Posts Tagged ‘O.J. Mayo’

One Team, One Stat: Mavericks Shoot Bad Shots Well

From Media Day until opening night,’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Dallas Mavericks, who are, once again, putting new pieces around Dirk Nowitzki.

The basics
DAL Rank
W-L 41-41 17
Pace 96.2 8
OffRtg 103.6 11
DefRtg 104.0 20
NetRtg -0.4 16

The stat

32.7 – Percentage of their shots that the Mavs took from the restricted area or the corners, the lowest rate in the league.

The context

Shots from the restricted area and in the corners are the two most efficient shots on the floor, both worth about 1.2 points per shot across the league last season.

The Mavs have been unique in passing them up and mostly getting away with it. With Dirk Nowitzki leading the way, they’ve been a good and high-volume mid-range shooting team. And they had a top-10 offense for 12 straight years, beginning with Nowitzki’s second season in the league and ending with their championship season in 2010-11.

The season after the lockout, the Mavs fell to 20th offensively, but were still a top-five mid-range shooting team. The same was true again last season, but they had very little scoring inside. Shawn Marion‘s 188 baskets in the restricted area led the team, but ranked 63rd in the league. And in addition to Nowitzki (437/62), they had two bigs — Elton Brand (206/133) and Chris Kaman (296/193) — that took more mid-range shots than shots from the restricted area.

Both guys can knock ’em down, and it certainly pays to have bigs who can step outside and shoot. But while there’s a positive correlation between offensive efficiency and mid-range shooting percentage, there’s a stronger negative correlation between offensive efficiency and the percentage of shots you take from mid-range.

Mavs shooting by area, 2012-13

Area FG% Rank %FGA Rank
Restricted area 60.9% 12 27.1% 29
Other paint 42.7% 3 17.8% 3
Mid-range 42.2% 3 31.4% 8
Corner 3 36.5% 23 5.6% 20
Above-break 3 38.0% 2 17.8% 11

Basically, it’s good if you can shoot 2-point jumpers well, but it’s bad if you depend on them too much. As we learned from Evan Turner, even if you shoot mid-range shots well, you can be more efficient by taking better shots.

The following video is from an April 2 game in L.A., one the Mavs really needed to have a shot at making the playoffs (they were just a game in the loss column behind the Lakers at the time). They shot a decent 42.4 percent from mid-range, but those shots accounted for 33 of their 81 shots (41 percent) . They took just 15 shots in the restricted area, just four from the corners, and just 12 free throws. So, even though their shooting wasn’t awful, they got held to 81 points by what was a below-average defensive team.

The Mavs were one of three teams — Cleveland and New York were the others — that shot better on above-the-break 3-pointers than they did on corner threes last year. So again, they shot the bad shots (above-the-break threes being bad relative to corner threes) well.

But that’s probably not sustainable. And the guy that led the Mavs with 64 attempts (71st in the league) from the corners was O.J. Mayo, who is now in Milwaukee.

It’s another fascinating supporting cast that Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have brought in this season. Monta Ellis ranked ninth in the league with 475 mid-range shots last season, and shot them worse than anyone else in the top 20. Jose Calderon, meanwhile, was one of the best mid-range shooters in the league and also a great 3-point shooter, but doesn’t shoot from the corners much.

Devin Harris will get to the rim, and there’s no worry about DeJuan Blair and Samuel Dalembert taking too many jump shots. But neither big will dominate down low .

More important will be how the bigs defend. After ranking in the top 10 in defensive efficiency each of the previous two seasons, the Mavs ranked 20th defensively last season. (Not breaking news: Kaman is neither Tyson Chandler nor Brendan Haywood on that end.)

If Nowitzki is healthy all season, the Mavs should be OK offensively. And they can be better than OK if they find ways to get better shots.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Mayo Recalls Trash-Talk Battle With MJ


From staff reports

Hall of Famer Michael Jordan recently told the Associated Press during a promotional tour for the NBA 2K14 video game that he thought that in his prime, he could beat LeBron James in a game of one-on-one.

Jordan also spoke recently with ESPN and explained the differences between the modern game and the NBA of his day. In the course of that discussion, Jordan recalled a story about how he schooled then-prep phenom (and current Bucks guard) O.J. Mayo at Jordan’s basketball camp several years ago. According to Jordan, Mayo talked a little too much trash, which brought out the fiercely competitive side of MJ in the midst of the camp.

“I had never met him [before]” Jordan told ESPN, “In front of my camp, he starts this thing about ‘you can’t guard me … you can’t do this.’ I’ve got my campers here, so obviously I can’t really go where I want to go because they’re in my camp. So, I stop the camp and send the kids to bed. We go back to playing and he starts his whole thing [of] ‘you can’t guard me, you can’t do this.’ Finally I said: ‘Look, dude. You may be the best high school player, but I’m the best player in the world. So, from this point on, it’s a lesson.’ ”

In case you’re looking for video proof of what Jordan is talking about … well, thankfully, that exists, too. was somehow able to dig up video of the Mayo-Jordan showdown, which includes MJ hitting a baseline, fadeaway (apparent) game-winner in Mayo’s face.

Mayo, for his part, didn’t back away from tale. In an interview with after Wednesday’s practice, Mayo corroborated Jordan’s story … and added some great detail that can’t be missed. The fine folks over at The Point Forward transcribed the entire interview, but here are a few choice quotes:

“Obviously it’s any ballplayer’s dream to play against Mike. I couldn’t tell you how many times I did his move after the Finals, the next day at the rec center and stuff. I got a few buckets. The campers knew I was the only high school kid so they got rowdy a little bit, we got a little bit of jawing. We played two games, I think we split one and one, it was a team game.

“Then he said, ‘OK, now let me handle my business.’ He looked me in my face and said that. I’m like, ‘What you mean?’ So he said, ‘I need all the campers and everybody to leave the gym.’

“We continued playing pick-up. Mike was Mike. He was jawing a little bit, really getting into me defensively. He’s backing me down. He said, ‘Better scream for mama. Ma-ma. Ma-ma.’ Hit the famous fadeaway on me. I said, ‘OK, OK, you’ve got it going.’

“At the end of the day, people ask, ‘Why would you talk smack to GOAT? Why would you talk smack to Mike?’ At the end of the day, it’s still basketball. You definitely respect everything Mike’s done for the game. But when you’re a young buck and you get a chance to go at the top, I kind of had the mentality that I had everything to gain and nothing to lose. Mike did what he had to do.”

Morning Shootaround — Oct. 3


Wade regrets surgery in college | Mayo recalls game vs. MJ| Cavs’ Jack wants deep playoff run

No.1: Wade regrets having knee surgery in collegeIn 2002, Dwyane Wade was not yet the well-known NBA star he is today, but was instead a rising star for Marquette University. He told’s Brian Windhorst that if more of a long-term approach had been used when he had meniscus surgery after his sophomore season in 2002, he might not have as many knee issues today:

My knee problems and the things I’ve dealt with started from that,” Wade said. “That was [11] years ago and technology was different and the way you approach things was different.

“At that moment, if everyone looked ahead and said, ‘Dwyane’s going to have a 20-year career, maybe we should do something different,’ maybe I wouldn’t have [knee issues]. At that time it was to get me back on the basketball court and do what is best.”

“When [Russell] Westbrook had his injury, they kind of saved his meniscus,” Wade said. “Mine was taken out, and that opens you up to having certain knee injuries and problems, so that’s what I’ve had to deal with. We have a great training staff and we have great doctors. Whatever way you look at it, I’m going into my 11th season, there’s lots of guys who haven’t made it this far.”


No. 2: Mayo backs up Jordan’s one-on-one story: Michael Jordan‘s assertation earlier this week that he — in his prime — could beat LeBron James in a game of one-on-one drew much debate and discussion around the NBA world. Off the heels of that, Jordan had a recent interview with ESPN in which he told of a one-on-one game he had at his basketball camp against then-prep star O.J. Mayo. Well, apparently Jordan’s recollection of Mayo’s trash talking and Jordan dominating the youngster weren’t inaccurate, as an Mayo backed up MJ’s story during a must-watch interview with that we detail in another Hang Time post: 

Mayo, for his part, didn’t back away from tale. In an interview with after Wednesday’s practice, Mayo corroborated Jordan’s story … and added some great detail that can’t be missed. The fine folks over at The Point Forward transcribed the entire interview, but here are a few choice quotes:

“Obviously it’s any ballplayer’s dream to play against Mike. I couldn’t tell you how many times I did his move after the Finals, the next day at the rec center and stuff. I got a few buckets. The campers knew I was the only high school kid so they got rowdy a little bit, we got a little bit of jawing. We played two games, I think we split one and one, it was a team game.

“Then he said, ‘OK, now let me handle my business.’ He looked me in my face and said that. I’m like, ‘What you mean?’ So he said, ‘I need all the campers and everybody to leave the gym.’

“We continued playing pick-up. Mike was Mike. He was jawing a little bit, really getting into me defensively. He’s backing me down. He said, ‘Better scream for mama. Mama. Mama.’


No. 3: Jack postseason berth not enough for Cavs Cleveland has gone four seasons since making the playoffs and after a busy offseason that included the signings of Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark and Jarrett Jack, it has eyes on a return to the postseason. Jack, who was instrumental in helping Golden State end a five season playoff drought a season ago, says simply making it into the playoffs shouldn’t be enough for the Cavs, writes Bob Finnan of The News-Herald & The Morning Journal:

“People may look at me crazy,” he said. “I don’t put ceilings on anything. Why would I be happy just making the playoffs? What’s the point of that? Why would I be happy just playing until April and going home? Why can’t we just go to the championship?

“If that’s not your goal, we should just go home right now. Who cares if you got the free T-shirt they hand out for the first round? So what? No one remembers that. If you take a test, why would you try to get a 72? Why wouldn’t you try to get a 100? Who wants to be in fifth place?”

When it was time to find a new team last summer, Jack and agent Jeff Schwartz chose the Cavs for one big reason.

“First and foremost, Coach Brown,” Jack said. “(I’ve) always been a fan of his from afar. I’ve always loved the guy. Then, (I liked) what they have on the rise. They are adamant (about) winning.”

The Warriors advanced to the Western Conference semifinals last year. He wants to experience similar success in Cleveland in 2013-14.

“When you have a mindset that you can compete with anybody, you don’t get surprised,” Jack said. “When you beat a team like the Pacers, you don’t jump around like you won the World Series. It’s the same way if you beat the Bobcats. There’s no confetti coming from the ceiling. That’s what you’re supposed to do.

“If we go out there and play Cavaliers basketball, we can compete with anybody on the court.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Dwight Howard has a lot of respect for teammate James Harden‘s Euro-stepJan Vesley is working to rebuild his confidence and game in D.C.Kevin O’Connor remains an integral part of Utah’s front office… Denver coach Brian Shaw sees a lot of Paul George in Quincy Miller … Great long feature on one a Morning Shootaround favorite — Magic center Nikola Vucevic

ICYMI of the night: We reference it above, but you’ve got to see this interview of O.J. Mayo recalling what it was like to play one-on-one against Michael Jordan:

New Coaches: Heat Is On Already


HANG TIME, Texas — It’s not very often that 13 different teams decide to change coaches during one offseason. It’s a sign of these impatient times in which we live, especially when six of those teams finished last season with winning records.

It used to be “what have you done for me lately?” Now it’s “what have you done in the last 10 minutes?”

Of course, not every new coaching situation is the same. No one expects a pair of newcomers like Brad Stevens in Boston and Brett Brown in Philly to perform water-into-wine miracles with stripped-down rosters.

Doc Rivers goes coast-to-coast to show a 56-win Clippers team how to take the next step while Mike Brown returns to Cleveland with a roster full of young talent ready to bloom.

However, not everybody gets to settle in comfortably. Here are the five new coaches who’ll find that seat warm from Day One:

Dave Joerger, Grizzlies — Sure, he’s paid his dues and learned his craft in the minor leagues and as an up-and-coming assistant coach in the NBA. All he’s got to do now is take over a club that is coming off the best season in franchise history, including a run to the Western Conference finals. While that means the Grizzlies have a contending core in Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley and a supporting cast to repeat their feat, it also means that every decision, every move that Joerger makes from the first day of training camp through the end of the playoffs will be judged against his predecessor Lionel Hollins, who evidently could do everything except make his stat-driven bosses appreciate him. In a Western Conference that just keeps getting stronger, it will be tough enough survive, let alone thrive with a ghost on his shoulder.

Larry Drew, Bucks — After spending three seasons in Atlanta, where he always had a winning record but could never get the Hawks past the second round of the playoffs, Drew moves to a Bucks franchise that overachieves if it climbs into the No. 8 seed to play the role of punching bag for the big boys in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee has turned over its backcourt from an inconsistent pair of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to a spotty trio of Brandon Knight, O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal. Rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo has size, athleticism and a bundle of talent. But he’s only 18 years old and the question is whether Drew will be given the opportunity to stick around long enough to watch him grow. The Bucks are one of two teams with plenty of space under the salary cap, but have no real intention of spending it except to get to the mandated league minimum. This is a Bucks franchise that doesn’t have a sense of direction and that hardly bodes well for a coach. It’s not even a lateral move for Drew and could make getting the next job that much harder.

Brian Shaw, Nuggets — After waiting so long to finally get his opportunity to become a head coach, Shaw steps into a situation that is almost the opposite of Joerger. The Nuggets let 2013 Coach of the Year George Karl walk along with Masai Ujiri, the general manager who built the team, and then blew a gaping hole in the side of the 57-win, No. 3 seed in the West roster by letting Andre Iguodala get away, too. Shaw still has Ty Lawson as the fire-starter in the backcourt, but one of these seasons 37-year-old Andre Miller has got to run out of gas. As if the rookie coach didn’t have enough to juggle with the mercurial JaVale McGee, now he’s got Nate Robinson coming off his playoff heroics in Chicago with that ego taller than the Rockies. It’s never a good time to be stepping into a new job when management seems to be pulling back.

Steve Clifford, Bobcats — He’s another one of the longtime assistant coaches that has paid his dues and was ready to slide down the bench into the boss’s spot. But Charlotte? That’s more like the ejector seat in James Bond’s old Aston Martin. The Bobcats have had six coaches in the seven years that the iconic Michael Jordan has been head of basketball operations and then majority owner. From bad drafting (Adam Morrison) to bad trades (Ben Gordon, Corey Maggette), through constant changes of philosophy and direction, the Bobcats simply go through coaches faster than sneakers. Now it’s general manager Rich Cho calling the shots, but that didn’t stop the firing of Mike Dunlap after just one season. Clifford gets veteran big man Al Jefferson to anchor the middle of the lineup, but he’d better have his seat belt fastened tight and watch out for those fingers on the ejector button.

Mike Malone, Kings — Not that anyone expects Malone to be under immediate pressure in terms of wins and losses. What the Kings need now that they have a future in Sacramento is to re-establish a foundation on the court. Of course, the multi-million-dollar question is whether that base will include the talented and petulant DeMarcus Cousins. Everybody knows that he’s physically got what it takes to be a dominant force in the league. But the jury is still out when you’ve played three years in the league and you’re still getting suspended for “unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team.” Paul Westphal and Keith Smart couldn’t get through to Cousins to make him somebody the Kings can rely on and were spat out. Now as the big man heads toward a summer where he could become a restricted free agent, the franchise needs to know if sinking big bucks in his future is an investment or a waste of time. That’s the intense heat on Malone and the clock will be ticking immediately.

Mavs’ Carlisle Rolls With Plan B, Revolving Roster


 Rick Carlisle earned his reputation as one of the game’s top coaches by bending, flexing and adjusting all the way to a six-game championship take-down of the Miami Heat in 2011.

Recall 5-foot-10 point guard J.J. Barea as an NBA Finals starting shooting guard?

The Dallas Mavericks have since gone 77-72 and haven’t won another playoff game. And despite a roster that’s read like a well-worn Rolodex, Carlisle has seemed only to enhance his image as an elite tactician and motivator. Carlisle’s agility will be put to the test again this season in guiding a team that again barely resembles the one that preceded it.

From the 2010-11 championship team only Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion remain. From the revamped squad insufficiently stocked to defend the title, add only Brandan Wright and Vince Carter as keepers. And from last season, add draft picks Jae Crowder and Bernard James. It’s doubtful any coach, especially one that won a ring with the same franchise just three Junes ago, has witnessed such roster upheaval in three consecutive offseasons, and particularly so in these back-to-back summers.

“Back-to-back, probably not,” Carlisle admitted. “But look, we’re living in a different time. We’re living in a time now where there’s going to be more one-year deals, there’s going to be more turnover, so everybody adjusts to the dynamics of the new CBA, and I don’t know that that’s going to happen for another year or two, at least. That said, if you’re going to be a head coach in this league you’ve got to be very open-minded, you’ve got to be open to change and adaptation. You always want continuity, but you’re not always going to have it.”

The Mavs suffered the indignity of a lockout and the ratification of a game-changing collective bargaining agreement on the heels of their championship parade. On the fly, owner Mark Cuban championed new roster-building strategies that entailed allowing key members of his title team to walk. Plan A, to create cap space and lure max-dollar free agents to crowbar Nowitzki’s championship window, hasn’t panned out and Dallas has instead scrambled the last two summers to produce competitive rosters.

That can be a disheartening road for a coach who is just one of four currently in the league with a ring. Carlisle, though, has consistently endorsed his boss’ decisions. Entering his sixth season in Dallas and the second year of his second four-year contract, Carlisle seems to embrace the challenges he inherits under Plan B. Of the four active championship coaches — including Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers, now in charge of the Clippers — Carlisle’s task is by far fraught with the most uncertainties.

“I just made a conscious decision that I’m not going to be a coach that’s limited to a certain system,” Carlisle said. “I’m hanging my hat on my ability to adapt each year to potentially a roster that’s quite different, and with the new CBA we’re going to have more of that in this league. I’ve done a lot of it in my career leading up to now anyway, so it’s always challenging in those situations, but it’s also exciting.”

Just look at the players that have come through Dallas since the lockout ended: Kalenna Azubuike, Yi Jianlian, Lamar Odom, Delonte WestSean Williams, Eddy Curry, Troy Murphy, Elton Brand, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman, Jared Cunningham, Derek Fisher, Mike James, Dahntay Jones, Anthony Morrow, Chris Wright, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Justin Dentmon and Josh Akognon.

And here’s the players new to Dallas for this season: Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair, Gal Mekel, plus draft picks Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo.

Last week Cuban set the bar for this team: The playoffs, and capable of doing damage once there. Carlisle didn’t flinch.

“I think you have to view it that way,” Carlisle said. “And, you’ve got to be careful. You’ve got to eliminate the external noise and the doubters and the naysayers and all that kind of stuff. You’ve got to have just a real positive enthusiasm and focus on your group, and you’ve got to see in your mind how they can get better. Then you’ve got to facilitate that.”

Among Dallas media, at least, Carlisle was hailed as a Coach of the Year candidate for guiding last season’s mismatched squad out of a 13-23 hole, one dug mostly without Nowitzki. Dallas finished 28-18 and was in the thick of the playoff chase almost until the end.

“Actually, I think Rick’s system is just very comprehensive and he lets the players pick up as much of it as they can and so I think rather than try to force-feed things that they might not be able to do, Rick, I think, is more accommodating,” Cuban said. “But I don’t think he really changes his system, per se, or changes what he does. I think he just recognizes the skill set of his players. Like, he went from calling plays to just playing ‘flow’ all the time [with Jason Kidd]. That’s his preference more than anything else, just let guys play basketball, and hopefully that’s what we’re going to be able to do a lot more of whereas last year we had to call plays every possession. This year I don’t think we’ll have to.”

Last season’s backcourt of Collison, who couldn’t hold down the starting job, and Mayo never clicked. Fisher ditched the team after a month and James was erratic. Cuban believes this team offers Carlisle more raw material with which to work.

He believes it will be collectively smarter and less turnover-pron with Calderon at the controls, Harris backing him up and the speedy Ellis being able to get to the hole with a frequency the Mavs just haven’t seen. All that, Cuban surmises, should play into the hands of a healthy and motivated Nowitzki.

“Each team is different, each team has different needs, each team develops differently and has to make different kinds of adjustments mid-stream,” Carlisle said. “All that stuff is one of the real intriguing things about coaching. It’s one of the reasons I love it. And one of the reasons I love working in this organization is we’ve got an owner with a fertile mind that likes the right kind of change.

“I’m down with that.”

Jennings Gets Paid, Fresh Start In Detroit



HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Brandon Jennings was running low on options. As a restricted free agent from the Milwaukee Bucks, he had strained for more than a year at the leash holding him to that club. Jennings previously talked fondly of bigger markets and then sent max-salary shots across the Bucks’ bow as his semi-freedom approached, a not-so-subtle way of discouraging them from flexing their matching rights.

Unfortunately for Jennings, when he hit the marketplace, the marketplace hit back. It was bad enough that others, including his self-absorbed backcourt mate Monta Ellis, found jobs and millions; it was worse when Jennings’ own team, the Bucks, tried to procure his replacement, Atlanta’s Jeff Teague, with a four-year, $32 million offer sheet it wasn’t willing to give Jennings. The Hawks matched but the message was clear – Jennings’ business with the Bucks had festered into something other than mere leverage.

So his options were few, barring a philosophical change by Milwuakee. Jennings could sign the one-year, $4.5 million qualifying offer with the Bucks and try again next July. In theory, that might have made sense: A motivated player, his team benefiting as he hoists his market value.

But anyone familiar with the Bucks’ situation and locker room knew that scenario would be rife with pitfalls. A sensitive lad, a little light on the maturity scale, Jennings could end up playing self-consciously and, thus, unnaturally. It wouldn’t guarantee that his game – high energy but shoot first, with too many shaky finishes at the rim and a laissez-faire defensive attitude – would budge a bit from the plateau on which it has settled. And an agitated Jennings wouldn’t help a locker room mood hoping for some addition-by-subtraction (Ellis, Samuel Dalembert).

How ‘bout spending 2013-14 in Europe? Jennings, after all, had taken that creative route around the one-and-done eligibility rule prior to the 2009 Draft in which Milwaukee picked him 10th overall. But no, NBA free-agency rules don’t work that way; Jennings still would be Bucks’ property.

So the multiple reports Tuesday afternoon that the Bucks and the Detroit Pistons were completing a sign-and-trade to ship Jennings to Motown made a lot of sense. According to’s Marc Stein and Chris Broussard, Detroit would send to Milwaukee guard Brandon Knight, forward Khris Middleton and center Viacheslav Kravtsov. Estimates of Jennings’ three-year deal ranged from $24 million to more than $25 million, putting him in the same financial neighborhood as Teague but for one year less.

In Jennings, the Pistons get a talented backcourt player who has averaged 17.0 points and 5.7 assists in four NBA seasons. He is a career 39.4 percent shooter, so he won’t bring the range to pull defenses away from big men Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Josh Smith. He’ll be teaming with veteran Chauncey Billups, back with Detroit after a summer signing.

Milwaukee already had added guard O.J. Mayo in free agency, traded to get back Luke Ridnour and introduced its latest addition, former San Antonio guard Gary Neal, to local media Tuesday. Knight, whose trial as Detroit’s point guard suggested to some he was better suited to shooting guard, still has potential to intrigue Bucks GM John Hammond – the No. 8 pick in the 2011 Draft won’t turn 22 until Dec. 2. And since when does a shoot-first point guard trouble the Bucks?

Ellis Quietly Waits For Next Team


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Waiting and watching the free-agent landscape unfold is high-volume shooter and scorer Monta Ellis.

J.R. Smith became the latest shooting guard to take himself off the market Thursday morning when he agreed to re-up with the New York Knicks for four years and $24.7 million.

Others who have reached similar agreements (contracts can’t be signed until Wednesday) include Kyle Korver with Atlanta (four years, $24 million) and J.J. Redick with the Los Angeles Clippers (four years, $27 million).

Those players are known quantities. Teams know what they’re getting and their salaries are slotted as such. O.J. Mayo apparently remains in discussions with the Milwaukee Bucks on a multiyear deal. He’s younger than the others and more of a mystery in terms of unlocking his potential.

One mystery man who will cash in on upside is Tyreke Evans. The New Orleans Pelicans made a surprising bid for the Sacramento Kings guard and Evans was prepared to sign a four-year, $44-million offer sheet. On Friday, the Pelicans, Kings and Portland Trail Blazers completed a three-way trade that gives the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft a fresh start with the feisty Pelicans.

That leaves Ellis as the most intriguing and most dangerous shooting guard still available. The eight-year vet hasn’t had much headline buzz during this first week of free agency. Ellis chose to become a free agent when he opted out of the final year of his deal that would have paid him $11 million. He signed a six-year, $66 million deal with the Golden State Warriors as a 22-year-old.

Any day now, perhaps soon after Dwight Howard finally makes his decision, we’ll find out the rate for a streaky scorer who averaged 19.2 ppg and 6.0 apg last season, but who connected on just 41.6 percent of his overall shot attempts and 28.7 percent from beyond the arc.

Only Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook attempted more shots than Ellis’ 1,436 field-goal attempts last season. Among the top 10 in total points (Ellis finished eighth), Ellis made more field goals than only rookie Damian Lillard, and Ellis and Westbrook (plus LaMarcus Aldridge) were the only ones not to make at least 100 3-pointers.

Still, Ellis (a career 31.8-percent 3-point shooter) can light it up on any given night and that type of scoring prowess is enticing. He is reportedly more interested in signing with a team with a fighting chance than one that will pay him the most money. Now 27, Ellis is smack in his prime and could be a valuable piece on a good team, but will he get paid prime-time money?

There is also another factor regarding Ellis: He’s largely untested as a prime-time player. He has just 15 playoff games under his belt in eight seasons. This year’s first-round sweep to the eventual repeat champion Heat didn’t go well. Ellis averaged 14.3 ppg and shot 15.8 percent from 3-point land. In 2007 when the Warriors upset the No. 1-seeded Dallas Mavericks, a young Ellis saw his 16.5 ppg in the regular season shrink to half that in the playoffs and he shot 11.1 percent from beyond the arc.

The teams that lose out on Howard will have money to spend and needs to fill such as the Mavericks, whose backcourt at the moment consists of draft pick Shane Larkin and a graying Vince Carter.

So where will Ellis land and how much will he get paid?

Free-Agent Roundup: July 2


From staff reports

The biggest news — other than CP3 staying in Clipperland — from free agency’s opening day wasn’t that big at all. Mostly, a smattering of smaller-name reported signings dotted the map, including Mike Dunleavy to the Bulls, C.J. Watson to the Pacers and Eric Maynor to the Wizards among the notables. There was also Tyreke Evans getting a $44 million offer from Pelicans. As we gear up for Day 2 of free agency, here are some overnight items that you may have missed …:

Bucks, Mavs interested in trade for Bledsoe?

Chris Paul‘s tweet yesterday not only assured Clipper fans that he’ll be in the fold for years to come, but re-opened the door to trading his understudy as well, it seems. According to’s Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne, the Clips are thinking of moving reserve point guard Eric Bledsoe to either the Bucks or Mavs in an effort to land 3-point specialist J.J. Redick or scoring swingman O.J. Mayo.

According to the report, new Clippers coach Doc Rivers wants to keep Bledsoe on the roster, but the Clippers are nonetheless engaged in “live” talks with the Bucks and Mavs regarding trades. The Magic and Raptors may also factor into a Bledsoe deal as the Clips have been in touch with those teams with talks that would land either Arron Afflalo (from Orlando) or high-flying swingman DeMar DeRozan (from Toronto).

The primary driving force behind any trade for Bledsoe is the summer of 2014, which is when he will become a free agent. The Clips are reportedly concerned they wouldn’t be able to match the kind of offer sheet Bledsoe would draw and, thus, lose him to the open market for nothing. As you can tell, this is a fairly complex story, but some details are below:

Sources told that the Clippers have this week exchanged sign-and-trade scenarios with both the Milwaukee Bucks and Dallas Mavericks in potential deals that would bring either J.J. Redick or fellow free agent O.J. Mayo to L.A.

The discussions with Dallas, sources said, center on Mayo, whom the Clippers are said to have contacted in the first few hours of NBA free agency Monday. Talks with the Bucks, meanwhile, center on Redick, with one source close to the process telling that a face-to-face meeting between Redick and the Clippers was imminent, perhaps as soon as Monday night.

The Clippers, in their previous discussions with Orlando and Toronto, have targeted Magic guard Arron Afflalo and Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan, although it’s not immediately clear what Toronto’s pending trade of Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks does to the Raptors’ ability to stay in the Bledsoe hunt. The Clippers had interest in Bargnani as a potential solution to their lack of floor-spacing shooters.

A trade with any of the known suitors would almost certainly have to include other pieces — such as Caron Butler‘s expiring contract — because Bledsoe is due to make only $2.63 million next season in the final year of his rookie contract.

If they can acquire another player or two Rivers likes, it’s believed he can be convinced to part with Bledsoe before the start of the season. The 23-year-old is eligible for a contract extension before the Halloween deadline for such deals for members of Bledsoe’s draft class.

Yet there’s clearly also a part of Rivers who wants to ignore the conventional wisdom that the Clippers can’t afford to keep Bledsoe as Paul’s backup and try to keep him around for one more season as the ultimate insurance policy for Paul.

The Clippers, with or without Bledsoe, are focused on adding perimeter shooters around Paul and Blake Griffin, sources say, as well as upgrading their perimeter defense.

Blazers interested in Rockets’ Asik?

The acquisition of Thomas Robinson from the Houston Rockets on Sunday could signal the Portland Trail Blazers interest in Rockets’ center Omer Asik, according to Chris Haynes at CSNNW.  

But what’s being overlooked in all this was the Trail Blazers’ willingness to facilitate the deal in order for Houston to free up the necessary cap space to pursue free agent center Dwight Howard.

According to league sources, several teams including the Trail Blazers, are closely monitoring the Omer Asik situation. Reports are out that the 7-0 center is available. If the Rockets get that verbal agreement they so desperately want from Dwight Howard, Asik will be moved.

One source who is tuned-in with how things could develop tells that the Trail Blazers are in the Rockets’ good graces, which could have an influence on where they choose to ship Asik when it’s time to do so.


Kirilenko Opt-Out Leaves Void For Wolves


Andrei Kirilenko
reportedly informed the Timberwolves of his decision to opt-out of next year’s contract while vacationing in the south of France.

This is not to be confused with South France Ave., a main north-south thoroughfare in the western Minneapolis suburbs where, the locals will tell you, the nation’s first fully enclosed, climate-controlled shopping mall (Southdale, 1956) is situated.

There is a reason for the fully enclosed and climate-controlled stuff, which dovetails nicely into the Kirilenko decision.

Having the veteran Russian forward say nyet to the $10.2 million he had guaranteed for 2013-14 technically frees up some salary-cap space for new Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders as the NBA free agent market opens at 11:01 p.m. Twin Cities time. It fuels visions of this-or-that flashy signing, whether it’s O.J. Mayo to address the team’s ongoing hole at shooting guard or some other targeted player.

But there’s a careful-what-you-wish-for aspect to this, too.

After all, this is Minnesota we’re talking about, hardly a magnet market for NBA free agents. Most visiting players who come to town quickly focus on the fully enclosed, climate-controlled skyway system that allows them, if they dare venture off the fully enclosed, climate-controlled team bus, to navigate a few blocks in any direction from their road hotel.

Many players drafted by or traded to Minnesota learn about the reasons behind all that enclosing and climate-controlling and opt to play their basketball elsewhere.

It’s a terrific place to live and raise a family – I lived there for 24 years – but for one reason or another (legacy of mediocrity, coaching changes, Kevin Garnett‘s storm-cloud scowl upon departure), it’s a tough sell to players who can select their destination. Most of the Wolves’ free agent “successes” have come from overpaying (for instance, giving Mike James four years instead of three and $25 million) or doing some other favor for the player. Like paying Brandon Roy to get hurt again.

The idea of having money freed up beyond the league’s mid-level salary exception is intriguing. For Saunders, it’s a chance to wheel-and-deal and perhaps make up a little for a muddied draft night.

But the odds are against the Wolves signing a player for 2013-14 who’ll be more productive than Kirilenko was for them in 2012-13.

A year removed from the NBA after spending 2011-12 in Russia, the former Utah Jazz forward put up numbers remarkably similar to his career stats: 14.0 points on 50.7 percent shooting, 6.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks pro-rated to 36 minutes per game. He ranked second on the team in minutes, was third in scoring average (12.4), blocked more shots than starting center Nikola Pekovic and had more steals than J.J. Barea or Luke Ridnour. The Wolves were 26-38 in the games Kirilenko played, 5-13 when he was out.

His abilities to cut and to see cutters were vital to coach Rick Adelman’s system, especially with teammates such as Kevin Love and Chase Budinger missing significant time. Kirilenko, who turned 32 in February, was a steady influence, too, on Russian rookie Alexey Shved and in general a grown-up voice in the locker room. Kirilenko and Shved, frankly, may have been former boss David Kahn’s two shrewdest moves.

It’s possible but not likely he would re-sign with the Wolves, based on Star Tribune beat writer Jerry Zgoda‘s update Saturday:

Kirilenko is seeking a three- or four-year extension because he believes this might be the last chance to negotiate the last big contract of his career.

You can bet Flip Saunders won’t offer anything more than two years, and at a salary considerably less than $10 million.

Still, the Wolves might wind up missing Kirilenko’s versatility and production at both ends of the floor. They could do a lot worse because, well, they have.

Defensive-Minded: Success For Grizzlies’ Allen’s A Mix Of Trust, Belief, Resiliency


OKLAHOMA CITY — Long before Tony Allen became a fixture on NBA All-Defensive Teams and back when the Oklahoma City Thunder still belonged to Seattle, some Oklahoma basketball fans cheered a hard-scrabble Chicago kid who serendipitously landed in rural Stillwater and has never stopped surviving.

Those Oklahoma faithful might now wish the most influential father figure in Allen’s life, a career college basketball assistant coach named Glynn Cyprien, had never left Oklahoma State to later wind up at the University of Memphis. Because the man who delivered the little-known junior-college guard with a knack for finding trouble to Eddie Sutton’s Oklahoma State Cowboys in 2003 also greased Allen’s free-agent signing seven years later, leaving the championship-caliber Boston Celtics for the then-middling Memphis Grizzlies.

“We never would have gotten him without Glynn,” said Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace, who also has longtime ties to Cyprien. “Tony helped put us over the top.”

Named to a third consecutive All-Defensive Team on Monday and a second consecutive First Team selection, Allen is tormenting overtaxed Oklahoma City superstar Kevin Durant and breaking the hearts of Thunder fans in this semifinal series the Grizzlies lead, 3-1.

Allen and the Grizzlies return tonight to Oklahoma City (9:30 ET, TNT), about an hour drive southwest of Stillwater, to try and close out the reigning-but-wounded Western Conference champs in Game 5.

Memphis had never won a playoff series before Allen signed in 2010. It hadn’t made the postseason since 2006. But this blue-collar bunch, epitomized by Allen’s tireless and genuine grit, is one win away from the team’s first conference final in its 18-year existence.

Allen’s story is all about timing, trust, belief and resiliency. Start with beating back life’s hard knocks — a father in prison, an adolescence set up to be knocked down like bowling pins — with an unbreakable spirit. He’s scraped away at a nine-year NBA career that’s finally in full bloom, having persevered through season after season of seemingly two steps forward, one step back. His is an evolutionary journey of constant self-improvement and forever proving his worth — through six seasons in Boston and, even initially in Memphis under coach Lionel Hollins — just to play.

In his second season at Oklahoma State, Allen carried the Cowboys to the 2004 Final Four as the Big 12 Player of the Year just two years after getting kicked out of his first of two junior-college stops. But that misfortune landed him at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill. That’s where Cyprien was dispatched by Sutton, not to recruit Allen, but to bring back a stud named Antwain Barbour, who would eventually sign with Kentucky and never play a minute in the NBA. It was Allen who kept catching Cyprien’s eye.

“Tony’s statistics weren’t great, but he had an overall good game, he played defense, he ran well and bottom line he was just real tough,” said Cyprien, now an assistant coach at Texas A&M. “When the game got late, he made tough plays.”

It’s his NBA calling card. And Durant and the Thunder are witnesses. Allen tilted the razor-thin margin in this series when Hollins finally called upon the 6-foot-4, self-proclaimed “junkyard dog” to sic the three-time scoring champ in the final three minutes of a nip-and-tuck Game 2. The call could have come in Game 1, when Durant scored 12 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter including the game-winner with 11 seconds to play. But Hollins was sticking to his original declaration that Allen would be no match for the impossibly long Durant.

Allen shrugged and suggested Hollins got desperate as the Grizz were in jeopardy of falling into a 2-0 hole against a team playing without its All-Star point guard, Russell Westbrook.

Yet maybe that’s just the way it’s supposed to be for Allen, nothing ever coming without outside doubt, nothing ever certain, always having to prove himself over again. Even to his coach of three seasons, unless, as Allen was asked after the Game 2 win when he held Durant scoreless in those decisive final minutes, maybe Hollins was trying to inspire him.

“I don’t play mind games. I just go out there and do my job,” Allen said. “My confidence is always sky-high. If you try to limit me, then you limit me. But I will continue to show you that I work and I continue to get better each and every day. Whatever your limitations are on me, I am always ready to prove you wrong.” (more…)