Posts Tagged ‘Lamar Odom’

‘Chubbygate’ ends with chuckle in Dallas


VIDEO: Parsons says he’s pleased that coach Rick Carlisle apologized for his comments

DALLAS – When Mark Cuban was asked to weigh in on what has become a sensitive issue around here, the Dallas Mavericks owner peered down from his step machine, sweat beading on his forehead and said: “I have to talk about Chubbygate?”

The hubbub started in the early stages of training camp when Mavs coach Rick Carlisle called out prized new acquisition Chandler Parsons for being out of shape. Carlisle suggested that Chandler was a bit too paunchy around the mid-section.

It’s quite the accusation against a heartthrob and bona fide blue-jeans model.

The 6-foot-9 small forward has said he wanted to bulk up some above the waist to help him better guard power forwards when needed. Still, Carlisle shoved on with his ill-fated motivational tactic following Friday night’s preseason game.

“An increase of 18 to 20 pounds is just too much,” Carlisle said. “We talked about it today. We talk about it a lot. He’ll get there, but he looked tired out there and a little heavy-legged, and the extra seven or eight pounds aren’t helping.

“I don’t mean to call him out in public or ridicule him, but it’s just a fact. He’s an important guy for us. We just need him to get to his right conditioning and weight level so he can play his best because we’re going to need him to play a lot of minutes over the course of 82 games.”

Chandler, who signed a $46 million offer sheet from the Mavs in July and officially joined the franchise when the Houston Rockets decided not to match, wasn’t appreciative of such motivation. He could have just rolled his eyes understanding that in years past Carlisle had called out Lamar Odom a few seasons ago and Samuel Dalembert last season.

Of course, neither of those players had instantaneously become the franchise’s second-highest-paid player in a very public courting, and is arguably the Mavs’ most important player for title contention.

Over the weekend, Chandler wanted the world to see just how “overweight” he is, so he snapped a shot of his bare washboard torso while standing on a balcony of a Dallas high-rise and posted it on Instagram. It made the social media rounds, quickly. A lot of people took notice, including, Carlisle said, his wife and daughter.

“I received my punishment,” Carlisle said. “My wife and daughter became full-time Chandler Parsons Twitter and Instagram followers.”

At that point, Carlisle must have felt he was seeing a different body image than everybody else, so he felt compelled to apologize? Carlisle issued a statement Sunday prior to the Mavs’ preseason game against Indiana:

“It was unfair and inappropriate to single out Chandler Parsons after the game Friday night. I have apologized to him and the entire team for this error in judgment. Not only is Chandler Parsons one of our best players, he is also one of our hardest working players and the kind of high-character person we strive to bring to our city and franchise.

I also made it clear to our players and staff this morning that this type of bad example is not acceptable and beneath the dignity of a championship organization like the Dallas Mavericks.”

Well then.

The apology was well-received by Parsons.

“It just shows what kind of guy he is,” Parsons said after Sunday’s game. “We’re in this together. Everybody makes mistakes and he came to me as a man. We have a great relationship. It’s in the past, and we’re going to move forward. It’s over with.”

Thank goodness.

But was Carlisle really wrong for publicly airing his concerns? Or was it bad judgement to take such a tact? Was Parsons, 25, just overly sensitive? And either way, was an apology of such conviction truly warranted from one of the league’s most successful coaches?

Cuban, known at times to fuel his own headlines by speaking out to the media, called “Chubbygate” a non-event and said he doesn’t know if it was necessary for Carlisle to apologize. But, he’s glad Carlisle did.

“Rick’s smart,” Cuban said. “When he feels like somebody’s sensitive about something or he touched a nerve, he deals with it. He doesn’t run away from it. He doesn’t pretend it didn’t happen. It was no big deal. It’s a non-event.”

We now return your regularly scheduled programming.

Morning shootaround — July 12


VIDEO: Gasol close to deal with Bulls

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Gasol headed to Chicago? | ‘Melo back to Knicks | Wade, Haslem next for Heat | Wiggins for Love? | New Cavs coach ecstatic to coach the King

No. 1: Gasol, Bulls getting closer — After he turned down contract offers from the Lakers, it appears 7-foot center Pau Gasol, and not Carmelo Anthony, could be headed to play for the Chicago Bulls. Gasol is considered the Bulls’ top choice if they were unable to land Anthony. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein has the details of a story broke in the wee hours of Saturday morning:

Pau Gasol is inching closer to becoming a Chicago Bull, according to the Spanish newspaper Marca and other media reports.

The paper first reported late Friday that the Bulls are closing in on a deal with Gasol despite the absence of a sign-and-trade agreement with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne late Friday that a sign-and-trade arrangement had not been struck, with the Lakers still looking for draft compensation — as they received in Friday’s earlier trade with the Houston Rockets to take back the contract of Jeremy Lin — as the primary return for Gasol.

ESPN.com reported earlier Friday that the Bulls and San Antonio Spurs had emerged as the two leading candidates to land Gasol, with San Antonio poised to land the Spaniard if the Bulls and Lakers could not finalize a sign-and-trade deal.

Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein late Friday that the Bulls were prioritizing their pursuit of Gasol even ahead of their long-running efforts to sign Carmelo Anthony, fearing that Anthony is likely to stay with the New York Knicks.

The Lakers appear resigned to seeing Gasol exit after a successful six seasons together. Prior to Friday, the Lakers offered Gasol two deals: two years worth $23 million, and three years worth $29 million, a league source told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin. Gasol turned down both offers, according to the source.

***

No. 2: Melo preparing for New York return — The process has taken longer than anybody expected, but it appears the end result will be what everybody expected, and that’s Carmelo Anthony returning to the New York Knicks. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reports that forward will reveal his plan in the next 24 to 48 hours:

Carmelo Anthony will be competing against LeBron James for at least five more years but he wasn’t about to begin battling James for the national spotlight on Friday.

With James stunning the basketball world by announcing he was leaving the Miami Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, a source close to Anthony said that the free agent forward would reveal his plans within the next “24 to 48 hours.” The same source said that Anthony was preparing to re-sign with the Knicks.

When reached in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Anthony told the Daily News that he would make a decision on Thursday. The News reported that Anthony, according to a close friend, was committed to re-signing with the Knicks. However, the Chicago Bulls made another strong push early Thursday, and Anthony postponed his announcement.

If Anthony agrees to return to the Knicks, he will sign a five-year contract worth $129 million. The Bulls can offer only $75 million over four years. For the past two days, however, the Bulls have been trying to orchestrate a sign-and-trade with the Knicks that could potentially increase Anthony’s deal to $90 million.

But the same source claims that a sign-and-trade is unlikely. If the Bulls are unable to acquire Anthony, they will shift their focus to signing Lakers free agent Pau Gasol, whom Knicks president Phil Jackson is also pursuing.

***

No. 3: Riley begins reconstruction job — The headline on the website of the Miami Herald screamed “ALL IS NOT LOST” and that’s because hours after the news broke that LeBron James was leaving the Miami Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Heat president Pat Riley secured All-Star forward Chris Bosh and will also bring back Dwyane Wade plus Heat lifer Udonis Haslem, who had also opted out of his contract prior to the start of free agency. Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald has the story:

James’ pending decision had put the Heat’s free agency plans on hold for several intense days, but the rebuilding process moved quickly for team president Pat Riley after the stunning announcement. It didn’t take long for Bosh, Wade and Udonis Haslem to sign off on returns to the Heat.

Bosh – who all along said he wanted to stay in Miami but was considered by many a lock to sign with Houston after James’ departure – agreed to stay with the Heat and will get a five-year deal worth a reported $118 million. Deals were also being worked out for Wade and Haslem.

Wade, who brought Bosh and James to Miami four years ago and helped keep Haslem in the fold, attempted to engineer magic at the 11th hour for the Heat on Thursday. He attended James’ basketball camp in Las Vegas and then flew back to Miami with James on Thursday night. At that point, the around-the-clock coverage of the Heat’s saga appeared to be playing out positively for Miami. But behind the scenes, James had already made up his mind. He was going home.

***

No. 4: Wiggins in deal for Love? — The Cavaliers would love, no pun intended, to pair Kevin Love with LeBron James. But to get the discontented Timberwolves star in a trade, the Cavs will have to knock the socks off Minnesota president and coach Flip Saunders. And that means making No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins the centerpiece of the deal. There’s been conflicting reports as to whether the Cavs will be willing to do that. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com is hearing they just might:

A new superteam could form soon in Cleveland. CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger reported that there’s a feeling that the Cavaliers could make No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins available in a Kevin Love trade.

In addition, ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that Love is “intrigued” by the idea of playing with LeBron James and would sign a long-term deal with the Cavs.

Meanwhile, according to Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears, Wiggins’ camp doesn’t believe he’ll be moved to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It’s a tricky situation, as teams generally don’t like to trade 19-year-old potential stars. Generally, teams like Cleveland don’t get them, though. With James back in the fold, the Cavaliers are looking at contending for championships, and acquiring Love would get them to that point much faster than waiting for Wiggins to develop.

One has to wonder what James’ preference is. He obviously knows how great Love is, and has played with him on Team USA. He’s also known Wiggins since he was a high schooler, and discussed being a mentor to Cleveland’s young players in his announcement. Then again, he didn’t mention Wiggins by name in that story.

Thinking logically, it shouldn’t be surprising if a Love-Wiggins blockbuster is one of the moves set in motion by James’ signing. Love wants to win, and would have a great chance of doing that in the Eastern Conference alongside the best player in the world. Minnesota needs to get some young talent with star potential if it’s going to trade Love, and that’s exactly what it could get with Wiggins. It’s not the talented rookie’s fault he’s being mentioned in trade rumors, he’s just found himself in an extremely unusual situation.

***

No. 5: Cavs coach ecstatic to work with LeBron — Four years ago, Byron Scott took over the Cavaliers, surely expecting to coach LeBron James, who was a free agent. Scott never got the chance. When new Cavs coach David Blatt recently signed on, he had no inkling that he would coach James. Now he will, and he’s thrilled about the opportunity. The Associated Press caught up with Blatt at the Las Vegas Summer League:

“First and foremost I’m happy for LeBron, because he made a very difficult decision,” said new Cavaliers coach David Blatt after his team’s 70-68 win. “Obviously he made a decision from the heart more than anything else and I respect him for it and I’m joyful for it.

“Second of all, for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the state of Ohio – if you were around Cleveland today you would understand what I’m talking about – he just lifted a whole state by himself.”

Blatt said he learned the news at 9:45 a.m. Las Vegas time – 12:45 p.m. Cleveland time, about 30 minutes after the news broke — during his team’s shootaround.

Friday night, from media row, to fans in the stands, Summer League staff, to the person pushing buttons in the freight elevator — everyone was talking about King James.

“When I learned about it, I wasn’t altogether surprised, particularly after reading what LeBron wrote, which was heartfelt and so indicative of the kind of person that he is; that just made it all the sweeter,” Blatt said. “I thought ‘I’m gonna have an awfully good seat to watch the best player in the world play this year.'”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: After LeBron news, Cavs sell out season ticketsMemphis steals Vince Carter from Mavs … LeBron reaches out to friend, former Heat teammate Mike MillerJeremy Lin gets fresh start with the Lakers … Hawks sign Lakers swingman Kent Bazemore to two-year deal … Rookies Parker, Wiggins make Summer League debut in front of packed houseLamar Odom‘s comeback bid with Knicks ends quicklySuns acquire Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas in trade.

2014 Free Agency — The Other Dominoes

From NBA.com staff reports

Now that LeBron James is headed back to Cleveland, the belief is many of the other players in the free-agency pool are going to start making deals now, too. Here’s the latest from around the Twitter-sphere and the Internet as we get closer and closer to a real flood of free-agent news …

Update, 1:51 a.m. — Pau to Bulls means ‘Melo stays a Knick?

There’s no such thing as too late for free agent news, and one late-night agreement nearing completion between big man Pau Gasol and the Bulls might mean the end to the will-he-stay-or-will-he-go Carmelo Anthony saga in New York. Is ‘Melo a lock to stay the apple of NYC’s eye?

Update, 12:05 a.m. — Memphis nabs Vince Carter

For three seasons in Dallas, Vince Carter transformed himself into a knock-down 3-point shooter. He wanted to return to the Mavericks, but not at the bargain rate he felt he had been signed on for three summers ago even as his career seemed to be coming to a close. In a surprise, Carter has signed with the Memphis Grizzlies, a team desperate for 3-point shooting.

The Grizzlies shot the fewest 3s in the NBA last season, even with Mike Miller back on the team. And with Miller looking elsewhere, perhaps joining LeBron James in Cleveland, the Grizzlies simply had to get a shooter off the bench.

Update, 9:05 p.m. — Hawks make late entry into Gasol sweepstakes

A few hours ago Pau Gasol tweeted that he was nearing a decision. His suitors had been narrowed to two, reportedly the Spurs and Bulls. Now the Atlanta Hawks have made a late bid for the 7-foot center, envisioning Gasol playing next to center Al Horford.

Update, 8:15 p.m. — Knicks waive Lamar Odom

Lamar Odom‘s comeback is apparently over before it really began.

The versatile forward who won titles with the Los Angeles Lakers very well could be at the end of his NBA career. At 34, it’s tough to see another team take a chance on him. Knicks president Phil Jackson obviously has the L.A. connection with Odom and looked to give an opportunity.

Odom didn’t play at all last season after a rough summer that allegedly included heavy drug use.

Update, 7:05 p.m. — Pat Riley releases statement on LeBron

Heat president Pat Riley, who challenged the Big Three to return to the Heat and fight another day if they’ve got the guts, released the following statement on LeBron James‘ decision to leave Miami and return to the Cleveland Cavaliers:

“While I am disappointed by LeBron’s decision to leave Miami, no one can fault another person for wanting to return home. The last four years have been an incredible run for South Florida, HEAT fans, our organization and for all of the players who were a part of it. LeBron is a fantastic leader, athlete, teammate and person, and we are all sorry to see him go.

Over the last 19yrs, since Micky and I teamed together, The Miami HEAT has always been a championship organization; we’ve won multiple championships and competed for many others. Micky, Erik and I remain committed to doing whatever it takes to win and compete for championships for many years to come. We’ve proven that we can do it and we’ll do it again.”

Update, 6:45 p.m. — Lakers bring back Jordan Hill; Gasol a goner?

The Lakers are slowly but surely starting to fill out their roster now that it appears they will not be getting the services of Carmelo Anthony. Of course, Anthony still has yet to make his decision official.

After trading for guard Jeremy Lin earlier in the day, the Lakers are now set to bring back power forward Jordan Hill.

It’s becoming more apparent that Pau Gasol will have played his final game with the Lakers. He reportedly turned down an offer from the Lakers and is being heavily pursued by contenders such as the Spurs and Thunder, plus the Bulls and the Knicks could be an option if they keep Carmelo Anthony.

Gasol tweeted earlier Friday that he was nearing a decision.

Update, 6:30 p.m. — Suns, Kings agree to Isaiah Thomas trade

Phoenix is loaded at point guard, but they’ve made an aggressive play by engaging in a sign-and-trade for diminutive Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas. Thomas will head to Phoenix on a four-year, $27-million deal.

The surprising Suns rolled with two point guards in the starting lineup last season with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, a restricted free agent who the Suns have vowed to keep by matching any offer.

Dragic, named the league’s Most Improved Player last year and who could easily have been an All-Star, will essentially be entering the final year on his contract. He is set to make $7.5 million this season and then has a player option on $7.5 million in 2015-16, an option he will likely opt of to seek a bigger payday.

Update, 5:40 p.m. — Bosh stuns Houston, stays in Miami

In the wake of losing LeBron James, The Miami Heat aggressively pursued Chris Bosh , who appeared to be on the verge of accepting a deal with the Houston Rockets. In a stunner, Bosh accepted Miami’s five, year, $118 million deal.

The Heat are now making a strong push to bring Dwyane Wade  and forward Udonis Haslem.

It’s big news for the Heat, who looked to be reduced to rubble following James’ announcement. And it’s a crusher for the Rockets. They miss out on an All-Star power forward that seemed a perfect fit beside Howard.

Now the Rockets have a difficult decision whether to match the Mavs’ three-year, $45 million offer sheet to Chandler Parsons. If Houston matches, it will eat up the remainder of their cap space.

Only a few hours ago, the Rockets looked to be a vastly improved team. Now they might wind up watching a key player walk to the rival Mavs.

Update, 5:34 p.m. — Swaggy stays in Hollywood

Nick Young is headed back to the Lakers.

Update, 4:25 p.m. — D-Wade going home?

Woj is, as Woj often does, tearing it up. Here, he offers a blurb on Dwyane Wade who, remember, turned down nearly $42 million to get out of his contract with the Heat in hopes of giving Pat Riley more room to get LeBron back.

With that now not happening, would Wade be up for a return to his home town?

Update, 4:03 p.m. — Chicago, Charlotte after Hinrich

Captain Kirk average 9.1 points and 3.9 assists in 29 minutes a game last year for the Bulls.

Update, 3:16 p.m. — More on Lin’s move, Rockets’ Bosh chase

Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski provides an update on L.A.’s move to pick up Jeremy Lin from Houston and the Rockets’ pursuit of Chris Bosh:

In an effort to clear salary cap space for Chris Bosh, the Houston Rockets have reached a deal to send guard Jeremy Lin to the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Rockets will send a 2015 first-round pick, and other draft considerations to the Lakers to unload the final year of Lin’s $14 million expiring contract that includes a salary cap hit of $8.3 million based on the deal’s structure.

The Lakers will send cash and the rights to an overseas player, sources said.

Moving Lin to Los Angeles will clear most of the salary cap space necessary to sign Bosh to a four-year, $80 million-plus contract. The Rockets are still working to formalize a commitment out of Bosh, who will leave Miami because of the departure of LeBron James to Cleveland. The Rockets also plan to match Chandler Parsons‘ three-year, $46 million offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks once Bosh has committed, sources told Yahoo Sports.

Bosh was planning to speak to Houston coach Kevin McHale on Friday afternoon, a source said.

Update, 3:05 p.m. — Another move in store for Cavs?

In order to get LeBron James the max contract offer he’s seeking in Cleveland, Alonzo Gee may end up being dealt …

Update, 2:54 p.m. — Report: Lin dealt to Lakers

And, just like that, Jeremy Lin is on his way to Los Angeles …

Update, 2:52 p.m. — Report: Bosh, Rockets inching closer to commitment

Keep reading below, but it looks like the Rockets and Chris Bosh are nearly a done deal …

Update, 2:46 p.m. — Reports: Lakers, Rockets finalizing Lin deal

It looks like Jeremy Lin is headed back to home state of California …

Update, 2:36 p.m. — You know you’re a big deal when …

… the White House chimes in on your latest career move …

Update, 2:24 p.m. — What about ‘Melo? Bulls staying in touch

Carmelo Anthony, much like Chris Bosh, is one of the big free-agent pieces who has yet to reveal/decide where he’s going next. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune says the Bulls aren’t out of the race yet. And, as ESPN reports, the incumbent Knicks are in the race, too … (more…)

Morning Shootaround — April 15


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played April 14

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bright future in Phoenix | Kupchak still non-committal on D’Antoni’s future | Report: Knicks to add Odom? | Lillard inks big shoe deal with adidas | Raptors celebrate milestone victory

No. 1: Suns inspired about future despite tough loss — In the history of the Phoenix Suns franchise, the team has recorded 47 or more wins 23 different times. But perhaps this time of hitting that number of wins has been more rewarding than any others in the past. While Phoenix’s playoff dream died last night with a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, there’s no denying the Suns proved many experts (including those on this very web site) wrong all season long. Although the Suns will miss the playoffs for a record fourth straight season, there’s plenty of reason to look ahead in Arizona, writes Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic:

The franchise’s hard luck now lays claim to four of NBA history’s six winningest teams to not make the playoffs. A three-game losing streak in the final week leaves the Suns (47-34) out of the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season, the franchise’s longest postseason drought since 1971-75.

“If we had three All-Stars and don’t make the playoffs, then you go, ‘Oh, my goodness,’ but we had guys who proved they can play in this league and play at a high level,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “I thought we did the best we could.”

Memphis is the type of team that has given the Suns problems all season because it keeps them from their fastbreaking strengths with a physical, grinding method. The Suns went 3-13 this season against the NBA’s six slowest-paced teams, with Memphis being the slowest with a great half-court defense.

“It makes it tough on the executing part,” Hornacek said. “As a team, we’re not quite at that point where we can play in the half-court and execute plays over and over. Our strength is getting out in the open court.”

“It’s always tough when you finish the season and then you look back and you’re saying, ‘OK, the game against the Lakers (a 115-99 loss on at March 30), we should’ve won that, a game against Sacramento (lost twice in Sacramento),” Dragic said. “You have to take care of business home and away against those teams that are not so successful. It’s really tough when you have to play the last three games against San Antonio, Dallas and Memphis and we came out short.”

And as Coro points out in a separate story, Suns guard Eric Bledsoe has made a solid case for a long-term future in Phoenix, too:

The way Bledsoe has risen to the occasion over the past two weeks has shown the Suns and their fans — and, perhaps most importantly, Bledsoe — just how special he can be. Bledsoe is figuring out his stardom on the same timeline as the Suns and their fans.

He is only 24 years old, is in his first season as a starter, has lost 39 games to injury and is coming off knee surgery. He just posted his best three career scoring games in a span of nine nights when the pressure was on the most. Bledsoe came within an assist of his first triple-double, and within a free throw of three 30-point games.

And this is just the learning stage for him.

“His strength, his scoring, his defense, his facilitating stuff,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “I haven’t seen a point guard that strong at his size in a long time that can do all the things he can do. He’s a load to deal with.”

Bledsoe’s court vision was the first thing that surprised the Suns in the fall, and it only will improve, assuming his court acumen does. His perimeter shot already is turning around.

Coupled with his powerful driving ability, it has changed his career 43.1 shooting percentage into a 48.0 clip this season.

“When he needed to step up his game, he did,” Suns guard Goran Dragic said.

“The biggest thing we’re reminding him is to keep attacking,” said Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, who has teased Bledsoe about his conditioning, pointing out how often he walks the ball up. “If he can attack like a Monta Ellis does, he’s hard to stop. He gets through there, and he’s strong. I think he realizes he can become one of the best players in the league with hard work.

“He’s got that fire and drive.”

The Suns already knew they would match any July offer sheet that Bledsoe might sign in restricted free agency or even beat any team to it with the advantage of offering him an extra year with larger raises.

That might have been a mixed sell for an unproven player had he ended this season with no comeback or a shaky return from knee rehabilitation. To see the Bledsoe that has finished the season, it shows how advantageous it is to be a proactive front office that acquires a budding star in a trade rather than leaning on free agency.

“Hopefully, he’s capable of staying here another few years,” Suns power forward Channing Frye said. “That’d be nice. He’s just developing as a point guard. He was concerned about his turnovers, and I told him, ‘Dude, you’re passing. You’re ahead of the game.’ I’ve played with some of the best, and between him and Goran, I’m pretty excited about the future of the Phoenix Suns.”


VIDEO: Suns players react to Monday’s loss to the Grizzlies

***

No. 2: Kupchak quiet about D’Antoni’s future — Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has one game left this season — a road game in San Antonio on Wednesday, the season’s final night. Could that also be the end of D’Antoni’s days as L.A.’s leader? The word out of the Lakers’ camp remains vague at best (last thing we heard from GM Mitch Kupchak was that Kobe Bryant wouldn’t have a say in D’Antoni’s coaching future). After last night’s victory in Salt Lake City over the Utah Jazz, Kupchak remains non-committal about D’Antoni, writes Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

Mitch Kupchak paused for several seconds. It wasn’t an easy question to answer.

What will be Mike D’Antoni’s fate?

Finally, the Lakers’ general manager spoke briefly about the Lakers’ coach.

“I’m not going to discuss Mike other than to say there is no timetable for any type of decision. So there’s really nothing to share,” Kupchak told The Times.

It represented a departure from his comments last month that D’Antoni was “doing a great job under the circumstances.”

That might still be true. The Lakers have lost a staggering 308 man-games to injury this season, making it hard to judge any coach.

But Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol aren’t fans of D’Antoni’s offense and most Lakers followers don’t support D’Antoni, even though he hasn’t had a healthy roster in his two seasons.

So there’s a lot to mull for the Lakers.

In D’Antoni’s favor, the Lakers owe him $4 million next season and are tired of paying people not to coach them. In the last 10 seasons, only Phil Jackson was not still owed money when he left the team.

Rudy Tomjanovich was paid $9 million when he abruptly resigned as the Lakers’ coach midway through the 2004-05 season. He was in the first season of a five-year, $30-million deal and later served as a consultant for the team.

The Lakers initially owed Mike Brown $7 million when they fired him five games into last season. They recouped about $2.5 million of that money, as per NBA rules, when Brown was hired to coach Cleveland this season.

The Lakers don’t want the reputation of a coaching turnstile.

D’Antoni declined to speculate on his job status Monday. Asked about his future, he said he was prepared for exit meetings with players Thursday and Friday. And he was eager for Easter.

He gave a typically self-deprecating answer when asked how he kept his sanity this season.

“What sanity?” he said.

***

No. 3: Report: Knicks, Odom nearing deal — The Knicks are out of the playoffs and have just two games left in their woebegone season. But it seems that new GM Phil Jackson isn’t about to wait until the offseason to start stirring up New York’s roster. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Jackson is close to having a reunion with his former Sixth Man of the Year winner with the Los Angeles Lakers, Lamar Odom:

Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks are progressing toward a deal to sign veteran free agent Lamar Odom before the NBA regular season ends Wednesday, according to sources briefed on the situation.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Knicks are on course, barring an unforeseen snag, to formally sign Odom this week in a move that would put him on their roster immediately and, more importantly, include a team option for next season.

Structuring the deal this way, after a tumultuous 12 months for one of Jackson’s favorite players when they worked together with the Los Angeles Lakers, would give the Knicks two months before free agency begins July 1 to get the 34-year-old into their program and start working with him.

The Knicks, sources say, would want to use the extra time to see if they can get Odom to the point, physically and mentally, where the talented but enigmatic lefty is worthy of a roster spot next season.

Still recovering from a back injury that curtailed his recent stint in the Spanish League after just two games, Odom is not believed to be healthy enough to play in the Knicks’ season finale Wednesday night in Toronto even if he signs Wednesday.

Sources say this is viewed as a long-range play for the Knicks, who are banking on the notion that Jackson — in his new role as New York’s team president — can provide the guidance to get Odom’s career back on track.

***

No. 4: Lillard inks huge deal with adidasIf you had any doubts that small-market superstars can’t get the kind of shoe-endorsement deals stars in cities like New York, Chicago and L.A. get, think again. Much like Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder and his lucrative deal with Nike, Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has signed the third-richest shoe deal in the league. CSNNW.com’s Chris Haynes has more on Lillard’s new agreement with adidas:

Portland Trail Blazers Damian Lillard and adidas have finalized a deal that makes it the third richest shoe endorsement deal in history, a source informed CSNNW.com.

The deal, according to another source, is an eight-year contract that has the potential to stretch out to 10 years if he reaches certain incentive clauses. We’ve confirmed Lillard’s new contract is slightly less than that of Derrick Rose.

“adidas has been great to me over my first two seasons,” Lillard said in the adidas release. “I’ve had the opportunity to wear a lot of great product, help design special versions of shoes, be a part of TV commercials and travel the world with the brand. I’m excited for what the future holds for me and adidas.”

CSNNW.com reported a few weeks ago that the deal was on the cusp of being finalized. The deal was actually signed in Los Angeles on April. 1 prior to the Trail Blazers defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 124-112 that evening.

Due to Lillard reaching certain performance incentive clauses in his adidas rookie shoe deal, he was able to opt out at the end of the season to pursue a long-term, prosperous contract with adidas, Nike or other major competitors. Instead of waiting, Lillard’s representatives gave adidas an exclusive 30-day window to renegotiate before checking out other offers. That 30 days was up on April. 1.

USA Today reported the deal is finalized.

.***

No. 5: DeRozan rests as Raptors set wins markThe Toronto Raptors, by any measure, have had a great season. If you measure what they’ve done on just wins and losses, though, they’ve had a season for the team record books. Last night’s drubbing of the Milwaukee Bucks lifted Toronto to its 48th win, the most in franchise history, and it was done while All-Star and go-to guy DeMar DeRozan took a well-deserved break before the playoffs get rolling. Doug Smith of the Toronto Star has more on the win:

Even with DeMar DeRozan reduced to a mere spectator enjoying a night of rest, the Raptors claimed their franchise-record-setting 48th win of the year, dumping the Milwaukee Bucks 110-100 at the Air Canada Centre in the penultimate game of the regular season.

“Guys came out with a total focus. We lost it there a little bit in the second half, but the start of the game, our guys were locked in, attention to detail was there on both ends of the floor,” said Casey.

DeRozan’s greatest impact on the game was his short speech thanking the fans for the just-completed home season as the banner recognizing the team’s division title was unfurled in an understated, quick ceremony.

“It definitely felt good to share it with (the fans) because they played a major part in it as well,” he said. “I’ve been here through the struggles and the tough times and our fans were still right there with us on this journey.”

And there is no certainty that DeRozan will play Wednesday when the Raptors wrap up the season in New York.

“We’ll see what we decide on that,” said Casey. “Amir’s had time off, Kyle’s had time off, he’s the only guy with big minutes that hadn’t had time off. I could just see a pep in Kyle’s step since he’s had his rest, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Amir Johnson, still working his way back from ankle woes, looked better Monday than he did Sunday in Detroit, chipping in 10 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes as Casey eases him back slightly.

He was proud to be part of the historic win.

“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “We set many franchise records and we are just going to keep pushing and see what’s next for us. We’re always looking for the next thing.”

Lowry and Johnson left to a prolonged ovation from the fans with less than 40 seconds to go.


VIDEO: Toronto raises its Atlantic Division championship banner before Monday’s game vs. Milwaukee

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire may play in Jerusalem once his contract runs out in 2015 … The Bucks secured the top odds in the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery last night … Does Damian Lillard‘s new deal with adidas mean the shoe giant has forgotten about Derrick Rose? … Former first-round pick Arnett Moultrie is trying to make an NBA impact before it is too late … The Lakers and Suns may look to make pass at Luol Deng in free agency this summer … George Hill had an interesting little chat with Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee on the Indianapolis Star‘s website …

ICYMI(s) of the Night: Trey Burke has had a pretty solid rookie season, but this move that Jordan Farmar put on him in the backcourt is sure to stick with him for a while. On a more positive note, we had two fantastic full-court dimes that lead to and-ones — one from the master (Kevin Love) of such plays and another from a pretty solid passer in his own right (Andre Miller)


VIDEO: Jordan Farmar breaks Trey Burke’s ankles in the backcourt


VIDEO: Kevin Love throws a full-court pass to Corey Brewer for the layup


VIDEO: Andre Miller throws a great full-court dime to Bradley Beal

L.A.’s Stunning Role Reversal


VIDEO: Lakers at Bucks, Dec. 31, 2013

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Happy New Year, Mike D’Antoni. A”We Want Phil” chant, however silly, percolated through Staples Center in L.A. on Tuesday as the glamorous-turned-anonymous Lakers faded to black again in an ugly loss to the now seven-win Milwaukee Bucks.

Total bummer of a New Year’s Eve party.

Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, of course, wouldn’t touch this sinking M*A*S*H unit with a bionic-kneed Andrew Bynum. At this point, any talk of the league’s worst teams has to include the purple and gold, who are 13-19, have lost six in a row (half of those by an average of 17 points) and show no sign of snapping back any time soon.

How could they snap back? Consider D’Antoni’s starting five in the 94-79 loss to Milwaukee: Jordan Farmar (who tore his left hamstring in the game and will miss a month), Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, Shawne Williams and Pau Gasol. His available bench was limited to: Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly, Kendall Marshall, Robert Sacre and Chris Kaman (who has fallen so far he couldn’t even get in the game).

Look at it this way: These unidentifiable Lakers are closer to last-place Utah than to eighth-place Dallas in the Western Conference standings. That gap will either shrink or grow Friday night when the Lakers welcome the Jazz (10:30 p.m. ET, League Pass) – who, ahem, just beat L.A. in Salt Lake City a week ago.

When these two teams meet Friday, the most exciting player on the floor just might be Utah rookie point guard Trey Burke, who’s quietly making a major move in the Rookie of the Year race. No offense to the impressive Burke, but that’s how far the mighty Lakers have plummeted: A rookie on the opposing team — a team with 10 wins — is the most exciting player on the floor.

With Dwight Howard in Houston after turning his back on the Lakers in free agency, Kobe Bryant on the sidelines again with a fractured knee, Steve Nash still plotting some way to get back on the floor and Pau Gasol sniffling through recurring physical and emotional trauma, the Lakers’ star power is flickering like a faulty neon sign.

The Clippers, once known as the “other” L.A. team, are another story altogether.

We may never truly understand all the reasons that prompted outgoing commissioner David Stern, acting as the de facto head of the league-owned New Orleans Hornets two years ago, to veto the Chris Paul-to-the-Lakers trade.

(Stern said in a statement shortly after the December 2011 trade that he nixed it “in the best interests of the Hornets” and that he decided, without influence from other owners, that “the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade.”)

But by now, we certainly grasp how drastically that decision altered both franchises’ outlooks. Remember, the Lakers thought they had Kobe’s future sewn up: CP3 in a deal that shipped out Gasol and Lamar Odom, followed by getting Dwight in a deal for Bynum. It’s hard to imagine a Kobe-CP3-D12 trio going up in flames like last season’s Howard-Kobe-Nash gathering did. Or like this season’s team has. The Lakers were 10-9 without Kobe to start this season and have gone 3-10 since his brief return and subsequent exit.

The Clippers (22-12) haven’t been nearly as consistent as coach Doc Rivers would like. But they are fourth in the West playing without injured sharpshooter J.J. Redick. They have won seven of their last 10. They’ll try to move 11 games over .500 Friday night at Dallas (8:30 p.m. ET, League Pass).

Off the court, the Clippers have been even better. Every second commercial on TV has Paul selling insurance with his equally assisting faux-twin brother Cliff, or a white-caped Blake Griffin saving us all from buying a lame automobile.

Meanwhile, the best news about the Lakers, off the court, is what they’re trying to do to fix their on-court woes. They are paying about $6 million more in payroll this season than their co-tenants, with close to $50 million wrapped up in Kobe and Gasol. The rest of the roster accounts for nearly $30 million. It’s why a rumored Gasol-for-Bynum swap with the Cleveland Cavaliers — followed by waiving Bynum — would be so attractive to Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. It would wipe out millions in salary and costly luxury tax from the Lakers’ 2013-14 slate.

Whether that happens or not won’t change the Lakers’s fortunes any time soon. They’ll still be the talk of L.A. They are, after all, still the Lakers.

But until further notice, the star-studded Clips carry the bigger stick.


VIDEO: Bobcats at Clippers, Jan. 1, 2014

Clippers Still Considering Lamar Odom


VIDEO: Can Lamar Odom still have an impact in the NBA?

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Clippers remain interested in signing Lamar Odom as part of searching for a roster move as an additional insurance policy for the playoffs, with Doc Rivers telling NBA.com he is “hoping things work out” between the team and Odom.

Rivers, the coach and head of basketball operations, was impressed by Odom’s attitude and condition – “He was actually in pretty good shape, and that surprised me” – when they met Nov. 15 at Clippers headquarters. No further visits are planned, Rivers said, but he has moved the process forward by talking with Phil Jackson, Odom’s former coach with the Lakers, and Vinny Del Negro, Odom’s coach last season with the Clippers before Odom became a free agent.

“I’m hoping if things work out, yeah,” Rivers said Friday at Sleep Train Arena, where the Clippers beat the Kings 104-98. “But I just don’t know. I know there’s other teams involved, I think. I honestly haven’t focused on it a lot. But he’s somebody that I’ve always liked, and I like him more now after hearing from Phil Jackson to Vinny to all the players the type of guy he is in the locker room. When I hear that stuff, without saying exactly what I heard, you want him in your locker room.”

Odom, a popular teammate in previous stints with both Los Angeles teams, is coming off two bad seasons, with the Mavericks and Clippers, and since the end of 2013-14 has been the center of troubling reports about off-court issues. Still, the Clippers, and perhaps others, remain interested, without any timeline for a decision.

“There is not one bit of talk about time frame or anything like that,” Rivers said. “I’m just going to play it by ear and see how he’s doing and go from there.”

The Clippers are hoping to fill their vacant roster spot at some point, probably via free agency or waivers while not seeing any trade opportunities at the moment. Waiting until much later in the season to make a move is a possibility, one reason they don’t see the need for a quick decision on Odom.

“We’re looking, but it’s not a desperate look right now,” Rivers told NBA.com. “I do think we need one more player. It could be a big. It could be another point guard, just to have a third backup for the season. But I don’t tend to make moves that’ll make you stronger during the regular season, because then in the playoffs you shorten your rotation and that was a wasted move most of the time.”

The Clippers began the season with good depth, but forward Matt Barnes has missed nine of the 17 games with leg and eye injuries and now both starting guards could be out when the Pacers visit Staples Center on Sunday. Chris Paul missed Friday’s victory over the Kings, forcing Darren Collison into the opening lineup, and J.J. Redick hurt his right (shooting) wrist in the second quarter at Sleep Train Arena. X-rays were negative, ruling out a break, but an MRI is possible to confirm the sprain.

Spurs’ Bench Propelling Hot Start


VIDEO: Spurs bench players Marco Belinelli and Matt Bonner connect for a nice play

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Spurs’ starting lineup was a big part of their defensive improvement last season. It was the best defensive lineup in the league and outscored its opponents by 18.1 points per 100 possessions in its 364 minutes.

This season, that same starting lineup hasn’t been too good It’s been pretty bad offensively (with Tim Duncan shooting less than 40 percent) and has actually been outscored by four points in 99 minutes. Yet the Spurs are 13-1 and rank in the top six in both offensive and defensive efficiency, because they have the best bench in the league right now.

While the Spurs’ starters have basically broke even, all other San Antonio lineups have outscored their opponents by 16.1 points per 100 possessions, playing great on both ends of the floor.

Spurs efficiency

Lineup GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Starters 10 99 95.8 93.5 92.7 +0.8 -4
Other lineups 14 572 97.2 108.3 92.2 +16.1 +173
Total 14 671 97.0 106.1 92.3 +13.9 +169

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

There are two aspects to having a great bench, and neither have to do with how many points the players off the bench score. You just have to go back to the 2010-11 and 2011-12 Chicago Bulls for an example of a great bench that didn’t score a lot of points. That group built on leads because they were great defensively.

Building on leads (or decreasing deficits) is obviously the most important trait of a good bench. But keeping your starters fresh is also critical (and obviously related to how well you build leads). Through Tuesday, every player on the Spurs is averaging less than 30 minutes a game and the five starters have played just 52 percent of the teams total minutes. You couldn’t ask for a better start to the season from a roster.

No other contender in the Western Conference has had the bench success that the Spurs’ “Foreign Legion” crew has had, but some have done well with their reserve minutes.

Note: Before the season started, six West teams would have been considered as “contenders.” Portland has been added to this group, because they’re off to such a hot start and also because their bench was their primary issue last season.

Efficiency from lineups other than starters

Team GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Golden State 15 532 98.3 97.8 97.2 +0.6 -1
Houston 15 665 100.4 106.4 101.5 +4.9 +36
L.A. Clippers 15 448 100.4 107.1 105.9 +1.2 +10
Memphis 14 513 91.8 99.4 104.0 -4.6 -47
Oklahoma City 12 483 99.6 106.0 96.1 +9.9 +81
Portland 15 442 97.1 106.9 101.6 +5.2 +64

Note: This includes lineups with 1-4 starters on the floor. It also includes lineups that started games when regular starters weren’t healthy or before a coach (Kevin McHale) made a lineup change.

Each team is its own case. Some have had their starters healthy for every game, some have not, and one – Houston – has already made a major change to its starting lineup.

Golden State

The Warriors’ starting lineup – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut – has been ridiculously good offensively, scoring 118.8 points per 100 possessions in 192 minutes together. Combine that with solid defensive numbers and they’ve been the league’s best lineup (minimum 75 minutes) thus far.

Bench units (which include lineups that have started games that Curry and Iguodala have missed) have been strong defensively, but weak offensively. When Curry has been off the floor, the Dubs have scored an ugly 87.5 points per 100 possessions.

Breaking even will do when your starting lineup is so good, and the Warriors are in good shape if they’re healthy. But it’s clear that Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry will be missed if injuries keep popping up.

Houston

The Rockets moved Terrence Jones into the starting lineup just seven games ago and have been without James Harden in three games since then, so their optimal starting lineup has played just 69 minutes together and their numbers above include lineups that have started 11 of their 15 games. That set includes lineups with both Dwight Howard and Omer Asik that we know were bad offensively.

So it’s difficult to gather much from these numbers. We do know that the new starting group, with Patrick Beverley and Harden in the backcourt, has been terrific so far. And we do know that the Rockets have been strong defensively – allowing just 95.7 points per 100 possessions – with Asik on the floor without Howard. So that’s a good sign for their bench … at least until Asik gets traded.

L.A. Clippers

As we all expected, the Clippers’ starting lineup has been great, especially offensively. It currently ranks as the fifth best lineup in the league. But the five starters have played over 68 percent of the team’s minutes, the second highest mark among the seven teams we’re looking at here.

Last season, when the Clippers had a great defensive second unit, that number was 51 percent. This season, they’re suffering on both ends of the floor when they go to their bench and though their starters have been solid on defense, they currently rank as a bottom 10 defensive team.

A healthy Matt Barnes will help, but a defensive big off the bench is needed. Lamar Odom was exactly that for them last season and you can understand why the Clips are monitoring his progress as he works his way back into shape.

Memphis

The Grizzlies’ starters weren’t what they were last season, when they outscored their opponents by 13.1 points per 100 possessions after the Rudy Gay trade. This season, they were just a plus-0.8 in 169 minutes together. But losing Marc Gasol (out indefinitely with a sprained MCL) is obviously a huge blow.

The new starting group (with Kosta Koufos in Gasol’s place) was an encouraging plus-12 in 33 minutes against the Spurs and Rockets. But the impact of Gasol’s injury might be felt most in the bench units, which have been poor already. Jerryd Bayless and Quincy Pondexter, two guys who are supposed to bring offense off the bench, have shot a combined 32 percent.

Oklahoma City

We thought that, in the wake of Kevin Martin‘s departure, bench production was going to be a problem for the Thunder. But OKC’s bench units have been terrific, ranking second to only the Spurs in terms of NetRtg. The Thunder have outscored their opponents by an amazing 17.7 points per 100 possessions with Reggie Jackson on the floor.

The issue with the Thunder is the starting lineup, which has been outscored by 12.4 points per 100 possessions in its 97 minutes. Of the 27 lineups that have played at least 75 minutes together this season, that ranks 25th, ahead only the original starting lineups of the Kings and Jazz. In those situations, both coaches have already made changes.

Scott Brooks will surely have more patience with his group, which was excellent (plus-12.3 points per 100 possessions) last season. The starting group has basically been bad in three games (minus-31 against the Pistons, Wizards and Nuggets) and OK in three games (plus-7 against the Suns, Mavs and Clippers). And the success of the bench units has far outweighed the starters’ struggles. Still, it’s something to keep an eye on going forward.

Portland

Last season, the Blazers’ “other lineups” got outscored by 5.2 points per 100 possessions. No team suffered more offensively when a particular player stepped off the floor than Portland did when Damian Lillard sat down. So the bench, along with better defense from their center position, was the focus of their summer moves.

So far, so good, as the Blazers’ bench units have basically turned that number around, outscoring their opponents by that same 5.2 points per 100 possessions. They’ve scored a solid 103.5 points per 100 possessions when Lillard has sat, and he doesn’t have to lead the league in minutes this year.

The issue is that those bench units still include a lot of minutes from the starters. Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez account for more than 72 percent of the team’s total minutes. It’s obviously a younger group, but compare that with the 52 percent the Spurs’ starters account for.

With Promising Career In Limbo, Friends, Family Rally to Pull Odom Out of Spiral

As Twitter messages of support go out to a spiraling Lamar Odom, his career in the NBA is on indefinite hold.

Multiple reports in recent weeks depict Odom in the grip of drug use. In the early morning hours last Friday he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after a California Highway Patrol officer pulled him over on the freeway for driving too slowly. Odom was unable to complete a field sobriety test and later refused to submit to chemical testing. His driver’s license, the CHP says, will probably be suspended.

Lamar Odom (Rocky Widner/NBAE)

Lamar Odom (Rocky Widner/NBAE)

His team last season, the Los Angeles Clippers, appeared to be waiting as long as possible to bring back the 6-foot-10 unrestricted free agent. But as more grim reports surfaced, the Clippers instead turned to veteran free agent Antawn Jamison. After 14 seasons, 12 spent with either the Lakers or Clippers, Odom’s status, on and off the basketball court, seems to be the worst kind of day-to-day.

Personal tragedy has long been inseparable from Odom’s life. He lost his mother to cancer when he was 12. The grandmother who raised him through a rugged childhood in Queens dies in 2004. His 6-month-old son died of sudden infant death syndrome in 2006. Two summers ago, in the fateful summer of 2011, he watched over a young cousin who passed away in a New York hospital bed, and then a day later Odom was a passenger in a car involved in an accident that killed a 15-year-old boy.

Odom, 33, has always been a deeply emotional and sensitive sort constantly seeking approval and acceptance. But he also seemed capable of staying a step ahead of the sadness. A self-destructive path had never seemed to lure him before.

But that summer of 2011, and into the fall as the NBA season was postponed by a labor dispute, may have served as a trigger point, a time when a swirl of personal and professional chaos collided.

We obviously don’t know all the intimate details, but before the summer of 2011, Odom was soaring at the height of his basketball career and presumably his personal life. He grew from something of an aloof talent to an integral contributor to back-to-back championships with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and 2010. And in 2011, although a three-peat bid ended abruptly for the Lakers, Odom was recognized as the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. He got married in 2009 to celebrity Khloe Kardashian after a brief romance, and the newlyweds publicly celebrated their L.A. lifestyle on reality TV.

Also revealed on the show was Odom’s shock when his agent, Jeff Schwartz, called to tell him the Lakers might trade him. Then they did, to the New Orleans Hornets. Khloe couldn’t get in touch with Lamar, but heard her husband’s somber voice on the radio talking about the trade: “He is so passionate, emotional, wears his heart on his sleeve,” Khloe said on the episode. “Hearing him on the radio and how heartbroken he sounds, it’s now sinking in that Lamar’s not going to be a Laker anymore. It’s sad.”

The trade, however, was never approved. Yet the crestfallen Odom told Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak to trade him anyway. Schwartz called Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who was fresh off winning the 2011 championship but who had not re-signed key players from that team. Cuban quickly made the deal believing it was a steal, acquiring one of the game’s most versatile forwards to solidify the reigning champs’ revamped roster.

Odom arrived in Dallas noticeably out of shape, and from the moment he took the podium at his introductory press conference, he appeared sullen and gave the impression that his heart was broken. His sluggish play through the early season suggested the same. Although he often spoke of turning a corner, he revealed little zest to compete.

Cuban and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle defended Odom for months, remembering the player he was the season before. They had his back through a bizarre, 10-day absence bridging the 2012 All-Star break. Finally, Cuban reached his breaking point in early April. He confronted Odom in the locker room in Memphis and soon after dismissed him from the team.

By the end of June, Odom seemed to get the reprieve he needed to rediscover his spirit. The Clippers traded for him. It wasn’t the Lakers, but it was a return to the comforts of L.A., to the team with whom he started his career. He would move back into his home with Khloe, be close to friends, reap the full $8 million on the final year of his contract and, of course, join forces with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin on a contender.

Odom still struggled offensively, his numbers (4.0 points, 5.9 rebounds a game) well below expectation, but he served as a 20-minute-a-night reserve who got crunch-time minutes for his defense.

What’s happened since and where Odom goes from here is a mystery. Odom has always been well-liked, and he will get another shot with another team if he can escape whatever is dragging him down. His reputation had never been that of a troublemaker, at least before his short time in Dallas.

Hopefully, family and friends can lift Odom and push him through the issues that now prevent him from starting a 15th NBA season. Hopefully, a career on indefinite hold will not become permanently closed.

Clips’ Hopes Of Contending Depends On Defense Of Jordan, Griffin

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Los Angeles Clippers, a team that won 17 straight games and finished with the league’s fifth-best record last season, made some upgrades this summer in an effort to turn themselves into true title contenders.

On the bench, Vinny Del Negro was replaced by Doc Rivers. And in the starting lineup, Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler were replaced by J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley.

But if the Clippers are to compete for a championship this season, they will need improvement from within, specifically with starting big men Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, who will need to make up for some lost defense on the bench.

L.A.’s bench delivered

One thing that gets overlooked in the Clippers’ rehaul is that they had an excellent second unit last season. Their starters were terrific, but they suffered little drop-off when they went to their bench.

Clippers efficiency, 2012-13

Lineups MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
*Starting lineups 982 91.9 112.8 103.4 +9.5 +181
Other lineups 2,960 94.2 106.0 100.2 +5.8 +348
Total 3,942 93.7 107.7 101.0 +6.7 +529

* Paul, Butler, Griffin, Jordan and either Billups or Green
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

The Clippers’ starting unit was ridiculously good offensively, but slightly below average defensively. And though their bench struggled to score (it basically depended on Jamal Crawford‘s one-on-one ability), it still built on leads because it was so good on D.

In general, bench units are going to be better defensively than starting units because they’re going against other reserves. But the Clippers’ second most used lineup in the regular season, comprised of all reserves, was the third-best defensive unit in the league (minimum of 200 minutes played).

Three members of that unit are gone. Eric Bledsoe is in Phoenix, Ronny Turiaf is in Minnesota, and Lamar Odom is in NBA limbo as he deals with whatever off-court issues he has.

The importance of Odom

Here’s the thing about Odom last season. He was a disaster offensively (and was the season before that), but was a big part of the Clippers’ defensive improvement. L.A. went from 20th in defensive efficiency in 2011-12 to ninth last season. Their bench — particularly the big men — provided the strongest D.

In 821 minutes with Odom on the floor with either Turiaf or Ryan Hollins, the Clips allowed less than 91 points per 100 possessions. That’s elite defense no matter who the opponent is. No two-man combination in the league that played at least 450 minutes together had a lower on-court DefRtg than Odom and Turiaf.

On-court efficiency, Clippers big man combinations (min. 100 minutes)

Combination GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Griffin + Jordan 80 1,810 112.5 104.2 +8.3 +291
Griffin + Odom 66 502 105.7 97.9 +7.8 +114
Odom + Turiaf 53 479 100.0 91.0 +9.0 +56
Odom + Hollins 41 343 111.4 90.8 +20.6 +118
Odom + Jordan 34 166 99.3 104.6 -5.3 -16
Turiaf + Hollins 32 148 85.6 104.7 -19.1 -45
Griffin + Hollins 26 133 106.1 111.5 -5.4 -13

Why Jordan, Griffin must improve

The Clippers’ starting lineup — with Willie Green at the two — was one of the best offensive lineups in the league. Although Jordan can’t shoot at all and Griffin’s mid-range jumper still needs work, that unit scored at a rate better than the Heat’s No. 1 offense. No lineup that was on the floor for nearly as much time scored as efficiently, and great offense can make up for mediocre defense, especially in the regular season.

But there are reasons why Griffin and Jordan need to get better defensively …

1. In the postseason, it’s better to be a great defensive team than a great offensive team. Over the last 12 seasons, 23 of the 24 teams that have reached The Finals have ranked in the top 10 defensively and 15 of the 24 have ranked in the top five defensively. Only 17 of the 24 have ranked in the top 10 offensively and only eight of the 24 have ranked in the top five offensively.

2. Odom and Turiaf have been replaced by Antawn Jamison and Byron Mullens, two defensive liabilities (to put it lightly). The Clips’ bench won’t be nearly as good defensively as it was last season. If L.A. wants to remain in the top 10 on that end of the floor, the starters must make up for the drop-off.

3. The Clippers were just awful defensively in the playoffs, allowing the Grizzlies — who ranked 18th offensively in the regular season — to score almost 110 points per 100 possessions over six games. The only team that was worse defensively last postseason was the short-handed Lakers, who got trounced by San Antonio.

How Memphis exposed L.A.’s bigs

The problems in that series started with the Clippers’ inability to force turnovers and continued with their inability to keep the Grizzlies off the foul line.

Clippers defense, 2012-13

Season Opp2PT% Rank Opp3PT% Rank DREB% Rank OppTOV% Rank OppFTA Rate Rank
Reg. sea. 46.8% 6 37.3% 26 73.5% 15 17.2% 1 .306 29
Playoffs 48.5% 9 32.5% 5 73.3% 12 11.3% 15 .451 16

DREB% = Percentage of defensive rebounds obtained
OppTOV% = Opponent turnovers per 100 possessions
OppFTA Rate = Opponent FTA/FGA

Though it was a slow-paced series, the Grizzlies — a team not known for getting to the line — attempted over 34 free throws per game, 13 more than they averaged in the regular season. They shot better than 50 percent from the field in two of their wins, but 38 trips to the line in allowed them to be nearly as efficient in Game 3, when they shot just 39 percent.

All five L.A. bigs averaged at least six fouls per 48 minutes in the series, with Hollins and Turiaf totaling an incredible 24 fouls in just 96 minutes. Griffin fouled out of Game 1 and committed five fouls in Game 3. Jordan had three fouls in just 17 minutes in that same Game 3.

The combination of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol is a tough matchup for any frontline. But the Clipper bigs got worked over, especially in the post …



Where Jordan and Griffin can improve

Griffin and Jordan aren’t terrible defenders. They both rank as “very good” on pick-and-rolls, according to Synergy Sports Technology. And when it came to rotations and team defense, Butler was a bigger liability in that starting lineup. L.A. was better defensively with Barnes at small forward with the other starters.

But the bigs aren’t great and their defensive focus and energy comes and goes. When guarding a big who faces up in the post, they often fail to contest his jumper or bite on his pump fake. And though they might contain an initial pick-and-roll, they don’t necessarily bring the second and third efforts needed against an offense that knows how to execute …


Both Odom and Turiaf ranked higher on pick-and-roll D and on post defense, where Griffin and Jordan rated as just “good” by Synergy in the regular season … and “poor” in the playoffs. The Grizzlies scored 69 points on 61 post-ups against the pair over the six games.

Overall, the Griffin-Jordan combo just didn’t measure up defensively to the big man pairings on other Western Conference contenders …

On-court efficiency, starting bigs, West playoff teams

Combination (Team) GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Duncan + Splitter (SAS) 60 819 106.0 92.7 +13.3 +208
Randolph + Gasol (MEM) 74 1,923 102.6 95.5 +7.1 +322
Ibaka + Perkins (OKC) 76 1,721 109.8 98.0 +11.8 +349
Faried + Koufos (DEN) 79 1,235 106.7 101.9 +4.8 +126
Bogut + Lee (GSW) 31 720 106.7 103.0 +3.7 +50
Griffin + Jordan (LAC) 80 1,810 112.5 104.2 +8.3 +291
Gasol + Howard (LAL) 46 994 103.5 104.2 -0.7 -19
Patterson + Asik (HOU) 46 797 108.3 104.8 +3.6 +78

The Clippers will again be competing with the Spurs, Thunder and Grizzlies, three teams with bigs they can count on defensively. The Rockets have (a healthier) Dwight Howard and the Warriors could have a healthy Andrew Bogut.

Rivers was the coach of the league’s best defensive team of the last six seasons, and this team will likely be the best offensive one he’s ever led. But he’s not bringing Kevin Garnett with him from Boston.

The tools are there for Griffin and Jordan to improve. They have as much athleticism and mobility as any frontline in the league. But it takes a lot more than that to be an elite defender.

Jordan spoke about being a better communicator earlier this summer, and that’s a step in the right direction. But discipline, focus and sustained effort must also be priorities.

The Clips don’t need either guy to turn into Garnett. But if they’re to be included as one of the West teams that could be in The Finals next June, their starting bigs need to go from good to great defensively … especially since they won’t have as much help from their back-ups.

Mavs’ Carlisle Rolls With Plan B, Revolving Roster

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DALLAS –
 Rick Carlisle earned his reputation as one of the game’s top coaches by bending, flexing and adjusting all the way to a six-game championship take-down of the Miami Heat in 2011.

Recall 5-foot-10 point guard J.J. Barea as an NBA Finals starting shooting guard?

The Dallas Mavericks have since gone 77-72 and haven’t won another playoff game. And despite a roster that’s read like a well-worn Rolodex, Carlisle has seemed only to enhance his image as an elite tactician and motivator. Carlisle’s agility will be put to the test again this season in guiding a team that again barely resembles the one that preceded it.

From the 2010-11 championship team only Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion remain. From the revamped squad insufficiently stocked to defend the title, add only Brandan Wright and Vince Carter as keepers. And from last season, add draft picks Jae Crowder and Bernard James. It’s doubtful any coach, especially one that won a ring with the same franchise just three Junes ago, has witnessed such roster upheaval in three consecutive offseasons, and particularly so in these back-to-back summers.

“Back-to-back, probably not,” Carlisle admitted. “But look, we’re living in a different time. We’re living in a time now where there’s going to be more one-year deals, there’s going to be more turnover, so everybody adjusts to the dynamics of the new CBA, and I don’t know that that’s going to happen for another year or two, at least. That said, if you’re going to be a head coach in this league you’ve got to be very open-minded, you’ve got to be open to change and adaptation. You always want continuity, but you’re not always going to have it.”

The Mavs suffered the indignity of a lockout and the ratification of a game-changing collective bargaining agreement on the heels of their championship parade. On the fly, owner Mark Cuban championed new roster-building strategies that entailed allowing key members of his title team to walk. Plan A, to create cap space and lure max-dollar free agents to crowbar Nowitzki’s championship window, hasn’t panned out and Dallas has instead scrambled the last two summers to produce competitive rosters.

That can be a disheartening road for a coach who is just one of four currently in the league with a ring. Carlisle, though, has consistently endorsed his boss’ decisions. Entering his sixth season in Dallas and the second year of his second four-year contract, Carlisle seems to embrace the challenges he inherits under Plan B. Of the four active championship coaches — including Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers, now in charge of the Clippers – Carlisle’s task is by far fraught with the most uncertainties.

“I just made a conscious decision that I’m not going to be a coach that’s limited to a certain system,” Carlisle said. “I’m hanging my hat on my ability to adapt each year to potentially a roster that’s quite different, and with the new CBA we’re going to have more of that in this league. I’ve done a lot of it in my career leading up to now anyway, so it’s always challenging in those situations, but it’s also exciting.”

Just look at the players that have come through Dallas since the lockout ended: Kalenna Azubuike, Yi Jianlian, Lamar Odom, Delonte WestSean Williams, Eddy Curry, Troy Murphy, Elton Brand, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman, Jared Cunningham, Derek Fisher, Mike James, Dahntay Jones, Anthony Morrow, Chris Wright, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Justin Dentmon and Josh Akognon.

And here’s the players new to Dallas for this season: Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair, Gal Mekel, plus draft picks Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo.

Last week Cuban set the bar for this team: The playoffs, and capable of doing damage once there. Carlisle didn’t flinch.

“I think you have to view it that way,” Carlisle said. “And, you’ve got to be careful. You’ve got to eliminate the external noise and the doubters and the naysayers and all that kind of stuff. You’ve got to have just a real positive enthusiasm and focus on your group, and you’ve got to see in your mind how they can get better. Then you’ve got to facilitate that.”

Among Dallas media, at least, Carlisle was hailed as a Coach of the Year candidate for guiding last season’s mismatched squad out of a 13-23 hole, one dug mostly without Nowitzki. Dallas finished 28-18 and was in the thick of the playoff chase almost until the end.

“Actually, I think Rick’s system is just very comprehensive and he lets the players pick up as much of it as they can and so I think rather than try to force-feed things that they might not be able to do, Rick, I think, is more accommodating,” Cuban said. “But I don’t think he really changes his system, per se, or changes what he does. I think he just recognizes the skill set of his players. Like, he went from calling plays to just playing ‘flow’ all the time [with Jason Kidd]. That’s his preference more than anything else, just let guys play basketball, and hopefully that’s what we’re going to be able to do a lot more of whereas last year we had to call plays every possession. This year I don’t think we’ll have to.”

Last season’s backcourt of Collison, who couldn’t hold down the starting job, and Mayo never clicked. Fisher ditched the team after a month and James was erratic. Cuban believes this team offers Carlisle more raw material with which to work.

He believes it will be collectively smarter and less turnover-pron with Calderon at the controls, Harris backing him up and the speedy Ellis being able to get to the hole with a frequency the Mavs just haven’t seen. All that, Cuban surmises, should play into the hands of a healthy and motivated Nowitzki.

“Each team is different, each team has different needs, each team develops differently and has to make different kinds of adjustments mid-stream,” Carlisle said. “All that stuff is one of the real intriguing things about coaching. It’s one of the reasons I love it. And one of the reasons I love working in this organization is we’ve got an owner with a fertile mind that likes the right kind of change.

“I’m down with that.”