Posts Tagged ‘Kemba Walker’

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 1


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Jan. 31

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Conley goes down in Grizzlies win | Pacers to sign Bynum | Bulls getting calls about Gibson | Irving taking responsibility?

No. 1: Conley goes down in Grizzlies win — The Memphis Grizzlies have won 10 of their last 11 games and have the league’s best defense since Marc Gasol’s return. But they lost starting point guard Mike Conley to a sprained ankle in Friday’s win in Minnesota. They should be OK without him against the Bucks on Saturday, but they visit Oklahoma City on Monday and have a huge game against eighth-place Dallas on Wednesday. Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal has the story from Minneapolis:

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley sat in the trainer’s room rather than at a station alongside his teammates in the visitor’s locker room.

He wore a walking boot Friday night after the Grizzlies’ 94-90 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Target Center. Conley, who also had crutches near his side, hobbled home after the Griz polished off a sweep of their three-game road trip that included wins at Sacramento and Portland.

However, a trek that got Memphis to within a half-game of Dallas for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff standings hardly ended on a happy note.

Conley didn’t look or sound as if playing Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks in FedExForum would be an option. He might need several games off given the severity of his sprained ankle.

“I turned it pretty good,” Conley said. “It’s tough for me to put weight on it now. (Saturday) is looking real iffy. We still have a lot of games ahead of us. We obviously want to finish out these last several games before the all-star break with some momentum. We’ll see how long this will take.”

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No. 2: Pacers to sign Bynum — It’s been over three weeks since the Chicago Bulls waived Andrew Bynum. And it looks like he finally has a new home. ESPN‘s Brian Windhorst tweeted Friday night that the Indiana Pacers plan on signing Bynum, though a deal is not yet in place. The Indianapolis Star‘s Candace Buckner first reported that Bynum and his agent were in town to talk to the Pacers:

Free agent center Andrew Bynum and his agent are in Indianapolis.

Bynum has been a free agent since being released by the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 7 after a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers. According to earlier reports, the Indiana Pacers were one of several teams to reach out to Bynum.

Bynum’s agent David Lee told The Indianapolis Star that he and Bynum were in town. According to Lee, Bynum and the Pacers have not reached a contractual agreement.

“(Bynum) has not signed as yet,” Lee said on Friday night.

Bynum, the 7-foot mercurial center, played in only 24 games this season, averaging 8.4 points on 41.9 percent shooting for the Cavaliers. Bynum missed all of the 2012-13 season with knee problems and last March underwent surgery on both knees. Besides his health, Bynum’s commitment has also been called into question.

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No. 3: Bulls getting calls about Gibson — The trade deadline is less than three weeks away and chatter is starting to pick up. The Chicago Bulls already made a major move (sending Luol Deng to Cleveland), but would need to make another one if their ultimate goal is to add another star (like Carmelo Anthony) this summer. Shedding Taj Gibson‘s salary (and waiving Carlos Boozer via the amnesty clause in July) would give them the cap space for a max free agent. And other teams would certainly be interested in Gibson’s services. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Bulls have received calls about Gibson and what they do with him will be a clear sign of the direction they’re looking to go:

And while Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy have been churning in the trade rumor mill for more than a month, Taj Gibson’s name is the one that is picking up, and could determine how serious the Bulls are in clearing space for a max contract to land the likes of a Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James.

According to a source, the Lakers, Wizards and Bobcats have each inquired about Gibson, but they were preliminary talks in which the Bulls did not like the return.

If they do move Gibson, however, it will definitely signify how determined the Bulls are to give Derrick Rose a second superstar to play along with.

With Carlos Boozer and his 2014-15 $16.8 million contract likely amnestied this summer, moving Gibson is all but a necessity if the Bulls want to stay under the luxury tax and add a max deal. Gibson will make $8 million next season, $8.5 in the 2015-16 season, and $8.95 in his final year of the deal.

While Anthony told the Sun-Times this week that he hasn’t put any thought into joining the Bulls, there are basketball executives who think differently, as ESPN reported on Thursday.

But to land Anthony or James, it will cost the Bulls Gibson, and is a growing possibility in the next three weeks.

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No. 4: Irving taking responsibility? — There’s been talk this week about Kyrie Irving being unhappy in Cleveland, with coach Mike Brown and with the roster the Cavs have built around the 2011 No. 1 pick. But of course, Irving’s unwillingness to play defense and lack of leadership are two of the reasons the Cavs are 16-30 right now. So it was good to hear him seemingly accept some responsibility for his team’s struggles on Friday, as Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal writes:

Kyrie Irving conceded this season has been more difficult than he imagined, he’s upset so much attention has been placed on his contract and he admitted he doesn’t always have all the answers to what is plaguing the Cavaliers this season.

“I needed this. It was more or less a wake-up call,” Irving told the Beacon Journal following practice Friday. “I got away with so much my first two years. It wasn’t a breeze, but everything came easy. This is the first year where every single night it’s going to be a challenge. That’s one of the things I’m getting used to and I’ve accepted.”

Irving came under fire throughout the week, particularly after a Beacon Journal story last Sunday questioning the progress he’s made this season, followed by an ESPN report Thursday that Irving wants out of Cleveland.

“Everybody has all these rumors and stories they’re coming out with and it’s all based on me,” Irving said. “It’s not really about me. It’s about the team and what we’re going through as a team together. Obviously, some things will be put on me and I take responsibility for that, but all that extra stuff that comes with it. … It’s the business. I understand that. But that’s one of the things I wish I could change. It’s definitely not about me, it’s about my teammates and what we can accomplish.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Nate Robinson had ACL surgery on Friday, which means that the Nuggets need to figure out what they’re doing with Andre MillerKyle Korver has declined the NBA’s invitation to the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest … Wesley Matthews would go, thoughRajon Rondo likes the idea of being a free agentKemba Walker suffered a setback in his return from a sprained ankle … and Lance Stephenson says he’s “mad” about not being selected as an All-Star.

ICYMI of The Night: Terrence Ross looks ready to defend his dunk title:


VIDEO: Play of the Day: Terrence Ross takes flight and posterizes Kenneth Faried.

Walker Injury Cripples Improving ‘Cats


VIDEO: Heat vs. Bobcats, Jan. 18, 2014

This time — after Al Jefferson, after Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, after Jeffery Taylor – it’s Kemba Walker. This time, it’s a sprained left ankle and the Charlotte Bobcats saying Walker will miss 10 to 14 days.

This time, it’s different.

The Bobcats have faced a series of health issues this season and remained in playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, but a couple weeks without their starting point guard may become the biggest test yet. The timetable for Walker to be back is good news. Sitting a full 14 days and seven games is not bad, considering how awful the injury looked, with Walker’s ankle and left leg practically at a 90-degree angle as he stepped on the foot of Miami’s Chris Bosh on Saturday. Walker had barely hit the court before Jefferson, watching from behind while trailing the play, put both hands on his head in concern of what appeared to be a serious injury.

Otherwise, the injury is a huge concern. Walker not only leads the Bobcats in scoring (18.7), assists (5.0) and minutes (35.7), but he had been playing particularly well lately, at 21 points per game and 45.6 percent shooting in the last five outings (he’s now at 42.1 percent for the season). While never known as a distributor, Walker had at least eight assists in four of the last seven games, including in 22 minutes against the Heat. In those seven games, he had only 13 turnovers.

Walker, Jefferson told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, is the “heart and soul” of the team. The Bobcats, he said, lost their “fight” when Walker went out in the third quarter against the Heat. A 64-57  lead turned into a 104-96 overtime escape for Miami.

Playing without Walker changes everything. Opponents will be able to double Jefferson in the post more aggressively without Walker’s outside shooting, Bonnell points out, and the Bobcats will have to do without the Jefferson-Walker pick-and-roll — just as it had become a late-game option, developed over time after Jefferson missed most of November with a bruised right ankle.

Jefferson, the starting center, missed his first nine games as a Bobcat after signing as a free agent with the bad ankle. In Jefferson’s seventh game back, small forward Kidd-Gilchrist fractured his left hand, costing him 19 games. In that time, Taylor, MKG’s backup, ruptured his right Achilles’ tendon, ending his season. Yet despite the health woes, the transition to new coach Steve Clifford, an unreliable offense and concerns about a declining intensity on defense, Charlotte, even at 17-25, was just a game behind the Nets for the final playoff spot.

The Bobcats had been better after a recent five-game losing streak, with Clifford telling the Observer, “I feel a lot better about our team than a week ago. We showed the fight we were showing early in the year. … We’re playing hard and smart.” They had gone 3-4, and then came the double loss — Walker to the ankle injury and the game to the Heat — Saturday at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Now Charlotte faces home games against the Raptors and Clippers, at the Knicks, back home against the Bulls and then a Western swing that begins with stops against the Nuggets, Lakers and Suns with Walker out. Several opponents are dealing with point-guard injuries, too, but the Bobcats are beginning the stretch by playing four games in six days, further taxing a bench that will be thinned out with Ramon Sessions or Jannero Pargo moving into the lineup.

Sessions is the obvious choice for the promotion to the lineup Monday against the Raptors, but Clifford could choose the seldom-used Pargo to start, keeping the second unit intact while hoping the experienced starters step up around Pargo. The decision arrives with the Bobcats a game behind the Pistons and Nets, battling for the last playoff spot.

Kidd-Gilchrist’s Fractured Hand ‘A Big Hit’ For Bobcats


VIDEO: Bobcats lose Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in loss to Mavs

DALLAS – Call it an epidemic.

Charlotte Bobcats second-year forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, emerging as a top defender in the league, became the fourth player in the last few days to sustain a broken hand.

Kidd-Gilchrist sat glumly in front of his locker, awkwardly attempting to get dressed with his fractured left hand secured by a metal brace and tightly wrapped, his ring and index fingers taped together. He didn’t know yet how long this freak injury would keep him out. Incredibly, he didn’t even know how or when the damage occurred, other than that something happened at some point before the 4:35 mark of the third quarter.

“I looked down at my finger and it was pointing the wrong way,” Kidd-Gilchrist said of his left ring finger. “I didn’t feel anything at the time.”

He exited the game, disappeared into the tunnel to have X-rays taken. Soon after, Kidd-Gilchrist was told his hand was fractured.

“I was really surprised,” he said.

The range of time Kidd-Gilchrist can expect to miss will likely range from two to eight weeks. How severe the injury is will obviously dictate his recovery time, but two to eight weeks is the range of time cited for the other three players who suffered broken hands within the past five days.

Two nights ago, Kidd-Gilchrist’s former teammate at Kentucky, New Orleans’ rising star and the league’s leading shot blocker, Anthony Davis, broke his left hand against the Knicks. A huge blow to the improving Pelicans, Davis is expected to miss four to six weeks. Nets forward Paul Pierce will miss two to four weeks with a broken right hand and Los Angeles Clippers sharpshooter J.J. Redick, who suffered a broken bone and tore a ligament in his right hand, is feared lost for six to eight weeks.

For the Bobcats, an offensively challenged club desperately trying to string together consistent performances and compete for a playoff spot in the downtrodden Eastern Conference, the loss of their 6-foot-7 wing is substantial.

“He’s our best defender,” dejected Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker said. “I don’t even know what happened yet. I hope we get him back soon.”

When Kidd-Gilchrist left the 89-82 loss against the Dallas Mavericks, the Bobcats were leading 60-51. They took a 67-60 lead into the fourth quarter only to be outscored 29-15 two nights after a heartbreaking one-point defeat at Miami.

“It’s a hit, it’s a big hit,” first-year Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. “He’s been playing well. Foul trouble has limited his minutes lately, but he’s been playing really well, so he’s going to be a tough one to make up for what he does.”

Clifford said Anthony Tolliver and Jeff Taylor will have to pick up the slack. Kidd-Gilchrist was averaging 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, but the Bobcats, ranking third in defensive rating in the league (97.9 points per 100 possessions), and allowing fewer than 92 ppg, will have to drum up the defensive determination from elsewhere.

“He’s been great,” Clifford said. “If you watched him in Summer League, I think his progress from how he played in Vegas to now, he’s a much-improved player in every area. People talk about his shooting, he’s done a great job with his body, his conditioning, and he can be an elite defender in this league. He’s got toughness, his technique has gotten better and he’s very bright.”

Chandler Injury A Big Scare For Knicks


VIDEO: Tyson Chandler goes down after a collision

NEW YORK – For the New York Knicks, a 1-2 record to start the season isn’t necessarily something to worry about. An injury to Tyson Chandler is.

Chandler injured his right knee in a collision with the Bobcats’ Kemba Walker in the first quarter on Tuesday. The Knicks said that x-rays taken were “inconclusive” and that their center will undergo further testing on Wednesday.

“We don’t know the severity yet,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said afterward. “We’ll know more tomorrow morning.”

The injury forced Kenyon Martin into duty on a night he was scheduled to take off. And if Chandler is to miss more time, Woodson’s plan of using Martin and Amar’e Stoudemire* as the back-up big man on alternate nights basically goes out the window in Game 4.

* Stoudemire has looked awful in his limited action. On Tuesday, he shot 1-for-3 with five turnovers in 11:13. Both misses were blocked.

More importantly, the Knicks’ defense, which has looked terrible in their last two games, stands to suffer even more. The team that ranked 17th defensively last season played well on that end of the floor in Chicago on Thursday, but was brutal at times against Minnesota on Sunday, and especially in the first half against the Bobcats.

“Our defense … It stinks right now,” Woodson said. “Defensively, we are all over the place right now and that’s a reflection on me as a coach.”

Charlotte’s entire offense was strictly pick-and-rolls for Walker and Ramon Sessions, and New York could do little to stop them, allowing 64 points on 46 first-half possessions en route to a 102-97 defeat.

After dealing with multiple injuries last season, Chandler had looked healthy and much more active in the Knicks’ first three games, averaging 11.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. He was back in Defensive Player of the Year form, with the Knicks allowing just 90.0 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, as opposed to 107.1 with him on the bench. They got outrebounded 46-29 after he left the game on Tuesday.

“He was really playing well,” Woodson said. “He’s got his energy and his strength back this year.”

Chandler’s impact isn’t limited to the defensive end of the floor. The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony and will get J.R. Smith back from suspension after one more game, but need their pick-and-roll game — of which Chandler is a huge part of — to keep their offense balanced.

“He’s a big piece to what we do,” Woodson said.

“He’s our anchor on our defensive end,” Anthony added, “so we miss him big time.”

Point blank, Chandler is the Knicks’ most important player. And if he’s out long, the 1-3 Knicks could see their season go further downhill.

So New York will hope that Chandler’s injury is minor. But even if it is, it’s a worry, because we saw last season that a hobbled Chandler can’t hold this defense together.

UPDATE: The Knicks announced Wednesday morning that Chandler has “a small non-displaced fracture of the right fibula.” There was no ligament damage and he does not require surgery, but HE is expected to miss 4-6 weeks of action.

Young Stars Look To Make An Impression At USA Basketball Showcase

 

LAS VEGAS – Summer hoops continues Thursday on NBA TV (9 p.m. ET) with the USA Basketball Showcase, the culmination of a four-day mini-camp that brought 28 young players into the program that has won two straight Olympic gold medals and 50 straight games.

USA Basketball Showcase – Blue Team
No. Player Pos
46 Harrison Barnes SF
36 DeMarcus Cousins C
42 Anthony Davis PF
41 DeMar DeRozan SG
37 Derrick Favors PF
31 Gordon Hayward SG
22 Damian Lillard PG
62 Greg Monroe PF
34 Klay Thompson SG
51 Dion Waiters SG
26 Kemba Walker PG
50 John Wall PG

Twenty-four of the *28 players will take the floor at the Thomas & Mack Center on Thursday, split into two teams that will be coached by Men’s Senior National Team assistants Tom Thibodeau and Monty Williams.

* Not participating: College players Doug McDermott and Marcus Smart, as well as the Bucks’ Larry Sanders (who turned his ankle in a scrimmage on Tuesday) and the Wizards’ Bradley Beal (who is rehabbing a right fibula injury and has only participated in drills).

With only 40 minutes of game action, the average player will see less than 17 minutes of playing time, which might make it tough for some to make a strong impression on USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will be watching courtside.

But Colangelo and Krzyzewski won’t be making any roster selections in the wake of this mini-camp. The next step in the process will be to create a pool of 25-35 players from which to select teams for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain *and the 2016 Olympics in Rio. That won’t happen until next Spring at the earliest and they will be keeping tabs on the entire group during the course of the 2013-14 NBA season.

* If the U.S. wins gold in Spain next summer, they automatically qualify for the Olympics and won’t need to send a team to the 2015 FIBA Americas tournament. If they don’t win gold next summer, they’ll need to field a team in 2015 and finish in the top two at the FIBA Americas tournament to qualify for the Olympics.

USA Basketball Showcase – White Team
No. Player Pos
24 Ryan Anderson PF
20 Mike Conley PG
25 Andre Drummond C
33 Kenneth Faried PF
29 Paul George SF
27 Jrue Holiday PG
23 Kyrie Irving PG
35 DeAndre Jordan C
32 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist SF
21 Ty Lawson PG
39 Chandler Parsons SF
28 Tyler Zeller C

That pool of 25-35 will be made up of USA Basketball veterans, players from this group and a few others that weren’t able to participate this week because of injuries. On Wednesday, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love — who each played in 2010 and 2012 — committed to playing next summer in Spain. And there will likely be other vets that join them.

So there are precious few roster spots available for the players at this camp. Many of them — though they’re stars with their NBA squads — will never play for the National Team. It’s a numbers game and Colangelo and Krzyzewski just have too much talent to choose from.

Of the 24 players who will see action on Thursday, three have the inside track to roster spots next summer. Paul George and Kyrie Irving are simply the best players in camp, while Anthony Davis has USA Basketball experience (at last year’s Olympics) and the skill set needed from U.S. bigs.

Seven of the 24, including Irving, are point guards, who could all be competing with Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams for roster spots down the line. Though point guards also play shooting guard in this system, the wings and bigs we see on Thursday certainly have a better shot of making it to Spain or Rio.

This is still a tremendous opportunity for everyone involved, including fans who want to see some high-quality, competitive hoops in the middle of the summer. There’s no better basketball being played in July and even if they aren’t eventually selected for the National Team, these players are making the most of their week in Vegas.

“You just try to take as much advantage of it as you possibly can,” Chandler Parsons said, “learn from it, take it back to your city and try to have a good season next year.”

Point Guards Aplenty In USA Camp

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LAS VEGAS – There are 28 players in USA Basketball’s mini-camp this week, eight of which are point guards. And with shooting guard Bradley Beal not participating in scrimmages (because he’s still rehabbing a right fibula injury), those point guards will be spending time on the floor with one another.

In one scrimmage on the first day of camp, we saw Mike Conley and John Wall team up against Ty Lawson and Damian Lillard. Kemba Walker and Jrue Holiday played on the same team.

In speaking with NBA TV over the weekend, coach Mike Krzyzewski said that one of the things they’ll be looking at is how all the point guards mesh on the court and “adapt to a few different roles.”

Two-point-guard lineups aren’t just a necessity because of the numbers here in Vegas or even the lack of star shooting guards in the NBA. It’s a big part of the identity Krzyzewski and managing director Jerry Colangelo have developed with USA Basketball over the years. They stress speed and athleticism and that starts on defense, where the guards are asked to put pressure on opposing ball handlers. So we’ve seen Chris Paul and Deron Williams share the floor in the Olympics and Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook play together in the 2010 World Championship.

“We’ve all watched the Olympics,” Walker said Monday. “We’ve seen those guys play, so when we get out here, we know what time it is already.”

For some, playing alongside another point guard is no big deal. Lawson has played almost 2,000 minutes alongside Andre Miller with the Nuggets over the last two seasons. Pushing the ball at every opportunity is all he’s known playing under former Denver coach George Karl. Having played FIBA rules in Lithuania during the lockout, Lawson also knows the importance of on-ball defense.

“In the European game, it’s huge for pressure to be on the ball,” he said. “If not, they have a bunch of shooters, so they just come off and knock it down. Pressure’s huge. I’m not really used to it like this, but I’m getting used to it.”

For some of the others here, there’s an adjustment to not being the only point guard on the floor.

“Last season was my first time really doing it,” Conley said. “With Jerryd Bayless, Tony Wroten and those guys, I got to play off the ball a little bit. So I’m starting to get used to it. I’m still not all the way there, but it’s not my first time.

“The toughest part is being able to play without the ball. You got to learn where you get the ball, where you need to be, roll and replacing, getting spacing right and getting to the corners instead of always wanting the ball and needing the ball in your hands.”

Still, Conley knows what he’s doing when his fellow point guards kick the ball out to him on the perimeter.

“When I’m playing that off-guard, I’m thinking shoot first and pass second,” he said. “It puts me in a different mode, more of a scoring mode.”

And for Conley, the USA Basketball identity is a fun change of pace from the way he plays with the grit-and-grind Memphis Grizzlies.

“I love it,” he said. “Who knows? The Grizzlies might turn into that one day.”

More quotes from Monday…

  • Walker on playing with Holiday: “I’ve been around Jrue for a long time, since high school. I enjoyed it. It was cool to not be the only one having to make the plays.”
  • Conley on playing with Wall: “We’re pretty unselfish guys. We let whoever has the ball take it and the other person runs. We both like to get up and down, so it was fun to play alongside him.”
  • Lawson on Lillard: “He was killing today. You can see he’s been working on his games. His shot’s smooth. He’s a great player. I like playing with him.”
  • Lawson on the advice he’s received from the coaching staff: “Throughout practice, they were like, ‘Just play your game,’ because they saw me try to run plays and I guess they wanted to see what I can really do. So the last two games we played, I just started pushing it and felt a lot better. That’s what they wanted to see.”

Shaqtin’ A Fool: Vol 2., Episode 18


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It’s a Shaqtin’ A Fool double-header this week. On Tuesday, Shaq crowned his main man JaVale McGee with top honors and tonight Shaq returns to call out Reggie Evans, Serge Ibaka, Kemba Walker, Carmelo Anthony and of course, the one, the only … Mr. JaVale McGee! Vote for your favorite Shaqtin’ A Fool moment!

No Shock: KG Is A Difference-Maker On D

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Points, rebounds and assists are nice, but plus-minus is the most important stat in basketball.

Teams win games by outscoring their opponent, and plus-minus reflects how much a team has done that in a player’s minutes on the floor. If a player isn’t scoring, he can help his teammates score and also prevent the opponent from doing so.

But in basketball, with nine other guys on the floor affecting what each player does, plus-minus always needs context, and lots of it. Who is a guy playing his minutes with? Who is he not playing his minutes with?

Furthermore, sample size is important. Single-game plus-minus can help tell a story about key sequences or the impact of a player or two on a particular night. But if you really want to get a good idea of how a team performs when a player or group of players is on the floor, you’ve got to look at a large chunk of games.

At this point in the season, we can get a pretty good idea of where teams are strong and weak. Through Thursday, 224 players have logged at least 500 minutes for one team this season.

On Wednesday, we looked at the players with the biggest on-off court differential in regard to their team’s offensive efficiency. Today, we look at the defensive end of the floor.

Measuring the difference in a team’s offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) when a player is on the floor vs. when he’s off the floor, here are the league’s five biggest difference makers, as well as a pair at the bottom of the list.

For all of them, the discrepancy between their team’s defensive numbers with them on and off the floor is as much about the guys replacing them as it is about what they’re doing themselves.

1. Kevin Garnett, Celtics

On/off floor MIN DefRtg
On floor 905 96.3
Off floor 613 110.7
Diff. -14.4

Because the Celtics use a unique substitution pattern with KG, you can get a pretty clear idea of the impact he makes. No other Celtics regular has played more 63 percent of his minutes with Garnett.

You probably figured Garnett would be at or near the top of this list, but 14.4 points per 100 possessions? That’s an amazing number, and it’s an indictment on Brandon Bass (382 minutes with Garnett off the floor), Jared Sullinger (331) and Chris Wilcox (297) … and Paul Pierce (391) and Rajon Rondo (432).

It’s also an endorsement of both former Celtics center Greg Stiemsma and guard Avery Bradley, because the Celtics’ defense only fell off 0.5 points per 100 possessions when Garnett stepped off the floor last season.

Bradley’s return (he made his 2012-13 debut on Wednesday) offers some hope, but interior defense will continue to be an issue whenever Garnett rests. (more…)

Bobcats Start 2013 With A New Streak

 

CHICAGO – As time dwindled, the Charlotte Bobcats’ lead over the Chicago Bulls looked proportionately bigger and bigger. During a timeout with 2:43 left Monday afternoon at United Center, it was Charlotte 82, Chicago 73 and you had to think that the Bobcats could almost smell it.

The question was, did they remember what it was?

Coach Mike Dunlap and his team could be forgiven if they didn’t, seeing as how their previous taste of it – winning – had come more than six weeks earlier. That was back on Thanksgiving weekend, a double-OT victory at Washington on Nov. 24, and here the Bobcats were on the brink of a new year, trying to walk out of 2012 with their heads up. Rather than, y’know, skidding out, an 18-game winless streak stretched to 19 and counting.

They made it, closing out the Bulls 91-81 and pinching off another run of futility. The Bobcats suffered through losing streaks of 16, 23 and 18 games in calendar year just completed, yet by winning Monday they assured themselves of four blissful days of 2013 with some, yikes, momentum.

“What streak do you mean, one win in a row?” said Dunlap, for whom deadpan comes naturally.

What a way to start a season and an NBA head coaching career: Charlotte made some quickie, quirky league history by matching its victory total from the previous season faster than any other team. Which is to say, the Bobcats gained their seventh victory in their 12th game, an accomplishment made possible by the 2011-12 edition’s puny 7-59 mark.

That high mark came in the Wizards game but was followed 48 hours later in Oklahoma City by the franchise’s most lopsided defeat, a 114-69 failure against the Thunder. From there, things spun out of control, from a 30-point shredding by San Antonio and a one-point heartbreak at the Lakers to their blown lead of 21 points at home against New Orleans Saturday.

From the outside, they were a team whose agenda ranked “player development” higher than “winning tonight” among its priorities. On the inside, though, the Bobcats were tested – and apparently passed all those tests – in their chemistry, unity and overall absence of finger-pointing.

“We’re a desperate team right now,” Charlotte guard Gerald Henderson said. “A losing streak is tough on you. We had tactical stuff we wanted to take care of, but we just wanted to fight more than anything.”

Definitely the Bobcats were the more aggressive team. They limited Chicago to 35.1 percent shooting and beat the Bulls on the boards 52-49, holding Joakim Noah to just four. They also survived 18 turnovers worth 21 points and 17 missed free throws that would have haunted them had the outcome gone differently.

“Yeah, but we won,” guard Kemba Walker said. “Everybody in the whole world knew how much we needed this win.”

Oh, so they did remember what that was.

“When you go through an entire month of not winning,” Dunlap said, “it really eats at you. Especially for the young guys – they need some confidence. … We’re happy to come in here [and win against] the Bulls. It’s a double-bonus because I have that kind of respect for this team and this coach [Tom Thibodeau].”

Double-bonus for Charlotte, double-whammy for Chicago. One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor, as NBA fan Paul Simon wrote, and the streak-buster for the Bobcats felt like a back-breaker to the Bulls.

This is a proud team in a bad way at the moment, desperate for Derrick Rose to return. Chicago’s attack has gone in the dumpster, averaging 85 points in its past four games. The Bulls never led at any point Monday and when they finally pulled even at 65-65 through three quarters, the Bobcats scraped them off with a 10-0 start to the fourth. Thibodeau’s guys shot 6-of-26 in the period, compounding lousy offense with shaky defense; Charlotte shot 47.1 percent, getting as many field goals as the Bulls (33) in 24 fewer shot attempts.

It was clear afterward that the Bulls felt worse having dropped three of their last four – including a 17-point mess at Atlanta and a Christmas night stinker at home to Houston – than the Bobcats did at any point in their streak. They had just lost by 10 to a team that got outscored by 13.3 ppg across its 18 defeats.

“We’ve got to get ourselves out of this funk,” forward Taj Gibson said. “No one is going to feel sorry for us.”

The conclusion in Chicago was that the Bulls must have taken the Bobcats lightly, trailing all those losses and even playing this one without rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (poked in eye Saturday).

“I don’t know if those guys took us lightly,” Walker said, bristling a bit. “We executed our game plan. We played well. I thought we could have beat anybody today.”

From losers of 18 straight to bravado befitting a brand new undefeated year.

Who’s Sitting On A Hot Seat Now?


HANG TIME, Texas — Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.

In the NBA that familiar line from the holiday classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” has a different twist.

Every time the bell rings a head coach gets his walking papers and a handful of others start looking over their shoulders.

It’s a tenuous life.

Of course, this season has already been quite unusual with Mike Brown fired by the Lakers after just five games. But now that the schedule has reached the one-third mark and claimed Avery Johnson, it’s time to look at some others down around the bottom of the standings.

Randy Wittman, Wizards (3-23) – No, he hasn’t had John Wall all season. Yes, he’s had to play at times without Nene and Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal. But the Wizards are the only group in Washington that makes Congress look competent by comparison. After a recent 100-68 thumping by the almost-as-hapless Pistons, even Wittman seemed to have enough. “That was an embarrassment, and I apologize to our ownership and to our fans,” he said. “I especially apologize to anyone who watched that entire game. I would have turned it off after the first five minutes.” It would seem to be a matter of when, not if.

Monty Williams, Hornets (6-22) – It’s hard to see the Hornets turning right around and cutting Williams loose just months after giving him a four-year contract extension. There has been the matter of Eric Gordon’s injury and the fact that No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis was on the shelf for 13 games. But there are rumblings in New Orleans about his constantly changing rotations and collapse of his defense, which ranks 29th.

Byron Scott, Cavaliers (7-23)
— The Cavs are likely headed to their third straight trip to the lottery under Scott, but that doesn’t mean that he’s headed to the exit. The key to his previous success at New Jersey and New Orleans was having a top-notch point guard and Scott has an excellent relationship with maybe the next great thing in Kyrie Irving. This was always a long, heavy lift from the moment LeBron James bolted and that has not changed.

Mike Dunlap, Bobcats (7-21)
– What a difference a month makes. After beating the Wizards on Nov. 24, the Bobcats were 7-5, had matched their win total from last season and their rookie coach was getting praised. Now 16 straight losses later, Dunlap is preaching patience with his young core of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker, Byron Mullens and Jeffery Taylor. He has earned that. A dozen of Charlotte’s 21 losses have come by 10 points or less, a dramatic change from the historically horrible last season when the Bobcats were rolled in one-third of their games by 20 points or more.

Lawrence Frank, Pistons (9-22)
— Frank insists that his Pistons are a better team than they were a year ago. The record — identical then and now — does not back that up. He says that his club now is more competitive, but just doesn’t know how to finish games. Some of the players have grumbled that there is also a failure of coach to make the right calls and adjustments when games get late. When push comes to shove, it’s the coach that gets nudged out the door.

Dwane Casey, Raptors (9-20)– Another one of those seasons when the Raptors were supposed to turn things around and make a push for the playoffs in the lesser Eastern Conference has gone south. Injuries to Andrea Bargnani, Kyle Lowry and Linas Kleiza. Amir Johnson gets suspended for throwing his mouthguard at a referee. G.M. Bryan Colangelo says the talent is there, but the Raptors lack focus and attention to detail. The Raps’ offense is mediocre (ranked 17th) and their defense just bad (27th). Even in Canada during the winter, that all puts Casey on thin ice.

Keith Smart, Kings (9-19) – Smart got the job to replace Paul Westphal specifically because of what was perceived as an ability to work with the mercurial DeMarcus Cousins. So he turned Cousins loose last season, let him do just about anything he pleased and got enough results to earn a contract extension. Now that Cousins has abused his free-rein relationship with his coach and another season is sinking fast, it would be easy to just blame Smart, which the Kings eventually will do. But this is a bad team with a knucklehead as its centerpiece and ownership that can’t tell you where they’ll be playing in two years.

Alvin Gentry, Suns (11-18) — It was at the end of a seven-game losing streak when Suns owner Robert Sarver told ESPN.com that Gentry’s job was safe. “We’ve got confidence in our coaching staff and we’re not considering making changes,” he said. Of course, that usually means start packing your bags. It was all about starting over in this first season post-Nash in the desert. He’s changed lineups more than his ties and the result is usually the same. Gentry is a good bet to last out the season, but it’s probably going to take a big finishing kick to return next year.