When Utah won at Portland for its first victory on the road since Feb. 13, it jumped the Jazz over the Lakers and back into the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
According to Bill Oram of the Salt Lake Tribune, the chatter was back in the Jazz locker room after they rallied from nine, 14 and nine down again in the fourth quarter on Friday night.
“Winning does that,” Mo Williams said. “Winning puts you in a good mood, especially when you care. Top to bottom, people care here, when you lose you feel down. It’s not so jolly, it’s not so loose.”
Earlier in the evening, Williams was far from happy. The 30-year-old point guard, in his second stint with the Jazz, was benched by coach Tyrone Corbin in the second quarter. In the final minutes of the game, Williams carried the Jazz to the win, scoring 14 of his game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter and spearheading a 25-6 run in the final six minutes.
“You get pissed off,” Williams said. “Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, you come out and be aggressive.”
The Jazz come home to close out a back-to-back tonight against the Nets and there is light again after it had appeared for weeks that Utah was going to do everything except lift the Lakers up onto their shoulders and carry Kobe Bryant & Co. into the postseason.
Now the two teams are in the stretch run and for the first time in a while, the Jazz might have a leg up in getting to the finish.
Let’s break it down for final nine games:
Home — 6
Road — 3
Vs. playoff teams — 5
Back-to-backs remaining: 0
Tonight — vs. Nets
Mon. — vs. Blazers
Wed. — vs. Nuggets
Apr. 7 — at Golden State
Apr. 9 — vs. Thunder
Apr. 12 — vs. Timberwolves
Apr. 15 — at Minnesota
Apr. 17 — at Memphis
The Jazz hold the tiebreaker over the Lakers and if they can take care of business at home, where they’re 26-9 on the season, will be tough for the Lakers to beat out.
Home — 6
Road — 3
Vs. playoff teams — 5
Back-to-backs remaining — 1
Tonight — at Sacramento
Tues. — vs. Mavericks
Fri. — vs. Grizzlies
Apr. 7 — at L.A. Clippers
Apr. 9 — vs. Hornets
Apr. 10 — at Portland
Apr. 12 — vs. Warriors
Apr. 14 — vs. Spurs
Apr. 17 — vs. Rockets
Of the 14 players on the Lakers roster, seven are listed on the injury report for tonight at Sacramento, though Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Antawn Jamison are probable, with Steve Nash questionable and Metta World Peace and Jordan Hill out. Of the Lakers’ three remaining road games, they won’t have to leave their own building to play the Clippers and that next-to-last game against San Antonio could catch them another break if the mercurial Gregg Popovich decides to rest up his veterans for the playoffs.
For how long will be the question that decides the Lakers’ fate.
They relied heavily on Kobe’s magic recently to rally past New Orleans and then Toronto to finally barge into the final playoff spot. Without No. 24, L.A.’s chances to remain at No. 8 seem bleak at best, opening the postseason door to the two teams below them in the Western Conference standings: the cratering Utah Jazz and the suddenly surging Dallas Mavericks.
Just 10 days ago, coming off the sting of a 33-point humiliation at Houston that left Dallas at 26-33 and in 11th place, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle sternly said: ”I understand if you look at the standings right now it doesn’t look good. But a lot can happen in a month-and-a-half. We got to make a stand.
“If you want to write us off,” he said, “go ahead.”
Since then, the Mavs are 4-0, the Jazz are 1-5 and the previously streaking Lakers are left to cross their fingers for a quick Kobe return.
Still, it’s not like this will be a playoff waltz for Dallas, a chronically inconsistent team sitting in 1oth place and three games under .500 (30-33). Yet the Mavs are just one game back of both Utah and L.A. in the loss column. They’ve played two fewer games than the Jazz, who are 2-8 in their last 10 and haven’t received a spark from the return of Mo Williams. Dallas also has played three fewer games than the Lakers, who dropped to 12-21 on the road (which is where they’ll play half of their remaining 16 games).
Dallas begins a brutal stretch tonight at San Antonio (8 p.m. ET, TNT), the first of a dozen games against 10 current playoff teams, including at the Lakers (April 2). Eight of the 12 are at home and that includes a six-game homestand from March 20-30 against five current playoff teams (four from the East) plus the Jazz on March 24. The Mavs, however, are a pedestrian 17-12 at home and just 4-3 since Feb. 1.
But if Kobe is out for a matter of weeks — and that’s still to be seen — and the Jazz can’t get back in tune, it might not take 48 or 46 or even 44 wins to get in.
Utah’s next four games leading into the showdown at Dallas could determine its direction. The Jazz play the next two at home against Memphis (Saturday) and New York (Monday) and then hit the road for Houston (Wednesday) and San Antonio (March 22). The Jazz are 10-24 on the road, so playing 10 of their final 17 at home is advantageous, although they’re just 2-2 in their last four.
So much now rides on the healing powers of Kobe’s severely sprained left ankle.
A breakdown of the Lakers, Jazz and Mavs down the stretch:
No. 8 LAKERS
Record: 34-32 (16 games left)
Home/Road games remaining: 8/8
Games against current playoff teams: 8
Toughest stretch: March 25 – April 7 (at Golden State, at Minnesota, at Milwaukee, at Sacramento, vs. Dallas, vs. Memphis, at L.A. Clippers)
No. 9 JAZZ
Record: 33-32 (17 games left)
Home/Road games remaining: 10/7
Games against current playoff teams: 9
Toughest stretch: Saturday – March 24 (vs. Memphis, vs. New York, at Houston, at San Antonio, at Dallas)
No. 10 MAVERICKS
Record: 30-33 (19 games left)
Home/Road games remaining: 12/7
Games against current playoff teams: 12
Toughest stretch: Sunday – April 4 (vs. Oklahoma City, at Atlanta, vs. Brooklyn, vs. Boston, vs. Utah, vs. L.A. Clippers, vs. Indiana, vs. Chicago, at L.A. Lakers, at Denver)
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Box scores rarely tell the whole story of a given game and such was the case in last night’s Raptors-Warriors game from The Oracle. A click over to said box score reveals Andrew Bogut‘s return to the Golden State lineup and a somewhat ho-hum stat line: four points, eight rebounds and two turnovers in 29 minutes. But what’s lost in the box score is seen on the court as Bogut helped the Warriors get a sense of what their full starting five is like while also providing some defense that the Warriors have lacked the last few weeks. Steph Curry and David Lee were the box score stars in this game, but don’t discount what Bogut adds to the Warriors.
Stoudemire wants more playing time — We mentioned in this space yesterday that some were questioning Knicks coach Mike Woodson’s strategy in Sunday’s loss to the Heat, particularly the amount of minutes reserve big man Amar’e Stoudemire was playing down the stretch in that game. After Stoudemire logged 31 minutes and led New York with 22 points in a comeback win over the Cavs on Monday, it appears Stoudemire can handle more playing time. Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com reports that a source says Stoudemire is more than set to take on a bigger role if asked:
… According to a source close to the Knicks, Stoudemire is “ready” and “healthy” to play more minutes to help the team.
“He’s in tip-top shape,” the source told ESPNNewYork.com. “He wants to play; whatever it takes for [the Knicks] to win.”
On Sunday, Stoudemire only got in for 21 minutes — sitting out the last eight — in the Knicks’ losing effort against the Heat. Down the stretch he was needed because when the Heat applied more aggressive defense on Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks didn’t have an inside scoring threat. Tyson Chandler was in the game, but he’s not one to create his own opportunities.
If Stoudemire’s body is ready, it would be important to increase his minutes now, to better prepare him for increased playing time in the postseason. That’s usually what happens during this critical period of the season, as coaches shorten their rotation to focus on their best players.
“Now is the time to be giving him extending minutes to see how his body reacts to it,” the source said, “especially when you’re not on [a] big winning streak. … Something has to shake up.”
Head coach Mike Woodson is still banking on basic perimeter play and 3-point shooting, which worked in the first two months of the season when the Knicks started 18-5. But since then, they’ve been mostly playing .500 ball, and there are still too many outside shots from Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith. In fact, against the Heat, while Smith shot 3-for-14 from 3-point, Stoudemire took just seven shots from the field, making five.
The source said the Knicks are “not a real hard team to figure out right now.”
Nuggets interested in Korver — The trade deadline is long gone, so any hopes of the Nuggets acquiring Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver in a trade (including this smart one suggested by John Schuhmann way back when) are out of the picture. But that doesn’t mean Korver wouldn’t be a natural fit for the high-octane crew coach George Karl is assembling in Denver, writes Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post. In fact, Karl in his pregame comments last night (before Denver hosted Atlanta) couldn’t help but gush about Korver’s skills:
Korver, an unrestricted free agent in his 10th year in the NBA, is expected to be one of the Nuggets top targets in the offseason as the team actively courts players who can fill that shooting void. Denver won’t be the only team looking to gain his services, but if the money is right (Korver makes $5 million this season) the situation might be hard for the sharpshooter, who grew up in Pella, Iowa, to turn down.
Shots figure to be much easier to come by in a system where guard Ty Lawson’s driving is so respected that he sucks defenders into the lane, and other players capable of hitting from long range – Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer – make it so that he would be difficult to devote additional resources to slowing just Korver down in the manner that the Nuggets are expected to try tonight.
“You don’t have a lot of pin-down offenses anymore, for some reason the game’s gone to pick-and-roll and away from the execution of a pin-down,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “You’ve got (J.J.) Reddick and some guys that come off of pin-downs but this kid right now moves without the ball as good as anybody in the NBA, and he will get his opportunity to be the first option in 10-15 minutes of the game that we’re going to have to be responsible and see how he’s shooting it. And then you can’t give them the open three, you can’t give him the ‘oh, what happened’ three. You’ve got to be ready. He’s a big part.”
“He’s an unbelievable shooter, he’s so gifted with that,” Kosta Koufos said. “He just has a positive outlook to everything. That’s why he’s been so successful in the league. He’s just been working hard, day-in and day-out.”
Koufos raved about Korver as a teammate.
“He’s great guy,” Koufos said. “He’s what you think of a professional. He comes in, works hard, he’s very motivational, very positive, a great player. He’s one of the better teammates I’ve ever played with.”
Jazz hoping to get Williams back soon — Utah, the No. 8 seed in the West, has stayed in the thick of the playoff chase and gone 18-14 since Dec. 22. Why is that date significant? That’s when starting point guard Mo Williams was lost so he could have surgery to repair torn ligaments in his thumb. Guard play has been a problem for the Jazz during Williams’ absence, but he practiced with the team in Milwaukee on Monday and could play again as soon as Wednesday in Cleveland. Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune has more:
Williams said Monday at the Jazz’s shootaround in Milwaukee that he could return to games as early as Wednesday, when the Jazz play at Cleveland, where he played from 2008 to 2011.
“We’ll see,” Williams said. “We’ll see. That would be great to play in front of those fans.”
The 30-year-old point guard had two pins removed from his thumb on Feb. 13, and his rehabilitation began in earnest after the All-Star Break, and if Al Jefferson were the final judge, Williams would be cleared to play.
“He said he was a little winded,” Jefferson said. “I told him I couldn’t tell.”
But the Jazz are being cautious with the veteran.
“As he gets close, he’s getting a little frustrated with trying to get himself to get better fast and be ready to go,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. “It’s a process until the body responds and getting stiffness out and feeling comfortable with and not being hesitant with the hand.”
Corbin said he has not yet decided how to integrate Williams back with the Jazz, whether he would start right away or come off the bench to ease back into his leadership role.
“We have to get readjusted to him as he has to get readjusted to how the guys are playing now,” Corbin said. “It’s been a long time. … There will be an adjustment period hopefully we can make it as short as we can.”
Alec Burks has seen a substantial increase in opportunity and productivity since Williams went out, and has averaged 8 points in the 30 games he’s appeared in since Dec. 23. In February, he averaged 9.8 points and shot 44.9 percent from the field.
Bobcats tell Thomas to stay home — Around the trade deadline, there were reports of veteran guard Ben Gordon getting into a disagreement with first-year coach Mike Dunlap. While Gordon is still with the team, his role in the rotation has been diminished. Now another player the Bobcats have had troubles with in the past, Tyrus Thomas, has been told to stay home — although not for disciplinary reasons. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer says the Bobcats told Thomas to stay home during Charlotte’s West coast road swing to work on his conditioning and other aspects:
Charlotte Bobcats power forward Tyrus Thomas was told not to accompany the team on its four-game West Coast trip by team management.
Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins said Monday that the front office felt Thomas’s time would be better spent in Charlotte, doing some physical rehabilitation and individual on-court work, rather than on the road with his team.
Thomas, the Bobcats’ second-highest paid player this season at $8 million, has fallen out of the rotation entirely of late. Monday’s road game in Portland was the 10th straight game that Thomas was designated as inactive and the 12th-straight game in which he did not play.
When the Bobcats acquired another power forward, Josh McRoberts, at the trade deadline, McRoberts was activated for his first game before he had participated in a Bobcats practice or shootaround.
The Bobcats have a considerable financial obligation to Thomas going forward – $8.6 million for the 2013-14 season and $9.4 million for the 2014-15 season, both guaranteed.
Sixers CEO: Bynum trade ‘should have worked’ — We’ve detailed the plight of Andrew Bynum and the Sixers plenty around here during the season, so there’s no reason to get into Bynum’s back story or the latest news. The main takeaway with Bynum is that the Sixers haven’t gotten what they thought they would out of him this season due to Bynum’s lingering knee injuries. Still, the Sixers’ brass is coming out more and more to talk about the trade and a more or less lost season, with the latest name to step to the podium and pontificate being Sixers CEO Adam Aron. He had the following to say to John Gonzalez of CSNPhilly.com:
“This is a move that should have worked,” Aron said. “But, unfortunately, he got an injury in September and it’s been compounded since, post-trade and we haven’t seen a day. The fans hopes were justifiably high that the Sixers had made a move, a bold move, that would catapult us back into the top teams in the NBA. It hasn’t worked.”
“The issue for this season is not whether Andrew Bynum has surgery, it’s what are the condition of his knees?” Aron said. “We thought he was going to play opening day. His doctors gave us a four-week delay, then another four-week delay. In December, we went out publicly and said he would be out indefinitely because we just didn’t know when he would be back. If you go back in time just three weeks ago, Andrew himself was telling everyone that he thought he’d be actively playing after the All-Star break. He did practice with the team about 10 days ago. There were high hopes and he was working out hard in February behind the scenes at the practice facility. But when he practiced with the team five-on-five his knees started swelling up and that was a big setback.”
Late last week, when Bynum was asked whether his knees are degenerative, he didn’t directly answer the question, saying instead that “50 percent of the people in the United States” are in the same situation. Are Bynum’s knees degenerative?
“I can’t get into his exact medical condition,” Aron said. “But I can say this, which is obvious to all of us: All season long he’s had bone bruise issues. He’s had cartilage problems. It’s March. He’s still not playing. He hasn’t played basketball since last May. Clearly, Andrew is dealing with some knee problems that have prevented him from playing in the NBA.”
Aron said “four doctors cleared the trade in August, and six doctors have actively been treating him and examining him all year long.” The Sixers’ CEO insisted that the team, until now, was confident Bynum would play this season.
“We certainly thought he was going to play in August,” Aron said. “That’s why we made the trade. Even in early October, we thought he would play on opening night. Then there was a delay. Then there was [another] delay. Even when we announced that he was out indefinitely, inside the team we thought he would play in January or February. He himself, in February, said he would play in February. But here we are in March and the team is disappointed. Our fan base is disappointed. And that’s the story of the season.”
ICYMI of the night: One reason Monta Ellis is the 15th-best scorer in the NBA?: it’s because he can always find creative ways to get the ball in the basket, like this:
HANGTIME SOUTHWEST – On Wednesday morning, Utah Jazz point guard Mo Williams impatiently waited for news from the doctor about his injured right thumb. Unable to twiddle his thumbs, he used his fingers to express his anxiousness on Twitter:
But what about the Jazz, a team that’s teetered around the .500 mark all season, slipping in and out of the top eight? How will they respond to losing their starting point guard, who is averaging 12.9 points, a team-high 6.7 assists and had dramatically improved his 3-point shooting in December to 37.6 percent?
Williams sprained his right thumb on Dec. 22 against Miami. Utah was 1-3 without him entering Wednesday’s game.
“We came in and were focused. Everybody is a little heartbroken about Mo, but we know he’s going to be all right,” said big man Derrick Favors after the Jazz put together a complete effort in waxing the Wolves 106-84. “We just came out there and played like he was with us.”
Williams, traded from the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Clippers during the offseason, chimed in on Twitter after the win that pushed Utah to 16-17, one game out of the eighth spot:
It’s one thing to lose a key starter for a few games, but to make due for more than a month could set up a catastrophic turn of events. Jamaal Tinsley, who has started in Williams’ place the last five games, will continue to do so.
“We just wanted to go out there and play hard for 48 minutes. It’s the situation we are in, knowing we have Mo out,” said Tinsley, who had 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting, plus six rebounds and three assists Wednesday night. “We just have to go out there and play hard no matter who we play for 48 minutes and give ourselves a chance to win.”
It won’t be easy with Utah hitting the road for five of the next six games. At 6-13 away from the friendly confines of EnergySolutions Arena, the Jazz start things off with a back-to-back Friday at Phoenix and then Saturday at Denver. The lone home game in the stretch is against a desperate Dallas club that appears to be getting better with the return of Dirk Nowitzki. A road three-pack follows at Charlotte, Atlanta and Detroit.
If the Jazz can get through those games in decent shape, they stand a good chance to finish January strong with six of their final seven in the month at home.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said after Wednesday’s win. “We can’t look around the corner and see what’s going to happen. This is who we have and we have to figure out how we can be as good as we can be with this group right now.”
Acquired by the Utah Jazz to bury 3-pointers, Williams hasn’t been doing it with any regularity. In fact, Wednesday night against the West-leading San Antonio Spurs, Williams had missed all three of his attempts, including one with 9.9 seconds left, only to be saved by a Paul Millsap rebound.
Timeout. Williams now had only had 6.7 seconds of regulation left to redeem himself.
Did he ever.
Williams indeed buried his fourth attempt from a few feet behind the arc and with Danny Green‘s hand in his face. The buzzer sounded, the crowd went berserk and Williams was mobbed by his teammates. The Jazz had shot down the Spurs 99-96 for a fourth consecutive win to get to 13-10 and 9-1 at home.
Of course, it was the Spurs who swept the 3-point-deficient Jazz in the first round last season under a barrage of 3-pointers and then swept Williams’ Clippers in the second round.
“It’s big,” Williams said after the game. “I’ve got a lot of respect for their organization. They’ve been [winning] for a long time, an organization you try to model yourself after, but at the same time you don’t want to be the step brother forever.”
It’s bigger on a personal level for Williams, who has begun to lift his sagging 3-point percentage over the last six games, going 10-for-21 (47.6 percent). Before that it took him 10 games to make 10 3-pointers, a span in which he went 10-for-36 (27.7 percent).
For much of the season, he’s been stuck around 32 percent from the arc, well below Williams’ 38.6 career percentage. His recent run has boosted him to 36.6 percent.
Jazz coach Ty Corbin could have called on Randy Foye to take the final shot. Foye, after all, leads the team from behind the arc at 43.7 percent.
Instead the call went to Williams, and Wednesday’s game-winner was no gimme. Williams handled the ball on the right wing, a few feet behind the arc with Green, who has long arms and at 6-foot-6 is five inches taller than Williams, in good defensive position.
Still, Williams stepped up and rose over Green with about 1.8 seconds to go. The ball splashed through the net as the buzzer went off.
Remember, Williams agreed during the summer to allow the Clippers to trade him to Utah, the team that drafted him in the second round in 2003. The Clips wanted to open space to deal for Lamar Odom from the fed-up Dallas Mavericks. The Jazz wanted Williams over Devin Harris, a mediocre perimeter shooter.
Williams, part of a backcourt logjam in L.A., came to Utah to run the point and bang 3-pointers. He’s been warming up from out there, and although he was just 1-for-4 against the Spurs, he hit the big one, the one he really needed.
“It showed how much my teammates believe in me, showed how much the coaches believe in me,” Williams said. “It was a tough night shooting for me, missed a couple shots down the stretch that I felt good about. They came back to me and it shows how much confidence they have in me.”
HANGTIME SOUTHWEST – It took Lamar Odom deep into his 17th game with the Los Angeles Clippers and some 230 minutes of floor time to finally can his first free throw of the season.
It was a big one, too, an and-one earned on a drive to the bucket in the fourth quarter of Monday’s come-from-behind, 105-104, win at the previously unbeaten-at-home Utah Jazz.
First made free throw of the season? On December 3rd? For a player of Odom’s caliber, some might call it pathetic. In L.A., they call it progress.
The strange life and times of the ever-cryptic Odom continue, only now the Clippers hope they’re seeing signs that the once-versatile forward who once thrived with that other L.A. outfit is coming around.
“He was active,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro told the Los Angeles Times. “He’s starting to get his timing back. It’s going to take some time, but he’s a weapon out there for us and he’s only going to get better with time.”
That’s what the Dallas Mavericks kept thinking, too — that Odom would eventually snap out of his malaise. Yet as they patiently waited for a mostly lethargic and despondent Odom to respond to second, third and fourth chances, Mavs owner Mark Cuban finally reached his limit last April, demanded to know from Odom if he was “all in,” and soon after kicked him off the team.
The Clippers did Cuban a big favor by engaging the Jazz in trade talks just before the June 30 deadline, at which point the Mavs would have had to waive Odom to get rid of him and eat the $2.4 million guaranteed on his $8.2 million salary for this season.
Looking to ease a backcourt logjam, the Clippers sent Mo Williams (and his $8.5 million contract) to the 3-point-shooting-starved Jazz in exchange for a trade exception. The Clippers took in Odom at his full salary, believing a return to L.A. would psychologically land him in a comfort zone and physically invigorate him.
Through one month, the Clips weren’t getting much of a return. Odom has often appeared exhausted after short stints and incapable of aiding any unit Del Negro might include him.
Check out his averages and percentages: 2.2 points, 29.8 percent shooting, 12.5 percent from 3-point range (2-for-16), 33.3 percent from the free throw line (1-for-3), 3.3 rebounds and 13.8 minutes — less court time than only Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf (both of whom combine to make a quarter of Odom’s salary).
And then came Monday night and Odom’s fourth-quarter explosion — five consecutive points, four rebounds and a steal in 6:35. He finished with a season-high seven points and six rebounds, four coming on the offensive glass, where hustle and hard work typically win out.
He tied his season-high of three field goals, also accomplished in the previous game when he scored six points. Get this: Odom’s 13 points in the last two games equals his output over the previous 11 games.
“Slowly but surely, it’s coming,” Odom said after the game. “I’ve just got to keep taking my time. I’m getting better in practice. All I can do is keep plugging away game by game.”
The Mavs heard the same mantra from Odom for four months, and a time or two even believed he was turning a corner. The Clippers are thinking the same way the Mavs did: a 6-foot-10 forward with a ball-handling skills and 3-point range who can score inside would be a rare and valuable bench commodity.
Cuban and the Mavs are next to get an up-close look at Odom when they visit the Clippers on Wednesday night on ESPN.
So, just as we did at the conclusion of each episode of the now-postponed “Khloe & Lamar,” we breathlessly what to see what will happen next.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – It took nearly 32 minutes for Mo Williams to splash his first triple Wednesday night in his return to the team that drafted him nine years ago.
It came from straightaway, and 23 seconds later he buried a second 3-pointer from the left wing. His night back where it all began would end with only those two treys going down on a rather tame, for Williams, four attempts from downtown Salt Lake.
Yet his rapid-fire 3s in the third quarter counted as the two biggest buckets in the Jazz’s runaway season-opening victory over the Dallas Mavericks. A 74-74 tie suddenly became an 80-74 Utah lead and then Williams’ third consecutive bucket for eight straight points ultimately led to an 18-2 burst to close the third quarter leading 92-76.
That two long balls ignited the decisive run in the Jazz’s 113-94 victory is drenched with significance. (more…)
HANG TIME, Texas — You don’t have to warn Mike Brown about expectations next season with the Lakers. This is, after all, the guy who lived with the would-be championship burden of LeBron James sitting on his back in Cleveland.
Sure, the Lakers have added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, among others, to their roster this summer. Sure, he can feel those 16 previous championships staring down from the rafters and the record books.
“That’s what I like about this job,” Brown said. “The level of expectations that we have as an organization doesn’t sit with just making the playoffs. Every year, ownership and management want to compete for a championship. As a coach, I don’t know why you would want to be put in any other situation, unless you’re just happy getting a paycheck or being a coach in the NBA. I want to be put in a situation where year in, year out I have an opportunity to win. You know? In my opinion, that’s my dream and should be the dream of anybody that’s a competitor. This situation warrants that.”
In his first season with the NBA’s most high-profile coaching job, Brown inherited a talented, but flawed, team that was never able to develop consistency during the post-lockout schedule and may have maxed out its potential just by getting to the West semis against Oklahoma City. That won’t fly this time around, especially when many have always dubbed the Lakers as the team to beat — ahead of the defending champion Heat and Western Conference champion Thunder.
“Everybody says that — expectations, expectations, pressure, pressure, pressure. Pressure to me occurs if you’re not prepared, and we’ll be prepared.
“Having said that, yes, you understand people’s thoughts and expectations, but I’m telling you this: I don’t think there was anybody last year that expected us and said it was OK that we got knocked out in the second round, or that we didn’t win the West. I don’t think there’s one person in L.A. that can honestly say they didn’t expect more. (more…)
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – As Draft time rolls around and we learn about the next class of NBA rookies, there’s a desire to compare each to players we’re already familiar with.
No two players are exactly alike and some players are more unique than others. But you can find comparisons by watching video, crunching stats or matching measurements. For this exercise, we did the latter two.
Listed below are four of the top picks, along with the current NBA players they compare with most. For this exercise, we looked at 10 stats from each player’s last season in college, and eight measurements taken at the annual pre-draft combine.
Because we used college numbers and combine numbers, the only current players we could compare this year’s prospects to were the ones who played in college (so no LeBron James or Dwight Howard) and participated in the combine since 2000 (Rajon Rondo is one notable name missing in that respect).
The following comparisons aren’t gospel, of course, but they’re one way to get ready for the Draft on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). (more…)
SAN ANTONIO – So they meet again. A week after wrapping up their own spot in the conference semifinals, the Spurs finally know who their opponent will be.
Oh yes, they’re quite familiar with Chris Paul in the playoffs.
“He’s a future Hall of Famer,” said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich.
“He’s one of those guys, you know he’s not going to give up,” said Manu Ginobili.
Back in 2008, Paul was a singular force who virtually willed the Hornets to extend a conference semifinal series against the Spurs to seven games. Now he has lit a fire under the traditionally-moribund Clippers, lifting them to only their second playoff series win since moving to the West Coast more than three decades ago. Paul led the way with 19 points and nine rebounds in the decisive Game 7 win over Memphis that sends L.A. immediately into the next round against the No. 1 seeded team in the West that is on a 14-game winning streak.