Posts Tagged ‘Michael Beasley’

Beasley Will Walk Thin Line With New Suns

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Ryan McDonough, the 33-year-old rookie general manager of the Phoenix Suns has been on the job for some 80 days and already he’s showing some moxie.

Since drawing some blank stares as if his pick of Maryland big man Alex Len at No. 5 was a desert mirage while Kentucky 7-foot center Nerlens Noel, long projected to go No. 1, or Kansas scoring guard Ben McLemore stood in plain view, McDonough has now begun to rattle the thin roster he inherited.

He turned solid, if unspectacular, guard-forward Jared Dudley and a second-round draft pick into potential All-Star-quality guard Eric Bledsoe and veteran forward Caron Butler. Now, McDonough is on the verge of unloading fast-declining forward Luis Scola, an ill-fit in new coach Jeff Hornacek‘s favored up-tempo offense, in a trade with Indiana that will reportedly net lanky and athletic journeyman Gerald Green and project center Miles Plumlee, plus a lottery-protected first-round pick.

Not that those trades will launch the Suns into playoff contention, but the additions fill two key areas on McDonough’s list as he remakes the roster: athleticism and a fundamental work ethic. Which delivers us to the doorstep of the one player on the roster [note: my speculation only] McDonough would love to jettison if only he could: Michael Beasley.

Asked during the Las Vegas Summer League if he believes the always tantalizing, but troublesome 6-9, 235-pound power forward can be a positive force during this important transitional season, McDonough answered with a team-wide message — one that should resonate loudest between Beasley’s ears.

“I guess what I’ll say generally about that is we’re going to treat everybody the same,” McDonough said. “There won’t be any special treatment for anybody on the roster and as Jeff [Hornacek] and I told all the guys coming in, we don’t care how much money you’re making, where you were drafted, how long you’ve been in the league, what, if anything, you’ve been promised in the past. We’re going into this as an open competition, and when training camp comes, guys who buy in and play the right way and play hard will play, and those who don’t, won’t.”

In a league brimming with bright, young talent, Beasley, 24, has been far more raging headache than headstrong virtually since the day the Miami Heat drafted him second overall in 2008. Last summer, inexplicably, the gracious Suns, Beasley’s third team, handed him a three-year, $18 million deal. Still, Beasley ignored the cue that this was his big shot at a second chance, an opportunity to turn around his selfish and tiresome act, as well as his floundering career.

Former Suns coach Alvin Gentry benched the unproductive Beasley last season in fourth quarters as early as December, and finally stripped him of his starting job. Following the fired Gentry, interim coach Lindsey Hunter had no answers for Beasley’s inattention to defense or just about anything else.

Imagine if the Chicago Bulls had selected Beasley No. 1 over Derrick Rose? The Heat at No. 2 could have drafted No. 4 Russell Westbrook, No. 5 Kevin Love, No. 6 Danilo Gallinari, No. 7 Eric Gordon or No. 10 Brook Lopez.

If Beasley doesn’t answer this wake-up call, he won’t be afforded another chance. He is fortunate the NBA is not the non-guaranteed-contract world of the NFL, where a player can be cut and his contract flushed in a moment’s notice. It’s the only reason he has a job today.

Beasley averaged career lows across the board last season. His poor play and worse attitude drained a club that was already outmanned on most nights. But it’s not just on the court that Beasley will be expected to reform. His inability to stay out of hot water off remains troublesome. In May, police were investigating Beasley in connection with a report of sexual assault at his home.

The 2013-14 Suns will need a lot to come together fast to contend for the eighth seed. But under Hornacek’s guidance and with blue-collar players like P.J. Tucker along with twins Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris — all three of whom played on the Suns’ summer-league squad — and the additions of the up-and-coming Bledsoe and a tough-minded, respected veteran like Butler, Phoenix will play hard.

Beasley will either take this last, flashing-neon-sign-of-a-hint that his career is on the line, or, as McDonough said, he won’t.

What They’re Saying: On The Heat Streak




Seven games away from setting an NBA record for most consecutive wins in a season, the Miami Heat are the talk of the sporting world. The defending champions have not lost  a game since a 13-point setback in Indiana on Feb. 1 and have a chance — in some people’s minds, at least — to run the rest of the regular-season table.  Their winning streak, the second-longest in league history, stands at 27 games.

NBA.com dispatched our game reporters to talk to those around the NBA who have seen the streak close up. Here’s a sampling of what people are saying:

On the streak | How the Heat are winning | What makes Miami so good? |
Difference from last season’s team? | Chances at winning out? | How to stop the streak? |
Any weaknesses in this crew? | Juggernaut team a good or bad thing?

On the wonder of the streak …

Kevin McHale, coach, Houston Rockets: “The thing I’ve always been impressed about long winning streaks is the fact that you keep your concentration long enough to do it. You win 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 in a row, and you run into a bad team, and it’s late in the year, that’s usually when you stumble. I know the teams I played on went on a lot of 10, 11, 12, 13, 14-game streaks, and then we’d play a bad team, none of us would be ready, and they’d be all juiced up for us. You do get bored [when you're on a great team] a little bit, and you get complacent, and you start taking for granted you’re going to win. You need to lose one or two, and then you get refocused and play. But, as I’ve said all along — I know you guys don’t believe it — but actual human beings play this game. That’s just what happens.”

Ralph Lawler, announcer, Los Angeles Clippers: “I remember when the Los Angeles Lakers won 33 straight games in the 1971-72 season, it’s a record that I thought would never be broken. For the Heat to be approaching the mark, it’s extraordinary. Everyone is paying attention. Winning in the NBA is not an easy thing to do, and when you do it on a consistent basis, the pressure mounts. I think the players for the Heat understand what’s at stake. You can’t shut off the lights and say I’m not aware of what’s going on. LeBron James and his teammates might attempt to deflect talk about the winning streak to the media, but on the team plane and team bus, it’s all the buzz. If the Heat win 30, 31, or 32 games in-a-row, gee whiz, people will start to talk about them being world-beaters.”

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder: “It’s hard to win basketball games in this league and to win ’em in a row is even harder and over 20 is really tough, so we don’t have any hate in our blood over here. We give respect when it’s due. But I would say we’re not worried about what they’re doing, it’s just that all we’re focused on is us. But every time you turn on the TV you hear it and once you really sit back and look at it, it’s impressive.”

Marreese Speights, Cleveland Cavaliers: “If you can’t get excited about playing Miami, then you’re not a basketball player. Everyone around the league is watching you because they’re all keeping an eye on them. [Those] are the games you love to play.”

George Karl, coach, Denver Nuggets: “They’ve won a lot of close games. Sacramento almost beat them, they had a close game with Philadelphia, a one-possession game. It’s a pretty amazing [streak]. Thirteen is a lot [the Nuggets had a 13-game streak and the time], so you double that … it’s pretty impressive.

Daniel Gibson, Cleveland Cavaliers: “When they go into every city, people want to see them. It’s exciting for all of us. They’re playing at such a high clip, you can’t help but want to watch them play.”

Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets: “Winning streaks are always fun to be a part of, but it is tough when you see one team win so much … No one is scared of these guys, but I think most of the league respects the way they’ve handled their business.”

Scott Brooks, coach, Oklahoma City Thunder: “I’ve never seen it in my lifetime, I mean I know the Lakers did it in the 70s but I wasn’t following the NBA in the early ’70s. But just to do what they’re doing now with the parity that we have in the league it’s pretty amazing. There’s so many games that you have to have everything go right to win. The travel, the back-to-backs, the injuries you have to overcome, the foul trouble, the turnovers, just everything about it and to win 25 straight games … give them credit because they have the mental ability to have the mindset to do that night in and night out, that’s just pretty phenomenal.”

On the way the Heat have won during their streak …

Matt Bonner, San Antonio Spurs: “The Heat have been impressive in that they’ve won in all types of fashion. They’ve won close games, blowouts. They’re rolling. Playing great. Everybody wants to be the team that’s going to break their streak, and that’s what makes it impressive, too. They’re getting everyone’s best shot.”

Gibson: “It definitely shows how focused they are because they have to come in every night prepared. It’s very tough to do because you also got to have a little luck with you because guys have to stay healthy, and everybody has to be clicking.”

Jerry Stackhouse, Brooklyn Nets: “It can be tough building a streak. When you’re constantly trying to find motivation, you can get some mental fatigue. But I think with it being so close to the end of the season and they’re trying to go into the playoffs on a high note, I don’t think it’s as tough a task. If it was earlier in the season, you feel like you’ve got so many games left and you’re not going to win them all, so this might be a good night to just chill out. I just think it comes down to their execution late in games. They trust each other. They’ve been together a while, enough now to know what to do. Their confidence is high.” (more…)

Shaqtin’ A Fool: Vol 2., Episode 13


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On the eve of All-Star Weekend, Shaq pays tribute to the fans of the Phoenix Suns, Kobe, Michael Beasley, Blake Griffin, and of course, Shaq’s main man, JaVale McGee . Vote for your favorite Shaqtin’ A Fool moment!

Beasley Says He Can Rise With Suns

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DALLAS – As Michael Beasley slammed a chicken tenders basket at his locker about 90 minutes before his Phoenix Suns were to face the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, he seemed more pleased with the savory french fries than digging up the past yet again.

“These fries are good, man,” Beasley said between shoveling handfuls of the greasy goodness into his mouth.

Beasley’s first season with the Phoenix Suns, one promising a fresh start on what some might hail as an overly generous three-year, $18 million contract considering his past work history, has not been so tasty for Suns fans to digest.

The former No. 2 pick has been bad, so bad that halfway through the first half of the season he lost his starting job on what is now the worst team in the Western Conference. The saving grace at this point for the Suns and their leery fans would seem to be that the final $6.25 million on Beasley’s third season, in 2014-15, is non-guaranteed.

But Beasley, sounding as honest as when he critiqued those fries, said he wants to be the guy who helps turn this once-proud franchise that rose to great heights on the sturdy, trustworthy and fan-friendly shoulders of Steve Nash.

“That’s the plan,” said Beasley, who turned 24 earlier this month and remains a 6-foot-10, 235-pound and heavily tattooed enigma. “Hey, I definitely want the fans to support me and understand me, but I realize with my past, it’s a long shot.”

On Jan. 2, just two months into the season and three weeks after veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell tweeted that a Suns source deemed Beasley “toxic,” a headline in the USA Today screamed: “Michael Beasley has bottomed out in Phoenix.”

Already? Was it true?

“Tomato, to-mah-to, I guess,” Beasley said. “It really don’t matter. Only thing you can do is look forward to the future. I realize what I’m doing — career-low in every category. But it’s time to, like I said, I’m going to go hard. I feel like if I play hard, I have great games, not even great games, good games. I haven’t had a good game yet, haven’t had a great game in a while. If I play hard I have good games, we win most of the time.”

Interim Suns coach Lindsey Hunter, who served as director of player development before being promoted in the wake of Alvin Gentry‘s recent firing, said he worked closely in his previous post with Beasley and earned a mutual trust, yet he’s at a loss to explain the player’s early missteps when this was supposed to be a fresh start, a clean slate.

Yet, through Hunter’s words comes the depth of the task at hand to transform this young, often troubled player who has no practical foundation of discipline or even organization to build upon, into a cornerstone of a franchise, or at the least, a reliable teammate.

“He’s still growing. He has a lot of room to grow and I think he’s willing to do that. And we’re challenging him,” Hunter said. “He’s been on a couple of different teams and people have given up on him. We feel like if we give you all the tools you need to get yourself together than we’re giving you a great opportunity and you should take advantage of it. And he has.

“He’s wanting to change, wanting to get himself together, get himself, like, have a schedule for himself,” Hunter continued. “Those are things we take for granted, but Mike has probably never done that in his life. And so once we get him to understanding that, hey, put all this together and basketball will be easy, then he’ll be great.”

That day seems far away as the Suns’ front office is faced with no easy answers.

Beasley, as he attests, is averaging career lows across the board: 10.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 21.5 mpg and a 39.3 field-goal percentage. After rifling through the chicken finger basket and dressing for the game while rapping out loud the inaudible lyrics streaming through his headphones, Beasley managed 12 points on 4-for-10 shooting and four rebounds. He recorded a team-worst minus-17 in 20 minutes and the Suns lost for the 30th time in 45 games.

Beasley’s game was particularly disappointing coming off the previous night’s 25-point effort as the Suns went toe-to-toe with the Spurs in San Antonio before wilting late. In fact, in the previous six games, Beasley produced some of his best-scoring games of the season such as scoring 20 points in a win at Chicago after having gone five consecutive games with two points or less, and then 19 points in another rare road win at Sacramento.

Ever since his one season at Kansas State, nothing is certain with Beasley. Will he change? Is it possible? Only Beasley can really know if it is.

“It’s life. My past is my past and mine’s not pretty. Nobody has a pretty past,” Beasley said. “Everybody in the world did things they regret, are not proud of. I get that a lot from a lot of different people saying, ‘Man, in my 20s, you’ve got a long way to go to mess up as bad as I did.’ I say that because we all have pasts, every single one of us. Nobody’s perfect.

“We all have things we’re not that proud of, things we wish we could take back. The great ones learn from them and that’s what I did, I learned from my mistakes. The lunatics just make the same mistakes.”

By the final year of his deal, and for their sake hopefully sooner, the Suns will for sure know which one they’re dealing with.

Gentry Out In Phoenix





HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Phoenix Suns became the fourth team to undergo a coaching change this season, parting ways with head coach Alvin Gentry on Friday.

Alvin Gentry, by Noah Graham/NBAE

Alvin Gentry, by Noah Graham/NBAE

Gentry took over for Terry Porter in the middle of the 2008-09 season, took the Suns to the Western Conference finals in 2010, and compiled a 158-144 record with the Suns. But in the wake of Steve Nash‘s departure, the Suns put together a flawed roster. After Thursday’s loss to the Bucks, they’ve lost 13 of their last 15 games and stand in last place in the West at 13-28.

Despite some offensive talent, the Suns rank 23rd in offensive efficiency and have the league’s worst offense (95.8 points per 100 possessions) since Christmas. Defensively, they rank 26th, though they were decent on that end of the floor whenever Michael Beasley was on the bench.

Paul Coro from the Arizona Republic has the report from Phoenix

The Suns have parted ways with coach Alvin Gentry after the team posted its worst record for the first half of a season in 25 years.

An interim coach was not immediately known, although lead assistant coach Elston Turner would be the next in line and has been a finalist for other league head coaching jobs.

The Suns lost at home Thursday night to Milwaukee for the first time in 26 years to fall to 13-28, the franchise’s worst midpoint record since the 1987-88 team went 13-28 coming out of the drug scandal.

Gentry, Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver and President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby had a late-night meeting but Gentry was not let go at that time. A decision was made Friday morning.

Gentry follows Lakers coach Mike Brown, Nets coach Avery Johnson and Bucks coach Scott Skiles out the door this season. Reports have player development coach Lindsey Hunter as the lead candidate to step in for Gentry.

No Shock: KG Is A Difference-Maker On D

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Points, rebounds and assists are nice, but plus-minus is the most important stat in basketball.

Teams win games by outscoring their opponent, and plus-minus reflects how much a team has done that in a player’s minutes on the floor. If a player isn’t scoring, he can help his teammates score and also prevent the opponent from doing so.

But in basketball, with nine other guys on the floor affecting what each player does, plus-minus always needs context, and lots of it. Who is a guy playing his minutes with? Who is he not playing his minutes with?

Furthermore, sample size is important. Single-game plus-minus can help tell a story about key sequences or the impact of a player or two on a particular night. But if you really want to get a good idea of how a team performs when a player or group of players is on the floor, you’ve got to look at a large chunk of games.

At this point in the season, we can get a pretty good idea of where teams are strong and weak. Through Thursday, 224 players have logged at least 500 minutes for one team this season.

On Wednesday, we looked at the players with the biggest on-off court differential in regard to their team’s offensive efficiency. Today, we look at the defensive end of the floor.

Measuring the difference in a team’s offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) when a player is on the floor vs. when he’s off the floor, here are the league’s five biggest difference makers, as well as a pair at the bottom of the list.

For all of them, the discrepancy between their team’s defensive numbers with them on and off the floor is as much about the guys replacing them as it is about what they’re doing themselves.

1. Kevin Garnett, Celtics

On/off floor MIN DefRtg
On floor 905 96.3
Off floor 613 110.7
Diff. -14.4

Because the Celtics use a unique substitution pattern with KG, you can get a pretty clear idea of the impact he makes. No other Celtics regular has played more 63 percent of his minutes with Garnett.

You probably figured Garnett would be at or near the top of this list, but 14.4 points per 100 possessions? That’s an amazing number, and it’s an indictment on Brandon Bass (382 minutes with Garnett off the floor), Jared Sullinger (331) and Chris Wilcox (297) … and Paul Pierce (391) and Rajon Rondo (432).

It’s also an endorsement of both former Celtics center Greg Stiemsma and guard Avery Bradley, because the Celtics’ defense only fell off 0.5 points per 100 possessions when Garnett stepped off the floor last season.

Bradley’s return (he made his 2012-13 debut on Wednesday) offers some hope, but interior defense will continue to be an issue whenever Garnett rests. (more…)

Blogtable: Big-Money Busts (So Far)




Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Week 10: The best team in the NBA | Show us you’re worth it | Best, worst: ‘Cats, Cavs or Wizards


Deron Williams isn’t living up to his big contract yet? Who else has to show you some more for the money in 2013?

Steve Aschburner: Let’s assume Carlos Boozer is too old an answer here, that JaVale McGee is too early an answer here and that Andrew Bynum is too obvious an answer here. Ersan Ilyasova is too below-the-radar for most folks, and I’m assuming that Rudy Gay soon demonstrates his true value either on the court for Memphis or in a trade package when the Grizzlies face some hard economic reality. So I’m going with New Orleans guard Eric Gordon, a player who has missed 112 of a possible 179 regular-season games over the past two-plus seasons. Gordon was handed a $58 million contract last summer despite his knee problems and has been accorded “franchise guy” treatment by two organizations and a suitor or two. He remains a potential star and, remember, in the NBA staying healthy isn’t just luck, it’s a skill.

Fran BlineburyRoy Hibbert. After getting his big money, he’s down across the board in points, rebounds, field-goal percentage and even free-throw shooting.  He gets a run for his money from Dwight Howard, who for all the noise, the drama and the diva tendencies, has just not played like a guy who will be offered the keys to the Lakers’ franchise.  But he’ll get them anyway.

Jeff CaplanMichael Beasley is tremendously under-performing his contract, but the Suns should have known better. So, hellooooo, Roy Hibbert. With Danny Granger down, Hibbert’s numbers are have taken a hit across the board. He’s not even shooting 40 percent from the field — inexcusable for a traditional big man, after being near 50 percent last season. Maybe expectations were too high simply from Hibbert being offered the max by other teams. The Pacers had to match, but they need more than Hibbert’s bringing.

Scott Howard-Cooper: If you are going strictly on contract, and rightly take Dirk Nowitzki and Andrew Bynum out of the mix because of injury, it’s Pau Gasol. But if this is about regressing in urgent ways, say hello to DeMarcus Cousins. His behavior is worse than before, his play is backsliding, and the Kings are going down with him. Cousins is the most important player on the team. That’s a measure of value beyond salary.

John Schuhmann: Amar’e Stoudemire is too obvious an answer, right? Jeff Green is probably an obvious answer too, but he’s my answer. Green deserves a ton of credit for coming back from heart surgery, but that doesn’t mean he deserved $36 million guaranteed. The Celtics need Green to keep their vets fresh and to keep things from falling apart when they go to the bench, but that hasn’t happened. He’s shooting 41 percent and he’s got the worst per-possession plus-minus in Boston’s rotation. Green has the physical tools to be a great player, but he’s never really been able to put it together. Now would be a good time.

Sekou Smith: If we go around identifying guys who aren’t “living up to their contracts,” the line around headquarters here could get pretty long. Williams isn’t even the highest paid player on the Nets’ roster — that distinguished honor belongs to shooting guard Joe Johnson. But neither member of the Nets’ starting backcourt, easy targets in light of what’s gone on in Brooklyn the past 10 days, can touch Philadelphia’s Andrew Bynum in this category. The former Los Angeles Lakers big man has yet to grace us with his presence this season, due to injury, of course. At least Williams, and Johnson for that matter, are in uniform most every night.

More Lineup Changes Expected For Suns

 
Coach Alvin Gentry is signaling another round of lineup changes for the Suns. Fair enough. They’re 7-13, have lost five in a row, including to the Pistons (by 40!) and Raptors, Gentry is searching for anything close to a good fit after a summer roster renovation, and this season in Phoenix is for developing rather than the playoffs. So search away.

But a possible demotion for Marcin Gortat? Now we’re talking signs of trouble.

Gortat was the biggest certainty of the entire roster at the start of camp, a double-double man in 2011-12 in his first full season there, one of the underrated centers of the game, a sign of consistency on a team slowly moving forward without Steve Nash and Grant Hill. Gortat and Luis Scola, one of the main newcomers, were supposed to be the tandem of veteran bigs who would keep the transitioning Suns in telescope range of respectability. Among several looming problems in Phoenix, center wasn’t one of them.

Except there was Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic noting Friday that Gortat was a candidate to be pulled from the starting lineup along with small forward Michael Beasley, an obvious choice at 37.4 percent from the field. If so, this goes well beyond the planned hunting for the right lineup combination.

But, wrote Coro:

Lineup moves might not be isolated to the Beasley situation. After a sensational start, Gortat’s play has dropped off drastically to the point that veteran Jermaine O’Neal went from rotation fringe to a departure from the team for his aunt’s death to playing crunch-time minutes instead of Gortat. Against Dallas, Gortat made an alleyoop on the Suns’ first play and then missed all seven of his other shots. The Suns rallied without a center (Jermaine O’Neal after taking an eye poke), as Luis Scola and Markieff Morris teamed for 28 points and 26 rebounds.

Gentry already made one set of moves earlier, putting Morris in for Scola at power forward and Shannon Brown for Jared Dudley at shooting guard. Now Gortat is at 11.3 points and 8.2 rebounds in 31.1 minutes, while shooting 52.2 percent, and the Suns are looking at the possibility of turning over the entire front court before the season is a quarter old.

Gentry is saying, according to the Republic, that it is “more than likely” Beasley will be going to the bench, as soon as Saturday against the Clippers and probably in favor of P.J. Tucker, if Tucker is ready after spraining his right knee Thursday. If an accompanying switch comes at center, the options are not as clear. The Suns could go with O’Neal or try to keep playing small with the Scola-Morris pairing that worked well the last game.

We’ve Got Our Eyes On You

 

On opening night everybody is undefeated and optimistic. But that doesn’t mean some players — young and old — aren’t more under the gun to step forward and establish their place in the league. So we present a couple of fistfuls of guys who need to hit the ground running:

Nicolas Batum, Trail Blazers – It’s been four seasons now of occasional flashes and teases. Now that Brandon Roy and Greg Oden are simply yellowed pages in the history books, it is time for Batum to be the twin support along with LaMarcus Aldridge that is a bridge to the future. Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard might draw a lot of attention in the backcourt along with fellow newbie Meyers Leonard in the middle, but after getting his big paycheck, Batum must deliver the goods every night.

Michael Beasley, Suns — As Bob Dylan might have sung, how many roads does a man walk down before he’s considered a bust? This is already the third stop on the reclamation tour of the former No. 2 overall pick, and if he can’t succeed in coach Alvin Gentry’s offense-friendly atmosphere in Phoenix, what’s left? Beasley can score. He can rebound. What he has to prove is an ability to keep his head in the game and with the program.

Andrew Bogut, Warriors — There’s virtually nobody in the league that questions his ability as a passer, scorer and defender in the middle. The only question is his durability. It’s been four years since Bogut played more than 69 games in a season and twice he’s managed only 36 and 12. Coming back from a fractured ankle, he missed the entire preseason schedule and only practiced for the first time on Monday. The Warriors need him on the floor to even think of making a run at the playoffs. (more…)

These Six Still Have Something To Prove

 
It’s just two weeks from tonight when Miami and Boston resume their blood feud on the occasion of the Heat’s ring ceremony, and then the rebuilt Lakers will take on the Mavericks to close out the TNT doubleheader on opening night.

But that means there is still time for adjustment, improvement, healing and just plain eyeballing players who had something to prove going into training camp. Now midway through the preseason schedule, here’s a six-pack who still bear watching:

Jeremy Lin, Rockets — Nobody expected him to walk in and turn the clock back to the “Linsanity” of last February. But now that he’s been installed as the face of a completely rebuilt team, the Rockets need Lin to play more confidently and effectively than he’s shown in his first four preseason games. The point guard has made just 21.1 percent of his shots, including 0-for-5 on 3-pointers, and averaged 4.7 assists.

“I’m just trying to find my rhythm, find my comfort level again,” Lin said. “I can’t live with this in a season. I have a lot to learn.”

“He’ll have to be better,” said coach Kevin McHale after a particularly dismal effort against the Spurs on Sunday, where Lin made just 1 of 10 shots.

“That’s going to be a thing where he’s going to have to … He’s a young kid. We’re not talking about a 30-year-old guy, 10-year vet. You’re talking about a guy that has 20 starts under his belt.” (more…)