Posts Tagged ‘pistons’

Bucks reward Hammond for building the right way

VIDEO: John Hammond talks about the fresh new look of the Milwaukee Bucks

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — If you don’t know John Hammond by face, that’s fine by the Milwaukee Bucks’ general manager.

He’s old school that way. He’s not interested in the spotlight, never has been in all of the years I’ve known him (dating back to his days as Joe Dumars‘ top assistant in Detroit). But he might not be able to avoid it much longer, what with the work he’s done rebuilding the roster and reshaping the image of a Bucks team many of us believe is on the cusp of becoming an annual fixture in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Bucks coach Jason Kidd deserves plenty of credit for what we saw from the young Bucks last season, including that first round playoff scare they put into the Chicago Bulls. But the overall vision and direction for this team has been set by Hammond, who was rewarded by the Bucks today with an extension of his contract through the 2016-17 season.

In a business where front-office executives wash out before they can implement the changes to the culture and the systems they are hired to fix, Hammond’s extension is the ultimate vote of confidence. He was voted the 2010 NBA Executive of the Year by his peers for his early work with the team, but the Bucks have gone through coaching and ownership changes since then and Hammond has overseen a significant reversal of fortunes for the Bucks throughout the process.

“A great deal of our team’s success and progress is due to the vision and hard work of John,” Bucks owner Wes Edens said in a statement released by the team. “He’s assembled a talented and competitive roster and we’re very pleased that he will continue to lead basketball operations. With John and Coach Kidd at the helm, our young team has a very bright future.”

A future with Greg Monroe, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Carter-Williams and Jabari Parker serving as franchise cornerstones certainly holds promise. Kidd has been praised, and rightfully so, for coming in and immediately instilling an air of confidence in his team.

Quality leadership at the NBA level is multi-tiered, from ownership to the front office to the bench and throughout the locker room. The Bucks appear to have all the pieces in place to continue rising up the ranks.

Making sure Hammond is around to keep things going is a wise move.

Morning Shootaround — Aug. 24

VIDEO: Stephen Curry’s profile continues to rise, on and off the court, in the wake of his MVP and championship season


Curry to star in Under Armour campaign | LeBron’s busy summer continues with Survivor’s Remorse | Wesley Matthews says he’ll be ready for opening night

No. 1: Curry joins Tom Brady, Jordan Spieth in Under Armour’s first major brand campaign — Champions are the focus of Under Armour’s first major brand campaign. Tom Brady, Jordan Spieth and Golden State Warriors star and KIA MVP Stephen Curry will all be featured in the campaign, that will debut this week. It’s the latest superstar turn for Curry, whose magical year that began with a gold medal at the FIBA World Cup in Spain and continued with his first MVP award and the Warriors’ first title in 40 years in June. ESPN’s sports business guru Darren Rovell has the details:

Tom Brady won another Super Bowl. Stephen Curry won an MVP and an NBA title. Jordan Spieth won the Masters and the U.S. Open. Misty Copeland became the first African-American to become a principal dancer at a major ballet company.

It has been a big year for Under Armour’s most high-profile spokespeople, and the company this week will start to roll out its first major brand campaign featuring all of them. It’s called “Rule Yourself,” and the idea summons Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that it takes 10,000 hours of practice at something to be the best.

In the first spot, called “Anthem,” the premise is accomplished through speeding up those hours by showing thousands of replicas of Curry, Spieth and Copeland going through their repetitions.

“We sat around [founder and CEO] Kevin Plank’s table, and we talked about the momentum we’ve had this year, telling our brand story through the lens of the hottest athletes in the world, and the one thing that was constant, whether you are young or old, is that in order to be the best you have to train consistently on the field, court and gym and improve every day,” said Adrienne Lofton, the company’s senior vice president of brand marketing.

In the past year, the shots Curry takes before every game and his ball handling warm-up drill have received plenty of accolades. Less evident is what it took for Spieth to achieve his success, and, even more behind the scenes, what it took for Copeland — often 10 hours daily in a studio.

Brady’s spot, which takes on a similar theme, is still scheduled to make its debut in the coming weeks. Sources said his alleged role in “Deflategate” — and his four-game suspension, which is under appeal — never put him in jeopardy with Under Armour.

The spots were done in partnership with ad firm Droga5. The special effects were created by having five cameras focus on the athletes from different vantage points as they went through their motions. Computer-generated imagery was then used to give the effect of a thousand replicas.

Although direct sales from Brady, Curry, Spieth and Copeland are relatively small in the scheme of things, the momentum is palpable. Five years ago, Nike did 19 times the business Under Armour did. In 2015, that lead is expected to be cut to eight times. Footwear sales, most recently on the back of Curry’s first signature shoe, has grown by 40 percent for each of the past four quarters, while its total golf business has doubled in the past two years.


Ten players who made impression at Orlando Summer League

VIDEO: Stanley Johnson discusses his Summer League play

ORLANDO — Seven days, 25 games and so many different stories at the Orlando Pro Summer League. Here are 10 players that made an impression:

Aaron Gordon, F, Magic — The No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 Draft brought a reputation as an athletic, high-energy player into his rookie season in Orlando, but one who struggled with his shot and that was born out. But Gordon has spent time working with Magic shooting coach Dave Love to change the mechanics of his shot and it seems to have paid off. He looked comfortable in the three games he played, leading the league in scoring at 21.7 points per game and even hit 50 percent (6-for-12) on 3s.

Stanley Johnson, F, Pistons — From the enthusiasm that he brought to the court every day, you might have thought Johnson was on a trip to Disney World. It’s not cocky when you can do it and the Pistons’ No. 8 draft pick has all the skills and talent in his bag of tricks to excel in the NBA as soon as coach Stan Van Gundy turns him loose in the rotation. Johnson says he’s not trying to prove anything to the folks who thought the Pistons made a mistake by not taking Justise Winslow. But it sure looks that way and that’s good for Detroit.

Myles Turner, C, Pacers — The knock on the tall, skinny kid out of the University of Texas is just that. He’s skinny. But that didn’t stop him from taking advantage of his size to block more than four shots a game and protect the rim. It’s a new day and a new style in Indy with the plodding Roy Hibbert gone to the Lakers and veteran David West to the Spurs. The No. 11 pick in the draft will be thrown right into the lineup and could get a chance to shine immediately. He shot 60.5 percent from the field and the big guy can knock down the jumper.

Mario Hezonja, G-F, Magic — After completing a full European season in Barcelona, the No. 5 pick in the draft jetted to the U.S. and played in just two games at the summer league. He struggled with his shot, through he did knock down a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in his debut. He’s also got off-the-charts athleticism, which he showed off with a ferocious one-handed drive and dunk. Though he’s only 20, Hezonja has been a professional for years and will force his way onto the floor for the Magic soon.

Willie Reed, F-C, Nets — Undrafted out of Saint Louis in 2001, he’s spent four seasons trying to prove himself with four different D-League teams before spending last season playing in the Dominican Republic. He came to Orlando with the Heat and immediately drew comparisons to Hassan Whiteside for his ability to play defense and gather rebounds. Reed impressed enough at the summer league for Brooklyn to sign him to a contract.

Frank Kaminsky, F-C, Hornets — The college basketball player of the year had trouble finding a rhythm on his shot in the early games, but the Hornets know that’s an area they don’t have to be concerned about it. He showed an ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket and did a solid job rebounding. He needs work at the defensive end, but appeared comfortable and confident enough moving ahead toward training camp.

Troy Daniels, G, Hornets — What’s the old saying? You can never have enough shooting. Daniels keeps trying to prove that to different teams as he moves about the league trying to find a permanent home. He lit up from the outside this week, hitting at a 55 percent clip from behind the 3-point line and a team like Charlotte that needs shooters could finally be the place where he sticks.

Joe Young, G, Pacers — The second-round draft pick of the Pacers was recovering from a stomach illness all week and still managed to stand out as one of the top rookies. The 2015 Pac-12 Player of the Year can fill up the basket has the kind of demeanor you want in a point guard — authoritative and vocal. He’s arriving in Indy at the perfect time as the Pacers will look to play an up-tempo game and he has a nose for pushing the ball up court. He’s a keeper.

Justise Winslow, F, Heat — Getting the ball to go into the basket was a problem for Winslow right from the start, but it didn’t keep him from attacking every game with confidence and doing enough other things to help his team. He knows that he belongs at the NBA level and goes at the basket relentlessly, drawing fouls and getting more free throws than anybody else in the league. Given the Heat no reason to think they didn’t get very lucky having him fall into their laps at the No. 10 spot.

Branden Dawson, F, Clippers — For all the back-patting for getting DeAndre Jordan to change his mind, the Clippers still have a serious lack of depth. The 6-foot-6 forward showed a nose for rebounding and putting the ball in the bucket all week and has just the right kind of overachiever attitude that comes from being picked No. 56 in the draft and could eventually find its way onto the NBA roster. He put up three double-doubles four games played. One drawback is he could make Jordan look good at the line, making just 3-for-9 on free throws.

Johnson keeps firing on all Pistons

VIDEO: Stanley Johnson turns in solid double-double

ORLANDO — Before Stanley Johnson even took his very first sip of NBA competition, he declared that he wasn’t “going to let anybody punk me” on the court.

So when his most recent game at the Orlando Pro Summer League tipped off and the Pacers chose to run a post-up play for the man he was guarding, Solomon Hill, Johnson reacted as if someone had touched him with a cattle prod.

“For some guy to attack me the first play of the game, I think that says volumes about what the coach thinks about me and therefore I take it disrespectfully,” Johnson said. “From that point on, if he scores the basket, doesn’t score the basket, that’s just like a another chip on my shoulder already to start the game.”

Through four games in the practice gym at the Amway Center, Johnson has been constantly hustling, always forceful and giving Detroit fans a reason to look forward to his rookie year against the big boys. Though Pistons head coach and team president Stan Van Gundy says just because he was the No. 8 pick in the NBA Draft and has shown the joys of summer, it doesn’t mean Johnson will be handed a spot in the starting lineup or even the rotation.

“I think it’s important that (rookies) play when they deserve to play,” said Van Gundy. “And not just, ‘We’re going to play our guy.’ I know some people believe in that. I don’t.

“I think it inhibits a guy’s development when he’s simply handed minutes and doesn’t have to do anything to earn them and thus there is no reason to work hard or change the way you play.

“You always like to see him play against good players, but I’ve been at this long enough that I don’t get real pumped up if a guy plays well in summer league, and I don’t get too depressed if he doesn’t. There is just not a lot of carryover.”

Nevertheless, Johnson has been confident, effective and consistent, averaging 17.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals.

As a defender, Johnson has shown an ability to blow up the pick-and-roll. He’s repeatedly gone to the floor chasing down loose balls and can make the show-stopping play. Just when Indy’s Romero Osby thought he had a breakaway dunk, there was Johnson swooping in from behind at the last second with for a resounding rejection that showed he doesn’t simply write off a possession.

“Those are effort plays. Those are winning plays,” said Pistons summer league coach Bob Beyer. “When he blocked that shot at the rim he never gave up on the play. He just kept coming and again I think that says a lot about him as a competitor.”

There were questions about Johnson’s shooting ability coming out of Arizona, where he hit just 44.6 percent of his attempts in his only college season. But he’s making at a 64.3 percent clip here and is 4-for-9 on 3-pointers.

Most important, Johnson has shown an ability to play an overall game and to have the kind of personality that commands attention. He keeps telling everyone who’ll listen that he isn’t into comparisons with his good friend Justise Winslow, whom the Pistons passed over to take Johnson with the eighth pick and just wants to prove that he’s as good or better than anybody in his draft class. For now. He’s got the rest of the league in his long-range sights. He’s skilled, competitive and thoroughly engaging.

Somebody asked Johnson if it was accurate to just check off every box of all-around skills when it came to describing his game.

“I would say so,” Johnson said. “I have a lot of learning to do in making those checks darker, bolder and getting better at a lot of different things, but I can be very versatile on the court. Like I was preaching before the draft started, I can go one through four positions. I can do a lot of the things on the court.”

Then tell you about them.

Pistons’ Johnson already aims at LeBron

VIDEO: Stanley Johnson leads the way in the Pistons’ win

ORLANDO, Fla. — The summer league crowd has been looking forward to Monday’s scheduled matchup between Stanley Johnson and Justise Winslow.

There’s plenty of intrigue and backstory. Detroit took Johnson with the No. 8 pick in the June 25 draft, allowing Winslow to slide to Miami at No. 10. Did the Pistons make a mistake? Will the Heat rookie seek to prove them wrong?

Never mind that the pair are long-time friends. They ate dinner together Saturday night and planned to take in a movie Sunday and couldn’t care less about the so-called showdown.

Besides, after a silky smooth and effective 24 points and nine rebounds in the Pistons’ 77-69 win over the Clippers on Sunday at the Orlando Pro Summer League, Johnson has his sights set on bigger game than a rookie buddy he’s played with an against about a dozen times.

“Play against LeBron [James] — that means something,” Johnson said flatly. “He is the best player in the league and I want to be the best player in the league too, so I have a target on him. I will keep reaching for that goal. … He is a team player so I have to be a better team player to be on the same level as him. Did you see that Game 6 against Chicago where he had like 14 points and 14 assists and controlled everything? The best players win a lot of games, so it is not about your points or your rebounds.”

But in case anybody is counting, Johnson has plenty of both in the first two days of Summer League play. He came off the bench in the opener and now has 37 points, 13 rebounds and four assists and is shooting 15-for-22 from the field in two games.

VIDEO: Stanley Johnson on his big game vs. the Clippers

He started on Sunday and showed the complete package of skills that had the Pistons rank him as the No. 2 small forward on their draft board and make Johnson the pick ahead of Winslow. He battled through contact to finish strong around the basket, pulled up to nail a 3-pointer and was coolly confident late when he drove and stepped back to nail a short jumper.

“He is a really smart player,” said Pistons summer league coach Bob Beyer. “He is always grabbing coaches and wants to look at additional tape. He wants mistakes pointed out to him. He really is a sponge. He wants to learn everything he can. He absorbs everything.

“I think the thing that’s most impressive it’s the calmness to his game right now. We’ve thrown a lot at him in a very short time and for any player it’s quite the adjustment from college to the NBA. But he has really has grasped concepts very quickly. And he spends a lot of time off the court trying to become a really good NBA player.”

Johnson has not tried to do too much, making simple, effective passes rather than forcing things to happen.

“That goes back to his poise as a player,” Beyer said. “Some guys don’t want the ball in that position. Stanley is starting to demonstrate that he does want that ball. He has confidence in his abilities that’s been kind of an added plus.”

Johnson’s confidence comes off as less swagger than merely being certain of who he is and can become.

“To me, I have no pressure here,” he said. “I’m not out here trying to have the best game of my life. I’m not trying to have the worst game of my life. I’m just trying to be myself. Coach [Stan] Van Gundy tells me, ‘You don’t have to score a point.’ That was his words. ‘All you have to do is play defense and play hard.’ At the end of the day, what he says matters and that’s it.

“I think I should dominate every game, honestly. I’m not gonna sell myself short because it’s Summer League or it’s the Cavs or playing the Lakers. To me, it’s about every game having the same effort. Just keep with that, keep with that and if I can dominate, I’ll dominate. But as long as I give the same effort, that’s all the matters.”

Morning Shootaround: June 21

Heat hot for Dragic | LeBron in a funk | No breaking up Warriors | Dealing in Detroit

No. 1: Miami to offer Dragic 5 years, $80 mllion — It won’t be a max deal, but Miami plans to turn up the heat early in the free agency period by offering point guard Goran Dragic $16 million per season to remain in South Florida as a key part of resurrecting the former champs. Marc Stein of says that the team will offer less than the allowable $100 million overall, because the Heat still have to deal with a new contract for franchise icon Dwyane Wade:

Sources told that the Heat are planning to offer Dragic a five-year deal in excess of $80 million to keep him in Miami after acquiring the 2014 All-NBA third-team selection from Phoenix on trade deadline day in February.

Only Miami can offer a five-year deal this summer to Dragic, who told local reporters after the season that he “had a great time” with the Heat despite missing out on the playoffs. He said on more than one occasion that “I want to come back.”

Heat president Pat Riley has likewise expressed confidence in Miami’s ability to retain him, saying at a season-ending media availability two months ago: “If he doesn’t sign, my ass will be in that seat [next to reporters] next year.”

A five-year maximum deal for Dragic would exceed $100 million but Miami also might find itself dealing with Dwyane Wade’s free agency one summer earlier than expected if Wade decides to bypass his $16.1 million player option for next season. The Heat also await a decision from Luol Deng about his plans to either invoke next season’s $10.2 million player option or opt for free agency.


No. 2: LeBron still trying to deal with Finals loss — If only it were a case of James Brown, Sly Stone or George Clinton filling up the head of LeBron James. But when the four-time MVP says he’s “still in a little funk,” he’s not dancing. In a streamed testimonial on Bleacher Report’s “Uninterrupted,” James said he’s still trying to get over the 4-2 loss to the Warriors, but vows to keep the Cavaliers contending for championships in the years to come, according to Joe Vardon of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:

“Hopefully I can put our team in position once again to try to compete for a championship next year and year in and year out,” James said on Bleacher Report’s “Uninterrupted,” a series of streamed testimonials James takes part in as part of an undisclosed financial arrangement. “That’s my goal, and my inspiration hasn’t changed.”

James told the Northeast Ohio Media Group during the Finals he is “happy where I’m at” in Cleveland, and in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s Game 6 loss to the Golden State Warriors he reiterated his family was happy to be home.

James has a $21.57 million player option on the deal he signed when he returned to Cleveland last summer. He’ll likely decline the option for a new one-year contract worth roughly $22 million with a player option.

In James’ latest “Uninterrupted” video, in which he speaks while sitting in a barber’s chair getting a haircut, he said “being back home is everything that I dreamed of, everything that I thought about.

“Being back with these fans, being back with this community, just being back here and trying to bring joy to this city, which deserves it,” James said. “Bringing a sense of pride to this city, which deserves it. Giving this city something to talk about, which they deserve.”

Of the Finals, in which James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists but the Cavs’ lost 4-2, he said “it hurt to lose, and I’m still in a little funk right now, but I’m trying to work my way out of it.”

“You know, for a team that’s first getting together, in our first year to be able to reach the Finals, (I’m) not saying I’m happy with the results, but I’m proud of our guys,” James said. “Just the growth that they had from the first day we walked in the gym to the other day, us losing, I’m proud of the guys and what they was able to accomplish.”


No. 3: Warriors want to stay together — Though league rules prevent him from talking in specifics, first-year general manager Bob Myers hinted that keeping free agent Draymond Green is the high priority, but bringing back most of the roster that won Golden State’s first championship in 40 years is the plan for next season. He spoke to Al Saracevic of the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Our hope is to keep the core together,” said Myers. “That is within our control.”

“Clearly, with the success we’ve had this season, the players have shown this group can win. High character. A lot of youth. They’ve been able to complement each other.”

Beyond Green, the Warriors have a few other questions to answer, but nothing too pressing. With the expected departure of Lee, a former All-Star whose minutes were curtailed drastically because of Green’s rise, the team will be looking for a backup power forward.

A key reserve, Leandro Barbosa, is an unrestricted free agent. Myers and the ownership group, led by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, will have to decide whether to re-sign the 12-year veteran or look for an upgrade.

“I think the league has shifted a little bit,” said Myers. “Even though it’s perceived we have a lot of shooting, we still could use more shooting, especially in the second unit.

“We could always use a shooter who can defend. That’s on the wish list of the entire league. Spacing the floor has become a major focus for all teams, as we saw in the playoffs and the Finals.”

The good news for Myers? His bosses have plenty of money, and they’re not afraid to spend it. Lacob and Guber have made it clear that success on the court is a priority.

“We want to be fiscally responsible. And we want to win,” said Myers. “Clearly, from ownership, it’s win first. It’s a good place to be. It gives you a great chance to be successful when the ultimate goal is winning.”


No. 4: Pistons might be ready to deal pick — After trading for “stretch four” Ersan Ilyasova, whom coach Stan Van Gundy says will be in the starting lineup, the Pistons brought in a pair of forwards in Frank Kaminsky and Myles Turner for pre-draft workouts and Terry Foster of the Detroit News says that could be a sign that the team is getting ready to shop its No. 8 pick:

The Pistons sent more signals Saturday that they might be willing to trade away the eighth pick in Thursday’s NBA draft when they worked out big men Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin and Myles Turner of Texas.

Then again, perhaps Stan Van Gundy and his staff don’t want to leave any stone unturned. Both Kaminsky and Turner will be available at No. 8. And the Pistons appear to be set at power forward after obtaining from Milwaukee “Stretch Four” Ersan Ilyasova, who Van Gundy said would start the 2015-16 season for the Pistons.

If Van Gundy is interested in adding more depth at power forward, he can turn to either Kaminsky, the college basketball player of the year, or Turner. Both have similar games. They can hit perimeter shots and dip inside for buckets. Kaminsky’s major weakness is perimeter defense. And Turner must show more fluidity when he runs.

Both are 6-foot-11 and projected to go anywhere from 11th to 16th. They are competing for a better draft slot.

The Pistons are expected to select a small forward if they keep the eighth pick. There is also a chance they’ll trade up with the New York Knicks, who are looking to deal the fourth pick. If that happens it gives the Pistons a solid shot at Duke forward Justise Winslow or shooting guard Mario Hezonja of Croatia.

Regardless, whomever the Pistons select will be a premier perimeter shooter.

If the Pistons select Kaminsky or Turner it would put them in the market to sign a free agent small forward — perhaps former Piston Arron Afflalo. That becomes a dicey proposition because this has not been a big destination for free agents.

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Karl-Anthony Towns works out for Timberwolves and looks more and more like No. 1 pick … Greg Oden to take part in mini-camp with Mavericks … Doc Rivers’ mother dies in Illinois … Celtics legend Bill Russell enjoys his role as link to the past at the NBA Finals … Spain’s Rodriguez planning return to NBA … Lance Stephenson says he seeks to change his image with the Clippers.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 194) Featuring Brandon Jennings

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Brandon Jennings created a stir as a teenager when he bucked the system and decided he would create his own path to the NBA, one that didn’t involve a stop in college for one year. Instead of seven months on campus and perhaps a wild ride during March Madness at some traditional college powerhouse, Jennings opted for a year in Italy earning a living as a true professional and learning the ways of the world (basketball and beyond) before coming to the NBA.

Fast forward eight years and Jennings, 25, has a much different outlook on things. If only he knew then what he knows now. The Detroit Pistons’ point guard insists he’d “already have been an All-Star,” perhaps a couple of times.

Wisdom comes with perspective. Both are the byproducts of time and experience. Jennings has accumulated his fair share of it all throughout the course of his intriguing professional career. And there is no better time than now, as Jennings battles back from an Achilles injury, to reflect on his past, examine his present situation and forecast his future.

He does all that and then some on Episode 194 of The Hang Time Podcast, going back to his days as a hoop dreamer idolizing Kobe Bryant in Compton to his life overseas as a teenage pioneer to his entry into the NBA and the trials, tribulations and triumphs as the mature veteran he has become (complete with his mastery of the social media world).

We also salute Steve Nash now that he has officially retired, discuss what’s wrong with the Atlanta Hawks, what’s right with the San Antonio Spurs and more.

You get it all on Episode 194 of The Hang Time Podcast … Featuring Brandon Jennings …



As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of,  Lang Whitaker of’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the “OG” and best sound designer/engineer in the business, Bearded Clint “Clintron” Hawkins.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

VIDEO: Brandon Jennings goes off for a career-high 21 assists

Morning Shootaround — March 15


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played March 14

Celts still streaking | Five in row for Jazz | Noel likes Sixers’ future | Jackson doesn’t hustle
No. 1: Celtics closing in on playoffs — Friday night’s topic of conversation was “Cater-gate,” when Evan Turner claimed that coach Brad Stevens was so angry at halftime against the Magic that he canceled the food for the postgame flight to Indianapolis. Turns out that was not true at all, but the hungry Celtics still went out Saturday night and devoured the Pacers’ seven-game winning streak. Suddenly Boston is with in a half-game of the final playoff spot in the East and only a game behind No. 7 seed Indy. Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald says Stevens ate it all up:

Brad Stevens was in heaven.
“These are the kinds of games I’ve always loved. Just find a way,” said the Celtics coach. “It’s nice when you have a game where you’re making every shot, but that’s one of those nights, and one of those nights is called that for a reason. You’re not going to have it very often, and you just have to find a way.”

The result was the Celtics’ 93-89 win over Indiana, a team that had won its last seven games, all but one at home.

The C’s, suddenly on a four-game winning streak, thus made up ground on everyone in the chase for the seventh and eighth playoffs seeds. They moved into a tie with ninth place Miami, within a half-game of eighth place Charlotte and a game outside of the seventh place Pacers.

They suddenly feel like they should pass all of these teams.
“Winning takes care of everything,” Brandon Bass said with an especially restive smile, thinking back two months to when the Celtics didn’t have much chance of winning these games.

“We went through our struggles early on, not being able to finish games, and it’s paid off for us,” he said. “I don’t mind these grind out games. Maybe it would be better at home if we could see Gino, but we’ll win whatever we can get.”


No. 2: Jazz getting big Favors up front — With his stature and his dominant play of late, it’s certainly been hard to overlook the play in the middle of Utah’s fabulous Frenchman Rudy Gobert. But perhaps lost in the shadow of the “Stifle Tower” has been the resurgence of Derrick Favors at power forward. He’s back to playing the position where he’s most comfortable and has been large part of what has now grown into a five-game winning streak. Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune has the details:

C “I’m just taking my time,” Favors said, “reading what the defense gives me.”
After Favors scored a game-high 26 points, helping push the Jazz to a fifth straight win, his coach put it another way.

“He’s hard to guard,” Quin Snyder said.

Rudy Gobert has garnered much of the attention in Utah’s shift from defensive ineptitude to defensive powerhouse. But Snyder has been vocal about the role Favors has played, since sliding over to the 4-spot. Favors’ size has allowed the Jazz to compete against big lineups. His speed — his ability to switch, even on point guards — has kept him on the floor against smaller lineups.

And the results have been good.

“We don’t necessarily have to go small to match up,” Snyder said. “So what ends up happening is sometimes he’s got a mismatch.”

Favors, meanwhile, is also settling into an offensive groove. Favors has topped 20 points in four of his past seven games.
“He’s just more poised,” Snyder said. “I think that’s just experience. We’ve seen him improve as the season progresses.”

Favors averaged 15.9 points per game before the All-Star break. Since then (coinciding with the Enes Kanter trade and Favors’ move to the 4), Favors has put up 18.7 points per night.


No. 3: Noel wants chance to play with Embiid — He was already shocked once this season when point guard Michael Carter-Williams was shipped out at the trade deadline. So Nerlens Noel is hoping to avoid more upheaval going forward next season. He told Tom Moore of The Intelligencer (Pa.) that he wants a chance to play alongside a healthy Joel Embiid next season:

And what if the Sixers end up with Duke center Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns in the draft? They already have a core center in 7-footer Joel Embiid, who is sitting out his rookie season with a foot stress fracture.
“I really hope nothing happens,” Noel said last week. “I like this team. I like what we’re building. I hope we can stick together and continue to grow.”

Noel is confident that he and Embiid — with Embiid likely playing power forward on offense and center at the defensive end — will turn out to be a terrific tandem.

“Jo is going to get more and more healthy and more active,” Noel said. “I see things really taking shape (next season).”

Still, Noel gets that “at the end of the day, it is a business. You always have to keep that in mind. You’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do, work on your thing.”

Noel has been working and it’s been paying off. He’s moved into the league’s top 10 in blocked shots (sixth) and steals (10th) and, while he remains a work in progress on offense, he’s having a considerable impact on defense.

On Wednesday, Noel became the first NBA player since the Rockets’ Hakeem Olajuwon in November 1988 to accumulate at least 10 rebounds and four steals in four straight games. Through Friday, he was averaging 11.8 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2 blocks in his last eight games with six double-doubles.


No. 4: Jackson benched in another Pistons loss — It was only a few weeks ago when Reggie Jackson was delighted to finally be traded out of a reserve spot in the OKC lineup and given a chance to run a team of his own in Detroit. It seems like the blink of an eye since the Pistons were happy to welcome Jackson to town as their point guard of the future. Well, you might want to put the brakes on the talk of a new contract next summer and a blissful marriage. Coach Stan Van Gundy yanked Jackson off the floor for lack of hustle in Pistons’ loss at Utah, their 10th in a row. Terry Foster of the Detroit News detailed the ugliness:

On a night the Pistons hustled for nearly everything they got it, was a non-hustle play that angered the coach.
Van Gundy can tolerate mistakes and questionable shot selection as long as there is some effort behind it. But he will not tolerate lazy play on the court.

And that is when Jackson relaxed and got burned. He came in for Spencer Dinwiddie with 5:50 remaining and play immediately bogged down.

Jackson turned the ball over and later watched as Dante Exum hustled down a loose ball and fed Rodney Hood for a layup, which gave the Jazz a 78-74 lead with 4:32 remaining.

“He (Jackson) wasn’t being very aggressive and when he didn’t chase down the loose ball and Exum got it that was a huge hoop in the game,” Van Gundy said. “As I told him when I took him out of the game, I will tolerate mistakes, but we are in a battle trying to win a fourth game in five days and you’re not going to make an effort?”

Jackson got the message loud and clear from Van Gundy.

“I just assumed the ball was going out of bounds,” Jackson said. “You can never make an assumption. You have to always complete the play.
Unfortunately that play really cost us tonight. It was a big possession. We were trying to make a comeback. Whether it is going out of bounds or not I have to be in position to make the play.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Stephen Curry got a birthday cake from the Warriors and a win from the Knicks…The Clippers are hoping that Blake Griffin returns to the lineup today against the Rockets….  Andre Miller is still surprised that Wizards traded him to Sacramento…Bucks plan to keep Khris Middleton….Hawks’ Scott to miss four to six weeks with broken toe.

Morning Shootaround — March 7

VIDEO: All the highlights from Friday’s NBA action

Hawks close the door | Harden strikes back | Parker sparks Spurs | Mavs slide continues | Shaw eyes Magic

No. 1: Hawks clinch series over Cavaliers — Is there anybody left that still thinks the Hawks are not for real? Is there anybody out there that thinks an Eastern Conference finals showdown between Atlanta and Cleveland wouldn’t be a classic showdown? DeMarre Carroll and Kent Bazemore suffocated LeBron James all night long and the Hawks wrapped up the season series over the Cavs 3-1 with a victory that stretched their latest winning streak to six games. Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the details:

Carroll and Kent Bazemore harassed and frustrated James much of the night. The two defenders got plenty of weakside help on James. The Cavaliers star even exchanged words with Schroder as his frustration built.

“We just played Hawks defense,” Carroll said. “I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates because they were meeting him at the rim. They were helping me out. Like I said before, I just want to be a gnat. When you are outside in the summer and you just can’t get that gnat away from you, that’s all I wanted to be tonight.”

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer credited the team approach to limiting James.

“It always starts with taking individual pride, but it takes five guys, the whole team, working together and doing everything in unison,” Budenholzer said. “I think at the point of the ball, DeMarre and Kent were very good and the weakside was active and aware, and we were able to try to get out to shooters because he’s such a great passer and he sees the court so well. I think it’s like anything. It takes a group effort. It’s great to be tested and challenged like we were tonight.”


No. 2: Harden takes out frustrations on Pistons — Even for a guy who is leading the NBA in scoring and is considered a frontrunner for the Kia MVP award, it was a tough week for James Harden. After he kicked Lebron James, Harden was suspended for one game in Atlanta and then was fouled on what the league office admitted was a missed call in the final seconds of another loss to Memphis. So Harden was ready to bounce back and did it with his third triple-double of the season against the Pistons. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tells how good it felt for The Beard:

“Yeah, it’s all about having fun, especially when … you just lose two in a row, two tough games and you have get a win,” Harden said. “We go out there, have fun, execute and play together.”

There was a good deal of that to go around, from Terrence Jones returning from a first-half scare when he hobbled off with a strained right rip to score 11 of his 17 points in the second half to Joey Dorsey coming off the bench to snare 10 much-needed rebounds. Rookie KJ McDaniels even knocked down a shot for the first time since joining the Rockets, saying, “It felt really good; a big relief.”

Harden especially seemed to need the release. He began the game as if in a mad rush to leave the one-game suspension and last-minute missed call behind him, getting six turnovers and missing a handful of layups in the first half. Once he settled down, however, he seemed to control any part of the game he chose.

By the time Harden found Corey Brewer on a cut for a layup, he had 12 assists for his fourth game in the past five with at least 10, and the Rockets began clearing their bench with a 22-point lead.

“He’s going to find you when you’re open,” said Brewer, who made 7-for-12 shots for his 15 points off the bench. “Everybody is going to (defend) him and leave guys open and he’s making the right pass. We just have to make the right shots because we’re so wide open.”

Harden’s triple-double was his third of the season, the most for a Rockets player since Clyde Drexler had three in the 1996-97 season. Though the Rockets led by as much as 24 and never trailed by more than one point, the Rockets needed Harden to dominate when Pistons big men Andre Drummond (who had 21 rebounds) and Greg Monroe (who had 19 points) took over inside in the second half.


No. 3: Parker continues his comeback — The Spurs have been waiting months for Tony Parker to regain his form and provide the kind of offensive spark they’ll need to defend their NBA championship in the playoffs. Lately the shots have started to fall. Then Friday night there was his signature spin move on the fastbreak. Parker isn’t ready to jump the gun and say all of his troubles are in the past just yet. But according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News, it certainly looked like old times in a win over the Nuggets:

His teammates call the signature sequence “circle to the square.”

Tony Parker will be out on the break. He will make a 360-degree spin move to separate from his defender (“the circle”) then lay the ball off the middle of the backboard (“the square”).

His Spurs teammates have been waiting for Parker to break out that geometry lesson for quite some time.

Midway through a tougher-than-expected 120-111 victory over Denver on Friday at the AT&T Center, Parker at last obliged.

After Parker spun past Will Barton en route to his best scoring night in more than two months, guard Danny Green made the declaration Spurs fans have been pining to hear.

“Yep,” Green said, “he’s back.”

There are others in the Spurs’ locker room who would call rumors of Parker’s resurrection premature.

One of them is Parker.

“I don’t want to jinx it,” the 32-year-old point guard said. “Every time I think I’m back, I get something else wrong.”

Still, Parker was a catalyst for the Spurs’ fourth consecutive victory Friday, which equaled their second-longest streak of the season.

He busted out his entire arsenal on his way to 24 points and seven assists — teardrops, rim runs, jumpers, all of it.


No. 4: Mavericks out of class against Warriors — They were a couple of weeks late to be part of the Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary celebration. But the Mavericks certainly looked like the “Not Ready For Prime Time Players” in back-to-back national TV losses at Portland and Golden State. Dirk Nowitzki tells Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News that all teams go through slumps. But seven losses in their last nine games, the playoff picture is starting to look daunting for Dallas:

The Warriors are the best team in the Western Conference for a reason and they showed their strength throughout with a balanced attack and strong defense anchored by Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green. The Mavericks were shooting under 35 percent through three quarters, after which they were down 82-64. It didn’t get much better in the fourth.

The Mavericks? They look lost right now and it’s clear they need to regroup.

“I’ve been in this league 17 years,” Nowitzki said. “Even in our great years, the championship year, it’s not all smiles. There were some times we went through some rough stretches. I remember we went 2-7 over one time in the championship year. You just got to stick with it. You never know what can happen in a month or month and a half.

One thing for sure is if we want to make a run at this, we got to get healthy. That’s obvious.”

In their banged-up state, the Mavericks were rolled on back-to-back nights by Portland and Golden State.

“You never want to lose like that twice on national TV,” Nowitzki said. “That’s a tough pill to swallow. It’s not good. I can’t say anything great about these two losses. We got to get some of our mojo back.”

The Warriors now have won six in a row against the Mavericks dating to last season. The last time Golden State had six consecutive wins against the Mavericks was from Dec. 26, 1996 to Dec. 16, 1997.


No. 5: Shaw would like to coach Magic — It’s only been a matter of days since Brian Shaw was dumped by the Nuggets. But the veteran who played part of his NBA career in Orlando reportedly would like a chance to resumer his coaching career with the Magic, according to Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel:

A person close to Shaw told the Orlando Sentinel that the former Magic guard would “absolutely” be “very interested” if or when the job opens.
Shaw, 48, is coming off a bitter breakup with the Denver Nuggets, fired in just his second season as head coach on Tuesday.

He had replaced venerable George Karl, landing his first opportunity after years as an assistant. But he and the underachieving Nuggets didn’t mesh. They lost 19 of 21 in one stretch this season, and a Denver columnist wrote that players lacked professionalism and essentially quit on Shaw.

Shaw played three seasons with the Magic (1994-95 and 1996-97) before retiring after the 2002-03 season.

He served as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Indiana Pacers.

The Magic fired Jacque Vaughn on Feb. 5 after he coached for two-plus seasons. Vaughn’s lead assistant, James Borrego, took over as interim coach.

General Manager Rob Hennigan said that Borrego could be considered a candidate to be hired on a permanent basis.

The Magic are 5-6 under Borrego.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Hassan Whiteside had a conversation with Erik Spoelstra, then a good seat on the bench to watch the Heat in a near-miss against the Wizards…Cavs coach David Blatt isn’t happy that his main man LeBron James has been taking so many hits lately…The Clippers will honor long-time play-by-play man and one of the all-time greats Ralph Lawler on Monday night at Staples Center…Michael Beasley says he’s playing “with desperation” in what he sees as his last NBA chance…Mickey Arison imagines John Lennon singing in Miami at a Heat game.

ICYMI(s) of The Night: A sequence like this illustrates why Paul George is among the best two-way players in the game today …:

VIDEO: Paul George gets the steal and then caps the break with a fancy jam

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 22

VIDEO: Highlights of games played Feb. 21


No roar for Dragon | Davis hurt again | Rockets get bench blast | J.R. returns to Garden | No buyout for Prince

No. 1: Dragic can’t light fire in Miami debut — Only hours after being officially introduced as a member of the Heat, Goran Dragic had to cram to learn the Miami playbook on his iPad, but he couldn’t learn enough or adjust fast enough to overcome the loss of Chris Bosh and avoid a loss to the visiting Pelicans. Dragic missed his first five shots of the games and the Heat could never quite get comfortable in their first game with the new point guard, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“We have some work to do,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’re not going to make excuses for it. It was a very emotional day.”

Even with the Pelicans losing forward Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson for the night, and perhaps longer, with injuries in the first half, the Heat fell behind by 25 early in the third quarter on the way to falling to 9-16 at home and 23-31 overall, now in an even more tenuous position in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

“Bringing in a dynamic player and losing a dynamic player, we have to start over,” guard Dwyane Wade said. “We can’t feel story for ourselves. We still have an opportunity to make the playoffs.”

With Goran Dragic missing his first five shots, and with Wade uneven in completing a back-to-back set in his first home game since Jan. 27, the Heat lacked nearly enough, even with Mario Chalmers making his first seven shots and closing with 20 points and with center Hassan Whiteside getting back on double-double track with 11 points and 16 rebounds.

“It looked like we were strangers out there on both ends of the court,” Spoelstra said. “We can fix that. We’ll continue to try to simplify the package.”

“We’ll keep scaling back until everybody feels comfortable with whatever package we have. We looked cluttered in the mind.”
For the Heat, the search for continuity presented another ragged ride, with assists at a premium.

“We have some work to do,” Spoelstra said. “We have some work to do and I think tonight showed that.”


No. 2: Pelicans get win, but lose A.D., Anderson — For a team with just four wins in its last 10 games and fading hopes of keeping pace in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, it was a costly victory for the Pelicans Saturday night. They beat Miami, but saw forwards Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson both leave the game with injuries. John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune has the details:

Pelicans star forward Anthony Davis was forced out of Saturday night’s game against the Miami Heat in the first quarter after re-injuring his right shoulder when he collided into Heat center Hassan Whiteside on a shot attempt.
Davis grimmaced in pain as he walked toward the Pelicans’ bench before coach Monty Williams was forced to call a timeout with 3:06 remaining in the quarter.

The Pelicans said Davis aggravated his right shoulder and was unable to return.

Backup forward Ryan Anderson also was forced out of the game in the second quarter after he suffered a sprained right knee.
Last week, Davis was forced to miss two games and skip this past Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game after spraining his right shoulder after a Feb. 7 game against the Chicago Bulls after he fell hard following a dunk. He returned on Friday night against the Orlando Magic.


No. 3: Brewer picks Rockets off the deck — It’s not always the James Harden Solo Show in Houston, even though it most often seems that way. One night after they were flat and flattened in Dallas, Corey Brewer came off the bench to provide the spark the Rockets needed to end the Raptors club record five-game road winning streak. Our man Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle has the report:

Yet, a night after a lethargic, sloppy loss in Dallas, no matter what might have gone wrong, the Rockets did one thing right. They played hard, with energy and effort that the Raptors could not match. A game that seemed about its headline stars became instead about Corey Brewer flying around the court like a live electrical wire until he and the Rockets high-voltage reserves drove the Rockets to a 98-76 rout of the Raptors Saturday at Toyota Center.
“Last night was a rough game,” said Brewer, who had season-highs with 26 points and 10 rebounds. “We didn’t have any energy coming back from the break and they beat us, they beat us pretty bad. Tonight, I feel like personally I had to bring energy. I just came out and played hard and everything worked out.”
The energy off the bench from Brewer, Josh Smith and Terrence Jones so completely took the game from the muck of the first half to a second-half blowout, that the Rockets seemed revived, as if they had recaptured something lost long before they were overwhelmed in losses heading in and out of the break.
“We talked about it today,” said Harden, who escaped from an 0 for 6 first half to score 16 of his 20 points in the third quarter. “Early in the season, we were locking teams down. We were the … No. 2 defensive efficiency in the league. We have to get back to those ways.
“It’s about effort and energy. When you have the entire team like that for four quarters it’s tough to beat us.”


No. 4: J.R. Smith comes back with more shots at the triangle — He’s settling in comfortably in the rotation of the surging Cavaliers and his new coach David Blatt is calling him a dream. But approaching the first game back at Madison Square Garden since being traded by the Knicks, J.R. Smith is still hammering away at Phil Jackson’s triangle in a conversation with Marc Berman of the N.Y. Post:

“I don’t want to say I felt different [since the trade], [the system] was just easier to play,” Smith said. “The style of basketball we play suits my game — run and gun, shoot open shots. Just play.
“It was tough from a mental standpoint. You start second-guessing yourself and your talent to a certain point. So many guys thrived in that triangle, and you want to put yourself in that class. Not living up to it is kind of disappointing.”

Asked the toughest part of mastering the Derek Fisher/Jackson system, Smith gave his most detailed complaint yet.

“The toughest thing is we didn’t run enough,” Smith said. “With the talent we had, there was no transition offense. It was bring the ball up, run our set and go from there. Everything is a read. So I may not be reading the same thing as the next person is reading. Before you know it, you got turnovers, missed shots and bad transition defense.”


No. 5: Van Gundy says Prince buyout would be “dumb” — Let’s get this straight. Stan Van Gundy might have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night. The Pistons coach and team president said he didn’t trade for veteran Tayshaun Prince at the deadline on Thursday just to buy out the contract of the former Detroit champion. SVG told Brendan Savage of that a buyout of Prince would simply make no sense:

“The reason Boston made the trade is to save money,” said Van Gundy, the Pistons coach and team president. “We’re paying Tayshaun more money. If he was going to get bought out, he should have done it in Boston. They should let him be bought out. That’s not on me to buy him out. That’s not part of the deal.
“We weren’t told of this until after we made the trade by Tayshaun’s agent. Why would we trade guys who are making less money to take on more money to waive him? That would have been the dumbest personnel move ever.

“It’s not on us.”

Van Gundy was asked if the Pistons should give a veteran like Prince, who doesn’t fit in their long-term plans, the chance to play for another championship.

“I understand he didn’t get what he wanted but the question you’re asking should be asked of (Celtics president) Danny Ainge, not of us,” Van Gundy said. “We didn’t break any agreement with him. There’s no reason for us to buy him out. They could have bought him out if that’s what they wanted to do.

“We wouldn’t have traded for a guy to take on an additional $1.2 million … to waive the guy. Why would we do that? And then we’d still need another guy at that position. If that were the case, we would have kept the guys we traded out and Boston could have waived him.

“I understand he’s upset because he was led to believe one thing but that’s certainly not on us.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Andrei Kirilenko is headed back to Europe…Kobe Bryant says he will “die trying” in his comeback next season…Arron Afflalo writes that he’s chasing a championship at new home in Portland..Isaiah Canaan is the starting point guard in Philly.