Posts Tagged ‘Kenyon Martin’

Game 1: Kidd, Martin Prove Woodson Right

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NEW YORK – The collective age of the New York Knicks has been a running joke all season. And all season, head coach Mike Woodson has continued to preach the value of experience.

With age you often get injuries. And the Knicks have certainly paid a price for going the old-man route. A 40-year-old Kurt Thomas couldn’t hold up. A 38-year-old Rasheed Wallace has retired. A 39-year-old Marcus Camby has played just 10 games over the last three months. And 35-year-old rookie Pablo Prigioni went down with a sprained ankle in the last game of the regular season.

But there are still a couple of old heads still standing in New York. Their names are Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin. They terrorized the Knicks in a playoff series nine years ago, and they each played a big role in New York’s Game 1 victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday.

Kidd played 35 minutes off the bench, filling the boxscore with eight points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Martin was the only reserve big man Woodson used, coming through with 10 points, nine boards, a steal and two blocks.

Those contributions were desperately needed. With Prigioni out, 29-year-old rookie Chris Copeland (yes, the Knicks are so old, their two rookies are 29 and 35 years old) got his 14th start of the season and wasn’t up to the task. And with Steve Novak unable to get a shot and getting picked on defensively, the Knicks needed Kidd to fill in at one of the wings for 30 minutes, in addition to his back-up point guard duty.

Meanwhile, Tyson Chandler tried playing his first game in the last two weeks and couldn’t make much of an impact on either end of the floor. So Martin was asked to play big minutes at center.

It’s not a coincidence that the Knicks’ defense was much better in the second half, when Kidd played 21 of his 35 minutes and Martin played 18 of his 28. Martin anchored the paint, while Kidd seemingly got his hands on the ball whenever the Knicks came near him. All three of his steals came with the game on the line in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.

With 4:52 left, Kidd deflected a Jeff Green pass, dove on the floor and started a New York fast break. With 2:21 left and the Celtics still within five, he sniffed out a back-screen play Boston had run for a game-winner in early March, helped from the weak side, and stripped Green under the basket. And with 34 seconds left, he stripped Kevin Garnett on a mismatch in the post.

His feet may not move like they used to, but Kidd’s hands are still quick and strong, and his mind is sharper than ever.

“He beats everyone with his brain,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said afterward. “If you think quicker than a guy can move, you’re still quicker. That’s why he’s there first, because he thought what the guy was going to do before he did it. He’s just a valuable player to have on a basketball team.”

Kidd and Martin have each had their moments over the last six months. And from Day 1, it’s been easy to see Kidd’s influence on Carmelo Anthony‘s game this season. But this is the playoffs. This is why these guys are here and why Woodson has remained adamant that the veterans are critical to his team’s success.

“To me, it’s a plus to have veteran guys,” Woodson said. “That is no knock on the young kids. To have these veteran guys step up and still make a contribution to your team is major.”

After one playoff game, Woodson is looking pretty smart.

 

Knicks Keep Winning Big, Keep Losing Bigs

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NEW YORK – As the New York Knicks extended their winning streak to 13 games on Tuesday, they extended their list of injured big men to six.

Six is the number of big men the Knicks have on their roster, by the way.

Early in the fourth quarter of an easy win over the Washington Wizards, Kenyon Martin went down a sprained left ankle. Martin (who was previously dealing with a sore knee) joined Marcus Camby (foot), Tyson Chandler (neck), Amar’e Stoudemire (knee surgery), Kurt Thomas (foot) and Rasheed Wallace (foot) on the list of (old) injured bigs in New York.

Frank Isola of the Daily News reported Wednesday that the Knicks intend to waive Thomas in order to sign Chris Singleton, who is 6-foot-8.

The only one of the true bigs who could possibly play in Chicago on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, TNT) is Camby. But most likely, Carmelo Anthony will be the starting center against the Bulls, who are still without Joakim Noah.

Now, the Knicks have only played 20 percent of their minutes with two bigs on the floor this season (a contrast to their vanilla-lineup neighbors in Brooklyn), and have been much better offensively when they’ve played small (like with two point guards). So if there’s one team that absorb the loss of a big man or two, it’s this one.

And a little bit of attrition is probably a good thing for New York. Since they traded for Anthony two years ago, they’ve simply been a better team without Stoudemire than they’ve been with him. It’s fair to assume that they’d be better off if Stoudemire didn’t come back this season from his most recent knee injury.

Chandler and Martin are another story. Both are known for their defense, but the Knicks’ one-big offense has been at its best when the one big is one of those two guys.

Knicks efficiency with one big on the floor

On floor MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Chandler 1,546 110.2 104.0 +6.2 +172
Martin 347 112.9 101.1 +11.8 +71
Stoudemire 319 101.7 105.9 -4.2 -33
Wallace 204 102.1 94.7 +7.4 +26
Thomas 188 106.8 111.1 -4.4 -19
Camby 140 106.8 92.6 +14.2 +33
Total 2,744 108.6 103.1 +5.4 +250

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Beyond Chandler, the sample sizes are small. And both Chandler (76 percent) and Martin (57 percent) have benefited – meaning their offensive numbers have benefited – from playing most of their minutes with Anthony.

Still, Chandler and Martin have brought something to the table. Chandler is the perfect example of how you don’t need post moves to be a good offensive center. He rolls hard to the basket, finishing strong and drawing help defenders from the perimeter, which creates space for the Knicks’ shooters. And while Chandler would rank second in the league in field goal percentage if he had enough shots, Martin has actually finished better than Chandler in his short time with the Knicks, shooting 48-for-61 (79 percent) in the restricted area.

And obviously, both guys give New York, a below-average defensive team, some sort of presence inside on that end of the floor.

So the injuries to both Chandler and Martin have to be a serious concern with the playoffs just nine days away. Woodson called Martin’s ankle sprain “severe” on Tuesday. Chandler, meanwhile, returned for just four games before his bulging disc flared up again. Woodson said that his center would be playing if it was playoff time, but back/neck issues don’t go away easily and Chandler at less than 100 percent certainly compromises the Knicks’ chances of winning games and series in the postseason.

Morning Shootaround — April 1

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: There must be something in the way Nuggets coach George Karl teaches the game, because several of his ex-pupils are getting it done for contenders in the Eastern Conference. On the Heat, his former big man Chris Andersen provided some solid minutes in the Heat’s surprising win over the Spurs in San Antonio. Over in New York, though, three ex-Nuggets are getting it done as the Knicks keep on rolling and their game against the Celtics is our one to watch. First, we had Carmelo Anthony doing what he does best — score and score often — as he led New York with 24 points and added 10 rebounds. Then we had J.R. Smith doing his best big man impression with a team-best 12 boards off the bench. And finally, Kenyon Martin provided some solid interior defense and rebounding work as New York picks up its eighth straight win.

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News of the morning

Ginobili out three-to-four weeks | Jennings blasts Boylan on Twitter | Knicks’ Martin would love to stay put | Bynum not likely to give Sixers extra consideration | Anderson recounts career, NBA life

Spurs say Ginobili out three-to-four weeks As it is well known in NBA circles, Spurs swingman Manu Ginobili is bound to miss a few games every season — the Argentine blur has yet to play an entire season in his career. But the timing of Ginobili’s injuries the last few seasons — such as his elbow injury right before the 2011 playoffs — could not have been worse. Now Ginobili has a hamstring issue bothering him that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich tells the San Antonio Express-News’ Dan McCartney could keep Ginobili out for a while:

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich puts Manu Ginobili’s timetable to return from a strained right hamstring at weeks rather than days, a significant setback to the team’s pre-playoff preparation.

“It’s a huge blow for us,” he said, “because he’s the guy that allows our second team to do what they’ve been doing all year long.

“It’s a huge loss for that group, and in game situations it’s a tough one because he’s one of two guys, he and Tony (Parker), are the creators who make things happen for everybody else on the court. It’s an unfortunate loss at this point of the season.”

Popovich said it is unknown if Ginobili’s injury will stretch into the postseason, which begins on April 20. Excluding Sunday’s home game against Miami, the Spurs have nine games remaining in the regular season, with the last coming on April 17 against Minnesota.

“We don’t know how his leg is going to react,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can.”

Ginobili, 35, was injured in the first quarter of Friday’s victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s missed 13 games this season with a variety of ailments, including a strain in his other hamstring. The Spurs are 9-2 without him.

Jennings calls out coach on TwitterIt hasn’t exactly been all sunshine and roses for Brandon Jennings this season in Milwaukee. Before the season began, Jennings hoped for an extension with Milwaukee, but he never got it. Then, coach Scott Skiles — who seemed to chafe at times with Jennings — was fired and Jim Boylan took over and, initially, Jennings had nice things to say about his new boss. Around the trade deadline, reports came out that Jennings had irreconcilable differences with team brass, which Jennings almost immediately refuted. Jennings was benched the entire fourth quarter of last week’s loss to Philadelphia and, apparently, the boil-over point game in a Saturday loss to Oklahoma City. With the Bucks down 109-99, Boylan took a late timeout, which Jennings questioned over Twitter, writes Sean Highkin of USA Today (tweet image available at the USA Today post):

When you’re unhappy with a decision your coach made, there are better ways to handle it than calling him out on Twitter. That didn’t stop Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings from taking to social media to question a late-game timeout called by coach Jim Boylan in the Bucks’ 109-99 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jennings deleted the tweet shortly after posting.

Jennings has made no secret of his unhappiness with the Bucks in recent months. As far back as last year, he was looking ahead to free agency and expressing a desire to sign in a big market. He did not sign an extension to his rookie contract with the Bucks before the October deadline, and openly talked about being intrigued by the Dallas Mavericks earlier this season. Jennings has even hinted he might do something unprecedented for player as high-profile as he is, and bypass restricted free agency by signing the qualifying offer this summer, essentially killing the Bucks’ leverage to keep or trade him beyond next year.

Boylan isn’t the first coach Jennings has clashed with this season, either. Scott Skiles and the Bucks mutually agreed to part ways in January after Skiles essentially lost control of the locker room. The team has turned its season around since appointing Boylan interim head coach, and are currently on pace for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but Jennings’ own effectiveness has fallen off since the change. Under Skiles, Jennings averaged 18.5 points per game on 40.5 percent shooting with 16.5 attempts per game. Since Boylan took over, Jennings has averaged 16.8 points while shooting 38.2 percent on 15.1 attempts per game.

Martin wants to stick with KnicksKenyon Martin, 35, has made his bones in the NBA by employing a physical style and menacing on-court attitude that often rubbed opponents (and some coaches) the wrong way throughout his career. He spent part of the lockout-shortened season in China before joining the Clippers 20 games into the 2011-12 campaign and became a valuable member of L.A.’s bench crew. But talk of disharmony between him and coach Vinny Del Negro soured many teams on signing the former No. 1 overall pick and it wasn’t until Feb. 23 that the Knicks came calling, signing Martin to a pair of 10-day deals and then, eventually for the rest of the season. Martin has once again flourished, providing rebounding and defense for a New York frontline that has been harmed by injuries to Tyson Chandler, Kurt Thomas and Amar’e Stoudemire. Martin tells Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe he’s loving life in the Big Apple and would love to stay put, too:

Martin says he has found comfort with the New York Knicks after being a basketball vagabond for months, searching for an opportunity and seething because his reputation for clashing with teammates and coaches preceded him.

Such was the case last season with the Los Angeles Clippers, when Martin clashed at times with coach Vinny Del Negro, and word of those dustups spread to league executives, who were unsure whether they wanted an aging, crabby Martin on their roster.

He says those are misunderstandings. Martin, the No. 1 overall pick in 2000 by the Nets, plays with an attitude but is considered a likeable teammate. He still has a passion for winning, and perhaps that is mistaken for arrogance or bravado.

When asked about the Celtics passing on the opportunity to sign him despite being desperate for forwards, Martin said, “It just wasn’t them. It just wasn’t the Celtics. So everybody get [my wrath]. I’m just here to prove to people that I ain’t never lost it. I’m a better person than I am a basketball player.

“The chip I always play with, it ain’t got no bigger, but I’m here to prove that what I can do, that’s everybody every night. So it just don’t start with the Celtics. Whoever puts that uniform on that’s opposite of us, they’re going to see what they’re missing.”

Martin knows his reputation, and realizes there is little he can do to change perceptions. But his time in New York is gaining him equity around the league, perhaps making him a more marketable free agent this summer.

“It was upsetting before, but I don’t deal with it,” he said. “The people who know me, man, they know what I’m about. I’m about winning. I’m about my teammates. I care about the guys I suit up with. That’s what I’m about.

“So other people, ain’t been around me long, they gonna judge. I can’t help that. Somebody is always going to have something to say — good, bad, or indifferent — so I take it all with a grain of salt.”

Martin is enjoying his experience in New York.

“I would love to stay a Knick,” he said. “I don’t want to go nowhere. I am proving to this organization what I can be and who I am as a person on and off the court, and I think they see that. I’m here now and I’m going to make the best of this opportunity.”

Bynum not expected to give Sixers extra considerationOther than Jrue Holiday‘s turn from solid, young player into an All-Star, the season has been a major disaster for the Sixers. From the start, the Sixers were without their prized offseason acquisition (Andrew Bynum) and spent the entire season in a will-he or won’t-he return waiting mode (which, ultimately ended with Bynum not returning). Along the way we had a Doug Collins meltdown, the stunted development of Evan Turner and subpar seasons from fellow offseason acquisitions such as Dorell Wright and Nick Young. Granted, Turner, Young and Wright would have looked better getting wide open perimeter looks playing off Bynum, but the season is what it is. On top of a rough season, the Sixers have to decide whether or not to re-sign Bynum, who will be an unrestricted free agent. John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer says the Sixers shouldn’t count on a hometown discount from Bynum on a future deal:

Trading for Bynum, who may not re-sign with the Sixers (and who may never be healthy enough to warrant the franchise’s taking that risk) could have allowed GM Tony DiLeo to venture into free agency this summer knowing that he had at least the second-best center in the league and a legitimate all-star point guard in Jrue Holiday. Evan Turner – who theoretically was supposed to be vastly improved by Bynum’s presence – would have blossomed and Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, and Lavoy Allen would have increased their value as a result of playing alongside Bynum.

While it would be wonderful if Bynum – an unrestricted free agent – gave the Sixers special consideration in light of all that they lost in trading for him and the agonizing wait for him to return, a team source with knowledge of the situation said last week that he does not believe that will be the case.

The Sixers ultimately may have nothing to show for this deal – no Bynum, no Nik Vucevic, who looks as if he could be a budding star with the Magic, no Maurice Harkless, blossoming in his own way in Orlando, and one less first-round draft pick.

All once sparkling assets, they now are reminders of a potentially franchise-crippling mistake by the front office.

Ex-NBAer Anderson reflects on college days, NBA lifeKenny Anderson was perhaps one of the greatest point guards in New York prep basketball history, a McDonald’s All-American, a two-time AP All-American at Georgia Tech, the No. 2 overall pick of the 1991 NBA Draft and a one-time All-Star. He also played 17 seasons in the NBA and was an integral part of several exciting teams as a young player and a key veteran voice in the later stages of his career. All that to say that Anderson had quite the body of work in basketball and in a great interview with SBNation.com, Anderson looks back on his college days (including why he picked Georgia Tech over Syracuse), who is peaking in the NBA right now and more. It’s a great listen.

ICYMI of the night: If you’re not watching the Hornets, you’re missing out on the fantastic pick-and-roll combo that is Greivis Vasquez-to-Anthony Davis:


Knicks Finding (Again) That Two Point Guards Are Better Than One

 

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – After three full months of mediocrity, the New York Knicks have seemingly woken up. They’ve won seven straight games after Friday’s 111-102 victory over the Bobcats, keeping themselves a game in the loss column ahead of the Indiana Pacers for second place in the Eastern Conference.

All seven wins have come without defensive anchor Tyson Chandler, and the one that got the Knicks started on this run – a critical victory in Utah on the second night of a back-to-back – came without Carmelo Anthony.

The streak hasn’t come against the toughest schedule – four of the wins have been over Toronto, Orlando and Charlotte – but it has included a win in Boston and a win over the Grizzlies. And it’s mostly been an offensive run, though the Knicks’ sketchy defense has held three of the seven opponents under a point per possession…

Knicks efficiency

Timeframe W L OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
Through Dec. 16 18 5 111.1 2 102.3 16 +8.8 3
Dec. 17 – March 17 20 21 104.6 11 103.8 15 +0.8 11
Since March 18 7 0 117.1 1 101.9 8 +15.2 2

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

The Knicks’ resurgence has been keyed by a couple of unlikely contributors. Kenyon Martin wasn’t in the league five weeks ago, but has filled in admirably for Chandler as a 6-foot-9 center. And Pablo Prigioni, a 35-year-old rookie who was signed last summer to be the third-string point guard, has stepped into a role no one could ever have imagined him playing.

Both Martin and Prigioni have started all seven games of the Knicks’ winning streak. But the winning started when Prigioni started, for the first time in his NBA career, alongside Raymond Felton in a two-point-guard lineup.

Two point guards playing at the same time is nothing new for the Knicks, who started Felton and Jason Kidd for 22 of the first 28 games this season, mostly because they didn’t have another shooting guard to start. And as long as both were healthy, Mike Woodson basically started Felton and Kidd together through the end of February.

But Kidd really struggled at the end of that run, shooting a brutal 7-for-52 (13 percent) from 3-point range between Jan. 26 and March 1. So Woodson went with just one starting point guard for a stretch of 10 games. And because he refuses to start J.R. Smith under any circumstances, he had either James White or Chris Copeland in the lineup.

To no one’s surprise, that didn’t work too well, so Woodson decided to go back to the two-point-guard lineup, this time with Kidd coming off the bench and Prigioni, who had been given three DNPs earlier in the month, starting.

So far, so good. The Knicks are now 30-13 in games in which they’ve started two point guards and 15-13 in games in which they’ve started just one. Felton’s 12-game absence in December and January has something to do with that mark, and starting lineups sometimes play no more than 10 minutes together, but the Knicks have proven to be much better with two point guards on the floor, whether they’re starting together or not.

Knicks efficiency

PGs on the floor MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Felton + Kidd + Prigioni 17 159.6 70.6 +89.0 +29
Felton + Kidd 1,003 109.6 103.3 +6.3 +106
Kidd + Prigioni 204 107.1 103.8 +3.3 +10
Felton + Prigioni 139 119.4 101.4 +18.0 +47
Two PGs 1,346 110.2 103.2 +7.0 +163
Only Felton 837 108.2 108.0 +0.2 +18
Only Kidd 559 102.9 102.8 +0.1 -20
Only Prigioni 650 105.6 97.9 +7.8 +63
One PG 2,046 105.9 103.4 +2.6 +61

Note: The three-point-guard numbers are obviously a small sample size, and they’re a bit skewed by a crazy 3:27 stretch at the end of a Dec. 21 loss to the Chicago Bulls. Anthony, Chandler and Woodson had all been ejected and the Knicks scored 21 points in the final 3:27 with a lineup of three point guards, Copeland and White, turning a 13-point deficit into a more respectable, four-point loss.

The big difference between two-point-guard lineups and one-point-guard lineups has been on offense. And the key has been turnovers and 3-pointers.

The Knicks lead the league in turnover ratio, coughing the ball up just 13.2 times per 100 possessions. And that number is even lower – 12.9 – when they’ve had two point guards on the floor.

And when they have two point guards on the floor, they shoot and make more 3s.

Knicks 3-point shooting

PGs on the floor 3PM 3PA 3PT% %3PA
Two 324 868 37.3% 37.8%
One 422 1152 36.6% 33.5%

%3PA = Percentage of total FGA from 3-point range

Even though Kidd’s shooting went into the tank in February, the Felton-Kidd combo still has great numbers over the biggest sample size of any of the combinations. And the new Felton-Prigioni combo has only been better, though in just 139 minutes. Kidd, meanwhile, has shot a more respectable 34.4 percent from 3-point range since being benched on March 1.

Amazingly, Prigioni has the best per-possession plus-minus on the team, with the Knicks having outscored their opponents by 9.7 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor. And it’s been on defense where Prigioni has made the biggest impact.

The Argentine is just 6-foot-3 and rather slight, but he’s a real pest on the ball and in the passing lanes (a few examples here, here and here). The Knicks have forced 18.0 turnovers per 100 possessions when he’s been on the floor, a rate which would lead the league by a good margin (the Clippers are No. 1, forcing 17.4).

Woodson alluded to Prigioni’s plus-minus when asked about his newest starter this week.

“He’s a student of the game and the fact that he’s kind of waited and he’s watched and he’s learned,” Woodson said. “He’s played the minutes that I’ve given him. His minutes have always been pretty positive. If it was five minutes, it was five good minutes. And I think the fact that he is very knowledgeable of the game, he has patiently sat and waited and now his minutes have grown a little bit, and he still looks like he belongs.”

The Knicks’ schedule is about to get much tougher, with their next five games against playoff teams, a stretch that includes visits to Miami and Oklahoma City. Chandler’s continued absence (with a bulging disc), meanwhile, isn’t exactly encouraging.

But the Knicks are certainly rediscovering their offensive rhythm at the right time, which has helped them stay comfortably on the right side (the 2-3-6-7 side) of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket. And while they certainly can’t maintain the level of offense they’ve been playing over the last seven games, this run has certainly established both Martin and Prigioni as valuable contributors going forward.

Signing K-Mart Low Risk, Some Reward?

If caveats were fish eggs, the New York Knicks would be awash in swanky hors d’oeuvres.

But Kenyon Martin‘s signing to a 10-day contract has nothing to do with caviar and everything to do with questions that hang over his preparedness and concentration for the task at hand. They’re the same qualifiers that would come up for any 35 year old who has played only portions of the past five NBA seasons.

Consider all the “if-then” clauses built into old Denver teammate Carmelo Anthony‘s assessment of Martin’s possible value to New York, as quoted by Frank Isola in the Daily News:

“The way I look at it, if he’s in shape, he’s ready to play and he’s locked in then I really think he’s a big attribute to this team,” Anthony said before the Knicks’ skid hit four with a 100-98 loss in Toronto. “I was able to play with him in Denver for multiple years and know from a basketball standpoint what he brings to a game when he’s locked in, when he’s focused.

“I haven’t talked to him. I haven’t seen him. People that I know that know him tell me he’s in shape and he’s ready and he’s focused. As long as that’s the plan, we’re all for it.”

Amar’e Stoudemire is a power forward whose minutes already have been dinged by coach Mike Woodson‘s use of Anthony at that spot. Adding Martin to the mix worsens the logjam. But Stoudemire was another one firmly in the wait-and-see camp, telling the News:

“I haven’t seen him in a year. We’ll see what type of shape he’s in and what he can do.”

Martin has missed all of the preseason and nearly four months of the regular season, and rumors that had him signing earlier with Miami never came to pass. Last year, the veteran headed to Japan during the lockout, than returned in February for a $2.5 million deal and a supporting role with the Clippers (5.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 22.4 mpg off the bench).

He is nine years removed from his lone NBA All-Star appearance and his production per 36 minutes has declined, hastened by injury, for the past seven years. At this point, the idea of Kenyon Martin seems greater than the reality, though the cost of a 10-day to the Knicks is low and Woodson was expected to meet with the power forward Saturday before he suits up, presumably in time for Sunday’s game against Philadelphia. Reported Isola:

After watching film of Martin from last season, Woodson said: “If he’s got anything left in his tank I think he can still help us.”

Winners, Losers In Deadline’s Big Chill

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DALLAS –
The Big Chill.

If Thursday’s NBA trade deadline was a movie, the audience would have walked out in the middle from boredom. This freeze came straight from the script that is the league’s new collective bargaining agreement — with its harsher luxury tax penalties and diminished roster flexibility for tax offenders — it put the clamps on a stunningly uneventful deadline day.

The big names were on the opening credits: Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.

Yet, when the curtain closed at 3 p.m. ET, Orlando Magic sharpshooter J.J. Redick stole the show as the lone player of significance to switch teams. The Milwaukee Bucks acquired the career 39.8 percent 3-point shooter in a six-player deal that involved five other relatively anonymous NBA names.

Only one potential blockbuster deal percolated, but ultimately died on the vine with the Atlanta Hawks going the distance in an attempt to strike a deal with the Bucks for Smith before pulling back. One reason so few big deals were discussed was simply because there wasn’t much talent realistically in play, a point that goes beyond any ramifications of the CBA.

The CBA that took effect in December 2011, and begins to smack tax-paying teams with stiffer fines next season, has clearly put franchises on the defensive. Teams that were once willing to add salary to consummate a deal no longer are. Teams that once didn’t think twice about sweetening a deal with a first-round pick, suddenly guard them with their lives.

“Cap room and draft picks, which are usually the currency of how these [big] deals get done, were at a huge premium and are something that everyone wants to have,” said Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who steered the most active club at the deadline with a couple of lower-tier deals.

There’s really no greater example of the effect of these changes than the Dallas Mavericks and their braintrust, owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson. Chronic and strategic over-spenders and tax payers under the old CBA, Cuban, who took on salary in deadline deals for Jason Kidd in 2008 and Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson in 2010, analyzed the new rules and reversed field last year.

He dismantled the 2011 championship team, choosing to covet cap space and the roster flexibility granted to teams that remain under the tax threshold, as well as newfound valuing of first-round draft picks as low-priced labor and trade assets.

It’s a strategy that no longer has the Mavs on speed dial of teams looking to make a deal and dump salary.

“It’s definitely a factor,” Nelson said of the CBA’s chilling effect Thursday after the deadline expired. “There’s no question that folks have their eye on the inevitable, and there’s no question that people are getting their collective houses in order.

“There’s some teams that see that on the horizon and act early, and other teams that will procrastinate and pay a dear price. But I think we’re right in the middle of that. It’s not brand-new news and so, yeah, I think you’re going to see a lot of teams try to correct themselves financially.”

The so-called “repeater” tax really has teams scared. Several clubs tried to deal away lost-cost players to avoid the repeater tax, which will whack franchises with an additional fine if they go over the tax line in three of four seasons. Golden State was successful in this venture. Chicago was not and will pay a luxury tax for the first time since its implementation.

This “repeater” penalty deterred teams from making deals that would have pushed payroll even slightly over the tax line, deals they might have normally green-lighted in the old days. So, is this the way of the future under the current rules?

“I can’t predict the future,” Morey said, “but I think the trend is more this way.”

WINNERS

Rockets: Morey’s stockpiling of assets the last couple years has been questioned, but he’s turned it into quite a haul starting with James Harden prior to the start of the season. The day before the deadline, Morey acquired the No. 5 overall pick, Thomas Robinson, from Sacramento. Morey’s dealing didn’t damage an abundance of cap space next summer that will be used to pursue a top free agent such as Dwight Howard and Josh Smith.

Bucks: GM John Hammond didn’t get his big fish in Smith, but he pulled off the deal for Redick, who should really help a club that’s been skidding down the East standings and needs a boost. Hammond held onto Jennings and Ellis and will have room to maneuver in the summer to add more pieces.

Thunder: GM Sam Presti continues to make shrewd moves. The acquisition of Ronnie Brewer from the New York Knicks for a second-round pick gives OKC another strong perimeter defender to help Thabo Sefolosha.

Celtics: Jordan Crawford might not be Jamal Crawford, but he can score in bunches and Boston was desperate to bolster its injury-ravaged guard backcourt. Boston fans are the winners here, too, with the team’s heart and soul, Garnett and Pierce, staying put.

Mavericks: Sure, on the surface, picking up 3-point specialist Anthony Morrow for defensive-minded guard Dahntay Jones doesn’t sound like much. But then SheridanHoops.com reminded us of this Dwight Howard interview in Russia when he named Morrow as one of a handful of players he’d like to have as a teammate.

Blazers: The team with the leanest bench in the NBA finally got some help in a minor deal that netted OKC guard Eric Maynor, who lost his job early on to Reggie Jackson. Maynor will help Rookie of the Year frontrunner Damian Lillard reduce his 38.5 mpg workload.

LOSERS

Hawks: They didn’t get the deal done to ship out Smith and now it seems they will lose him for nothing in free agency. On one level, however, it’s hard to say that this is a definitive loss. They’ll keep Smith (who might or might not come away from this experience deflated) for the rest of the season, and, with any luck, try to keep him while recruiting friend and fellow Atlantan Howard next summer. If GM Danny Ferry wasn’t pleased with the deals presented, it doesn’t always pay to take something, anything just because in the end you could be left with nothing. If Smith leaves, the Hawks will take the cap space and look to spin it in their favor.

Magic: They deal away a useful player and one they drafted in Redick and hand over his Bird Rights to the Bucks. There was no guarantee that Redick would re-sign with Orlando, but he at least had said the door was open to a return.  The Magic’s Josh McRoberts to Charlotte deal for Hakim Warrick is a head-scratcher.

Knicks: They didn’t upgrade at any position and gave away a solid defender in Brewer, who was starting for the club during their hot start out of the gates, but had slipped out of the rotation. New York did use the roster vacancy to sign veteran power forward Kenyon Martin.

Nets: They failed to land another high-priced player in Smith and failed to unload one of their own, Kris Humphries.

Nets Flying Beneath The Radar

 

HANG TIME, Texas -- Call it the luck of the Nets.

Just when it looks like they could really be building something, all everyone wants to talk about is their building, the futuristic and upscale Barclays Center.

And here in the early weeks of the 2012-13 NBA season, when a 5-2 start is enough to get Jay-Z’s toes tapping, New York and the rest of the league is dancing in amazement at the 6-0 start by the Knicks.

Yet for all that, maybe it’s quite understandable for the Nets to be uncelebrated, because theirs is a lineup that in a celebrity-driven league can go as undetected on the radar.

Deron Williams is a big-time name that belongs up on any marquee. But the trio of Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries has the bland aura of a buttoned-down law firm.

What matters, of course, is winning and the appreciation will overtake the image if the Nets continue to do that. For now, what’s changed is that the relocation to Brooklyn and the new digs has given them a bit of swagger, as was noticed by even the always-swaggering Celtics in Thursday’s loss.

But as was noted by our old friend Filip Bondy in the New York Daily News, there is still plenty of work to be done, especially at the defensive end.

“They have a lot more confidence,” Kevin Garnett noticed, about these new Nets. “They also got a lot of calls tonight.”

It was good to hear an opponent gripe about officiating, rather than smirk at another feeble effort from the home team. And here’s another change from the Jersey era: most fans actually cheered for the Nets in Brooklyn, instead of for the Celtics.

“It was a fantastic environment to play in,” Lopez said. “It hasn’t been like that here in a long time.”

Not everything is perfect. Avery Johnson has yet to completely trust his team’s defense, understandably. He ordered his players to foul the Celtics in the final minute, sending them to the line, rather than let Paul Pierce launch a possible back-breaking three-pointer. Boston missed four foul shots in those waning seconds, rendering the Net coach an accurate soothsayer.

“It was one of the bigger games that we had,” Johnson said. “To win a close game like that without Gerald Wallace means a lot.”

The Nets are now 5-2, while reminding nobody of Dave DeBusschere, Willis Reed, Charles Oakley or even Kenyon Martin. New Yorkers have always worshipped the fine art of stubborn resistance, from shot-blocking to sacrificing the body in the lane. We may have to make some new allowances for these Nets, who are doing things differently.

There will always be areas to improve and nits to pick. What would that matchup with Boston have looked like with Rajon Rondo in the Celtics’ lineup? How far to close that 30-point gap from their first run-in with the defending champion Heat?

It’s enough for now that the Nets are still upright in the Eastern Conference standings, ahead of both Miami and Boston.

Now a three-game road trip to Sacramento, the Lakers and Golden State might provide a few answers about what the Nets can be.

And who they are as well.

Slim Pickings Left In Free Agency

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Training camp is still about eight weeks away, but good luck trying to find any more free agents who can make a real impact on your team. A month after free agency opened, only slim pickings remain.

Want proof? The remaining free agent who played the most minutes last season is Alonzo Gee. Most rebounds? Shelden Williams. Yep, we’re down to the bottom of the barrel.

At this point, if teams are still looking to fill roster spots, they have certain needs. So we’ll list the best available guys by position. Here are three point guards, five wings, and three bigs who could be useful (or not) next season…

Point guards

1. Derek Fisher (OKC)
23.9 MPG, 5.6 PPG, 2.7 APG, 37.1% FG, 32.1% 3PT
The veteran will celebrate his 38th birthday next week, and it’s been a while since we’ve heard anything about a possible destination for next season. After a rough regular season, he shot a solid 38 percent (18-for-48) from 3-point range in the playoffs.

2. Jannero Pargo (ATL)
13.4 MPG, 5.6 PPG, 1.9 APG, 41.5% FG, 38.4% 3PT
Pargo provided an offensive lift for the Hawks in a handful of games last season. (more…)

In A Shootout, Clips Won’t Have A Shot





SAN ANTONIO – It’s usually a difficult choice when you’re playing the Spurs — pick your poison.

So the Clippers swallowed the arsenic and the cyanide. They let the Spurs beat them up on the inside with 42 points in the paint and a 47-34 domination of the rebounding and they also surrendered 13 buckets from behind the 3-point line to seven different Spurs.

At times the Clippers looked like confused rats inside a maze, not knowing which way to run to try to cover up a San Antonio shooter.

“If they don’t pass the ball to an open man, they’re coming out. It’s the bottom line,” said L.A. forward Kenyon Martin. “That’s the way (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) is coaching. I’ve had lots of battles with him. This is my fourth time playing him in the playoffs and it’s always been that way. The open man always hits the shot; that’s what they do well. They do an excellent job of spreading the floor, making plays and guys do an excellent job of being unselfish.” (more…)

Paul Shows His True Value As Clippers Drop Grizzlies, Move On To Face Spurs





HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – Now you know why the Lakers were in such an uproar when that Chris Paul trade fell through.

With a playoff series on the line in a Game 7 on the road in Memphis, a beat up and worn out Paul dragged the Los Angeles Clippers to the finish line against the Hang Time Grizzlies by sheer force of will. Then, the Clippers’ bench gave the final push Sunday at the FedEx Forum in the 82-72 win that sealed their date with the San Antonio Spurs in one Western Conference semifinal.

Through three quarters, however, it was all Paul. It was his toughness and relentless attacks on both ends of the floor that set the tone for the visitors and kept the home crowd from overwhelming the moment.

“I felt like we should have won earlier,” the always confident Paul said after leading the Clippers to just their third playoff series win in 41 years. “But it doesn’t matter. As long as you win, I think it is a step in the right direction for our franchise.”

He was so confident he bought plane tickets to San Antonio for his wife and son on Saturday. You don’t operate with that kind of confidence unless you know your will to win is greater than that of your competition. And time and again in this series, Paul showed himself as the superior competitor to anyone else on either side.

(more…)