Posts Tagged ‘Mike Dunleavy’

Robinson On Rose-Less Bulls: ‘They’ll Figure Out A Way To Win’

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DALLAS – Back in Chicago for a late October preseason game, Nuggets guard Nate Robinson acknowledged how much he missed his old Bulls teammates with whom he’d been through so much during last season’s inspiring and trying ride without Derrick Rose.

Exactly a month later, with Rose having undergone season-ending knee surgery Monday, it’s the Bulls who might miss Robinson more than they could have imagined.

An important offensive spark and a big-shot maker during his one season with Chicago, Robinson never got the chance to play with Rose. Just four nights ago, he faced off against him in Denver, going for 11 points and three assists to help his new club beat the Bulls by 10. The next night at Portland, Rose tore the meniscus in his right knee just 10 games into his return from the torn ACL in his left knee that kept him out all of last season.

“Sad,” Robinson told NBA.com Monday night as the Nuggets prepared to face the Dallas Mavericks. “It’s sad for me, it’s sad for him, I know for sure. My son was really sad about it because he loved Derrick Rose. He got a picture with him last year. He was so excited.”

The entire NBA was excited to have Rose, the 2010-11 league MVP, back in action. Suddenly, and sadly, everybody’s wondering if Chicago can reset again without their star point guard and grind out another season without him. That process has started excruciatingly slow in the immediate aftermath. On Sunday in Los Angeles, the Clippers hammered the Bulls by 39 points, 121-82. Playing at one-win Utah on Monday, the Bulls struggled again, losing, 89-83 to the Jazz in OT.

“It’s tough. It’s definitely going to hurt them, but they’re tough, man,” Robinson said. “They’ll figure out a way to win. They always do.”

They’ll have to do it without the bolt of energy that is the 5-foot-9 Robinson, who produced one of those familiar scoring flurries in Dallas with 17 points, 13 coming in the fourth quarter that included three 3-pointers to help the Nuggets get a 110-96 road win. With Chicago, Robinson averaged 25.4 mpg and played in all 82 games for the injury-riddled squad. He averaged 13.1 ppg and 4.4 apg for the Bulls, and 16.3 ppg during their gritty playoff run into the East semifinals that included an unforgettable 34-point explosion in the triple-overtime Game 4 win in the first round against the Nets.

Robinson started 23 games and was indispensable to Chicago’s success considering Kirk Hinrich, who again takes over as the starting point guard, played in just 60 games last season.

In Sunday’s loss to the Clippers, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau started Mike Dunleavy alongside Hinrich with regular starter Jimmy Butler (sprained big toe) still injured. Monday night at Utah, Thibodeau gave rookie Tony Snell the start. At the point, Chicago also has veteran journeyman Mike James and second-year point guard Marquis Teague, who played in 48 games last season and had played in just half of the Bulls’ first 12 games.

Considering the circumstance, Robinson, who signed a two-year, $4.1-million free-agent deal with the Nuggets, would likely again be counted on as a big-minute contributor in Chicago. But he’s long gone.

“I don’t know what they need. I don’t know nothing about it,” Robinson said of the Bulls’ predicament. “I know these guys here, I got their backs, my new teammates.”

It hasn’t been instant success start for Robinson, 29, in Denver, which has a glut of backcourt players with Randy Foye starting alongside Ty Lawson, and a bench that includes veteran Andre Miller, who still logs 18.9 mpg, plus second-year swingman Evan Fournier. New coach Brian Shaw is playing Robinson 16.9 mpg. He’s averaging 7.5 ppg and 2.3 apg. He’s shooting 34.4 percent from the floor, although 40.6 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

After a sluggish start to the season, the up-tempo Nuggets are now 7-6 and on a three-game win streak as they adjust to Shaw’s more inside-out offensive approach. Forward Wilson Chandler recently returned to the lineup and at some point forward Danilo Gallinari will make his return from the ACL injury he sustained last April.

Still, the Nuggets are getting up and down the floor, a quick pace that seems a natural fit for the frenetic Robinson.

“I just like to play basketball,” he said.

Gibson, Dunleavy Are Bulls’ Other October Bright Spots

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CHICAGOThe bright spot of the preseason so far for the Chicago Bulls is a no-brainer: Derrick Rose hasn’t just looked like his old self at times, he has looked quicker and stronger than his old self, with no apparent inclination to baby his surgically repaired left knee.

It’s early, but it looks as if sparing himself the rigors of an 82-game season might have benefits beyond the restoration of that torn ACL. That rehab year, in fact, almost might have been a physical and mental sabbatical.

Consider: Through five October appearances, Rose has scored 104 points in 124 minutes. That’s a rate of .839 points per minute and THAT is more prolific than at any previous point in his career. He was at .454 as a rookie in 2008-09, .564 a season later, .670 in his 2010-11 MVP season and .620 in an injury-riddled post-lockout season.

“He has great balance to his game right now,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said after the 105-84 dispatching of Milwaukee Monday night at United Center. “If you back up on him, he doesn’t hesitate to pull up. … He is pushing the ball and attacking right from the start.”

The dim spots for Chicago have been obvious as well: Joakim Noah (groin strain), Jimmy Butler (bruised left knee) and Kirk Hinrich (concussion) all are hurt. Injuries big and small have undone Chicago repeatedly during the Thibodeau era, at least by spring, a source of profound frustration for the team and fans.

It’s especially vexing this preseason, with Noah eager to build on an All-Star season, Butler promoted into the shooting guard spot and Hinrich presumably freed by Rose’s return to lead the second unit and sometimes play alongside the star point guard. A lot of learning time is being burned, with the regular season a week away.

Fortunately for Chicago, two other players have eased the fretting and kept the storyline from going entirely Rose 24/7: Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy.

Gibson is the 6-foot-9 power forward whose contract extension last October produced a nice payday (four years, $33 million) and a step-back season. His scoring, rebounding, shooting and defense all dropped from previous levels, a particular problem in the wake of backup center Omer Asik‘s departure. Then there were stretches of 10 and seven games that Gibson missed with left knee issues.

“I think he was distracted last year,” Thibodeau said recently. “He had a different sort of season. Once he got on track and started playing well, he took on the injury. He still managed to have an OK season, but it wasn’t up to his standards.”

Those standards are going up now, along with expectations, based on Gibson’s work during the Bulls’ 6-0 start. His 14.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in 27.7 minutes translate to 18.4 and 10.2 per 36 minutes, easily the best of his five NBA seasons, and he’s making 62.5 percent of his shots. Thibodeau calls him the “best practice player” of their preseason.

Playing center more in Noah’s absence, Gibson came back heavier and stronger. He’s more comfortable and confident in the offense, not rushing as much. And he was reminded over the summer, in talks with Thibodeau and in workouts with Rose, of the value of hard work.

“One thing when you’re an NBA player, you want to be perfect,” Gibson said. “I was frustrated. I felt like I could have done a lot better. When I started working out, especially in the weight room with Derrick, I just had that mindset. I was thinking about playoffs, I was thinking about Miami, I was thinking about all those moments and I just made it bother me. I thought about the [final playoff] series, the season. I had a chip on my shoulder and I still do.”

Dunleavy was thinking about the playoffs, too — and how seldom he has sampled them. The 11-year veteran has gone twice, without ever playing for a team that finished .500 or better. That’s what led him to sign as a free agent with Chicago, where the learning curve can be steep — especially defensively — for newcomers. Wings like Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Richard Hamilton and Marco Belinelli have had periods of adjustment, but Dunleavy has had a fairly breezy transition thus far.

“I think I have an understanding of what we’re trying to do at both ends,” he said. “Yeah, I’m not shooting the ball great, but all the other stuff I feel really comfortable with. Each and every day, there’s always something new you’re picking up and learning.”

Thibodeau has been delighted with Dunleavy’s versatility, decision-making and potential to create space with his perimeter shooting. He has hit only 33.3 percent of his shots (5-for-16 from the arc) but he has started three of the six games and been used in various combinations. Against the Bucks, Dunleavy had 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 32:35. He orchestrated a highlight, too, dropping a behind-the-back pass for Gibson for a fast-break dunk.

“He’s a 6-9, 6-10 wing,” Gibson said. “He can shoot, he can rebound, he can dribble. He looks like the old Dunleavy when he was at Duke – a triple threat. You look at his size, he’s really big, he’s in there rebounding. Him and Lu [Deng] give us tall wings. His shot is going down now. As long as his confidence is going, he’s good.”

Gibson and Dunleavy both have been good, sources of encouragement beyond the most obvious one.

Five Most Underrated Free-Agent Signings

By Jonathan Hartzell, NBA.com

The NBA offseason tends to be dominated by articles and information about the top players in the league. Often forgotten about are the fringe stars and role players on every team who do the little things to help win games.

With this in mind, here are the five most underrated free-agent signings of the 2013-14 offseason:

Earl Clark, Cleveland Cavaliers – 2-years, $9 million

Earl Clark should help the Cavaliers' bench.

Earl Clark should help the Cavaliers’ bench.

Clark instantly fills a void for the Cavaliers and he could help Cleveland make it back to the playoffs. The 6-foot-10 Clark had his best NBA season with the Lakers in 2012-13, averaging 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in 23.1 minutes. He will provide valuable length and athleticism off the bench at an extremely affordable rate and, at 25 years old, his game still has a lot of room to grow.

Jose Calderon, Dallas Mavericks – 4-years, $29 million

Jose Calderon's passing ability will be welcomed in Dallas.

Jose Calderon’s passing ability will be welcomed in Dallas.

The Spanish guard played eight seasons with the Toronto Raptors before being traded to the Detroit Pistons midseason. As a Raptor he experienced only one winning season, but he proved to be one of the best distributors in the league. He added a significantly improved 3-point shot last season to finish the season averaging 11.3 points and 7.1 assists on 49.1 percent shooting and a league-leading 46.1 percent from 3-point range. The contract he signed with Dallas this summer is arguably too long and expensive for a player who isn’t a stalwart defender. However, this will prove to be an important deal if Calderon is able to help Dirk Nowitzki lead the Mavericks back into the playoffs.

Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks – 2-years, $19 million

Paul Millsap may have a lot of reasons to smile in Atlanta.

Paul Millsap may have a lot of reasons to smile in Atlanta.

This is a great deal if the Hawks’ plan is to make the playoffs this season. Millsap is one of the most underrated power forwards in the league and incredibly Atlanta signed him to a practically risk-free two-year deal. The 6-foot-8 forward from Louisiana Tech played his first seven NBA seasons with the Jazz and averaged 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals last season. The one negative about this signing? It pushes long-time Hawk Al Horford back to the center spot where he is nowhere near as dominant as he is as a power forward. But when you have the opportunity to bring in a player of Millsap’s talent level, preferred rotations and positions can be worked out later.

C.J. Watson, Indiana Pacers – 2-years, contract terms undisclosed

C.J. Watson

C.J. Watson significantly upgrades the Pacers’ guard depth.

Watson has proven to be one of the NBA’s best backup point guards over the last few seasons and his presence on the Pacers will significantly improve their depth. Watson allows the Pacers to not fall too far behind when starter George Hill rests. Plus, Watson’s ability to handle the ball and shoot from 3-point range (41.1 percent last season) will let Indiana occasionally run a Hill-Watson backcourt. The 6-foot-2 guard spent last season as the top backup for the Nets’ Deron Williams and before that, spent two successful seasons with the Chicago Bulls. Watson knows his role and his ability to consistently perform it makes this a great signing for the Pacers.

Mike Dunleavy, Chicago Bulls – 2-years, $6 million

Mike Dunleavy Jr.

Mike Dunleavy Jr. is a well-skilled and solid NBA veteran.

Dunleavy is an excellent floor-spacer who can consistently knock down 3-point shots at a high rate and provides the Bulls with solid bench depth after the departures of Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli. His presence should help create driving and passing lanes for Derrick Rose, who is reportedly one of the major reasons Dunleavy wanted to play in Chicago. The 32-year-old Dunleavy spent the last two seasons with the Bucks, averaging 10.5 points, 3.9 boards and shot 42.8 percent shooting from 3-point range last season. This signing looks like a terrific deal for  Dunleavy and Chicago as it should help the Bulls reclaim their spot as a championship contender when Rose returns.

Neal, Bucks Agree To Two-Year Deal





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It took a little while, but Gary Neal has finally found a comfortable landing spot. The former San Antonio Spurs’ sharpshooter agreed to a two-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks worth a reported $3.25 million per season, according to the Journal Sentinel.

With their point guard situation still in flux, they extended a qualifying offer to Brandon Jennings making him a restricted free agent this summer, Neal gives bucks coach Larry Drew another seasoned offensive weapon to work with at shooting guard. The Bucks added O.J. Mayo earlier this summer. They also presented restricted free agent point guard Jeff Teague with a four-year, $32 million offer sheet that the Hawks matched.

Neal’s most recent and perhaps best career highlights came last month in The Finals, during the epic seven-game series between the Spurs and Miami Heat. He scored a playoff career-high 24 points in a Game 3 blowout of the Heat, nailing six 3-pointers in that contest as he and Danny Green combined for 51 of the Spurs’ 113 points.

Neal, 28, averaged 9.7 points and shot 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line in three seasons with the Spurs.

The Bucks, who lost J.J. Redick (to the Los Angeles Clippers) and Mike Dunleavy (to the Chicago Bulls) in free agency, were in need of a someone who could provide an offensive spark off of the bench. Neal is the sort of fearless, big-game performer Bucks general manager John Hammond was looking for.

There is still business for the Bucks to tend to, of course. They have to figure out what to do, if anything, with Jennings. As it stands, he’s set to return to his starting point guard spot for the 2013-14 season. He would then become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2014.


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.