Posts Tagged ‘Mike Dunleavy’

Topping .500 Draws Dunleavy To Bulls

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Mike Dunleavy Jr.’s first NBA team, the 2002-03 Golden State Warriors, lost more games in six weeks than Dunleavy lost in three NCAA seasons. Of course, the son of the former NBA player and coach attended Duke, where the Blue Devils went 95-13 during his time there and won the National Championship in 2001.

Winning pretty much was the only thing Dunleavy knew back then, playing for Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. But basketball as a living got grittier and, while financially rewarding ($67 million over 11 NBA seasons), considerably less fun.

In all this time since being picked No. 3 in the 2002 Draft – four-plus seasons with the Warriors, four-plus more in Indiana and the past two with the Milwaukee Bucks – Dunleavy never has played on a team that won as many games as it lost. They are a combined 113 games under .500 and, even when that was good enough to steal a playoff berth, it didn’t last; the Pacers got bounced in five games by the Bulls in 2011 and the Bucks were swept out by Miami this spring.

That time of the season back in Durham, N.C., when adrenaline flowed like water – March Madness – gave way in Dunleavy’s working life to April Apathy. His NBA clubs had little to do besides “a lot of surfing the Internet for vacation plans,” he said Wednesday.

“It’s nice to have gotten a taste of the playoffs two of the last three years,” Dunleavy said, after standing before the cameras and reporters at the Berto Center, the Chicago Bulls’ practice facility. He officially signed a two-year, $6.2 million free-agent deal with the club when the league’s moratorium lifted.

“Being in those positions has made me want it even more. So that’s why this was so appealing. But yeah, man, you turn on the TV April 20 and a bunch of teams are playing for the trophy and you’re at home, on the couch, doing what you’re doing, it’s depressing.”

Playing for a contender, which Chicago expects to be if MVP guard Derrick Rose makes a complete return from April 2012 knee surgery, should take care of Dunleavy’s personal W-L stats this season, if he’s able to take care of his individual numbers. Last season, he ranked eighth in the league in 3-point field-goal percentage (42.8) while averaging 10.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 25.9 mostly off the bench. Based on Dunleavy’s on-floor production, Milwaukee – which got outscored by an average of 1.6 points – played at a plus-2.3 points level when he was in game.

The Bulls will be looking to Dunleavy to log time at both small forward and shooting guard, and to pick up offensive slack left by Kyle Korver‘s departure before last season and Marco Belinelli‘s this summer (along with Richard Hamilton‘s release Wednesday). Both the club and the player sought each other swiftly when the market opened July 1 and reached a contract agreement the first day.

“Just for peace of mind and happness, the years and money became less relevant and the situation and culture was most important,” Dunleavy said.

Got Shooting? It’s Going Fast

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The 2012-13 season shall forever be known as the year of the three. There were 3-point records set on the individual, team and league levels. And Ray Allen‘s 3-pointer to tie Game 6 of The Finals will go down as one of the biggest shots in NBA history.

Furthermore, there was a much stronger correlation between offensive efficiency and the percentage of a team’s shots from 3-point range than we’d seen previously. With one notable exception — the Denver Nuggets — the best offenses in the league shot a lot of threes, or at least shot them very well.

Top 10 offenses, 2012-13

Team OffRtg 3PM 3PA 3PT% Rank 3PA% Rank
Miami 110.3 717 1,809 39.6% 2 28.5% 5
Oklahoma City 110.2 598 1,588 37.7% 3 24.4% 12
New York 108.6 891 2,371 37.6% 5 35.4% 1
L.A. Clippers 107.7 627 1,752 35.8% 16 26.5% 8
Denver 107.6 521 1,518 34.3% 25 21.7% 22
Houston 106.7 867 2,369 36.6% 9 34.9% 2
San Antonio 105.9 663 1,764 37.6% 4 26.4% 9
L.A. Lakers 105.6 715 2,015 35.5% 19 30.3% 3
Brooklyn 105.0 628 1,760 35.7% 17 26.9% 7
Golden State 104.2 658 1,632 40.3% 1 23.9% 14

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
3PA% = Percentage of total shots from 3-point range

The Nuggets were upset in the first round when they couldn’t make 3-pointers and, more importantly, couldn’t stop the Warriors from making them. And now, Denver is without the three guys who made the most 3-pointers for them last season. Danilo Gallinari (135) is recovering from ACL surgery, Corey Brewer (91) is a free agent (who could come back), and Andre Iguodala (91) is heading to Golden State.

There’s a lot more to success in this league, but if you want to compete for a championship, you need guys who can knock down long-distance shots. There were several available on the market and a handful of good teams that needed them to take the next step. A couple of those teams will be signing a couple of those shooters. Here’s a look at the contending teams that needed shooting the most and what they’ve done to address the problem…

Chicago Bulls

OffRtg: 100.4 (24), 3PT%: 35.3% (21), 3PA%: 18.9% (29)
The Bulls’ offense will obviously be better with the return of Derrick Rose, but they still need better perimeter shooting to complement their penetrating point guard. They ranked fourth in 3-point percentage in 2011-12, but then said goodbye to Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson.

They’re heading back in the right direction this summer, upgrading from Marco Belinelli (35.7 percent) to Mike Dunleavy (42.8 percent), who ranked third in 3-point percentage among the 57 free agents who attempted at least 100 threes last season. There are few players in the league better than Dunleavy at coming off pin-down screens and draining threes on the wings.

Jimmy Butler should also be a more dangerous shooter, especially with Rose coming back. After shooting just 1.3 threes per game at 38 percent in the regular season, Butler shot 3.1 per game at 41 percent in the playoffs. No. 20 pick Tony Snell is known as a shooter, but hit just 64 threes in 35 games at New Mexico last season.

The Bulls haven’t exactly turned into last year’s Knicks when it comes to shooting threes, but they have taken a step forward.

Denver Nuggets

OffRtg: 107.6 (5), 3PT%: 34.3% (25), 3PA%: 21.7% (22)
The Nuggets took a big step backward by losing Iguodala and trading Kosta Koufos to Memphis. And we don’t know if they’ll play the same fast-paced, attacking style under coach Brian Shaw that they did under coach George Karl.

But Denver will get one of the better shooters on the market by sending Iguodala out via a three-team, sign-and-trade deal with the Warriors and Jazz that brings them Randy Foye, who ranked second among free agents with 178 threes last season and shot them at a 41.0 percent clip. Foye will likely split time at shooting guard with Evan Fournier, who shot a solid 22-for-54 (41 percent) in limited regular season action last season (and went 0-for-8 in the playoffs).

The Nuggets will also have a full season of Wilson Chandler, who shot well after returning from injury last season. Denver’s defense will most certainly fall off without Iguodala, but the Nuggets might actually have a little more inside-out balance to their offense.

Indiana Pacers

OffRtg: 101.6 (19), 3PT%: 34.7% (22), 3PA%: 24.5% (11)
Like the Nuggets, the Pacers thrive in the paint (just not as well). And the No. 1 defense in the league helped them make up for their lack of shooting. But they could have used a few more weak-side threes against the Heat’s aggressive defense in the conference finals, when Lance Stephenson shot 7-for-23 (30 percent) from beyond the arc.

Over his last six full seasons, Danny Granger hit 901 threes at 39 percent. And with Granger set to return from the knee injury that kept him out of all but five games last season, returning team president Larry Bird didn’t have to do a thing to improve his team’s 3-point shooting.

But Bird went out and got Watson (41 percent last season) and Chris Copeland (42 percent) to give his team some more punch off the bench. No. 22 pick Solomon Hill was also decent shooter (39 percent on threes) at Arizona. He might not play much as a rookie, but he can’t be a worse from the perimeter than defensive specialist Sam Young was.

Last season, Frank Vogel only had D.J. Augustin — a defensive liability — to turn to when he needed more shooting on the floor. Now, he’s got plenty of options.

Memphis Grizzlies

OffRtg: 101.7 (18), 3PT%: 34.5% (24), 3PA%: 16.6% (30)
The Rudy Gay trade didn’t change much for the Grizz, who made a league-low 4.6 threes per game after the deal. And they have yet to do anything in free agency to improve their perimeter offense. Tony Allen, returning on a new contract, is the definitive shooting guard who can’t shoot. Even their top draft pick — Jamaal Franklin — is a wing who doesn’t shoot very well.

The Grizzlies still have their mid-level exception to spend. And there are a couple of shooters still left on the market (see below). They also have a trade exception worth almost $7.5 million to absorb a contract from a team willing to deal them a shooter. But right now, they look like they could rank last in the league in 3-pointers for a second straight season.

Still on the market

For the Grizzlies and other teams still looking for shooters, the pickings are rather slim. Here are their six best options (in order of how many threes they hit last season), all of which come with issues …

Nate Robinson — 141-for-348 (40.5 percent)
Robinson had his best shooting season with the Bulls. And though he was mostly the Bulls’ back-up point guard, 101 of his 141 threes were assisted, so he can certainly play off the ball. He has improved defensively and is certainly making better decisions than he was earlier in his career, but it still isn’t easy for a coach to trust him with the ball in his hands for big minutes.

Wayne Ellington — 94-for-240 (39.2 percent)
Of the free agents that are still available, only three — Brandon Jennings (173), Robinson and Alan Anderson (95) — hit more threes than Ellington did last season. He was a decent role player in Memphis before it sent him to Cleveland for financial flexibility.

Gary Neal — 89-for-251 (35.5 percent)
Neal hit six threes in Game 3 of The Finals, but shot just 35 percent from beyond the arc last season (31st among the 57 free agents who attempted at least 100 threes) after shooting 42 percent in his first two years with the Spurs, who have seemingly swapped him for Belinelli. (They didn’t have an Italian on their roster, after all.)

Roger Mason Jr. — 66-for-159 (41.5 percent)
Of the 57 free agents who attempted at least 100 threes last season, only 11 shot them better than 40 percent. And only two — Robinson and the Pelicans’ Mason Jr. — are still on the market. Mason doesn’t do much more than make threes, but you can do worse if you need a fifth guard on your roster.

Mo Williams — 59-for-154 (38.3 percent)
Jazz starting guard Williams can handle the ball or play off it. In his two seasons playing next to LeBron James, he shot 43 percent from 3-point range, and only two players — Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen — hit more threes than Williams did over those two years. But he played a career-low 46 games last season and defense is an issue.

Anthony Morrow — 16-for-43 (37.2 percent)
There was a point a few years ago when Morrow qualified as the best 3-point shooter in NBA history. He’s still a great shooter, but doesn’t have as quick a release as some others, struggles when he needs to put the ball on the floor, and is a defensive liability. He couldn’t get off the bench for the Mavs as they were making their playoff push last season.

Three more points

  • The Timberwolves were by far the worst 3-point shooting team in the league last season, but should move up the rankings with a healthy Kevin Love (who shot 22 percent), a healthy Chase Budinger (who shot 32 percent) and with the addition of Kevin Martin (who shot 43 percent for OKC). Martin’s presence will also mean that they’ll need less minutes from Alexey Shved and Luke Ridnour (who may be traded) at the two. The pair combined to attempt 500 threes last season, connecting on only 30 percent of them.
  • Brooklyn shot a lot of threes last season, but didn’t shoot them particularly well. Things will get better with Paul Pierce (38 percent) replacing Gerald Wallace (28 percent) at small forward. But Watson (41 percent) was their best 3-point shooter last season and he’s been replaced by Shaun Livingston, who has made a grand total of nine threes in 390 career games. Assuming that coach Jason Kidd will have one of his starters — Deron Williams, Joe Johnson or Pierce — playing with the second unit, a back-up point guard who can shoot (Toney Douglas, perhaps?) would have been a better option. Either way, the Nets’ success could be determined by the ability of Bojan Bogdanovic and Mirza Teletovic to knock down shots and keep Pierce and Kevin Garnett fresh.
  • The Clippers were another team that shot a lot of threes at a mediocre percentage. And while they’re getting two great shooters in Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick, they’re replacing two guys — Caron Butler (39 percent) and Willie Green (43 percent) — who shot rather well from 3-point range last season. (Green is still on the roster, but likely out of the rotation.)

Bucks Tunneling Way Out Of Mediocrity

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When Milwaukee fans finish flipping through their “Half-Season In Review: 2012-13″ to relive their favorite J.J. Redick moments with the Bucks – it won’t take long – they can start calculating the true haul from trading away promising young forward Tobias Harris, guards Doron Lamb and Beno Udrih along with cash to Orlando not quite 4 1/2 months ago.

That won’t take long, either. With Redick headed to the Los Angeles Clippers along with Phoenix’s Jared Dudley, per Yahoo! Sports’ report Tuesday afternoon, and the Suns acquiring Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Caron Butler in the deal, the Bucks’ participation in the sign-and-trade portion with Redick earned them two second-round picks.

That’s it.

Which means that the package of players and money sent to Orlando in the deal that delivered Redick leaves Milwaukee now with guard Ish Smith, forward Gustavo Ayon and 28 games in which Redick, employed for his shooting, was about as inaccurate as at any point in his career.

He shot 40.3 percent for the Bucks, second only to his 39.1 in 2008-09 with Orlando, and his 31.8 percent from 3-point range dragged his career mark down to 39.0. Never getting into rhythm in a backcourt that already had issues with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, Redick’s game slipped across the board. He also chafed with Bucks interim coach Jim Boylan near the end of the eighth-seeded team’s odd spit-out-the-bit season (4-16 after March 19, including the first-round sweep by Miami).

Even if Redick had thrived, he wasn’t returning to the Bucks. He wanted more money, and more opportunity to win, than they would or could offer. So salvaging two second-round picks was, well, something.

But it continued a week in which the Bucks are waving a white flag on their recent history of plucky mediocrity. The Jennings-Ellis backcourt is kaput; one or both of the shoot-first guards will be gone via free agency, Ellis after opting out of an $11 million deal for next season, Jennings if the offer sheet he signs runs too rich for Milwaukee’s blood.

Also, general manager John Hammond just took the youngest player in last week’s Draft, grabbing 18-year-old Greek forward Giannis Antetokounmpo at No. 15. Hammond raved about Big G’s almost limitless upside but no one expects him to help much on the floor next season. Center Samuel Dalembert will play elsewhere next season – he was in coach Scott Skiles’ doghouse before Skiles exited in January – and so will swingman Mike Dunleavy, a veteran backup who hit almost 43 percent of his 3-pointers in 2012-13 but is headed to the Bulls.

In drafting Antetokounmpo, Hammond talked of what really is a reality check for a team such as Milwaukee. “How are we going to get our next All-Star?” the GM said. The implication was that, no, the Bucks aren’t going to land marquee free agents. So they’ve got to rely on drafts and trades.

Or maybe just drafts, because this trade stuff – Harris was given all of 70 games to develop and still won’t turn 21 until July 15 – is looking a little shaky now too. The level-headed product of Tennessee averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in 36.1 minutes in 27 games for the Magic.

If there’s a silver lining in Milwaukee aligning itself with Philadelphia, Boston and others already focused on the 2014 draft, it is this: Those rumors over the weekend about the Bucks’ interest in New York free agent J.R. Smith should stay mere rumors. Even if Milwaukee were ready to challenge for a top seed in the East, Smith would be a bad idea, a flashback through John Salmons, Corey Maggette, Stephen Jackson and even Bobby Simmons rolled into one.

For a fellow such as Smith, Milwaukee surely holds no appeal, either for where it is located or for where it is headed.

Dunleavy, Bulls Agree On Two-Year Deal



HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – While the rest of the basketball world waits for its next Dwight Howard update, the Chicago Bulls are busy handling their own business.

They secured a verbal commitment from veteran swingman Mike Dunleavy on a two-year, $6 million deal, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:

Sources told ESPN.com that Dunleavy quickly narrowed his long list of suitors to five teams Monday and chose to take the Bulls’ two-year offer worth $6 million.

The deal can’t be signed until after July 10, when the league’s annual moratorium on signings and trades is lifted, but teams and players are allowed to enter into verbal agreements during the freeze.

Sources said Dunleavy also gave strong consideration to the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves after spending the past two seasons in Milwaukee.

Dunleavy gives the Bulls one of the coveted floor stretchers on the free-agent market and helps shore up a bench rotation that will look much different from the crew that finished the season with many of its members in the starting lineup for a team that was ravaged by injuries all season.

While it’s not the sort of championship move that cranks up the fan base, Dunleavy serves a very specific need for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. He needs a shooter with Dunleavy’s size to be ready when Derrick Rose returns after missing the entire 2012-13 season recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery.

Jennings’ Funny Math No Laughing Matter





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – His demeanor has shifted. The smile is gone.

The gravity of what Brandon Jennings and his Milwaukee Bucks are facing, down 3-0 to the defending champion Miami Heat in their first-round playoff series, seems to have set in for the brash young point guard.

That funny math he used to predict the “Bucks in six” has crumbled over the past eight quarters of this series. It’s no longer a laughing matter, not when your season and potentially your career in Milwaukee is potentially coming to an end.

Jennings has vowed to play until the final buzzer in Sunday’s Game 4, hoping to stave off elimination for at least one more games. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that this series is every bit the mismatch most of us thought it would be on paper. And it’s even tougher to avoid the obvious question that will linger between now and free agency for Jennings and the Bucks. Do they stick together after four extremely productive years for Jennings, a restricted free agent at season’s end?

He’s helped the Bucks to the playoffs twice, his rookie season and this one, and he’s shown his many critics that his decision to bypass college for a one-season detour in Italy did nothing to damage his NBA stock. But in a league filled with as diverse and talented a group of point guards as its potentially ever had, where exactly does a player like Jennings fit?

“Great question,” an Eastern Conference general manager said. “His rookie season I felt like he was going to join that group of elite point guards, especially after what he did to the [Atlanta] Hawks during the playoffs. He showed off playmaking skills and scored at will in the postseason, doing things you don’t normally expect from a rookie. And he’s been solid ever since. But I don’t know that he’s moved into that tip tier of point guards. He’s not there, not yet.”

Jennings has averaged an impressive 17.0 points, 5.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 291 career regular season games. Considered more of a scorer than a facilitator, Jennings has proven himself capable of handling both responsibilities for the Bucks. Still, there is some uncertainty about his desire to stick around in Milwaukee during what could be a complete rebuilding situation this summer.

His backcourt mate Monta Ellis can opt out and become an unrestricted free agent this summer. And Samuel Dalembert, Mike Dunleavy, Marquis Daniels, J.J. Redick and Joel Pryzbilla will all be unrestricted free agents this summer.

The Halloween deadline for Jennings and the Bucks to agree on an extension of his rookie contract passed without either side admitting that they were even close to getting something done.

That’s one reason why this series against the Heat is such a showcase event for Jennings. It’s his final platform before free agency to remind the league that he’s a player a franchise can build around. The upset guarantee and his 26-point effort in Game 1 was the ideal buzz and result for Jennings early on.

But he’s managed just 24 points in the two games since the opener, shooting 8-for-30 from the floor and 1-for-14 from beyond the 3-point line. The Heat have stymied the Bucks’ offense late in all three games, eliminating the pick-and-roll as an option for Jennings and Ellis when the game is one the line.

“One of the problems we have with that is our size in the backcourt,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “We’re not a big team. So when they are out there trapping and staying with the ballhandler like that, they are putting a lot of pressure on you, first of all. Secondly, they have good size. It’s easy for me stand up in the huddle and say ‘we’ve got to make a quick pass, we’ve got to move that ball and take advantage of them double teaming.’ But sometimes it’s hard to do. They are flooding the strong side and cutting off passing angles and it makes it difficult to find the right man, the open man, with a pass. It’s usually a cross court pass and those are always dangerous because of their speed and activity.”

This is one of the premier defensive teams in the league we’re talking about in the Heat, who boast quality perimeter defenders in not only LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but also Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Ray Allen.

Chalmers and Cole have taken a particular interest in limiting Jennings, both of them no doubt smarting from the brash attitude and words Jennings has been sure to share with the world.

“They are really getting physical,” Boylan said. “It’s playoff basketball. So there is a lot more contact than in the regular season. And anytime we use any sort of pick-and-rolls, they are double-teaming him and putting pressure on him. That combination is difficult. And they are focused in on both [Jennings] and Monta. They did what they needed to do, be physical, be big and cut off those angles for finding people.”

At 23, Jennings is probably done growing. So there is nothing he can do about that size disadvantage and the fact that the Heat are executing flawlessly in wearing him down. But he has at least 48 minutes left to prove that his skill set can best whatever advantage the opposition brings to the show.

That Bucks in six stuff is obviously history.

Whether or not Jennings’ time with the Bucks is, however, … well, only time will tell.

Bucks’ Dream Comeback Is Bulls’ Nightmare Collapse

CHICAGO – Jon McGlocklin, Milwaukee Bucks guard-turned-broadcaster, got stopped courtside the last time his team played at Madison Square Garden. It was Spike Lee, the hardcore Knicks fan and occasional movie director, tugging on McGlocklin’s arm.

“He said ‘Jon, I want to talk to you about that game!’ ” McGlocklin recalled Monday night in the bowels of United Center. “I didn’t even know he knew who I was. I told him, ‘Aaargh, I don’t want to talk about that.’ “

The game in question: New York’s comeback from an 86-68 deficit deep into the fourth quarter, convulsed into an 87-86 victory when the Knicks scored the final 19 points on the night of Nov. 18, 1972. Pulled off against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and the rest, it generally is considered the most famous regular-season NBA game in Knicks history, ranking right behind the two championship clinchers for lifelong fans like Lee.

McGlocklin recalled it anew Monday, after the Bucks wound up on the other side of something equally improbable: A comeback from 27 points down deep in the third quarter, 78-51, engineered by an all-bench crew that outscored the Bulls 42-14 over the final 14:29. On the road. With McGlocklin there to flash back.

“You’re flailing around like in a dream,” he said of his Bucks way back when and the Bulls just moments — nightmarish moments — earlier. “You can’t quite reach the ball. You try to take a step, and it’s like an out-of-body experience.”

That was the Chicago side of things Monday, as the Bulls starters saw what had been a cushy lead cut to 17 points by the start of the third quarter. Then — whoosh! — to 10, 80-70, just 96 seconds into the fourth on Beno Udrih‘s 3-pointer. Another Bulls turnover, a run-out dunk by Ekpe Udoh and it was 80-74.

A jumper by little-used rookie Doron Lamb, whose defense on Rip Hamilton was equally important; A 3-pointer by Ersan Ilyasova, moved to the bench after 11 starts as coach Scott Skiles searched to spark him; And another one from the arc, this one by Mike Dunleavy, after Chicago let a defensive rebound bounce and wind up back in the Bucks’ hands.

That made it 82-82 with seven minutes left. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau already knew what was coming.

“In an NBA game, you can lose 10 points in a minute,” Thibodeau said, his sideline growling over for the night. “Everyone says that doesn’t happen, but I see it all the time. If you don’t play tough with the lead, this is what happens.”

Said Dunleavy: “When it was 27, it was like, ‘This is almost physically impossible.’ But when we got it to [17] at the end of the third, we felt, ‘This has happened before.’ “

Chicago had gone through something like this three years ago, when Sacramento came from 35 points back to win at the UC. Even though Udrih was a part of that epic comeback, few of the Bucks could recall being involved in something similar — and so satisfying.

“I was in a game once with Phoenix where we came back from 27 down, I believe it was to start the fourth,” Skiles said. “It was at Miami and [Dan] Majerle hit a 3 for Miami with like 50 seconds left. We came all the way back but got beat. … You know, this doesn’t happen that much. It’s hard to do. You’ve got to play perfectly, and then you need some help from the other team. Kind of both things happened for us tonight.”

Several things, frankly, happened for the Bucks Monday. They put behind them the sour memories of their loss Saturday to Chicago, a game in which they got pounded on the boards while Skiles played bigs Samuel Dalembert, John Henson and Drew Gooden a total of 1:18.

They got a performance for the ages from the bench crew, outscoring their Chicago counterparts 56-10. They shook off the rust or whatever it was hindering Ilyasova’s game since his return from free agency. His fourth quarter — 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting, four boards, an assist, a steal and a block — seemed better than his first 47 quarters this season combined.

“There’s a little bit better flow with that unit,” Dunleavy said. “That probably enabled him to relax a little bit — make his shots, make his plays. It didn’t feel like he was having to find his way as much.”

In other words — ahem — that dynamic offensive backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, which does tend to dominate the basketball, was nowhere to be found over the final 15:26 as Skiles swapped subs for starters. Ilyasova found some rhythm, while Lamb was more active than any of the other Milwaukee defenders against Hamilton, who had his best night as a Bulls player but missed a 10-footer in the lane as time expired.

“[Ilyasova] is new to it, but that group plays together every day in practice and we more than hold our own,” Dunleavy said. “We know how to play. We share the ball. Whoever’s open takes the shot. That’s how you beat a good defensive team like this.”

After four consecutive defeats that Milwaukee felt it could have, maybe even should have, won — tight ones to Boston and at Charlotte, an overtime loss at Miami and the first Bulls clash, a one-possession until the final half-minute — it tucked one away Monday that it had no business winning.

No business, but more than a little fun.

In Stunning Turn Of Events, Lakers Pick D’Antoni Over Jackson For Vacancy





Showtime, or a veritable facsimile thereof, won.

In a stunning development late Sunday night, the Los Angeles Lakers opted to sign former Knicks and Suns coach Mike D’Antoni to a four-year deal as their next coach, ending negotiations with 11-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson. He was believed to be the prohibitive favorite to replace Mike Brown, who was fired last Friday.

D’Antoni and former Lakers, Blazers, Bucks and Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy interviewed with the Lakers over the weekend. But they were fallbacks, interviews done just in case the Lakers, somehow, could not reach a deal with the 67-year-old Jackson, who’d won five titles in Los Angeles during two stints as head coach.

But the Lakers could not reach agreement with Jackson, whose representatives had made it clear last summer that Jackson wanted a much bigger role in any organization that he joined, with hiring authority for coaches and other positions in the organization.

Negotiations with Jackson ended Sunday night, and the Lakers called D’Antoni’s agent, Warren LeGarie, as their home game against the Kings was ending. The two sides quickly worked out a contract somewhat along the lines of what Brown — another LeGarie client — received, though specific dollar amounts were not immediately available.

The Lakers never contacted other potential coaching candidates like former Blazers coach Nate McMillan, or former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

In the end, D’Antoni’s relationships both with Steve Nash, whom he helped get two MVPs in Phoenix, and with Kobe Bryant, who has known D’Antoni since he was finishing his playing career in Italy when a young Bryant lived there, made him the choice over Dunleavy.

D’Antoni’s Suns gave as good as they got with the Lakers in the playoffs, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to defeat L.A. in a 2006 first-round series. And his “Seven Seconds or Less” offensive system, which demanded pushing the ball up court — even after opponents scored — to get a good shot early in the shot clock, was much more in line with the old “Showtime” Lakers of Magic Johnson than the halfcourt-based Princeton offense that Brown tried to run.

The Lakers fired Brown Friday morning, despite executive vice president Jim Buss having given him a vote of confidence the day before. And despite everyone, including Bryant, stressing patience as the team dealt with injuries and the learning curve with the Princeton sets.

D’Antoni badly wanted the Lakers job, and an opportunity to again coach the now 38-year-old Nash. He was disturbed by how his stint in New York ended, without a playoff appearance, and with him resigning in March after Knicks management refused his entreaties to try and trade star forward Carmelo Anthony.

D’Antoni had knee replacement surgery about two weeks ago, and has to be cleared by his physician to be allowed to travel. He is already walking and his in-house therapist believes D’Antoni is about a week of rehab away from being able to handle coaching’s rigors. The current plan is for D’Antoni to be in Los Angeles by Wednesday or Thursday. The Lakers play the Spurs Tuesday night at Staples Center, but per LeGarie, D’Antoni will not be in attendance for that game. Bernie Bickerstaff, who has coached the Lakers to two wins on an interim basis, would probably coach that game, then.

LeGarie says that D’Antoni will not conduct any interviews before being introduced by the Lakers. D’Antoni will likely be put on an accelerated rehab program when he arrives in Los Angeles.

D’Antoni’s older brother, Dan, who has been with him on the bench in Phoenix and New York, will be joining Mike D’Antoni on the Lakers’ staff, according to a source. It is unknown if any of the Lakers’ current assistant coaches will be retained, though it is possible that Bickerstaff could be asked to stay.

Guy Behind East’s Player Of Week? Bucks’ Dunleavy





Milwaukee point guard Brandon Jennings was named Monday 2012-13′s first winner of the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award. Which probably doesn’t happen without his buzzer-beating 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left against Cleveland Saturday. Which definitely doesn’t happen without teammate Mike Dunleavy’s pinpoint inbounds pass to Jennings near the top of the arc.

So how ’bout a little credit?

“I’ve thrown a few of those in my career,” Dunleavy said, laughing, Monday after Bucks practice and treatment. “It’s about 10 percent of the work. The other 90 percent is the guy making the shot. It was kind of him to put it in. I was just standing there out of bounds, kind of mesmerized.”

Jennings’ numbers to earn POW: 17.0 points, 13.0 assists and 4.0 steals per game in Milwaukee’s 2-0 start. But take a look at Dunleavy’s: 18.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals, while shooting 70.6 percent from the field and 87.5 percent (7-of-8) from the arc. Against the Cavs, he had 29 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

His PER, as a measure of overall efficiency: 34.2. Jennings? 28.5. The average NBA player checks in at 15.0.

Two games is a puny sample size. Multiply it by 41 before we start talking of Dunleavy’s across-the-board numbers in the same terms of Larry Bird‘s or Kevin Garnett‘s. His offensive rating of 149.9 — an estimate of points produced per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference.com — is crazy good. Heading into Monday’s games, it was third-highest in the league, behind Minnesota’s J.J. Barea (156.3) and Miami’s Ray Allen (149.9). (more…)

Bucks’ Jennings Missed Deadline But Beats The Clock To Dump Cavs



To hear the Cleveland Cavaliers tell it, the folks in Wisconsin only had to turn their clocks back 59 minutes and 59.8 seconds overnight Saturday. Because the Milwaukee Bucks took care of that first tenth-of-a-second or two for them.

After Brandon Jennings‘ buzzer-beater lifted the Bucks to a 105-102 victory at the BMO Harris Bradley Center – and after Cavs coach Byron Scott got a chance to see a couple of replays – Scott felt the timekeeping in Milwaukee was slow on the trigger. He told that to reporters after the game.

“I don’t want to get fined, so I’m not going to say nothing about the clock starting late on the last shot. But they have to figure out a way to do something about that. The bottom line is that either it doesn’t count or you take it out again. They’ve got to figure out a way.

“Looking at it again in the locker room a copule of times, the shot shouldn’t have counted. The clock started too late.”

The situation: Just 0.7 seconds showed on the clock when Milwaukee inbounded the ball, Mike Dunleavy passing to Jennings near the top of the key. Upon review, the Cavs felt Jennings did too much with the ball, from catch to windup to launch, before the clock began its countdown. (more…)

Future Of Kings, Hornets — And Stern’s Exit Plan — Among BOG Issues





NEW YORK – With labor strife quelled for nearly the next five years — until the league’s hard-fought collective bargaining agreement can be reopened in 2017 — the business of this week’s Board of Governors meeting might seem less pressing than the sessions that preceded this post-lockout season.

But don’t tell that to the NBA fans in Sacramento and New Orleans.

The long-term viability of both franchises was in play as the owners met in midtown Manhattan Thursday and Friday. There also was expected to be discussion of a controversial marketing initiative — selling sponsorship space on game jerseys. And then there is the nagging matter of commissioner David Stern’s exit strategy, which could trigger in a matter of months or, more likely, the next few seasons. Stern has said repeatedly that he will retire before the next CBA gets negotiated.

For now, the commissioner probably would be happy just to shed his owner/CEO role with the Hornets, an arrangement that reached its peak awkwardness in December when he stepped in to reject a trade that would have sent All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. Paul eventually was sent to the other L.A. team, the Clippers, amid much clamor and the goal of finding new ownership for New Orleans gained a new urgency.

The NBA has owned and operated the Hornets since December 2010. But Stern said at All-Star Weekend that two possible buyers had emerged; a winner might be announced today, Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote:

It appears the league might be ready to choose between an offer from a group headed by California swimwear manufacturer Raj Bhathal that will include former Hornets minority owner Gary Chouest, and a bid from New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson.

(more…)