Posts Tagged ‘Magic Johnson’

Duncan, Ginobili not looking at exit


VIDEO: Duncan talks about his future, closing out the Heat

SAN ANTONIO — Maybe it’s human nature. We like to write endings to other people’s stories.

But just because it might fit into a neat narrative, don’t think that the chance to raise another NBA championship trophy over their heads sometime in the next week should automatically mean Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili will walk out the door and bring an end to the era of the Spurs’ Big Three.

“I don’t have any plans on doing anything,” the 38-year-old Duncan said Saturday. “I’m going to figure it out when it comes. I’m not saying I’m retiring. I’m not saying I’m not retiring. I’m not saying anything. I’m going to figure it out as it goes. I’ve always said if I feel like I’m effective, if I feel like I can contribute, I’ll continue to play. Right now I feel that way, so we’ll see what happens.

Duncan, who is finishing his 17th NBA season, just passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and has now played more playoff minutes (8.869) than any player in history. His 10 points and 11 rebounds in Game 4 of The Finals also moved him ahead of Magic Johnson with 158 double-doubles for the postseason record.

“I don’t have a time frame,” Duncan said. “I don’t think about it. Whatever people are saying or who has insight on whatever, they’re getting it from somewhere else because I haven’t told anybody anything nor have I thought about it in any respect.”

Ginobili dismissed the rumor out of hand.

“You have no data to support that,” he said. “You haven’t talked to any of us to support that. It’s just irrelevant. At this point we are focused on the next game.”

Their 32-year-old partner Tony Parker said he has had no indication that the gang is on verge of breaking up and that he’s looking forward to being on the court with Duncan again next season.

“I know he’s got one more year on his contract, and he loves being with us, loves playing basketball,” Parker said. “Either way, whatever he decides, I’ll support him. But if I have to choose, obviously, I would love him to keep going. I love playing with him.”

For what it’s worth, coach Gregg Popovich has said that he expects Duncan will one day just decide the game is no longer fun and then — “probably in the third quarter of game” — will just walk off the court. Popovich said he’d be “10 minutes behind” Duncan.

But the only coach that Duncan has ever had in the NBA did not sound like he was expecting it all to end, no matter what the outcome of The Finals.

“I don’t feel tired,” Popovich said. “I mean, I’m tired today, but I mean in general. I’d like to continue to coach.”

Beyond this year?

“Sure,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to have to answer those kind of questions today.”

The questions have been swirling for at least five years as the outside world mistakenly viewed the Spurs’ time as past.

“We’ve been on our last run for the last five or six years from how everyone wants to put it,” Duncan said. “We show up every year, and we try to put together the best teams and the best runs possible because what people say doesn’t matter to us.

“As I said, as long as we feel we’re being effective, we’re going to stay out here and we’re going to play. We feel like we can be effective, and we have been.

“With the front office putting the teams together that we’ve had and us playing smaller roles and our roles changing over the years, and us happy to accept the roles that we’re in, I feel we can do it until we feel we don’t want to do it anymore.”


VIDEO: Popovich addresses the media before Sunday’s Game 5

Morning shootaround: June 13


VIDEO: Daily Zap for June 12

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Duncan breaks two records | Higgins out as Hornets president | Sterling hires investigators | LeBron’s decision won’t hinge on title

No. 1: Duncan rewrites postseason history — Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said his all-time great power forward Tim Duncan won’t care about the two postseason records he set in Thursday’s Game 4. He might not just yet, but once he leaves the game — whenever that will be — those records will probably be quite meaningful to him. Duncan passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most career minutes in postseason history (he now has 8,869) and he moved ahead of Magic Johnson for most career postseason double-doubles. Duncan’s 10 points and 11 rebounds gave him his 158th. Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express News has more:

While Duncan is far more concerned with securing the last victory the Spurs need to earn their fifth championship, he admitted to being honored after passing a pair of all-time greats in Thursday’s 107-86 victory over Miami: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most career minutes in NBA postseason history, and Magic Johnson for the most playoff double-doubles.

Duncan, who scored 10 points with 11 rebounds, now has 8,869 minutes and 158 double-doubles in 233 playoff games.

“I can appreciate you saying the names and having passed them in anything,” he said. “It’s an honor to be in that position. Having won (Game 4) helps, obviously, but the focus is on winning one more, and once that is done I can look back and say hey, that’s truly an honor.”

Abdul-Jabbar feels similarly about Duncan, sending a congratulatory note via Twitter: Congrats to #TimDuncan on passing me for the most minutes played in the NBA Finals – I appreciate the fact that you did it with class!

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No. 2: Higgins out as draft approaches — A story literally hot off the presses, the Charlotte Hornets issued a press release shortly after midnight on Friday stating president of basketball operations Rod Higgins “has stepped down.” The strangely timed press release, coming not long after the Spurs wrapped up Game 4 in Miami, said general manager Rich Cho will continue in his position. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has more details as much more will be learned today:

In an odd and ill-timed press release, the Hornets announced past midnight Friday that president of basketball operations Rod Higgins has “stepped down” two weeks before the Hornets make the ninth, 24th and 45th picks in the draft.

Higgins has effectively run the Bobcats/Hornets basketball ops since June of 2011. He was a key figure in the decisions to sign free agents Al Jefferson and Ramon Sessions.

The Hornets noted in their press release that general manager Rich Cho will continue to report to Michael Jordan and vice-chairman Curtis Polk.

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No. 3: Sterling hires private investigators — The shamed owner of the Los Angeles Clippers has apparently decided to turn his fight against the league ugly. Donald Sterling‘s team of lawyers have hired four private investigators to dig up dirt on the NBA’s 29 other owners, plus former commissioner David Stern and new commissioner Adam Silver. The Associated Press has the details:

Investigators were given a six-figure budget over the next 30 days to examine the league’s finances, allegations of previous discriminatory conduct and compensation to past commissioner David Stern and current commissioner Adam Silver, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday night on condition of anonymity. The person wasn’t authorized to talk publicly.

The person said the investigators also are looking into whether other owners made any off-color jokes, or racist or sexist remarks.

“The gloves are off, as they say,” the person said. “Have them dig up all the dirt they can find.”

The person who spoke to the AP said Donald Sterling reluctantly agreed to hire private investigators after this week’s legal proceedings in probate court. The NBA submitted a legal filing Wednesday urging a judge to confirm Shelly Sterling‘s authority to sell the team.

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No. 4: Finals outcome won’t sway LeBron’s decisionLeBron James can opt out of his contract by the end of this month, but his decision won’t be swayed by whether his Miami Heat win or lose the NBA Finals. If they win they will make history as the first team to ever come back from a 3-1 hole. Game 5 is in San Antonio on Sunday night. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com was in Miami:

The Miami Heat would have to make history to come back from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit, but the future of their best player doesn’t hinge on that happening.

The Heat’s success or failure in these Finals will not affect LeBron James’ decision on whether to opt out of his contract by the end of this month, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

James and the Heat would be the first team in NBA Finals history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit and come back and win a title. This is the 32nd time the Finals have been 3-1 after four games.

James, [Dwyane] Wade and [Chris] Bosh can all opt out of their contracts and become free agents after this season. ESPN’s Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst reported Wednesday that discussions have begun within the organization about creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitious run at adding New York Knicks scoring machine Carmelo Anthony this summer in free agency.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Sam Mitchell finalizing deal to join Flip Saunders‘ staff in Minnesota … Top European coach David Blatt is headed to the NBA, just not yet sure whereMetta World Peace accepts assistant head coach job — on a high school girls basketball teamCavaliers coaching search kicks tires on Mark JacksonKurt Rambis could join Derek Fisher‘s staff in New York, but remains a top candidate to coach the Lakers.

Heat seek to join ‘three-peat’ history

Three-peat.

It is a familiar part of the lexicon now, one used to distinguish the greatest of our sports champions.

A term coined by Byron Scott in 1988 and trade-marked by Pat Riley, it slides across the tongue as smooth as a scoop of ice cream and defines a dynasty as readily as a crown atop a monarch’s head.

But there is nothing at all easy about the three-peat.

When LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the Heat take the court Thursday night, they’ll be attempting to become only the sixth team in NBA history to go back-to-back-to-back as champs.

Here’s a look at Fab Five:

Minneapolis Lakers (1952-54)

“Geo Mikan vs. Knicks.” That was the message on the marquee outside Madison Square Garden on Dec. 14, 1949. It succinctly said everything that you needed to know about George Mikan, the man who was the NBA’s first superstar. In an Associated Press poll, the 6-foot-10 center was voted the greatest basketball player of the first half of the 20th century and he was later named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in league history. Mikan was such a dominant individual force that the goaltending rule was introduced to limit his defensive effectiveness and the lane was widened from six to 12 feet to keep him farther from the basket on offense.

However, Mikan still flourished and when he was teamed up with Vern Mikkelsen, Jim Pollard and Slater Martin, his Lakers rolled to three consecutive championships. The Lakers beat the Knicks for their first title in a series that was notable for neither team being able to play on its home court. Minneapolis’ Municipal Auditorium was already booked and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was at the Garden. With Mikan double-teamed, Mikkelsen carried the Lakers offense to a 3-3 split of the first six games and then in the only true home game of the series, the Lakers won 82-65 to claim the crown. The Lakers came back to beat the Knicks again the following year 4-1 and the made it three in a row with a 4-3 defeat of the Syracuse Nationals in 1954.


VIDEO: George Mikan and the Minneapolis Lakers dominate the early NBA (more…)

Small market powers rule NBA final four

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: Fans from five NBA cities, four of them medium or small markets, form a flash mob to support their squads

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — New York … who needs you?

Los Angeles … maybe next time.

Chicago and Houston … not since Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon, respectively.

The NBA playoffs thrive no matter which cities are represented. But with this year’s final four, we’re going to have something of a small-market extravaganza come Finals time.

San Antonio is perhaps the most successful small-market team ever.

With San Antonio up 2-0 on the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers tied at 1 heading into this weekend’s Game 3 matchups, the only thing we know for sure is that the 2014 NBA champion will hail from outside of Nielsen’s Top 10 media markets. (The Heat rank highest of the remaining teams at 16th, while Indianapolis comes in at 26th, San Antonio 36th and Oklahoma City 41st.)

The biggest headlines off the court are being generated by the teams ranking at the top of the Nielsen list. Phil Jackson and the Knicks are still looking for a coach in New York, the No. 1 media market. Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are doing the same in Los Angeles (No. 2). And that’s not to mention the Clippers and the Donald Sterling affair, which has engulfed Dallas (No. 5) Mavericks owner Mark Cuban as well.

On the court, however, the small(er) markets continue to dominate the landscape, to the delight of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who touted the game’s “renaissance” in all places, big, small and in between, before Tuesday’s NBA Draft lottery. The three best regular-season records in the league this season belonged to the Spurs (62 wins), Thunder (59) and Pacers (56).

The Heat, winners of 54 games during the regular season, have won the last two Larry O’Brien trophies and are attempting to complete a coveted three-peat. They beat the Spurs in The Finals last season and the Thunder the year before that. The Pacers, who fell to the Heat in seven games in the 2013 East finals, are looking to crash that three-team party this season and plant their own flag in this small-market surge.

If that’s not medium-to-small-market domination, someone needs to tell the rest of us what is. (more…)

Duncan, Parker, Ginobili make history

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: Tim Duncan has 27 points to lead the Spurs past the Thunder in Game 1

SAN ANTONIO – Even after a dozen years in the NBA, there are some things you just don’t ever take for granted.

Such as Tony Parker being able to play in Game 1 against the Thunder without having any problems from his strained left hamstring.

“Doing good,” Parker said following Tuesday’s light workout. “Going to treatment really helped.

“Of course, I was concerned. I didn’t know how I was going to feel until we played the game.”

Parker played nearly 36 minutes, hit 6 of 12 shots, scored 14 points and dealt 12 assists.

In the process, Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili won the 110th playoff game of their careers, tying Lakers greats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper atop the all-time postseason list.

Parker also passed Isiah Thomas on the all-time playoff assist list and moved within six of becoming the 10th player in history with 1,000.

“It’s like weird,” Parker said. “It feels like a dream, coming from France, and to arrive and to accomplish all that, I feel very luck and blessed to be part of a great organization, a great team and being healthy all those years. And to pass a point guard that I really admired growing up, one of my favorite players, is just a great honor.

“It’s almost unrealistic. I look at the list and it’s weird. It’s just weird.”

What also seems hard for the Spurs’ Big Three to grasp is their place in history, getting ready to move ahead of not only Kareem, Magic and Cooper, but the Celtics trio of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, the Pistons’ Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and Vinnie Johnson for longevity and success in the playoffs.

“Same thing. I feel very lucky and blessed to be healthy and playing all those years and having another opportunity to try to go to an NBA Finals…We take nothing for granted. We know how lucky we are and, hopefully, we can keep it going.”

Those Lakers teams won five championships in the 1980, the Celtics three and the Pistons two titles. The Spurs’ threesome is working toward a fourth as it marches through the record book. Not that the stoical Duncan has been paying attention.

“Until you said it, I have never heard about it so I haven’t thought about it,” he said. “It’s a wonderful accomplishment, as a lot of the things we’ve done as a trio. Our only focus, our only concern right know is winning this series and moving on.”

Ginobili has taken the time to appreciate the accomplishments.

“We have been talking about it this year a lot, and I think it’s the same that happened as the regular season,” Ginobili said. “I think we were second, too, in regular season wins. It’s part of the same. We are so lucky to have landed in a franchise like this, with a coach like this, and having the opportunity to stay our whole career in the same city.

“That doesn’t happen very often. Three guys? At the same time? It’s very unique. And if you add the fact it’s the same coach, too. I don’t think it’s ever happened. We acknowledge, we know that we are very lucky to be here. At the same time, we just can’t be satisfied, thinking about that all the time. We are right here in the conference finals, and we just want to keep winning. We want to get another championship. We will have time to think about that in a few years once we are on a couch with a remote.”

Morning Shootaround — May 10



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played May 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

League appoints CEO to run Clippers | Pacers rediscovering groove | Westbrook brilliant again | Magic: Clippers won’t play for Shelly Sterling

No. 1: Richard Parsons takes over Clippers — The NBA announced on Friday that former chairman with Citigroup and Time Warner Richard Parsons was appointed interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers. Parsons will represent the team as the franchise goes through the process of finding a new owner, following the decision by NBA commissioner Adam Silver to ban team owner Donald Sterling for life. Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times caught up with Parsons to discuss his role:

“I am going to be the interim CEO of the team. In terms of the management of the team, I’ll be the owners’ representative, in terms of the relationship of the team for the NBA and its ongoing function.”

What he’ll do:

“The team from a business perspective is leadership. Now [Coach] Doc [Rivers] is the man on the basketball side. Thank goodness for him. But in terms of operation of the team, well, you don’t have an owner who can be present and you don’t have a CEO who is running the shop. And you have probably hundreds of employees, a score of players, you have advertisers, fans and ticket holders who are saying, ‘Who’s in charge here? Where is this thing going?’ We’re going to try and answer that question for them and settle things down and get things stabilized and make sure that this franchise does not lose value. We want it to continue to move in an ascending direction as it has been.”

How long does he plan to be around?

“Hopefully we’ll get things in order. I know that the NBA and Commissioner Silver are committed to moving forward ideally with cooperation with Mr. Sterling to change ownership, a transition ownership. So my initial thought is I would be there through the period of transition. A, to get things in order, and B, to keep things in order.”

His reaction to the news that Shelly Sterling wants to keep the team.

“That is really between the Sterlings and the NBA. My job is to really be a conservator of the assets, to manage the assets so it runs properly, we keep the momentum, we build the value while that question of ownership is being bought out in another arena, an arena in which I’m not standing.”

“I plan to run it until we A, restore order and then B, maintain it and hopefully through a transition process.”

When does he start?

“I’ll be out next week.”

***

No. 2: Pacers act like contenders again — For the first time in these playoffs, the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed played like a No. 1 seed. The league’s top defense during the regular season squashed the Washington Wizards, holding them to just 63 points. Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz was there and shares the details of a team that just might be rediscovering its groove:

For the first time in this postseason, the Pacers imposed their considerable will on an opponent, did it on the road against the up-and-coming Washington Wizards, played to the smash-mouth identity they forged in the first 60 games of this regular season.

After getting punched in the grill in Game 1 and barely surviving at home in Game 2, the Pacers finally looked like a team with NBA Finals aspirations, pounding the Wizards 85-63. In the process, they took back home-court advantage and grabbed a 2-1 lead in this Eastern Conference semifinal series.

These were the Pacers of November, December and January.

These were the Pacers who inspired the Miami Heat to go out and sign Greg Oden in order to match up with Roy Hibbert.

These were the Pacers who were once viewed as a candidate to reach the NBA Finals.

Question: Where’s this team been since the All-Star break?

Answer: Beats me. Beats Frank Vogel and Larry Bird and Pacers’ fans, too.

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No. 3: Westbrook battles Paul toe-to-toe — Clippers point guard Chris Paul is regarded as the best point guard in the league. His counterpart with the Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook is giving the slighter Paul all he can handle in a semifinal series the Thunder now lead 2-1. Westbrook followed up his efficient triple-double in the Game 2 win with 23 points on 50 percent shooting, 13 assists and eight rebounds. Paul had 21 points and 16 assists, but it wasn’t enough. Anthony Slater of the The Oklahoman has more:

Kevin Durant continued his MVP play, scoring 36 points and nailing a lethal late-game fadeaway to help seal it. Serge Ibaka played his best offensive game of the playoffs – scoring 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting.

But it was Westbrook, again, who masterfully captained the ship.

He finished with 23 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds, coming up just short of what would have been his fourth triple-double of the playoffs and second in a row, something that hasn’t been done since Jason Kidd in 2002.

But more than the numbers, it was the calm aggression he played with and the smart decisions he continues to make. He had only two turnovers and made seven of his 14 shots, with only three of those 3-pointers.

Dating back to Game 6 against the Grizzlies, Westbrook looks like a different player, dynamic as ever but under control at all times.

And that was particularly true in the game’s biggest moments on Friday night.

With the Thunder clinging to a 106-103 lead with three minutes left, Westbrook whirled in for an important layup. A minute later, after two big Clippers shots had cut OKC’s lead back to one, Westbrook rose for an in-rhythm three. He knocked it in, continuing his smart and potent long-range shooting in this series (6-of-12 overall in the three games) and capped it off with his patented 3-point holsters.

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No. 4: Magic says Clippers won’t play for Shelly SterlingMagic Johnson said Clippers players won’t stand for Shelly Sterling retaining 50 percent of her ownership stake in the team and that if she does, the players will not play. Eric Prisbell of USA Today has more:

“Those guys are not going to play for anybody (named) Sterling,” Johnson told USA TODAY Sports and two other reporters at the Omni Dallas Hotel. “It’s just how it is. It’s hard to separate the two. … It’s going to be hard for them to sell that to the fans and definitely to the players.”

USA TODAY Sports reported on Thursday that Shelly Sterling intends to remain a 50 percent owner of the Clippers, even though the NBA banned her husband for life in the wake of his racist remarks that were tape recorded and released by the website TMZ. Shelly Sterling said she would remain a passive owner and does not want to be involved in running the team.

But Johnson said it is impossible to separate Shelly Sterling from her husband, even though her voice was absent from the audio recording. He noted past allegations about deplorable living conditions by tenants who lived in properties owned by the Sterlings.

“When they accused them of (being) slumlords, that was both, it wasn’t one person,” Johnson said. “It was both of them. … They will never recover from this. All the sponsors pulling out, they will pull out for good if she is owning it. It’s not going to be the same.”

When asked to characterize his level of interest in buying the Clippers, Johnson said he wanted to wait until the team is officially up for sale before he states his interest level. Johnson has said that he one day wants to own an NBA team.

“First of all, we have to all remember that that is a long way away,” Johnson said. “The board of governors first has to vote him out. Donald Sterling is going to fight it. You know that. It is going to be a long time.

“I have other things to do before I just say my level of interest. The team has to be up for sale. And I think that is going to be eight months to a year. Once it’s official, that it’s really up for sale, we’ll take a look at it.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Sacramento arena deal complete, heads to City Council for historic vote … Warriors latest expected to explore the availability of Tom Thibodeau?LeBron James is not thrilled his favorite NFL team passed on Johnny ManzielGreg Oden: “I know I’m one of the biggest busts in NBA history

Morning Shootaround — May 9



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played May 8

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Kobe wants a say in hiring of next Lakers coach | Wizards’ Wall eager for Game 3, redemption | Thunder: Griffin up to old tricks | Nets’ Williams missing when team needs him most

No. 1: Kobe wants a say in hiring of Lakers’ next coach: After years of suggesting that he didn’t want anything to do with the work being done by ownership and the front office, it appears that Kobe Bryant has warmed up to the idea of having some input on such matters. The Los Angeles Lakers superstar wants a say in who the franchise pursues and hires to replace Mike D’Antoni, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com. That’s an abrupt departure from his public stance for years:

Kobe Bryant, speaking publicly for the first time since Mike D’Antoni resigned from the Los Angeles Lakers, expressed apathy about the turn of events while saying he would, though, like to have an active role in choosing a new coach.

“Honestly I didn’t care,” Bryant said Thursday during a guest appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” when asked by Kimmel if he was “happy” that D’Antoni accepted a buyout of close to $2 million for next season rather than come back to coach the team.

“Mike was dealt a really bad hand in dealing with all the injuries that he had here,” Bryant said. “This is a tough place, man. If you’re not winning, you’re not going to survive, man.”

Bryant added that Magic Johnson‘s controversial tweet in which he celebrated D’Antoni’s departure reminded him of a scene out of “The Wizard of Oz.”

“The first thing I thought of was seeing the Munchkins on the Yellow Brick Road dancing and singing, ‘The Wicked Witch is dead,’ ” Bryant said. “When he tweeted that, that song just came to mind.”

Bryant hopes the Lakers will sing a different tune than they have in the past when it comes to consulting him about hiring their next coach.

“On the last two they didn’t,” Bryant said, referring to Mike Brown and D’Antoni, who both failed to endure the length of the initial contracts they signed with the Lakers before parting ways. “On the third one, I’m hoping they do.”

Taking over for a legend like Phil Jackson is never easy, of course. Bryant said he still speaks to Jackson “often” and expects the 11-time championship winning coach to transfer those results to his front-office role with the New York Knicks.

“I think he’ll do fantastic,” Bryant said. “Especially the more people say that he won’t be successful.”

Bryant had similar faith in the Lakers’ brass, endorsing the efforts by Jackson’s fiancée and Lakers president, Jeanie Buss, as well as her brother and Lakers executive vice president of player personnel, Jim Buss, in steering the franchise in the right direction.

“Jimmy and Jeanie both, they’re just really determined and excited about the possibilities of next season and rebuilding this and building on their father’s legacy and everything that he’s accomplished,” Bryant said. “And they’re taking the challenge extremely, extremely seriously. They’re both on the same page and they want nothing but excellence here, so I have no doubt that we’ll make it happen.”

 

(more…)

Westbrook’s Game 2 one for the books

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Westbrook steps up in Game 2 as Thunder even series

OKLAHOMA CITY – It took Memphis coach Dave Joerger seven games to finally shake his head and throw up his arms.

“I have no idea why he takes the flack that he takes,” Joerger said. “This man can play.”

This man is Russell Westbrook. Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers needed just two games and a third playoff triple-double from the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard to say the same.

“He gets criticized a lot, but I don’t know why,” Rivers said. “The dude plays hard.”

Still, the dude gets piled on, so much so that Kevin Durant felt compelled to address it in his MVP acceptance speech: “A lot of people put unfair criticism on you as a player…”

Criticism revolves around a Westbrook tendency to go off on volume-shooting binges. The theory goes his poor judgment steals shots from Durant, the more natural scorer who should always finish with more attempts.

Lost in this simplified dissection is that Durant is a four-time scoring champ, and now the MVP in six seasons playing alongside Westbrook. Together they’ve made two Western Conference finals and one NBA Finals. Had Westbrook, 25, not torn the meniscus in his right knee in last year’s postseason, well, who knows?

Westbrook’s full-throttle, yet totally in-control Game 2 performance for a third triple-double in five games thrust him into elite company. Only four other players have produced three or more triple-doubles (but no more than four) in a single postseason going back to 1985: Magic Johnson had four in 1991 and three in each 1986 and 1987; Larry Bird had three in 1986; Rajon Rondo recorded four in 2012 and three in 2009; Jason Kidd had four in 2002; and LeBron James had three last season.

Just a reminder: The Thunder and Clippers are only headed into Game 3 of the second round (Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Westbrook’s Game 2 mega-performance of 31 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals is a four-category combination so rare in the postseason that only three other players have managed it: Charles Barkley (32 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals) in 1993; Gary Payton in 2000 (35 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, six steals); and James in 2013 (32 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, three steals).

Going 13-for-22 from the floor (59.1 percent) made Westbrook the first point guard in NBA playoff history to post at least 30 points on 59-percent shooting while also accumulating double-digit rebounds and assists. He’s the first player to do it since Barkley in 1993, and he became only the sixth player since 1985 to accomplish such a stat line, also joining Ralph Sampson (1986), James Worthy (1988), Michael Jordan (1989) and James (2010).

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Westbrook scored his Game 2 points in a variety of ways — pull-up jumpers, post-ups against his smaller counterparts Chris Paul and especially Darren Collison, full-speed penetrations, plus two 3-pointers on four attempts.

“Just taking what the defense gives me,” Westbrook said afterward.

Hard to criticize that.

Morning Shootaround — May 8



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played May 7

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Whose house? Russell’s house! | Blazers have to prove they can hang with Spurs | Hibbert feeds off of positive vibes from teammates, mentors | Heat always ready for “lineup Twister”

No. 1: Round 2 of an epic point guard battle goes to Russell Westbrook: Chris Paul fired the first shot in Game 1. Russell Westbrook‘s response … whew! After spending the opener as a guest on his own floor, Westbrook made it clear whose house it was with a wicked Game 2 effort, finishing with a triple-double* that helped lift the Thunder. Before things head for Hollywood for Games 3 and 4, Westbrook took his star turn. Jenni Carlson of the Oklahoman has the details:

Russell Westbrook made it clear early that Game 2 was going to be different.

On the first possession of the night, he snagged a steal, then in the process of gathering the ball and heading up court, he ran counterpart Chris Paul into an official. It was whistled a foul on Paul. Then, Westbrook got an offensive rebound and drew a foul on Blake Griffin. Then, he dished an assist to Kevin Durant.

The game was less than a minute old, but the Thunder point guard was already filling the stat sheet.

Setting the tone, too.

“I think Russell probably played harder than all of us combined,” Paul said. “He was all over the place.”

On a night when the Thunder needed to win on home hardwood and even up this Western Conference semifinal – and did just that with a 112-101 victory — Westbrook made sure that this series turned around. He scored. He rebounded. He assisted. He defended. He hounded.

In the process, Westbrook notched his third triple-double of these playoffs.

No other player has even one triple-double in this postseason.

Roll that around in your head a minute. Westbrook 3, rest of the NBA 0.

His triple-double numbers: 31 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists. He became the fifth player in the last 25 seasons with three or more triple-doubles in one postseason. The others: Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Jason Kidd and Rajon Rondo.

Westbrook added three steals and plenty of defensive headaches for the Clippers. What’s more, Westbrook contained Paul, who managed only 17 points and 11 assists. Maybe that seems like a lot, but compared to what he did in Game 1, the damage was minimal.

Two nights after Paul dominated this matchup with eight three-pointers, 32 points and a career night, Westbrook showed that he wasn’t going to back down. Yes, Paul is great. Sure, he might be the best point guard on the planet.

Then again, maybe not.

The point guard battle royale is back on.

And it is because Westbrook went right at Paul. He drew that foul on the opening possession. Then, he just kept coming. He crashed the boards. He looked for contact. He drove to the basket. For as good as Paul is, he’s more jitterbug than bruiser, and with Westbrooks height and size advantage, he used that to his advantage.

Less than halfway through the first quarter, Paul picked up foul No. 2 and had to go to the bench.

“It’s tough to guard him as it is,” Paul said, “but you get two bad fouls early in the game … it makes it that much tougher.”

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Morning Shootaround — May 1



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played April 30

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Fisher next to lead Lakers? | Report: Magic interested in owning Clippers | Hawks unveil revamped ‘Pac-Man’ logo | Report: Bulls trying to trade Boozer | Nets’ Twitter account blasts own fans

No. 1: Should Lakers look to Fisher next? — ICYMI last night, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni resigned from his position … and the speculation about who will have one of the NBA’s most glamorous jobs began almost immediately. Our Sekou Smith thinks Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski would be a good fit in Lakerland, and there’s buzz out there that ex-Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins might be interested in the gig, too. But what about a former Laker (and Kobe Bryant running mate) coming back in the fold to lead L.A.? Adrian Wojnarowski broaches the idea of current Thunder reserve guard Derek Fisher taking the reins some time soon:

As little as Mike D’Antoni wanted to coach Kobe Bryant in the end, Bryant wanted to play for D’Antoni even less. They had barely communicated for months, steering clear until a permanent parting on Wednesday night. They would’ve been miserable together, would’ve inevitably imploded the Los Angeles Lakers locker room.

D’Antoni is a great offensive mind, but his difficulties with Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Bryant have played a part in the unraveling of his coaching career. Lakers management had a willingness to bring him back next year, but refused to make a commitment beyond 2015.

The Lakers have lost talent, lost stability, lost what separates winning and losing franchises. Bryant won’t pick the next coach, the way he had no input into Mike Brown and little into D’Antoni. Bryant will wish for Tom Thibodeau to free himself from Chicago. He loves Jeff Van Gundy, and shares management’s affinity for Euro legend Ettore Messina, who spent a season on Mike Brown’s staff.

Bryant has long admired Byron Scott, but there’s a different ex-Lakers guard who could go much further to regenerate the franchise’s culture and hold the insight into getting the most out of Bryant’s final two seasons: Derek Fisher.

The Lakers need to make themselves a destination again. Free agency has major importance in 2015 and ’16 for the Lakers, and they’ll need to be positioned to make a run at Kevin Durant.

Superstars want desperately to consider the Lakers in free agency, but they won’t go anywhere based only on geography and banners. They’ll need to see an infrastructure of talent, management structure and coaching. Durant will want a culture, and Fisher could’ve grown into the job by ’16 to sell him on the Lakers’ brand.

It is risky to hire a coach with no experience, but the right minds and right coaching staffs can make it work. Fisher will command respect and he’ll be synonymous with a championship heritage that Lakers fans crave as a face of the franchise. Fisher is close to the end with the Thunder, and he’ll be the rare non-star to choose his next direction: management, coaching or television.

Derek Fisher is nearing the end, and willing to listen. This is a call the Buss family and Mitch Kupchak must make, a conversation with Fisher they owe it to the franchise to have sooner than later.

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