## Wolves Better Than Their Record Says

VIDEO: Kevin Love leads the Wolves over the Sixers

### The List

Biggest difference, Pythagorean wins vs. actual wins

 Team Wins Losses Win% PWins PLosses Diff. Minnesota 17 17 0.500 23 11 6 Toronto 16 17 0.485 18 15 2 Golden State 24 13 0.649 26 11 2 L.A. Clippers 24 13 0.649 26 11 2 Atlanta 18 17 0.514 19 16 1 Orlando 10 24 0.294 11 23 1 Sacramento 11 22 0.333 12 21 1 Denver 17 17 0.500 18 16 1 Chicago 15 18 0.455 16 17 1

Pythagorean wins = Number of games a team should have won based on its point differential.
PWins = PTS^16.5 / (PTS^16.5 + OppPTS^16.5)

### The Context

The Wolves have the point differential of a team that’s 23-11, a mark which would be good for fourth place in the Western Conference. But they’re 17-17 and 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot. No other team comes close to matching Minnesota’s differential between their Pythagorean wins and actual wins and only two teams – Oklahoma City and Houston – had a bigger differential over 82 games last season.

How did the Wolves manage to underachieve so much in 34 games? By going 1-9 in games decided by five points or less and 8-1 in games decided by 15 or more. In the last two weeks their four wins have been by 22, 22, 12 and 31 points, while their two losses have been by two and four. After Monday’s blowout of the Sixers, the Wolves’ average margin of victory is 16.9 points and their average margin of defeat is 7.4.

So the Wolves are a better team than their record says they are. And though they’re 0-7 when trying to get back over .500 (since falling below on Nov. 25), their point differential says they should win 32 or 33 of their final 48 games. That would give them a total of 49 or 50 wins and, likely, a playoff spot.

Strength of schedule has to be taken into account. And it bodes well for the Wolves’ future as well. Of the 10 West teams at .500 or better, Minnesota has played the fourth toughest schedule. Eighteen of their 34 games have been on the road and they’ve played seven games with *a rest disadvantage vs. four with a rest advantage.

A rest disadvantage is when a team is playing the second night of a back-to-back against an opponent that didn’t play the day before. Only one team – the Clippers (4-5 in those games) – has played more games with a rest disadvantage than the Wolves (1-6). Cleveland (3-4), New Orleans (2-5) and Orlando (2-5) have also played seven such games.

Of course, while success or failure in close games is mostly arbitrary, the Wolves’ record in close games can’t be dismissed as just bad luck. Yes, a foul should have been called on Shawn Marion at the end of the Mavs’ 100-98 win on Dec. 30. And yes, Kevin Love doesn’t usually miss three free throws (that he was trying to make) in a row, like he did at the end of Saturday’s 115-111 loss to the Thunder.

But the Wolves have also had the league’s worst clutch-time defense, allowing their opponents to score almost 120 points per 100 possessions in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with a score differential of five points or less. When the game has been on the line, they’ve been unable to get stops.

In that Dallas loss, the Wolves gave up 11 points in the final five minutes. In the OKC loss, they gave up 17. And only two of those 28 total points were a result of an intentional foul in the closing seconds.

Overall, the Wolves rank 13th in defensive efficiency. But in clutch time, they’ve forced (far) fewer turnovers, fouled (a lot) more, and rebounded (a lot) worse.

Minnesota defense

 Timeframe DefRtg Rank OppEFG% Rank DREB% Rank OppTOV% Rank OppFTA Rate Rank Overall 102.4 13 52.1% 29 75.3% 10 17.2% 3 .210 1 Clutch time 119.5 30 49.6% 30 65.1% 26 12.5% 18 .576 27

DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
OppEFG% = Opponent effective field goal percentage = (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA
DREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
OppTOV% = Opponent turnovers per 100 possessions
OppFTA Rate = Opponent FTA / FGA

So, while the Wolves can take some solace in their point differential, they still have things to clean up if they want to perform better in close games.

### The bottom of the list

The team that has overachieved the most is the team the Wolves blew out on Monday. The Sixers are 12-23, but have the point differential of a team that’s 8-27, having lost 10 games by 15 points or more (four by more than 30). The Jazz also have a differential of four games and should be 8-29 instead of 12-25.

Next on the list are the Lakers (with 11 Pythagorean wins and 14 actual wins), the Nets (11 and 13), and the Cavs (10 and 12).

### Trivia question

The Knicks led the league with 87 second-chance 3-pointers last season (25 from league-leader Carmelo Anthony). This year, they rank 11th with only 23 (Anthony has just six). What team has 13 more second-chance 3-pointers than any other team in the league?

### More Wolves notes

• The most important thing you can do defensively is defend shots, so it’s pretty amazing that the Wolves are an above-average defensive team (points allowed per 100 possessions) while ranking 29th in opponent effective field goal percentage. Ten of the 13 teams with an opponent EFG% over 50 percent are below-average defensive teams. The other exceptions are the Heat (who rank 24th in opponent EFG% and ninth in defensive efficiency) and the Hawks (18th and 11th). Miami is actually below average in defensive rebounding percentage and opponent FTA rate as well, but has forced more turnovers per 100 possessions (18.8) than any team in the last 15 seasons.
• The Wolves are the third most improved offensive team in the league this season (behind only Portland and Phoenix), having scored 5.1 more points per 100 possessions than they did last season.
• But they’re still a poor jump-shooting team. Last season, they ranked dead last in effective field goal percentage from outside the paint at 42.3 percent. This year, despite the additions of Kevin Martin and a healthy Love, they’re only slightly better, ranking 27th at 42.7 percent. They rank 30th in mid-range field goal percentage, 29th from the corners, and 11th on threes from above the break.
• In games played between the 10 West teams at or above .500, Minnesota has the worst record. They’re 4-11 against the other nine, having gone 2-10 since a 2-1 start. Six of the 11 losses have come by four points or less.

The Blazers lead the league with 53 second-chance 3-pointers, ahead of the Hawks (40), Warriors (33), Lakers (33) and Sixers (29). Damian Lillard and Kyle Korver are tied for the league lead with 14 apiece, and Lillard’s teammate Wesley Matthews ranks third with 12.

## Morning Shootaround – Jan. 1

VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 31

NEWS OF THE MORNING

No. 1: Suns willing to pay Bledsoe – The Phoenix Suns and Eric Bledsoe have a good thing going this season. With Bledsoe at the helm, Phoenix is off to a surprising 19-11 start and would be the fifth seed in the Western Conference if the playoffs started today. The Suns realize it will cost them to retain Bledsoe during free agency this offseason. But, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPLA.com, they are willing to spend:

“What he’s done so far is what we thought he could do,” [GM Ryan] McDonough said.

But they just didn’t know for sure.

That’s why when it came time to lock Bledsoe into a contract extension, the Oct. 31 deadline passed without a resolution, making Bledsoe a restricted free agent this summer.

“Sometimes that works out and both parties think it’s a good deal for them. Other times it doesn’t,” McDonough said. “Obviously we don’t have a whole lot of money committed for the future, we don’t have a lot of long-term contracts on our books. So we’ll have no problem stepping up and paying Eric whatever it takes to keep him.”

Whatever it takes?

“Correct,” McDonough said. “Any reasonable offer.

“We have some advantages. We’re able to give him another year, five instead of four if we choose. We’re able to give him higher-percentage increases than other teams too. And then if another team does make an offer, we can always match that. So we feel like we’re holding the cards with Eric, and more importantly, I think Eric’s had a good experience here so far. He’s played well and the team has played fairly well. I think he kind of likes what we’re doing.”

For his part, Bledsoe said he’s fine with the situation.

“I was telling [my agent] over the summer, if the contract doesn’t happen I’m ready to play a full season,” Bledsoe said. “I was confident because I’d worked hard all summer, and I knew that I was going to play a lot more than I did the last three years, so I was ready.”

When that came to bear, Bledsoe said he put the situation out of his mind.

“I’ve just got to play,” he said. “I’m focused. I need to keep moving. I’m not worried about [the contract]. If I get worked up about it, I won’t be focused on the game.”

***

No. 2: Raptors React to Gay Trade — Mostly every NBA player realizes that this league is a business and trades happen. Still, this knowledge does not make receiving the news of a trade any easier for players to hear. NBA-TV Canada offers us a rare look at how the Toronto Raptors reacted to the news of a trade on a recent episode of their series Open Gym (reaction starts around the 10:00 minute mark):

***

No. 3: Raptors RollingThose same Raptors who were shocked to hear about their friends being traded have bounced back just fine. They’ve won five of their last six games and appear to be a rare team in the Eastern Conference who can actually win. And they’re doing it with toughness, a word rarely used to describe the Raptors in recent seasons, writes Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:

Once again turning up the intensity, the attention to detail, the effort and the toughness when it came down to winning time, the Raptors rolled in another excellent fourth quarter, holding the Bulls to just four field goals on 24 shots in the final 12 minutes of an 85-79 victory.

They did it in what is becoming typical Raptors fashion: Turning the screws when the game got tight.

“These are the kinds of games you have to play if you’re going to be serious about being a playoff team,” coach Dwane Casey said after the Raptors won for the fifth time in the last six games and seventh time in the last nine.

“We have to play with that kind of toughness, that physicality, if we’re serious about being a playoff team.”

Toughness was the buzzword of the night for a game that at times was barely watchable. There were no moments of sustained offensive flow, no fast breaks or transition baskets; it was tough, hard-nosed, beat-’em-up basketball and the Raptors never retreated an inch.

Digest that for a moment: A team that used to have a reputation for softness more than anything, hit first, hit often, hung around and beat a veteran team at its own game.

“You have to meet their force with force if you’re serious about winning,” said Casey. “We did that and we have to continue to do that and I’m not going to let up. I’m not going to relent from that because that’s who we are, it’s who we’ve got to be. I know, to win in this league you have to be a physical, bad-behind team.”

[Demar] DeRozan was, for one of the few times this season, a non-factor offensively because every time he got near the ball, a second or third defender was there to harass him.

“If I have to be the decoy and that helps the next person on this team get an open shot, I’m all for it,” he said. “It’s at the point now where I know I can score the ball whenever I want, but if they don’t need me to do that at that point in time, then I will do whatever I can, whether it’s rebounding, creating a shot for a teammate or whatever it is to get us a win, that’s what I’m going to have to do.”

That attitude is all-encompassing with this group right now.

“I think the guys in this locker room believe — we believe in each other, we believe in what we’re trying to do,” said Lowry. “I think we know we have a chance to do some things and we can take care of business when times are tough. We’re showing the team camaraderie and spirit that we have, we’re all happy for each other.”

.***

No. 4: Malone Tutors ThomasSacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas has proven so far this year that his strong play last season was not just a fluke. He’s averaging 19.2 points, 6.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game on an impressive 46.5 percent shooting from the field and 42.5 percent from three-point. He credits a lot of his success to the relationship he’s established with new head coach Michael Malone. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee has the lowdown:

The partnership between Michael Malone and Isaiah Thomas continues to develop as the coach consults the point guard on the best ways to improve the Kings.Malone said fixing some of the Kings’ late-game problems comes down to him calling better plays, and that’s where his relationship with Thomas can help.

“Those things take time,” Malone said. “And one thing I like about Isaiah is we’ve had a lot of conversations, a lot of dialogue, and he’s open, wants to learn and he’s trying to figure it out. It’s not a lack of effort. It’s just a matter of going through it and picking the spots for when do I attack.”

Thomas has referenced Malone and himself more often when talking about plays the Kings should run and the best way to get the ball to players. He and Malone spend a lot of time talking about the Kings.

“On flights sitting together, before practice, after practice, we’ve had a lot of conversations,” Malone said. “Before games where we’ve sat and spent whether it’s been 20 minutes, 45 minutes just talking about the game, players, where guys are most effective, where he can pick his spots. We’ve had a number of conversations.”

Malone’s goal is to create synergy between himself and Thomas because he plays most of the minutes at point guard.

“Isaiah’s got to be an extension of me on the court,” Malone said. “He’s got to make sure he’s getting guys looks, know what plays to call, now what matchups he’s going to exploit and how to get those guys going where they’re most effective, and that’s part of his maturation of going from being a scoring guard off the bench to being a playmaking guard.”

Malone said consulting with Thomas or any other player is part of his job and he wants his players’ input.

“I preach trust a lot, and if I don’t trust my players, it’s just a hollow word,’ Malone said.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kyle Korver has now hit a three-point shot in 101 straight gamesKevin Garnett went without a field goal for just the second time in his careerKyrie Irving will undergo an MRI on Wednesday after feeling a ‘pop’ in his left knee

ICYMI of The Night: Paul George decided to end 2013 on a strong note with this dunk toward the conclusion of yesterday’s game against the Cavaliers:

VIDEO: Play of the Day: Paul George

## Morning Shootaround — Dec. 19

VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 18

NEWS OF THE MORNING

No. 1: Wade rides to the rescue in Heat comeback – LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen all made big plays during the Heat’s wild comeback against the Indiana Pacers, but it was the performance of Dwyane Wade that truly stood out in a contest that felt much more like a playoff game than it did a regular season game in December. His game-high 32 points provided the Heat the opportunity needed to storm back and snatch the game. It was work that we’ve seen sparingly from Wade this season as he nurses the soreness in his knees. It’s finishing work the Heat will need more of, particularly in their matchups against the Pacers, writes Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald:

The Heat trailed 88-80 after Pacers firebrand Lance Stephenson converted a driving layup, but the Heat’s defense steadied itself from there and, thanks to some clutch three-pointers, the home team outscored the Pacers 12-4 over the final 4 1/2 minutes.

“We just kept grinding,” said Dwyane Wade, who finished with a game-high 32 points. “We knew we were getting some good opportunities, but we just couldn’t pull it as close as we wanted, but we knew we weren’t far out of it.

“We got some great defensive stops that allowed us to get out in transition and get some easy baskets and get us back in this thing. You don’t want this team in half-court every possession, so we had to get stops, and we went with the bigger lineup with [Chris Bosh] and [Chris Andersen], and we were able to get more rebounds and get out and go a little bit.”

Wade was 8 of 11 in the second half and matched Paul George point for point in the final 24 minutes of the game. Both players had 18 points in the second half; George finished with 25 points to lead Indiana.

Pacers forward David West was an unstoppable force for long stretches in the second half until Heat coach Erik Spoelstra plugged Andersen in the paint alongside Bosh. The combination, along with James at his hybrid point-forward position, came through with needed stops.

A running dunk by Wade with 2:47 remaining cut the Pacers’ lead to three points, and, after a pair of missed jumpers by the Pacers, Bosh knocked down a three-pointer with 90 seconds left to tie it at 92-92. Bosh finished with 15 points.

“Our guys are fearless, no question about it,” Spoelstra said. “They would want to play every single game like this, with this type of intensity and drama and having to make big plays down the stretch.”

VIDEO: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade’s highlights against the Pacers

***

No. 2: Asik could be headed for Boston at any moment: – All that’s left for the Houston Rockets to do is finalize whatever the best deal is for their disgruntled big man Omer Asik. The Boston Celtics have emerged as the clear frontrunner, according to multiple reports, including one from our very own Fran Blinebury (who reports that Rockets GM Daryl Morey is weighing all of his final options before executing a deal by his self-imposed deadline that ends today). Rockets coach Kevin McHale and Celtics boss Danny Ainge have a longstanding relationship as former teammates, friends and trade partners (Kevin Garnett …), so Asik going to Boston will shock no one. Still, there are other possibilities in play until something gets done officially:

The rumor mill had the Celtics as the frontrunners to land the 7-footer with an offer of Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee and a first-round draft pick, a deal first reported by Yahoo! Sports. The teams were said to be haggling over the draft pick, which would be protected to some degree in the 2014 lottery.

Such a trade would fulfill Morey’s desire to get a backup center, a shooter and a draft pick. However, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald wrote that Celtics president Danny Ainge made that offer a week ago, but was turned down at the time by Morey.

The Rockets general manager sent word out around the league on Dec. 6 that he would entertain offers for Asik and choose the package he liked best by Dec. 19, the last date that any players obtained are eligible to be dealt again by the Feb. 20 trade deadline. Since that time, Morey had talked with many clubs, including the Sixers, Cavaliers and Hawks. The Knicks and Trail Blazers were also said to have expressed interest.

Asik has been sidelined for more than two weeks with a thigh injury that eventually caused swelling around his knee.

With Paul Millsap the ideal acquisition for the Rockets to put on their front line next to Dwight Howard, it was interesting to note that Morey began following the Atlanta forward’s official Twitter page —@paulmillsap4 — a short time before the Rockets tipped off against the Bulls on Wednesday night. It is certainly not out of the question that the social media conscious Morey was just having fun dropping a red herring.

If the deal with the Celtics should prove to have legs, it would reunite Howard and Bass, who played together for two seasons in Orlando. At just 6-foot-8, Bass would certainly be an under-sized backup for Howard. He does not have range out to the 3-point line that the Rockets crave, but can knock down mid-range shots to open things for Howard around the basket.

The Celtics could perhaps sweeten their offer by substituting forward Jeff Green for Bass. But Green’s contract, which has two more seasons at \$18.4 million due, is not the kind that would normally appeal to Morey, who values keeping salary cap flexibility for his next deal, which is always just around the corner.

***

No. 3: Gasol no longer on the trading block? – You can go ahead and remove Pau Gasol‘s name from the list of big men who could be moved … right now. According to a report from ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein, the Lakers are no longer shopping their four-time All-Star. Gasol and Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni got sideways last week but repaired the damage quickly and moved on. Now, instead of his name being swirled around in trade rumors alongside Houston’s Asik, Gasol appears to be safe … for now:

The Lakers entered the 2013-14 campaign fully intending to keep Gasol for the whole season and then to explore the feasibility of re-signing him in the summer. But ESPN.com reported last week the Spaniard’s recent public complaints about how he’s been used in D’Antoni’s system, as well as some subpar play, prompted L.A. to begin assessing its trade options.

However, the way Gasol quickly made amends with conciliatory comments about D’Antoni during the team’s recently completed 2-2 road trip has eased concerns. Gasol had 21 points and nine rebounds in the Lakers’ 96-92 win in Memphis on Tuesday night, after totaling 16 points and 10 rebounds Monday night in a loss to Atlanta. In the two games, Gasol made 16 of 21 shots to raise his overall shooting percentage to .439.

“I just think people go through periods of slumps where you question things,” D’Antoni said of Gasol after Tuesday’s win. “Like I said, we were out of whack. Different things go on. But Pau’s an All-Star, he’s one of the best players in the league, he worked through it and he’s back to normal.”

Sources told ESPN.com this week that the Lakers, before Gasol’s resurgent play, engaged in exploratory talks with several teams but never got too far with any of the calls.

Among the teams they spoke with were the Rockets, sources say, but those conversations never got serious, even with Houston determined to trade disgruntled center Omer Asik before a self-imposed Thursday deadline.

Sources say the Lakers do have certified interest in Knicks center Tyson Chandler, but New York appears to have no interest in fielding offers for Chandler at this time, having just welcomed the former NBA Defensive Player of the Year back to the lineup after a fractured fibula sidelined Chandler for the past 20 games.

ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard reported Saturday that the Lakers, facing a slew of injuries in the backcourt, made an inquiry about the Knicks’ Iman Shumpert, but sources say those talks were likewise merely exploratory.

The Lakers are still assessing their long-term plans and whether there’s a way to keep Gasol beyond this season, with the 33-year-old headed for unrestricted free agency in July. Sources say that team officials have communicated to Gasol in various ways that they remain interested in keeping him in L.A. beyond this season.

***

No. 4: Warriors surging, catching Spurs at perfect time – It certainly sounds good in theory, the Golden State Warriors finally catching their breath after a road-heavy start to this season and now catching the defending Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs when they are on their heels a bit, and at Oracle Arena. The Spurs will be without Tony Parker (shin contusion). The Spurs, of course, have a way of destroying the best plans, as Matt Schwab of the Oakland Tribune points out:

The reigning Western Conference champions will return to Oracle Arena on Thursday night, playing on back-to-back nights on the road, without injured point guard Tony Parker (shin contusion).

But don’t try selling any softened Spurs scenario to Warriors coach Mark Jackson.

“With no Parker, it makes a difference, but they still find ways to execute and hurt you,” Jackson said. “Kory Joseph had success against us in the playoffs. Patty Mills can disrupt the game. He has a scoring mentality. They added (Marco) Belinelli, so they’ve got guys that know how to win ballgames.

“It’s still going to be a challenge for our defense and us overall.”

The Warriors got their mojo back in a 104-93 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, as David Lee became David Lee again with 21 points and 17 rebounds, and Andre Iguodala returned triumphantly from a 12-game absence after suffering a strained left hamstring. Klay Thompson helped limit Eric Gordon to five points on 1-for-9 shooting in 24 minutes, employing what Jackson called “elite defense.”

Moreover, Stephen Curry continued his electrifying run with 28 points and 12 assists. The pieces all fit together, just as they did during an 8-3 start to the season before Iguodala went down.

“Really good team effort,” Iguodala said. “We moved the ball really well, but at the same time Steph was in a really good rhythm within the flow of the game. It was really helpful when we defend the ball like we do, and when we move the ball and he’s able to attack without having to force everything.

“Everything was just comfortable, in a rhythm. You could tell he was in his comfort zone, and the same with David Lee.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Clippers pop the Pelicans, thanks to DeAndre Jordan‘s stellar work … It wasn’t pretty, but the Knicks get it done in the clutch against the Bucks … Kyle Korver is working on more than just a 3-point streak, the Hawks’ shooter is doing it from all over … Pistons’ big man Andre Drummond has only scratched the surface of his immense potential.

ICYMI(s) Of The Night: A little friction in Miami (between LeBron James and Mario Chalmers) never hurts, especially when you finish the way the Heat did against the Pacers …

VIDEO: Passion is the name of the game in Miami, at least for LeBron and Chalmers

## Consistency Puts Korver Atop List

VIDEO: Kyle Korver nails the record-breaking 3-pointer

Seems easy for a great shooter, right?

Make a single 3-pointer in game. Do it in every game over the course of a season.

Dale Ellis couldn’t. Peja Stojakovic couldn’t. Ray Allen, who has made more 3-point shots than any player in NBA history, hasn’t. Rashard Lewis got to 62 before his string ended. Stephen Curry reached 53 and then drew a blank last season.

Dana Barros held the record since 1996 at 89 consecutive games with a shot made from behind the arc until Kyle Korver hit No. 90 on Friday night.

Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described the scene Friday night at Philips Arena:

“It feels good,” Korver said. “I’m glad it’s done. My naps the last couple of games haven’t been very solid. I try not to think about getting this close and not getting it. That would not have been fun. I’m proud of it for sure.”

At the timeout following Korver’s record breaker, the team showed a video tribute celebrating the achievement. Korver was greeted by teammates as he came off the floor. Korver addressed his teammates in the locker room following the game to express his thanks for their role in the accomplishment. His teammates thanked him for earned a day off Saturday.

Korver had family in town – but not for the occasion of an NBA record.

“Yeah, they came for my daughter’s birthday, not for me,” Korver said. “She turned one yesterday and they happened to be in town and got to enjoy it.”

The record breaker came with 5:29 left in the first quarter of the Hawks’ 108-89 thumping of the Cavs. Korver finished the game hitting 2-for-3 from long range and he’s been making them at a clip of more than 46 percent since the streak began on Dec. 4 of last year at Oklahoma City.

Since he began his streak of long range consistency, Korver has been producing volume as well as accuracy. In fact, he shot 6-for-9 on treys when he tied the record in the previous game against the Clippers. During his 90-game run only Curry, Klay Thompson and Ryan Anderson have made more 3-pointers.

VIDEO: Korver talks about setting the new NBA record

## Ellis Fitting in Just Fine in Big D After Impressive Debut

x

VIDEO: Monta Ellis impresses (32 points, eight assists) in his Mavs debut

DALLAS – The contract took longer than expected and it wasn’t for as much as he hoped. Yet all Monta Ellis could talk about this summer was how happy it made him to join the Mavericks and to play for a coach who cared enough to visit him at his offseason home in Houston.

Back in Dallas for Wednesday night’s season opener against the Atlanta Hawks, “Monta Basketball,” as he labeled his game during Media Day one month ago, rocked the house. Give the man credit. He’s always said he can do it all, and in Game 1 of 82, he didn’t disappoint, putting up a hard-charging 32 points, eight assists, four rebounds and a pair of steals in a team-high 37 minutes.

As for Ellis’ seven turnovers? Scoreboard. Dallas dropped the Hawks 118-109. Only the Warriors and Timberwolves (in overtime) put up more points in their openers. So on nights like this you live with seven turnovers.

Ellis drained 11-for-17 shots from the field, knocked down 2-for-3 from behind the arc and made all eight of his free throws. He showed off his handle, shuffled through traffic, dished off half of his assists in the final game-sealing six minutes of the fourth quarter, and four dimes found Dirk Nowitzki, who opened his 16th season with 24 points that included four long balls and five assists.

“He was great,” Nowitzki said of his new teammate. “His all-around game has impressed me more than his scoring. And he can score in bunches, so quick. He’s always attacking.

Ellis’ 32 points were the most by any player making their Mavs debut. Who saw 11-for-17 coming? Welcome to that other side of “Monta Basketball,” the side that furrows coaches’ brows by finishing the preseason in a 14-for-50 funk.

“I just wanted to be more aggressive. I’ve been coming in late with [assistant] coach D.A. [Darrell Armstrong], getting up a lot of shots, trying to get my rhythm,” said Ellis, who ended the preseason in a bit of a funk. “Right now I’m in a good rhythm.”

When coach Rick Carlisle met with Ellis in Houston, they went to the gym. Carlisle didn’t harp on shot selection or mention efficiency. He homed in on his mechanics, and Ellis liked that. It doesn’t mean Carlisle isn’t strapped in for a roller-coaster ride with the 6-foot-3 gunslinger, but he is a believer in an environmental shift aiding helping to make Ellis a more efficient scorer.

“I don’t think he’s ever played with a team quite like this that had bigs that can shoot, things like that,” Carlisle said. “He’s going to be fine.”

The Hawks, with Jeff Teague starting at point and Kyle Korver at shooting guard for the majority of the game, had no one that could stay in front of Ellis. The challenge stiffens Friday night when Dallas plays at Houston (8 ET, League Pass), which can attack Ellis with the larger James Harden and light-on-his-feet Patrick Beverley (assuming both are healthy). On Saturday, Tony Allen and the Memphis Grizzlies (8:30 ET, League Pass) come to town.

But for the opening curtain, Ellis delivered swagger to a club that for two seasons has struggled to keep up offensively. No one is more aware of that fact than Nowitzki, 35, the team’s leading scorer for 13 seasons running.

“He can score with the best of them in this league,” Nowitzki said. “We’re going to need him to score.”

VIDEO: Ellis on his monster debut for the Mavericks

## One Team, One Stat: Three Efficient Scorers In OKC

VIDEO: OKC shines in true shooting percentage

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Finally, we look at the Oklahoma City Thunder, who led the league in point differential, but couldn’t overcome Russell Westbrook‘s knee injury in the playoffs..

The basics
 OKC Rank W-L 60-22 2 Pace 95.9 10 OffRtg 110.2 2 DefRtg 99.2 4 NetRtg +11.0 1

### The stat

3 - Players the Thunder had in the top 7 in true shooting percentage (minimum 500 FGA).

TS% = PTS / (2* (FGA + (0.44*FTA))).

### The context

No. 1 – Kevin Durant: 64.7 percent

Durant led the league in true shooting percentage despite taking the fifth most shots in the league. LeBron James was the only player to also rank in the top 25 in both field goal attempts and true shooting percentage.

James was the better shooter from the field, but Durant was the more efficient scorer because of his ability to get to the free throw line (215 more times than James) and shoot 90 percent on all those freebies. He was the 11th player in NBA history to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the line, and had the highest true shooting percentage (thanks to the highest free throw rate) of the 11.

No. 5 – Serge Ibaka: 61.2 percent
Ibaka was one of two players (Chris Bosh was the other) who ranked in the top 10 in field goal percentage from both the restricted area and mid-range (where he led the league).

No. 7 – Kevin Martin: 60.8 percent
Martin is somewhat of a rare breed: a great 3-point shooter (he ranked 10th last season) who gets to the free throw line quite a bit. And he converted those free throws at the fourth-highest rate in the league.

Highest true shooting percentage, 2012-13

 Player FGM FGA FG% 3PM 3PA 3PT% FTM FTA FT% eFG% TS% Kevin Durant 731 1,433 51.0% 139 334 41.6% 679 750 90.5% 55.9% 64.7% LeBron James 765 1,354 56.5% 103 254 40.6% 403 535 75.3% 60.3% 64.0% Kyle Korver 277 601 46.1% 189 414 45.7% 67 78 85.9% 61.8% 63.7% Jose Calderon 312 635 49.1% 130 282 46.1% 72 80 90.0% 59.4% 61.6% Serge Ibaka 446 778 57.3% 20 57 35.1% 143 191 74.9% 58.6% 61.2% Tiago Splitter 315 563 56.0% 0 2 .0% 208 285 73.0% 56.0% 60.9% Kevin Martin 350 778 45.0% 158 371 42.6% 219 246 89.0% 55.1% 60.8% Carl Landry 325 602 54.0% 1 3 33.3% 223 273 81.7% 54.1% 60.5% Martell Webster 281 636 44.2% 139 329 42.2% 168 198 84.8% 55.1% 60.1% Danny Green 297 663 44.8% 177 413 42.9% 67 79 84.8% 58.1% 60.0%

Take those three guys and a guy who can put defenses on their heels like Russell Westbrook, and you’re going to have a very efficient offense. OKC ranked second in offensive efficiency last season, just a hair behind the Heat, who were the best shooting team (in terms of effective field goal percentage) in NBA history.

How much Martin’s departure will hurt? Yes, he was the third scorer on the Thunder, but Martin played 391 minutes without either Durant or Westbrook on the floor last season. Durant played just 44 minutes* without either Martin or Westbrook, and Westbrook played just 26 minutes without either Durant or Martin.

*He could top that in the Thunder’s first game in Utah on Wednesday.

The Thunder held their own (both offensively and defensively) in those minutes that Martin was on the floor without the two All-Stars. And don’t assume that it was mostly garbage time; 239 of the 391 minutes came before the fourth quarter.

Thunder efficiency, 2012-13

 On the floor MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/- Durant + Martin + Westbrook 1,073 117.5 103.2 +14.3 +301 Durant + Westbrook, no Martin 1,546 108.4 97.2 +11.2 +311 Durant + Martin, no Westbrook 456 110.8 99.4 +11.4 +77 Martin + Westbrook, no Durant 216 106.5 100.9 +5.7 +5 Martin by himself 391 104.7 97.1 +7.7 +55 Durant by himself 44 121.3 81.6 +39.8 +32 Westbrook by himself 26 120.5 78.7 +41.8 +17

Stars win championships, but depth gets you through the regular season grind. The Thunder will need to figure out where their second-unit offense is going to come from.

Once Westbrook returns, Thunder coach Scott Brooks can stagger the minutes of his two stars, so that one or the other is always on the floor with the second unit.

Until Westbrook returns, Durant is going to have to carry a bigger load. That could mean that he averaged 35 points a game for the first month, but it also could mean that both his and the Thunder’s efficiency takes a hit.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

## One Team, One Stat: The Hawks Can Shoot

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Atlanta Hawks, who made even more changes this summer.

The basics
 ATL Rank W-L 44-38 14 Pace 94.7 13 OffRtg 102.7 15 DefRtg 101.8 10 NetRtg +0.9 13

### The stat

61.8 percent - Effective field goal percentage for Kyle Korver, the league leader among players who attempted at least 500 shots last season.

### The context

Among the 177 players who took at least 500 shots, Korver ranked 73rd in standard field goal percentage. But 414 (69 percent) of his 601 shots were from 3-point range. He ranked second in the league in 3-point percentage and since effective field goal percentage takes the extra point you get for a three into account, he was the most effective shooter in the league.

As a result, the Hawks’ offense was at its best with Korver on the floor, scoring 105.7 points per 100 possessions, compared to just 98.8 with him on the bench. That differential of 6.8 ranked 22nd among 256 players who logged at least 1,000 minutes with one team last season.

Here’s Korver running off screens to the tune of 7-for-11 shooting (5-for-8 from 3-point range) against the league’s No. 1 defense in Game 4 of the first round, a 102-91 win for the Hawks.

The Atlanta offense was even better — scoring 107.6 points per 100 possessions — when Korver was on the floor with Al Horford. Though Horford only took six threes last season, he ranked 25th in effective field goal percentage. He was both a great finisher — ranking seventh in restricted-area field-goal percentage — and a great shooter — ranking 37th in mid-range field goal percentage.

Random trivia: Chris Bosh and Serge Ibaka are the two guys who ranked in the top 10 in both areas.

As a team, the Hawks ranked sixth in effective field goal percentage. They ranked in the bottom 10 in offensive rebounding percentage, turnover rate and free throw rate, but were almost an average offensive team because they shot so well. And that was with Josh Smith taking 535 shots from outside the paint.

Paul Millsap‘s effective field goal percentage (49.8 percent) wasn’t much better than Smith’s (49.1) and also below the league average (50.1). Smith was the better finisher at the basket, but Millsap was close to an average mid-range shooter, while Smith was not.

DeMarre Carroll, a decent but infrequent shooter, will likely start at small forward for Atlanta, with Elton Brand providing more mid-range shooting off the bench. With Korver and Horford leading the way, Atlanta should once again be one of the league’s best shooting teams.

Hawks’ top six, 2012-13 shooting

 Restricted area Other paint Mid-range Corner 3 Above-break 3 Player FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG% Teague 205 363 56.5% 85 208 40.9% 60 155 38.7% 10 25 40.0% 79 223 35.4% Korver 14 23 60.9% 2 11 18.2% 72 153 47.1% 66 139 47.5% 123 275 44.7% Carroll 70 97 72.2% 12 42 28.6% 47 115 40.9% 10 23 43.5% 10 44 22.7% Millsap 236 366 64.5% 74 186 39.8% 106 284 37.3% 6 10 60.0% 7 28 25.0% Horford 294 402 73.1% 82 201 40.8% 197 451 43.7% 2 3 66.7% 1 3 33.3% Brand 78 133 58.6% 58 138 42.0% 90 206 43.7% 0 0 0 1 0.0% Total 897 1,384 64.8% 313 786 39.8% 572 1,364 41.9% 94 200 47.0% 220 574 38.3% Lg. Avg. 60.5% 38.5% 39.3% 39.0% 35.1%

So, as a group, the Hawks’ top six guys shot better than the league average from every spot on the floor. And when Lou Williams comes back, he’ll help them even more from outside the paint.

With Smith gone, the Hawks will likely take a step back defensively. But they have the tools to make up for it with an improved offense. They will need to find a way to get more attempts in the restricted area and more trips to the line, whether that’s with Jeff Teague attacking off the dribble or Horford getting more touches in the paint. Carroll will also need to be a more willing shooter from the corners, as a way to punish defenses for paying too much attention to Horford, Korver and Millsap.

If they can do those things, this will not be an easy team to defend.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

## One Team, One Stat: Can Bulls Get No. 1 Defense Back?

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Chicago Bulls, who are getting their star back.

The basics
 CHI Rank W-L 45-37 t-11 Pace 92.0 27 OffRtg 100.4 24 DefRtg 100.3 5 NetRtg +0.1 15

### The stat

5.1 - More points per 100 possessions that the Bulls’ defense allowed last season (100.3) than they did the season before (95.3).

### The context

Only two defenses — New Orleans (+5.3) and Philadelphia (+6.4) — regressed more. The Bulls also regressed more offensively (-4.1 points per 100 possessions) than every team but one (Phoenix). In total, the Bulls were 9.2 points per 100 possessions worse last season than they were in 2011-12. That was the biggest NetRtg drop-off in the league.

Bulls efficiency under Tom Thibodeau

 Season OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank 2010-11 105.5 12 97.4 1 +8.1 2 2011-12 104.5 5 95.3 1 +9.3 1 2012-13 100.4 24 100.3 5 +0.1 15

The offensive regression is easily explained by the absence of Derrick Rose. And as long as he doesn’t take too many nights off this season, the Bulls should be back in the top 10 or 12 on that end of the floor. If Jimmy Butler shoots 3-pointers like he did in the playoffs, they’re definitely in good shape.

Being in the Top 10 on both ends of the floor qualifies you as a title contender. But if the Bulls are going to regain their standing as the best regular-season team in the Eastern Conference (as some predict they will), they will need to get a lot of that defense back. And the defense regressed more than the offense.

Better offense will certainly help the defense. More made baskets will allow the Bulls to set up their D more often. But there’s more to address. In particular, there were three areas where the Bulls regressed defensively last season.

Bulls defense under Tom Thibodeau

 Season Opp2P% Rank Opp3P% Rank DREB% Rank OppTOV% Rank OppFTA/FGA Rank TransD Rank 2010-11 45.6% 1 32.6% 1 76.2% 3 15.1% 11 .291 9 1.88 15 2011-12 44.2% 1 32.5% 3 74.3% 8 14.3% 25 .236 3 1.63 12 2012-13 46.7% 5 34.6% 5 73.6% 14 14.8% 22 .278 19 1.79 23

DREB% = Percentage of available defensive rebounds obtained
OppTOV% = Opponent turnovers per 100 possessions
TransD = Opponent fast-break points / Opponent steals

First, their transition defense went from above average to below average, an area where better offense will definitely help. But they also went from third to 19th in opponent free throw rate, which translated into an extra three free throws per game for the opposition. Finally, the Bulls didn’t protect the rim as well, going from first in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area in ’11-12 to 10th last season.

Here are some clips from a Christmas game in which the Rockets racked up 31 fast break points, 24 trips to the line, and shot an incredible 30-for-40 in the restricted area.

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This is where the absence of Omer Asik comes in. The Bulls still defended the rim decently with Joakim Noah on the floor, allowing their opponents to shoot 58.0 percent in the restricted area. But opponents shot 62.3 percent in the restricted area with Noah off the floor. With Asik anchoring the second unit, that number was a paltry 49.8 percent in 2010-11.

The defense as a whole regressed with Noah off the floor. And that’s something that didn’t happen in the first two seasons under Tom Thibodeau. One of the biggest keys to the Bulls’ No. 1 defense in 2010-11 and 2011-12 was how good their bench was on that end of the floor. This used to be a great defensive team from 1-15. Now, not so much.

Bulls defense with Noah on and off the floor

 Noah on floor Noah off floor Season MIN DefRtg MIN DefRtg 2010-11 1,575 99.6 2,391 95.9 2011-12 1,945 98.6 1,243 90.0 2012-13 2,426 98.4 1,540 103.4

Asik, C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer are all gone. And unlike Rose, they’re not coming back. Kirk Hinrich is a solid defender on the perimeter, but the defensive depth is not there anymore. Taj Gibson is still around and is a great defensive player, but he’s not a center.

The Bulls were forced to lean on Noah much more last season. His minutes jumped from 30.4 per game in ’11-12 to 36.8 in ’12-13. And he didn’t hold up, missing 12 of the Bulls’ last 15 games of the regular season. Once again this season, his health and durability will determine how good the Bulls are defensively.

Maybe the Bulls don’t need to be the No. 1 defensive team in the league anymore. Maybe Rose’s return, the development of Butler and the addition of Mike Dunleavy will improve them enough offensively that they can make up for the defensive drop-off.

But as we wonder how good Rose is going to be this season, the Bulls’ defense is as much a question as the offense is.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

## Hawks, Horford Searching For Identity

ATLANTA – In each of his first six Media Days with the Atlanta Hawks, Al Horford gladly shared the spotlight with others, older teammates who understood the fluctuating dynamics of the NBA in ways Horford never will.

A lottery pick, All-Star and franchise cornerstone with the Hawks, Horford’s been a mainstay and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. But the guys he looked around the room at during his rookie season and since then are no longer around. One by one they’ve vacated the premises in various ways (trades, free agency, etc.), leaving Horford as literally the last man standing from the previous regime and era of Hawks basketball.

From Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams to Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia, some of Horford’s closest friends and colleagues in the league have moved on to new adventures. It’s a feeling Horford, the Hawks’ All-Star big man, is still trying to get used to with the seven-year switch going on at Philips Arena this season.

“It’s weird man,” Horford said Monday. “It is. It’s hard for me to believe it’s my seventh year. I started, we started with a big group of guys here and it’s hard for me to believe it’s just me from that original group of guys. But it’s new and it’s exciting, an exciting time for the Hawks.”

It’s not necessarily the fresh start Horford envisioned when the Hawks went into free agency with \$34 million in cap space and hoop dreams that included luring some of the biggest names on the market to town to help usher in this new era.

When the Dwight Howards and Chris Pauls decided to go or remain elsewhere, Horford realized that the new identity the Hawks were planning on would include him wearing the tag as the face of the franchise on his own.

“I had to take a step back and look at everything,” Horford said of his initial reaction to the Hawks’ work in free agency. “Initially I was concerned. But at the end of the day, I have to trust [Hawks general manager] Danny [Ferry] and his vision and where he wants to go. So at this point I’m putting all my trust in him and working with the guys we have here and we’re going to try and make the best of it with what we have.”

No offense to Paul Millsap, Elton Brand or any of the other new veteran faces here, but this is Horford’s team — and he knows it. And no amount of conversation from Ferry and coach Mike Budenholzer stressing the “group dynamic” is going to change that fact.

“I believe so, at this point you can say that,” Horford said. “But most importantly, I’m a team player. Not one person is going to make that big of a difference. And I think we all understand that in the locker room.”

That same locker room that Horford has called home his entire NBA career will still take some getting used to, at least until the “weird” phase passes.

“It’s weird because … you create all of these relationships with different players over the years,” he said. “And whether it’s Joe Johnson, Marvin, Zaza or Josh and now they’re gone and you come back around in September and see all these new faces and it’s tough. I still have Jeff [Teague] here and Kyle [Korver] and a couple of my rookies, John Jenkins and Mike Scott are still rookies until the first game of the season, but we have something here. With Lou Williams, he’s coming along [from his injury] and I’m excited in what I’ve seen so far. We’ve been working together a couple of weeks so far here in September and I like what I’ve seen.”

He’s not the only one. Ten-year veteran Royal Ivey began his career with the Hawks and is back for his second stint, this time as a backup point guard. He understands the change in dynamics that Horford will be dealing with the season and said he’ll remind him whenever needed that this is definitely Horford’s team.

“Al is the last of the Mohicans around here,” Ivey said. “He’s a cornerstone, a veteran now. It’s basically his team with Jeff Teague and the guys they’ve brought in like Millsap. Al has to lead by example and with his voice. It’s a new regime and a different locker room. But that’s everywhere, it happens everywhere. New management, new culture and a different style. He definitely has to take the onus with this group and say, ‘listen, we’ve been here but we want to go to uncharted waters and do things a bit differently.’ He has to put that on his shoulders and carry this team.”

It won’t be easy.

The Hawks are trying to navigate the process of reconstituting the culture of a team that has amassed six straight playoff appearance and five straight winning seasons. They’re trying to fix something that wasn’t necessarily broken, yet was clearly in need of revamping.

If they succeed, they’ll do so with Horford’s face and game as their new and true identity.

## Childress Eager For Another Shot In NBA

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Josh Childress has no regrets.

And he’s not looking for a payday or anyone’s pity. Let’s clear all of that up now, before we get into the meat of his story, a comeback one of sorts, in need of an appropriate ending.

His only desire is to finish what he started nearly a decade ago, when he was the sixth pick in the 2004 NBA Draft and began what was supposed to be a long and promising NBA career with the Atlanta Hawks.

No, contrary to the rumors circulating in the basketball universe, he is not ready to retire. Far from it. He has not lost an ounce of the desire that he had the day he first set foot in the league. He is simply a veteran player whose career has taken enough twists and turns the last five years you’d need motion sickness medicine to survive it.

“It’s been a ride, a wild ride,” said Childress, who is three weeks away from finishing up his degree at Stanford while training vigorously in Palo Alto, Calif., and contemplating his next basketball move. “It’s not about the money for me. It’s about having an opportunity to get back out there and play the game at the highest level. That’s what is important to me.”

Childress is a free agent this summer, just another seasoned veteran looking for the right training-camp fit, the right place to show that he can still play a vital role for the right team in a mutually beneficial situation.

He’s just a month past his 30th birthday and is as healthy as ever, as athletic as ever, his basketball IQ remains off the charts and his body is fresh. After all, he’s played just 1,485 minutes in 102 games over the past three seasons with the Phoenix Suns and Brooklyn Nets. But he’s operating in a realm where the prevailing wisdom of the day changes like the wind. What’s hot today is ancient history tomorrow. Fall off the NBA radar long enough and you’ll fade into obscurity.

“I feel like I’m the best I’ve ever been right now,” Childress said. “When I was with the Hawks it was a little different. I’d been there four years and really grown in that system. We all knew each other and knew each other’s tendencies. And I don’t think I’ve changed as a player since then. For a guy like me, it’s always been a matter of the right fit. My time in Phoenix … it just wasn’t the fit i thought it would be and they thought it would be. That’s not a good or a bad thing, it’s the way it is. You look around the league every year and guys are in situations that work and some that don’t, and a change of scenery changes everything.”

One choice alters career path

Childress made a drastic change in scenery five years ago, a move that altered the course of his career and carved out his place in NBA free-agent lore. He is far removed from that spotlight now, but five years ago he was in a much different space. He was dealing with the constraints of restricted free agency and a Hawks franchise that was in tumult as members of its ownership group were embroiled in a legal fight that overshadowed everything.

Childress’ unprecedented move to bolt for Greece and a groundbreaking contract with Euroleague power, Olympiacos, landed him a deal that would pay him the equivalent of \$32.5 millions over three years. That deal dwarfed the five-year, \$33 million the Hawks offered only after learning that the deal from Olympiacos was on the table and legitimate option for Childress.

He accepted Olympiacos’ offer — one that he could not refuse — and made a business decision no matter how controversial it might have seemed at the time. That decision, along with the five-year, \$34 million deal he signed when the Hawks traded him to the Suns after he returned from his two-year stint in Greece, is one of the reasons his comeback story now isn’t about getting another lucrative pay-day.

That’s also what makes his current predicament so perplexing. In a league where money and championships serve as the ultimate motivators, in different order for different players at different times in their careers, Childress is someone decision-makers have had a hard time figuring out.

“We honestly haven’t seen enough of him the last couple of years to know what he’s got [left] and what’s driving him now,” an Eastern Conference executive said. “There’s no doubt he was a solid payer before he went to Europe. He was one of the best sixth-men in the league and on a team that was on the rise. I watched him a little bit when he was in Europe and he played well. He didn’t dominate necessarily, but he was solid. But since he came back [to the NBA] it’s been a mixed bag. The Suns were a mess when he was there and they ended up amnestying him. And he only played like 14 or 15 games with the Nets before they waived him. This is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, man. Everyone knows that.”

Childress was the victim of an ill fit, some poor timing and plain bad luck in his last two NBA stops.

Stats revolution affects Childress’ future

A broken ring finger on his shooting hand slowed him down in his first season with the Suns. He came back sooner than he probably should have, given his desire to prove himself after playing in Europe, and was in a system where wings were spot-up shooters and not the jacks-of-all-trades player Childress thrives at being.

He was on a non-guaranteed deal in Brooklyn was playing lights out in the preseason before a severely sprained ankle knocked him out of the rotation and opened the door for veteran Jerry Stackhouse, who promptly went on a shooting tear. Childress was slated to serve as Gerald Wallace‘s backup, but never got the chance. When it became clear that he wasn’t going to be in the Nets’ plans, he requested and was granted his release.

In the larger scope, Childress has also become a casualty of the analytics revolution that has swept through the league the past five years. High-percentage jump shooters who stretch the floor have become the new utility players who cash in most during free agency (see Kyle Korver and J.J. Redick this summer).

There’s always room for a pro’s pro on someone’s roster, a guy who does all of the dirty work and accepts that role. But now that guy needs to be a dead-eye shooter, too. And while Childress is a career 33 percent 3-point shooter (52 percent from the floor overall), he’ll never be confused for one of these shooting specialists.

But he knows there is always a place for the skills he has honed over the course of his career. He just needs the right setting to show it … again.

“You know it’s really training camp, just being able to show what I can do on the court,” he said. “You get on the court in that situation and do the little things I’ve always tried to do; hustling and rebounding, and all the stuff that helps my team win. More than anything, what I’d love is to get into a situation where I’m with somebody who actually believes in me and what I can bring to a team. I can’t say that I’ve had that lately.”

Fighting for one last chance

Between dispelling foolish rumors and having to remind executives that he was drafted ahead of guys like Andre Iguodala, Luol Deng and even his friend and former Hawks teammate, Josh Smith, for reason, this summer has been a trying process for Childress’ camp.

“Without question it’s frustrating,” said his agent, Chris Emens. “It’s frustrating that so many of the experts … it’s funny how quickly things change. Josh hasn’t changed as a person or a player since he got back from Greece. It’s almost mind-boggling to see him go from a guy worth \$6 million a year to fighting for a contract. The thing I love is that Josh wants to fight for it. It’s really not about the money for him. It’s about pride and proving people wrong. I’ve never seen him with chip on his shoulder like this.”

That chip will rest squarely on that shoulder until training camp, wherever that might be. But it’ll be a slow-burn for the always measured Childress. He’s had offers to play elsewhere, overseas. Ironically enough, Olympiacos pursued him again, though it wasn’t an offer he couldn’t refuse this time.

He’s focused strictly on the NBA this time around in free agency.

“I’m patient,” Childress said. “I realize the situation that I’m in. I’ve had offers to go elsewhere. But I feel like I am a NBA player and I can still play at a high level. It’s a mater of getting in a situation where I can do that.”