HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat is in the second to last year of his contract, but that hasn’t stopped the big man from making his way into the trade deadline crosshairs this season.
Gortat’s name has surfaced in a report from Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic regarding the Suns and Oklahoma City Thunder. The rumored deal would have the Suns sending Gortat and P.J. Tucker to the Thunder for Kendrick Perkins, Jeremy Lamb and a first round draft pick.
Coro came back later and clarified his earlier report, via Twitter:
I mentioned All-Star break talk of a Perkins/Lamb/pick-Gortat/Tucker swap. Apparently, that was a league rumor but not actual team talks.— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) February 20, 2013
But Gortat’s name keeps coming up for a reason. Plenty of teams would be interested in a productive big man, with a reasonable contract (one more year at $7.72 million), who can play in any system and play any style.
Toss in the $6.4 million in salary cap room the Suns can work with, and there’s a reason they’ve been mentioned as potential trade deadline players, even as perhaps the third team in a three-team deal.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: The NBA got back to regular-season work after All-Star weekend in Houston and there were plenty of choice matchups to pick from. Bucks vs. Nets was a nice way to get things rolling, especially given Joe Johnson‘s display of clutch-itude in both the fourth quarter and OT. There was a great East vs. West matchup in the Mile High City as the Nuggets took on the Celtics, with Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson powering Denver to the win. But we’ll go with a good matchup between two teams scrambling to solidify their playoff footing: the Warriors visiting the Jazz. Multi-faceted forward Gordon Hawyard was back in the action after a 10-game absence due to a shoulder injury while Utah’s big men combo of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson shook off the trade rumors surrounding them to lead the Jazz to a win and move them into a tie with the Warriors for No. 6 in the West.
Celtics expected to make some kind of deal — Celtics boss Danny Ainge has steadfastly denied that he’s looking to tinker with Boston’s makeup or trade franchise stalwarts like Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo or Paul Pierce. But rival GMs are saying just the opposite (in what may be a smokescreen act) and think the Celtics are priming themselves for a deal of some kind. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald has more:
As Danny Ainge downplayed the possibility the Celtics will be involved in a transaction before tomorrow’s NBA trade deadline, general managers and personnel people around the league are saying quite the opposite.
They’ll be stunned if the Celts don’t make a deal of some sort.
“They’re too active,” said one. “They’ve been putting a lot of different things out there, and you’d have to think at least one of them is going to come through.”
If the Celtics do pull off a trade, it’s likely something beyond what’s already in the public domain, and many of those talks were dead on arrival.
For example, the Celts did have a brief discussion with the Lakers, but word is Mitch Kupchak said flatly they are not going to deal Dwight Howard, stating that he is part of their future. It’s possible that outlook could change, but with Rajon Rondo rehabbing from ACL surgery, the Celts wouldn’t have enough to get in on such talks.
The Clippers remain a good target, with Eric Bledsoe an intriguing talent.
“An awesome athlete, but not really a pure point guard,” said one personnel guy. “He could be a Russell Westbrook type if he keeps developing.”
The Hawks’ Josh Smith talk seems a bit of a mystery from the Celtics’ standpoint. To begin with, it would be hard to put together the right package to get him. And it’s even more doubtful they would be willing to part with the kind of things Atlanta is looking for.
Start with the fact Smith almost certainly won’t be signing a three-year extension right after a trade when he can wait until summer and get a longer deal as a free agent. So there’s no guarantee a team trading for him has him beyond the next few months. Then there are the questions of just how much Smith is worth relative to what he can contribute.
“If you could get him to just do the things he does really well and stick to that, I think he’d be one of the best players in this league,” said one ranking team official. “But you get the whole package with Josh. You can probably absorb most of that on a really good team, but is he the kind of guy you’re going to go to in your halfcourt offense in the fourth quarter of a Game 7? For the kind of money you’re going to be paying him, you have to think about that.”
Jennings ‘untouchable’ for now — Just six days ago, Bucks guard Brandon Jennings reportedly had expressed frustration with the front office and had “irreconcilable differences” with team brass. But Jennings quickly reversed field on that story and, although he didn’t commit to a long-term future with the Bucks, seemingly patched things up. Maybe that has led to the news reported by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that Jennings has become ‘untouchable’. More details here:
The Milwaukee Bucks continue to discuss Josh Smith trade scenarios with the Atlanta Hawks in advance of Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.
But those discussions, sources say, also serve as a strong indication of the rising likelihood that Brandon Jennings will not be moved this week.
ESPN.com reported Tuesday that Monta Ellis is the primary player Atlanta is targeting in its discussion with Milwaukee. Sources say that the Hawks, furthermore, want Milwaukee to add at least one expiring contract to the equation with Ellis and possibly take on some salary.
ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard, meanwhile, reported Wednesday morning on “SportsCenter” that Smith would be interested in playing with both Jennings and Ellis if he wound up in Milwaukee, leading the Bucks to try Wednesday to make the deal without surrendering Ellis.
Yet amid all of those talks, sources say, Jennings has moved alongside Larry Sanders and John Henson on the Bucks’ list of near-untouchables.
The Dallas Mavericks were at the forefront of the list of teams hoping that the Bucks would make Jennings available this week, but Milwaukee appears intent on taking its chances in the offseason, knowing that Jennings will be a restricted free agent and thus unable to leave town unless the Bucks decline to match an offer sheet he receives.
Millsap, Jefferson shrug off trade chatter — As our own Fran Blinebury pointed out yesterday in this space, Jazz GM Dennis Lindsay could end up being active on trade deadline day … especially considering Utah’s bevy of big men. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are the names most teams would want to acquire and that duo is used to hearing their names bandied about in trade talks over the years. While no solid suitor has emerged (we’ve seen talk of Jefferson-to-San Antonio here and there), the Jazz’s veteran big man duo isn’t letting the talk affect their game. Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News has more:
When asked about trade rumors after returning from the All-Star break, Jazz players and coach Tyrone Corbin all shrugged off any talk about the subject.
“I’ve been in this league a long time. This is my ninth year and Paul’s seventh. We’re used to this,’’ said Jefferson.
“You don’t react. You just let it go,’’ added Millsap. “You can’t do anything about it because you don’t really know for sure. If it don’t come from (the Jazz’s) mouths it’s probably not true.’’
Millsap’s name has come up in trade rumors for years, and the Jazz forward says he’s used to it by now, saying he takes it as a compliment that he’s a wanted player. One of the latest rumors has him going to the L.A. Clippers for point guard Eric Bledsoe and others.That trade would potentially affect Mo Williams, the team’s current starting point guard, who has been sitting out with an injured thumb for more than a month.
Corbin was blunt in talking about trade speculation.
“It’s rumors and we don’t deal with rumors,’’ he said. “We are who we are and everybody here is part of our family. We’ll continue progressing in the way that we have and we expect everybody to respond accordingly.’’
Jefferson has been traded twice in his career, but he knows if the Jazz are involved, it’s unlikely anyone will know about it in advance.
“The one thing about the Utah Jazz is they’re a very professional team,’’ he said. “When a trade comes nobody’s going to know until it actually happens. They’ve been consistent with that. They’re just rumors.’’
Colangelo downplaying Bargnani deal — Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo already pulled off one significant remodel of his team this season by sending Ed Davis to Memphis and Jose Calderon to Detroit as part of the three-team trade that put Rudy Gay in Raptors red. The next name expected to be on the trade block is former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani, but Colangelo may be cooling on the prospect of trading the outside-shooting big man. Sam Amick of USA Today caught up with Colangelo and talked with him about Bargnani, Colangelo’s future in Toronto and more:
Colangelo, who came to Toronto from Phoenix in 2006 and has been attempting a massive rebuilding effort ever since Chris Bosh left for Miami in the summer of 2010, is in the final year of his contract. In an interview with USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday, Colangelo said he has no discussions with ownership about his updated status and remains hopeful that he’ll be around past this summer. The Raptors – who are 5-2 since Gay came on board and 21-32 overall after their horrific 4-19 start – play at Washington Tuesday and have a reunion game with the Grizzlies in Toronto on Wednesday night.
While Colangelo could make more moves before the Thursday trade deadline to help his team and improve his case even more, he downplayed the once-widely-held notion that center Andrea Bargnani would be traded before then. He called that situation “fluid” and said “there just may not have been enough runway prior to the deadline to get something” because Bargnani recently came back from injury.
On Bargnani, how he’s fitting in better now with Gay and the likelihood that he could be traded…
“We began this year with Bargnani as our No. 1 scoring option. He’s now No. 3 because Rudy has arrived and DeMar (DeRozan) has emerged. Now Bargnani is No. 3. There’s talk about possibly moving him – and again we’ve talked about it, not for talent reasons but because maybe sometimes a change of scenery is the best thing for somebody. But sometimes a change of scenery can happen just by redecorating the room.
“All of a sudden the outlook and the presence of a guy like Andrea is entirely different now. He’s not relied on as a No. 1 guy. He has never been paid like a No. 1 option, but people wanted to criticize that he couldn’t handle that role. I’ve always felt like he’s been slotted in salary-wise as a No. 2 or No. 3. Maybe he’s kind of fitting in nicely now.
“If a trade doesn’t occur before the deadline, or even this summer, maybe it’s because we figured out that with the evolution of the team he is the right guy to be a part of this team. He’s been through the hard part. This may be the easiest part ahead of him.
On his future in Toronto …
“There’s been no discussion (about his future since the trade). I certainly haven’t brought it up. I think that we’re, right now, transitioning with an ownership change of our own.
“I’ve proven that, despite all the things that have been happening with the rebuilding of this team simultaneous to the uncertainty with my contract, I always made the right long-term strategic decision with respect to the transactions that were being made or draft picks that were being made. Case in point was drafting (Jonas) Valanciunas (fifth overall in 2011) knowing that he was not going to be here for a year, and that when he did arrive that he’d be 20 and would still be considered a project. But you have to carry out your job with integrity and do the right thing for the organization. That’s what I’ve been hired to do and that’s what I’m doing. Whether or not that pays off for me long-term, with an extension or just even my option year being picked up (for the 2013-14 season), time will tell. But you can’t lose sight of what the job is.” (more…)
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – As the Oklahoma City Thunder wrapped up morning shootaround a couple weeks ago in Dallas, Kevin Durant was asked about the one-legged fadeaway he borrowed from Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki and inserted into his own arsenal.
“I wanted to learn it because I’m 6-9 and Dirk used it so much on us in the playoffs and in the regular season,” Durant said.
Durant went on to talk about how if Dirk could master the shot then so could he, and with his length how difficult the shot is to block and this and that. But, I barely heard any of it as I fixated on the first part of his sentence. It bounced around in my brain like Durant splitting the lane with a dribble drive and finishing it off with a tomahawk jam.
“I wanted to learn it because I’m 6-9…
“…because I’m 6-9…”
Wait, Kevin Durant is 6-what?
“How tall is he?” OKC coach Scott Brooks said rhetorically. “Before or after a haircut?”
It says it right here in black-and-white in the Oklahoma City Thunder media guide. And it says it here and in all of the previous Oklahoma City Thunder game notes since Durant’s first game as a rookie with Seattle that he’s 6-feet, 9-inches.
There’s been players who measure darn close to 7-feet tall if not 7-feet tall that have preferred to go by 6-11. But 6-9? Please, it’s insulting.
“Probably 6-11,” said backup point guard Reggie Jackson, who is a legitimate 6-foot-3. “I don’t want to boost his ego too much. He’s not 6-9. I’ll say 6-10 1/2, in shorts.”
In shorts? Huh?
Reserve guard Eric Maynor was the only Thunder to peg Durant at 7-foot, then he looked over at 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet and said of Durant’s mysterious height, “7-3?”
“Six-10,” Thabeet said. “He’s not as tall as me.”
Center Kendrick Perkins looked over at Durant, who was listening to music through his headphones a few stalls down, smiled and said, “6-11,” which would put Durant an inch above Perk’s scowl when face-to-face.
Russell Westbrook agreed with Thabeet: 6-10.
So to review, we have Durant’s official height listed at 6-9 — the one KD perpetuates — and then every inch thereafter up to the full 84.
What other player can span a tape measure like that and induce such heated debate in his own locker room?
OK, coach Brooks, care to give your estimation, before and/or after haircut?
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – As Memphis, $37 million lighter after Wednesday’s dumping of Rudy Gay, visits Oklahoma City tonight, crystallized further is the small-market Thunder standing as the league’s one-and-only Super Team built to survive this new era under a sharp-toothed collective bargaining agreement.
The Super Team era is dead and the staggering luxury tax penalties that take effect next season scared Memphis straight into a salary sell-off. The Grizzlies moved lesser pieces in a deal last week that spared them from the last of the dollar-for-dollar tax penalty this season and could have allowed them to take one more postseason stab with its core four — Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.
But the Grizzlies’ new ownership and management groups decided not even to do that. Gay is now a Raptor. Who knows where Randolph and Gasol will be come July?
Soon even LeBron James and the Super Friends might have to short-circuit LeBron’s “not one, not two, not three…” proclamation because the owners’ demands in the CBA is squeezing the three superstar model onto life support. LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will be owed a combined $62 million in the 2014-15 season before which all three can opt out. That three-player total already tops this season’s salary cap and is just $8 million from entering the luxury tax.
Starting next season, the luxury tax penalty increases incrementally with each $5 million over the threshold.
The Lakers? The Nets? The Knicks? The Spurs? The Bulls? Name another team with a core as young, as talented and as manageably locked up as the Thunder with All-Stars Kevin Durant andRussell Westbrook and ever-emerging big man Serge Ibaka. Surely not the Grizzlies. Perhaps the Los Angeles Clippers if they re-sign Chris Paul this summer to pair long term with Blake Griffin.
“We like our team,” Durant told NBA.com recently. “[General manager] Sam Presti, [assistant general manager] Troy [Weaver], do a great job of putting everything together and making it work, bringing great guys in here that fit with each other, making money fit, the salary cap, all that stuff. They make that work and we really trust them in every decision they make because they always try to put our team in position to do well.”
Presti and Co. made their difficult-but-necessary CBA-related move just days before the start of the season, further confirmation that the three superstar era is as good as dead when they gave up on signing James Harden and traded him to Houston. The deal netted sharpshooter Kevin Martin, and any criticism of the CBA pistol-whipping OKC into a chemistry-disrupting deal on the heels of an NBA Finals appearance evaporated with its seamless transition and fast start.
“We got rid of James, that had to happen, but we didn’t get rid of KD,” OKC coach Scott Brooks said. “We’re going to be good for a long time. KD is still here and Russell, and we have some young guys that are improving. Serge is only 23. Jeremy Lamb (Houston’s No. 12 overall pick acquired in the Harden deal), he hasn’t played much, but he has a chance to be really good, he’s only 20. [Hasheem] Thabeet, he’s not a known guy, then we’ve got some first-round picks.
“So we’re excited about where we’re going, but still we want to win a championship now. We’re not playing for next season or the next season after. We’re like every team, if you have a chance to win you want to win now.”
The Thunder are the favorite to return to the NBA Finals and a combination of shrewd decisions and foresight by the front office, good timing and great luck have positioned them to rule the West, if not the league, for seasons to come. No other team has such desirable young talent locked up for the long haul and locked into contracts that make it at least possible to swim around the luxury tax line of doom without being financially severed by the sharks.
Durant and Westbrook are 24, and Ibaka, incredibly, is only 23. Durant is already signed to a max deal through 2015-16 and Westbrook is too, and through 2016-17. Ibaka signed an extension in the offeseason and is on board through 2016-17 on a reasonable deal that will begin to pay him $12.3 million next season.
Martin becomes a free agent after this season. With just one playoff series in his first eight seasons with Sacramento and Houston, Martin, who is making more than $12 million this season, says he wants to re-sign with OKC.
And if OKC needs an escape hatch, Presti still holds the amnesty card, which he can use, if he so chooses, next offseason on a player such as center Kendrick Perkins, who will earn $18.6 million over the next two seasons.
“Our management does a great job of putting the right people around the organization,” Westbrook said. “It’s showing and it should help us out for years to come.”
The new CBA is ending the Super Team era and it threatens any young building team with uncomfortable decisions and short-term cohesion.
At the moment, no team is better positioned to conquer it than the Thunder.
It was lonely last week without the star attraction. But never fear Fool fans: JaVale is back! The one and only JaVale McGee makes his triumphant return to Shaqtin’ A Fool this week, along with Jerryd Bayless, J.J. Hickson, Thomas Robinson and Kendrick Perkins. Vote for your favorite Shaqtin’ A Fool moment!
Shaq is back after a week off to once again chronicle some of the absurd moments in the NBA. This week, Shaq zeroes in on Lance Stephenson, Greg Smith, Blake Griffin,Amir Johnson and Kendrick Perkins. And sad news for his legion of fans, but no JaVale this week. Vote for your favorite Shaqtin’ A Fool moment!
Even Perkins had to admit he deserved a spot this week …
That shaqin a fool was so funny, I look like a bone head Lmao— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) January 11, 2013
OKLAHOMA CITY — Talk to me about the Los Angeles Lakers about a dozen games after the next time Steve Nash and Pau Gasol lace up their sneakers on the same night. Then we’ll see if this teetering Lake Show soap ultimately goes tragedy or action thriller.
On Friday night at a rocking and raucous Chesapeake Energy Arena, where they’re already primed for the playoffs, the humble hometown servants were once again dynamite. The surging Oklahoma City Thunder singed the short-handed Lakers 114-108 for a seventh consecutive victory.
It wasn’t as close as the final score looks, with the game effectively put at arm’s length with OKC’s electric, 41-point second-quarter.
So let’s forget for a moment the team that generates daily headlines and focus on those quiet defending Western Conference champs. Give the wheezing team that’s riding a determined Kobe Bryant into the ground a rest, and concentrate on the club that continues to ascend on the massive wings of its dynamic young superstars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, neither of whom have even entered their prime.
Twenty games in and it certainly appears that any overreaction to the James Harden trade five days before the season’s first tip was just that. The Beard will always be loved in OKC, but missed? Well, you wouldn’t know it.
While Harden was putting up 29 points for his Houston Rockets and getting whacked in San Antonio, his old mates up I-35 were delivering a spectacular whooping that started with Westbrook’s scintillating pop-a-shot 27-point first half (he finished with 33 points, including a career-best five 3-pointers, eight assists and just two turnovers) and ended with Kevin Durant applying the finishing-touch free throws on a 36-point, nine-rebound, four-assist demolition.
“That’s easy to say,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said when asked if his team should have defended Westbrook better during his 14-point, four assist free-for-all in the second quarter. “I don’t think anybody in this group is going to guard him.”
And that includes Nash when he comes back. But forget about that for now.
Yes, the Thunder fall into those lulls that trim big leads into not-as-big leads, as was the case Friday. And there’s still “Russ The Wild Roller Coaster Ride” where 10-for-16 and 27 points in the first half and 2-for-10 and six points in the second half is possible.
So be it. This juggernaut is averaging a league-best 106.2 points, so find me anyone who’s complaining.
All-in-all, the Thunder made no statements of superiority on this night. They needed to beat an injured Lakers team that dropped to 9-11 and 2-6 on the road. But what they did do was continue their evolution as an all-around basketball team.
Offensively, OKC moves the ball swiftly and effectively as any team, a development that lends credit to Harden’s replacement, Kevin Martin, who spreads the floor and has buried nearly half his 3-point attempts, and the expanded range of Serge Ibaka, an elite shot-blocker whose scoring has spiked from 9.1 points last season to 14.4 and a career-best 59.5 percent accuracy rate.
Westbrook is averaging nearly nine assists a game, putting him in the rare air of the game’s best passers. As a team, the Thunder has risen from last in the league in assists to seventh. They had 10 on 15 baskets in the second quarter as Durant, Westbrook and Martin combined to outscore L.A. 35-26 and dish two more dimes.
“Our offense has always been a drive-and-kick,” said Durant. “We have so many good one-on-one players and with adding Kevin Martin, he’s more of a spot-up, catch-and-go type of guy, so we’re getting assists from him, and Serge [Ibaka] is shooting the ball well. Everybody’s just moving the ball.”
The defensive end, rarely discussed as a weapon, is also surging. OKC’s defensive rating has risen from top 10 last season to top five. Examples: After Durant’s 3-pointer made it 83-66 in the third quarter, Westbrook pressured full-court and denied Lakers guard Chris Duhon the inbounds pass. Two minutes later, with Durant draped on Kobe, who grinded out every one his team-high 35 points, Westbrook trapped and nearly forced a steal.
When Durant wasn’t enveloping Kobe with his spindly limbs, defensive specialist Thabo Sefalosha had a hand in his face. Quick hands and quicker rotations forced turnovers and missed shots and opened the floor for layups and dunks the other way.
Three steals and 14 missed Lakers shots led to 20 Thunder fastbreak points in the warp-speed second quarter.
“I told our guys that we have to really lock into the defensive end and I told them we really have to play with our hands,” OKC coach Scott Brooks said. That’s how we’ve always been a good team — deflections, steals, blocks, rebounds and go. And I thought that second quarter we did that as well as we did throughout that game.”
The Thunder rank second in field-goal defense (42.9 percent) and despite the Lakers’ inflated point total with 33 coming in the final period, OKC held them below 40 percent shooting for much of the game.
Because of their explosive offense, the Thunder probably don’t get enough credit for their defense, even though three starters are more geared to that end — Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins and Ibaka. Brooks said his defending West champs, so dynamic and explosive on the offensive end, are growing tougher on the other end.
That should scare the Lakers and a whole lot of other teams.
“I don’t know where we’re rated [defensively], I just know we’re good because that’s all we focus on,” Brooks said. “Are we better? I think we’re better. It all comes down to toughness. If we play tough, we can get stops.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –It’s okay to admit it now, to say it out loud.
We were worried about the Oklahoma City Thunder a few weeks ago. The James Harden trade rocked the locker room, altered the way the defending Western Conference champions played and tinkered with championship-level chemistry at a time when the Thunder’s young core was still in the developing stages.
But they’ve emerged from that fog to resume the position most expected them to — being at the top of the conference standings along with the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs.
If there is still a lingering bit of uncertainty about this team, it’s not coming from inside OKC’s locker room. In fact, veteran center Kendrick Perkins has never been more sure of his team’s ultimate fate than he is now, after they’ve run off eight wins in their past 10 games and have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in a groove.
Perkins is convinced the Thunder is ready for finish what they couldn’t against Miami last year in The Finals, telling HoopsWorld‘s Alex Kennedy:
“On a scale of one to ten, I’d say we’re about an eight,” Perkins said of this year’s Thunder. “We have a lot of new guys and a lot of young guys so we’re just trying to build our chemistry one game at a time. The thing is we lost a lot of veteran guys. We have a lot of talented guys, but they’re not as experienced. We just have to make sure we follow the process and keep getting better.”
“We’re all growing together,” Perkins added. “We have to be a better defensive team all-around. We have to do a better job of cutting down on our turnovers. We have to do a better job of executing our offense. We have to get better at the little things like talking on defense, setting good screens, cutting even when you’re not getting the ball so that someone else gets an open shot. Those are the things that don’t show up in the box scores, but those are the things that help teams win championships. Those are the things that we’re striving to get better at.”
Bluster or not, Perkins does have championship experience that cannot be ignored. His time in Boston provided him with insight into the inner workings of a Celtics championship team in 2008 that only a dozen or so active players around the league can match. So he might know a thing or two about a team’s championship mettle when he sees it.
If he says Kevin Martin is more than up to the task of replacing what Harden gave the Thunder in production and intangibles, then maybe we ought to listen.
If he believes that the Lakers, Spurs, Grizzlies and even the Los Angeles Clippers don’t pose the imminent threat to the Thunder’s dominance that we happen to think they do from our view here at the hideout, then maybe it’s worth a little more deliberation.
But we’re betting Thunder coach Scott Brooks isn’t nearly as confident in his new-look group just yet. Fourteen games are a limited sample size for making lasting prognostications about any team, even one as talented and accomplished as this Thunder crew. Their tussle with an upstart Charlotte team tonight (8 ET, League Pass) will provide another glimpse into their basketball souls.
The Thunder played with a chip on their collective shoulder last season, scratching and clawing for respectability every step of the way. There have been times this season, however, that they didn’t exhibit that same sort of edge. Part of that comes with the journey they’ve been on as a group. Part of it has to do with the fact that they’ve gone, in three short seasons, from the hunter to the hunted.
There is an attitude adjustment that comes with that change in dynamic. Perkins knows all about it, having toiled for a Celtics team that served as a league punching bag before the Big 3 showed up and guided the franchise to a championship in their first season together.
That thin line between confidence and arrogance has to be navigated carefully, especially so early in what the Thunder hope will be a long season.
HOUSTON — Never mind the standings and the early season problems and the firing of a coach and the controversy over his replacement.
According to the 2013 All-Star Balloting presented by Sprint, Mike D’Antoni should have enough elite talent on his roster to get the Lakers into the Western Conference finals against the Thunder.
The Lakers with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace and Thunder with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin each have five players on this season’s ballot, which was unveiled at a tipoff ceremony at the Toyota Center.
The defending NBA champion Heat — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen Shane Battier — along with the Celtics and Nets all have five players on the Eastern Conference side of the ballot.
In keeping with league policy, No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Davis is the only rookie on the ballot.
For the first time ever, NBA fans will be able to vote via social media networks, including Twitter and Facebook, and Sina Weibo and Tencent QQ in China.
The balloting is now open and fans also have other digital methods of voting:
– on NBA.com/ASB
– through SMS voting by texting the player’s last name to 6-9-6-2-2 (MYNBA)
– on NBA Game Time
– on NBA Game Time from Sprint
The All-Star ballot lists 120 players — 60 from each conference — with 36 front-court men apiece. Previously the ballot featured three positions with fans picking two guards, two forwards and a center.
Balloting will conclude on Jan. 14 and starters will be announced on Jan. 17 during a special one-hour show on TNT featuring Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith.
The 2013 NBA All-Star Game will be played on Feb. 17 at the Toyota Center in Houston and televised exclusively on TNT.
Now all D’Antoni has to do is pick up his All-Star pieces and glue them back together.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Jeff Green never makes it into the frame for the photo-op with the Celtics’ revamped Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.
Spending a season in street clothes away from the court and the public consciousness has a way of forcing a player, even one as talented and accomplished as Green, into the background.
Green spent all of last season recovering from heart surgery, missing out on the Celtics’ run to the Eastern Conference finals and the Celtics’ missed out on all that the dynamic hybrid forward brings to the party.
He’s back now, in a major way. Anyone who has seen the Celtics during the preseason has seen it. He’s flying around on both ends of the floor and making plays at the rim (check out that block above) and in transition in ways that no other player on the Celtics’ current roster can.
A 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward with the length and athleticism to match up against power forwards and the range and ballhandling skills to work on the perimeter as well, Green brings another dose of firepower to the Celtics’ attack (along with newcomers Courtney Lee and Jason Terry) that was lacking last season.
We’re not saying that a healthy Green pushes the Celtics past the Heat in that conference finals clash last season, but you never know …