Posts Tagged ‘Josh Akognon’

Mavs’ Carlisle Rolls With Plan B, Revolving Roster

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DALLAS –
 Rick Carlisle earned his reputation as one of the game’s top coaches by bending, flexing and adjusting all the way to a six-game championship take-down of the Miami Heat in 2011.

Recall 5-foot-10 point guard J.J. Barea as an NBA Finals starting shooting guard?

The Dallas Mavericks have since gone 77-72 and haven’t won another playoff game. And despite a roster that’s read like a well-worn Rolodex, Carlisle has seemed only to enhance his image as an elite tactician and motivator. Carlisle’s agility will be put to the test again this season in guiding a team that again barely resembles the one that preceded it.

From the 2010-11 championship team only Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion remain. From the revamped squad insufficiently stocked to defend the title, add only Brandan Wright and Vince Carter as keepers. And from last season, add draft picks Jae Crowder and Bernard James. It’s doubtful any coach, especially one that won a ring with the same franchise just three Junes ago, has witnessed such roster upheaval in three consecutive offseasons, and particularly so in these back-to-back summers.

“Back-to-back, probably not,” Carlisle admitted. “But look, we’re living in a different time. We’re living in a time now where there’s going to be more one-year deals, there’s going to be more turnover, so everybody adjusts to the dynamics of the new CBA, and I don’t know that that’s going to happen for another year or two, at least. That said, if you’re going to be a head coach in this league you’ve got to be very open-minded, you’ve got to be open to change and adaptation. You always want continuity, but you’re not always going to have it.”

The Mavs suffered the indignity of a lockout and the ratification of a game-changing collective bargaining agreement on the heels of their championship parade. On the fly, owner Mark Cuban championed new roster-building strategies that entailed allowing key members of his title team to walk. Plan A, to create cap space and lure max-dollar free agents to crowbar Nowitzki’s championship window, hasn’t panned out and Dallas has instead scrambled the last two summers to produce competitive rosters.

That can be a disheartening road for a coach who is just one of four currently in the league with a ring. Carlisle, though, has consistently endorsed his boss’ decisions. Entering his sixth season in Dallas and the second year of his second four-year contract, Carlisle seems to embrace the challenges he inherits under Plan B. Of the four active championship coaches — including Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers, now in charge of the Clippers – Carlisle’s task is by far fraught with the most uncertainties.

“I just made a conscious decision that I’m not going to be a coach that’s limited to a certain system,” Carlisle said. “I’m hanging my hat on my ability to adapt each year to potentially a roster that’s quite different, and with the new CBA we’re going to have more of that in this league. I’ve done a lot of it in my career leading up to now anyway, so it’s always challenging in those situations, but it’s also exciting.”

Just look at the players that have come through Dallas since the lockout ended: Kalenna Azubuike, Yi Jianlian, Lamar Odom, Delonte WestSean Williams, Eddy Curry, Troy Murphy, Elton Brand, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman, Jared Cunningham, Derek Fisher, Mike James, Dahntay Jones, Anthony Morrow, Chris Wright, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Justin Dentmon and Josh Akognon.

And here’s the players new to Dallas for this season: Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair, Gal Mekel, plus draft picks Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo.

Last week Cuban set the bar for this team: The playoffs, and capable of doing damage once there. Carlisle didn’t flinch.

“I think you have to view it that way,” Carlisle said. “And, you’ve got to be careful. You’ve got to eliminate the external noise and the doubters and the naysayers and all that kind of stuff. You’ve got to have just a real positive enthusiasm and focus on your group, and you’ve got to see in your mind how they can get better. Then you’ve got to facilitate that.”

Among Dallas media, at least, Carlisle was hailed as a Coach of the Year candidate for guiding last season’s mismatched squad out of a 13-23 hole, one dug mostly without Nowitzki. Dallas finished 28-18 and was in the thick of the playoff chase almost until the end.

“Actually, I think Rick’s system is just very comprehensive and he lets the players pick up as much of it as they can and so I think rather than try to force-feed things that they might not be able to do, Rick, I think, is more accommodating,” Cuban said. “But I don’t think he really changes his system, per se, or changes what he does. I think he just recognizes the skill set of his players. Like, he went from calling plays to just playing ‘flow’ all the time [with Jason Kidd]. That’s his preference more than anything else, just let guys play basketball, and hopefully that’s what we’re going to be able to do a lot more of whereas last year we had to call plays every possession. This year I don’t think we’ll have to.”

Last season’s backcourt of Collison, who couldn’t hold down the starting job, and Mayo never clicked. Fisher ditched the team after a month and James was erratic. Cuban believes this team offers Carlisle more raw material with which to work.

He believes it will be collectively smarter and less turnover-pron with Calderon at the controls, Harris backing him up and the speedy Ellis being able to get to the hole with a frequency the Mavs just haven’t seen. All that, Cuban surmises, should play into the hands of a healthy and motivated Nowitzki.

“Each team is different, each team has different needs, each team develops differently and has to make different kinds of adjustments mid-stream,” Carlisle said. “All that stuff is one of the real intriguing things about coaching. It’s one of the reasons I love it. And one of the reasons I love working in this organization is we’ve got an owner with a fertile mind that likes the right kind of change.

“I’m down with that.”

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 6 Recap

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LAS VEGAS – Playing to impress strangers isn’t the same thing as playing to impress one’s coaches, and it’s easy for young guys to veer recklessly toward the former.

summer-league-logoSticking to a few strengths, by contrast, and filling a niche can go a long way toward opening eyes not just on a player’s summer team but with all the scouts from rival clubs or even global leagues.

Bob Thornton, the Memphis assistant coach working the Grizzlies’ game against Washington Wednesday, was thrilled for Jack Cooley, the undrafted rookie from Notre Dame who did the things he’s good at and mostly avoided the things he’s not. In the case of a wide-body like Cooley, Thornton said, that means “rebound, set screens, play defense and hit the shot when it’s there.”

That’s what Cooley did, with an efficient 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting and 12 rebounds (six offensive) in just over 30 minutes in Memphis’ 90-83 victory. Left open on the elbow on a couple of times, he boldly stuck the shots. Cooley even drained a 3-pointer when it was there, while forcing nothing. Following his lead, the Grizzlies grabbed 20 offensive boards in the 40-minute game.

Afterward, Thornton said: “He’s out here creating opportunities for himself.” Through four games, Cooley is averaging 15.3 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 52 percent — earning him a spot on our Rookie Ladder.

Non-rookie of the day: Travis Leslie, Heat. In a little more than 23 minutes off Miami’s bench in its 113-66 blowout of New York, Leslie scored 23 points on just 13 shots. The 6-foot-4 guard from Georgia gets around -– he was a first-round pick of the Santa Cruz Warriors of the D-League before last season and averaged better than 15 points. He participated in the Orlando Summer League with Philadelphia.

Other notables: Jordan Hamilton, Nuggets. A 6-foot-7 guard from Texas, he scored 23 points in Denver’s 87-82 victory over New Orleans, hitting four of his seven 3-pointers. Thomas Robinson, Trail Blazers. He was at it again, good for 13 points and 17 rebounds in Portland’s 70-69 victory over Atlanta one day after getting 12 points and 18 boards vs. Chicago. Josh Akognon, Mavericks. The 5-foot-11 guard from Cal State-Fullerton was a sparkplug off the Dallas bench, scoring 24 points in 24:50 in a 95-89 victory over the L.A. Clippers.

Rookie of the day (after Cooley): Dennis Schroder, Hawks. He has been valued more for his defense than anything else, but the Atlanta point guard got to the line, sank 7-for-8 and wound up with 16 points despite 4-for-11 shooting from the floor (1-for-5 from the arc). He had five assists and three steals with (oops) six turnovers.

Other notables: Shabazz Muhammad. The former UCLA forward, whose selection by Minnesota at No. 14 drew some criticism, had his best day as a pro. He scored 17 points and sank three of his four 3-pointers in the Timberwolves’ 92-54 laugher over Sacramento. Muhammad had been sputtering along at 7.3 ppg on 34.6 percent shooting. (Ben McLemore, the Kings’ touted shooting guard, was back in struggle mode, missing all eight of his field-goal attempts.) C.J. McCollum, Trail Blazers. The combo guard continues to put up solid numbers for Portland, his 19 points just shy of his average (21.3 ppg) coming into the victory over Atlanta.

Coming up: The byes are over, the goodbyes start soon. In the new tournament format, the 10 top-seeded teams all were idle Wednesday but will take on the day’s winners Thursday (and in a couple cases, each other), with action starting at 1 p.m. ET with No. 7 Cleveland vs. No. 10 San Antonio. Once everyone has five games completed, the single-elimination feature kicks in. Starting Friday, losers head home and winners keep going, with the championship game set for Monday

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 2 Recap

By Drew Packham, NBA.com



Vegas, Baby: Fans in Las Vegas apparently missed their Summer League action.

Saturday’s action at Cox Pavilion sold out midway through the day, with officials cutting off ticket sales for the day.

“This is the strongest start we’ve ever had,” said Gail Hunter, the NBA’s Sr. Vice President of Events. “Usually it builds, but we started really well.”

Hunter says the lack of a Summer League last year (due to the lockout) could be a reason for the increased excitement.

“There’s nothing like the intimate feel,” Hunter said. “The fact fans can see players in the stands and get so close to the game is so unique.”

Fans shouldn’t have a problem Sunday, with seven games throughout the day going simultaneously in both Thomas & Mack and Cox Pavilion. The arenas are connected and fans can alternate freely between the two venues.

Non-rookie of the day: Golden State’s Charles Jenkins was impressive, racking up 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting and had three steals in the Warriors’ 95-74 win over the Nuggets. “I love Charles’ game,” said teammate Klay Thompson, who had 17 points himself. “He’s one of the best mid-range shooters I’ve seen, and that’s no fabrication. He’s automatic and he’s developing into a great point guard. He’s gonna be a great player in this league for a long time.”

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