Posts Tagged ‘NBA schedule’

Morning shootaround — March 14


VIDEO: Check out all the highlights from Friday

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Westbrook a stat-seeking missile? | Pacers’ George treading lightly | Jazz’s Gobert: from clunker to hardware | NBA season in ‘twilight time?’

No. 1: Westbrook a stat-seeking missile? — It is considered bad form for a restaurant server or anyone else in the service industry, frankly, to flat-out ask for a tip. But it was OK in OKC for Russell Westbrook Friday night, his suggestion to the scorekeepers paying off in nice, round statistical fashion for yet another triple-double. No one here at Hang Time HQ is accusing Westbrook of lowering himself to Ricky Davis levels, and there often have been different interpretations applied to assists and rebounds (remember all the home-cooking accusations about Jazz great John Stockton‘s dimes in Salt Lake City games?). But Royce Young reported on Westbrook’s big numbers against Minnesota, then concluded that they were bonafide. Or at least justified:

The Thunder were enjoying an impressive blowout over the young Minnesota Timberwolves, and Westbrook was going to be left to watch the final couple of minutes a single rebound short. That’s when he took matters into his own hands. He looked over at the Thunder’s official scorekeepers, holding his arm up.

“Tip?” he said, nodding his head. “Tip?”

A quick conference at the scorer’s table and right around the time the buzzer sounded on the Thunder’s 113-99 win, Westbrook suddenly had his triple-double: 29 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. His eighth of the season, sixth in the last eight games, and the first player since Jason Kidd in 2007-08 to have eight or more in a season (Kidd had 13).

The rebound appears to be a tad dubious, an offensive board awarded with 2:35 left where Westbrook went up to tip back a missed 3-point attempt by D.J. Augustin. Westbrook was given a missed shot on it, so everything is on the up and up, but still, hard not to raise an eyebrow.

So, was he campaigning for the rebound or what?

“Uhh, no,” Westbrook said.

The idea is that stat-padding breeds selfishness, a label Westbrook already battles against, but his play actually separates the two things entirely. The stats are a means to the end, a necessity in winning. Westbrook is single-minded when it comes to winning, and with that in the bag on Friday, there’s nothing wrong with wanting another bullet point added to the growing MVP resume.

Because while an extra “10” in the box score is pretty arbitrary, it means a lot when you start talking history. Westbrook became only the fourth player in the last 30 years to record six triple-doubles in a season with at least 25 points (LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson). As he continues to build an MVP case, that’s another feather in his cap. And we can’t act as if individual accolades don’t matter. It’s all part of the game, and Westbrook knows how to compartmentalize and separate that from the bottom line.

Westbrook actually nearly had a quadruple-double with eight turnovers, giving him an eye-popping 27 over his last three games. It has been a stat that has sort of been glossed over because of how much he’s doing for the Thunder, along with how he’s giving the ball away. It’s not really the classic out-of-control Westbrook that’s barreling down the lane and leaving his feet with no plan. It’s forced pocket passes, soft post-entry passes, unselfish extra passes fired at point-blank range.

“I do know one thing, I know I need to stop turning the ball over. I can tell you that much,” Westbrook said, unprompted. “It’s so frustrating, trying [to] find and make passes and turn the ball [over], but at the same time, we won, so I’ll go back to the drawing board and take care of it.”

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No. 2: Pacers’ George treading lightly — Maybe Paul George had a late-night phone conversation with Derrick Rose. Maybe his anticipated return from the serious leg fractures suffered last August was a diversion all along, meant to take Indiana fans’ focus off its team’s struggles for most of this 2014-15 season. Or, most likely, George has seen the Pacers’ recent tear and move into playoff position in the Eastern Conference as the proverbial ain’t-broke object no longer in need of his fix. The Pacers’ All-Star wing player sounded a little conflicted Friday about making a comeback for what’s left of this season, less due to his own physical condition than to the team’s encouraging play of late. Mark Montieth of Pacers.com reported on George’s quandary after the player’s weekly media chinwag:

“I’m on the fence,” he told reporters following Friday’s light workout at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “They’ve come together. To shake up the chemistry and add another body, I don’t want to be that guy who destroys what these guys have going. And then there’s part of me who thinks I can definitely help turn these tough games into games we have fully under control.

“It’s difficult. It’s a difficult point right now…but we take it day to day.”

George still spoke optimistically of the physical improvement he’s made since breaking his leg on Aug. 1. He experiences some soreness “but I push through those days.” He’s worn an elastic sleeve on his right leg the past two days in practice because his leg feels better when he does, but he has no significant pain in the formerly broken leg.

George had thrown out a mid-March return as his goal during interviews over All-Star Weekend last month, but isn’t guessing at dates now. Coach Frank Vogel earlier in the week had nixed the possibility of him playing on Saturday, but nobody is saying yes or no to future dates. The Pacers’ first game next week is Monday at home against Toronto. They follow with road games at Chicago on Wednesday and Cleveland on Friday, and then have a home game against Brooklyn on Saturday.

“Is there a chance you’ll play next week?” he was asked.

“I have no idea,” he said.

If and when he does return, George will come off the bench and play spot minutes. He likely would continue to play as a reserve, potentially strengthening a unit that’s already one of the best in the NBA.

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No. 3: Jazz’s Gobert: from clunker to hardwareRudy Gobert, Utah’s blossoming 7-foot-2 French import, didn’t generate a lot of excitement when he first appeared on the NBA scene. As ProBasketballTalk.com’s Dan Feldman tells it, Gobert – despite remarkable size and wingspan, definite NBA attributes – was nursing a sore knee that hurt his performance in workouts. But whatever perceived lack of athleticism caused him to plummet to the bottom of the first round in the 2013 Draft, Gobert has more than made up for with his play lately. In fact, Feldman makes a case that the Jazz reserve big man could be a legit contender for multiple awards this spring:

Gobert is averaging 7.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. In 11 starts since Utah traded Enes Kanter, Gobert’s averages have jumped to 10.5 points, 14.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks. The Jazz are 9-2 in that span, including wins over the playoff-bound Trail Blazers, Spurs, Bucks, Grizzlies and Rockets

If the 2013 draft were re-done – with consideration to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nerlens Noel, Victor Oladipo, Michael Carter-Williams, Mason Plumlee and everyone else – Gobert makes a compelling case to go No. 1 overall.

Now, in his breakout season, Gobert is a legitimate contender for three awards – Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player.

He might not win any, and two would be tough. Three would be unprecedented.

Just six players have won two of the major player awards – Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player – in the same season:

Darrell Armstrong, Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player in 1999
Hakeem Olajuwon, Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year in 1994
Michael Jordan, Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year in 1988
Alvin Robertson, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player in 1986
Wes Unseld, Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year in 1969
Wilt Chamberlain, Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year in 1960

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No. 4: NBA season in ‘twilight time?’ — Certainly there’s churning and jostling for playoff position taking place within the East and West conferences. But on a macro level, we know who most of the playoff teams are likely to be, same as we know who most of the lottery teams are this spring. That’s why longtime NBA writer Mark Heisler suggests in the L.A. Daily News that the 82-game schedule is too long, leading to this stretch of March and April where the NCAA game grabs basketball’s spotlight and even swipes Charles Barkley:

Most good teams are resting stars, easing injured players back in — this makes two weeks in a row that the Clippers’ Blake Griffin is expected back — and otherwise lying in the weeds.

All that remains is securing the final playoff slots.

Three teams are vying for the last West slot: New Orleans (just got Anthony Davis back) Oklahoma City (soon to get Kevin Durant back) and Phoenix (unfortunately not getting anyone back).

Then there’s the East dogfight for No. 7 and 8 among the Pacers, Heat, Hornets, Celtics and Nets. Two will get in even if they’re on pace to win 39-37-36-35-33, respectively.

That makes 13 teams assured of playoff slots with eight more aspiring to, even if five are in the farcical East race.

Lining the bottom of the cage are the seven marking time until the lottery (Lakers, Knicks, 76ers, Timberwolves, Magic, Kings, Nuggets).

That leaves the Jazz and Detroit, another team of comers that started late. The Pistons’ problem didn’t turn out to be paying Josh Smith $30 million to leave, but waiting until they were 5-23.

That’s all there is — with five weeks until the playoffs. In other words, thank heavens for the NCAA Tournament.

Yes, I’d say the NBA season is a little on the long side.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Miami’s Hassan Whiteside felt bad enough to phone up Boston’s Kelly Olynyk to offer an apology. And after what Olynyk said to Whiteside, the Heat center felt even worse. … The Raptors broke through for their second victory in three weeks and old-school Charles Oakley was there to witness it – and sneer at today’s lack of physicality the way Oak does. … The Clippers have gone 9-6 without Blake Griffin, whom they hope to get back as soon as Sunday vs. Houston. They’ve also gone 42-24 without Spencer Hawes, essentially. … It’s impossible to separate Eric Gordon‘s recent swell shooting from the New Orleans guard’s recent swell health. …

NBA unveils 2014-15 schedule Wednesday


VIDEO: LeBron James and the Cavaliers are talking championship this season in Cleveland

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — LeBron James has everyone in Cleveland, and many around the league, thinking about a title chase for the Cavaliers.

We shall see. But whatever the Cavs do this season, chances are pretty good we’ll be able to see much of it live on TV.

LeBron and the new-look Cavs figure to be a prime-time fixture on NBA broadcast outlets during the 2014-15 regular season. NBA TV will unveil the entire regular-season national television schedule Wednesday on the NBA 2014-15 Schedule Release Special at 6 p.m. ET.

The show will highlight the season’s biggest games, most highly anticipated matchups, the opening week schedule, the Christmas Day games and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day games. The entire schedule will be posted on NBA.com in conjunction with the NBA TV special, which will be hosted by Rick Kamla and feature NBA TV’s Brent Barry. Contributors from around the league will offer insight and analysis.

The Cavaliers, who haven’t made the playoffs since James left four years ago, are a team that will be headlined by All-Stars James, Kyrie Irving and, very possibly, Kevin Love (pending the finalization of  a reported trade between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cavaliers, a trade that also includes Andrew Wiggins, the Cavs’ No. 1 pick in last month’s Draft). Many already are predicting huge things for James and the Cavs.

It’s safe to say there will be no shortage of other intriguing storylines for the upcoming season, too, what with seismic changes in the Central Division alone, not to mention the retooling of all of the contenders chasing the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs.

Whether the road to the NBA championship runs through Cleveland, San Antonio, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles (Clippers)  or somewhere else, we’ll find out all the regular-season steps on Wednesday night.

NBA Might Extend All-Star Break So All-Stars Get A Breather, Too

VIDEO: CP3 arrives in in New Orleans for the All-Star Game

NEW ORLEANS – As Chris Paul returned to the city he considers an adopted hometown, and worked his way Thursday through both his obligations as a West All-Star and several community events pegged to this showcase weekend, one thing became increasingly clear:

The All Stars need an All-Star break. Even new NBA commissioner Adam Silver thinks so.

Paul’s hectic Thursday schedule — arriving in the Big Easy at 5 a.m. after his Los Angeles Clippers’ game against Portland Wednesday night at Staples Center — was just a sample of what he faces over what essentially is a five-day commitment. Keep in mind, Paul also is the new president of the National Basketball Players Association, so he has a meeting to run Saturday afternoon squeezed in between all the basketball, commercial and charity events. Add travel time at both ends and it’s a grind.

Like folks who really cram in the fun on their vacations, some of these guys need a breather from what, for most of the league’s players, actually is a bit of R&R.

“I definitely think it’s something that should happen,” Paul told NBA.com while attending a pep rally and press conference at a New Orleans grade school, where he was inducted into the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation ambassador program.

Paul said he spoke with Silver about the possibility of a longer All-Star break.

“Obviously All-Star Weekend is all about the fans and showcasing our game to the entire world, but it would be nice to get a little break,” the Clippers guard said. “Not saying the all stars are unhappy or ungrateful for being all stars, but to enjoy your family for a couple days would be nice.”

Silver — also busy Thursday making the rounds in New Orleans, including opening the annual Jam Session at the city’s convention center — said he supports the idea. Silver also spoke about it in the offseason with other NBA players, including Miami’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

“I said, ‘We’d be happy to look into it,’ ” Silver said. “The notion is that, in addition to the All-Star Game and the events itself, there would be a break built into the schedule. Maybe we could resume play on Thursday night, later in the week, to insure that the All-Stars got time off as well.”

Matt Winick, the NBA’s senior vice president of scheduling and game operations, said Thursday that under the current agreement between the league and the players, the only provision is that teams that play on the Thursday before All-Star Weekend aren’t booked to play again until the following Wednesday. This year, that applies to Brooklyn, Chicago, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers, who were active in TNT’s doubleheader.

This season, 10 of the league’s 30 teams will have six days between their pre-break finale and their post-break opener (Phoenix, Houston, Minnesota, New Orleans, Boston, Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, Utah and Oklahoma City). Everyone else gets five days between games. No one gets a full seven.

Winick said no allowances have been made in next year’s penciled-in schedule to accommodate a longer break, but that doesn’t necessarily block an extension.

Said Silver: “I was explaining to [the players] that our buildings are so full [with other events], it’s complicated making the schedule. But it’s not impossible. It probably means pushing the season back a couple of days, but I said ‘We’re very open to it.’ I think it’s fair and guys need a break, there’s no question about it.

“The ‘All-Star Game’ turned into ‘All-Star Weekend,’ and that turned into ‘All-Star Week.’ There are enormous amounts of pressure and pull on their time. So, it seems like a very fair request and something we should address.”

Ahem, Thunder Get A Say Before Anticipated Heat-Pacers Clash


VIDEO: Paul George scores 28 and the Pacers power past the Spurs

The NFL doesn’t mess around with its big game – it clears out the schedule for two weeks ahead of the Super Bowl for prep time, healing time and whetting time, in terms of everyone’s appetite for what they’ve already been so eager to see.

Baseball, a sport accustomed to playing every day, acknowledges the value of rest and pitching management by loading up the early postseason calendar for its wild-card teams, forcing them to survive far more rigorous schedules than the leagues’ top contenders.

So what do we get this week in Indianapolis, when the Indiana Pacers play host to the Miami Heat: A clash of the titans? Or a collapse of the tired?

The Heat and the Pacers each will be playing their fourth game in six nights when they meet up at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Tuesday. It’s a much-anticipated rematch of last spring’s seven-game, Eastern Conference finalists and a much-needed opportunity for the East to feel good about itself, considering all the grief it is taking as the NBA’s 98-pound weakling conference.

But Miami already will have ground through Chicago Thursday, Minnesota Saturday and Detroit Sunday by the time it steps onto the court against Paul George and crew. The Heat (15-5) had dropped two straight before beating the Kevin Love-less Timberwolves, and the first of those two losses was at home against the Pistons (10-10), newly .500 and eager to do it again with their dominant young big men and wild-card backcourt.

Indiana gets the home court Tuesday, but has had it even tougher. The Pacers have been on the road since Thanksgiving, going 3-1 on a West trip that had them thumping San Antonio Saturday night. They’re in Oklahoma City Sunday night, an especially nasty tail end of a back-to-back. The 14-4 Thunder have not lost at home yet and have won nine of their last 10, the only setback coming against a Portland team that also beat Indiana last week.

Oklahoma City might feel a little overlooked as just another Western Conference contender, certainly relative to the big pub given so far to Indiana. That MVP “voter fatigue” thing that people wonder about seems to be hurting LeBron James‘ chances of winning less than maybe it’s hurting Kevin Durant’s chances of finishing second again, what with all the excitement about George’s burgeoning game.

OKC has a more productive offense (106.6 points per 100 possessions vs. 105.5) than Indiana and isn’t too far behind in defense (its 101.9 ranks fifth in the Pacers’ league-best 94.5). It has been getting more help lately from role guys such as Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb, along with Serge Ibaka’s developing offense. These two teams are the only ones left that are unbeaten at home, and the Thunder won both meetings last season by a total of 33 points.

Durant averaged 30.5 points in those two games and is at 30.1 in 11 games in the series. Compare that to George, who has shot 31 percent en route to 10.3 points per game in four meetings.

On a stand-alone basis, Indiana vs. Oklahoma City would be test and measuring stick enough – for both teams, frankly. But putting the Pacers through the grinder of Spurs-Thunder-Heat in a span of 96 hours, while Miami does the Wolves-Pistons-Pacers three-step, saps some of the significance from Tuesday’s contest.

Imagine throwing the Seahawks, Patriots and Broncos at the Colts or the Saints in a week’s time or so.

There’s nothing to be done about it – gotta cram in 82 somehow, some way – but at least when the Heat and Pacers meet in Miami Dec. 18, they both will have played just three games in eight days. This time? Grueling.

Is There Really Time For 72 Games?

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – We don’t know all the details of the NBA’s proposal, but we know that the players have a decision to make early next week. And if they choose to accept the deal, we’ll have a 72-game schedule beginning on Dec. 15.

In the league’s news conference on Thursday night, Adam Silver said that the playoffs would be pushed back “roughly a week.” The original schedule ends on April 18, so the revised one would end on or about April 25. That gives the league 132 days to play 1,080 games.

Last week, we noted that a 72-game schedule that started on Dec. 1 and ended on April 30 would have the same pace as a standard, 82-game schedule that begins around Nov. 1. But when you remove 19 calendar days from that hypothetical 72-game schedule, you get a pace about equal to the 50-game, post-lockout schedule that was played in 1999.

And when you take away four days for All-Star Weekend (which was canceled in ’99), you have teams playing slightly more games per week than they did in ’99, when they played some back-to-back-to-backs.

Schedule pace

Season G/Team Total G Days G/Day Team G/Week
Normal 82 1,230 *166 7.4 3.46
1998-99 50 725 90 8.1 3.89
2011-12 72 1,080 *128 8.4 3.94

* Subtracting four days for All-Star Weekend.

As we laid it out last week, a 72-game schedule allows every team to play in every arena at least once. Each team would play the 15 teams in the other conference two times and the 14 teams in their own conference three times.

There are obvious reasons for maximizing the number of games played in the available timeframe. With 72 games, the players would only be losing out on 12 percent (10/82) of their salary, and owners would only be losing five home games of revenue.

But if the players approve this deal, get ready for a schedule with very little time for practice or recovery from aches and pains.

Cleveland’s Schedule Shock!

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Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Now you know why Dan Gilbert was so upset with LeBron James.

Have you seen the national TV schedule? (The entire 2010-11 schedule was released Tuesday.)

There’s nary a sign of Gilbert’s Cleveland Cavaliers on the national broadcasts compared to the presence they had before James bolted for Miami.

The first appearance for the Cavs is on Dec. 2, the night James and his Heat cohorts (Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, etc.) make their way back to Quicken Loans Arena for the first time.

The Cavs were a national TV darling the last four years, averaging more than 30 appearances in each of the last four seasons. But not anymore. They have just three appearances lined up this season.

Just how bad is it? Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer shines the light on it here:

For comparison sake, the lowly and annual bottom-dwelling Los Angeles Clippers were scheduled for 12 national television appearances based on excitement over the return of Blake Griffin from injury.

James’ new team, the Miami Heat, are scheduled for 29 national TV games — including James first game in Cleveland since leaving in free agency. As The Plain Dealer reported last week, it will be Dec. 2 at The Q.

With NBA TV’s fan night voting, the Heat will likely hit the maximum number of national games at 34 as the Cavs did last season.

For the first time since 2005, the Cavs’ season opener will not be on national TV as they host the Boston Celtics on Oct. 27.

If there was any debate at all about the league’s most valuable player the last few years, I think that should clear it all up.

With James, the Cavaliers drove the league bus.

Without him, they’re under the bus.

We’re taking back all the bad things we said about Gilbert and his now infamous open letter to Cavs fans that smashed James for “betraying” them.

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Gilbert knew this was coming and reacted, a bit prematurely and certainly rougher than we would have, in a manner that shouldn’t seem nearly as shocking in hindsight.

And to make clear, we do not and have never had a problem with James deciding to take his talents to South Beach or the reaction of fans in either Cleveland or Miami.

Our only issue was with the way it was handled and the stain it would leave on the souls of the fans.

The national TV schedule’s release only reminds us of just how deep a stain it is.

No amount of apologies, public or otherwise, can fix the damage that has been done by “The Decision.”

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