Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

Morning Shootaround — March 24


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played March 23

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Woodson takes blame, Knicks postseason hopes on the brink | Bryant confident as ever Lakers will get back to the top | Heat defensive focus lags, struggles continue | Thunder will contend as long as Westbrook’s knee holds up

No. 1: Woodson shoulders blame as Knicks fall to Cavs, postseason hopes hang in the balance – Done in by Jarrett Jack. Is that the epitaph that will be written on this season for the New York Knicks? After Cleveland’s veteran point guard, filling in for All-Star Kyrie Irving, shredded them late to snap their eight-game win streak, it’s a legitimate question. Knicks coach Mike Woodson took the blame, a noble endeavor considering he was going to get his fair share anyway. But the Knicks’ postseason hopes hang in the balance every night and losses to the likes of the Cavaliers destroy the cause, as Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com points out::

Atlanta lost on Sunday afternoon, so the Knicks knew exactly what was at stake when they took the court on Sunday evening. That made the loss to the Cavs all the more catastrophic.

“We didn’t handle our business,” Woodson said, “and I’ve got to take full responsibility for that.”

“It’s tough,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We should’ve won this game. We gave it away. They earned it. They beat us.”

The Knicks were up 15 at the half but allowed Cleveland to score nine straight to start the third quarter.

“I thought we came out a little flat,” Anthony said.

Anthony led the Knicks with 32 points but went cold late, missing 11 of his last 13 shots and all five in the fourth quarter.

The Knicks as a whole went 5-for-18 in the fourth and missed 11-of-15 3-pointers in the second half.

“They were just scrapping more, I think,” J.R. Smith said. “They were more hungry than us in the second half. … It’s a huge opportunity lost, one we can’t afford. But we can’t get it back. Just got to go out there on the road and win some games. Hopefully, [the Hawks] keep losing.”

That’s what the Knicks have been left with in this roller-coaster season: hoping the eighth-place Hawks can continue to give away their lead.

For what feels like the 30th time this season, the Knicks failed to do that. And it leaves Woodson and his team in a difficult spot. According to Elias Sports Bureau, just one team in the past 30 years has overcome a deficit of more than four games with 14 games or fewer to play in the regular season to make the playoffs.


VIDEO: Sunday’s top 10 plays

***

No. 2: Kobe in touch with Jim Buss, confident Lakers will get back to winning ways – Whatever he lacks in good health Kobe Bryant more than makes up for in unabashed confidence in himself and the Los Angeles Lakers resilience. This despicable season will be forgotten, as soon as he can get back to health and as soon as Jim Buss and the rest of the Lakers’ front office brass finish their franchise makeover. These tough times, Bryant insisted during an interview with ESPN’s sports business ace Darren Rovell, will not last. He did, however, acknowledge that things are going to be different without Dr. Jerry Buss around to fix the Lakers’ issues:

Bryant, who signed a two-year, $48.5 million extension with the team in November to lock up his 19th and 20th seasons in L.A., reiterated his message of urgency to Buss to return to the top as soon as possible.

“This organization is just not going to go [down],” Bryant said. “It’s not going to take a nose dive. But I think we need to accelerate it a little bit for selfish reasons, because I want to win and I want to win next season. So, it’s kind of getting them going now as opposed to two years from now.”

Despite already airing his concerns about what direction the Lakers might be heading, Bryant said his faith is as strong as ever in the Lakers’ ability to bounce back to contender status.

“Extremely confident,” Bryant said. “That was one of my concerns [when he re-signed] and they assured me, ‘This is fair for you for everything you’ve done for the franchise and will continue to do while being able to construct a team that is going to contend for a championship here over the next couple of years.’”

Bryant also responded to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban‘s assertion that “I don’t know if the Lakers will ever be the Lakers,” because of the absence of longtime owner Dr. Jerry Buss, who died last year.

“It will be different,” Bryant said. “You can’t lead the way [Dr. Buss] did. Because Jeanie is different. Jimmy, who is running basketball operations, is different.

“So they have to find their rhythm and get in sync with each other and figure out exactly what their leadership style is going to be. It’s nearly impossible to try to separate basketball operations from the business standpoint so you got to kind of get in sync that with that and have one voice that is leading that charge. But once that happens, the idea might take shape. But you can’t look at what Dr. Buss did and say, ‘I’m going to try replicate that,’ and be exactly what he was. That’s just not going to happen.”


VIDEO:
Mavericks guard Monta Ellis was a flash against the Nets Sunday

***

No. 3: LeBron and Spoelstra point to lagging Heat defense as their struggles continue Bellyaching about your team’s energy, effort and championship focus in the wake of seven losses in your last 11 games is not a shocker, not even for the Miami Heat. But it’s good to get some specifics. And the Heat, fresh off of yet another head-scratching defeat (Saturday night in New Orleans), provided plenty. And it’s all about their defense, which has been uncharacteristically porous of late. That’s something everyone, from coach Erik Spoelstra and LeBron James and Chris Bosh, in the Heat camp can agree on. Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel highlights the particulars:

    “We’re not accustomed to this type of play, these types of standards, particularly on the defensive end,” coach Erik Spoelstra said before giving his team Sunday off in advance of Monday’s visit by the Portland Trail Blazers to AmericanAirlines Arena. “And if we want to change, we have to look inward. Every single one of us, including the staff, including the players, have to make changes.”

Forward LeBron James said the Heat are failing on the defensive end both individually and collectively.

“First of all,” he said, “you have to guard your man, and rely on help second. But when you break down, you’re going to have to rely on the help, and we’re not getting both.

“First of all, guys are not playing their man. And guys get beat, which you will be, which will happen in this league, because there’s great players, the help comes. We’re not doing anything.”

Factor in the Heat’s longstanding rebound issues and the defensive pressure has been unrelenting.

“Sometimes we get stops and we don’t get a rebound. Sometimes we don’t get stops,” forward Udonis Haslem said. “It’s a lot of different things. At this point, we’ve got to put it all together, we’ve got to get stops and rebounds. We can’t get a stop and then give up an offensive rebound and get another 24 [seconds on defense].

“We’ve got to guard the ball, and then when the ball gets in the paint, we’ve got to step up, we’ve got to contest. Shot goes up, we’ve got to box out both bigs and got to get it and go.”

The frustration has shown on the court and in the locker room.

“Defensively, we can’t stop a nosebleed,” center Chris Bosh said. “No good blitz, the pick and roll coverage, one-on-one defense, everything is bad.”


VIDEO: Check out the Kevin Love Show from Sunday, starring … Kevin Love!

***

No. 4:Thunder’s title hopes rest on Westbrook’s knee – Miami and Indiana aren’t the only places where championship hopes are in doubt these days. Folks in Oklahoma are also wondering just how fragile their title aspirations are in the wake of yet another knee scare from All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook. Even with MVP frontrunner Kevin Durant destroying the competition night after night, the Thunder’s confidence is tied directly to the health of Westbrook and that knee. It’s a dangerous way for an entire state and fan base to live. But it’s the only way they, according to Barry Tramel of the Oklahoman:

Nobody in our state slept well Friday night. Starting with Scotty Brooks, Sam Presti, Westbrook’s clothier, Rumble, that woman who screams “Russellllllllllllllllllllllll” during his foul shots and most everyone with a cable or satellite dish in every hamlet from Tuskahoma to Tonkawa.

For about 20 hours or so over the weekend, we all wondered if Russell Westbrook’s knee was tore up again. Westbrook limped off the court in Toronto on Friday, and the wind was replaced by “aarghs!” and “gulps” sweeping down the plain.

Of course, now word is that Westbrook is OK and might even play either Monday night (Denver in OKC) or Tuesday night (at Dallas). Whew. That was close.

Thunderland knows the feeling of life without Westbrook. Knows it all too well. And it stinks. When Westbrook went down with a torn meniscus in the Houston series last playoffs, the Thunder scraped by the Rockets, then was bullied by the Grizzlies in a five-game series defeat. When Westbrook has sat out periodically this season, the Thunder has mostly struggled, save for a magical 10-game winning streak in January during which OKC was the league’s best team.

Westbrook’s latest scare is reason to ask this question. Is the Thunder better prepared to play without him this season than last season? If Westbrook limps off in some game soon, or in the middle of a playoff series, is the Thunder better-equipped to survive?

Depends on what survival means. Win the NBA championship? No. Not going to happen without Westbrook riding shotgun.

But go deeper in the playoffs? Win a tough West semifinal? At least challenge the Spurs or the Clippers or whoever emerges as the Western Conference elite? Yes.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: This is a different Raptors team than you are used to, one that is rising to the late-season challenge … Andre Miller finally clears the air about what went down in Denver … No one is doing it better these days than the bench mob from Phoenix … Kobe Bryant announces his partnership in a new business … Rockets big man Dwight Howard is practicing but remains “day-to-day” with that tender ankle … The surprising comeback for Steve Nash has already hit yet another injury snag

ICYMI of the Night: Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins wants you to know that this is his world and the rest of the big men in the league are just living in it …


VIDEO: DeMarcus Cousins goes hard for his 32 points and 12 rebounds

Howard Had No Idea Shoestrings Incident With J.R. Smith Would Lead To This!




VIDEO: Knicks guard J.R. Smith has some issues with shoelaces, as Shawn Marion finds out

ATLANTA – What started as fun and games between old friends has morphed into a full-blown mess for New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith. A mess Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard never saw coming.

Long before his $50,000 fine and benching and all of the trade rumors cranked up, Smith was just messing around with Howard during a Jan. 3 game in Houston and playfully untied Howard’s shoe at the free-throw line. He would later get Shawn Marion‘s shoelace in a game against the Mavericks  and attempted to get Josh Smith‘s (he ended up settling for Greg Monroe‘s) in a game against the Pistons on Tuesday before Knicks coach Mike Woodson and the fun/foolishness police at NBA headquarters caught up with him.

Woodson unloaded on Smith Wednesday, saying he needed to “grow up” and stop the silliness and the league followed up with that hefty fine for “recurring instance of unsportsmanlike conduct.”  Woodson benched Smith for Thursday’s win over the Miami Heat and now the fallout and trade chatter is cranked all the way up heading into this weekend.

“It was just a guy trying to have fun,” Howard said Friday morning at Philips Arena before the Rockets faced the Atlanta Hawks. “I didn’t think it would turn into a big fine. It’s crazy.”

Howard, always a prankster, had plans for retaliation.

“I tried to get him back,” he said. “But I’m glad I didn’t … could have lost some money.”

It could wind up costing Smith a whole lot more than just cash.


VIDEO: The Inside crew discusses J.R. Smith and his future with the Knicks

The NBA Reacts To Loss Of Mandela


VIDEO: Former and present NBA players remember the life of Nelson Mandela

NBA.com staff reports

Humanitarian and NBA ambassador Nelson Mandela passed away today at 95, leaving a trail of goodbyes and social media send-offs in his wake. Throughout his life, he worked tirelessly to eradicate racism in South Africa and his efforts made an imprint on the younger generation:

Money Can’t Buy Happiness (Or Wins)


VIDEO: A. Sherrod Blakely discusses Boston’s solid start to the season

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Fast starts by teams expected to struggle combined with awkwardly slow starts by teams expected to excel have turned the NBA standings upside-down.

Several of the league’s gold-plated outfits like the Nets, Knicks and Lakers are looking up at .500, while intentionally low-budget operations like the Suns and Sixers sit at or darn near the top of their respective divisions, at least here in the opening two weeks.

It’s all the more interesting when looking at this stage of the collective bargaining agreement. Ratified in December 2011, the CBA ushered in a new era of increased luxury tax penalties and the so-called repeater tax, deterrents designed to curb overspending and promote a level financial playing field across market sizes.

This is the third season under the new rules, but the first with the harsher luxury tax penalties in play — graduated tax hikes as opposed to the old dollar-for-dollar rate. We’ve seen numerous teams adjust how they spend to construct rosters that fall below the league’s luxury tax threshold ($71.7 million this season), to, one, avoid paying a tax and, two, to prevent the clock from starting on (or adding to) the repeater tax, which hammers a franchise with a hefty fine for crossing the luxury tax threshold in any four out of five seasons.

So this season we’re at something of a CBA crossroads. There are a handful of teams that have stripped their rosters to bare-bones salary levels (Sixers, Suns, Jazz) to clear out cap space for summer free-agent spending (and OK, maybe even better their chances for a high 2014 Draft pick). There are a few teams that are well into the luxury tax and are essentially locked there until large contracts expire (Lakers, Bulls, sort of the Knicks). And then there is the Brooklyn Nets, the one team that continues to pile on the payroll. Everybody else has pretty well adjusted and falls between the salary cap ($58.7 million) and the luxury tax threshold.

The Nets’ payroll is a stunning $102.2 million. It will ring up a tax bill around $85 million, a league record and larger than the total payroll of all but likely two teams — its own and its Big Apple neighbor, the Knicks ($87.9 million). The Suns’ payroll ranks 29th in the 30-team league at about $53 million, and the Sixers are last at about $40 million, actually well below the league’s minimum cap figure that was instituted in the CBA.

But as is often the case, it’s not always the highest rollers who finish first.

With that, let’s look at how the NBA conference standings (through Wednesday’s games) stack up — payroll vs. actual winning percentage (all team salaries are courtesy of ShamSports.com):

Rank East team payroll rank East team win pct. (through Nov. 13) West team payroll rank West team win pct. (through Nov. 13)
No. 1 Brooklyn Indiana L.A. Lakers San Antonio
No. 2 New York Miami L.A. Clippers Portland
No. 3 Miami Philadelphia Oklahoma City Oklahoma City
No. 4 Boston Atlanta Memphis L.A. Clippers
No. 5 Washington Charlotte Golden State Minnesota
No. 6 Toronto Chicago Denver Phoenix
No. 7 Toronto Toronto Dallas Golden State
No. 8 Indiana Boston Minnesota Dallas
No. 9 Detroit Orlando New Orleans Houston
No. 10 Cleveland New York Houston Denver
No. 11 Charlotte Cleveland Portland L.A. Lakers
No. 12 Orlando Detroit San Antonio Memphis
No. 13 Milwaukee Milwaukee Sacramento New Orleans
No. 14 Atlanta Brooklyn Utah Sacramento
No. 15 Philadelphia Washington Phoenix Utah

Ellis Fitting in Just Fine in Big D After Impressive Debut


x

VIDEO: Monta Ellis impresses (32 points, eight assists) in his Mavs debut

DALLAS – The contract took longer than expected and it wasn’t for as much as he hoped. Yet all Monta Ellis could talk about this summer was how happy it made him to join the Mavericks and to play for a coach who cared enough to visit him at his offseason home in Houston.

Back in Dallas for Wednesday night’s season opener against the Atlanta Hawks, “Monta Basketball,” as he labeled his game during Media Day one month ago, rocked the house. Give the man credit. He’s always said he can do it all, and in Game 1 of 82, he didn’t disappoint, putting up a hard-charging 32 points, eight assists, four rebounds and a pair of steals in a team-high 37 minutes.

As for Ellis’ seven turnovers? Scoreboard. Dallas dropped the Hawks 118-109. Only the Warriors and Timberwolves (in overtime) put up more points in their openers. So on nights like this you live with seven turnovers.

Ellis drained 11-for-17 shots from the field, knocked down 2-for-3 from behind the arc and made all eight of his free throws. He showed off his handle, shuffled through traffic, dished off half of his assists in the final game-sealing six minutes of the fourth quarter, and four dimes found Dirk Nowitzki, who opened his 16th season with 24 points that included four long balls and five assists.

“He was great,” Nowitzki said of his new teammate. “His all-around game has impressed me more than his scoring. And he can score in bunches, so quick. He’s always attacking.

Ellis’ 32 points were the most by any player making their Mavs debut. Who saw 11-for-17 coming? Welcome to that other side of “Monta Basketball,” the side that furrows coaches’ brows by finishing the preseason in a 14-for-50 funk.

“I just wanted to be more aggressive. I’ve been coming in late with [assistant] coach D.A. [Darrell Armstrong], getting up a lot of shots, trying to get my rhythm,” said Ellis, who ended the preseason in a bit of a funk. “Right now I’m in a good rhythm.”

When coach Rick Carlisle met with Ellis in Houston, they went to the gym. Carlisle didn’t harp on shot selection or mention efficiency. He homed in on his mechanics, and Ellis liked that. It doesn’t mean Carlisle isn’t strapped in for a roller-coaster ride with the 6-foot-3 gunslinger, but he is a believer in an environmental shift aiding helping to make Ellis a more efficient scorer.

“I don’t think he’s ever played with a team quite like this that had bigs that can shoot, things like that,” Carlisle said. “He’s going to be fine.”

The Hawks, with Jeff Teague starting at point and Kyle Korver at shooting guard for the majority of the game, had no one that could stay in front of Ellis. The challenge stiffens Friday night when Dallas plays at Houston (8 ET, League Pass), which can attack Ellis with the larger James Harden and light-on-his-feet Patrick Beverley (assuming both are healthy). On Saturday, Tony Allen and the Memphis Grizzlies (8:30 ET, League Pass) come to town.

But for the opening curtain, Ellis delivered swagger to a club that for two seasons has struggled to keep up offensively. No one is more aware of that fact than Nowitzki, 35, the team’s leading scorer for 13 seasons running.

“He can score with the best of them in this league,” Nowitzki said. “We’re going to need him to score.”


VIDEO: Ellis on his monster debut for the Mavericks

Gloves Off For Durant, Wade?



HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Their Instagram/Twitter feud won’t go down in NBA annals as one of the classic dust ups, but nice guys Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade beefing, even if it’s just temporary, adds a nice layer of pre-training camp drama for the rest of us.

It started out simple enough. Durant said publicly during a Tuesday interview with CineSport that he would choose his ex-Oklahoma City Thunder teammate, James Harden, over Wade for a spot in a top 10 players list. That’s when Durant was informed that Wade was included in the top 10 of Sports Illustrated‘s ranking of the best players in the league and Harden was not.

Wade took exception and responded via Instagram …

… and Durant fired back via Twitter …

And that leaves us with a two guys who rank among the league’s truly elite tossing barbs back and forth with training camps set to open around the league in just days.

Wade’s Heat and Durant’s Thunder head into the season as the favorites to represent their respective conferences in The Finals, so we might not get an appropriate conclusion to this affair for quite some time, if at all. Not that there was extra hype needed, those two regular season matchups between the Heat and Thunder just got another piece of flesh for everyone to chew on.

The Bosh Family’s Summer Travels


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Summer vacation for NBA players isn’t always just about sun, fun and luxury accommodations.

Sometimes there is a different element involved. Sometimes a trip can provide a deeper understanding of things, some enlightenment, if you are up for it.

Miami Heat Chris Bosh and his family were game for just that when they traveled Mumbai, India, this summer. It was a journey captured on video by the two-time NBA champion, who mixed a little NBA business with pleasure on his trip (#NAMASTE Part I):



There’s nothing wrong with broadening your horizons in the offseason. In fact, I’d argue that a trip like this could just as important for a guy like Bosh as anything he does on the court or in the weight room during his offseason.

Chasing a third straight championship will require a mental focus that Miami hasn’t had to employ during its previous three trips through the NBA meat grinder of an 82-game regular season plus the playoffs.

Who knows, the Bosh’s summer travel could be the crucial for the head of the household in a few months.

2013-14 NBA Salary Cap Figure Set at $58.679 Million

h

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The new numbers are out.

The NBA revealed its new Salary Cap figure for the 2013-14 season, which will be $58.679 million. The tax level for the season has been set at $71.748 million.

Those are slight increases from the 2012-13 numbers of 58.044 for the Salary Cap and 70.307 for the tax level, respectively. The new figures go into effect Wednesday at 12:01 a.m. ET. That is also when the league’s “moratorium period” ends and teams can begin signing free agents and making trades.

The minimum team salary, which is set at 90 percent of the Salary Cap, an increase from the 85 percent from last season, is $52.811 million. Teams will have to spend that figure of the cap figure on player salaries starting this season.

As expected there are new tax rates for the incremental spending above the tax level, with the league having done away with the previous $1 for $1 tax of the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement. The new tax rate schedule:

  • Portion of team salary $0-$4.99 million over tax level:          $1.50 for $1
  • Portion of team salary $5-$9.99 million over tax level:          $1.75 for $1
  • Portion of team salary $10-$14.99 million over tax level:      $2.50 for $1
  • Portion of team salary $15-$19.99 million over tax level:      $3.25 for $1
  • Rates increase by $0.50 for each additional $5 million of team salary above the tax level.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement provides for three different mid-level exceptions depending on a team’s salary level.   The non-taxpayer mid-level for this season is $5.15 million, the taxpayer mid-level is $3.183 million and the mid-level for a team with room under the Salary Cap is $2.652 million.

Game 7: The Morning After


-
By NBA.com staff reports

A classic Finals ended with a classic Game 7. LeBron James cemented his place in NBA history scoring 37 points as the Heat captured a second-straight NBA title with a 95-88 Game 7 win over the Spurs. Here’s a quick recap of NBA.com’s complete Game 7 coverage.

Game Coverage

NBA Finals

Analysis

Heat Celebration

Video Highlights

Postgame Press Conferences

Photos

Stern Defends Small-Market Finals, Zings ‘Resting’ In Last State-Of-NBA Address

h

MIAMI – He’s a short-timer now, with less than eight months remaining in what will be a 30-year run as NBA commissioner, but David Stern came on like anything but a lame duck Thursday night before Game 1 of the 2013 Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena.

In his last official Finals state-of-the-league address (part of an ongoing series of “lasts” that began Feb. 1, one year out from Stern’s official retirement date), the league’s chief executive was vibrant, engaged, enthused even. This wasn’t the man who came out of the rancorous lockout in 2011-12 tired and cranky. It wasn’t Stern unplugged, either, though more and more of his duties are shifting to deputy commissioner Adam Silver, his heir apparent.

This was Stern tackling topics big and small, ranging from anti-flopping rules to nuances of the current collective-bargaining agreement in both its financial and competitive impact. This was Stern looking and sounding as if he could re-up for another term but who, most likely, is into his finishing kick because he can see the end line now.

Stern’s opening comments were brief and not unlike the business-is-good things he has said now, twice annually (All-Star Game and Finals) across three decades. Questions followed, many focusing on issues in play in this championship series, such as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich‘s decision back in November to sit out star players on his team’s visit to Miami. And a suggestion that the Heat’s SuperFriends approach might be good for the league overall, despite the CBA’s new provisions to block such star-hogging roster maneuvers in the future.

Asked if San Antonio’s presence in The Finals vindicates Popovich’s decision a month into the season to “rest” Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker as a way of staying fresh for the long NBA season and postseason — which earned a $250,000 fine from the league — Stern said: “He wasn’t resting Danny Green. It was a game that was being played. I know it, you know it and he knows it.

“I would never, never tell a coach that he shouldn’t rest a player that needs rest. We understand that completely. And that’s not what he did.” (more…)