Posts Tagged ‘Metta World Peace’

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 9



VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Feb. 8

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Paul set to return Sunday | Grizzlies set record | Inconsistency plagues Heat | World Peace open to trade 

No. 1: Paul set to return Sunday — The Los Angeles Clippers battled through their last 18 games without All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who suffered from a separated right shoulder sustained on Jan. 3 at Dallas. The Clippers went 12-6 over the stretch to maintain their lead at the top of the Pacific Division. Thankfully for the Clippers, Paul appears ready to return today against the Philadelphia 76ers, as reported by Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

Chris Paul walked out to the Clippers’ practice court Saturday and stretched before he put on his practice jersey to get up some shots before practice started.

After practice was over, the team announced that Paul looked “great” in practice and that the All-Star guard would play Sunday night against the Philadelphia 76ers at Staples Center.

When the media met with Clippers Coach Doc Rivers before practice, he indicated there was a “50-50” chance that Paul would play against the 76ers.

But all that changed once Paul went through some contact drills with his teammates.

Rivers did say Paul would play in the NBA All-Star game Feb. 16 in New Orleans.

With Paul having sat out about five weeks with his injury, there could be an adjustment period having him back on the court.

“I never thought I would hear that question, actually,” Blake Griffin said before practice. “But, yeah, it’s a great problem to add in the best playmaker, perhaps in the league, back to your team.”

Paul has said on many occasions that he wanted to play in the All-Star game.

By playing against the 76ers and against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night, Paul will get in two regular-season games before the All-Star game.

“I like him playing in the All-Star game, personally,” Rivers said. “Whether he plays [Sunday] or plays the next game [Wednesday against Portland], I think this is a rare case where he’s ready to play and the All-Star game is probably the safest venue for him to play.”

Rivers said he thinks it’s going to take Paul “some time” to get adjusted to playing with his teammates again.

“I think it’s going to take Chris some time to get his rhythm back,” Rivers said. “So that’s why I’m hoping he is healthy and then we can play him Sunday, have a practice Tuesday and play him Wednesday. I think that’ll help. I think it’s going to take a couple of weeks for him to get his rhythm back. No doubt.”

***

No. 2: Grizzlies set record — The Memphis Grizzlies set an NBA record on Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks that seems like it will be difficult for another team to challenge: they shot only one free throw … and still won! That set a record for fewest free throws ever attempted in a game, besting the Cleveland Cavaliers who won a game with just two free-throw attempts against the Golden State Warriors in 1994. Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal has the report:

“In the second half, the game got physical and that’s how we want to play,” Griz guard Courtney Lee said. “It played into our favor. We got active. We competed. We turned it up defensively.”

In snapping a two-game losing streak, Memphis (27-22) held Atlanta to a season-low in points. That’s notable given how difficult points were to come by. The Griz became the first team in NBA history to attempt one free throw in a game.

“Wow. Can I say wow?” Griz forward Zach Randolph said. “Man, I should’ve shot that one.”

***

No. 3: Inconsistency plagues Heat — The Miami Heat have tried to improve their consistency over the last few weeks. At 35-14, they’ve fallen to 4.0 games behind the Indiana Pacers for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and the Heat’s loss to the Utah Jazz on Saturday night certainly won’t help them catch the Pacers. Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald reports:

There was a story in the local paper Friday suggesting that every victory by the Utah Jazz from here on out would actually be hurting the franchise.

That’s the team the Heat lost to 94-89 on Saturday, the maybe-it-should-just-tank Utah Jazz.

So, the inconsistency continues for the Heat this season despite coach Erik Spoelstra’s best effort to coax some sort of rhythm and consistency out of his lineup. Remember that winning streak that started after last year’s Super Bowl? Well, this year’s early February winning streak ended at three games.

“We figured it was going to be an ugly game,” Spoelstra said. “We just have to find a way when we’re not making shots the way we’re accustomed to. We never could get over that hump.”

“I thought we contested a lot of shots tonight, and they hit them like we weren’t even there,” Chris Bosh said.

Dwyane Wade missed a layup with 11 seconds left, and the Jazz began celebrating arguably its best victory of the season.

Streamers fell from the rafters at Energy Solutions Arena after the final buzzer. It was Utah’s first victory in five games.

LeBron James has turned in some masterful performances in Utah throughout his career, but the second game of this road trip was not one of them. James finished with just 13 points, going 4 of 13 from the field and 1 of 6 from three-point range. He settled too often for his jump shot, and that lack of energy permeated throughout the Heat’s lineup.

“We played well enough defensively to win the game,” James said. “Offensively, we didn’t shoot the ball well, like we are capable of doing. That is what it came down to.”

The Heat shot 43.3 percent from the field and 30.4 percent (7 of 23) from three-point range. It was Miami’s worst shooting percentage since Jan. 10 when it shot 42.5 percent in a loss at Brooklyn.

***

No. 4: World Peace open to trade — Metta World Peace was ecstatic to join his hometown New York Knicks this summer. But it seems World Peace is now open to a trade after he has found himself on the bench since returning from a blood-spinning procedure on Jan. 24. Marc Berman of the New York Post reports:

After spending his career wanting to be traded to the Knicks, the defensive forward, who has been in and out of the rotation since December, wouldn’t mind being traded from the Knicks.

“He didn’t sign up for this,’’ one person close to him said.

When asked about whether he wanted to get dealt at the Feb. 20 deadline, World Peace said: “That’s up to my agent. I don’t worry about it. I’m optimistic about my future. … I’m not going to complain.’’

Another source said the possibility exists that [Mike] Woodson was unhappy with World Peace after a recent practice, in which World Peace spoke up about his playing time, making a wisecrack. World Peace is a constant clown in the locker room, but Woodson took exception.

Agent Marc Cornstein said he hasn’t gotten a firm reason why World Peace has seen limited time after the Knicks gave the rest of their mid-level exception in signing the Queenbridge product in July. He has been relegated to mostly garbage time since returning from his platelet-rich plasma procedure. World Peace played the final five minutes of garbage time Friday night in the Knicks’ 117-90 rout of the Nuggets.

“I haven’t been given an answer,’’ Cornstein said. “Usually, I’ll get an answer, not always the one I want to hear. But I don’t have an answer for you on this.’’

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Ricky Rubio scored a career-high 25 points. … Goran Dragic also set a career-high with 34 points. … Ricky Davis is attempting to return to the NBA through the Development League. … Chris Kaman on a potential trade: “I don’t care.” … Golden State Warriors willing to trade anyone but Stephen Curry or Andrew Bogut. … Kevin Martin of the Minnesota Timberwolves is out indefinitely with a broken thumb.

ICYMI of the Night: It seemed like every player on the Detroit Pistons was hot last night as they scored a season-high 126 points to defeat the Denver Nuggets. The leader of their temperature rise was Brandon Jennings, who scored a season-high 35 points to go along with 12 assists. If he keeps playing like this, he may live up to the contract he signed with the Pistons this summer.


VIDEO: Nightly Notable: Brandon Jennings

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 28


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 27

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron suffers strained groin | Beal injures left knee | Kidd losing support | Dolan talked to Knicks | Pacers can get better

No. 1: LeBron suffers strained groin — If Russell Westbrook‘s and Al Horford‘s injuries weren’t enough, there were a couple of more significant ones suffered during Friday’s nine-game slate. And the four-time MVP, one of the most durable players in recent memory, was not immune. In the process of passing Larry Bird and Gary Payton on the all-time scoring list, LeBron James suffered a strained groin, as reported by Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report:

It wasn’t especially apparent when LeBron James made the first three-pointer, or the second, or third, that late spree of nine points in 31.3 seconds of overtime nearly saving the night for the Miami Heat.

But after he spoke to the media and revealed that he’d strained his groin sometime way back in the second quarter, James’ discomfort became painfully clear.

The simple walk to the shower was a struggle.

“It ain’t feeling too good right now,” James said.

And so, now, after the Heat dropped a 108-103 decision to the Sacramento Kings—their sixth loss this season to a team currently under .500—there’s a cloud over another of the team’s highly anticipated showdowns.

After a day’s rest, James scored 24 points, with nine rebounds and seven assists in a Dec. 18 victory against Indiana. This time, though, only 20 hours separate James and the Heat from tipoff against the team with the NBA’s best record, the Portland Trail Blazers.

Will James play?

“See how it feels tomorrow,” James said.

***

No. 2: Beal injures left knee — Earlier in the night, the Wizards suffered a scare when Bradley Beal injured his left knee in the fourth quarter of a loss in Minnesota. Michael Lee off the Washington Post has the story:

Bradley Beal banged left knees with Minnesota Timberwolves forward Luc Mbah a Moute, spun around and dropped on his back side. He tried to stand but collapsed again. Gasping and grimacing as he looked down, with his hands and knees on the hardwood, Beal kept pushing, telling himself to get up from the floor and walk over to the Washington Wizards’ bench. Until he finally relented.

“I really couldn’t get up,” Beal said. “I just fell because it was no way I could possibly move after that.”

The Wizards were well on their way to a humiliating 120-98 loss to the Timberwolves when Beal caused a panic amongst his teammates and fans with 4 minutes 27 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Martell Webster had just hit a three-pointer to bring the Wizards within 21 points. He turned and walked away but quickly was running back to check on Beal, who didn’t leave the floor until teammates Trevor Ariza and Jan Vesely lifted him on their shoulders and carried him to the locker room.

After having a precautionary X-ray, Beal moved down the hallway with the assistance of crutches but left the arena on his volition, limping and holding back his emotion. Beal will have an MRI exam Saturday in Washington but was encouraged about his outlook.

“The X-ray was pretty positive,” Beal said before smiling to catch himself. “It was negative. My bad. It was negative. That’s a good thing. I was hoping it wasn’t anything too, too serious or too crazy. Hopefully, I’ll be good moving forward.”

So, as the Thunder and Hawks (and Bulls and Nets and Lakers and Celtics) already dealing with extended absences from their All-Stars, the Heat and Wizards await further word on James’ and Beal’s injuries.

***

No. 3: Kidd losing supportThe Nets ended their four-game losing streak with a comfortable win over the Bucks on Friday, but it will take a lot more than a win over the worst team in the league to get Brooklyn back on track. And Jason Kidd might not have the answers needed. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! reports that Kidd has begun to lose some support within the organization:

The Nets had tried to be supportive of Kidd, but patience is running low on the belief he can deliver the structure and organization desperately needed. As the Nets have devolved into chaos, Kidd has increasingly isolated himself within the locker room and organization, sources told Yahoo Sports. From management to players, Kidd has shown an inability to manage crisis and keep the respect of his players.

Rifts exist between old players and new, trust eroded with every humiliating loss in this 9-19 season.

And yet, somehow, Kidd believes he can keep publicly eviscerating his players’ character and desire and spare himself blame and responsibility. For those around the Nets with a sense of history and irony, they remember Kidd running ex-coach Byron Scott out of his job for offenses born of this failed playbook.

Here’s the question management is grappling with: Does Brooklyn start unloading its star players and stay the course with the coach, or unload the coach and let someone else manage these star players?

***

No. 4: Dolan talked to KnicksThe Knicks may be in worse shape than their neighbors in Brooklyn, but apparently they have owner James Dolan‘s word that they shouldn’t fear for their jobs. As Marc Stein of ESPN reports, Dolan spoke to his players and coaches on Thursday, telling them that he’s not looking to shake things up:

Knicks chairman James Dolan told New York players in a meeting Thursday that there are no trades or changes to the coaching staff forthcoming, ESPN.com has learned.

Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Dolan gathered the team before the first practice in the wake of New York’s embarrassing 29-point home loss to Oklahoma City on Christmas Day largely in an attempt to hush the growing speculation about coach Mike Woodson’s job security following the Knicks’ 9-19 start.

The discussion came amid increasing signs the Knicks’ effort and focus under Woodson is waning on top of the significant injury issues that have plagued them all season.

It’s believed Dolan took the step in an attempt to persuade Woodson’s players to band together and throw their full support behind the embattled coach to help dig New York out of the sizable hole it finds itself with essentially one-third of the regular season in the books, the sources said.

When an emboldened Woodson met reporters after Thursday’s practice, he promptly announced he still thinks New York can rally from its poor start to win the Atlantic Division.

“We won it last year, and I expect us to win it this year,” he said.

***

No. 5: Pacers can get betterDanny Granger has shot just 5-for-22 in his first three games back from a strained calf, but his healthy return means that the Pacers have room for improvement. Indiana now has a two-game lead in the loss column at the top of the Eastern Conference, but they don’t feel like they’re a complete team until Granger has been fully integrated into the rotation, as Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star writes:

Though Indiana (23-5) has outscored its past three opponents by an average of 25.8 points – and a repeat rival, the Brooklyn Nets, fills the dance card Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse – coach Frank Vogel sees room for improvement, specifically with the full integration of Danny Granger in the rotation.

“I think (the rotation) will feel like it’s complete when Danny’s complete,” Vogel said. “Danny’s going to have ups and downs over the next six weeks where he’s just getting his legs under him, getting his rhythm and timing back. That’s going to be a process. Once he gets up to speed then it will feel complete.”

Since Granger made his season debut on Dec. 20, the Pacers have looked like a mighty force. That’s not to credit Granger as the cause for the three-game winning streak – shooting just 23 percent from the floor, he has consistently preached patience about getting his conditioning and rhythm back. Still, the Pacers have moved Granger from the end of the bench to 20 minutes per game quite effortlessly.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Avery Bradley can put the ball in the basketChris Paul takes the blame for the Clippers’ two-game losing streakComing off the bench has worked well for Danny GreenMichael Kidd-Gilchrist had his cast removed … and Metta World Peace revealed that he’s an alien.

ICYMI: Derrick Favors beat the Lakers with this throwdown on Friday…


VIDEO: Favors’ game-winning putback

Bulls’ Silver Lining? Rose’s Knee Injury Could Have Been Much Worse




VIDEO: Derrick Rose faces another potentially long road back from a severe knee injury

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — There is a silver lining in an otherwise doomsday scenario for Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls and their die-hard fans: It could have been worse!

It seems preposterous to frame Rose’s latest injury setback in that context. But on the eve and morning of his surgery, which has to be performed before there can any long-term prognosis for his recovery time, Rose’s teammates, the organization and especially the fans need something to positive to cling to.

Sure, it’s flimsy. But with the surgery happening sometime today in Chicago and no one sure what the aftermath of the procedure will bring, positive thoughts are needed.

And it’s true, it could have been worse. He could have suffered another torn ACL as opposed to the torn medial meniscus ligament in his right knee that was torn in Friday’s loss to Portland. All indications are that the recovery from this current injury requires less time than the entire 2012-13 season Rose had to miss while recovering from a torn left ACL.

The other, and perhaps more important, silver lining for the Bulls is that coach Tom Thibodeau, center Joakim Noah, and forwards Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng and the rest of the crew know what it’s like to work with Rose in street clothes. It doesn’t translate into a championship, as we saw last season. But they won’t be folding up their uniforms and giving up on their season just because Rose could be done.

The options for Rose, (thoroughly presented by our very own Steve Aschburner over the weekend) in terms of the surgical choices, have already been laid out.

Noted sports trainer Tim Grover, who has worked with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and others, provided a glimpse of the different approaches on Twitter shortly after the results of Rose’s MRI exam were released by the Bulls Saturday afternoon:

Repair the meniscus and you rehab it and the recovery time is anywhere from four to six months, which all but ends yet another season for Rose. If the meniscus cannot be repaired and has to be removed, the rehab and recovery process is sped up considerably. But the long-term outlook doesn’t look good, as arthritis and other issues could arise later because of the removal of the cartilage that serves as the cushion in the knee.

For a player Rose’s age, even after two severe knee injuries, the longevity of his career has to be of the utmost importance of all involved. Doesn’t it?

It makes little sense at this point to compare Rose’s situation to those of guys like Metta World Peace, who came back 12 days after surgery to repair a torn meniscus last season, or even Russell Westbrook, who was not coming back from a torn ACL in his other knee when he returned this season from surgery to repair his torn meniscus.

Rose is dealing with something that physically and psychologically only he can struggle to comprehend. He already dealt with a season full of second-guessing when he decided to use the entire 2012-13 season to recover from his ACL injury, a decision I supported wholeheartedly then and in hindsight. He’s saddled with the added pressure of being the hometown hero, the rising star who was supposed to lift the Bulls back to championship heights for the first time since the Jordan years.

All of that is in jeopardy now, of course, since we don’t know what type of player Rose will be in the wake of this second knee surgery.

But at least there is a chance he comes back and plays at a level commensurate with his talent and potential. Had this latest injury been more severe … well, thank goodness for silver linings.

*** Stay tuned to NBA.com and NBA TV for updates on Rose today ***

(Supposedly) Stumbling Knicks Somehow Find A Way To Recover




VIDEO: Knicks handled the Hawks at Philips Arena in a “must-win” game

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Is this what passes for pressure these days in the NBA? This is desperation mode?

You couldn’t tell from watching the New York Knicks in the lead up to their “must-win” victory over the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night at Philips Arena, a game that was overshadowed by loads of off-court drama and the guarantee from Knicks owner Jim Dolan that his team would prevail on this night.

Not when the rookies, led by Tim Hardaway Jr., show up with a chocolate cake (lit candles and all) for Metta World Peace on his birthday at the post-shootaround team luncheon in a hotel ballroom. (That rousing rendition of Happy Birthday won’t get any of the Knicks’ youngsters or veterans on The Voice, by the way.)

Not when your current trade rumors swirl around Iman Shumpert and he and his coach, Mike Woodson, brush them aside and move on to the business at hand like nothing’s going on.

It’s not that the Knicks weren’t smarting from their sluggish start to this season or their humiliating home loss to the San Antonio Spurs Sunday at MSG. They were and they still are and will continue to do so with another test tonight against the Houston Rockets at the Garden (8 p.m. ET, TNT).

But they’re not going to let the drama consume them. They issued their own guarantee with their win over the Hawks, a game they led at one time by 17 points, only to have to come back in the fourth quarter to secure the win. They’ll find a way out of this current rut, even if it takes a little longer than the outside world (mainly Knicks fans and Knicks haters) can stomach, guarantee from the owner or not.

“He said what he said but we had to come out here and play,” Carmelo Anthony said after leading the Knicks with 25 points, which included a six-point spurt in the fourth quarter that helped preserve the win. “We had to win for ourselves first and foremost. But now that we’ve won, we can give him that satisfaction.”


VIDEO: Carmelo Anthony on the Knicks’ win in Atlanta

The Knicks are taking their cues from Woodson, who has spent as much time in the pressure cooker this season as any coach in the league. But Woodson has done some of the best work under pressure at Philips Arena over the past decade (including his six seasons as the Hawks’ coach) than most any coach anywhere.

There’s no sense in driving his team to the brink when everyone outside of it assumes they are already there. Sure, he tweaked his starting lineup, inserting J.R. Smith in just his second game back from a five-game suspension. His lineup tweak also served Andrea Bargnani well. Bargnani will never be able to replace the defensive presence that Tyson Chandler (broken fibula) is for the Knicks. But Bargnani played well, finishing with 20 points and a season-high 11 rebounds while knocking down two critical fourth-quarter 3-pointers.

Anthony, in particular, seemed surprisingly at ease after the game.

“This was a great way to kind of get back on track,” he said. “Anytime you can win on the road, it’s always a big win. We came through with a much better effort than we had against San Antonio. I’m glad to see how we responded and put that game behind us.”

The drama won’t go away, of course. It never does in New York. The trade rumors, the overreaction after every stumble, the seemingly never-ending speculation about Woodson’s job security, it’ll all be there again in the next 24-hour cycle of panic.

It’s how they handle it that matters.

The Knicks’ renewed focus on defense and a return to their low turnover ways (just three against the Hawks) plus Woodson’s unwavering approach will help the Knicks find a way.

“Bottom line,” Woodson said, “we’re here to win. And when we step on the floor I expect guys to play to help us win.”


VIDEO: Knicks coach Mike Woodson pleased with team’s effort vs. Hawks

Morning Shootaround — Nov. 13


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Nov. 12

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Knicks ponder lineup changes | Lakers not planning on Nash retiring | Howard says he’s overthinking FTs | Sullinger has MRI on knee | Nowitzki surpasses West in record books

No. 1: Woodson mulling starting lineup changes — A 2-4 record after a 31-point blowout loss to the Spurs on Sunday has Knicks coach Mike Woodson pondering his starting lineup and how to make it more effective. The names that could join the fray? Metta World Peace and J.R. Smith. Woodson could start Smith tonight against the Hawks (8 ET, ESPN), which could change the role for either Pablo Prigioni or Iman Shumpert. As for World Peace, Woodson is still deciding whether or not to start him as well. Marc Berman of the New York Post has more on the potential changes:

At Tuesday’s practice, Smith wore the starter’s blue uniform while point guard Pablo Prigioni was in the white. In the past two games, Woodson has started two point guards — Prigioni and Raymond Felton.

Smith, the reigning Sixth Man Award winner, would replace either Prigioni or Iman Shumpert. If he replaces Prigioni, the team would have a three-guard alignment of Felton-Shumpert-Smith.

“I’m going to sleep on it tonight,’’ Woodson said. “I tinkered with some things today. I’ll sleep on it and make a decision [Wednesday].

“I’m just searching, trying to get a unit that starts the game on a good note. I thought we overcame that in the Charlotte game [Friday]. I’m hoping we don’t start the game where we’re down 15-20 points right off the bat.”

Woodson called Smith “a possibility’’ to start. Smith’s season debut Sunday in the 31-point loss to San Antonio was dreadful — five points, four turnovers — but Woodson had his eyes on making Smith a starter all offseason.

Asked about Metta World Peace joining the starting fray, Woodson didn’t rule it out. But Smith is a favorite of team owner Jim Dolan and since last May’s exit meeting, there has been a movement to promote him to starter.

“He’s only been back a game,’’ Woodson said. “Yes he was rusty the other night. We just got to be patient and help him grow to get him to play the way he’s capable of playing.

“I’m trying to get a good rotation down and I’ve had trouble with that,’’ Woodson added. “I haven’t found the rotations that I want yet. I’m going to work my butt off to get us to where we need to be.’’


VIDEO: Woodson on potential starting lineup changes for Knicks

***

No. 2: Lakers aren’t pondering Nash retirement — Former two-time MVP Steve Nash has played in just six of the Lakers’ nine games this season (although, in his defense, he was held out of a back-to-back set in an effort to help preserve him for the season). Still, Nash is now out at least two weeks with nerve root irritation and, overall as a Laker, has played in 56 of a possible 91 regular-season games with L.A. Some in Lakerland are calling for Nash to just hang it up, but as Eric Pincus and Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times report, the Lakers aren’t doing likewise:

“There’s always going to be a debate but we’re not going to debate it, talk about it,” Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said Tuesday. “He’s going to try to get ready, he’s going to try to play and we’re going to try to win. It’s really simple for us. It’s not real difficult.”

Nash has already missed three of nine games and is out at least two more weeks because of nerve damage in his back, the latest injury to hit him since he joined the Lakers.

But should he retire?

He makes $9.3 million this season and $9.7 million next season. If he’s found physically unable to play by Lakers back specialist Robert Watkins, Nash still receives full compensation.

The NBA would then do its due diligence, sending a league-appointed physician to verify the findings of Lakers doctors.

If the league signed off, the final year of Nash’s contract would be completely removed from the Lakers’ salary cap — as long as he played in fewer than 10 games this season.

The Lakers have nearly cleared their books for next summer: Nash, Robert Sacre ($915,243) and Nick Young ($1.2-million player option) are the only ones with guaranteed contracts.

Even if the NBA didn’t approve a Nash retirement, the Lakers could use their “stretch provision” to waive him next summer and spread out his final $9.7 million over three seasons.

For now, Nash will work to return to the court, with medical retirement an option only if he is truly unable to make it back.

“Steve will just have to get back as soon as he can and then we’ll see where we are,” D’Antoni said.

***

No. 3: Dwight says he’s overthinking free throws — In his 10 seasons in the NBA, Houston center Dwight Howard has led the league in free throw attempts four times and is on pace to do so again this season. It’s a common ploy opponents use against Howard, who is a career 57.6 percent shooter from the stripe. Howard says his reason for shooting so badly at the line is easy to figure out, though, as Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle reports:

Rockets center Dwight Howard has been a target this year for his sub-par free throw shooting. Opponents have gone to the “hack-a-Dwight” method to put the big man at the line.

After another poor performance from the line on Monday night against the Raptors (Howard was 4-of-12), he told reporters he just didn’t want to talk about free throws anymore.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Howard said. “So much has been talked about free throws, just let it go. We talk about it so much, I think about it at the line. I don’t want to think about it. I want to shoot.

“That’s what I do in practice. I shoot in practice and I dont miss because I am not thinking about it.”

Howard said that he is overthinking free throw shots in games, and missing them because of it. He said he is making up for the lack of free throws in other ways.

“I get in the game and I think so much that I tend to miss,” Howard said. “The best thing to do is to let it go. If I make it, I make it. If I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. Even if I do miss, I will be out on the other end, playing defense, getting rebounds, blocking shots and paying back for fouling in that way.”


VIDEO: Howard says he thinks too much about FT misses

***

No. 4: Sullinger OK after having MRI on knee — Since his days as a standout performer at Ohio State, Celtics big man Jared Sullinger has dealt with recurring back injuries and issues. That was the case in his first NBA season as well as a back injury sidelined him after just 45 games. He’s been off to a good start this season, averaging 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds as a valued reserve for the surprisingly successful Celtics. Sullinger banged knees with Orlando’s Maurice Harkless during Boston’s 120-105 win on Monday and needed an MRI yesterday, but the results look good, writes Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com:

Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger underwent a precautionary MRI on his right knee at New England Baptist Hospital on Tuesday and the results revealed a bone bruise, according to the team. Sullinger is listed as day to day.

Orlando’s Maurice Harkless slammed hard into Sullinger’s right knee, forcing Boston’s second-year forward to crash backwards late in the first half of Boston’s 120-105 triumph. Sullinger did play 14 minutes, 33 seconds in the second half. He sat out practice Tuesday and departed with trainer Ed Lacerte near the end of the session.

“He’s got a sore knee and they are doing an MRI just to check out and see what’s wrong,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Nothing conclusive, and certainly day to day it sounds like they are looking at, but we just don’t know yet, so we want to make sure.”

If Sullinger is unable to go, it would likely mean an elevated role for veteran Kris Humphries, who has played well (second best on the team at plus-27 overall) in small bursts while waiting for an extended opportunity.

***

No. 5: Nowitzki climbs the all-time scoring ranks — With his 3-pointer late in the third quarter of Dallas’ eventual victory over Washington, Dirk Nowitzki surpassed NBA legend and Hall of Famer Jerry West for No. 16 on the league’s all-time scoring list. Our own Jeff Caplan was on hand for the event and points out that Nowitzki can still pass more names on the list while also etching a unique place in NBA history as well:

Nowitzki, in his 16th season, now has 25,197 career points. With West’s 25,192 points behind him, Reggie Miller’s 25,279 points is reachable likely within the next three to five games. Soon, only 14 players will have scored more points than the big German, and only a handful are safe from Nowitzki’s final charge over the next few seasons.

“It’s another great milestone, but for now, got to keep working and that’s really about it,” said a rather subdued Nowitzki, whose re-tooled Mavs improved to 5-3. “Like I always say, all these milestones are great once my career is over.”

Nowitzki is on pace to become the all-time leading scorer among international players. Houston Rockets Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon, a native of Nigeria, leads that group. The Dream sits No. 9 all-time with 26,946 points. Nowitzki can catch him this season if he averages 21.3 points over the next 74 games.

He’s currently averaging 18.3 points on 47.5 percent shooting from the floor and 38.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. Nowitzki is in the final year of his contract, but has said he plans to play another two or three seasons, and his intention is to do so with the Mavs.

Seemingly the only thing that can keep Nowitzki, 35, from finishing in the top eight, at least, on the all-time scoring list is health. He’s been extremely durable throughout his career, but has experienced right knee troubles the past few seasons, needing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee prior to last season.


VIDEO: Nowitzki talks about passing West on the all-time scoring list

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The little brother of Knicks guard J.R. Smith, Chris Smith, is being paid $2 million as an NBA D-League player, by far the richest amount in the league … Warriors guard Toney Douglas is out 2 weeks with a stress reaction to his left tibia … Bulls have brought in ex-Warriors and Bobcats forward Reggie Williams for some workouts … Blazers star LaMarcus Aldridge has an interesting way of keeping pressure on himself

ICYMI Of The Night: Monday night, we saw a veteran (Marvin Williams) get posterized by another veteran (J.J. Hickson). Last night, a rookie (Jeff Withey of the Pelicans) got victimized by a veteran (Lakers swingman Xavier Henry), and the results were just as vicious …


VIDEO: Xavier Henry elevates over rookie Jeff Withey for the power jam

Morning Shootaround — Oct. 30

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Westbrook’s return ahead of schedule | World Peace, not Bargnani, likely to start | Parsons says Beverley will start at PG | Malone rips Kings’ effort in practice | Suns trying to determine Bledsoe’s value

No. 1: Report: Westbrook may return in 2 weeksEarlier this month, the Thunder got news that All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook would need a second surgical procedure on his ailing right knee. That meant that Westbrook would likely miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season, putting his return to OKC’s lineup somewhere in December. But the Thunder may be getting some good news soon, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo!Sports.com, as Westbrook is healing up quick.:

Oklahoma Thunder star Russell Westbrook has made significant progress in his recovery from a second surgical procedure on his knee and could return to the Thunder’s lineup within two weeks, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Thunder issued an original timetable of six to eight weeks from Wednesday’s opening night for Westbrook, but barring an unforeseen setback he could be back in the lineup by mid-November.

Westbrook began participating in Thunder practice sessions and has impressed everyone with his explosion and fast return to form, sources said.

***

No. 2: Knicks likely to start Metta World Peace, not Bargnani — As we reported in this space a few days ago, Knicks coach Mike Woodson didn’t sound totally committed to a Carmelo AnthonyAndrea BargnaniTyson Chandler frontline for opening night. That appears to definitely be the case now as Marc Berman of the New York Post reports that Woodson will more than likely start Metta World Peace alongside Anthony and Chandler and use Bargnani as a sixth man:

Arrivederci Andrea.

Andrea Bargnani, who started all seven preseason games in an experimental jumbo frontcourt, is expected to be demoted to the bench for Wednesday’s season opener against the Bucks at the Garden.

Though coach Mike Woodson refused to make it official, all indications point to Bargnani becoming a reserve, Metta World Peace starting at small forward and Carmelo Anthony heading back to power forward.

Consider the big frontcourt experiment of Tyson Chandler-Bargnani-Melo a preseason failure.

Woodson still said he wants to “sleep on it’’ but Anthony said he believes it’s happening.

“I didn’t expect it, we didn’t expect it,’’ Anthony said. “That’s what he’s going with. I think guys are ready for the move. Everyone seems on board with that. Whatever position we have to play, we have to go out and do it.’’

Anthony thrived at power forward last season in his career year in which he finished third in the MVP voting. Woodson is going with what he knows worked, but if Bargnani had thrived, this wouldn’t have happened.

“It really doesn’t matter to me,’’ Anthony said of playing the 3 or 4. “I’ve been successful in this league at the three. Last year I was successful at the four. Whatever adjustments I have to make, I have to make. I’m willing to do that.’’


VIDEO: Mike Woodson on his possible plans for the starting lineup

***

No. 3: Rockets’ Parsons: Beverley, not Lin, to start — As the Houston Rockets ready for the season opener tonight against the Charlotte Bobcats, Rockets coach Kevin McHale was very non-committal about who would be in his starting five for the game. But one of his players, small forward Chandler Parsons, revealed a bit of information regarding the starting point guard job between Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley, writes Adam Wexler of CSNHouston.com:

Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale again was reluctant to acknowledge who his starting five would be on opening night. One of his players was more forthcoming.

“Yes,” McHale said when asked if he had a starting five set for Wednesday night. That was followed by a question asking if he’d tell the media who that is. “No,” McHale answered.

Chandler Parsons was asked if the players had been told who the starters would be and he sounded almost surprised that McHale had not shared that with the media.

“I don’t know why it’s a big surprise,” Parsons said. “It’s the same as how the preseason ended.”

That means Patrick Beverley will not only make his first opening night roster, he’ll be making his first opening night start.

“I haven’t had the fortune to play in the NBA on opening night,” Beverley said. “It’s going to be my first. I’m definitely excited.”

The starting five last year was Asik, Marcus Morris, Parsons, Harden and Jeremy Lin.

***

No. 4: Malone lays into Kings after practice — New Kings coach Mike Malone is trying to build a winner in Sacramento while also attempting to reverse the losing culture that has permeated the franchise in recent seasons. As such, he’s tried to instill a stronger work ethic and more overall effort from the Kings each game and — at least based on the preseason — his strategy might be working. The Kings wrapped up the exhibition season at 5-2, but a lackluster effort in Tuesday’s practice drew Malone’s ire, writes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee:

“I asked what their record was in the preseason last year, and guess what it was?” Malone said. “It was 5-2. So the preseason doesn’t mean a damn thing, and for those guys who thought being 5-2 and doing some good things meant a lot, they couldn’t be further from the truth. And they’ll have a rude awakening Wednesday night when they play Denver.”…

“I would say (Monday) was probably our worst practice of the year,” Malone said. “If we (had played) a game (Monday), we would be zero and one to start the season.”

It was the first time Malone ripped his team’s effort after a practice. He said it was a collectively bad effort.

“The energy, the effort, the discipline, the focus just wasn’t there for whatever reason,” Malone said. “I can’t explain it. No excuse, no explanation. It was just a bad day for us, and we have to have a much better practice (today) heading into the regular season, three games in four nights.”

Some problems on the court occurred in areas Malone is adamant about improving – turnovers and defense.

The Kings have been one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA for a few years and cannot expect to change that by giving up easy points off turnovers.

“Carelessness with the ball, too many turnovers,” forward Patrick Patterson said of Monday’s practice. “Not getting back in transition, lack of communication, too many people not focused and people just taking it as a day to get by.

“Our coach said we have to get better every day. We can’t let one day get away from us.”

Patterson came to the Kings from a playoff team (Houston) in a February trade.

“Despite what we did in the preseason, we’re not that great of a team,” Patterson said. “We still have a lot to prove. We have a lot to work on.”

***

No. 5: Suns trying to nail down Bledsoe’s value — Phoenix has been impressed with the play of its new, young point guard, Eric Bledsoe, in the preseason. And the Suns have until Thursday at 9 p.m. to lock the guard into a long-term extension if they so choose to do so. The Suns like the idea of locking up Bledsoe, but where they’re having trouble is figuring out a fair-market value contract for him before that Thursday deadline, writes Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic:

Eric Bledsoe is as difficult to compare in contracts as he is in skills.

The Suns point guard’s unique talents make for a redeeming quality. His incomparable contract value makes for a problem with a Thursday extension deadline looming.

With the roster and contract options settled, Bledsoe’s extension talks are the most pressing item on the Suns front office’s October to-do list.

The “to-do” is whether to do it or not. The Suns valued Bledsoe enough to be the aggressor and architect of a July three-team trade obtaining him. Making a long-term commitment to Bledsoe at an annual eight-figure salary would be a deeper pledge to potential.

The money part is the conundrum. Bledsoe is not going to be paid based on averaging 8.5 points, 3.1 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game last season for the Clippers. He was All-Star Chris Paul’s backup, logging 20.4 minutes per game. It had to be a bit scary for Phoenix to see Utah reward Derrick Favors, a three-year backup like Bledsoe, with an extension worth at least $49million over four years.

Bledsoe’s other draft classmates who received extensions are incomparable in talent, results or position — Washington point guard John Wall (five years, $80million), Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins (four years, $62million), Indiana All-Star swingman Paul George (five years, $80-plus million) and Milwaukee center Larry Sanders (four years, $44million).

The only backup to receive an extension from the previous draft, Chicago power forward Taj Gibson (four years, $38million), is also a hard comparison because he plays a less-valuable position and was with the Bulls for the prior three seasons. Since Bledsoe arrived in late September, the Suns barely know what they have in him and he has yet to play a regular-season game for them.

Bledsoe has not even achieved what Detroit’s Brandon Jennings did (averaging 17.0 points and 5.7 assists over four seasons) but likely expects more than Jennings’ three-year, $25million deal.

Bledsoe’s statistics and play will get better with an increased load and his untapped talent. Allowing him to raise his value during the season and become a top restricted free agent in July is dangerous.

The Suns have to weigh that against how a Bledsoe contract would eat into salary-cap space they have created for a major trade or free-agency signing (during Bledsoe’s would-be offer-sheet process).

But does Bledsoe even want an extension here? He has not talked about wanting Phoenix to be his long-term home when given the chance.

It might be hard for an organization that offered Eric Gordon $58million over four years to come in with less for Bledsoe. At the same time, how does it offer Bledsoe more than the annual $7.5million salary it gave Dragic? The good news: Restricted free agents rarely leave with nothing in return. Even the Joe Johnson debacle netted Boris Diaw and two first-round picks.

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Surely, being Derrick Rose is nice life to lead. It’s probably even nicer when the President of the United States gives you a shoutout on Twitter … Great read by the Charlotte Observer‘s Rick Bonnell on the two grandmas who helped raise Al Jefferson … Nuggets guard Ty Lawson will be a game-time decision tonightSolid Q&A with Pistons owner Tom Gores, who fields questions on Joe Dumars‘ future and more … For the record — Kevin Garnett is a Wolverine guy, Brook Lopez is a Batman guy

ICYMI Of The Night: Heat reserve guard Norris Cole better save this highlight on his computer, because you know Derrick Rose will get him back for it sometime this season …


VIDEO: Norris Cole crosses up Derrick Rose

One Team, One Stat: No Howard = No Defense In L.A.

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Los Angeles Lakers, who could be in danger of missing the playoffs for just the third time in the last 38 years.

The basics
LAL Rank
W-L 45-37 t-11
Pace 96.8 5
OffRtg 105.6 8
DefRtg 103.6 19
NetRtg +2.0 10

The stat

107.8 percent – Points per 100 possessions allowed by the Lakers in 1,229 minutes with Dwight Howard off the floor last season.

The context

That number would have ranked 28th in the league over the full season. But when Howard was on the floor, the Lakers allowed just 101.7 points per 100 possessions, which would have ranked 10th in the league.

Though Howard was recovering from back surgery and dealing with a shoulder injury, he still made a huge impact on the Lakers’ defense. With him on the floor, their opponents shot worse, committed more turnovers, got to the free throw line less, and grabbed fewer offensive rebounds.

And Howard was clearly a rim protector. With him on the floor, L.A.’s opponents attempted just 31.7 percent of their shots from the restricted area. With him on the bench, their opponents attempted 37.3 percent of their shots from the restricted area. That’s a critical difference with restricted-area shots being the most efficient on the floor.

Here’s some action from a March game at Golden State in which the Warriors scored 74 points in 37 minutes with Howard on the floor and 35 points in 11 minutes (shooting 11-for-12 in the paint) with Howard on the bench…


Howard did have some help. The Lakers were much better defensively with both Howard and Metta World Peace on the floor than with just one of the two…

Lakers efficiency, 2012-13

On floor MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Howard + World Peace 1,876 106.3 99.7 +6.6 +201
Howard only 846 102.5 106.2 -3.8 -61
World Peace only 654 109.1 109.2 -0.0 -10
One of the two 1,499 105.4 107.5 -2.1 -71
Neither 573 103.8 106.2 -2.4 -35

Unfortunately for the Lakers, both Howard and World Peace are gone. In their place are Chris Kaman and Nick Young. And in terms of defense, those are two serious downgrades.

As the starting center, Kaman is the more important of the two. So it’s not a good sign that Dallas went from eighth in defensive efficiency (in 2011-12) to 20th (last season) with him replacing Brendan Haywood in the paint. Nor is it promising that the Mavs were better defensively with Kaman on the bench.

The Lakers were barely better than the Mavs last season, ranking 19th defensively. They lost their two best defenders, replaced them with bad ones, and have a coach that’s, ahem, not known to prioritize that end of the floor. This could get ugly.

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

No Love For The Knicks?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The ending was a bitter pill to swallow for fans of the New York Knicks last season. Falling to the Indiana Pacers the way they did in the Eastern Conference semifinals, getting pushed around and basically overwhelmed by a healthier and more defensively sound team, exposed the weaknesses that were there all along.

That crash landing in the playoffs might explain the lack of buzz surrounding these Knicks as the start of 2013-14 season nears. As we get closer to tip-off of the regular season, you hear about the Pacers, Chicago Bulls and even the Brooklyn Nets as teams the Heat need to worry about before anyone mentions the Knicks.

There’s no love for the Knicks these days and you have wonder: Why?

The reasons for the lukewarm interest in the Knicks are varied. There was no free agent splash over the summer (sorry Metta World Peace). There was no miraculous recovery for Amar’e Stoudemire. Carmelo Anthony needed time to heal his battered body in an attempt to recover from the pounding he took last season. J.R. Smith didn’t exactly distinguish himself in the offseason either with a five-game suspension looming at the start of the regular season.

It’s a lesson plenty of would-be contenders learn when their results don’t match the expectations. And for a time last season, the Knicks, not the Pacers, looked like the team that would challenge the Miami Heat for that trip to The Finals.

Everyone seems to have forgotten all of the positive work the Knicks did last year, finishing with a 54-28 record, winning their first playoff series in over a decade and coach Mike Woodson finishing third in Coach of the Year voting.

Woodson’s teams in Atlanta got progressively better in each of his six seasons without the Hawks ever making the sort of free agent splash that usually spurs a dramatic rise in a team’s fortunes. Woodson, despite a legion of vocal critics, is one of a handful of coaches in the league with a proven track record of taking a disjointed group and making sure they compete at a high level.

And disjointed might be a kind word for the group the Knicks will suit up this season. The Raymond FeltonPablo Prigioni backcourt tandem is interesting, to say the least, and the Iman Shumpert-Smith battle at shooting guard promises to deliver plenty of drama (and potentially headaches for Woodson) throughout the season.

(Shumpert insists he’s playing with a “chip on his shoulder” that could help fuel the Knicks early on, and that’s a good thing.)

Call me crazy, but I think World Peace is going to be a fit and rookie swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. is certainly going to be a factor. The only glaring question for me is if Andrea Bargnani can revive his career as the floor-spacing stretch-4 the Knicks need to free everyone else up to play to their specific strengths?

You never know what you’re going to get with Amar’e because of his injury issues and even with an offseason worth of work on his jump shot it’s hard to lean too hard on Tyson Chandler for the offensive help Bargnani should be able to provide immediately.

Ultimately, the pieces are in place for the Knicks to battle for a top four spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. That’s just a fact, even if no one outside of the Knicks’ locker room believes it.


Can Dwight-less L.A. Actually Be Better?

a

a

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Don’t go misinterpreting the headline as this somehow trumpeting the Los Angeles Lakers as a serious challenger for the West crown, let alone a threat to unseat the Miami Heat.

The NBA still wants L.A. showcased on Christmas Day, but this isn’t 2012-13 after all. That fantasy ended, a certain center did say, as a nightmare.

Still, there is the 2013-14 season to play before the Lakers can go LeBron and ‘Melo hunting next summer. In a loaded West where San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston, Golden State and Memphis look like playoff locks before the first tip, and Minnesota and Portland could be fast-risers, the mighty Lakers could again be scraping for a playoff berth come mid-April.

But is there a chance that this re-tooled Lakers roster will be better off than last year’s dysfunctional bunch? This entire discussion begins and ends with health, starting with Kobe Bryant‘s unpredictable return from Achilles surgery at 35 (Aug. 23), Pau Gasol‘s feet and knees at 33 and Steve Nash‘s back and body at 40 (Feb. 7). Another injury return, and a significantly underestimated one, is power forward Jordan Hill, 26, coming back from a torn labrum in his hip. He played just 29 games last season.

Any setbacks or new injuries to any of the “Big Three” for an extended stretch will sink the season. The roster is way too thin to cover for the heavy lifters. Deep into the luxury tax for next season, the Lakers had no way to substantially upgrade the roster even after Dwight Howard bolted. They opted for a bit of financial relief and used the amnesty provision to part with a slowed-down Metta World Peace. They let a handful of free agents go and replaced them with Jordan Farmar, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and Chris Kaman. Not exactly a Murderer’s Row.
.

2013-14 ROSTER 2012-13 ROSTER
PG: Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar PG: Nash, Blake, Chris Duhon, Darius Morris
SG: Bryant, Jodie Meeks SG: Bryant, Meeks, Andrew Goudelock
SF: Nick Young, Wesley Johnson SF: Metta World Peace, Antawn Jamison, Devin Ebanks
PF: Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly PF: Pau Gasol, Hill, Earl Clark
C: Gasol, Chris Kaman, Robert Sacre C: Dwight Howard, Sacre

.

“We’re excited to see what we can make of ourselves,” Nash recently told reporters. “We really are going to try for the second consecutive year to find chemistry and identity, but we’re excited for it, so we’ll see.”

Not exactly a title guarantee, but at least it’s a roster full of players, both young and old, with something to prove. That goes for coach Mike D’Antoni, too, who needs to prove he can stretch and grow with a team not stocked with youthful gazelles to carry out his high-octane offense.

So here’s why this Lakers team, as unimpressive as it might look on paper, can be better:

No more Dwight tension: The charade is over. There will be no more microscopic Dwight-Kobe relationship introspection, no more D’Antoni railing against utilizing the strengths of two low-post players, no more Gasol groveling about standing 18 feet from the basket. There should be plenty of fresh air here. Gasol will start at center where he will be more comfortable and presumably more effective, and Kobe won’t get rankled day-in and day-out by Howard’s playful ways.

Nash back to being Nash: Assuming he is healthy, Nash should more resemble the player we know, the one who creates for others and doesn’t stand off in the corner. L.A. will still be big with Hill likely starting alongside Gasol, but Young will spread the floor better than MWP and should be a consistent 3-ball threat. Wes Johnson can also run the floor as well as the 6-10 Hill, so this should help Nash push the ball more. And with Kobe coming back from the devastating Achilles injury, perhaps he’ll be more accepting of playing like a traditional shooting guard and be less commanding of the ball, as he said was the plan when the Lakers traded for Nash last summer.

Offense was already pretty good: Despite all the dysfunction and injury issues, the Lakers still averaged 102.2 points, sixth-best in the league. They’ll miss Howard’s 58.7 field-goal percentage, but their middle-of-the-pack 3-point shooting should improve. It’s still up to D’Antoni to coach to his personnel’s strengths and not what he would like their strengths to be. While this group should be able to run sporadically, Kobe isn’t exactly prepared to do that and the high-mileage Gasol isn’t Amare Stoudemire in his prime. Still, the offense should be able to create an identity starting in training camp, run efficiently and score at a high rate.

Rambis’ mission: Defense. The Lakers were horrible last season, playing as if they had never heard of a rotation. So in one of the more interesting hires of the season, D’Antoni reached out to Kurt Rambis, a former Lakers blue-collar forward and assistant under Phil Jackson. As an analyst on Lakers broadcasts and nationally for ESPN, Rambis was a harsh critic of D’Antoni, specifically how he used his personnel. Now Rambis must find a way to make a starting five that includes Nash, Young and a recovering Kobe to D-up. When Howard was on the bench last season, the Lakers were abysmal defensively. Hill’s return will help on the boards and defending the paint. With a training camp to implement a scheme and, Rambis hopes, an identity — something the Lakers never attained last season — it is possible to turn a porous defense lacking great individual defenders into a pretty decent team defense. Still, it is not a job for the faint of heart.

So what does it all mean for the Lakers? Are they destined for the lottery or can they be one of the season’s surprise teams and make it back to the playoffs?

The World Peace Wake Up Call!



HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — An alarm clock would have worked just fine.

But Metta World Peace doesn’t do conventional very often. In fact, who else but the New York Knicks’ colorful forward could deliver this timely wake up call to young Josiah Andres (at the urging of Josiah’s dad, Michael Andres):



Knicks super fan Spike Lee would have preferred something a little stronger … something along the lines of this



But Metta (or is it still World Peace?) has plenty of time to perfect his routine.