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Posts Tagged ‘Kenneth Faried’

Offensive improvement in Charlotte

VIDEO: NBA Rooks: Frank Kaminsky — Taking Stock

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Charlotte Hornets have been the league’s most improved offensive team this season, having scored 6.8 points per 100 possessions more than they did last season. That’s a bigger jump than the Oklahoma City Thunder have made by getting more than twice as many games from Kevin Durant as they did last year.

The Hornets are the only team that has gone from the bottom 10 to the top 10 in offensive efficiency.


There are two big factors in the Hornets’ improvement. First is the additions of Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin. Second is the improved shooting of Kemba Walker. And the two really go hand in hand.

Through his first four seasons, Walker had the lowest effective field goal percentage (44.0 percent) among 151 players who took at least 2,000 shots over that time. And he hadn’t shown much improvement from year to year.

This season, though, Walker is one of the league’s most improved shooters. Among 109 players who have taken at least 500 shots both last season and this season, only Kenneth Faried has seen a bigger jump in effective field goal percentage.


The additions of Batum and Lin have certainly had an effect on Walker. In fact, Walker has an effective field goal percentage of 54.4 percent on passes from Batum or Lin, and just 46.2 percent on passes from any of his other teammates.

“They give me more space,” Walker said after the Hornets’ win in Brooklyn on Tuesday. “I’ve always been good at creating my own space and those guys just help me get extra space.”

It makes sense. With extra playmakers and better shooters, there’s less pressure on Walker to carry the offense. And when the initial action of a possession is taken away by the defense, there is somebody on the weak side who can better take advantage of a close-out.

What doesn’t necessarily correspond with the additions of Batum and Lin is that Walker is shooting off the dribble as much as he did last season. According to SportVU, 75 percent of his jump shots have been pull-up jumpers, a slight increase over last season (74 percent). Only 32 percent of his buckets have been assisted, down from 35 percent last season.

But Walker has shot a higher percentage of those pull-up jumpers from 3-point range, and and shot 32.0 percent on pull-up 3s. That’s still below the league average (35.3 percent), but is a big improvement from his pull-up 3-point percentage last season (25.6 percent). Walker isn’t exactly Stephen Curry or Damian Lillard, but he already has more than twice as many pull-up 3s in 2015-16 (70) as he had in 2014-15 (32).

“A lot of the credit does go to those guys for giving me the opportunity to get open shots,” Walker said. “But at the same time, I still got to make them.”

“He put in the work,” Al Jefferson added. “Playing with Nic and playing with Jeremy is one thing, but he’s still able to knock down shots and get his shots off.”

The Hornets have been a top-10 defensive team in each of Steve Clifford‘s three seasons in Charlotte. But in the Bobcats/Hornets’ first 11 seasons in the league, they never ranked better than 23rd in offensive efficiency. Now, with the league’s most improved offense, they’re one of only five teams (and one of only two in the Eastern Conference) that rank in the top 10 on both ends of the floor.

Those are the makings of a team that will be a tough out in the playoffs.

Analytics Art: Lowry, Leonard, Faried among week’s best shooters

VIDEO: Kyle Lowry runs wild vs. Cavaliers

By Will Laws, Special to

It’s officially March, which means it’s almost crunch time for teams hanging on in the postseason race or simply hoping to improve their playoff seeding.

Two of this week’s three hottest shooters play for teams trying to beat the odds and overtake the overwhelming favorites for home-court advantage in their respective conferences. Though both the Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs will likely both wind up with No. 2 seeds, their stars showed this week that they likely won’t ever concede a defeat.

PointAfter guides you through the most noteworthy shooting performances of the week with interactive visualizations.

Note: All weekly statistics cover games between Feb. 26-March 3.

Guard: Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

Kyle Lowry only played in two of Toronto’s three games this week, but he certainly earned his day of rest during a road trip against Detroit. Sandwiched around that night off were two of Lowry’s three best scoring totals this season.

The bulldog point guard notched a season-high 43 points on 15-of-20 shooting in a two-point statement win over the Cavaliers at home last Friday. The performance was magnified by the floundering of teammate DeMar DeRozan, who went 1-of-11 from the floor.

Then, Lowry nailed 13-of-20 attempts against Utah in a 104-94 victory that kept the Raptors within two games of Cleveland in the suddenly competitive race for the top seed in the East.

If Toronto is going to clinch the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage for the first time in franchise history, Lowry will have to continue to lead the charge.

Wing: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

The remarkable emergence of Kawhi Leonard’s 3-point range has easily been the most distinguishable improvement in his game since last season.

After never eclipsing the 38 percent mark in his first four seasons, Leonard is suddenly converting 48 percent of his 3-pointers in 2015-16. That’s good for second place in the NBA among qualified shooters, behind only J.J. Redick.

Leonard bested himself this week by making 10-of-20 shots from downtown in San Antonio’s three wins this week. That includes a dagger against the Pelicans in the final minute that completed the Spurs’ all-too-predictable fourth-quarter comeback over New Orleans on Thursday.

Overall, he sank 57.9 percent of his attempts while averaging 28 points against the Rockets, Pistons and Pelicans. Just another ho-hum week for the league’s most anonymous star, who’s shooting above league-average in all seven of PointAfter’s designated court zones.

Note: You can hover over each shooting zone to see Leonard’s stats compared to the league average.

Forward/Center: Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets

Kenneth Faried isn’t exactly known for his offensive potential outside of the post, but he flashed a decent mid-range game this week while cashing 69 percent (20-of-29) of his looks from the floor.

Faried, a notoriously bad free-throw shooter (58.7 percent this season), also managed to connect on 75 percent of those attempts this week. Let’s call this relatively lights-out shooting rate a tiny bright spot in a mostly lost season for Denver.

This story was published by PointAfter, a partner of

Will Laws is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that’s part of the Graphiq network. Visit PointAfter to get all the information about NBA players, NBA historical teams and dozens of other topics.


Morning shootaround — Feb. 16

VIDEO: Inside Access — 2016 All-Star Game


Clippers say Griffin not being dealt | Assessing trade market for Love | Report: Bosh may have blood clot in calf | Report: Knicks still interested in Teague

No. 1: Clippers say they’re not dealing Griffin — Just yesterday, ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that the Los Angeles Clippers offered up star forward Blake Griffin as the centerpiece in a trade with the Denver that the Nuggets ultimately turned down. Griffin’s name will continue to be bandied about as a potential trade target as Thursday’s dealing deadline looms, but as Dan Woike of the Orange County Register reports, the Clippers’ front office says Griffin is not being made available in deals:

High-level members of the organization say they remain adamant about not dealing Griffin, the best young player the franchise has ever had, despite another round of rumors suggesting they called Denver about Kenneth Faried, Danillo Gallinari, Will Barton and Nikola Jokic.

“One hundred percent not true,” according to one executive involved in any trade discussions. Clippers coach Doc Rivers has also been vocal, saying the team isn’t trading Griffin.

Still, a combination of factors continues to dump kerosene on the speculation.

For one, the Clippers have been extremely good with Griffin out of the lineup, first with a partially torn tendon in his left quad and currently with a broken right hand. The team has gone 18-5 since Dec. 26, becoming one of the most efficient teams on both sides of the court since.

Secondly, Griffin’s off-court issue, the broken hand, has teams smelling blood in the water, hoping to score one of the NBA’s top young stars for less than market value.

Also, attaching Griffin’s name to a trade proposal could increase the perceived value of the other players in the deal.

Lastly, why would the Clippers move Griffin if there was even a sliver of hope the team could use him to land Durant, free agency’s top prize (and there is some hope)? Regardless of how interested the Oklahoma City forward is in joining the Clippers, the team would need to create cap room to sign him, which could be accomplished by moving Griffin in a sign-and-trade.

A more realistic approach for the Clippers at the trade deadline would be using Lance Stephenson to somehow upgrade their roster.

The Clippers would love to land a two-way player on the wing and could use a backup big man and short-term help at point guard.

VIDEO: The Starters discuss Blake Griffin’s injury and his future in L.A.



Morning Shootaround — Jan. 3

VIDEO: The Fast Break: January 2


Curry reinjures leg, Warriors win in overtime | Jack injures knee, will have MRI | Pistons, Pacers end with theatrics | Pop says Crawford will be missed

No. 1:Curry reinjures leg, Warriors win in overtime After leading the Golden State Warriors to a historic 29-1 start to the season, Stephen Curry missed the last two games while resting a shin injury. It is no coincidence that the Warriors went 1-1 without Curry, the NBA’s leading scorer at 29.7 points per game. Curry made his return last night against the Denver Nuggets, but had to exit in the second quarter after aggravating his injury. As Ethan Strauss writes for, even down to six players, the Warriors managed to win in overtime even without the MVP…

After missing the two previous games with a left shin contusion suffered Monday against the Sacramento Kings, Curry reinjured the shin and departed to the locker room with 2:15 remaining in the second quarter.

According to Curry, the injury occurred when a Nuggets player made contact with his leg in the second quarter.

“I got kicked,” Curry said after the game.

Curry confirmed it was a reinjury of his earlier contusion and said he was hit “right in the same spot, playing defense. It’s funny. I guess whenever you hurt something, [if] you try to play through a little bit of discomfort and try to get out there, something happens. Just got to deal with it.”

Curry’s injury left the Warriors with only six available players due to myriad other injuries.

Of the overtime victory Golden State gained despite depletion, Curry praised, “Chips stacked against them, short bench, guys playing 40-plus minutes, found a way to scrap and claw, get stops down the stretch, fight through the fatigue factor, make a couple plays on the offensive plays as well. Gutsy win.”

On how he felt going into the game, Curry said, “I felt pretty good, just somewhat fresh legs and didn’t have to compensate for anything. Just sucks that was the spot that I got hit in. See how it feels for Monday.”

Further elaborating on his prognosis, he added, “I know exactly what happened. It’s just a matter of how it feels tomorrow and go from there. It’s not as bad as the first time it happened, so that’s good news.”

VIDEO: Curry reinjures left leg


Nuggets’ Faried suffers neck injury

VIDEO: Nuggets’ Faried injured in Warriors game staff report

Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried suffered an apparent neck injury in the closing minutes of Denver’s 111-108 overtime loss at Golden State and, wearing a neck brace, was taken off the court on a stretcher after the game ended.

The injury apparently occurred when Faried collided with teammate Will Barton while getting in position for a defensive rebound with under 20 seconds left in overtime. He immediately grabbed his neck and walked to the baseline, where trainers helped lower him to the floor.

Accompanied by Nuggets GM Tim Connelly, Faried was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons, where he was scheduled to receive X-rays.








Morning Shootaround — Oct. 1

VIDEO: Bucks Training Camp: Kidd on Bucks


Lawson wants to make Curry work | A bigger role for Kevin Love | Erman in charge of improving Pels’ defense | Clips hoping to make use of Stephenson | Wade relationship with Heat still strong

No. 1: Lawson wants to make Curry work — The Houston Rockets traded for Ty Lawson to give them an upgrade at point guard and someone to take some of the playmaking duties away from James Harden. But Lawson has a more specific role in mind as he tries to help the Rockets compete for a championship. He wants to make Stephen Curry work, as Yahoo‘s Adrian Wojnarowski writes…

Before Ty Lawson texted James Harden with a plea – “Man, get me over there” – he had studied the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in the Western Conference Finals and come to a conclusion: Half the time, Steph Curry was coasting.

“Steph Curry needed someone to go back at him,” Lawson told Yahoo Sports. “I thought Steph was just chillin’ on defense – and then going crazy on offense. He looked like he was just putting shots up and not working so much on the defensive end. He would just come down and hit three or four 3s. He can shoot when he’s got his legs under him.”

Now, Ty Lawson is sitting at a table in a room in the Toyota Center. He’s wearing a Houston Rockets practice top and a smile that keeps coming, and feeling so, so sure of himself again. “I’m not saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to stop Steph,’ but just make him work harder at the other end. I saw that in the Cavs series too.

“He wasn’t really working at the other end.”


No. 2: A bigger role for Kevin Love — When the Big Three came together in Cleveland last season, Kevin Love took a back seat to LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in the Cavs’ offense. Then he separated his shoulder in Game 4 of the first round and wasn’t a part of his team’s run to The Finals. In year two, both James and Cavs coach David Blatt pledge to make Love a more integral part of the offense. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin has the story…

James was expounding upon his statement at Monday’s media day that Love’s increased presence will allow James to sit back and rest more than he has in years past.

“He will do some of the things he did prior to last year,” James continued.

Once Love committed to the Cavs long-term, Blatt spent the offseason trying to figure out a way to get more out of his stretch 4.

“No question, this summer we looked for and identified ways that we can take advantage of Kev’s unique skill set, and hopefully we’ll see that on the floor,” Blatt said.


No. 3: Erman in charge of improving Pels’ defense — The New Orleans Pelicans traded for Omer Asik last year with the goal of improving defensively. But even with a starting frontline of Asik and Anthony Davis, the Pels ranked 22nd in defensive efficiency, allowing more shots in the restricted area than any other team. New head coach Alvin Gentry will open up the New Orleans offense, but the more important job may belong to assistant coach Darren Erman, who is in charge of the defense. John Reid of the New Orleans Times Picayune spoke with Erman and Davis about the work they’re putting in at the start of camp…

”Our schemes are a lot different than last year,” Davis said. ”Everything is a little more simplified. Guys are working on defense individually with slides and close outs. Not saying it’s going to be better because we don’t know yet, but the way everyone is feeling right now about our defense, we feel like we can be a top five defensive team.”

Since he was hired in early June, Erman has been working non-stop. Gentry joked earlier this week that Erman works 23 hours a day breaking down film and working on defensive schemes. Even during summer league in July in Las Vegas, Erman worked non-stop implementing his defensive principles.

Davis said he has received text messages from Erman at 7 in the morning about defensive plays.

”He’s always like energized,” Davis said. ”He just brings that energy. When you bring that much energy as a coach, especially on defense, you know it makes the people around you the players want to play defense. He has a lot of great defensive schemes, so we’re excited.”


No. 4: Clips hoping to make use of StephensonLance Stephenson was pretty awful last season. But hey, so was the Clippers’ bench. So if Stephenson can avoid shooting 17 percent from 3-point range again, he could maybe help Doc Rivers preserve his starting lineup, which played 300 more minutes than any other five-man unit in the league last season. Ben Bolch of the L.A. Times writes about how Rivers wants to use the sixth-year wing…

Coach Doc Rivers called the dynamic, multi-positional Stephenson “the poster child” for the kind of interchangeable player he wanted as part of his roster overhaul this summer. Stephenson showed his new teammates a glimpse of his potential during training camp at UC Irvine, which ended Tuesday.

“He’s been amazing,” point guard Chris Paul said. “He’s been hooping first and foremost.”

Rivers envisions Stephenson as the lockdown perimeter defender the Clippers have lacked in recent years as well as one of the primary ballhandlers on a small-ball second unit that almost seems to be without defined positions.

“He’s a special player on both ends of the court and we’re going to be leaning on him,” forward-center Josh Smith said.


No. 5: Wade relationship with Heat still strongDwyane Wade‘s contract negotiations with the Miami Heat this summer could have gotten ugly, with the Heat looking to maintain payroll flexibility for next year. But as it turned out, Wade was OK with accepting a one-year deal for $20 million and the Heat got what they wanted. Wade explained to Ira Winderman of the South-Florida Sun Sentinel that it was just a matter of cutting out the middle man and talking directly with Micky and Nick Arison

What mattered wasn’t how long it took or how short the agreement wound up. What mattered to Dwyane Wade was that ownership more than met him halfway, that Micky Arison and Nick Arison came to his home this summer to make sure their bond would endure.

Wednesday, as he unwound after the first of two Miami Heat training-camp sessions at Florida Atlantic University, Wade said it was easy to be at peace with his offseason contract negotiations because of the embrace he received from the highest level of management.

“Sometimes, when you get into contact situations, sometimes it’s always middle people involved, your agents and this person and this person,” Wade said. “We kind of just said, ‘We have the relationship where you can just take that out. So let’s sit down and talk about everything, the past, the present, the future and figure it out.’ “


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The deadline for Tristan Thompson to sign a one-year qualifying offer from the Cavs is 11:59 p.m. ET on ThursdayMarkieff Morris is “happy” to still be in PhoenixDwight Howard isn’t thinking about (potentially) being a free agent next summerCarmelo Anthony says that a championship is the “big-picture” goal in New YorkMike Malone wants to unleash the ManimalEnes Kanter knows his defense has to improve … and the Lakers are “being smart” about how much Kobe Bryant practices.

ICYMI: An all-access look at Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins:

VIDEO: Andrew Wiggins highlights of the ’14-15 season

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 30

VIDEO: Stephen Curry looks ahead to the upcoming season


Derrick Rose injured…again | Next man up in Cleveland…again | Durant back in action | Bennett back home in Toronto

No. 1: Derrick Rose injured…again Just hours after an unprompted Derrick Rose discussed free agency during Chicago Bulls media day, which brought up a whole range of emotions for Bulls fans, Rose unwittingly became involved in another storyline familiar to Bulls fans. During the first practice under new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, Rose caught an accidental elbow and suffered a facial fracture that required surgery. More importantly, it means Rose will be out for time being, although the Bulls are holding out hope he can return for the season opener. For a guy who has battled injuries seemingly non-stop the last few years, it’s yet another tough break, writes K.C. Johnson in the Chicago Tribune

Derrick Rose caught an accidental elbow to his face halfway through Hoiberg’s first session and left for tests that revealed a left orbital fracture. The team said Rose, who turns 27 Sunday, will undergo surgery at Rush University Medical Center on Wednesday. A timetable for his return will be determined after the procedure.

Absences following surgery for orbital fractures have run the gamut recently with players missing anywhere from five to 28 games. Whatever the case, Rose’s injury piles on top of Mike Dunleavy’s back surgery last Friday. Dunleavy’s rehabilitation process could sideline the veteran forward eight to 10 weeks.

Suddenly, 40 percent of Hoiberg’s projected starting lineup will miss most, if not all, of training camp. A source said there is optimism Rose will be ready for the Oct. 27 regular-season opener against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

And while this setback pales in comparison to the three knee surgeries Rose has endured, it’s yet another mental challenge for a former most valuable player who tried to remind all of his greatness during Monday’s media day.

“I know I’m great,” Rose said then.

Since becoming the youngest MVP in NBA history in 2011, Rose has missed in chronological order — deep breath here — five games each to a sprained toe and strained back; 17 games to groin, ankle and foot issues; the entire 2012-13 season to a torn left ACL; 71 games to a torn right meniscus; eight games to ankle and hamstring issues and 20 games to a second right meniscus tear.

In all, Rose has played in 100 games over the last four seasons.

Suddenly, Jimmy Butler’s boast he can play point guard may not be a far-fetched idea. If Rose does miss any regular-season time, the Bulls have Aaron Brooks, Kirk Hinrich and E’Twaun Moore at the position.

Three players who addressed the media said they didn’t know whose elbow caught Rose.

“Might have been me,” Taj Gibson said. “It’s one of those plays where everybody’s going so hard.”

At least Gibson, who is coming back from offseason left ankle surgery, practiced fully. But with Dunleavy not sure when he’ll return and now the Rose injury, there has been more bad news than good on the Bulls’ injury front.

Whether Rose wears a mask upon his return has yet to be determined. At the very least, he will have to overcome the fear of getting struck in the face again.

With Rose leaving practice early, teammates were left to answer if Rose’s curious and unsolicited comments about his 2017 free agency from Monday were irksome.

“I don’t care what the guy talks about as long as he’s helping us win games,” said Butler, who signed a $92.3 million deal this offseason. “Whatever he’s focused on let him be focused, but I think his objective is to win a championship. I’m pretty sure he talked about that as well — and how he wants to help this team win. Everything else, he is who he is.

“He can talk about unicorns and rainbows for all I care. Just help us win some basketball games.”


No. 2: Next man up in Cleveland…again The Cleveland Cavaliers made it to the NBA Finals despite a seemingly non-stop series of injuries, including season-ending stoppages to All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Four months later, the Cavs entered training camp heading in the right direction, with everyone healthy or at least nearing full health. And then Iman Shumpert suffered a wrist injury and, as the Cavs announced yesterday, Shumpert will miss the next 12-14 weeks following surgery. As Chris Haynes writes for, the Cavs are relying on the same mantra they have for months: Next man up

This wasn’t the best way to begin Day 1 of training camp.

“It’s ‘next man up’ for our team,” LeBron James said. “It’s a big blow for our team. He’s a guy that we wanted around here long-term, and he still will be around here long-term obviously, but the next man up will be ready to go until he gets back.”

Cavs coach David Blatt echoed those sentiments.

“He will eventually be back and in the meantime, we will follow the same philosophy that we had all last year: Face the adversity, next man up and play the game that we know how and the way that we should,” Blatt said.

With Shumpert sidelined, Griffin said there are no immediate plans to tinker with the roster due to the team’s depth. But he’s keeping his options open.

“We’re going to give people a chance to kind of absorb it from within,” he said “but obviously we’re paying a lot of attention to opportunities that we may be able to improve the group. We’ll just play it by ear.”

J.R. Smith will likely get the starting nod in the backcourt along with Mo Williams at the start of the regular season. The acquisition of Richard Jefferson should also play a key part in stabilizing the rotation.

Griffin said Shumpert worked “incredibly hard” this off-season to come into camp in top shape.

Injuries are something that all 30 NBA teams have to deal with at some point. The Cavs know first-hand that injuries at the wrong time can hinder them from reaching their ultimate goal.

“Injuries will probably be the only thing that can stop us long-term, [but Shump] is a short-term thing,” James said.


No. 3: Durant back in action One day after he turned 27 years old, Kevin Durant went through his first full day of practice with the Oklahoma City Thunder after missing 55 games last season following three foot surgeries. While the team announced Durant was fully cleared to return to action, as Durant explained yesterday, there’s a difference in being cleared to play and being in game shape. But, as Durant told ESPN’s Royce Young, he’s the same player he was before the injury

“I feel great, actually,” Durant said. “It’s really different being out there in a practice setting. I haven’t been there in a while. It’s definitely going to take me some time to really get comfortable out there again.

“I’ve been injured, but I’m healed now. So I try not to think about it. If I’m on the court, I’m OK. So I’m the same player I was.”

Despite the frustrations of last season, Durant enters his ninth NBA season full of the confidence. Asked about how long it’ll take to rediscover his rhythm, the 2014 MVP says his game isn’t back — because it never left.

“The most humble way I can say it is I’ve always got feel,” Durant said. “Every time I step on the court I feel great. I know how to play the game. My body might say a little different, but I always feel like I’m in rhythm. That’s just from me being a skill player and knowing what it takes to go out there and showcase my fundamentals of the game. I always feel like I’m in feel, but my body has to catch up, I guess.”

The one area Durant said may take a bit of time is his conditioning, though he said he felt like he was in already in a good place.

“My conditioning feels great,” Durant said. “I know it’s gonna take some time for me to really get back to feeling great and mid-season form, but I’m on my way.”

Monday’s practice was also the first for new head coach Billy Donovan, who said the focus was working to establish an identity, specifically on the defensive side.

“I think it went well,” Donovan said of his first NBA practice. “Guys were obviously very, very excited, certainly a lot of teaching to do in the first couple hours just to try and get a defensive system and a philosophy, trying to break down and teach. I thought we got a lot in, especially considering it was the first day.”

Said Durant of adjusting to a new coach: “It’s the first day. We’ve still got to figure it out. It’s just the first day. We’re smart players, and we know how to figure things out.”


No. 4: Bennett back home in Toronto The Cleveland Cavaliers made him the first pick of the draft in 2013, but since then Anthony Bennett has struggled to find a home in the NBA. After one season in Cleveland he was traded to Minnesota, and this summer his contract was bought out, making him a free agent. But for Bennett, his latest team is the Toronto Raptors, which is actually home. And as Bennett told CBS’s James Herbert, that’s a good thing

After Bennett walked into the practice court at the Air Canada Centre wearing a Raptors shirt — apparently his new No. 15 jersey wasn’t quite ready, and when he put it on a short while later, there was no name on the back — he called playing in Toronto “the perfect situation for me.” It was “definitely not an easy decision” to leave the Minnesota Timberwolves, but when he got back from the FIBA Americas in Mexico City, his agency and his former team were working on a buyout. Other teams were interested, but he knew where he wanted to be.

“It has been something I’ve been thinking about growing up, watching Vince Carter play,” Bennett said. “And now I’m back here. It’s surreal, but at the same time it’s work. I’m just ready to go all out.”

Playing for the Canadian national team, Bennett had a solid summer. He was perhaps the team’s best player at the Pan-Am Games in Toronto, and he had his moments at the FIBA Americas in Mexico City, too. Unsurprisingly, fellow Canadian Raptor Cory Joseph believes he can build on that.

“I feel like it’s a new beginning here,” Joseph said. “I think he’ll do great for us, for the city, for the country. I think he’ll revive his NBA career.”

While the homecoming angle is nice, Bennett’s redemption story has been written before. He looked in shape and confident at last year’s summer league, where he said he was having fun again after a rookie year filled with adversity. Just like with Team Canada, in Vegas he showed off the athleticism that made him such a great prospect, screaming into the stands to punctuate his dunks. He didn’t play much in his second season, though, and it wasn’t pretty when he did. Bennett missed way too many midrange jumpers and often looked lost on defense. He has a long way to go, and there are proven players in front of him.

As Raptors training camp begins, Bennett will find himself battling Patrick Patterson and Luis Scola at power forward. DeMarre Carroll is also expected to spend some time at the 4, and James Johnson could be in the mix, too. Given Toronto head coach Dwane Casey‘s preference for veterans and his dedication to defense, it seems unlikely Bennett will be a regular part of the rotation.

“This is an opportunity,” Casey said. “This is a good place for him. It’s home. He should feel comfortable. But, all the [playing] time and everything else, he’s going to have to come in and earn it, which I’m sure the other players would be happy to hear.”

For the Raptors, there was little risk in signing Bennett. He’s on a one-year contract for $947,276. Where he was selected doesn’t matter anymore.

“It didn’t work out in a couple places,” Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri said. “I think he’s moved past that. I think the experiences he’s gone through will help him. For us to get a Canadian 22-year-old power forward that is athletic and can play at the minimum? We’ll take it. He’ll have a chance.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Paul Allen says the Blazers have moved on from losing LaMarcus AldridgeBen Gordon went vegetarian and now hopes to make the Golden State Warriors roster … In Denver, Kenneth Faried is the Nuggets’ biggest wild card … The Brooklyn Nets want Brook Lopez to take more of a leadership role

Morning Shootaround — Aug. 30

MKG discusses contract extension | Suns still unsure about Morris | New practice center could make a better Pacers team

No. 1: MKG discusses contract extension — After signing a four-year, $52 million deal earlier this month to remain in Charlotte with the Hornets, who could blame Michael-Kidd Gilchrist for being optimistic? Such is the case with the small forward who is not only rich but wealthy in soul. The good vibe spilled over in a recent Q&A, in which he spoke about the contract, the outlook for next season and why he wanted to remain with the Hornets rather than explore free agency next summer. Here’s the scoop from Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer:

“It’s a great feeling. But I never did any of this for the money, fame, fortune, Instagram followers or Twitter followers. That can all come and go. But ball and family – that’s not going anywhere.

Q. A lot of people may not know the extreme closeness of your relationship with point guard Kemba Walker, who you cite as one of the main reasons you wanted to stay in Charlotte. What is that relationship like?

A. We always talk. I was a freshman in high school when I first met him – think about that. And then I was just a fan of Kemba, who was a senior in high school. I kept following his career.

So when I got drafted, I was like, ‘Oh snap, Kemba Walker’s on my team!’ When I met him, I just kept asking questions every day about everything. He never seemed to get tired of it. We are similar people. We’re both competitive, humble – we just click.

Q. There was a lot made at a similar press conference in Charlotte several months ago – when Panthers quarterback Cam Newton signed his own lucrative extension – about the belief that Newton can lead the Panthers to a championship. Do you feel pressure to do that for the Hornets?

A. When you talk about pressure, all the pressure I ever felt was making it into the NBA and really into college first of all. Because if I didn’t go to college, where would I be? That was pressure, that, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to go to college somewhere.’

This isn’t pressure. This is adding fuel to the fire. But as far as the pressure part? I’m comfortable in my own skin. I work as hard as I can every day. After that, it’s in God’s hands.

Q. You are known for sacrificing your body on defense and for loose balls. Are you going to continue throwing your body around just as much now that the money has come?

A. Yes. How much can my body take? I don’t know. But that’s how I play. I can’t change it. I wouldn’t change who I am, how I play, how my jump shot used to be, or anything like that. I wouldn’t change a single thing in my life until now. Not a single thing.

Q. The Hornets were a disappointing 33-49 last season and have made huge personnel changes in the offseason. Will this team be a lot better than last year?

A. I like our team. But what do you think?


No. 2: Suns still unsure about Morris — As the start of training camp slowly approaches, there has been a pickup of activity in Phoenix, where players are beginning to file into town and conduct voluntary workouts. Of course, there has been a missing face: Markieff Morris, who’s still miffed about his twin brother being traded to the Pistons and has publicly asked for a trade. Here’s Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic:

Training camp is still a month away. Opening night is two months away. But being five years removed from a playoff appearance, the Suns have a near-ideal turnout in a city that millionaires avoid in August.

Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin, Brandon Knight, Alex Len, Jon Leuer, Ronnie Price, P.J. Tucker, T.J. Warren and Sonny Weems have been playing at US Airways Center since Monday.

There is no surprise that Markieff Morris is missing from that list, given his “Keef beef” with the franchise. His trade request fell on deaf ears. The other absent contract players, Tyson Chandler and Mirza Teletovic, are expected to join their new teammates in Phoenix over the next 10 days.

The early team chemistry sessions are important for a roster that will have at least six new players for the regular season. That does not include Brandon Knight, a key cog to this season’s plans after playing only 11 games last season with the Suns.

It would be ideal for Knight to spend September working with his starting power forward but a Morris early arrival is about as likely as a fulfillment of his trade wish.

The Suns need and want Morris. They would not stand much of a chance to replace him by trade. They would have no chance to replace him by free agency. They do not have an adequate existing roster option.

Reasonably, hard feelings should subside by the time he must report to Phoenix on Sept. 28. However, he was steaming six weeks after the trade when he went public to the Philadelphia Inquirer this month. Another six weeks might not help but being around his teammate friends again and meeting a respected frontcourt partner such as Chandler should help him recommit, even if Morris returns to being the quieter person he was before Marcus joined Phoenix.


No. 3: New practice center could make for a better Pacers team — At least that’s the hope of the organization as it hones in on upgrading the team’s training facilities. Well, actually a return to All-Star form by Paul George will help quite a bit, too. But the Pacers are anxious to gain any edge, especially with free agents, and the organization is moving forward with the blueprint. Here’s Dana Hunsinger Benow of the Indianapolis Star:


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kenneth Faried is excited to see what Emmanuel Mudiay will do in Denver … Is Hassan Whiteside under the microscope already in Miami? … Can Deron Williams be good again? … Yes, the Warriors will probably get that Harrison Barnes deal done.

Morning shootaround — Aug. 21


Griffin backs a 66-game season | Horford says he’s ‘very happy’ with Hawks | Next challenge for Valanciunas

No. 1: Griffin says 66 games is ideal NBA season length — The 2011-12 NBA season was a 66-game slate that some considered the perfect amount of games for the regular season. Since that lockout-shortened season, the NBA has resumed its regular, 82-game schedule and shows no signs of changing that anytime soon.’s Ken Berger recently caught up with several of the NBA’s stars and, in a Q&A session, asked them what the ideal length of a season would be. Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin was the lone player who voiced support for a shorter season:

If money were no object, what would the ideal length of the NBA regular season be?

Griffin: Sixty-six, spread over the same amount of time [as the current 82-game season]. Fatigue and injuries, and better product. If you have less games, less back-to-backs, the product’s better. The fans will appreciate it more. You see those college guys playing so hard, but they play 36 games in the same amount of time we play 82 almost. I just think it would be a better product.

John Wall: I just enjoy playing. I enjoy loving the game, so it doesn’t matter to me. I think [82 games] is cool … if you get more breaks. They did a great job of giving us more time at the All-Star break, giving us a couple of more days.

Draymond Green: I don’t know if you can necessarily say there’s a better way because it’s never been done. Within the course of the 82, some people catch their stride, as you saw the season before last year. The Spurs caught their stride in like the last 35-40 games. If you’re not playing 82, do they catch their stride? Are they world champions? Who knows? So it’s kind of hard to judge. I think it’s a slippery slope when you get to assessing that because, yeah, what was the lockout year, 66? So you saw that, but you also saw three games in three days, which you can’t judge off that, either. And then there’s going to be an unhappy party, because the owners aren’t going to make as much money, which means the players won’t make as much money. So I think it’s a slippery slope. At the end of the day, our league has done great. Is that something to really tinker with? Probably not. Is there really a reason to? Yeah, guys get tired. But are you going to get tired if there’s 65 games? Probably so. I just think that’s a tough subject.

Chris Paul: Money is an object, though. When we were kids playing AAU, we’d play five games in a day and wouldn’t think twice about it. I don’t know what the right number is. We’ve been playing 82 for a while though, huh? As far as I can remember. That’d be tough [to change].

Kenneth Faried: I think 82 is the proper length. We’ve been playing this game for so long and it’s been 82. [Michael] Jordan played 82. They played more preseason games, so they cut the preseason games and training camp down, which is good for us. But at the same time, these guys before us were playing 20-plus years and they were playing 82 and still being All-Stars and still having big names — Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley and those guys. So guys who’ve done it before us, they’ve already paved the way, so we just have to follow in their footsteps as much as we can.


No. 2: Horford says he’s ‘very happy’ with Hawks — If you thought this summer’s free agency period was full of news, wait until next summer. Several big names will be hitting the market, Atlanta Hawks All-Star big man Al Horford among that group. In a chat with’s Jeremy Woo, Horford reflected on Atlanta’s successful 2014-15 campaign, its offseason moves and his own future with the team going forward: Looking back, how would you describe last season?

Horford: It was a great season for our team. I felt like everything started to come together as far as coach’s system. I feel like we really all were able to sink in and play the way he wanted us to play. And it showed—[it was] the first time we made it to the Eastern Conference finals in Hawks history. Now, we’re looking to build on that and try to be the best team we can. Have you had the chance to go back and watch any of the Cleveland series? [The Hawks were swept in four games.]

Horford: Honestly, no. They obviously dominated us, they were the better team. I don’t need to see that, I know what we need to do, I know we have a lot of work ahead of us. Our whole team. So this is the time to do it. Individually, I’m working on my game and trying to get better for the upcoming season. How big was it for the Hawks to be able to keep Paul Millsap?

Horford: It was very important. I think that was the priority for us, to make sure we brought Paul back. Being able to add Tiago Splitter and Tim Hardaway, really was big. Unfortunately, we lost DeMarre [Carroll, who signed long-term with Toronto]—he’s such a great player, but it was the type of thing he couldn’t turn down, and it’s what’s best for him and his family. What will it take for the team to sustain that success?

Horford: Being healthy, that’s the number one thing for our team. For the most part, we were healthy as a team last season. Two is to be able to keep playing the way we play, being a good defensive team, sharing the ball on offense. We had a lot of success doing those two things, and even though they’re simple, that’s what carried us. Considering the new additions to the team, what are some of the things you look for as far as fitting in?

Horford: I think for them, it’s just being able to get comfortable with the system. We’re just looking for them to impact the game and impact winning, and when you have a guy like Tiago Splitter, an experienced big man, I feel like he’ll be able to help us right away. Tim [Hardaway] I feel like has a lot of potential, and I’m very excited to see him playing in the system. I feel like he’ll be able to help us a lot. Lastly, I know you’ve said you’re waiting after the season to figure out your contract situation. What led you to that decision? [Horford will be a free agent in 2016.]

Horford: For me, I’m very happy in Atlanta. It’s one of those things where I don’t want any contract talks to be a distraction for my team and me. I feel like my focus this year is for us to build and be better. Since we can’t do anything right now, we’ll wait until the season’s over and then we can start talking about all that.



No. 3: Valanciunas gets his deal … now he needs to play some ‘D’ — Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas is one of the more promising young big men in the NBA. In his three seasons in the league, Valanciunas has grown steadily as an offensive threat and rebounder, but his defense and rim-protection are lagging behind in development. The Raptors gave Valanciunas a $64-million contract extension yesterday, providing the big man with a secure future in Toronto. As Doug Smith of the Toronto Star reports, though, Valanciunas’ value relative to the deal will show up in how he defends going forward:

Whether or not the new contract extension signed by Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas makes good economic sense is secondary to one fact not in dispute.

There is vast room for the 23-year-old to improve as a player, and whether he makes $16 million as season or $16 a season won’t matter a lick if his development stalls.

Everyone connected with the Raptors knows it, and it was the underlying theme to the day when the Lithuanian big man inked a four-year, $64-million contract extension with the only NBA team he’s known.

“It depends on me,” he said during a hastily called news conference at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday afternoon.

“I have to get better defensively.”

If he can — and there’s no physical reason he shouldn’t be able to — it will make things vastly better for the Raptors and coach Dwane Casey, who barely used Valanciunas in the fourth quarter of any game last season because of perceived shortcomings.

“Everyone in the whole world knew we fell on defence, and how can we get it back to where we were and hopefully better is by maybe doing something different,” general manager Masai Ujiri said.

“That’s coaching, and it’s left to coach Casey and we’re confident he’s put together the right people and he’s identified some of the issues.”

The deal is another step in an expensive summer of moves for Ujiri. Coming off the four-games-and-out playoff elimination at the hands of the Washington Wizards he’s added DeMarre Carroll (four years, $60 million), Cory Joseph (four years, $30 million), Bismack Biyombo (two years, $6 million) and Luis Scola (one year, $3 million) while saying goodbye to Amir Johnson, Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez.

The general manager has a window until Oct. 31 to think about a contract extension for Terrence Ross, and has at least thought about the possibility.

“We’ll keep monitoring and see how things get done, if anything happens,” Ujiri said. “We’ve had a little bit of discussion.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge has reportedly changed agents … Golden State Warriors rookie forward Kevon Looney (hip surgery) will be out 4-6 months … Former All-Star forward Carlos Boozer could be playing in China next season … Good Q&A with Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic …  The 2004 Detroit Pistons will be a part of NBA2K16’s classic teams this year

Faried has big hopes for Lawson, Nuggets

VIDEO: Kenneth Faried helps out at a Basketball Without Borders event

It was a bittersweet summer in Denver for point guards. The Nuggets drafted Emmanuel Mudiay, who might be a good one. And they parted with Ty Lawson, who already is a good one, but there’s a catch.

You know the story. Shortly after the Nuggets drafted Mudiay, Lawson was ticketed for suspicion of driving under the influence, the second time since January that’s happened. The Nuggets acted swiftly, trading him to the Rockets, and Lawson entered a one-month court-appointed rehab program, which he’s now wrapping up. It hit the Nuggets hard and Kenneth Faried even harder.

“That’s my best friend, my point guard, my boy,” said Faried, the energizer of the Nuggets, in a conversation recently. “He’s been through a lot. He’s helped me a lot. When I first came on the team, he gave me a lot of good advice. People don’t know that. So it’s hard to see a friend like that go.”

It makes you wonder about the advice Lawson gave. As close as they are, the two clearly went about their business differently. Faried is from hardscrabble Newark, N.J., had poor grades in high school and therefore couldn’t qualify academically for the major colleges (but eventually starred at Morehead State). Then he buckled down, became a top student with a 3.5 GPA, worked his way into the first round of the 2011 Draft and then to a $50 million contract extension two summers ago.

Lawson emerged as a solid playmaker and borderline All-Star shortly after being taken with the No. 18 pick in the 2009 Draft and arguably became the face of the franchise. But off-court issues have dogged him. And just before the latest suspected alcohol-related incident, he bemoaned the Nuggets’ decision to draft Mudiay. In a video that went viral, Lawson wondered aloud whether he was headed to Sacramento, where his old coach, George Karl, was in charge. That and other incidents annoyed the Nuggets. Lawson was on the trading block anyway, and the arrest forced their hand.

So, how is Lawson doing?

“I think he knows what’s going on,” said Faried, who speaks with Lawson often. “And he understands 100 percent what he has to do.”

That’s good news for the Rockets, at least for now.

As for the Nuggets? Faried said once the trade happened, “I went to the gym.” That was his way of dealing with the stress, and also preparing for what’s to come.

“I know what I have to do,” he said. “I have to be more of a leader. I get the biggest paycheck, so I have to be that leader. I want to lead by example, so when I do say something, my words will have volume.”

Being a leader will be welcome in Denver, because the Nuggets were a mess under former coach Brian Shaw. Players openly rebelled, gave half-efforts and refused to buy into the system. They were mocked around the league for their unprofessionalism as David West (now with the Spurs) wondered if the Denver locker room had any “grownups.”

The Nuggets are in a state of transition from the Karl era, still searching for an identity. Mike Malone is now the coach and Faried looks forward to a pre-training camp dinner with the coach to see “what he wants from me and also what I want from him.” The team now belongs to Faried, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, the last two recently gifted with contract extensions. Also, plenty will depend on how rapidly Mudiay takes to running the show, who is expected to get the keys to the team right away (like Lawson once did).

“I’m interested to see how he takes to training camp and takes to coaching,” Faried said, “and also to other players, us veterans. The constructive criticism. I saw him in summer league and he looked good.”

The Rockets are also interested to see how their new point guard takes to coaching, to criticism and more importantly, to a second lease on life. Lawson knows how to run a team … he showed that in Denver. But how can he run his own life? He showed that in Denver, too.