are Anthony Davis. Yes, you’ve had a rough start to this season and your New Orleans Pelicans just got their first win of the season last night in the Alvin Gentry era. But you don’t have to worry about being tossed of your big man throne after two outlandish weeks from that other AD, who has been nothing short of magnificent for the Pistons. Anytime you find yourself in the same category basketball-wise as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, you’re doing something serious. There might not be as much distance between the two of you in the coming years, but right now Davis still has more to his game than Andre Drummond.

Ian Thomsen, You are Anthony Davis. I opt for you because of your versatility and the current style of NBA play, which is built to bring out the best in you. Drummond, exceptional as he is, is playing against the current and cannot make his free throws. Davis can cover more of the court and will not face matchup problems when opponents go small. In spite of the Pelicans’ inexplicable start, Davis is the guy.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: I’m sorry, how are the initials “A.D.” short for DeMarcus Cousins? Because Cousins is the best young big man in the NBA right now. OK, he’s 25, not 22, but even in the midst of the perpetually in flux situation in Sacramento, Cousins has been a double-double machine. Davis has had plenty of plaudits this summer, though if anything those were based on what we think Davis will become, not what he is right now. And Drummond is playing incredible basketball right now, for sure, but I’d like to see him sustain it more than seven games.

Blogtable: Early-season surprises?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Advice for the Lakers? | Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond? | Early-season surprise?

VIDEOHow good can the Timberwolves be in 2015-16?

> We’re two weeks into the new season. What didn’t you foresee in this opening stretch that you maybe should have?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Completely whiffed on Detroit. I thought the Pistons would only be marginally better, but they seemed to have skipped a whole level of improvement. Someone asked me if I thought they’d be top four in the east and I told them they were crazy. Still think I’m right. I think. Andre Drummond‘s numbers are insane but it’s Reggie Jackson that has been the biggest revelation to me so far.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comOpening the season by playing six of your first eight games on the road – including a five-game West Coast trip – is a sure way to sputter, yet I still assumed the best about the Memphis Grizzlies. I’ve enjoyed watching that old-school crew for years now and have gotten comfortable with their status as contenders-on-the-verge-of-breakthrough. But their coach, Dave Joerger, was right when he said last week the Grizzlies were looking a little old. This team didn’t sufficiently address its shooting need in the offseason and now, in this pace-and-space NBA, points are really hard to come by for Memphis. So, frankly, is court coverage based on opponents’ 3-point percentage thus far (40.4). Mario Chalmers as the cure? Not feeling that.

Fran Blinebury, I’ll admit that I didn’t expect Steph Curry and the Warriors come back this season and take their game to an even higher level. After all, they won 67 games en route to the championship and seemed to be at the peak of performance in closing out the Cavs in The Finals. Maybe it is the confidence that comes from having done it. Maybe they’re spurred on a perceived lack of respect and the few folks who picked them to go back-to-back. Maybe they got tired of the summertime talk about the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers in the West. But the reigning Kia MVP Curry has been off-the-charts and the entire Golden State team over-the-moon amazing and could be a real threat to win 70. On the downside, there’s the Pelicans. But nobody saw all the injuries coming.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Deeee-troit basketball. I liked the Pistons a little before the season, figuring they were good enough to be in the playoff conversation but picking them 10th in the East. I thought Andre Drummond would be an All-Star candidate. I did not see this opening statement coming, though. They have been winning on the road, winning on the second night of back-to-backs and winning overtime games, all while continuing the search for shooting. Let’s see where they are at the end of the month, after the current six-game trip ends Sunday and a another series of tests follow, mostly at home. If it’s December and the Pistons are still heading in a good direction, this could be a season of statements.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comThe wise guy response: The Kings haven’t imploded yet? What’s taking them so long? But seriously, the Warriors blowing teams away is something that could’ve been anticipated. Remember, not only did they win the title last season, but did so with players largely on the upside. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green haven’t reached their potential and Curry is the MVP. I’d also give a shout-out to the Pistons’ fast start.

John Schuhmann, That the Minnesota Timberwolves would be able to compete with (and beat) some of the best teams in the league. Ricky Rubio still isn’t a 3-point shooter, and that’s an issue. But I forgot how much of an impact he has on his team’s numbers, especially defensively and especially with Zach LaVine being the only remaining option at point guard when Rubio was hurt last season. I assumed the Wolves would be at the bottom of the Western Conference with the Lakers, but this team should stay in the middle of the pack. I don’t mind saying that I’m surprised by how good Karl-Anthony Towns is already, but I feel dumb not knowing how much of a difference that a healthy Rubio would make.

Sekou Smith, These young Minnesota Timberwolves came out of nowhere for me. Much like their Eastern Conference counterparts in Detroit, the Timberwolves have piled up an intriguing collection of talented youngsters who appear ready for prime time sooner than expected. Andrew Wiggins looks like he’s ready for a breakout season and Karl-Anthony Towns is absorbing every bit of the wisdom Kevin Garnett and coach Sam Mitchell have to offer. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise, though, has been the play and steady guidance of Ricky Rubio. A 4-0 road record so far for a team that won seven road games last season is another positive. And these guys are playing with a spirit that will serve them will this season and beyond.

Ian Thomsen, I should have known that Detroit would be stronger. There have been a lot of early surprises — for better in Minnesota, Utah and Portland, and for worse in New Orleans and Memphis — which might not hold up over the length of the season. But Detroit is going to be respectable all year long because coach Stan Van Gundy is a proven winner who will get the best out of Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and their teammates. He has created a floor-spreading system that has served him well before.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: I didn’t think the Atlanta Hawks would be better than they were last season. And after watching them early on, I think the Atlanta Hawks are better than they were last season. Sure, they lost DeMarre Carroll and Pero Antic, and they may not win 60 games again, but this Hawks team is deeper, more versatile, and I think altogether more talented than last year’s team. Part of that is the emergence of Kent Bazemore, who is a capable defender and skilled offensive player, as well as the acquisition of Tiago Splitter, who still doesn’t seem totally in sync with the team but gives the Hawks needed size and bulk. The rest of the Eastern Conference may have improved, but for a team that so highly values player development, I’m not sure why we didn’t suspect that these Hawks would return with sharpened talons, too.

Blogtable: Advice for the Lakers?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Advice for the Lakers? | Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond? | Early-season surprise?

VIDEOIs Kobe Bryant holding back the Lakers?

> The Lakers are struggling. Is there a roster move, a lineup change or something else this team can do to salvage the season? Or should Lakers faithful just accept another lost campaign?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: No magic bullets. This is rebuilding. But they can’t have one foot in and one foot out. They have to commit fully to it, and that has to come from the top — the very top — of the organization. If Jim and/or Jeanie Buss tells coach Byron Scott he has to start playing the young guys more down the stretch, he’ll play the young guys. But they can’t leave it up to him if that’s what they want. EVERY coach is going to try and win the game they’re playing that night, because that’s how they’re judged.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comHow long were things rough in Cleveland after LeBron James left? Four seasons, until James came back. What did the Cavaliers do in the interim? They twice drafted No. 1 overall (Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett) and folded in a pair of No. 4 picks as well (Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters). Then they did their feeble best to build around that. The Lakers haven’t suffered nearly as long or as much – it only seems like it because of their storied tradition and lofty expectations – since the Kobe BryantDwight HowardSteve Nash thing flopped in 2012-13. They’ve only had a No. 2 (D’Angelo Russell, just getting going) and a No. 7 (Julius Randle, who promptly got hurt) to work with, as high draft help. And Kobe sort of left without leaving, further limiting payroll and playing options. The Lakers’ best course would be to take their lumps again, make this all about Bryant’s farewell and focus on the money they’ll have to spend in the next two summers.

Fran Blinebury, It’s over. It’s been over since Kobe’s body began to break down, the Lakers signed him to the “thanks for the memories” contract that devoured the salary cap and Pau Gasol left. Those things happened more than a year ago. This is just reality.

Scott Howard-Cooper, I wouldn’t call it a lost campaign as long as there is valuable progress. That means developing the prospects, especially Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. The losses are going to happen no matter what. But if they come because of inexperience and benefit the future, the organization and fans will be able to find positives. If they come while coach Byron Scott places a priority on winning now and leans heavier on the veterans, then it tips toward a lost season. That could deliver a few extra victories, but not enough to make a difference. As for a potential roster move: there is none, or at least none that will make a big difference. Two names bring real returns, and Randle and Russell are the future, not the trade bait.

Shaun Powell, This season was predetermined when the Lakers kept their No. 1 pick and refused to surround Kobe Bryant with win-now talent. The message was: We’ll use this season to say good-bye to Kobe and hello to D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. No sense crying about that, and no sense trying to suddenly change the plan after a few weeks of the season. Their fans understand. Everyone understands.

John Schuhmann, It’s a lost season in regard to competing for a top-10 spot in the Western Conference. It can be a productive season in regard to player development, but is Byron Scott the right coach for that? He says he cares more about winning games than developing the trio of Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell. Heck, is Scott the right coach for winning games? If the Lakers have any chance of being competitive, they need to play defense. His teams have finished in the bottom five in defensive efficiency each of the last four full seasons he’s coached and this one currently ranks 29th.

Sekou Smith, It would take roster moves, lineup changes and small miracles for the Lakers to change the trajectory of this season. It’s time to look to the future and the continued development of the young talent on the roster. Let’s be honest. Things look bleak right now in Lakerland. And it’s all self-induced. The Lakers have made a series of mistakes that have led to this dark time when Kobe Bryant should be going out in a blaze of glory instead of fading into the shadows. What looked like a quick-fix super team of Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash went up in smoke and the Lakers have yet to recover. They need to ride this season out and see where life takes them at season’s end.

Ian Thomsen, This season is about Kobe Bryant‘s potential farewell and the development of Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. Then there is also the goal — the only other reward appropriate to their suffering — of “earning” a Top 3 selection in the lottery and thereby prevent their protected first-round pick from being forwarded to Philadelphia. Since the Lakers are going to be bad anyway, they should aim to be very bad.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: Oh, there’s a roster move they could make that might make their team better in the short-term, but would almost assuredly improve them in the long-term. It’s also a trade that would make a lot of Lakers fans revolt, but it should at least be discussed: The Lakers should trade Kobe Bryant. Kobe might be playing down his value right now, but he’s the one player with worth that goes beyond the basketball court. The Lakers still have two first-round picks outstanding, and Kobe might help re-fill those selections. Let the young guys play, and embrace the rebuilding right now which needs to happen sooner or later.

Rivers needs to stagger his Clippers stars

VIDEO: Inside Stuff: Diming and Dining

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — A funny thing happened in the third quarter of the Clippers-Warriors game last Wednesday. L.A., down eight when Chris Paul picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, came back and took the lead with its starting point guard on the bench.

Last season, the Clippers outscored their opponents by 12.2 points per 100 possessions when Paul was on the floor and were outscored by 7.6 when he was off it. That on-off-court NetRtg differential of 19.8 points per 100 possessions was the biggest among players who logged at least 1,000 minutes.

When Paul was on the bench, the Clippers’ offense scored just 95.6 points per 100 possessions, a number that would have ranked 29th — ahead of only the historically bad Sixers — last season.


DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes are also on the list above, and Blake Griffin (11.7) was 12th in on-off-court NetRtg differential. Essentially, the Clippers’ starting lineup was great and their bench was bad.

But the Clips’ best players basically played together and sat together. Their starting lineup played 300 more minutes than any other lineup in the league.

Paul was off the floor for 13.3 minutes per game, but Jordan was on the floor for just 3.2 of those minutes, while Griffin was on the floor for only 2.8 of those minutes. Some of those minutes with no stars on the floor was garbage time, but much of it came while the game still hung in the balance.

The Griffin number is the more important number, because he has the ability to keep the offense afloat with Paul on the bench. Two seasons ago, Paul missed an 18-game stretch in January and early February. The Clippers went 12-6 with the league’s second best offense in that stretch, with Griffin averaging 27.5 points and 4.4 assists.

The Clips had a more competent back-up point guard — Darren Collison — at that point. But even now, it stands to reason that if Griffin is on the floor, the Clippers aren’t going to be as bad as the Sixers offensively.

They scored 19 points in the final 8:00 of that third quarter against the Warriors last week. And they had a solid offensive game against the Rockets on Saturday, with Paul sitting out with a sore groin.

Before Paul’s injury, Clippers coach Doc Rivers basically played and sat Paul and Griffin together, much like last season. Here’s their substitution pattern from their Nov. 2 game against Phoenix, with minutes with neither on the floor highlighted in blue…


The Clippers played the first 6:35 of the second quarter with neither Paul nor Griffin, and did the same for another 7:28 spanning the third and fourth quarters. That’s a lot of time to trust the offense to Austin Rivers, Lance Stephenson or Jamal Crawford.

The additions that Doc Rivers made this summer were praised by some, but we can’t forget that two not-so-great teams were more than happy to get rid of Stephenson and Josh Smith (and are better since they did). This bench still has big questions, and Paul’s on-off-court numbers this season look eerily familiar.

But on Monday against Memphis, Paul came out of the game earlier than he did last week. So his minutes were more staggered with those of Griffin…


The change was likely due to Paul playing his first game back from injury, but it kept at least one of the team’s two best players on the floor for all but three minutes.

The Clippers were a minus-6 in those 12 minutes where Griffin was on the floor without Paul, but if Doc Rivers kept that substitution pattern throughout the season, his team wouldn’t lose so many leads with his bench on the floor. And that might ultimately allow his best players to get more rest in fourth quarters and be fresher for the postseason.

Numbers notes: Cavaliers and Warriors among most improved

VIDEO: Curry’s big night vs. the Clippers

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The two teams that reached The Finals in June aren’t just off to strong starts. No, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are two of the most improved teams in the league, statistically.

We’re just 10 days into the 2015-16 season, with only 74 (six percent) of 1,230 games in the books. So far, there have been some surprising results, some disappointments, and a lot of teams playing much faster than they did last season.

It’s still too early to draw any real conclusions from what we’ve seen, but that doesn’t mean that we should ignore it. If everything is put in context, it’s certainly worth looking into the numbers this early.

We’ll spare the Grizzlies, Pelicans and Rockets this week, and focus on the positive. Here are some notes on the league’s most improved teams and players through 10 days …

Most improved offenses


  • Charlotte has turned some mid-range shots into 3-pointers, which will help long term. But their top-5 ranking is a result of two good offensive games this week after scoring less than a point per possession in their first three. They ranked last in both field goal percentage in the restricted area and in 3-point percentage last season, so they had nowhere to go but up.
  • If Golden State remains one of the league’s most improved offensive teams, they will challenge the ’96 Bulls record of 72 wins. You’ll see the MVP in the most improved shooters list below, but where the Warriors have improved most is in turnover rate and free throw rate. Those two numbers are more likely (than shooting or rebounding) to stay consistent from a team’s first five games through the full season. So that’s kind of scary.
  • New York was looking to run in its first three games, and more shots early in the clock gave their offense a boost. But here are their fast break points, by game: 19, 17, 10, 0, 0. They need to get back in the open floor.

Most improved defenses


Most improved shooters


  • Giannis Antetokounmpo improved his mid-range shooting in the second half of last season, but this improvement isn’t a continuation of that. He’s taken only three shots from mid-range this season, with 40 of his 54 shots coming in the restricted area. More layups = better shooting.
  • It’s not fair that Stephen Curry ranks as the third most improved shooter this season. But shooting 58 percent (19-for-33) on pull-up threes isn’t sustainable … maybe. Curry shot 42 percent on pull-up threes last season.
  • Blake Griffin is a mean 24-for-28 (86 percent) in the restricted area and an improved 21-for-45 (47 percent) from mid-range. The mid-range number is the more important one. Griffin has worked a ton on his jumper, but 47 percent (Dirk Nowitzki‘s career mark) is about as good as it gets from mid-range, where Griffin is still taking almost half of his shots.

Blogtable: Is Clippers-Warriors the best rivalry in the NBA?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: On Popovich & Kobe’s careers | Clippers-Warriors rivalry | Who will shoot it the most?

VIDEOThe Clippers ousted the Warriors in the 2014 playoffs

> The 4-0 Clippers face the 4-0 Warriors for the first time this season tonight (10:30 ET, ESPN). Is this the NBA’s best rivalry today? And what could happen tonight that would make this rivalry even better?

Steve Aschburner, I can’t think of a better rivalry at the moment, based on the excellence of both teams, the Warriors’ status as the hunted and the Clippers’ offseason upgrades as hunters. There have been sufficient barbs between key members of both teams to spice things up, and the unapologetic glee with which Golden State goes about its dominance is in stark contrast to Los Angeles’ prickly, telling-us-more-than-showing-us sense of superiority. How to make this rivalry even better tonight? Three possible ways, as I see it: An outcome that swings on a controversial play or call, ideally one of those “our bad” gaffes the NBA acknowledges 18 hours too late to matter. Or a blowout in either direction that stokes the losers’ emotions for the Nov. 19 rematch and two more after that. Or a play in which (pick one) Lance Stephenson, Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Paul Pierce or Austin Rivers appears to do harm to Steph Curry — nothing serious, more insult than injury — causing Warriors fans’ title defense to flash before their eyes.

Fran Blinebury, Until these two teams hook up in a truly contentious, hotly competitive playoff series, it’s like a lot of what passes for 21st century culture — loud talk. It’s certainly not Philly-Boston, L.A.-Boston, Chicago-New York, Detroit-Anybody of the old days. Of current day rivalries, I’d probably put it behind Cavs-Bulls. Of course, that could change if Blake Griffin swings down on a rope from the rafters tonight, scoops up Steph Curry and slam dunks through the hoop at the other end of the floor. Or Draymond Green does so much yapping that his wide-open mouth actually takes a bite out of Chris Paul.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Yes. The strange thing, as someone who believes that rivalries are truly made in playoff matchups, is that the Warriors and Clippers had that necessary ingredient, but without the animosity. The emotions then were about the Clippers and Donald Sterling and, in fact, players from a lot of teams and Donald Sterling. The physical play and verbal scrapes between the teams have mostly been in the regular season and the offseason. The only thing that happens tonight that makes the rivalry better is either a great finish, maybe of the overtime variety, or the kind of ugliness the league office doesn’t want to see to make the rivalry better. What really makes the rivalry better is another playoff meeting.

Shaun Powell, Definitely the best rivalry because they see each other multiple times, are loaded with All-Stars and yes, a touch of danger and violence is always a possibility. Mostly, they’re both good and realistically capable of arm-wrestling for the West title. It’s hard to imagine anything making this better, other than a meeting in late May with a trip to The Finals on the line.

John Schuhmann, We don’t have any real rivalries these days, but Clippers-Warriors is definitely the best imitation of one. They’re two of the five best teams in the league, they’re in the same state, they don’t like each other, and they’re not afraid to make that clear, both on the court and off it. It could heat up tonight if the Clippers become the first team to knock off the champs, Blake Griffin dunks on Draymond Green, and Chris Paul puts Stephen Curry on his rear end with a crossover and step-back jumper.

Sekou Smith, Sure it is. Bad blood always makes a great rivalry. And there is more bad blood bubbling between these two teams right now than anywhere else in the league. The Warriors have what the Clippers are hunting and appear to be poised to get another one, based on extremely early reviews. The battles within the battle — Stephen Curry vs. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin vs. Draymond Green, for starters — crank up the drama even more. They’ll take this rivalry to historic levels when they face off again in the playoffs with a chance to play for a championship on the line. What makes this even more fun is the way guys on both sides have embraced the notion of an old fashioned blood feud. They don’t play nice, ever, which gives this a real throwback feel.

Ian Thomsen, It is the best, and maybe the only, rivalry. And it would be ratcheted up further if the visiting Clippers were to play them tight by making early November feel like late May while finding some way to bring Steph Curry to ground after his meteoric start to the season.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: This is the best rivalry in the NBA today, because these are two of the best teams in the NBA, playing in the same division of the league’s best Conference. The rivalry is certainly magnified right now because both teams are playing great. And as good as the Clippers have been — 4-0, and winning each game by 8.5 ppg — the Warriors have been even better. There was a lot of talk last season about how the Warriors had a historically good season, but this they’ve been even better this year — 4-0, averaging 119 ppg, winning by an average of 25 ppg. Thus far, teams haven’t had much luck trying to run with Warriors, so maybe the answer is to try and slow them down. I’m sure at some point, some team will try to get physical with the Warriors. I’ll say this: I know the Clippers aren’t afraid of the Warriors. Of course, that lack of fear is a two-way street when these teams meet.

Blogtable: Who will shoot it the most?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: On Popovich & Kobe’s careers | Clippers-Warriors rivalry | Who will shoot it the most?

VIDEOC.J. McCollum’s rise to stardom in Portland

> Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, or Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant? Which duo will average the most shots per game this season?

Steve Aschburner, Assuming all six stay healthy, I’m going with Lillard and McCollum. The Blogtable meister snuck them in here for a reason, namely that there aren’t many other reliable offensive options on the current Portland roster. So the Lillard/McCollum tandem’s current average of 40.1 field-goal attempts per game might hold in the absence of LaMarcus Aldridge & Co. Curry/Thompson prides itself too much on efficiency to hoist ’em at that level through 82 games — they were at 33.7 last season — and Golden State has additional weapons to deploy. And while Durant/Westbrook is at 41.8 right now, in their last full season together (2012-13) they combined to take 36.4 shots per game. Also, OKC coach Billy Donovan at least says he wants to develop other scoring options.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comWhile it’s tempting to go with Lillard and McCollum because they’re the only real bullets in a pop-gun offense that ranks in the bottom third of the league, I’m counting on the heavy artillery of Durant and Westbrook — especially Westbrook — to individually launch enough 25-30 shot barrages because, well, it’s who they are.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comMy actual answer is “I’m sure John Schuhmann did a spread sheet on this months ago, so whoever he picked.” But since he won’t let me look, I’ll go with Westbrook and Durant while making up logic as I go along. I think the Thunder will continue to play at a fast pace, while I’m not as sure the Blazers will keep it up. And I think the Warriors will benefit from not winning this category because it means Curry and Thompson will be resting in a lot of fourth quarters, in a good way.

Shaun Powell, The Portland duo, Lillard and McCollum, if only out of necessity. The ball should touch either Lillard or McCollum’s fingers on every possession. It’s not that they must shoot every time, but touch the ball and be a threat to score on an otherwise thinly-talented team.

John Schuhmann, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The lack of offensive talent on the Blazers’ roster has given these guys license to shoot anytime they’re open within 30 feet of the basket. Also, Terry Stotts is staggering their minutes, so that they each get plenty of time to dominate the offense with the other on the bench. In the Blazers’ second game (at Phoenix last Friday), McCollum took 12 shots in the nine minutes that Lillard sat, and it was something to behold.

Sekou Smith, If the Warriors keep waxing the opposition the way they did the Memphis Grizzlies, Curry and Thompson will be out of the running early because they won’t see the floor much in the fourth quarter of games. Durant and Westbrook are going to be volume shooters by virtue of their being no other clear-cut or reliable scoring options you’d be comfortable with on the Thunder roster. But Lillard and McCollum will have to fire away relentlessly to keep the Trail Blazers competitive all season. They will not only win this fight, they have to for the sake of basketball this season in Portland. They have to win this one!

Ian Thomsen, I’m guessing Westbrook and Durant will lead in this category because they are exceptionally talented and hungry to win. Will it be a bad thing if they dominate the shots for their team? It’s hard to answer that question because it’s been so long since we’ve seen them healthy together for an extended time. Maybe they are so good and so ready to fulfill their potential that the normal rules will not apply.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogI’m going to immediately disqualify Curry and Thompson, because while they probably SHOULD take the most shots, the Warriors get so far ahead that Curry ends up resting for large chunks of games, which means their gross numbers will be a little lower than everyone else. Lillard and McCollum have had a great run to start the season, but they’re both perimeter players, and Westbrook/Durant can form an inside-out tandem and provide more diversity to the Thunder offense in that way. Also, just to be frank, Westbrook and Durant are the better players out of that final four. So I’ll go with OKC’s finest.

Blogtable: Assessing impact of Popovich, Kobe on their teams and NBA at large

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: On Popovich & Kobe’s careers | Clippers-Warriors rivalry | Who will shoot it the most?

VIDEOGregg Popovich takes the Spurs through a preseason practice

> Kobe Bryant begins his 20th season with the Los Angeles Lakers just as Gregg Popovich enters his 20th season as coach of the San Antonio Spurs. Both are shoo-in picks for the Hall of Fame, both have accomplished a ton, but who has made the bigger impact on their franchise? And on the league?

Steve Aschburner, Popovich is my answer to both questions. Kobe Bryant ranks as one of the top 10 players in NBA history, yet there hasn’t been anything particularly original about him. Popovich, on the other hand, has shaped NBA tactics and NBA culture, while presiding over an era in San Antonio that wouldn’t have happened without him, even if Tim Duncan had landed there to team with David Robinson. The Spurs’ all-in embrace of international players, the beauty and effectiveness of their performance in the 2014 Finals, the harsh light Popovich shined on the schedule and need for rest all influenced the league. The Lakers, meanwhile, already had traditions of winning and of employing legendary players — why do you think it was so important for Bryant to leverage his way there when he was drafted?

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comYou forgot to mention that they both have five championships on their resume. Of course, as Pop would be the first to point out, it’s the players that play the game. However, in terms of lasting impact on the franchise, the Lakers had a long history of winning championships and as NBA royalty — George Mikan, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson — long before Bryant arrived on the scene. But Pop and Tim Duncan brought championship basketball to San Antonio. Pop’s influence to the league extends from his pioneering penchant for digging up and utilizing international talent from every corner of the globe.  His management of his roster — i.e. rationing minutes played and simply giving players nights off throughout — has spread throughout the NBA and even led to an overall effort from the commissioner’s office to cut down on back-to-back games in the schedule. No slight to Kobe, but Pop gets the nod here.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThat’s nearly an impossible split. Maybe the answer comes down not to Kobe and Pop, but what to what happened before they arrived as perspective on what the following 20 years would mean. The Lakers had decades of pre-Bryant winning. He was a continuation. Popovich, though, had the largest role in defining the Spurs. He was the builder. In that regard, he has had the bigger impact on the franchise. And if there is the case as the No. 1 person in the history of an entire organization, then it follows that he had a bigger impact on the league as well. Plus, it’s just fun that it will bother him to be put on that pedestal.

Shaun Powell, Kobe, and that’s no knock on Popovich. But Kobe is a player instead of a coach, is/was far more marketable (ticket sales, sneaker sales, TV ratings) and directly impacted games whereas Popovich put players in position to win. Too bad Kobe is so emotionally attached to the Lakers, because I’d love to see him sign as a free agent with the Spurs and play for Pop.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comWhile Bryant has influenced a lot of players who watched him growing up, Popovich has influenced players, coaches and even executives around the league who have spent time in San Antonio. That will be a longer lasting legacy and a more positive one. Players may want to be like Kobe, and there are a few in this league that have clearly been influenced by him. But his shot selection and me-first approach to offense doesn’t work without his rare combination of elite talent and relentless work ethic.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comGreat question. They both will leave indelible marks on the game, for obviously different reasons. You can make the argument that Pop belongs in the conversation as the best coach in NBA history. And Kobe is going to make the list of the top 10 players in NBA history most every time. But when you talk about impacting a franchise, specifically, it’s hard to imagine one man doing more for a franchise than what Popovich has done for the Spurs (and, to a large extent, the rest of the league — considering his always-growing coaching family tree). San Antonio became a championship outfit on his watch (courtesy of Tim Duncan, of course). The Spurs’ championship legacy will live on with Pop playing the role of architect, which lasts for eternity. Kobe went to a franchise that had already gone through its golden, championship era. There was already an established standard (thanks to Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers and Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain and others before them) in place. Kobe electrified the franchise, no doubt, and still stirs a rabid fan base, but it had been done before.

Ian Thomsen, Bryant made the biggest impact on his franchise, and Popovich would be the first to say so: He would tell you that players win championships more so than coaches. The same goes for their impact on the league: Kobe has created more fans around the world, sold more tickets and made more plays than any coach. For all that Popovich has accomplished — winning five championships in a small market while creating the league’s model franchise, one whose values are mimicked repeatedly — his plans have succeeded because they’ve been embraced and implemented by Tim Duncan. If we were comparing him to rival coaches, then Popovich would be the clear winner of this discussion. But it isn’t right to say that he has meant more than Kobe, in the same way that no one would argue that Phil Jackson made a greater impact than Michael Jordan.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog While they are both cantankerous and fantastic, they are apples and oranges, with at least one tremendous similarity. I would say that Gregg Popovich has had more of an impact on his franchise, as he took over a team that had existed for 31 seasons without a title and racked up four rings in the next 18 seasons. Pop also provided a blueprint for how small market teams can compete and win titles in the modern era. You can argue that Kobe’s impact on the Lakers has been as massive, although the Lakers have had a murderer’s row of legends (Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, George Mikan, Shaquille O’Neal, etc.) which makes Kobe’s road to the top of that Mt. Rushmore a much tougher road. That said, I’d argue that Kobe has had more of an impact on the League than Pop has, as Kobe has provided a blueprint for how swingmen in the NBA’s post-Jordan era can be successful.