Posts Tagged ‘Peja Stojakovic’

CP3 puts injuries, fatigue behind and lights up the Thunder

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Paul’s career night helps Clippers torch Thunder in opener

OKLAHOMA CITY – Before Chris Paul scorched Oklahoma City for 32 points with a hand so hot from downtown it would make Steph Curry melt, an Oklahoma City Thunder player suggested anybody stepping onto the floor should just keep their pains, sprains and strains to themselves.

It was a little shot at the Clippers’ All-everything point guard. Plenty of Los Angeles hand-wringing has gone on lately with Paul nursing a strained right hamstring that needs rest and a sprained left thumb that is best off avoiding contact. And maybe the worry was for good reason: Paul’s scoring drooped against Golden State, his shooting percentage sagged to 40 and even his assists had slipped. Coach Doc Rivers contorted his face into a puddle of concern when asked about Paul’s speed.

Then came Paul’s takeover of  Game 7 of that uniquely emotional first-round series. He punished the Warriors for 22 points, 14 assists and four steals in 42 minutes, advancing the Clippers into the conference semifinals against speed-demon counterpart Russell Westbrook and the soon-to-be-named MVP Kevin Durant.

Man, just got done with Steph and then go right on to Russell, right?” Paul said following Saturday’s Game 7 win. “Y’all say a special prayer for me tonight.”

Do you believe in miracle healing?

“You could see it, like [Sunday] he wasn’t moving well,” Rivers said. “Today at shootaround, you just felt like he was moving better.

No one could have predicted what would happen Monday night: 32 points that stacked up with eight rapid-fire, rub-your-eyes 3-pointers raining from every angle on the floor. Paul hit all five of his attempts in the first quarter. That tied his career high. His sixth came after teasing Derek Fisher at the left arc, tip-toeing, spinning and firing. No. 7 was an impossible heave from the corner as 270-pound Thunder center Kendrick Perkins body bumped him to the floor without a call. No. 8 in a row came on a step-back against Caron Butler, caught in no man’s land trying to protect against Paul slicing-and-dicing him to the paint.

Finally, at the 5:19 mark of the third quarter, Paul missed his lone attempt from deep. But, seriously, 8-for-9?

“That’s what I do, that’s what I do,” Paul said grinning. “That is a lie. … This one definitely goes down in the history books for me. Don’t count on it for Game 2.”

The barrage ended Game 1 of this Western Conference semifinal almost before it began. The Thunder jumped out to a 16-10 lead and then, wham-o, it was gone and the running Clippers, with hometown kid Blake Griffin sensing Paul’s sizzle and working to free him with screens on possession after possession, were off. It was 39-25 after one quarter and 69-52 at the half.

Paul exited with 38.1 seconds left in the third quarter and sat out the rest of the 122-105 victory.

The Thunder, coming off their own grueling, seven-game series against Memphis, simply stated the obvious after being blow away by CP3.

“He hit eight 3s,” said the Thunder’s Westbrook, who led OKC with 29 points on 9-for-14 shooting. “You can’t do too much but contest. He hit some tough shots. We’ll live with that.”

Rivers compared Paul’s level of aggressiveness, which included 12-for-14 shooting overall, 10 assists and a pair of turnovers in 28 minutes, to only one other night this season, when he attacked Dallas for 31 points and nine assists the night after going an unthinkable 0-for-12 at New Orleans.

“Other than that, not this aggressive,” Rivers said. “We needed it though. We needed a tone-setter because turning around that quickly [from the Warriors series], I think he felt that he needed to set the tone.”

Nagging health issues have come into question in each of his two postseasons with the Clippers. In his ninth season overall, the seven-time All-Star has never made it beyond the second round, and this one is only Paul’s third appearance in the semifinals. He got there in his first season with L.A., but a groin issue and Griffin’s knee injury from the first round paved the way for a Spurs sweep.

In 2008 with the New Orleans Hornets, Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic lost Game 7 at home to the Spurs.

Paul, who turns 29 on Tuesday, is arguably the game’s best player never to make it to a conference final. He’s widely considered the league’s most dangerous point guard, but he knows whatever accolades he accumulates, the postseason is where a player’s legacy is ultimately written.

It’s a weight he bears.

“I’ve never been past the second round,” Paul said. “Every year you feel like you’re on that team. I remember that team I was on in ’08, we lost Game 7 to the Spurs and you just feel like you’re always going to be back there and that’s not the case. This team here I think is a special team. Not only do we have a good team, it’s fun to be around each other.”

They stuck together through one of the most emotionally taxing weeks any of them will ever have during the Donald Sterling disaster. They persevered against the Warriors and now have a fast lead on the Thunder and their two 25-year-old stars who have already played in two West finals and one NBA finals.

Maybe this is his time. Paul has a co-star, a deep and talented team around him and coach who seems to have the pulse of his players.

Paul’s pains, sprains and strains might be out in the public forum. And maybe he plays them up at times for dramatic effect. The drama he delivered Monday night was real, and so too are his Clippers.


VIDEO: Chris Paul hits a career-high eight 3-pointers to lift Clippers

Past, Present Staring Down Kings

HANG TIME TEXAS, Y’ALL – These are busy, frantic times in the King-dom of Sacramento.

For a minute or two, try to forget all of the problems in trying to get a new arena and the rumors that the franchise is still headed to Anaheim. For now, there are other immediate concerns:

First off, how to replace forward/center Chuck Hayes, whose free agent contract was voided when a physical exam revealed a heart abnormality?

Matt Kawahara and Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee had the news:

A projected starter who signed a four-year, $21.3 million free-agent contract Dec. 9, Hayes was expected to play a key role in the Kings’ offense and serve as a physical, vocal presence on defense.

“We’re not going to be able to replace him,” Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie told The Bee on Monday afternoon. “He was one of the best defensive frontcourt players in the league and a really unique player we thought would facilitate some offense.

“We’ll take a look at what we can do, but it’s not going to be the same.”In a statement released Monday, Petrie said notifying Hayes of the failed physical was “one of the most heartbreaking moments of my professional or personal life.”

Hayes has undergone further testing on his heart, but specifics about his condition have not been released. Messages left for Hayes’ agent Monday were not returned.

Monday evening, Hayes posted to his Twitter account, “Thank you everyone for your prayers and support, taking the next step to get healthy and back on the court, much love.”

Perhaps fortunate for the Kings front office is the fact that one of their own, who played in Sacramento last season, is still out there on the free agent leftover pile.

As the Kings look for ways to replace Hayes, among the available free-agent big men is Samuel Dalembert, who played last season in Sacramento.Asked about the possibility of bringing back Dalembert, Petrie said: “We’ve stayed in touch with him periodically along the way. We’ll see what develops here in the next few days and go from there.”

While scrambling to fill cracks in the immediate future, the Kings would be wise to take time out to honor their past in the aftermath of Peja Stojakovic’s calling it a career by hanging his retired jersey from the rafters.

As Victor Contreras of the Bee points out, those 7 1/2 seasons that Peja spent in Sacramento were special and usually spent performing at a very high level.

He goes out as one of Sacramento’s all-time favorite Kings, a player whose No. 16 should hang from the Power Balance Pavilion rafters soon alongside the jerseys of former teammates Chris Webber (No. 4) and Vlade Divac (No. 21).

Stojakovic was the stubbly, baby-faced assassin on the Kings’ original Fab Five. Webber was the muscle inside, Jason Williams thrilled crowds with no-look passes, Divac played point-center, and Doug Christie supplied the defense.

But it was Stojakovic who killed teams from beyond the arc. He was in constant motion, flowing along the baseline like a shark, scoring on back-door feeds and hitting threes from the corner.

Worth remembering also? Peja’s fourth place finish in the 2003-04 MVP voting (24.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 48% 3-point shooting) was just as high as Webber ever finished in his best season of 2000-01 (27.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 4.2).

McDyess, Stojakovic Hang ‘Em Up

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – Monday brought the end to two great NBA careers.

Antonio McDyess and Peja Stojakovic are both hanging up their sneakers, and both are going out knowing they’ve still got a little bit of game left.

Stojakovic went out on top, winning a title with the Mavericks last season. He played his part too, hitting 29 threes in the playoffs. That included a ridiculous 6-for-6 performance from downtown in Game 4 against the Lakers. Before retiring, Stojakovic ranked 27th among active players with 13,647 career points and fourth all-time (behind only Ray Allen, Reggie Miller and Jason Kidd) with 1,760 3-pointers.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein has the story

The three-time All-Star told ESPN.com on Monday that the physical toll involved in playing after a string of back and neck troubles, at age 34, convinced him that “it’s time” to step away from the game despite interest from a handful of contenders in signing the sharpshooter away from the Mavericks.

“When you start competing against your body more than you’re preparing for the actual game,” Stojakovic said, “it’s a wakeup call.”

Stojakovic does have the privilege of leaving the sport after nearly 20 years as a pro on an unquestioned high, thanks to some standout moments during the maiden title run in Mavericks history.

McDyess ranked 35th among active players with 12,227 career points in 15 seasons. He never got his ring though. McDyess joined the Pistons right after they won the championship in 2004 and joined the Spurs two years after their last title.

McDyess was under contract with San Antonio for this season, but his deal was partially guaranteed. The Spurs had hoped to bring him back, but they couldn’t convince him to play another year. So they waived him on Monday.

Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News gives us the details

The teams acknowledged that McDyess won’t be back, and the club will get to remove $2.6 million, the non=guaranteed portion of his contract, off its player payroll for the 2011-12 season.

McDyess, a former All-Star and an Olympic gold medal winner i n 2000, started all six playoff games last season. After the Game 6 loss in Memphis that ended the playoff run of the No. 1 seeded team in the Western Conference he made it clear to the Express-News that he intended to retire after 16 seasons.

Blogtable: One Memorable Moment

We’ve asked our stable of scribes to take one last look back at the 2011 NBA playoffs.

In 10 years, the one get-out-of-my-seat-and-scream-“Wow!” moment from the 2011 playoffs that I’ll remember:

Steve Aschburner: Derrick Rose put all his 2011 MVP wonderfulness on display in Game 3 of the Bulls’ Eastern Conference semifinals series against Atlanta. Rose scored a career-high 44 points, hit four of his seven 3-pointers on a night of 16-of-27 shooting and played at a higher sped than anyone else on the floor. No other Bulls starter scored more than seven points, all five Hawks starters reached double figures – and it didn’t matter with Rose seeking-and-attacking. “The first timeout I called, 49 seconds into the game, I saw an energy level that right away I knew we were in trouble,” Atlanta coach Larry Drew said.

Fran Blinebury: He does so much. He makes much of it look easy. But when LeBron James split Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki  and zoomed in to throw down that vicious one-handed tomahawk dunk on Ian Mahinmi in Game 3 of the Finals, I could practically feel it down to my toes. And probably so could most of Mahinmi’s fellow countrymen back in France.

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What’s Next For The Mavericks?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With The Finals in the books (and in case you missed anything, check out our nifty recap above), it’s never too soon to start analyzing the participants. We’re not ones to wait, so here’s our quick post-Finals take on the state of the Heat and Mavs and what’s next for each of them. Here’s our look at the newly-crowned NBA champs, the Mavericks.

DALLAS MAVERICKS

A quick look back: It began like a lot of other seasons with the Mavericks zooming out of the starting gate and on their way to piling up a ton of wins. If only the world had known it was a glimpse of the future when they whipped the visiting Heat 106-95 on Nov. 24 in the game most remembered for LeBron James’ bumping incident with Erik Spoelstra and Miami’s postgame meeting. They were 12-4 after that game and ran their blazing start to 24-5 with a win at Oklahoma City on Dec. 27.

That game also saw Dirk Nowitzki go down with a sprained right knee after landing awkwardly and was the start of a rough stretch that many thought might be the unraveling of the season. Nowitzki’s bad knee forced him out for nine games. But the loss of Caron Butler on Jan. 1 with a torn patellar tendon in his right knee took him out for the season and seemed to take away Dallas’ momentum.

From Dec. 28 through Jan. 20 the Mavs labored through a month of anguish, losing 10 of 13 games and sinking back into the middle of the Western Conference standings. But according to the players, it was that difficult stretch when coach Rick Carlisle drove them to make a deeper commitment to their long-term goal and actually found that inner strength that drove them through the playoffs.

The Mavs entered the playoffs as the No. 3 seed and carrying the same dose of skepticism from the outside world that had marked recent failures. Then they blew a 23-point fourth quarter lead at Portland in Game 4 of the first round and the belief was that they were the same old Mavs. But from that point on, nothing was ever the same. They won two straight to close out the Blazers, thoroughly embarrassed the two-time defending champs in sweeping the Lakers, swatted down the challenge from the young Thunder and then stood up in the face of the bombast from the Heat to claim the first championship in franchise history.

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Cast-offs make Mavs take off

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It takes a village, they say.

Well, sometimes what it takes is experience and a junkyard collection of useful parts.

Every championship team needs one or more superstars to be the foundation and Dirk Nowitzki has proven to be that throughout his 13-year NBA career.

But the reason that Dirk has been able to battle his way to a 2-2 tie in The Finals and get to the threshold of his first title is because he finally has an assembled supporting cast that has come together to maybe be greater than the sum of the individual parts.

It takes talent to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy, but quite often it also takes years and plenty of battle scars.

In an excellent Q and A with Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, Mavs GM and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson says it’s drive – not age – that matters and he’s quite happy with his team of so-called cast-offs:

Were you concerned when you were putting this team together that you have so many 30-somethings?

“I’ll tell you what, what people call 30-somethings or old, we call experienced. Just give me guys that have heart. I don’t care how tall they are, they could be 4-foot-1 like JJ, they could be 40-year-old like our point guard…give me a guy with heart, and you’ll win most games.”

What about (DeShawn) Stevenson’s performance so far?

“I joke about this a lot, but you look at our team and we’re like the movie, Castoffs. Our superstar is a “superstar…but.” Then you go right down the list. JJ (Barea) is too small, Jason Kidd is too old. Jason Terry in the Stevie Nash booby prize. Tyson Chandler and (Peja) Stojakovic are damaged goods, y’know. All of our guys are like this. D-Steve was a throw-in on the Caron Butler deal. They saw a long-term contract that they wanted to get that off of their books, and we saw a guy that was 6-5 and tough as nails and just needed to get dusted off a little bit. And I really think that’s the story. We don’t have a superman who is going to have from the free throw line and slam over people. We’ve got to do it the good old fashioned way with team defense. As they say, the sum of the parts, that’s what we’re all about.”

There was a time when the Mavs had their Big Three lineup of Nowitzki, Nash and Michael Finley and couldn’t ever make the long climb up. Now here they are with a glimpse of the mountaintop.

Sometimes what it takes is the hunger of empty bellies.

Mavs’ Role Players Missing In Action

DALLAS – In the event that they either need or ask for a little help from their supporting cast, Miami’s Big Three can rest easy knowing that Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller and even Joel Anthony will do something to make a contribution of some sort in The Finals.

The Heat’s 2-1 lead in this series has been a vivid illustration of that, with each and every one of those role players doing their part to push the Heat to within eight quarters of a championship, courtesy of the enormously powerful coat tails of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

On the flip side, if Dirk Nowitzki sends up a Bat-signal over American Airlines Center this week looking for a little crunch-time assistance, there is no guarantee his call will be answered. As good as Jason Terry, J.J. Barea and Peja Stojakovic have been at times throughout this postseason, they’re not giving Nowitzki nearly enough support when he needs it — now.

Even the reliable Shawn Marion, who played above and beyond what anyone could have expected in the first two games of this series, struggled in the Mavericks’ Game 3 loss Sunday night. So it’s not just the bench that is coming up short; Nowitzki has outscored the other four Mavs starters 34-28.

As brilliant as Nowitzki has been at crunch time in this series (he scored the Mavericks’ final 12 points Sunday night), it’s clear he’s going to need a lot more help if this series is going back to Miami this weekend for a Game 6.

“Look, we’ve got a top nine guys that are rotation guys,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “I’ve consistently pointed out that we don’t have a specific pecking order. We’re a team built on balance. We’re a team where it may take seven guys scoring four points or more or five points or more, or eight [guys] scoring three points or more. We never know for sure.”

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All systems go for Dirk

MIAMI — Really now: Why does anyone think a guy who can drop three-pointers from a yoga position would ever have a problem shooting with a bum finger on his opposite hand?

Dirk Nowitzki has practiced his stroke twice now since ripping a tendon in his left middle finger in Game 1 and says he’ll have no problem tonight for Game 2. His long-time shooting coach, Holger Geschwindler, watched Dirk in Wednesday’s practice and again at the morning shootaround and neither tutor or pupil see any reason for alarm.

“I’m not that really worried about it,” said Dirk.

“[Rajon] Rondo played with one arm,” said Geschwindler, “so he might be able to play with nine fingers.”

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The Journeyman Finals

MIAMI — Trivia: Name the two NBA teams that no current Heat or Mavs player has ever played for.

Answer below…

If you’re not a fan of the Miami Heat or the Dallas Mavericks, you probably still have an interest in the outcome of the 2011 NBA Finals.

There’s plenty of anti-Heat sentiment among fans of the league’s 28 other teams, of course. But there’s also plenty of former-player sentiment as well. There are likely Nets fans out there hoping to see Jason Kidd get a ring or Hornets fans who’d like to see Tyson Chandler win a title.

These are two veteran squads, with a total of seven guys who have played for at least five different franchises in their careers …

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K.D.’s wakeup call: Boom!

DALLAS Kevin Durant said it was just a play.

Sure. Just like the Pacific Ocean is just a puddle of water and the Grand Canyon is just a hole in the ground.

The Thunder had been playing soft on defense, loose on offense, not at all like a team that was already in a desperate situation in the Western Conference finals and trailed the Mavericks 28-19.

That’s when Durant made a play, his play.

He took the ball on the right side of the lane, whooshed past Peja Stojakovic fast enough to give him whiplash and jumped right through the roof of the American Airlines Center.

Well, almost. What Durant did was to elevate so high that his navel was practically in the face of Dallas would-be defender Brendan Haywood and he slammed the ball down like he was swinging the hammer of Thor.

“We needed a basket and there was an opening,” said Durant.

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