MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some of the new owners of this franchise now treading on historic playoff ground leaned up against the wall outside the Memphis Grizzlies’ locker room. Hair was frazzled, faces were flush and breaths were still coming heavy as if they had just outrun the Boogie Man.
In some respects they had.
Monday’s 103-97 overtime victory over the shorthanded and succumbing Oklahoma City Thunder turned scary from the jump. Kevin Durant set the early tone, animated, vocal and doing his thing. Serge Ibaka suddenly rediscovered his shooting touch, Kevin Martin was hitting and young Reggie Jackson was doing his best Russell Westbrook impression.
The visitors had the bounce and the confidence early. The Grindhouse crowd grew restless, boos came down when Durant buried a 3-pointer, his third without a miss, to put OKC ahead 46-29 with 4:26 until halftime. They’d since seen this horror flick before. Game 4 against these Thunder two years ago was a hot topic at practice the day before. OKC was then the team that trailed by 17 and came back all the way back to win it in triple-overtime to tie the series and eventually win it in Game 7.
Games 1 and 7 at home last season against the Clippers. Series over. Season wiped out.
To not take this Game 4 by the throat, to walk off the floor with tails tucked between their legs in front of a sellout crowd, to drag a 2-2 tie instead of riding a 3-1 lead back to Bricktown would have been a travesty.
“Our whole mindset was get it to 10 by halftime and we got it to eight,” Tony Allen said. “Coach [Lionel Hollins] came in the locker room. He’s good with those speeches. We wanted to respond.”
These Grizzlies, more mature, more clutch than any incarnation before, refused to let it happen. TayshaunPrince and Allen clamped down on Durant, who missed 17 of his 27 shots, missed all four in overtime and missed his third clutch free throw in the last two games. Mike Conley scored 24 points and for a time matched Durant 3-pointer for 3-pointer. He played 48 minutes, 40 seconds — 21 ticks more than Durant and turned the ball over exactly once.
Then it was big Marc Gasol, with 23 points and 11 boards, swishing the game-winning jumper from the foul line. Then it was Allen, the original grit-and-grinder who was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team earlier Monday, making the game-sealing steal. It was his 10th of the series, this one on Derek Fisher‘s crossed-up inbounds pass. (more…)
OKLAHOMA CITY –Russell Westbrook typically ranks talking with reporters right up there with, oh say, having knee surgery. But on Thursday morning, in his first appearance since undergoing season-ending knee surgery 12 days ago to repair a meniscus tear, Westbrook was disarmingly charming, open, honest and remarkably upbeat for a player who had never missed a game and now must sit out what was to be a charge back to The Finals.
The All-Star point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder might be out, but he said his teammates can still get there.
“They’re tough, man,” Westbrook said. “The group of guys we have, I think we have enough to get a ring. Honest opinion.”
Westbrook will remain on crutches for up to a month and he won’t be able to travel with the team to Memphis as the semifinal series tied at 1-1 shifts to Memphis for Games 3 and 4 starting on Saturday (5 p.m. ET, ESPN).
He has begun daily limited rehab. He wears a brace that runs nearly the entire length of his right leg. It keeps him off the bench during games, but Westbrook has remained a constant presence around the team. He’s still attending practices, watching film and spending time in the locker room before games and during halftime.
He’s more a fan when seated high above the court in a suite, and then a coach when he heads to the locker room talk to second-year guard Reggie Jackson, his replacement, or to Kevin Durant, his superstar teammate now charged with so much responsibility.
“It hurts me not to be able to go out there and help my team,” Westbrook said. “Even though I’m out, I still have a voice and I can still help my team, still find a way where I can communicate things to guys. Maybe they don’t listen, maybe they do, but I still can use my voice and try to find a way to help my team.
“As a point guard and a leader of this team, my job is to find a way where I can help my teammates, coaching staff and the organization. They’ve been a big supporter of me and my job is to give it back, help them as much as I can with my input.”
Westbrook said the most surreal moment of the past two weeks was awakening from surgery, the first of his career, laying in a hospital bed with his mom by his side, disoriented, his knee immobile. The event that put him in that position occurred just before halftime of Game 2 in the first round series against Houston. (more…)
HOUSTON -- As the Rockets try to continue their march toward history Friday night, the troops will be bolstered by the return of Jeremy Lin. The point guard, who suffered a bruised chest and hasn’t played since Game 3, will come off the bench for Game 6 against the Thunder at the Toyota Center.
Lin has been attempting to get back onto the court for days, but had been unable to get rid of the pain.
“Once game-time comes around, I probably won’t feel anything,” said Lin after Friday’s shootaround. “It’s been the longest week, a really, really long week. Just the fact I get to play is a huge, huge burden off of my shoulders.”
Rockets coach Kevin McHale says that rookie Patrick Beverley will continue to start and Lin will come off the bench.
“Playoff series end up having kind of a life of their own and a rhythm,” McHale said. “To be thrown in the middle of that rhythm a lot of times, it’s hard to catch the rhythm. Our guys have a little bit of rhythm in this series, as Oklahoma City has a rhythm in the series. To be thrown out there – that’s why we have to be a little bit careful.
“We’ll bring him off the bench and see how much juice he has in the tank. It’s hard to enter a series when you haven’t played in a while, but we’re going to try to keep what we have going. Jeremy, we’ll try to fit him in there, see how he is and see how his arm feels. If he gets hit or anything happens.”
Lin has shot just 5-for-20 with 14 points and eight assists in the series.
Rockets shooting guard James Harden has been diagnosed with strep throat, but will be in the starting lineup.
HOUSTON – This is why Chandler Parsons plays basketball. It’s really why they all play the game.
To have fun.
And there are few things more fun on the court than playing without pressure, without a care, without fear of missing a shot or making a play and with a sense that it’s just your time.
“We’re fully confident that we’re gonna win tomorrow and that we’re gonna take the series,” Parsons said matter-of-factly on Thursday as he stood outside the locker room at the Toyota Center, his eyes dancing, almost bright enough to light the entire hallway.
It wasn’t a boast. It wasn’t intended to demean anyone in an Oklahoma City uniform.
It’s just the feeling that occurs when it seems that everything has suddenly turned your way. Maybe based on the last two games, it has.
History books and the oddsmakers will still tell you that Kevin Durant and the Thunder are the logical favorites to advance.
But sometimes logic doesn’t have any place in these crazy games.
It was a different team, a different time, a different Kevin McHale.
The Celtics had made one slice into what seemed like the 76ers’ insurmountable lead in the 1981 Eastern Conference finals and were going into Game 6 with a chance to tie the series.
“They better win this one, because they know damn well they’re not going to win Game 7,” said the brash 23-year-old rookie power forward.
Boston won Game 6 by two points and then finished off Philly in Game 7 by one.
So now it is 32 years later, coincidentally the uniform number that he wore on his jersey through a Hall of Fame career, and the coach McHale is approaching another Game 6 crossroad with his Rockets against the Thunder Friday night.
But in a different role.
“I was playing and had a lot more confidence back then,” McHale said. “Hey, if it was 1981 and I was still playing this series, I would say the same thing.”
Because you can’t win if you don’t believe and after the Rockets stuck a sock in the mouth of Loud City in Game 5, there is no shortage of faith.
It’s the dynamic of how a series can sometimes work. You can feel the shift, the surge of energy on one side, the planting of doubt on the other.
There were the No. 1 seed Thunder so helpless, so unable to do anything to slow down the No. 8 seed Rockets on Wednesday night that coach Scott Brooks reached into his first aid kit to find a tourniquet and the best he could do was to hack Rockets center Omer Asik and try to stop the flow.
But as happens sometimes on these occasions, the flow was like a wave that might be growing into a tsunami. Asik, a 56 percent free throw shooter, stepped up to the line to stick 8-for-11 free throws in the final six minutes and now here is OKC perhaps feeling the air getting a little thinner and the collars a bit tighter.
The last thing in the world the Thunder need is an all-or-nothing Game 7 on Sunday and all the Rockets want is a chance to walk about onto that court in OKC.
Francisco Garcia, Patrick Beverley and Parsons took turns grinning and talking about having fun. That’s not likely a word that’s been tossed around in OKC much over the past few days.
“We’re growing up every game,” Parsons said. “Every day we’re going through this process together and it can only get better from here.
“We got something really special going on right now and I think the world is starting to see it, because we didn’t get as much attention as we think we deserved during the regular season. But now the lights are on and we’re playing well and we’re really shocking people.”
The Rockets aren’t jolting anybody more than the Thunder, who figured to have a much tougher road to the NBA Finals without Russell Westbrook, but not a slog just to escape the first round of the playoffs.
Now suddenly the heavily favored Thunder are walking around as if there’s a boulder on the their backs, while the Rockets are skipping around the schoolyard.
They are a reflecting of their head coach, a personality and ethic forged on the Iron Range of Minnesota, where you work hard and never take anything too seriously. That’s why a skinny kid from Hibbing could lay down the gantlet to Dr. J, Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney and the mighty Sixers back in 1981. That’s why a 55-year-old coach can keep pushing and molding and instilling a sense of anything’s possible even in a season when he’s suffered the unspeakable anguish of losing a daughter.
“He’s been awesome,” Parsons said. “He’ll tell you all about his experiences when he was playing. Having a coach that’s been through it, that’s been in the same situation we’re in right now really helps us and gives us that comforting feeling that he knows what he’s talking about.
“I know it’s a serious time and we’re all focused, but he makes you feel comfortable and it’s fun to be around a guy like that instead of being uptight and yelling. He does that, too, but he’s such a nice dude.”
Thirty-two years later, McHale limps around the sidelines like an arthritic crab and is a bit more circumspect with his words.
“I could talk that way,” he said laughing, “when I was young and bouncy.”
That’s a big bounce in Chandler Parsons’ step, which is why the game has never been more fun for the Rockets and why the Thunder should be worried.
HANG TIME, Texas — Patrick Beverley knows a thing or two about rough crowds.
There were those throaty and angry Euro League road games earlier this season when he played in St. Petersburg, Russia. There the seasons in Ukraine and Greece when he was pelted with coins and played with a bloodied face.
And, of course, there were those mornings on the mean streets of his native Chicago when just getting to school was a challenge.
So even though he’ll be regarded as public enemy No. 1 for taking OKC’s Russell Westbrook out of the playoffs when he hits the floor for Game 5 against the Thunder tonight, Beverley says he’ll barely notice.
The rookie point guard has been the target of vitriol on Twitter and on call-in radio shows ever since his attempted steal and collision with Westbrook in the second quarter of Game 2 resulted in a torn medial collateral ligament and a seat on the sidelines for the rest of the playoffs.
Police even investigated a part-time worker for the Thunder who had tweeted a death threat.
“You know what, that type of pressure really doesn’t get me,” said Beverley. “With the type of pressure I used to growing up as a kid, walking to the corner store without having something happen to me, I could really care less about Twitter or anything like that. It was just hard trying to go to school some mornings growing up.”
Beverley has been a hit with Rockets fans since he joined the team in January and steadily began to get more and more playing time. With Jeremy Lin sidelined by a bruised chest muscle, he started Games 3 and 4 and could be back in the starting lineup tonight, depending on Lin’s status.
In an arena known as Loud City, the hoots and criticism could hit unprecedented decibel levels.
“It’s going to be fun,” Beverley said. “I’m looking forward to all the boos and stuff. I understand the crowd is going to be amped up and I hope that is going to get us more focused.
“Every time you catch the ball, you’re going to hear boos, so at least I get to release some of the pressure off (former Thunder member James Harden).”
The 6-foot-1 guard is averaging 12 points and four assists in the series, including 16 points and a key late blocked shot in the Rockets 105-103 win on Monday night. He laughs and shakes his head when reminiscing about the road game atmospheres in Europe, where the fans in Greece were especially hostile.
“I’ve been hit in the face with quarters and played with blood running down my face,” Beverley said. “It’s worse over there, but I’ve got a feeling it’s gonna be pretty bad (in OKC) too.”
. HOUSTON – Somewhere down the line, they might look back at it like a pencil mark drawn on the garage wall.
Perhaps one day they’ll pull it out of the back of the closet and shake their heads and smile at the memory of a favorite old pair of pants that no longer covers their ankles.
If the grand and glorious night in the future eventually comes when the confetti is falling, the triumphant music is blaring and commissioner Adam Silver is presenting the gold championship trophy up on the podium to their free agent acquisition Dwight Howard, they’ll know this is where it began.
The Rockets shot up like weeds through cracks in the sidewalk, tripping the Thunder 105-103, also bringing down the nagging notion that they didn’t have the right stuff to finish.
It’s said that you have to crawl before you learn to walk and the Rockets had the scabs on their knees to prove it, having fallen into an 0-3 hole largely because they tumbled over the cliff late in each of the previous two games.
But this was a night when OKC’s splendid splinter Kevin Durant couldn’t get another four-bounce prayer to be answered because Patrick Beverley stepped in to take a charge in the clutch, because the hair shirt that was Francisco Garcia itched and wouldn’t let K.D. get off a winning 3-pointer and because Omer Asik stepped out to cut off a desperate, driving Reggie Jackson the paint.
It was not a win that will likely change the outcome of a series in which the Thunder are simply the better team. However, it was the kind of victory that blazes a trail and lays a foundation for where the Rockets franchise wants to go.
“Everyone else might say it’s just one game for us,” said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. “But for us, it was our first playoff win with this group and you can’t get two playoff wins until you get the one. You can’t feel what we need to feel up in Oklahoma City with a team that says, ‘We don’t want to come back here for Game 6.”
There are still plenty of pieces missing from the puzzle until anyone thinks of the Rockets as championship contenders and trying to land Godzilla in the form of Howard over the summer remains the top priority.
Yet you can watch Chandler Parsons, the second-round draft choice who should embarrass every other scouting department with cable TV and a DVD player, blossom into a player that can do three things — shoot, drive and simply play like hell — and see growth.
You can see Asik, stuck on the bench for years in Chicago, make the most of an opportunity by defending the rim and pulling down rebounds simply because a team showed belief in him.
You can see little Beverley finishing off a basketball season that began in St. Petersburg, Russia by treating every possession on offense and defense as if he were still the last line of defense in the Cold War.
The entire NBA has seen James Harden explode like a Fourth of July firecracker since October, when he hit the ground running in Houston by trade from OKC four days before the start of the season and became a first-time All-Star and a player who could carry the load and carry a team. Here was a night when Harden was simply horrid, shooting just 4-for-12 from the field, scoring just 15 points and setting a franchise playoff record with a discombobulated 10 turnovers.
Yet where the Rockets of a few months ago might never have been in the game in the fourth quarter against the Thunder with Harden struggling and might simply have crumbled without him making every big basket, every big play down the stretch, there were others all around filling in the gaps.
Harden knows that it’s a process that takes nurturing and patience. Barely a month into his rookie season in OKC, the Thunder were 1-12 and coach P.J. Carlesimo was replaced by Scott Brooks. They finished 23-59 that season.
A year later, the Thunder were 50-32 and got their first playoff taste of success, winning a pair of home games in a first-round series against the Lakers. The following season they reached the Western Conference finals and last year the NBA Finals.
There are never guarantees, but it usually is a process for a young team to learn how to compete, how to survive and how to thrive in the playoffs and it starts with something that might seem as insignificant as that very first win.
“It means a lot,” Harden said. “I think the previous two games, we let both of those slip away, having the lead late in the fourth quarter and just giving it away. So just to get the first one under our belt, now we have confidence going back to Oklahoma City and anything can happen.”
Someday, somewhere, somehow, if the plan keeps on coming together for these Rockets.
They’ll look at the pencil mark on the wall. They’ll smile at the pants that no longer fit. They’ll be able to remember exactly the night that it happened.
It was hustle. It was aggressive. It was the way virtually every coach who ever carried a clipboard wants his to players to play — until he hears the whistle.
Was Westbrook trying to call a timeout? Probably. But he hadn’t and no referee had signaled for play to stop.
Were the chances of Beverley making the steal slim? Probably. But the best players don’t always need the odds in their favor. They force the action.
It is understandable that fans in Oklahoma City have been devastated by the news that one of their two All-Star players could be lost for the rest of the season following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
It is not understandable, reasonable or even civilized for fans to direct threats toward Beverley on Twitter.
For those over-reactors in the 24-hour media maw, have you watched the video replays? Westbrook dribbled across mid-court and was perhaps a bit too cavalier in thinking he was going to get a timeout and Beverley did what he always does — he played.
The two players bumped knees and when that happens, often someone gets hurt. In this case, it was Westbrook who turned and slammed down his fist onto the scorer’s table.
Take note: Not only was there no foul called on the play, but Kevin Durant, who was standing right there, did not even give Beverley the slightest derisive look. And not a single player or coach on the Thunder bench reacted as if a breach of etiquette had occurred. By the way, Westbrook played all 24 minutes of the second half, scoring 16 of his 29 points.
Injuries happen and they have derailed more than a few teams and careers. This season alone injuries have kept the likes of Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose and Danny Granger, among others, on the sidelines in the postseason. Dikembe Mutombo’s long and glorious career came to an end when he collided with Portland’s Greg Oden in a playoff game in 2009. The 1989 Lakers were a flawless 11-0 in the playoffs and maybe motoring toward a “three-peat” when hamstring injuries claimed Magic Johnson and Byron Scott on the eve of The Finals and they were swept out by the Pistons.
These are the playoffs and these are the big leagues. Through the years I have seen Spurs coach Gregg Popovich stand up as if he were going to call a timeout. Then the defenders relax and Tony Parker scoots all the way in to the basket for an uncontested layup. It occurred most famously at the Staples Center in a playoff game against Shaq, Kobe and the Lakers.
Two years ago, while playing for the Blazers, Andre Miller dribbled across the half-court line, head-faked toward the referee and when the Hornets defense stopped in its tracks, turned the corner and scored a cheap bucket.
It’s a bad time for Westbrook, who had played 439 in a row and never missed a game in his career. It’s bad luck for the Thunder, who will now have to lean on Durant more than ever and have others step up to fill the void. It’s a bad break for everybody who wants to see the best go head-to-head at this time of the year. It was not bad basketball.
Those who suggest that the Rockets be fined, suspended or somehow punished should perhaps turn to croquet, tea parties or other gentler pastimes.
Beverley was playing frantic, frenzied, feverish, furious. Sassy and smart too.
Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbook has a torn meniscus in his right knee and will undergo surgery to correct it in the upcoming days. His return for the playoffs is possible, but uncertain.
From Turner Sports’ Rachel Nichols
GM Sam Presti: "Player health is our 1st & foremost concern. Our medical team & several specialists determined Russell undergo a procedure"— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) April 26, 2013
And more from Presti’s release:
“We have thoroughly discussed this with Russell. Despite being the competitor and teammate that he is, he respects and understands the decision and is committed to come back even stronger. Certainly Russell is a leader and core player for this team, but we are in the midst of the playoffs and I know other players are determined to step up and contribute. We have a resilient group of players who have always taken pride in playing as a team and that approach will continue.”
The Thunder next play on Saturday in Game 3 of their first-round series against the Houston Rockets, a series that Oklahoma City leads 2-0. It figures to be the first missed game of Westbrook’s five-year NBA career. He has played in all 394 regular-season games since he was drafted fourth overall by the Seattle SuperSonics in the 2008 NBA Draft and all 45 playoff games. He has been a starter for all but his first 17 games.
Russell Westbrook had played in 439 straight games for OKC (incl playoffs) – was longest active streak in NBA.— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) April 26, 2013
The Thunder did not set a timetable for Westbrook’s return. Los Angeles Lakers star Metta World Peace had a meniscus tear in his knee and was back on the court in less than two weeks. But others have taken much longer.
Westbrook’s injury also tightens the race for the Western Conference title. Reggie Jackson, who averaged a little over 14 minutes a game during the regular season, is expected to start in his place.
HOUSTON — Danny Green was sailing in on the right side for what would been a layup that stretched the Spurs run out to 12-0 and their lead up to six points with just under 1 1/2 minutes to play.
It’s not the first time nobody saw Patrick Beverley coming.
The Lakers had made him a second-round pick in 2009 and flipped him to Miami on draft night. He had previously spent a season in the Ukraine and when the pre-LeBron James Heat were doing everything they could to free up cap room, they packed his bags and extended his European vacation in Greece.
When the Rockets finally bought out Beverley’s contract from Spartak in St. Petersburg, Russia, and brought him home on Jan. 7, his first stop stateside was the NBA D-League Showcase in Reno, Nev.
“All I want to do is get a chance to show people that I can play,” Beverley said then. “Just give me a chance.”
It was the kind of move that drew little notice around the league, a young team adding another set of young legs.
A split second after the ball left Green’s hand on Sunday night, those young legs launched Beverley skyward. James Harden felt something zooming over his head like a meteor.
“You don’t usually see little guys making a play like that,” Harden said.
The little guy’s rejection of Green was big, big, big and it became huge when Chandler Parsons nailed a 3 at the other end, Harden bagged a pull-up jumper in the final seconds and the Rockets held on for a 96-95 win.
Sometimes these so-called playoff preview games can be more than a bit overblown. But having lost three times already to the Spurs this season and giving up an average of 123 points a game, it was a statement the Rockets needed to make, if only to themselves, as the possibility of a first-round Texas Two-Step series hovers.
Harden has long since proven himself as a frontline All-Star performer this season and Jeremy Lin’s game has steadily rounded into shape. And if there’s any surprise left in the Rockets’ backcourt, the 6-foot-1 Beverley has been doing all that he can to dispel it over the past two-plus months. He’s averaging five points and just under 16 minutes per game, but it’s when those minutes often come that are of note.
Rockets coach Kevin McHale put Beverley back in for Lin to play the point with 3:50 left, the score tied at 89 and going head-to-head against All-Star Tony Parker.
“I’m prepared at all times,” Beverley said. “Throughout this whole season I’ve been put in this situation a lot more than once. Orlando game, Wizards game. I just try to go out there and do what I do. Get some stops and make some open shots.”
Beverley made shots, open and otherwise, shooting 4-for-4 for 11 points in the first half and then played a critical role with his defense down the stretch.
“Patrick had a good game going,” McHale said. “Parker was driving hard and getting fouled, so we went with Patrick out there to get a little more defense and then Chandler switched off. I thought one of the biggest plays of the game was Patrick running down that block. That was a phenomenal block.”
After Harden’s jumper put the Rockets in front and the Spurs had their last chance, it was Beverley who prevented Tim Duncan from making a handoff return pass to Manu Ginobili to get the shot San Antonio wanted.
So here is the 2012 Eurocup MVP, who began another season playing on the far side of the world suddenly smack in the middle of a playoff race.
“I was on my way home from (shootaround) today and I called my mom and told her I still can’t believe I’m in the NBA,” Beverley said. “I guess it hasn’t really sunk in yet. I’m enjoying it…I can finally show the world I can play basketball.”
RENO, Nev. — The biggest change for Patrick Beverley in his first NBA D-League game was being able to understand all that was said by of his teammates.
For better part of the past four years, he’s been a global traveler: playing in the Ukraine, Greece and Russia until signing a contract this week with the Rockets.
“I enjoyed it all,” Beverley said after playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the D-League Showcase. “It was a great experience to play in different countries, to experience different cultures and to make some great friends along the way. But after a while, it was just time to come home.
“My goal was always the NBA and what I was waiting for was the right situation and the right team to show the interest and give me the opportunity.”
The Rockets have been keeping tabs on the 6-foot-1 point guard, who most recently had played for Spartak St. Petersburg in Russia, averaging 15 points.
A second round pick of the Lakers in 2009, Beverley played six games with the Heat in the 2010-11 season. The Rockets had tried to sign him several times in the past couple of seasons, but could not come to terms. This time Beverley was willing to pay a big part of the buyout from his European contract to make the jump to Houston. His three-year contract has the second and third years as team options.
“His defense has always been strong. He’s got speed and athleticism and can just create havoc going to the basket,” said Gersson Rosas, Rockets vice president of basketball operation and general manager of the Vipers. “He’s somebody that we think might be able to help us going forward.”
At this point, the Rockets see the 24-year-old Beverly as insurance this season for a backcourt that has been relatively injury free and like his potential more than Scott Machado, who was waived from the roster.
“I wouldn’t have a problem using him in situational minutes right now,” Rosas said.
Beverley had no problem with being asked to make the transition to the NBA with an assignment to the D-League.
“With all the different places I’ve played and traveled to, this is just another road trip along my path,” he said. “After one game, I can’t really say that Europe or the D-League is better. There are some real good players in both places. In Russia, I played with Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved. There are some real players in the D-League, too. The difference is the tempo is faster here. But the game is still the game. I just think it’s time for me now.”