Posts Tagged ‘Randy Foye’

Morning Shootaround — May 23


NEWS OF THE MORNING

Thunder rush started with a kick | LeBron vows to protect himself | Green’s kick will get more scrutiny | Waiters at center of OKC’s passing fancy

No. 1: Thunder rush started with a kick The blitz started after Draymond Green delivered a kick to the nether regions on Steven Adams and by the time it was over, the Oklahoma City Thunder had blown the Golden State Warriors off the court in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. Whatever notion there was that the reigning champion Warriors were head and shoulders better than a team they beat all three times during the regular season seems to have vanished. But as our very own Shaun Powell explains, the Thunder rush in Game 3 started with a kick:

This might be the first documented case where somebody kicked someone else in the manhood, and the kicker collapsed harder than the victim.

This isn’t meant to make light of Draymond Green‘s curious foot placement on the body of Steven Adams, but an attempt to explain what happened next, how Green and the Warriors wound up wearing the ice bag and wincing. Through three games of the Western Conference finals, they’re down 2-1 to the Thunder, and fresh off a Game 3 beatdown, and facing their most serious challenge since becoming a superteam a little more than a year ago.

There’s certainly no reason for them to panic, or to overstate a 28-point loss. It is, however, time for them and everyone to concede the obvious, that this Oklahoma City team and this series is unlike anything the Warriors have seen before.

The record will show the Warriors trailed 2-1 twice in the playoffs since last season, to the Grizzlies and Cavaliers. Each time the Warriors responded emphatically, and both on the road. They won by 17 in Memphis and 21 in Cleveland and once order was swiftly restored, the Warriors went about the business of being champions.

But these aren’t the scoring-challenged Grizzlies or the injury-ravaged Cavs. These are the Thunder, healthy and loaded, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook locked in. Finally, the Warriors are being confronted by a threat without asterisks, an opponent on their level or close enough.

And what do we make of the Warriors at this point? Well, it’ll be up to the NBA police to determine if Green’s kick was malicious enough to warrant a one-game suspension. After having the ball stripped from him during a jump shot against Adams, Green’s right foot caught Adams flush during the follow through. That will be tricky for the league; how can you know for sure about intent? Without that, it would be a reach if the NBA punishes Green and therefore affects a playoff series, even though Cleveland’s Dahntay Jones was just hit with a suspension for a similar crime, and even if this was the second time in as many games where Green connected with Adams’ groin.

No surprise, there was dueling stances on the subject.

Adams: “It’s happened before. He’s pretty accurate.”

Westbrook: “I don’t think you can keep kicking somebody in their private areas. It looks intentional to me.”

Green: “I was following through with my shot and my leg went up. I don’t see how anyone can say I did that on purpose. I didn’t even know it happened.”

Green did plead guilty of delivering a dud of a performance, and for that, he kicked himself.

“Awful,” he said.

***

No. 2: LeBron James vows to protect himself As the physicality continues to rise in the Eastern Conference finals, LeBron James has made a vow to protect himself. What, exactly, he’s protecting himself from remains the question, especially since he’s initiated as much contact as he’s received from the Toronto Raptors. But after things got a little testy for both sides in Game 3, LeBron has made a vow to protect himself tonight in Game 4 (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com has more:

This is not the first time LeBron James vowed to protect himself.

After Cleveland’s 99-84 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of the Eastern finals Saturday night – the Cavs’ first loss of the postseason – James was asked about his ability to shake off hard fouls without retaliation.

There were a couple against him in Game 3 – including one by his own teammate – and James got a little testy as the contact continued but ultimately dusted himself off and went to the foul line.

One play in particular, a hard foul committed by one of the Raptors’ stars of the night, Bismack Biyombo, in which he wrapped James around the neck and popped him in the jaw to try to stop a layup with 3:21 to go, was on James’ brain.

Biyombo was assessed a flagrant foul. But in the immediate aftermath of the play, James first jumped toward Biyombo before peeling away to cool off. He made both free throws to cut the Cavs’ deficit to 12.

“At the end of the day, I’m important to this team,” James said. “I can’t afford to react in any kind of way that will get me thrown out of a game, but I will protect myself, I will protect myself.”

And then James quoted his friend and rapper Jay Z, using the following reference to illustrate his place as one of the NBA’s brightest stars, and the target on his back that exists because of it.

Quoting Jay Z’s “The Streets is Watching,” James said “If I shoot you, then I’m brainless; if you shoot me, you’re famous.”

The Cavaliers essentially shrugged off the loss. They tipped their caps to the Raptors, and said there was little they needed to change after the 15-point defeat. Just play a little better.

Asked if losing for the first time in the playoffs constituted “adversity,” James said “why not?” Commenting on the collectively poor outings from Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, who shot a combined 4-of-28, James quipped “I think it’s good for them.”

There was virtually no sense coming from the Cavs that this series had changed yet, that the upper hand so firmly in Cleveland’s grasp had slipped. But James and the Cavs are definitely going to have to protect themselves.

***

No. 3: Green’s kick will get more scrutiny Draymond Green insists his kick that landed below the waist line of Steven Adams was not intentional. Whether or not that explanation satisfies the league’s disciplinary office remains to be seen. One way or another, word will come down before Tuesday’s Game 4 matchup (9 p.m. ET, TNT). Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group takes a deeper dive into the play that changed the game and perhaps the series:

Draymond Green insisted his kick in the area of the family jewels of Steven Adams was unintentional as he flailed on the follow-through to draw a foul.

While Adams crouched in agony as Green pleaded his case, it all went the Oklahoma City Thunder’s way after that.

The Warriors were blasted by the Thunder in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, losing 133-105 on Sunday and now trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. Afterward, Green had to answer for the low blow.

“Honestly, I didn’t know I hit him,” Green said of Adams. “I walked to the 3-point line, clapped everybody’s hand. I turned around, he’s on the floor. I’m going like, ‘What happened?’ ”

After Green was whistled for a flagrant foul and hit two free throws on the shooting foul, the Thunder responded with a 24-5 run to close out the first half with a 72-47 lead.

“This is the Western Conference finals,” Warriors center Festus Ezeli said coach Steve Kerr told the team.

“It was just like a stern, ‘We know we’re better than that.’ “

The 72 points were the most allowed by the Warriors in any half this season, as they lost their poise in the heat of a frenetic playoff game on the road.

Fans chanted “kick him out” at the officials as they reviewed video of Green’s kick to Adams., but a Flagrant Foul 1 was assessed that he didn’t think he deserved.

“If I was throwing a shot, I’m not trying to kick somebody in the midsection,” Green said. “I’m sure he’d want to have kids one day. I’m not trying to end that on the basketball court. That don’t make sense.

“I know my core’s not strong enough to stop my leg halfway from wherever it was going.”

Asked if he felt the kick was intentional or not, Adams said, “I have no idea, mate. That’s for other people to make the judgment.”

***

No. 4: Dion Waiters at the center of Thunder ball movement party He wouldn’t be the first person you’d look for when the topic of ball movement comes up regarding the Oklahoma City Thunder. But there he was in Game 3 Sunday, Dion Waiters in the middle of the ball movement mix for a Thunder team that dismantled the Golden State Warriors by sharing the wealth beyond just Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Erik Horne of the The Oklahoman explains:

With the Thunder leading by three points in the first quarter, Billy Donovan made his first substitution at 7:19, bringing in Dion Waiters.

Less than two minutes later, Waiters picked up the ball on the break and saw 6-foot-11 Festus Ezeli in front of him. The Thunder guard hesitated a beat to get Ezeli thinking he was going to pull up for a jumper. Wrong.

Waiters blew by Ezeli … but looked stuffed at the rim before uncoiling a wraparound pass to Serge Ibaka for an easy dunk.

Jokes have been made about “Waiters Island,” a place where ball movement stops and jumpers go up. But Waiters’ infectious passing spread throughout the Thunder in its 133-105 blowout of the Warriors in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.

By the end of the first quarter, the Thunder had nine assists on 13 made baskets. If Russell Westbrook captained the assist effort with five in the first, Waiters was his running mate, providing arguably the top two helpers of the night.

“We had several different ballhandlers in there that could help contribute and make plays alongside of Russell and Kevin,” Donovan said. “I thought our ball movement was very good. We got everybody involved. It was good to see that.”

Two possessions after Ibaka’s dunk, Waiters saw an opening on the fast break, but it closed quickly. He drove into a mass of bodies in the lane, yet managed to twist his arms around for a highlight assist, releasing the ball softly into the path of Kevin Durant for a layup and the 25-13 lead.

Waiters said even with his view partially obstructed, he saw the double team coming and knew Durant was running to the rim.

“I knew two was gonna collapse,” Waiters said. “(He’s) 6-11. All you have to do is give him the ball, he’s gonna finish.”

Waiters finished with 13 points, three assists and one turnover. When he entered at 8:41 in the third, he tiptoed the baseline and found Westbrook for a 3-pointer, then hit a rainbow jump shot of his own at 3:40 put the Thunder ahead 33.

By then, the Showtime passing had reached rare levels even for the Thunder. Westbrook finished with a team-best 12 assists, but his one that wasn’t could have been the most impressive. Westbrook jumped out on a two-on-one break and threw a through-the-legs pass to Randy Foye who was fouled at 3:35. The lead was 34.

Even in a runaway, the Thunder was still passing it around with gusto. It finished with 21 assists, 19 coming in the first three quarters in which OKC put the game out of hand.

In Sunday’s victory, the so-called island was inhabited by all the Thunder, with Waiters handing out the early invites.

“They’re gonna make you pass the ball, the way they’re playing us,” Waiters said. “They’re loading up on guys and they’re almost begging you to pass.

“Your job is to be as aggressive as possible with the ball so you can make the right play … and the smart play at the same time.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The big man who saved the Eastern Conference finals from a sweep: Bismack Biyombo … Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton is eager to get to work under Frank Vogel … Warriors coach Steve Kerr is set to interview Stephen Silas for the vacant position on his coaching staff … Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue admits he should have gone to LeBron James more in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Raptors … Toronto native Cory Joseph is fired up and believes the Raptors can hang with the Cavaliers …

Five takeaways from the deadline

VIDEO: Houston’s Dwight Howard may opt for a new address over the summer

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The 2016 trade deadline came and went rather quietly. Dwight Howard is still in Houston, Jeff Teague is still in Atlanta, and Ryan Anderson is still in New Orleans. Blake Griffin and Kevin Love were never going anywhere.

But some deals – two on Tuesday and 10 on Thursday – were made at the deadline. And a couple of them involved title contenders, though none were moves that will make a major impact.

Here are five takeaways from a deadline day that didn’t exactly alter the NBA landscape…

Stay tuned for the summer

This summer was already set to be a big one. With revenue and the salary cap rising, almost every team in the league will have cap space and most will have enough to sign at least one max-level player. The list of 2016 free agents includes Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Mike Conley, Al Horford, Nicolas Batum, Andre Drummond, Harrison Barnes and Bradley Beal, as well as LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan and Howard (if they decline their player options).

But cap space can also be used to absorb players via trade without having to send out salary, and the opportunity will be there for teams to unload players in July.

So if the Hawks want to hand the reigns to Dennis Schroder, they could shop Teague (who still has one more year left on his contract) again in the summer. There definitely will be multiple teams looking for a starting point guard at that point, and Conley is the only one on the list above.

Brooklyn is another team that could decide to be a seller in July. Sean Marks was hired as the Nets’ new general manager less than five hours before the deadline, so he didn’t have much time to make a decision on Thaddeus Young (who was reportedly in demand) and Brook Lopez. Both of those guys have two guaranteed years left on their contracts and Marks could look to move them this summer if he wants to go for a slower and more organic rebuild.

The Cavs and Clippers will take one more shot at a championship with Love and Griffin. And if either team falls short again (at least one of them will), other teams will come calling, wondering if Cleveland and L.A. are ready to try something different.

All that cap space may have also kept teams from trading multiple assets for players – like Anderson, Al Horford and Howard – they could lose to free agency (or sign away from the teams they’re still on) in the summer.

Playoff push in the East

The three teams that made the most impactful moves are currently sitting in the eighth, ninth and tenth spots in the Eastern Conference.

On Tuesday, the eighth-place Charlotte Hornets (27-26) traded for Courtney Lee, while the Detroit Pistons (27-27) got Tobias Harris from Orlando. On Thursday, Detroit gave up their first round pick for Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton, and the Washington Wizards (23-28) traded for malcontent Markieff Morris.

There was some risk involved in those last two deals. Motiejunas has played just 14 games this season, dealing with back problems. He was a key to the Rockets’ success last season, but might not be ready to help the Pistons get over the hump. Morris, meanwhile, fought with a teammate (Archie Goodwin) just last week and has actually shot worse this season (effective field goal percentage of 42.2 percent) than one of the guys – Kris Humphries (47.8 percent) – he was traded for.

Only 2 1/2 games separate the fifth-place Miami Heat from the ninth-place Pistons with 28 or 29 games to go. So the opportunity is there for both Charlotte and Detroit to move up into a position where they don’t have to face Cleveland in the first round. The Wizards have a lot more work to do, but also seem to have more pressure on them to make something of this season.

All about the bottom line

The No. 1 concern for the Heat right now is Chris Bosh, and if the All-Star isn’t going to be available down the stretch, Miami could fall out of the playoff picture for a second straight year.

But whether they’re going to the playoffs or not, the Heat had some fiscal issues to deal with. And team president Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg used three trades in the last three days to unload fringe salary and get under the luxury tax line.

Miami was one of *two teams that was subject to repeater tax levels this season. While other teams over the tax line pay $1.50 of tax for every dollar they’re over the line, the Heat were going to pay $2.50. So before Tuesday, Miami had a tax bill of more than $25 million. But the three trades they made (sending Chris Andersen, Jarnell Stokes and Brian Roberts out) got them under the tax line. Now, they’ll get some of the luxury tax paid out by the remaining tax paying teams (like Cleveland and Oklahoma City).

* Brooklyn was the other, but got under the tax line with its buyout of Deron Williams and a couple of minor moves in July.

Two contenders get bench help

The Cavs and Thunder also lightened their tax bills with moves that were seemingly more about the fringe of their rotation. Cleveland swapped Anderson Varejao for Channing Frye, whose shooting should complement LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Oklahoma City, meanwhile, traded D.J. Augustin (who had lost his back-up point guard spot to Cameron Payne) for Randy Foye.

Foye has shot less than 30 percent from 3-point range this season, but he gives the Thunder more depth in the backcourt with Andre Roberson out, another option when Dion Waiters isn’t shooting well, and a little more flexibility in regard to playing small against a team like the Golden State Warriors.

It’s hard to believe, though, that either of those moves will make much of a difference against the champs or the San Antonio Spurs.

Trash or treasure?

A trade that got in just before the buzzer was a swap of disappointing reserves on Western Conference playoff teams. Of course, if you paid attention to what they did at their previous stops, you can’t say that Jeff Green and Lance Stephenson were all that disappointing in Memphis and L.A., respectively.

Green gives the Clippers a little more stability, but it’s hard to believe that he moves the needle for a team that has played at a level below the three best teams in the West. The Grizzlies’ season is seemingly on the brink with Marc Gasol suffering a broken foot before the break, but they’ll take a shot with a roster that now includes a plethora of interesting characters and a lot of small ball, featuring Zach Randolph at center.

Green has an expiring contract and Stephenson has a team option for next season, so the only long-term risk is with the Clippers sending a first round pick to Memphis.

2016 Trade Deadline blog

From NBA.com staff reports

One of the busiest days in terms of NBA roster chatter and speculation is here: trade deadline day. With the deadline behind us, here’s everything that happened on a mostly quiet day. While you’re reviewing all the action, don’t forget to check out our Trade Tracker and other 2016 Trade Deadline coverage.

Highlights

Live blog — Part I | Live blog — Part II
Howard, Horford, Teague, Anderson staying putStephenson dealt to Grizzlies | Markieff Morris to Washington | Hinrich to Atlanta | Pistons trade pick for Motiejunas | Frye headed to Cleveland | Jazz trade for Mack | Thunder trade for Foye | Heat get under the tax line

UPDATE, 3:52 p.m. ET — Bucks, others had Howard talks

Dwight Howard is staying in Houston for the rest of 2015-16, but there was a chance he could have been in Milwaukee, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com …

UPDATE, 3:28 p.m. ET — Sixers get Anthony from Rockets

Hours have he was acquired by the Rockets from the Pistons in the Donatas Motiejunas deal, Joel Anthony is on the move again

UPDATE, 3:18 p.m. ET — The names that didn’t move

There was plenty of chatter surrounding Dwight Howard, Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young and Ryan Anderson, as well as minor rumblings about Blake Griffin, Kevin Love and Pau Gasol. But none of those guys are going anywhere at the deadline.

UPDATE, 3:15 p.m. ET — Stephenson to Memphis

UPDATE, 3:06 p.m. ET — Hinrich to Atlanta

Another small deal has trickled in after the deadline…

UPDATE, 2:43 p.m. ET — Markieff Morris to Washington

Markieff Morris, who’s been unhappy in Phoenix since his brother was traded last summer, was always the most likely player to be traded on Wednesday. And the destination for Morris is Washington…

Both Blair and Humphries had non-guaranteed deals for next season, so Morris’ contract (three more years, $7.4 million next season) eats into the Wizards’ cap space, which has been earmarked for Kevin Durant.

UPDATE, 2:16 p.m. ET — Heat get under the tax line

No team has made more deals than the Miami Heat this week, and it’s all been about getting under the luxury tax line. Pat Riley did just that with the third of the three deals…

Because the Heat were subject to repeater tax levels this season, they were set to pay more than $25 million in tax before the trades that sent out Chris Andersen, Jarnell Stokes and Roberts (who was acquired in the Andersen, three-team trade). Now, they’re not paying any tax, and will get a portion of the money that the remaining tax-paying teams are paying out.

UPDATE, 2:04 p.m. ET — No quit in the Kings

It’s not clear why the Kings covet Pau Gasol, but it is clear that they do…

UPDATE, 2:01 p.m. ET — No deal for Howard?

With the trade deadline just an hour away, the biggest name that had a decent chance of being traded is still in the same place…

UPDATE, 1:41 p.m. ET — Talk, but no action in Minnesota

When the Minnesota Timberwolves host the New York Knicks on Saturday, it will be Ricky Rubio bobblehead night. The real Rubio will probably be there, but the Wolves have talked with at least one team about trading their point guard…

A Kevin Martin trade would seemingly be more likely, but…

UPDATE, 1:26 p.m. ET — Thunder trade Augustin for Foye

Looking for a boost to their bench, the Oklahoma City Thunder have acquired Randy Foye from Denver…

UPDATE, 1:24 p.m. ET — Teague staying in Atlanta

Jeff Teague will be the Atlanta Hawks’ point guard for at least another two months.

The Hawks could field more offers for Teague in the summer, when multiple teams will be looking for a starting point guard and when the market is pretty shallow beyond the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley. Teague has one more season (at just $8 million) left on his contract.

UPDATE, 1:09 p.m. ET — No action in Dallas

The Dallas Mavericks are standing pat.

Gallinari tears right meniscus


VIDEO: Denver’s Danilo Gallinari with the bucket and the foul

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari will have surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee and could miss as many as three weeks, per multiple reports.

Gallinari’s injury was discovered after his best game of the season, a win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night when he scored 19 points. Gallinari could have the surgery to repair the meniscus as early as Monday and the tentative timetable for his return is a minimum of three weeks.

Gallinari was trying to work his way back to form this season after missing 19 months of action after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and having two surgeries to repair that injury. Gallinari was playing this season with a bone bruise in his right knee, having missed two games last week with pain associated with that injury.

The news of this latest injury is a blow to a Nuggets team that hasn’t seen Gallinari at his best in nearly two years now. The Nuggets are also currently playing without JaVale McGee (leg strain) and Randy Foye (quad).

Hey Denver, they’re free, free, free!

The Nuggets hope improvement at the foul line will fuel their turnaround (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images).

The Nuggets hope improvement at the foul line will fuel their turnaround (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty).

Mile high. And a little short.

Or long. Or left or right.

That’s how Brian Shaw characterized the Denver Nuggets’ gap between where they wound up last season and where they should have been. If you work backwards from Denver’s 36-46 finish last spring and first missed postseason in a decade in search of a butterfly effect – a hiccup in one area that leads to a major disruption somewhere else – you need to look hard at the Nuggets’ foul shooting.

Denver ranked fifth in the NBA in free-throw attempts last season but a miserable 27th in FT percentage (.726). The league average was .815, but never mind that: the Nuggets had 28 games in which they made fewer than 70 percent of their free throws and they went 10-18 on those nights.

“That’s more mental than anything else,” Shaw, Denver’s head coach, said last week during a break in the NBA coaches meetings. “Usually games are won or lost within the margin of how many free throws are missed.”

Let’s see: Denver missed an average of 7.2 free throws last season. Fifteen of their 46 defeats were by a margin of seven points or less. Roger that.

Your average NBA team got 17.83 points per game from the foul line in 2013-14. The Nuggets had 36 games in which they failed to hit more than 17, going 13-23. They had three games in which they made 12, missed 10, repeatedly hitting their low mark of 54.5 percent in a game.

This wasn’t some new speed bump for the Nuggets. Shaw has been talking about free-throw proficiency since he took over prior to last season, in part because he was a career .762 foul shooter in 14 NBA seasons with seven teams.

Denver ranked 28th (.701) in foul shooting in 2012-13, George Karl‘s final season as coach. It ranked 25th (.735) the season before that. Not since 2009-10 have the Nuggets finished in the top half of the NBA in success rate (.772).

Last October, Shaw generated some headlines by standing under the rim one day at practice and allowing the ball on made free throws to hit him on top of the head. It was a challenge to his guys, and while some took aim and hit their target, Shaw never was at risk of submitting to concussion protocols.

“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things,” Shaw said, asked for the cause. “You have to have a comfort level at the free-throw line. It takes a lot of practice. Different guys react differently – some guys make ’em all in practice but then they get out there in the game, when the stands are filled, and they [struggle]. We have a sports psychologist at their disposal to talk to and work on ways of calming themselves down.” (more…)

Pierce cares not about your hand in his face


VIDEO: Pierce’s big three seals Brooklyn’s win vs. Toronto

BROOKLYN — Nets coach Jason Kidd didn’t think Paul Pierce was going to play Monday night.

Pierce, dealing with an injured shoulder, played. He played 30 minutes, scored 15 points, and hit the biggest shot of the night, a 3-pointer that gave the Nets a three-point lead with 1:14 left and propelled them to a big win over the visiting Raptors.

It was a tough shot, because Kyle Lowry was in Pierce’s shirt with a hand in his face. But Pierce had to take it because the shot clock was about to expire.

And maybe it didn’t matter that Lowry was there, because, according to SportVU, Pierce has shot better on contested jumpers than uncontested jumpers. Among 92 players who have attempted at least 100 of each, only one — the Pelicans’ Brian Roberts — has a bigger discrepancy.

Players who have shot better on contested jumpers

Uncontested Contested
Player FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG% Diff.
Brian Roberts 82 213 38.5% 63 128 49.2% -10.7%
Paul Pierce 83 236 35.2% 62 151 41.1% -5.9%
Russell Westbrook 73 203 36.0% 57 138 41.3% -5.3%
Dirk Nowitzki 200 439 45.6% 210 431 48.7% -3.2%
LeBron James 140 370 37.8% 47 117 40.2% -2.3%
Marcus Morris 102 252 40.5% 61 143 42.7% -2.2%
Rudy Gay 87 223 39.0% 105 259 40.5% -1.5%
Evan Turner 107 288 37.2% 88 231 38.1% -0.9%
Rodney Stuckey 67 178 37.6% 55 145 37.9% -0.3%
Jamal Crawford 142 355 40.0% 143 356 40.2% -0.2%
James Harden 141 375 37.6% 69 183 37.7% -0.1%

Minimum 100 of each.
Contested = Any jump shot outside of 10 feet with a defender within four feet of the shooter.

Note: We’re looking at standard field goal percentage and not effective field goal percentage to simply see the effect on a player’s success rate.

That LeBron James has shot better on contested jumpers is more incentive for defenses to play off him on the perimeter, as the Spurs did (successfully, until Game 7) in The Finals.

The league has shot 5.4 percent better on uncontested jumpers this season. But a contest will affect some players more than others. On the opposite end of the spectrum from Roberts and Pierce is the Suns’ Goran Dragic

Players who have shot at least 10 percent better on uncontested jumpers

Uncontested Contested
Player Name FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG% Diff.
Goran Dragic 145 279 52.0% 52 178 29.2% 22.8%
David West 142 288 49.3% 35 102 34.3% 15.0%
C.J. Miles 86 191 45.0% 36 118 30.5% 14.5%
Khris Middleton 148 302 49.0% 57 161 35.4% 13.6%
Jameer Nelson 118 312 37.8% 35 143 24.5% 13.3%
Kevin Love 201 473 42.5% 45 152 29.6% 12.9%
Bradley Beal 181 431 42.0% 78 263 29.7% 12.3%
Jerryd Bayless 91 217 41.9% 41 137 29.9% 12.0%
Terrence Ross 107 240 44.6% 59 181 32.6% 12.0%
Randy Foye 150 363 41.3% 39 132 29.5% 11.8%
Tim Hardaway Jr. 121 296 40.9% 30 103 29.1% 11.8%
Josh Smith 126 380 33.2% 28 129 21.7% 11.5%

For some of these guys, the difference is about how well they shoot when they’re left open. For some, it’s about how poorly they shoot when there’s a defender nearby. Josh Smith probably shouldn’t shoot jumpers at all.

Back And Forth With Bones: Nuggets-Jazz

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Back and Forth With Bones is an e-mail exchange between NBA.com’s John Schuhmann and NBA TV’s Brent Barry during a Monday night game. This week, they sat down (Schuhmann at home in New Jersey, Barry in the studio in Atlanta) to watch the 0-7 Utah Jazz try to get off the schneid, hosting the 1-4 Denver Nuggets on NBA TV.

Pre-game

Schuhmann: Hey Bones, tonight we have the Nuggets and Jazz, who are arguably the two worst teams in the league right now. There are better games on League Pass, but this one isn’t without some intrigue.

Denver has obviously undergone a stylistic change under Brian Shaw. After attempting over 45 percent of their shots from the restricted area each of the last two seasons, they’ve attempted just 32 percent of their shots from there this year. They’re down to 10th and 20th in fast break points and offensive rebounding percentage respectively, after leading the league in both of those categories last year.

Their frontcourt rotation has been a mess without Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler (who is supposed to return tonight). I believe Shaw wants to work the offense through their bigs, but I don’t see any bigs on that roster that can function as a focal point offensively.

Meanwhile, I thought the Jazz would be better defensively after seeing their numbers with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter on the floor last season, but they rank 27th on that end, unable to get boards or keep their opponents off the line. Offensively, Gordon Hayward has the goods, but this team can’t hit a shot from the outside.

So, questions for you:
1. Are you on board with what Shaw is trying to do? Is it just a matter of time (and health) before the Nuggets get on track, or do they need to get back to running and attacking the basket?
2. Do the Jazz have more ability to be a decent offensive team (maybe the shots will start falling at some point) or a decent defensive team (as the bigs develop)?


VIDEO: Jazz broadcaster David Locke discusses Utah’s tough season

Barry: The Jazz are absolutely horrible at getting ball to go through the hoop, important that you can do that — it is called scoring. Last in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.

They’re getting exposed at point guard and can’t put pressure on opposing teams, most of which have pretty good ones, especially in the West.

It’s new territory for the team in terms of bearing heavy minutes, when and how to conserve legs and effort. Bigs worried about picking up scoring takes away rebounding focus. It will be interesting to see if they play confident or embarrassed to open up the game.

For the Nuggets, Shaw is still trying to find rotations that mesh with injuries to key players (Gallo, Kenneth Faried and now JaVale McGee). There’s no way Denver can play through bigs, so it will be interesting to see how Brian is managing the guard play.

Ty Lawson is playing a ton of minutes. Randy Foye next, but top three gunners are Ty (85 FGA), Nate Robinson (45), and Foye (44). They’re losing a bit of a defensive mentality/flexibility with Corey Brewer and Andre Iguodala gone.

Karl loved misfits, mismatches and mental games. It’s hard for new coach to get there without a better understanding, but even tougher when the old coach won a bunch too!

1st quarter

The Jazz got off to a strong start, scoring 26 points on a stretch of 16 possessions in the middle of the first quarter. The Nuggets shot just 8-for-21 in the period, but were only down six.

Schuhmann: The Nuggets are trying to post up Faried early on. I don’t get it.

Barry: And apparently are afraid to touch the paint on the defensive end. Some of the possessions are leaving them with bad floor balance and Jazz looking to run with purpose to score to start a game they really need to win.


VIDEO: Derrick Favors gets up to reject J.J. Hickson

They need a release from the winless start and a close game doesn’t do it.

Schuhmann: Turnovers have been an issue for the Jazz – 2nd highest rate in the league – and they don’t have any through 18 possessions. Favors looks more comfortable in the post than any of the Denver bigs.

Barry: Great patience vs. Mozgov. Fatigue moves the last two, but he responds with a block.

Barry: Good first quarter, but guys got a little tired for Jazz. Feels like Denver got away with one.

2nd quarter (UTA leads 26-20)

The Jazz scored on just three of their first 14 possessions and committed seven turnovers in the period after committing none in the first. The Nuggets had turnover issues of their own, but went on a 19-8 run late in the period to take a five point lead. Four points from Hayward made it a one-point game at the half.

Schuhmann: The Denver offense looks best when Lawson is attacking off the dribble. Not sure what else they can rely on.

Barry: They’ve just lost a lot of dynamic play on the wings with Brewer/Iggy gone and utility/tough matchups in Chandler/Gallo. You can see how they bog down.

Barry: But I do see signs of DHO (dribble hand-offs) and use of the pinch post in the Nuggets’ offense.


VIDEO: Andre Miller loses Jamaal Tinsley with a crafty crossover move

Schuhmann: That move by Andre Miller made my night.

Barry: And his.

Barry: Interesting for Utah to try to take advantage of Hayward in the post on Miller when doubles don’t result in anything good, because the Jazz can’t shoot it from distance.

Schuhmann: 10 combined turnovers in first six minutes of the second quarter. I’m starting to understand why these teams are a combined 1-11.


VIDEO: J.J. Hickson posterizes Jazz forward Marvin Williams

Halftime (DEN leads 46-45)


VIDEO: First half highlights from Nuggets-Jazz

Schuhmann: The Nuggets got things going in the second quarter when they – one – took care of the ball and – two – attacked the basket. 19 of their 26 points came in the paint or at the line.

Barry: And there lies the problem. Kanter and Favors will need to learn how to patrol and control the lower defensive box. Tonight, they are not having to deal with stretch bigs. It’s a technique/muscle game that they are struggling with.

Barry: Some worrisome numbers from PG for the Jazz. Lawson’s numbers at the half (eight points and six assists) might end up being more than the Lucas/Tinsley combo for the game. No playmaking to promote flow for the Jazz. All plays on one’s own to score.

3rd quarter

With the Jazz continuing to struggle offensively, the Nugget built a seven-point lead. But Favors scored seven straight points late in the period to keep it close.

Schuhmann: Lots of Favors in the post again. No double-teams = no ball movement. Denver willing to live with single coverage everywhere.

Schuhmann: Jazz had some pick-and-roll success in the third with a couple of nifty big-to-big passes between Favors and Gobert. Gets the defense moving more than straight post-ups.

Barry: When you can load up elbows and boxes the Jazz have very little room to find offense.

4th quarter (DEN leads 70-68)

The Jazz took a brief lead on an Alec Burks three-point play, but the Nuggets answered with a 10-1 run and scored 13 times in a 15-possession stretch to put the game away.

Barry: Penalty at 10:18 for the Jazz.


VIDEO: Nate Robinson lobs and Kenneth Faried finishes it off

Barry: Great dime by Nate. Pressure mounting on the Jazz, 0-7 and being down at home. Expect some roster change out of this timeout as Ty won’t want to put more pressure on guys to finish it out.

Barry: And there they are…

Barry: Offensive rebounds are crushing the Jazz.

Schuhmann: Yep. Pick-and-rolls are putting their bigs out of position.

Barry: But no reason to be extended that far. Strange injury to Manimal, if he doesn’t come back Utah will have a chance.

Barry: More Dre. Good call by B-Shaw.

Barry: Andre is fantastic… Great drive and shot before Gobert could get feet set to block. And Manimal is back. Not good for the Jazz.

Barry: Utah bigs just seem unaware of how far they are extending. They’re opening up drives and offensive rebounds for Denver. For the last three minutes, Ty can dictate tempo, whereas Utah has no point.

Final: Nuggets 100, Jazz 81


VIDEO: Nuggets pick up road win in Utah

Lawson led Denver with 17 points and 10 assists. Faried added 15 points and 13 rebounds and Miller added another 15 points off the bench for the Nuggets, who had a 48-36 advantage in the paint, a 52-35 advantage on the glass, and a 23-16 edge at the free throw line. Favors finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks, but the Jazz shot a brutal 3-for-17 from 3-point range and are shooting 23 percent from beyond the arc through eight games.

Schuhmann: It’s tough to score with no penetration and no shooting. We saw some decent post-ups from Favors, but the bigs don’t demand a double-team down there.

Denver looked good when they went to last year’s formula of dribble penetration from the point guards and crashing the glass, though with Brewer and Iguodala gone, they’ve lost a lot of their potency on the break. I’m not a fan of trying to work through Faried or Hickson in the post, but they went away from that in the second half. Of course, we can’t really evaluate their D from a game against the Jazz.

Barry: No, but the Horns set seemed to open up basic opportunities for Denver. They will look much different when they have a full complement of players.

But the Jazz have reasons for concern, as Trey Burke is not going to come in and take the Western Conference PG position by storm.

Got Shooting? It’s Going Fast

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The 2012-13 season shall forever be known as the year of the three. There were 3-point records set on the individual, team and league levels. And Ray Allen‘s 3-pointer to tie Game 6 of The Finals will go down as one of the biggest shots in NBA history.

Furthermore, there was a much stronger correlation between offensive efficiency and the percentage of a team’s shots from 3-point range than we’d seen previously. With one notable exception — the Denver Nuggets — the best offenses in the league shot a lot of threes, or at least shot them very well.

Top 10 offenses, 2012-13

Team OffRtg 3PM 3PA 3PT% Rank 3PA% Rank
Miami 110.3 717 1,809 39.6% 2 28.5% 5
Oklahoma City 110.2 598 1,588 37.7% 3 24.4% 12
New York 108.6 891 2,371 37.6% 5 35.4% 1
L.A. Clippers 107.7 627 1,752 35.8% 16 26.5% 8
Denver 107.6 521 1,518 34.3% 25 21.7% 22
Houston 106.7 867 2,369 36.6% 9 34.9% 2
San Antonio 105.9 663 1,764 37.6% 4 26.4% 9
L.A. Lakers 105.6 715 2,015 35.5% 19 30.3% 3
Brooklyn 105.0 628 1,760 35.7% 17 26.9% 7
Golden State 104.2 658 1,632 40.3% 1 23.9% 14

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
3PA% = Percentage of total shots from 3-point range

The Nuggets were upset in the first round when they couldn’t make 3-pointers and, more importantly, couldn’t stop the Warriors from making them. And now, Denver is without the three guys who made the most 3-pointers for them last season. Danilo Gallinari (135) is recovering from ACL surgery, Corey Brewer (91) is a free agent (who could come back), and Andre Iguodala (91) is heading to Golden State.

There’s a lot more to success in this league, but if you want to compete for a championship, you need guys who can knock down long-distance shots. There were several available on the market and a handful of good teams that needed them to take the next step. A couple of those teams will be signing a couple of those shooters. Here’s a look at the contending teams that needed shooting the most and what they’ve done to address the problem…

Chicago Bulls

OffRtg: 100.4 (24), 3PT%: 35.3% (21), 3PA%: 18.9% (29)
The Bulls’ offense will obviously be better with the return of Derrick Rose, but they still need better perimeter shooting to complement their penetrating point guard. They ranked fourth in 3-point percentage in 2011-12, but then said goodbye to Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson.

They’re heading back in the right direction this summer, upgrading from Marco Belinelli (35.7 percent) to Mike Dunleavy (42.8 percent), who ranked third in 3-point percentage among the 57 free agents who attempted at least 100 threes last season. There are few players in the league better than Dunleavy at coming off pin-down screens and draining threes on the wings.

Jimmy Butler should also be a more dangerous shooter, especially with Rose coming back. After shooting just 1.3 threes per game at 38 percent in the regular season, Butler shot 3.1 per game at 41 percent in the playoffs. No. 20 pick Tony Snell is known as a shooter, but hit just 64 threes in 35 games at New Mexico last season.

The Bulls haven’t exactly turned into last year’s Knicks when it comes to shooting threes, but they have taken a step forward.

Denver Nuggets

OffRtg: 107.6 (5), 3PT%: 34.3% (25), 3PA%: 21.7% (22)
The Nuggets took a big step backward by losing Iguodala and trading Kosta Koufos to Memphis. And we don’t know if they’ll play the same fast-paced, attacking style under coach Brian Shaw that they did under coach George Karl.

But Denver will get one of the better shooters on the market by sending Iguodala out via a three-team, sign-and-trade deal with the Warriors and Jazz that brings them Randy Foye, who ranked second among free agents with 178 threes last season and shot them at a 41.0 percent clip. Foye will likely split time at shooting guard with Evan Fournier, who shot a solid 22-for-54 (41 percent) in limited regular season action last season (and went 0-for-8 in the playoffs).

The Nuggets will also have a full season of Wilson Chandler, who shot well after returning from injury last season. Denver’s defense will most certainly fall off without Iguodala, but the Nuggets might actually have a little more inside-out balance to their offense.

Indiana Pacers

OffRtg: 101.6 (19), 3PT%: 34.7% (22), 3PA%: 24.5% (11)
Like the Nuggets, the Pacers thrive in the paint (just not as well). And the No. 1 defense in the league helped them make up for their lack of shooting. But they could have used a few more weak-side threes against the Heat’s aggressive defense in the conference finals, when Lance Stephenson shot 7-for-23 (30 percent) from beyond the arc.

Over his last six full seasons, Danny Granger hit 901 threes at 39 percent. And with Granger set to return from the knee injury that kept him out of all but five games last season, returning team president Larry Bird didn’t have to do a thing to improve his team’s 3-point shooting.

But Bird went out and got Watson (41 percent last season) and Chris Copeland (42 percent) to give his team some more punch off the bench. No. 22 pick Solomon Hill was also decent shooter (39 percent on threes) at Arizona. He might not play much as a rookie, but he can’t be a worse from the perimeter than defensive specialist Sam Young was.

Last season, Frank Vogel only had D.J. Augustin — a defensive liability — to turn to when he needed more shooting on the floor. Now, he’s got plenty of options.

Memphis Grizzlies

OffRtg: 101.7 (18), 3PT%: 34.5% (24), 3PA%: 16.6% (30)
The Rudy Gay trade didn’t change much for the Grizz, who made a league-low 4.6 threes per game after the deal. And they have yet to do anything in free agency to improve their perimeter offense. Tony Allen, returning on a new contract, is the definitive shooting guard who can’t shoot. Even their top draft pick — Jamaal Franklin — is a wing who doesn’t shoot very well.

The Grizzlies still have their mid-level exception to spend. And there are a couple of shooters still left on the market (see below). They also have a trade exception worth almost $7.5 million to absorb a contract from a team willing to deal them a shooter. But right now, they look like they could rank last in the league in 3-pointers for a second straight season.

Still on the market

For the Grizzlies and other teams still looking for shooters, the pickings are rather slim. Here are their six best options (in order of how many threes they hit last season), all of which come with issues …

Nate Robinson — 141-for-348 (40.5 percent)
Robinson had his best shooting season with the Bulls. And though he was mostly the Bulls’ back-up point guard, 101 of his 141 threes were assisted, so he can certainly play off the ball. He has improved defensively and is certainly making better decisions than he was earlier in his career, but it still isn’t easy for a coach to trust him with the ball in his hands for big minutes.

Wayne Ellington — 94-for-240 (39.2 percent)
Of the free agents that are still available, only three — Brandon Jennings (173), Robinson and Alan Anderson (95) — hit more threes than Ellington did last season. He was a decent role player in Memphis before it sent him to Cleveland for financial flexibility.

Gary Neal — 89-for-251 (35.5 percent)
Neal hit six threes in Game 3 of The Finals, but shot just 35 percent from beyond the arc last season (31st among the 57 free agents who attempted at least 100 threes) after shooting 42 percent in his first two years with the Spurs, who have seemingly swapped him for Belinelli. (They didn’t have an Italian on their roster, after all.)

Roger Mason Jr. — 66-for-159 (41.5 percent)
Of the 57 free agents who attempted at least 100 threes last season, only 11 shot them better than 40 percent. And only two — Robinson and the Pelicans’ Mason Jr. — are still on the market. Mason doesn’t do much more than make threes, but you can do worse if you need a fifth guard on your roster.

Mo Williams — 59-for-154 (38.3 percent)
Jazz starting guard Williams can handle the ball or play off it. In his two seasons playing next to LeBron James, he shot 43 percent from 3-point range, and only two players — Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen — hit more threes than Williams did over those two years. But he played a career-low 46 games last season and defense is an issue.

Anthony Morrow — 16-for-43 (37.2 percent)
There was a point a few years ago when Morrow qualified as the best 3-point shooter in NBA history. He’s still a great shooter, but doesn’t have as quick a release as some others, struggles when he needs to put the ball on the floor, and is a defensive liability. He couldn’t get off the bench for the Mavs as they were making their playoff push last season.

Three more points

  • The Timberwolves were by far the worst 3-point shooting team in the league last season, but should move up the rankings with a healthy Kevin Love (who shot 22 percent), a healthy Chase Budinger (who shot 32 percent) and with the addition of Kevin Martin (who shot 43 percent for OKC). Martin’s presence will also mean that they’ll need less minutes from Alexey Shved and Luke Ridnour (who may be traded) at the two. The pair combined to attempt 500 threes last season, connecting on only 30 percent of them.
  • Brooklyn shot a lot of threes last season, but didn’t shoot them particularly well. Things will get better with Paul Pierce (38 percent) replacing Gerald Wallace (28 percent) at small forward. But Watson (41 percent) was their best 3-point shooter last season and he’s been replaced by Shaun Livingston, who has made a grand total of nine threes in 390 career games. Assuming that coach Jason Kidd will have one of his starters — Deron Williams, Joe Johnson or Pierce — playing with the second unit, a back-up point guard who can shoot (Toney Douglas, perhaps?) would have been a better option. Either way, the Nets’ success could be determined by the ability of Bojan Bogdanovic and Mirza Teletovic to knock down shots and keep Pierce and Kevin Garnett fresh.
  • The Clippers were another team that shot a lot of threes at a mediocre percentage. And while they’re getting two great shooters in Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick, they’re replacing two guys — Caron Butler (39 percent) and Willie Green (43 percent) — who shot rather well from 3-point range last season. (Green is still on the roster, but likely out of the rotation.)

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 6

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: Lost in the day-after hubbub of both Kobe Bryant‘s monster game in Brooklyn and the Rockets’ barrage of 3-pointers against the Warriors is a true gem of a game: last night’s Bucks-Nuggets game in Denver.  Lots to enjoy in this one (except if you’re a Bucks fan — those last three turnovers down the stretch … yeesh). There was a Samuel Dalembert sighting as he went off for a career-best 35 points. There were the Bucks building a 15-point halftime lead. And there was a furious fourth-quarter rally by the Nuggets to get the win, with the sealing play coming off a wild, over-the-shoulder and-one shot by Danilo Gallinari that you must see.

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News of the morning

Gasol worried about injury | Howard not going anywhere | K.G. not worried about trades | Grizz hitting the skids | George petitions for West | Foye sees future in SLC

Gasol ‘worried’ about injuryLate in the fourth quarter in Brooklyn on Tuesday, Lakers big man Pau Gasol was having a decent night. He had 15 points on 6-for-16 shooting and two blocked shots. But everything changed with 4:21 to go in the game as Gasol went up to contest a shot by Nets center Brook Lopez and came down awkwardly. Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register and Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com detail what’s next for L.A.’s big man, who is more than a little concerned about things:

From Kevin Ding:

The sore plantar fascia Pau Gasol has been managing since Christmas worsened lately but then actually improved the past two days.

Then he said he tweaked it early in the game Tuesday, and it got worse and worse as the game went on, which he said limited his ability to finish moves or shots as he kept coming up short on plays. Then came the big blow.

When Gasol tried to summon shot-blocking vertical as Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez drove the lane with 4:21 to play, Gasol felt “a pop” in his right foot.

“Just as I took off,” Gasol said, “I felt a pop on the bottom of my foot, on the fascia, and I couldn’t get up. … I’m worried about it.”

Gasol said he’s “uncertain” now and trying to draw any conclusions before his MRI today in Boston. He said “this is something different” than the plantar fasciitis he has been navigating.

From Dave McMenamin:

Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol left Tuesday’s win over the Brooklyn Nets after straining the plantar fascia in his right foot late in the fourth quarter.

Gasol, who left Barclays Center on crutches, admitted he is “worried” about the injury. The four-time All-Star is scheduled to undergo an MRI on the foot Wednesday after the Lakers travel to Boston.

“I tweaked my fascia in the first half, so I was dealing with quite a bit of soreness in the second half,” said Gasol, who left the game with 3:50 remaining. “So I couldn’t do certain things.

“I was dealing with it, but that play when I tried to jump off of it and try go block the shot (by Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez), just as I took off, I felt a pop in the bottom of my foot on my fascia and I couldn’t get up. I’m worried about it.”

Last week, Gasol said he was playing through a pain level of eight out of 10 in his right foot.

“I’ve been dealing with it for a couple months now,” Gasol said. “But I never felt anything like I did tonight. Right now it’s a certain level of strain. We just don’t know how bad it is.”

Gasol initially tried to play through the injury. But after one trip up and down the floor, he asked coach Mike D’Antoni for a sub and went to the locker room with Lakers trainer Gary Vitti.

Gasol was unsure how long he could be sidelined if the injury turns out to be too severe to play through.

“I’ve had some injuries before,” he said. “They’re never pleasant, they’re never fun. But right now, I’m a little bit uncertain how long this thing is going to take.”

Gasol finished with 15 points, four rebounds and two blocks in the Lakers’ 92-83 win.

“I’m very, very concerned about it,” Kobe Bryant said. “Obviously, we don’t know the extent or the severity of the injury yet. But I’m very, very concerned to say the least.”

Gasol has missed 13 games this season due to tendinitis in both knees and a concussion.

“I’ve been playing with the fasciitis, which is painful and uncomfortable and limiting; this is something different,” Gasol said. “We’ll find out (Wednesday). Right now it’s really sore, but hopefully it will get better. … With the MRI, I’ll know exactly what I have and what’s next.”

The Lakers could be without both of their star big men Thursday against the Boston Celtics, as Dwight Howard has missed the past three games with a sore right shoulder.

When asked after Tuesday’s game whether he would play against the Celtics, Howard said: “I’m not talking about that right now.”

Dwight gets more reassurancesA day after telling ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that he didn’t want this season to become a ‘circus’ of trade rumors, the Lakers seem to be getting the word out that Dwight Howard definitely isn’t going anywhere by the trade deadline. ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard reports that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has reassured Howard multiple times that the Lakers won’t be shipping out the superstar big man anytime soon:

Kupchak recently told Newsday the same thing, saying: “We will not trade Dwight Howard.” Sources say Kupchak has told Howard several times that he has no intention of trading him.

There have been rumblings for the past month that the Lakers are considering moving Howard out of fear that he might leave as a free agent after the season. Despite their concerns, the Lakers have not directly asked Howard whether he plans to stay or go in free agency, according to sources.

Sources have told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne that the Lakers are “very confident” Howard will remain with the team this summer.

Howard has steadfastly refused to reveal his plans for this summer, and sources say he truly does not know what he will do. The sources add that he definitely will not ask to be traded.

Howard becomes a free agent July 1 but wants to live in the present, sticking to his goal of winning the first championship of his nine-year career this season, no matter how unlikely it might seem with the Los Angeles Lakers getting off to a 23-26 start more than three months into the season.

“Right now, my only focus is to get us into the playoffs and win the championship,” Howard said in an interview Monday with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. “Nothing else matters at this point.”

Atlanta, Dallas and Houston will be Howard’s chief suitors when he enters free agency July 1. But the Lakers can offer Howard a five-year contract worth roughly $118 million while every other team in the league can offer him only about $88 million over four years. The extra $30 million means a lot to Howard, sources said, and is definitely a major advantage for the Lakers. With the injuries he’s recently suffered to his back and shoulder, Howard might be less inclined to give up the extra year of security.

“I understand, you know, what the Lakers want,” Howard told Smith on Monday of his contract status. “And I also understand that right now, there’s no need for all the circus and all the stuff that happened last year [with Orlando] to start back up. I don’t want it, my team doesn’t need it, I don’t need it, and frankly, our fans don’t need it neither.”

Of the Lakers’ three free-agent competitors, Houston appears to be the most favorable for Howard. Dallas is aging, and Howard is not keen on playing in his hometown of Atlanta. Houston, on the other hand, has star guard James Harden and is only a frontcourt star away from becoming a legitimate factor in the Western Conference.

While Howard had no interest in going to Houston last season, sources say he is aware the Rockets have become a more attractive destination since acquiring Harden.

K.G. downplays trade talksAs the Feb. 21 trade deadline creeps ever closer, the topic of who might be headed where bubbles up more and more each day. Celtics star Kevin Garnett has seen his name tossed about in the trade rumor mill, specifically in some kind of deal that would put him on the Clippers. The key thing to remember is that Garnett has a no-trade clause in his contract, so even if Celtics boss Danny Ainge cooks up something to send K.G. elsewhere, Garnett has to buy into it, too. All that said, Garnett doesn’t seem to be worrying about the prospect of having to pack his bags for a new city in a few weeks, writes Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe:

Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, has been involved in those rumors, specifically with The Sporting News reporting that, according to sources, the Clippers are interested in Garnett in a deal that could include Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe.

On Tuesday, Garnett addressed those rumors — and he started out by indicating that under Danny Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations, any change would not be surprising.

“Danny made it very, very obvious, since day one when he brought Ray (Allen) and myself here to align with Paul (Pierce), that he’s going to do whatever’s best for the organization,” Garnett said. “He’s always made that apparent, so I’ve always understood that.

“I bleed green, I’ll die green,” Garnett continued. “That’s what it is. But it is a business. When it crosses that path, I’ll deal with it. Trades are apart of this league. Every year you’re going to hear things. If I were y’all (the media), I wouldn’t read too much into it.”

Celtics coach Doc Rivers made it a point to note how many trade rumors that make the rounds in said current media landscape aren’t based on any shred of truth. Rivers pointed out that any trade rumors were coming from the media, not from the Celtics organization.

“Sometimes some of the stuff that happens is just silly,” Rivers said. “It really is. When I wake up in the morning and I hear a trade rumor that I haven’t heard in my office, that’s silly. And that’s what happens.”

Rivers added that trade rumors aren’t new; they’re just often coming from people who, as he said, “sit behind a computer.”

“The problem is now that you guys have to actually report it, which you shouldn’t do, but you do and it becomes an issue,” Rivers said.

Grizzlies keep on stumblingThere’s no denying that Memphis coach Lionel Hollins hasn’t been the biggest fan of the direction the roster is heading. Trading away reserves Mo Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and starter Rudy Gay in separate deals over the course of nine days didn’t sit well with him. Even before that trade, Hollins had taken to the Memphis airwaves to bemoan advanced statistics and, after Gay was dealt, famously quipped that “When you have champagne taste, you can’t be on a beer budget,” in regards to the Gay trade. All that to say the Grizzlies have been sliding of late and last night’s loss to Phoenix seemed to bring a lot of issues to the forefront, writes Geoff Calkins of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal:

Tight game, inside a minute left, Tayshaun Prince inbounds the ball to Jerryd Bayless. Or, tries to, anyway. Bayless thinks Prince is going to inbound the ball to Zach Randolph, so he isn’t looking. Prince fires the ball past Bayless and out of bounds.

You want your Grizzlies in a nutshell?

That is your Grizzlies in a nutshell.

The Grizzlies lost to the Phoenix Suns at FedExForum Tuesday, 96-90. And the score wasn’t even the ugly part.

Uglier: Explaining the loss, Hollins twice pointed out that when Gasol got in foul trouble, he couldn’t put in another big to match up with Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat.

“One of the issues that I have is that neither Darrell or Ed (Davis) are fives. We don’t have another big guy. We weren’t able to play big and have two bigger people across the board because we don’t have a bigger guy to put in the game.”

In other words, Hollins no longer had Mo Speights or Hamed Haddadi because they were traded away. Did Hollins mean it as a shot?

It almost doesn’t matter, honestly. When the head coach spends part of his press conference lamenting what he no longer has on his roster, that’s not a good sign.

But that’s where the Grizzlies are right now. Everyone in the locker room seems confused. Tony Wroten has gone from not playing to playing to not playing. Bayless has gone from backup point guard to backup shooting guard to backup point. Hollins is trying to figure out if and where Austin Daye and Davis fit in the lineup. Same with Chris Johnson, back for a second 10-day stint.

Oh, and all that pales next to the larger issues of establishing – or re-establishing – the identity of the team. Once Rudy Gay was traded, the idea was that the team would go back to playing through its big men, Randolph and Gasol. And yet, in the two games since the trade, the Grizzlies have been outscored in the paint by Washington and Phoenix.

So that is the state of the Grizzlies as they get ready for critical games against Atlanta (tonight) and Golden State (Friday). It’s an odd position for a team that recently considered itself elite. This is exactly what the new management risked when it decided not to wait until the end of the season to remake the roster. The skeptics will be out in force today.

In the end, the Grizzlies will have to do what they have always done under Hollins. Put aside the excuses and focus on the task at hand. This is a team that survived the loss of Gay and Randolph in successive seasons, after all. Will it let itself be done in by a pair of trades?

“We have to get back to work, ” said Allen. “If we do that, we’ll be OK.”

George wants West to join him in Houston Pacers All-Star Paul George is doing everything he can to try and get David West to join him at the All-Star Game in Houston on Feb. 17. Although it would require an injury to a current All-Star for West to make the team, George isn’t holding back any praise for Indiana’s big man, writes Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star:

It doesn’t take an NBA All-Star to recognize one, but Paul George believes there’s one dressing two lockers over at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

David West has been one of the league’s best players all season, but the Indiana Pacers’ power forward has elevated his play since the All-Star reserves were named Jan. 24.

Since then, only three Eastern Conference players have averaged more points: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony.

Heavy company, to be sure. All three are All-Stars.

“David had big games even before All-Star selection; he’s really carried us in so many games,” George said before Tuesday’s game with Atlanta. “He’s been our most consistent (player).”

West is averaging 22.8 points in the five games since not being named to the All-Star team. He scored 30 and 29 points, respectively, in key wins over Miami and Chicago in recent days.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him play as well as he’s playing right now,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s just carrying us, (and) not just on offense. On offense it’s obvious what his efficiencies (are) — field goal percentage, shot making, all those things — but he’s really leading us on the defensive end and from a determination standpoint, too.

“He’s got such tremendous will to win these games. A lot of times it just comes down to that, and that’s contagious.”

George is the Pacers’ only All-Star this season. He said he would have given West, a two-time selection while in New Orleans, the position if it were up to him.

George and West have nearly identical season statistics. That’s why both should have made it, point guard George Hill said.

“We’re atop our division and only got one player in (the game),” he said. “That’s kind of a slap in our face. It tells you what (others) really think of us.”

Foye sees future in SLCOne of the big problems for the Jazz the last few seasons has been a lack of 3-point shooting. They addressed that in the offseason with trades for Mo Williams and Marvin Williams as well as signing ex-Clippers guard Randy Foye. While Mo Williams has been out the last few weeks with a thumb injury and Marvin Williams has struggled with his shot, Foye has become a valuable signing for Utah. He ranks seventh in the league in 3-point shooting (43.3 percent) and has made 114 3s, fifth-best in the NBA. He’s inching closer to Mehmet Okur‘s single-season team mark for 3s (129) and says he can see a long-term future with Utah, writes Bill Oram of the Salt Lake Tribune:

The issue may be taken out of his hands, but Jazz shooting guard Randy Foye said Tuesday he hopes to have a future with the Jazz beyond this season. He has emerged as a viable option at shooting guard, although the Jazz seem to have plenty of long-term options at the position with Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks. However, it could be tough to turn away a player who will likely not only break the franchise’s single season record for 3-pointers, but could do it before the All-Star break.

As I wrote for Wednesday’s Tribune, Foye needs just 15 more 3s to tie Mehmet Okur’s record 129 3-pointers. In a Tuesday morning one-on-one, Foye discussed his hot shooting, but also his adjustment to Utah, and said some revealing things about his future.

Here’s his quote in full:

“To tell you the truth I do see myself long-term here. Because everything from an organization, to the values they have here is me. And in the beginning I probably never would have thought it was Utah, probably thought I was a big-city guy. But this is me. I got my family here, my family really likes it here, even when my friends come out they really like it. We’re from the East Coast, and all you see is life moving so fast. Everything here is kind of slow and it’s just laid back and I see myself here. I love the guys here. I know the guys, we get along really well. I just picture myself being here for a while. I don’t really want to talk about contract things, but I just picture I would want to be here for a long time.”

ICYMI of the night: As the Rockets showed the Warriors last night, sometimes you’re simply hot from 3-point range and there’s nothing that can be done to stop it …:

Mo Heating Up From 3-Point Range

 

HANGTIME SOUTHWEST — Mo Williams needed that one.

Acquired by the Utah Jazz to bury 3-pointers, Williams hasn’t been doing it with any regularity. In fact, Wednesday night against the West-leading San Antonio Spurs, Williams had missed all three of his attempts, including one with 9.9 seconds left, only to be saved by a Paul Millsap rebound.

Timeout. Williams now had only had 6.7 seconds of regulation left to redeem himself.

Did he ever.

Williams indeed buried his fourth attempt from a few feet behind the arc and with Danny Green‘s hand in his face. The buzzer sounded, the crowd went berserk and Williams was mobbed by his teammates. The Jazz had shot down the Spurs 99-96 for a fourth consecutive win to get to 13-10 and 9-1 at home.

Of course, it was the Spurs who swept the 3-point-deficient Jazz in the first round last season under a barrage of 3-pointers and then swept Williams’ Clippers in the second round.

“It’s big,” Williams said after the game. “I’ve got a lot of respect for their organization. They’ve been [winning] for a long time, an organization you try to model yourself after, but at the same time you don’t want to be the step brother forever.”

It’s bigger on a personal level for Williams, who has begun to lift his sagging 3-point percentage over the last six games, going 10-for-21 (47.6 percent). Before that it took him 10 games to make 10 3-pointers, a span in which he went 10-for-36 (27.7 percent).

For much of the season, he’s been stuck around 32 percent from the arc, well below Williams’ 38.6 career percentage. His recent run has boosted him to 36.6 percent.

Jazz coach Ty Corbin could have called on Randy Foye to take the final shot. Foye, after all, leads the team from behind the arc at 43.7 percent.

Instead the call went to Williams, and Wednesday’s game-winner was no gimme. Williams handled the ball on the right wing, a few feet behind the arc with Green, who has long arms and at 6-foot-6 is five inches taller than Williams, in good defensive position.

Still, Williams stepped up and rose over Green with about 1.8 seconds to go. The ball splashed through the net as the buzzer went off.

Remember, Williams agreed during the summer to allow the Clippers to trade him to Utah, the team that drafted him in the second round in 2003. The Clips wanted to open space to deal for Lamar Odom from the fed-up Dallas Mavericks. The Jazz wanted Williams over Devin Harris, a mediocre perimeter shooter.

Williams, part of a backcourt logjam in L.A., came to Utah to run the point and bang 3-pointers. He’s been warming up from out there, and although he was just 1-for-4 against the Spurs, he hit the big one, the one he really needed.

“It showed how much my teammates believe in me, showed how much the coaches believe in me,” Williams said. “It was a tough night shooting for me, missed a couple shots down the stretch that I felt good about. They came back to me and it shows how much confidence they have in me.”