Posts Tagged ‘Jrue Holiday’

Morning shootaround — Sept. 24

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Is Garnett completely gone from Wolves? | Bosh needs to concede and move on | Donovan remains with OKC for long haul

No. 1: Is Garnett completely gone from Wolves? — He announced his retirement Friday after 21 years in the NBA, fitting since that was his uniform number, and Kevin Garnett will be forever linked to the Wolves perhaps more than the Celtics. But what’s in his next chapter? There was always scuttlebutt about Garnett becoming a part-owner of the Wolves but that doesn’t appear likely. And the coaching position is filled. Maybe Garnett should cut the cord completely if he’s not involved in ownership, so says Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune

It was such a nice story, evoking nostalgia and promise in the same swoop of the pen.

Flip Saunders employed all of his charm to woo Kevin Garnett back to Minnesota, offering trunks of money, a voice at practice, a place in the starting lineup and a future in franchise decision-making.

When the Minnesota Timberwolves were desperate for validation and credibility, Flip’s seduction of the greatest player in franchise history made sense. Then everything changed.

Flip passed away, leaving Garnett without his greatest champion and intermediary in the organization.

Garnett played a career-low 15 minutes a game in a career-low 38 games, undermining his ability to lead by example on the court.

Wolves owner Glen Taylor hired Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden to run his basketball operation.

In the old Wolves world order, every former employee of any pedigree had a virtual lifetime contract, renewable whenever convenient for the employee.

Flip’s passing and the arrival of the best cache of young talent in Wolves history, and perhaps the most authoritative coach in franchise history, converted the Wolves from the best version of their old self under Flip to the New Wolves Order.

Flip built relationships and sometimes avoided conflict. For him, Garnett could be the ideal partner — a superstar who was also taskmaster and intimidator.

Thibodeau likely wants his voice to be the loudest in every practice and huddle. He is the alpha male in the organization, and by nature of his personality needs little help yelling out defensive instructions or wielding power.

If Garnett is not going to become a part-owner or assistant general manager or loud voice at the end of the bench, he has no role in the New Wolves Order. He’s no longer even needed to sell tickets or lead marketing campaigns. That falls to Karl-Anthony Towns, a fast-rising star who is also as likeable and marketable as was the young Garnett, before he grew quills.

Channeled rage made Garnett great, and would make him an uncomfortable member of the NWO.

Now is the right time for Garnett to move on. The method by which that would happen is a matter for Taylor and Garnett. It would be best for the Wolves if Garnett simply retired, but let’s not go so far as to say that Garnett owes that to the Wolves. He carried the franchise for a decade, brought the Wolves their greatest success and had to be coaxed into accepting the trade to Boston.

Taylor (the owner of the Star Tribune, by the way) needs to do whatever it takes to buy out Garnett, to give Thibodeau a locker room where his voice will be the loudest.

If Garnett departs, the NBA and Minnesota sports will officially be changed places. The NBA could find Garnett, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant in the same Hall of Fame class. Minnesota will have experienced the retirements of Torii Hunter, Jerry Kill and Garnett, and career-threatening injuries to Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson.

Garnett would retire as the only player in NBA history to reach at least 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 steals and 1,500 blocks. He may also be the rare NBA superstar to have punched multiple teammates during practices over the course of his career.

Perhaps Garnett could have written a sweeter ending to his career than a buyout, but old knees don’t understand story lines.

Garnett was great, and he should have played his entire career in Minnesota, and nothing guarantees a happy ending, not even when a superstar comes home.

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No. 2: Bosh needs to concede and move on — After failing his physical with the Miami Heat reportedly due to blood-clot complications, Chris Bosh remains in limbo. He won’t report with the team for training camp and all along the Heat have kept themselves at arm’s distance regarding Bosh and his medical condition. Almost everyone, even former teammate Dwyane Wade, has dropped hints that maybe Bosh should seriously rethink his desire to play this season, or ever again. Meanwhile, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside are looming as the core of a team that once featured Bosh, Wade and LeBron James. Here’s Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald with the latest …

The question, with camp opening Tuesday: Can their on-court chemistry continue to improve?

The off-court dynamics between the two were so off kilter at times last season that Erik Spoelstra, last February, ordered them to go to dinner or do absolutely whatever was necessary to improve their chemistry.

Their collaboration improved almost immediately after that, and it will never be more important than it this season, with the departure of Dwyane Wade, who had better synergy with Whiteside than anybody, and the loss of Bosh.

Whereas Wade assisted on 92 Whiteside baskets and 29 alley-oops, Dragic assisted on just 65 of Whiteside’s hoops and 14 of his alley-oops.

But 50 of Dragic’s 65 assists to Whiteside came in 28 games after the All-Star break, compared with just 15 in 54 games before.

One reason why: The two teammates started talking a lot more, both off the court and during games, and the results have been noticeable. Whiteside started setting better screens for Dragic, which helped free him offensively.

“It was great,” Whiteside said this offseason, via Heat.com. “Each game me and Goran got better. He’s easy to talk to. He’s a really good point guard. As the season went on, me and Goran understood each other better.

“[This] year is going to be even bigger. More of me and Goran communicating on that basketball level and getting to know each other better.”

Spoelstra said earlier this year that the key was they both “committed to working together, before practice, after practice. Two guys that want to do it right and they understand they’re involved in a lot of collaborations together and they have to spend time working on it.

“It’s not going to happen through osmosis. They both wanted to make it better. They just didn’t necessarily know how to make it better. Just spend time together and you’ll figure it out.”

Dragic said he never ended up going “alone with Hassan” to dinner, but they did spend more time together in groups with teammates, and it helped because “you discuss things. You get to know the guy better and where he comes from. He opened up to me and vice versa. You know what the guy is thinking now.”

Also helpful: Dragic said he and Whiteside practiced pick-and-rolls alone, after practice.

Though they’ve always gotten along, Dragic, from Slovenia, and Whiteside, from North Carolina, don’t necessarily have a lot in common.

“He likes to play video games; I don’t do that,” Dragic said. “I have a family [with kids]; he doesn’t. But we both love basketball.”

The upshot, Dragic said, is they now they mastered non-verbal signals, to the point where Whiteside can anticipate a Dragic alley-oop before the defense knows it’s coming.

“It was hard” to get to this point, Dragic said. But the improved communication “has helped us function.”

Said Whiteside: “I know it looks like sometimes we’re out there arguing or fussing. But every time I see something, I tell him. And it goes both ways.”

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No. 3: Donovan sees himself with OKC for long haul — When the Thunder lost Kevin Durant to free agency, it created a rather weird reality for coach Billy Donovan. He came to the Thunder two summers ago fully realizing that he might have only one season coaching Kevin Durant and that the team’s identity (and title chances) could drastically change overnight if Durant left. Maybe Donovan would regret leaving a comfortable gig with the Florida Gators. Well, when the Thunder opened camp Friday, Donovan was fully committed to the present and the future. Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman spoke with Donovan about this…

Billy Donovan’s second NBA season begins Saturday with Thunder training camp. Perhaps you’ve heard, Kevin Durant won’t be there.

The team that Donovan signed up for 17 months ago — a superstar-heavy, NBA-title-contending roster — has changed. Still talented. Still interesting. Still a winner. But not a title contender unless the basketball gods bestow upon us the sports story of the century.

Makes you wonder if Donovan laments coming to town. Makes you wonder if Donovan wonders what in the heck he’s gotten himself into.

This week, I asked Sam Presti how Donovan has responded to the different landscape. From knowing exactly what he had to not sure what he has. From NBA overdog to NBA underdog. From two superstars to one.

Presti said to ask Donovan. But then Presti told us what he thinks of the coach who leads the Thunder. “I think it is the same situation he signed on for, because the things that make a Billy Donovan a Billy Donovan is he wants to be the coach of the Thunder,” Presti said. “He wants to coach in Oklahoma City. He wants to coach with an organization that is committed to the values that I’ve covered … I think those are the things that drive a person like Billy Donovan. He wants to be a part of something. He wants to be a part of representing a city and the values of a city. And he wants to work his craft.”

Well, working his craft is not going to be a problem. To whatever extent Donovan was able to roll out the basketball and let Durant and Russell Westbrook perform their magic, that will happen no more. Donovan will be free to coach his butt off this season.

Truth is, Donovan did just that last season, when the Thunder traversed repeated valleys and emerged as a playoff force. No team played better in the 2016 playoffs than did Donovan’s Thunder. In the month of May, OKC went 7-6 against teams with 67 (Spurs) and 73 (Warriors) wins.

Donovan pushed all the right buttons, and the Thunder’s eventual fall had nothing to do with the quality of the coaching. Durant and Westbrook just famously locked up in the final five minutes of the Western Conference Finals’ Game 6.

The Thunder won’t get that close this season. Donovan won’t admit that, of course. He also talks like it’s OK if it is true.

Donovan said Clay Bennett and Presti made it clear that Durant’s return was no sure thing. Said he came to OKC not because of the dual superstars, but the values and culture that had been created.

“I believed in the vision of the organization,” Donovan said. “Those things resonated with me.”

You know the drill. All the things that Presti talks endlessly about. All the things that now will be put to the test in the post-Durant era. Hard work. Holistic approach to people. Trusting the process.

“Nothing’s really changed here,” Donovan said, words that will be tested on Oct. 25, when Durant dons a Warrior jersey for his first real game with Golden State. “The principles, the vision, those things haven’t changed. It’s not like the mission and the values have changed here.”

Donovan says he’s used to player departures. Nineteen years at Florida taught him to adjust. Players graduating. Players transferring. Players going pro early. Donovan went to Final Fours with virtual all-star teams and went to Final Fours with virtual no-name teams.

Truth is, Oklahoma City is a lot more accustomed to Durant than Donovan is to Durant. We had the tall drink of water for eight glorious seasons. Donovan coached him for one.

“When players leave, you gotta be aligned with the people that are in charge and the people you’re working with every single day,” Donovan said.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Jrue Holiday and wife had their baby and now Lauren Holiday awaits surgery for a brain tumor … Russell Westbrook still hasn’t spoken with you know who … Knicks are staying mum about the charges against Derrick Rose for now … Yao Ming is having his jersey retired by the RocketsNik Pekovic may never play for the Wolves againJeff Teague is getting to know his new teammates in his hometown of Indy … Mitch McGary is very, very sorry.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 249) Featuring Joel Meyers

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — This time a year ago Anthony Davis saw his name included in any legitimate MVP conversation. Alvin Gentry‘s arrival from the Golden State Warriors’ championship team was hailed as the game changer for a New Orleans Pelicans squad that everyone assumed was on the cusp of big things in the Western Conference.

But as often happens in the NBA, reality interrupted that story. Injuries to Davis and others along with the transition to a new system led to a humbling season in the Big Easy.

That would explain the absence of hype and the tempered expectations for the Pelicans’ 2016-17 season. Sure, there a lots of new faces (Solomon Hill, Terrence Jones, Buddy Hield, E’Twaun MooreLangston Galloway and even Lance Stephenson, for starters) and Davis is sure to return with a chip on his shoulder.

Still, there are issues Gentry will have to deal with to start his second season. He won’t have veteran point guard Jrue Holiday, who is out indefinitely to care for his wife Lauren Holiday, who is pregnant and dealing with a brain tumor. Another veteran guard, Tyreke Evans, is also returning from injury.

And there is a culture change that has to take place in that Pelicans locker room, one that will rest as much on Gentry’s leadership as it will that of Davis and the other veterans on the team. Joel Meyers, the play-by-play voice of the Pelicans, joins us to break it all down on Episode 249 of The Hang Time Podcast.

 

We also have NBA TV’s Kristen Ledlow to break down the radical changes to the WNBA playoff format, unearth a big beef with NBA 2K17 (Langston Marbury in the house) and more.

Check it out on Episode 249 of The Hang Time Podcast featuring Joel Meyers.

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com, Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

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Morning shootaround — Sept. 10

NEWS OF THE MORNING

An Epic Class | Born Ready in the Big Easy | Richardson suffers knee injury | Colangelo suggests “guarded optimism”

No. 1: An Epic Class — Each year sees a new class inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and by nature, some classes are more star-studded than others. But the class of 2016, inducted last night in Springfield, was as big as it gets. As our own Scott Howard-Cooper writes, last night’s induction ceremony was some kind of party …

These are the nights that make the Hall of Fame, when Bill Russell, Shaquille O’Neal, Bill Walton, Alonzo Mourning, Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo are under the same roof and all we need is for someone to run a play through center and dare the guy with the ball to get past Russell or Mutombo, when Allen Iverson can barely get through a syllable without choking up while mentioning Larry Brown, John Thompson and Julius Erving on stage with him as presenters, and when Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, of all people, is auditioning for “Saturday Night Live” while being enshrined.

“A Bar Mitzvah is the time in his life when a Jewish boy realizes he has a better chance of owning a team than playing for one,” Reinsdorf said, recalling his in 1949, the same year he would scrape together money to watch professional basketball at Madison Square Garden.

That was some Friday night at Symphony Hall. That was some party.

There hadn’t been this kind of star power at the enshrinement since 2010, probably the greatest of all, with Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, the 1960 Olympic team led by Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, plus the 1992 Dream Team that mostly came down from Mt. Olympus to attend. This time, O’Neal, Yao and Iverson were among the 10 members of the Class of 2017 and sparkle was everywhere in the audience, some just watching and some with ceremonial duty as presenters: Russell and the entire center depth chart, Dr. J, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson, Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas, Gary Payton, Earl Monroe. On and on.

It wasn’t just the list of career accomplishments under one roof either. Put O’Neal, Iverson and Yao, the headliners among the inductees with NBA or ABA ties, in front of a microphone anywhere and good things will happen. Put them in front of a microphone at the same event, with historical figures engrossed or laughing along in the audience and a very good night for basketball happens.

Yao was dignified and humorous and smart and personable, everything he was as a Rocket, even in the trying times as the injuries piled up, until finally he had to retire early and his only chance for enshrinement was through the International committee, not on his NBA credentials. He successfully meshed growing up in China with growing in stature in Houston — “I’m a Texan, I’m a Houston Rocket for life” — and later, after returning to the audience to hear the nine speeches that followed, laughed along as O’Neal told the story of not knowing for years that he could converse with Yao in English.

Iverson was again the A.I. everyone expected, just as he had been the day before with a series of candid, thoughtful responses, especially in choking through his words and tearing up at the seemingly vanilla question on the importance to his career of having good teammates. He didn’t even get that far Friday. Iverson got emotional before even taking the stage, just from host Ahmad Rashad beginning the introduction. The audience cheered in support, backing him in a way few, if any, enshrinees had been cheered in recent years.

When Iverson did deliver his acceptance speech, he was The Answer in his prime, storming downcourt with the ball, on a laser line to the rim, no finesse, no pretense. He did 31 minutes straight from the gut. Iverson thanked Thompson, his Georgetown coach, “for saving my life” and listed dozens of family members, teammates, executives, coaches and media members. There were more raw emotions.

“I have no regrets being the guy that I am, a person my family loves, my friends love, my teammates love, my fans love,” Iverson said.

And Shaq. It may have been his best speech of the last 20 years, true appreciation of his place in basketball history without the loud stomping, the dramatics, that accompanied so many previous comments. It was strange to not mention Jerry West among many, many names who influenced his career, and any impression of a thawing with Kobe Bryant in recent seasons now must include O’Neal at the podium noting “the great Kobe Bryant. Kobe Bryant, a guy who will push me and help me win three titles in a row. But also help me get pushed off the team and traded to Miami.”

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No. 2: Born Ready in the Big Easy — The last major free-agent domino seems to have fallen into place. According to his agent, Lance Stephenson has agreed to a one-year deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. As John Reid writes for NOLA.com, the Pelicans found themselves in need of backcourt help, although Stephenson may still have to earn a roster spot …

The move comes less than a week after point guard Jrue Holiday said he would miss the start of the 2016 season to care for his pregnant wife, former U.S. soccer star Lauren Holiday, who is facing brain surgery.

Guard-forward Tyreke Evans also is expected to miss the start of the season because he has not fully recovered after undergoing three surgeries on his right knee in a nine-month span.

Still, Stephenson will have to earn a roster spot because the Pelicans already have 15 players under guaranteed contracts.

Stephenson is a six-year veteran, most recently played with the Memphis Grizzlies, averaging 8.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and three assists per game. The Clippers traded Stephenson, 26, to the Grizzlies in February after he played 43 games and averaged 4.7 points.

Stephenson, 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, has ability to create off the dribble and provide needed scoring in the backcourt. The Pelicans put Stephenson through a workout at the practice facility last month to evaluate before offering him a deal.

A free agent, there was speculation that Stephenson might not land a NBA contract and would have to play in Europe.

Although talented, Stephenson has a reputation as a difficult player to coach. When he played for the Indiana Pacers, Stephenson got into a fight with teammate Evan Turner during a practice before their opening-round playoff series in 2014 against the Atlanta Hawks.

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No. 3: Richardson suffers knee injury — The Miami Heat haven’t had the best offseason, losing several key players such as Dwyane Wade to Joe Johnson. And now they may be one more man down, at least for now, as explosive guard Josh Richardson suffered a knee injury yesterday during a workout. As Ira Winderman writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Richardson was in the mix for a starting spot …

An uneven offseason for the Miami Heat became a bit more challenging Friday, with second-year guard Josh Richardson suffering a knee injury during Friday’s voluntary workouts at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The injury was confirmed to the Sun Sentinel by a party close to the situation after Yahoo Sports reported Richardson sustained a partially torn MCL in his right knee.

A Heat spokesman said Richardson currently is being evaluated by the team’s medical staff.

The expectation is that Richardson will not be available for the start of training camp, which opens for the Heat on Sept. 27. He is tentatively still scheduled to make a promotional appearance Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, which indicates reduced concern about the injury.

Richardson downplayed the injury, posting on his Twitter account, “Thanks everyone for the tweets and texts. I see them. I’ll be back asap no worries.” He posted on his Snapchat, “Can’t hold a real one down!!!”

The Heat open their preseason schedule on Oct. 4 on the road against the Washington Wizards and their regular-season schedule on Oct. 26 on the road against the Orlando Magic.

An injury such as Richardson’s can take from two, three weeks to two, three months for recovery, depending on the grade of the tear.

A regular at the team’s offseason sessions, Richardson had been considered a candidate to emerge in the starting lineup this season, either at shooting guard or small forward.

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No. 4: Colangelo suggests “guarded optimism” For the last few years, Philadelphia 76ers fans have been asked to trust the rebuilding process and look toward the future. Now that future is finally becoming the present, after two years waiting for former lottery pick Joel Embiid to get healthy enough to take the court. Speaking this weekend in Springfield, Sixers special advisor Jerry Colangelo said that Sixers fans should have “guarded optimism” when it comes to Embiid’s return…

“I’m sure that everyone should have optimism,” Colangelo told CSNPhilly.com at the Basketball Hall of Fame. “But there’s a word I’ve always used over the years about optimism. It should be guarded optimism because things take time. When you’re building teams — and I’ve had the privilege of doing that quite a few times in my career — you’re adding pieces here and there, and then once in a while you strike out and get that last piece. I think where the Sixers are today is, this is the beginning of that particular process, and that is building what everyone would hope to be a championship team.”

Two focal points of the Sixers’ future are Ben Simmons and Embiid. Simmons, a 6-foot-10 point-forward, is ready to make an impact as a rookie. Embiid, on the other hand, has been waiting two years to play following foot surgeries. Last month Embiid said he feels “100 percent” and plans to participate in training camp.

“With all of the reports that I’ve seen and all the footage I’ve seen in terms of video, it appears that he’s headed in the right direction,” Colangelo said of Embiid. “I know that everyone’s excited about training camp because of all of the new faces. … The fortunate ability to have the first pick and select Ben Simmons, you put all those new players on paper and to add that to a roster, it’s going to be really interesting, exciting to see how it all plays out.”

When it comes to incoming international players, Colangelo’s involvement with Team USA gave him the opportunity to meet with Dario Saric and Sergio Rodriguez in Rio during the Olympics. Saric, who signed with the Sixers two years after being drafted, had a solid showing for Croatia, while Rodriguez helped Spain win bronze.

“I thought [Saric] played very well and I complimented him on his performances,” Colangelo said. “Both of them showed great enthusiasm about coming to training camp. I think it’s going to be exciting to have them in Sixers uniforms very shortly.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: New Wizards coach Scott Brooks says he isn’t worried about the relationship between John Wall and Bradley Beal … Phil Jackson pays tribute to Shaq … Draymond Green pays tribute to Allen IversonKevin Durant says he and Russell Westbrook are “still cool” … LeBron James‘ production company has sold a “sports medicine drama” to NBC.

Report: Pelicans add Stephenson to roster

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Lance Stephenson‘s free agent summer ended a little later than expected.

But he’ll back in the Western Conference for the start of the 2016-17 NBA season after agreeing to sign a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans earlier today, as first reported by Shams Charania of The Vertical and since confirmed by multiple outlets.

Stephenson, who finished last season with the Memphis Grizzlies, will reportedly have to earn a roster spot. The Pelicans already have 15 players on their roster with guaranteed contracts, and three others (Chris Copeland, Robert Sacre and Shawn Dawson) with partially guaranteed deals.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry has a roster loaded with backcourt players, including rookie shooting guard Buddy Hield as well as veterans Tyreke Evans (returning from injury), Norris Cole, E’Twaun Moore and Langston Galloway. But they’ll begin the season without point guard Jrue Holiday, who is taking a leave of absence to care for and support his pregnant wife Lauren as she also deals with a brain tumor.

With Anthony Davis returning from injury, Gentry needs to surround his franchise big man with quality depth. Stephenson will have to scrap to be a part of that group.

He’s shown that ability in the past, particularly during his time with the Indiana Pacers earlier in his career and for the Grizzlies in the playoffs last season, when he averaged 13 points. And at 25, Stephenson is in physical prime. In six NBA seasons Stephenson has averaged 8.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and three assists. He spent his four seasons with the Pacers, one with the Charlotte Hornets and last season with the Los Angeles Clippers and Grizzlies.

Morning shootaround — Sept. 4

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Ujiri focuses on building African basketball | Holiday to miss time to care for wife and child | Riley says Shaq was most important Miami move | Curry watches Game 7 for fuel | Reasons to be excited about Love

No. 1: Ujiri focuses on building African basketball — Masai Ujiri earned Executive of the Year honors for the job he did in Denver and has guided the Toronto Raptors to three straight years of setting a new franchise record for wins. For that, he earned a contract extension this week. But Ujiri’s basketball work on the continent of Africa will ultimately be more impactful. And it’s the job of growing the game back where he came from that brings out the perfectionist in Ujiri, as Bruce Arthur writes in the Toronto Star

When the film was shown the first time, during that Arctic all-star weekend, it felt like the entire NBA was in town. Masai Ujiri was the headliner, glad-handing and chatting with the other luminaries of his professional world like the confident politician he can be but, underneath it all, his stomach was leaping and jittering. Afterwards, he shook hands and embraced friends and accepted compliments, seeming at ease. But he was still shaking inside.

“Honestly, I’m not nervous about anything I do with the Raptors,” Ujiri says from Angola, where he is the camp director for the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders camp, after nearly a month spent running his own camps for his charity, Giants of Africa.

“I’m nervous about everything I do with Africa. You almost want it to go good all the time, and you don’t want to disappoint.”

The general manager of the Toronto Raptors cares deeply about his day job. But he feels he has more control in the NBA. He has also spoken about how if he is the only African-born general manager in NBA history, then he will have failed in some way, and about how much responsibility he feels to the kids who remind him of himself. Ujiri has just finished his annual charity tour, which has been running for 13 years now. When the Hubert Davis-directed documentary was shot last year, Giants of Africa ran basketball camps in four countries. This year they started in Senegal, then went on to Ghana, his native Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and Botswana. They helped build a court in Rwanda. It was a good trip.

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Morning shootaround — Aug. 17

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bryant willing to help Lakers’ youngsters | Report: Pierce likely to play next season | Holiday organizes Pelicans’ team workouts in L.A.

No. 1: Bryant talks Lakers’ future, next steps in career — Kobe Bryant couldn’t have written a better farewell to the NBA than his final game: a 60-point showing on April 13, 2016 against the Utah Jazz. Since then, Bryant has kept a fairly low profile, popping up here and there but for the most part easing into his retirement life. In an interview with Mike Bresnahan of TWC SportsNet, Bryant — who now sports a beard — opens up about what he’s been up to lately, the Lakers’ offseason (and rookie Brandon Ingram), and his willingness to help L.A.’s next generation of stars:

On Team USA: “I’m around for them and I still speak to several of them. I think they’ll be fine. It’s tough competition and basketball is a global game now. It’s not going to be easy.”

On he and his wife expecting child No. 3: “What a blessing. If I look at the month after retirement and all that kind of happened and all the blessings we’ve been enjoying to find out we’re having another baby girl coming, its icing on the cake.”

On transitioning from NBA life to retirement life: “It’s always hard for athletes to transition out of something that you’ve been identified with your entire life. Being able to transition into what comes next. That’s always a big challenge. Hopefully, I can kind of lead the charge there and show other athletes that it is possible to have something that you love and transition into something that you love equally.”

On the Lakers’ offseason and future: “They have a really young core and a really good core. Now it’s just a matter of them growing together and having those pieces mesh. I think It’s a great opportunity. Now at this age where their games are still developing, they can develop their games and their strengths around each other. They have a lot of potential. Hopefully they can put it together sooner rather than later.”

On Brandon Ingram: “I think he plays with great tempo, great pace. I like his length. His ball-handling ability is very good, he can get to spots on the floor. I think defensively he has the potential to be fantastic — he has long arms, long legs. So, hopefully he starts really paying attention to that just as much as the things he can do offensively.”

On D’Angelo Russell: “There are certain things he’s really picked up: body positioning, using his size to get to places, recognizing defensive packages and where to position guys on the floor. He’s developed very nicely over the summer.”

On new coach Luke Walton: “He’s going to have them play the game the right way. He’s going to have the foundation of the team is going to be a championship foundation.  It’s not going to be isolation ball. It’s going to be a lot of ball movement, but ball movement with purpose. Players are going to understand why they’re moving the ball in certain situations, which then makes you a very dangerous team. Because now you have players on the floor that can think on the fly and think together.”

On helping the Lakers’ youngsters develop their games: “If I can, yeah. I’m certainly busy doing a bunch of other things, but I would love to come by. I’ve spoken to Luke several times and B-Shaw [assistant coach Brian Shaw]. I let the players know I’m always around, man. I’m always around. If they want to come out and work out, we can get up early in the morning an work out, walk them through some things. The Lakers are in my blood. It’s family to me, so I’m always around.”

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Morning shootaround — March 7


VIDEO: Highlight’s from Sunday’s games

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Warriors were due for a game like this | Lebron’s tweets can cause nightmares | Gentry, Pelicans ready to look to the future? | Curry skeptical he could ever score 81

No. 1: The Warriors were due for a game like this Kobe Bryant credited the socks the Lakers wore for their stunning upset victory over the Golden State Warriors Sunday at Staples Center. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team got what it deserved, a beat down from the team with the second worst record in the league. But Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News believes the mighty Warriors, who host the Orlando Magic tonight (10:30 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass), were simply due for a game when they literally could not shoot straight from their normal sweet spots:

Every NBA team is susceptible to the big road clunker, even the Warriors.

Every really good team sometimes plays a really bad game.

Every championship contender will have wobbly focus and heavy legs once in a while, especially when the game is in Los Angeles, when tipoff is before 1 p.m., and when they’re overwhelming favorites over the Lakers.

So yes, the Warriors were due for a loss like they just suffered on Sunday, yes, they deserved it, and yes, I’m sure they were also pretty embarrassed by it.

For the greatest teams, what matters most is what happens next, and for the Warriors that means Monday night at Oracle against Orlando.

If the Warriors lose back-to-back games for the first time this season, well, then there might be cause for emergency sirens to blare and panic to strike throughout the Bay Area.

Not until then, and I doubt any of that will be necessary, anyway.

Every time a great team loses, it seems to come out of nowhere — just as Sunday’s 112-95 Lakers triumph over the Warriors was a tale of shock and astonishment.

But when you look back, you can always figure out the rhyme and reason — just as you can for this Warriors loss, which dropped them to 55-6, still on pace to break whatever record you want them to.

The Warriors lost this game because Curry and Thompson combined to miss 17 of their 18 3-point attempts, because the Lakers attacked the Warriors’ sluggish defense, and because sometimes you’re just due.

Did this game expose glaring weaknesses in the Warriors? No, it did not; they can be beaten by a lot of the same things that can beat everybody else, but it just happens to the Warriors less often.

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No. 2: LeBron’s tweets can cause nightmares … if you let them: Yes, people are still trying to decipher the meaning of tweets LeBron James sent out last week, the same ones that caused a frenzy (with everyone weighing in on what he meant with those words). And yes, LeBron’s tweets can drive you crazy, if you let them, as Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com makes clear. But wouldn’t this time be better spent focusing on more pressing matters, like the Memphis Grizzlies, who visit Quicken Loans Arena tonight (7 ET, NBA TV)?

LeBron James and that Twitter account of his…together they’re either wreaking havoc and spelling doom for the Cavaliers, or simply messing with us.

Here’s James’ latest blast, to some more than 28.5 million followers, this morning, around the time many are finishing up with church:

We’re not going to speculate here as to whom or what he’s referring.

But there’s been a lot of speculating over the past week, mostly because James has unleashed a string of cryptic, either virtually innocuous or potentially loaded tweets since Tuesday.

James was asked about the first two on Thursday, and didn’t want to talk about it. He’ll be asked again Monday following Cleveland’s shootaround in preparation for the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Cavs are 44-17, lead the Raptors by 2.5 games for first place in the East, and beat their last two opponents by a combined 42 points over the weekend.

So, what’s the problem? Is there one? Is it all a ruse? Motivation tactic?

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No. 3: Gentry,Pelicans ready to look to the future? The New Orleans Pelicans have already acknowledged that their pursuit of a playoff berth this season is dead. There have been too many injuries, too many missed opportunities for Alvin Gentry‘s bunch, they host the the Sacramento Kings tonight (8 ET, NBA League Pass), to repeat last season’s late-season push that saw the Pelicans punch their postseason ticket in the regular-season finale. So instead of waiting any longer, it’s perhaps time for Gentry and the Pelicans to look to the future, as Justin Verrier of ESPN.com suggests:

“At some stage we have to start thinking about the future, looking at the future,” Gentry said after a 106-94 loss to the Utah Jazz dropped the Pelicans to 3-5 since the All-Star break. “That’s one of the reasons why I stuck Jrue [Holiday] out there to start the second half. We have to start looking at Jrue as a starter some and playing him. And trying to find ways to get Anthony [Davis] the ball more in the flow of the game. Even if they’re double-teaming him, that’s gotta be something as coaches that we try to figure out also.

“At this stage, like I said, it would be a miracle almost for us to make the playoffs. We really have to start looking at developing a culture and how we’re gonna play in the future and figuring out guys on this team, how they fit into the system and if they’re going to be able to fit in a system.”

Despite mounting evidence that the team plays better with Holiday on the floor — his plus-1.0 net rating is best on the team, per NBA.com/Stats — and that Davis, the main cog in the team’s future, is more effective with Holiday alongside him — 5.3 points better in true shooting percentage, to be exact — the Pelicans have brought the 25-year-old guard off the bench since Dec. 4 to give a depleted second unit an extra “punch.” Gentry said he didn’t envision changing the setup as recently as two weeks ago, even though it put their two best players on the court together for only 19.3 minutes a game.

But a lot has changed even in the past two days. In his fourth game back, Eric Gordon refractured the same right ring finger that kept him out of 16 games. With three players (Tyreke EvansQuincy PondexterBryce Dejean-Jones) out for the season, the Pelicans have lost the fourth-most games (183) in the NBA to injuries and illness, according to InStreetClothes.com. And after a fourth straight loss, the Pelicans are now 6 ½ games behind the Rockets for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoffs with 21 still to play. Even the most optimistic would admit that the odds — 0.3 percent entering Saturday’s games, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index — are against them.

Holiday hadn’t heard about Gentry’s intentions after the loss to Utah, but when told by reporters his response was tantamount to: Oh, nice.

“Nah, that’s the first I’m hearing about it. I’m cool with it,” Holiday said. “With the lack of bodies I feel like [we] kinda have to. Whatever it is we need to win. Obviously our last three games haven’t gone the way we wanted them to, but we still gonna try to win every game.”

Even with the obstacles the Pelicans have faced, Davis made sure to note that he isn’t ready to concede.

“I’m playing every game,” he said after putting up 29 points on 11-for-31 shooting and 11 rebounds in the loss to the Jazz. “I still got hope for this team, still got faith in these guys. I feel like we still can do it. We just got to believe.”

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No. 4: Curry skeptical he could ever top Kobe’s 81: For all of the magic Stephen Curry has created this season, he knows his limitations. He knows that even with is seemingly otherworldly ability to shoot the ball from distances and angles few can, he’s skeptical that he could ever reach the 81-point zenith that Kobe Bryant did. Mark Medina of the LA Daily News explains:

The question made Stephen Curry smile and shake his head. He showed the same disbelief many have when they watch him play.

The Golden State Warriors’ guard and defending regular-season MVP has seemingly made any shot at any angle and from any distance. But he cast serious doubts on accomplishing something else even more miraculous.

Could Curry ever break Kobe Bryant’s career-high 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors nearly a decade ago?

“Not a chance,” Curry told Los Angeles News Group. “There’s a reason why people are still talking about that game to this day. It’s so special.”

Yes, Bryant’s career game still represents the NBA’s second-highest scoring performance behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962. But Bryant does not consider the milestone special enough to think his record will remain sacred.

Said Bryant: “It’s just a matter of you have to believe it’s possible.”

The Lakers (12-51) enter Sunday’s game against the Golden State Warriors (55-5) at Staples Center with Curry doing what was once considered impossible.

He has averaged a league-leading 30.7 points per game despite playing only 33.9 minutes per contest. He has ranked first this season in posting 30-point games (29), 40-point games (11) and 50-point games (three). He shattered his own single-season three-point record (293) still with 22 games remaining.

According to NBA.com, Curry has made 3-pointers from basically anywhere, including the right corner (53.3%), the left corner (45.3%) and at the top of the key (46.5%). Very few can guard Curry no matter the distance, including shots from 10-14 feet (54.5%), 15-19 feet (39.7%), 20-24 feet (48%), 25-29 feet (45.9%) and 30-34 feet (58.3%).

Could all those numbers add up to what Bryant did on Jan. 22, 2006?

“Steph is a talented enough scorer that you could definitely say it’s a possibility.”said Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton, who played with Bryant during his record-setting night. “But it’s not very realistic. If we’re blowing someone out, he’s going to rest.”

Curry needed all 48 minutes to post a career-high 54 points on Feb. 27, 2013 against New York. Curry logged 36 minutes to score a season-high 53 points on Oct. 31, 2015 against New Orleans. Then there marked six games Curry played under 30 minutes this season amid the Warriors coasting to a double-digit victory. Through swarming double teams or rare off nights, Curry can still dish to Klay Thompson, Draymond Green or Andre Iguodala.

“If there’s one guy in the league that has a chance of doing it, it would be him,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said of Curry. “But they’ve got so many weapons that’s it not needed from him to have that type of game to shoot it 40 times.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES:  It appears that former Atlanta Hawks lottery pick Josh Childress is taking his talents to the D-League … The Los Angeles Clippers stumbled through a Thunder hangover when they fell at home to the Hawks … Erik Spoelstra says Chris Bosh is working out with the Heat staff … Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has a fan in Kevin Durant … The Rockets fire back at their critics with a big win in Toronto

 

Numbers notes: No drive in Russell


VIDEO: Assist of the Night: D’Angelo Russell to Tarik Black

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Much has been made of rookie D’Angelo Russell‘s playing time with the 11-41 Los Angeles Lakers. Though he ranks sixth among rookies in minutes per game, it seems like the No. 2 pick could have a bigger (or at least a more consistent) role with a team that never had a chance of competing for a playoff spot this season.

But how Russell plays is as interesting a question as how much he plays. According to SportVU, the Lakers have scored 1.35 points per possession when Russell drives, a mark that would compare with those of Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook.

But Russell has only recorded 145 drives, 2.9 per game and 3.9 per 36 minutes. SportVU says that he has turned a pick-and-roll into a drive only 10.3 percent of the time, a rate that ranks 86th among 94 ball-handlers who have come off at least 300 ball screens. Teammate Jordan Clarkson has driven more than twice as often (26.0 percent) when coming off ball screens.

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Emmanuel Mudiay, taken five picks after Russell, is another interesting comparison. The Nuggets’ point guard has been the league’s worst shooter from outside the paint, but he has driven 9.2 times per 36 minutes, almost 2 1/2 times as often as Russell.

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Only 38 percent of the Lakers’ shots have come in the paint, the lowest rate in the league. The shot selections of Kobe Bryant and Lou Williams are more jumper-heavy than that or Russell, but it would help if the rookie attacked the basket more often.

Potent drives

It should be no surprise that three All-Stars top the list of players who produce the most points for their team when they drive. Curry has become one of the league’s best finishers among guards, Westbrook has mixed it up more this season, and Chris Paul is the consummate playmaker.

But there are a couple of non-All-Stars on the list below that have produced for their team when they’ve attacked the basket.

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Felton has come back after a rough first season in Dallas and benefited from the potency of the players around him. He’s part of a Dallas lineup that has scored 115.2 points per 100 possessions, the third highest rate among lineups that have played at least 200 minutes together.

Holiday is another interesting name on the list, especially given how often he has driven. After driving about nine times per 36 minutes in his first two (injury-riddled) seasons in New Orleans, Holiday ranks fifth in drives per 36 among players who have played at least 750 minutes, trailing only Ish Smith (15.6), Jeff Teague (13.9), Reggie Jackson (13.0) and Isaiah Thomas (12.5).

Offense picking up

If it feels like offense has picked up as the season has gone on, it’s because it has. Since Jan. 1, the league has scored 104.4 points per 100 possessions, up from 102.2 through Dec. 31. Through Thursday, efficiency is right where it was (103.0) at the end of last season.

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This isn’t a surprise. Offensive efficiency typically increases as the season goes on. But it might not keep going up in a straight line, though. Don’t be surprised if you watch some ugly games in late February.

Last season was the first time we had an extended All-Star break, with each team getting at least eight days off between their last game before the All-Star Game and their first game before it. And we saw a big dip in efficiency coming out of the break. After scoring 103.7 points per 100 possessions in the 85 pre-break February games, the league scored just 100.0 in 76 post-break February games, shooting worse and turning the ball over more.

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The league recovered in March and April, but not all the way to the level it was playing offensively before the extended break.

Gordon injury could mark end of Pelicans’ little-used big five

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The New Orleans’ Pelicans announced Wednesday afternoon that Eric Gordon is out 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a fracture in his right ring finger.

The injury is the latest of many for the Pelicans, who have already been without Tyreke Evans for 19 games, Norris Cole for 17, Jrue Holiday for six, Anthony Davis for five, Ryan Anderson for two, and Quincy Pondexter for the whole season.

In his first season in New Orleans, coach Alvin Gentry hasn’t had all his tools at his disposal. But he also hasn’t used his best tools together very often.

Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Anderson and Davis have all been available in 17 games this season. And in those 17 games, that group of five players has been on the floor together for less than 33 minutes.

In those (less than) 33 minutes together, that unit has outscored its opponents by a score of 99-56, with an effective field goal percentage of 61 percent.

One reason that they’ve outscored their opponents by so much is that they’ve been on the floor for a lot more offensive possessions than defensive possessions. Gentry has used his big five mostly in the fourth quarter (22 of the 33 minutes), when his team needs a basket or when the opponent is looking to foul. In their time on the floor, they’ve racked up 61 shots and 33 free throw attempts, while their opponents have totaled just 52 and 10.

And of course, there are defensive concerns with that unit. But it’s so potent offensively that the Pelicans have always outscored their opponents with it.

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Even with his team near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, Gentry never took much of a chance on what is clearly his most talented lineup. Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Anderson and Davis have played more than five minutes together in just two games.

In one of the only games it was given extended run, the lineup turned a four-point deficit into a six-point lead (and, eventually, a five-point win) in Denver on Dec. 20, scoring 19 points in 5:33.

Remember that game-winning alley-oop Davis threw down last week against Charlotte? Davis and Holiday had space to run their pick-and-roll, because there was *shooting at the other three positions to space the floor. But that was only the second offensive possession in the month of January in which Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Anderson and Davis were all on the floor together.

*Yes, even Evans (29-for-76 from 3-point range in just 22 games) can be called a shooter now.

There was hope that extended health would compel Gentry to use his best players together more often. But Gordon’s injury has the big five stuck on plus-43 in 33 minutes, with the possibility of Anderson being traded before Gordon returns.

Morning shootaround — Jan. 20


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 19

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Gordon fractures ring finger | Adams hoping Warriors push for Bulls’ mark | Gortat: Players at fault for injuries

No. 1: Gordon suffers fractured ring finger — Injuries have made a mess of the New Orleans Pelicans’ high hopes for 2015-16. Just when it seemed like the team is fully healthy, another injury has cropped up. This time the victim is shooting guard Eric Gordon — who has had his share of injury woes over the last few seasons — as  he suffered a fractured ring finger in last night’s home win against the Minnesota Timberwolves. John Reid of The Times-Picayune has more:

Starting shooting guard Eric Gordon fractured his ring finger on his right shooting hand after grabbing a rebound with 1:07 remaining in the third quarter during the Pelicans’ 114-99 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Smoothie King Center.

Gordon came off court, holding his finger and appearing to be in pain. He did not return and was not made available after the game. Gordon scored 11 points in 24 minutes, hitting three 3-pointers with three assists and a steal.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said he wouldn’t know Gordon’s possible timetable until after doctors examined him on Wednesday. Prior to Tuesday, Gordon was the only Pelicans’ player to start 40 of the first 41 games.

Gordon ranked eighth in the NBA with 98 3-pointers made. In the previous five games, he had averaged 13.0 points and shot 40 percent from 3-point range.

”We’ve got to try and figure it out,” said Anthony Davis, who led the Pelicans with 35 points against Minnesota. ”It’s time for guys to step up now and we’re going to miss him for sure because he brings a lot to the table. He was shooting the ball well. It’s going to be tough without him but we still got to find a way to win.

”(Eric) is a big key to our team with shooting the 3-ball and driving and things,” Tyreke Evans said. ”It’s part of the league and guys like [Norris] Cole and Jrue [Holiday] got to be ready. I believe they will be. We’re all competitive and we want to help each other out. I think we’ll be ready.”

After halfway point, 10 Pelicans players have been sidelined with injuries that caused a total of 125 games to be missed.

Knowing the importance of needing solid contributors, Holiday said they have to overcome not having Gordon, who could be sidelined up to four to six weeks.

‘Again, it’s another opportunity for someone else to step up,” Holiday said. ”Obviously it’s bad because it always seems like every year somebody getting hurt  like that. It’s a pretty big injury, but again I’ll say we’ll have to step up.”


VIDEO: Alvin Gentry talks after the Pelicans’ win Tuesday

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