The time is now to trade for Hornets’ rookie Anthony Davis, who is averaging only 9.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, and 25.3 minutes in seven games this month.
Has Davis hit the rookie wall?
Davis hasn’t admitted to that cliché and he probably never will, but the stats say otherwise. His points have declined from 15.0 to 14.0 to 9.4 in November, December, and January, respectively. And his blocks have declined from 2.4 to 1.8 to 1.3 in the same months.
Also contributing to Davis’ decline is the return of Eric Gordon, who made his season debut on Dec. 29, perfectly coinciding with Davis’ drop in numbers this January. Gordon, as expected, is taking 15.3 field goal attempts per game, causing Davis’ FGA’s to dip from 11.6 in November and December down to 8.6 in January.
I trust Hornets’ head coach Monty Williams to figure out a way to make it work, such that Gordon gets his, while Davis gets his. Also, I trust in the incredible talents of Davis, who is simply too gifted to average 9 and 6 for the rest of the season.
Davis’ best month was November, when he averaged 15 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks in 28.2 minutes, and he should return to that level once he gets a second wind.
Sunday’s game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden was a start, as Davis had 13 points and eight rebounds in 33 minutes.
You have to give to get in fantasy hoops, so here are a few big men you might want to dangle as trade bait for Davis: Kevin Garnett (14.8 points, 7.0 rebounds), Marcin Gortat (11.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks); Paul Millsap (14.9 points, 7.7 rebounds).
I realize the holidays are over and you’re all shopped out, but you don’t have to leave the house to go fantasy shopping. So what are you waiting for?
Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST –Greivis Vasquez deserves a raise — which he’ll get in due time — or the key to the city or, heck, just make him mayor of New Orleans.
The city, and its beleaguered basketball team, couldn’t ask for a better ambassador than the Venezuelan-born point guard who’s leaving his heart and sweat on the floor every night as he emerges as a top talent in the league.
“The biggest thing is I’m getting an opportunity,” said Vasquez, a recent player of the week recipient. “Still, people don’t know about me as much because I’m playing in a small market, which I love. I love this city, I love this team.”
Pretty refreshing stuff from a third-year player just starting to hit his stride for a franchise that’s endured it’s share of hard knocks in recent years — including a hard-luck 7-25 start to this season.
Because the ridiculously youthful Hornets finally got game-changer and now-healthy shooting guard Eric Gordon in the starting lineup Saturday. It allowed coach Monty Williams to make other changes and roll out the starting five he envisioned.
And this is where Vasquez’s ambassadorial value comes shining through. A 6-foot-6, bearded jolt of energy, smiles, enthusiasm and positivity, his team-first attitude is absolutely contagious. It’s critical to the evolution of this franchise, and no more so than as it relates to Gordon, the 6-foot-3 scoring machine deemed the future of the franchise when New Orleans acquired him in the painful CP3 trade 13 months ago.
“I have a good relationship with Eric and I tell you this, we have been talking a lot,” Vasquez said before Saturday’s comeback victory. “Eric is a pro. I feel him as a player too, because his knee was really bothering him. But now he feels like his teammates got his back, we all got his back. We all know he’s going to make us better and we’re going to make him better. And now, we talked [Friday] night, we’re going to make this situation a great situation. We’re going to start winning games.
“For a guy like that to say that to a guy like me, that means a lot. I’m sure he’s saying that on behalf of the whole team because we’re winners, we want to win and we work. And that has been the main thing of our team, we’re going to work regardless. Whether we lose or win tomorrow we are getting better because our vision is in the future.” (more…)
HOUSTON – More than an hour before tipoff, Eric Gordon was out on the Toyota Center court with his teammates, spinning left, moving right, pulling up on the dribble and firing jumpers. Some hit the rim and bounced away, but most found the bottom of the net, just the way you’d hope for one of the main guns in an offense that needs all the help it can get.
Except that when the game started Gordon was in street clothes, back on the bench, where he has spent far too much time over the past two seasons.
The Hornets are taking the very cautious approach this time around, holding their 6-foot-3 guard out of back-to-back games as he continues his comeback from a patella tendon disorder and a bone bruise in his right knee.
After missing the first 29 games of the season, Gordon finally made his debut on Saturday night at Charlotte, scoring a team-high 24 points in 25 minutes of a win. Then he played another 25 minutes and shot just 5-for-17 in a loss at home to Atlanta on Tuesday night.
“It’s not so much rest, but just being smart with his knee,” said Hornets coach Monty Williams. “It’s what the doctors had recommended … Obviously, as a coach, you want him out there, but you’ve got to err on the side of caution.”
Especially with the memories of a year ago still fresh in their minds. That’s when Gordon suffered what was originally thought to be a bone bruise in his knee in the Dec. 26 season opener, sat out four games and then came back and played 39 minutes of a loss to Philadelphia.
That turned out to be the last game Gordon would play until April, following arthroscopic surgery Feb. 14 when rehabbing the knee with rest and therapy was unsuccessful.
“I’ve got to be more careful this time,” Gordon said. “The last thing I want to do is push too hard too fast and find myself right back in a position where I’ve got to sit out again. That’s not something that I want to go through again.”
After coming to New Orleans as part of the controversial Chris Paul trade just before the start of last season, Gordon has played in just 11 games for the Hornets. He became a restricted free agent last summer and signed a four-year, $58 million offer sheet with the Suns and caused a stir in New Orleans by saying he hoped the Hornets wouldn’t match it.
“That was just part of getting the contract and me doing what was best for me,” Gordon said. “I think everyone is past that now and the reception I got in my first home game in New Orleans the other night was what I expected. It was good.”
What Gordon had also expected was to be able to team up with No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis before now and to start putting the pieces back together for the Hornets.
“It can be very positive for us going forward,” Gordon said. “Now it’s all about the growing process. When you see young guys being consistent, that’s when you’re growing. Of course, to do that we’ve all got to be out there playing together.”
To be able to stay out there together for the long run, Gordon is willing to have the reins held tight for now. His minutes will continue to be limited in the near future, but Williams said they could be increased by 4-10 minutes by the next game at Dallas on Saturday.
“When you’re like me and you haven’t played much basketball for 1 1/2 years, it can be mentally draining,” Gordon said. “You want to push. You want to hurry. You get so eager. But then you have to sit down and remember all those long, hard days when all you could do was rehab and rehab and couldn’t be with your team.
“My passion and love is this game. These limited minutes right now are tough to swallow. But last year I came back and played full-out right from the start and look where it got me. It’s a lot harder mentally to do it this way. But I’m pretty sure it’s a lot smarter.”
HANG TIME, Texas — Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.
In the NBA that familiar line from the holiday classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” has a different twist.
Every time the bell rings a head coach gets his walking papers and a handful of others start looking over their shoulders.
It’s a tenuous life.
Of course, this season has already been quite unusual with Mike Brown fired by the Lakers after just five games. But now that the schedule has reached the one-third mark and claimed Avery Johnson, it’s time to look at some others down around the bottom of the standings.
Randy Wittman, Wizards (3-23) – No, he hasn’t had John Wall all season. Yes, he’s had to play at times without Nene and Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal. But the Wizards are the only group in Washington that makes Congress look competent by comparison. After a recent 100-68 thumping by the almost-as-hapless Pistons, even Wittman seemed to have enough. “That was an embarrassment, and I apologize to our ownership and to our fans,” he said. “I especially apologize to anyone who watched that entire game. I would have turned it off after the first five minutes.” It would seem to be a matter of when, not if.
Monty Williams, Hornets (6-22) – It’s hard to see the Hornets turning right around and cutting Williams loose just months after giving him a four-year contract extension. There has been the matter of Eric Gordon’s injury and the fact that No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis was on the shelf for 13 games. But there are rumblings in New Orleans about his constantly changing rotations and collapse of his defense, which ranks 29th.
Byron Scott, Cavaliers (7-23) — The Cavs are likely headed to their third straight trip to the lottery under Scott, but that doesn’t mean that he’s headed to the exit. The key to his previous success at New Jersey and New Orleans was having a top-notch point guard and Scott has an excellent relationship with maybe the next great thing in Kyrie Irving. This was always a long, heavy lift from the moment LeBron James bolted and that has not changed.
Mike Dunlap, Bobcats (7-21) – What a difference a month makes. After beating the Wizards on Nov. 24, the Bobcats were 7-5, had matched their win total from last season and their rookie coach was getting praised. Now 16 straight losses later, Dunlap is preaching patience with his young core of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker, Byron Mullens and Jeffery Taylor. He has earned that. A dozen of Charlotte’s 21 losses have come by 10 points or less, a dramatic change from the historically horrible last season when the Bobcats were rolled in one-third of their games by 20 points or more.
Lawrence Frank, Pistons (9-22) — Frank insists that his Pistons are a better team than they were a year ago. The record — identical then and now — does not back that up. He says that his club now is more competitive, but just doesn’t know how to finish games. Some of the players have grumbled that there is also a failure of coach to make the right calls and adjustments when games get late. When push comes to shove, it’s the coach that gets nudged out the door.
Dwane Casey, Raptors (9-20)– Another one of those seasons when the Raptors were supposed to turn things around and make a push for the playoffs in the lesser Eastern Conference has gone south. Injuries to Andrea Bargnani, Kyle Lowry and Linas Kleiza. Amir Johnson gets suspended for throwing his mouthguard at a referee. G.M. Bryan Colangelo says the talent is there, but the Raptors lack focus and attention to detail. The Raps’ offense is mediocre (ranked 17th) and their defense just bad (27th). Even in Canada during the winter, that all puts Casey on thin ice.
Keith Smart, Kings (9-19) – Smart got the job to replace Paul Westphal specifically because of what was perceived as an ability to work with the mercurial DeMarcus Cousins. So he turned Cousins loose last season, let him do just about anything he pleased and got enough results to earn a contract extension. Now that Cousins has abused his free-rein relationship with his coach and another season is sinking fast, it would be easy to just blame Smart, which the Kings eventually will do. But this is a bad team with a knucklehead as its centerpiece and ownership that can’t tell you where they’ll be playing in two years.
Alvin Gentry, Suns (11-18) — It was at the end of a seven-game losing streak when Suns owner Robert Sarver told ESPN.com that Gentry’s job was safe. “We’ve got confidence in our coaching staff and we’re not considering making changes,” he said. Of course, that usually means start packing your bags. It was all about starting over in this first season post-Nash in the desert. He’s changed lineups more than his ties and the result is usually the same. Gentry is a good bet to last out the season, but it’s probably going to take a big finishing kick to return next year.
Look who came down the chimney of the Hornets early on Christmas Eve.
Guard Eric Gordon, who has been on the shelf all season due to problems with his right knee, took part in his first practice since training camp on Monday.
Though he is a present that still requires more assembly before all the kids can play with him in a game, just the sight of Gordon out on the court is a lift to a New Orleans bunch that has lost 11 in a row.
Coach Monty Williams said Gordon will not play Wednesday at Orlando. But Gordon says he felt great and indicated to our man John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he would like to play before the end of 2012. After the Magic, the Hornets will play at home against Toronto on Friday and at Charlotte on Saturday.
“I felt pretty good,” Gordon said after Monday’s practice.“I was just ready to get out there with the guys. It was full contact and I participated in every thing. Now it’s just the conditioning part.”
It was only Gordon’s third contact practice he has participated in since training camp began this past October. He participated in two contact practices before the Hornets opened the regular season against the San Antonio Spurs, but he did not play because of recurring problems with his knee.
Before rejoining the team Saturday, Gordon had been in Los Angeles since early November going through extensive rehabilitation work to strengthen his knee.
“He looked pretty good out there at attacking the basket,” Williams said after Monday’s practice. “He looked pretty encouraging, but we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Of course, the big question that still hangs in the air is whether reception Gordon will receive a naughty or nice reception when he finally return to the court before the home fans in New Orleans. Many of them still haven’t forgotten that he said he wanted to put the Hornets in the rear view mirror and continue his career in Phoenix after the Suns signed him to a four-year free agent contract worth more than $58 million last summer.
All might have been forgotten quickly if Gordon had been able to make a good early impression while teaming up with No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis. But when Davis had early aches of his own that kept him out of the lineup and with Gordon missing the first 27 games, Hornets fans have watched another season go south quickly (5-22).
Gordon has said that his statements were only part of the regular negotiating that is done in free agency and Williams has already made a public plea for the guy who could put a big kick into his offense to be forgiven.
You’ve got to figure delivering big in that first game will be the only way to heal the wounds.
“We lost to a very … let me choose my words … not a very talented team but well coached,” Paul said. “I watch them play every game that they play. One thing about [coach] Monty [Williams] is they’re going to play hard. If you watch their games, they been to a couple of overtimes and they’ve only been in a couple of blowouts, which were against Denver and Oklahoma City. They’re going to play hard. … With those guys playing like that and us waiting until the fourth quarter to turn it on, it’s going to be tough.”
Paul’s praise for his former coach, Williams, was seen as a direct shot at Del Negro.
The return of the Clippers’ most prominent leader not named Paul, however, could be the infusion of positive energy needed to get this team back on track.
Of course, Billups hasn’t played since he tore his left Achilles tendon last Feb. 6. Before that injury he was playing a critical role alongside Paul, averaging 15 points and four assists, in one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league.
Now he joins not only Paul, but his replacement, Willie Green, and bench stars Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe, in what has to be one of the deepest and most explosive backcourt rotations in all of basketball.
It was, and will end up being, one of the more dizzying games of the season. Caron Butler making nine 3-pointers and the Clippers losing. The Hornets, down their two best players, Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis, winning. A career-low four points for Blake Griffin. The Clippers making just one more two-point shot (19) than from behind the arc (18). And New Orleans, a lottery team even at full strength, on the road on the second night of a back-to-back and still getting better bench play than one of the deepest teams in the league.
And afterward things got really good.
Chris Paul, as quoted by Dan Woike of the Orange County Register, said Los Angeles lost to “a less-talented team that was well-coached.” Shots fired.
On one hand, Paul may not have intended to run over his own coach, Vinny Del Negro, then back up and run over Del Negro again by complimenting the opposing coach, Monty Williams. Paul may simply have intended to praise his former coach from their days together in New Orleans. It could have been pro-Williams without being anti-Del Negro.
On the other hand, it doesn’t matter.
Del Negro is already facing enough much-deserved scrutiny. Now Paul’s comment will only increase it. Paul’s words will be interpreted by many as the star point guard, in the final season of his contract, putting his coach in a bad light.
With a lot of other teams at other times, a player so much as appearing to pull the chair from under a coach — whether the actual intention or not — could be explained away as over-analyzing a deserved compliment for Williams. But this is about the Clippers in win-now mode yet being unable, again, to harness a championship-hopeful’s focus. It is also about Donald T. Sterling.
While a lot of owners ignore popularity contests to guide personnel decisions and go with the opinions of the basketball-ops staff, Sterling has spent decades trying to win the press conference. He famously asks security guards and ushers at the arena, media, fans, anyone, for advice in solving the Problem of the Day. Not because he is making conversation. Because he will make major decisions based on the subsequent approval rating.
Sterling has been known to care more about what his friends think than what his general manager thinks. So Paul stoking the many fans who have been hoping for Del Negro’s departure will be read as CP3 saying something along the lines of “If only we were well-coached.” Paul didn’t have to mean it that way. What matters in the Sterling universe is that it looks that way.
One thing about Del Negro continuing to catch heat, though. If he gets the blame for all performances like last night’s — such as those seen in a loss to the Warriors, a loss to the Cavaliers, a loss to the Hawks and a loss to the Hornets — he should get the credit for beating the Spurs twice and the Heat, Lakers and Bulls before the first full month is complete. There has been some good, after all. However Paul meant it.
HOUSTON — Everybody has a plan until they get hit. That’s what Mike Tyson used to say.
When the Hornets made him the No. 10 pick in the draft, the plan was for Austin Rivers to settle in as Eric Gordon’s long-term partner in the backcourt.
But with Gordon still having not played a game this season due to a knee injury, there is a burden on Rivers to carry much more of the scoring load. So far, it’s been too heavy a lift.
On the up side, Rivers opened Wednesday night’s game against the Rockets by knocking down a 3-pointer from the left corner and then dropped in a running teardrop down the right side of the lane. Trouble is, he missed five of the other six shots he tried and continues to struggle to find an offensive rhythm.
“I know it’s gonna come,” Rivers said. “So I’m trying not to think about it.”
Hornets rookie Austin Rivers, the No. 10 pick in the 2012 Draft, has had a cool start to his NBA career.
However, everyone else watching the Hornets is. What they see is, through the first five games of the season, Rivers has made only 10 of 40 shots and is just 2-for-10 from behind the 3-point line. He hasn’t made half his shots in a game even once.
“I think he’s doing a decent job,” said New Orleans coach Monty Williams. “He tries to defend. He does what we ask him to do. It’s just that when you’ve been a, quote unquote, explosive scorer your whole life and then you don’t drop 25 to 30, people think you’re struggling.
“There are not many 20 year olds who are going to come in and do that in the NBA. I’m sure he would like to see that ball go in that basket a few more times. I would too. But he’s still doing some things that we like. He causes a lot of problems in pick and roll. He can get to the basket. He’ll figure it out. It just takes some time.”
Rivers puts in extra time shooting after practices, but that’s just a continuation of his habits that made him the national prep player of the year in 2011 and a top gun at Duke in his lone college season.
“I don’t think I’m pressing or trying to do too many much to get myself going,” Rivers said. “Actually, I’m really trying my best not to think about that part of the game at all. I know that I can shoot. I know that I can score. I know what I can do. It will come.”
It’s the outside shot, especially from the deeper NBA 3-point line, that has been most glaring for its ineffectiveness. When Rivers has been able to find the bucket, it’s most often been by getting into open spots to make his runner or by pulling up from mid-range. He’s also been able to attack the basket, draw the defense to him and then set up his teammates.
While Rivers has been known as a scorer throughout his young career, the truth is he has always been more of a volume shooter than a proficient sniper. Last season at Duke he shot just 43.3 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from the shorter 3-point line. Now he’s finding it harder to get all of the shots that he wants. There have always been questions about whether Rivers can be a full-time point guard.
“The one thing that he’s dealing with is scouting reports,” Williams said. “Teams have time to prepare for you. In college you have that. But at Duke they prepare for seven or eight other opponents they have. The league does a really good job of figuring your game out and you’ve got to counter what they’re doing.
“Sometimes they try to take his right hand away. He still can get to wherever he wants to go. Now he’s got to learn how to finish over size. He’s never dealt with the kind of size and athleticism he’s dealing with now. Guys figure it out. That’s just the nature of the NBA.”
Late in Wednesday’s game, Williams switched Rivers defensive assignment from James Harden to Chandler Parsons. The 6-foot-9 Parsons used his height advantage to nail a tough, 20-foot fadeaway with Rivers’ hand in his face.
“What can you do?” Williams said with a shrug. “You can’t guard everyone and I thought Austin had his hand right in his face.”
He’s 6-foot-4, but slighter in build than many of his opponents. He is no longer able to look like the best athlete in any given matchup, even when he isn’t giving up height.
“You always have to adjust,” he said. “I adjusted from high school to college and now I’m adjusting again to the NBA. It’s nothing that’s gonna be a long term. It doesn’t even bother me. I’m getting the looks that I want. I’m getting into the lane at will.
“I’m getting my floaters. I’m getting my mid-range shots. I have had trouble knocking down the 3. It’s stuff that I’ve always been good at and I still am. It’s just that they haven’t started to fall. Yet.”
The longer Gordon is out, the more the heat gets turned up on Rivers now, even if it wasn’t part of the original plan.
There was a little bit of a delayed reaction from NBA headquarters to New Orleans coach Monty Williams’ public criticism of the league’s concussions policy – Williams made his comments Saturday in Chicago and his $25,000 fine wasn’t announced until Tuesday evening.
Maybe a slightly dulled response time seems in order, given the subject matter.
Williams was facing a difficult situation – a road game, the second of back-to-back dates, against the Chicago Bulls without prized rookie big man Anthony Davis. Davis was back in New Orleans because, the night before against Utah, he took an inadvertent elbow to the side of his head from teammate Austin Rivers. Davis was diagnosed with a mild concussion, and that made him subject to the league’s protocols for such injuries – including no air travel, a series of tests and a neurological exam before he could be cleared to play again.
That wasn’t happening overnight; in fact, Davis, despite the “mild” label, still hadn’t been cleared Tuesday to play in the Hornets’ home game against Philadelphia Wednesday. So Williams, about 90 minutes before tipoff at United Center that night, was feeling the competitive tug. (more…)
CHICAGO –- Hornets coach Monty Williams wasn’t happy to be facing Chicago at United Center on Saturday without rookie big man Anthony Davis, who was kept back in New Orleans for further testing after suffering a mild concussion in the first half against Utah on Friday.
It was teammate Austin Rivers‘ inadvertent elbow that clipped Davis in the side of the head, putting him out of what became an 88-86 loss. But it was the NBA’s precautionary concussions policy that prevented Davis from flying with the team to his hometown — his only scheduled appearance of 2012-13 in Chicago — and will sideline him until he satisfies the requirements of physical testing and a neurological exam.
Now, please know that Williams was mindful of the NBA’s fining power when he spoke with reporters before the game. But as he spoke, he revved up a little and he didn’t mince words.
“When you’re dealing with the brain, I guess what’s happening in football has affected everybody,” the Hornets coach said. “You treat everybody like they have on white gloves and pink drawers. It’s getting old. But it’s just the way the league is now.”
Williams also said: “It’s a man’s game and we’re treating these guys like they’re five years old.” (more…)