Posts Tagged ‘Rick Carlisle’

Believe it Dirk, No. 7 all-time coming soon

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Nowitzki optimistic about upcoming season in Big D

DALLAS – When the NBA season opens next Tuesday night with the Dallas Mavericks taking on the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on TNT, two of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game will resume their more than a decade-and-a-half-old rivalry.

San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, 38, enters his 18th season, all with the Spurs. Dirk Nowitzki, 36, begins his 17th season, all with the Mavs. Both players have won titles in the last four years and both accepted  significant pay cuts to help keep their teams competitive. And both will continue to climb multiple all-time lists on their way to enshrinement in The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

When it comes to the latter, all eyes will focus on the 7-foot German’s rapid ascension up the NBA’s most coveted list of all — the game’s all-time greatest scorers.

Nowitzki enters the 2014-15 season at No. 10 with 26,786 career points, a number that just doesn’t seem possible to the Wurzburg, Germany native no matter how many times he hears it.

“Not really. That is still weird to me,” Nowitzki said. “All these guys on that list I admired and watched, so that’s weird. That’s weird.”

Thing is, Dirk, it’s going to get weirder. Fast.

Nowitzki is 161 points away from passing No. 9 Hakeem Olajuwon, arguably the league’s greatest foreign-born player. He’s 528 points from passing No. 8 Elvin Hayes and 624 away from passing No. 7 Moses Malone. If Nowitzki averages 20 points a game, he’ll assume No. 7 all-time just 32 games into the season, his first under a new three-year contract.

At that point, he’ll only be about 1,170 points shy of No. 6 Shaquille O’Neal, a takeover that ultimately might have to wait until next season, but it will happen. Nowitzki would need to average around 24 points if he were to play in no fewer than 75 games to do it this season.

He averaged 21.7 points last season and totaled 1,735 points, the most points he’s scored in a season since topping 2,000 in 2009-10. What Nowitzki will average this season will be intriguing. He’s surrounded by the most potent supporting cast since the 2011 title team.

During that championship season, Nowitzki scored 1,681 points. He missed nine consecutive games with a knee injury and struggled for a time after admittedly returning too early as the team fell apart without him. He played 62 games during the lockout season, struggled with knee issues early, and finished with 1,342 points, and followed that with 917 points in 53 games following knee surgery prior to the start of the season 2012-13 season.

Now, with Chandler Parsons adding scoring pop at small forward in place of Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler back at center and Monta Ellis capable of dropping 20 a night, owner Mark Cuban has said he doesn’t expect Nowitzki to average 20 a game. In fact, Cuban said he doesn’t want anyone to average 20 because if that happens it will mean coach Rick Carlisle‘s movement-based offense will be getting everybody involved.

Even if his scoring takes an expected dip (just as his minutes are expected to once again), Nowitzki, assuming good health, will pass Shaq no later than early next season. And by the time he’s closing out his contract, No. 5 Wilt Chamberlain (31,419 points) will likely be making room for Dirk, who now says he might even entertain another couple of years once he reaches that point.

“I think that’ll sink in once my career is over and as I get older and more time goes by, I think that’ll be sweet then,” Nowitzki said. “Right now I’m still so worried about winning games, staying in shape, competing with the young guys that come into the league every year. I think stuff like that is going to be way sweeter once my career is over, and then maybe I show my kids and grandkids. That will be unbelievable.”

Duncan begins the season at No. 19 with 24,904 points. He will also continue up the charts with No. 17 Jerry West (25,192), No. 16 Reggie Miller (25,279) and No. 15 Alex English (25,613) all in striking distance before the All-Star break.

However, how high Duncan moves up depends on how two more still-chugging future Hall of Famers do. No. 18 Paul Pierce (25,031) begins his 17th season and first with the Wizards, and No. 14 Kevin Garnett (25,626) is looking for a bounce-back with the Nets in his 20th season.

Forgotten Villanueva hopes to stick

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com

DALLAS – Charlie Villanueva could have packed his sneakers, walked away from the game and lived a happy life with his wife and two young kids wherever they so pleased, and no one might ever have noticed he’d left.

Memphis Grizzlies v Dallas Mavericks

Charlie Villanueva is looking to turn a non-guaranteed training camp invite into a full-time spot on the Mavericks.
Danny Bollinger/NBAE/Getty Images

It’s been that long since the 6-foot-11, sweet-shooting, headband-wearing Villanueva — once a No. 7 overall pick and once an ascending player with the Bucks who became the Pistons’ prized, $37-million free-agent acquisition — did much of anything in the league.

What should have been prime years of his career instead wasted away on Detroit’s bench, Villanueva rendered impotent by a toxic mix of various and seemingly unending injuries, a frustrating coaching carousel and a series of organizational missteps. He became the NBA’s forgotten man.

“I think a lot of people forgot about what Charlie Villanueva can do,” he told NBA.com on Monday night, seated in the corner of the Dallas Mavericks’ locker room, awaiting preseason game No. 6 of eight of his hopeful resurrection. “Sometimes you’ve got to take two steps backward to take three steps forward. It’s just what happened in my career. But now I’m trying to change things around. I’m trying to reinvent myself.”

For the last five weeks, Villanueva, 30, has lived out of a couple of suitcases at the Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas, a 1.2-mile walk to the American Airlines Center and Mavs headquarters, leaving behind his family in Michigan. He agreed on Sept. 23 to come to training camp on a non-guaranteed contract.

“I’m not used to this, but everything happens for a reason, so I’m going with the punches,” Villanueva said. “I’ve spent a lot of time by myself. I’m away from my family now, away from the kids, a lot of alone time and a lot of eating meals alone.”

The Clippers were a potential option, but no guaranteed money was being offered there either. He chose Dallas, saying it just felt right, even though it already has the maximum 15 players on guaranteed contracts. If Villanueva is going to make the team, he’s going to have to convince owner Mark Cuban (who is open to being convinced) to trade (Gal Mekel?) or buy out (Bernard James?) a player on a guaranteed deal.

“I had a great conversation with coach [Rick Carlisle] and I just felt there was a serious opportunity here if I do my part,” Villanueva said. “I love the team, I love the city and I felt like every guy complemented each other real well, and this team is real deep as well. I felt why not go for the challenge and see what happens?”

The opportunity is real. The Mavs have long searched for a true stretch-4 to back up Dirk Nowitzki to maintain the offensive flow when he sits. Small forward Shawn Marion, now in Cleveland with LeBron James, was strong enough to move up a weight class when Nowitzki rested. Marion’s replacement, the 6-foot-10 sharpshooter Chandler Parsons, will be asked to play some power forward. The Mavs also acquired Al-Farouq Aminu, who Dallas coaches are taking great care to refine his defensive skills and 3-point shot. Brandan Wright plays more center than power forward because his best offensive skill is rolling to the basket.

The 240-pound, floor-spacing Villanueva seems the fit Dallas has been seeking. The Mavs signed Rashard Lewis in July, but voided the contract after discovering an injury, something that finally isn’t the first thing mentioned when Villanueva’s name comes up.

“Oh, I feel good. I haven’t felt this good in a while, man,” Villanueva said. “Feeling good, in great shape, healthy, just excited about basketball again.”

Within the Mavs’ organization there seems a genuine interest in getting Villanueva on the roster.

“He’s an extremely intelligent basketball player and he knows what he can and can’t do,” Carlisle said. “Those are the kind of guys that you like to have … He’s done a good job. He’s making a strong case.”

His start to the preseason — 32 points, 8-for-16 shooting from beyond the arc and nine rebounds in 35 minutes spread over three games — was more promising than his last three games — 13 points, 2-for-10 on 3s and five rebounds in 25 minutes over three games. He played just six minutes in Monday’s game against Memphis, the type of team with a big front line that would figure to make Villanueva valuable to Dallas. However, one weaknesses so far has been his low-post defense.

“I definitely feel like [I've been] given a fair shot,” Villanueva said. “I felt good about my chances, but at the end of the day, until I hear that word, I can’t be comfortable, I can’t get this monkey off my back.”

He’s far removed from 16.7 ppg and 6.7 rpg in 2008-09, the season that convinced Detroit to make him a swift and lucrative offer the ensuing summer. It’s been a long five years since. He essentially disappeared.

His five-year deal with Detroit finally up, having played only limited minutes in just 102 games over the last three seasons, Villanueva could have convinced himself to walk away, to enjoy his family and pursue new interests.

But he couldn’t walk away. It’s been a training camp like none other for Villanueva. Now two preseason games remain. The regular season begins next Tuesday.

“I love playing basketball,” Villanueva said. “I’m feeling good, feeling healthy, so trying to maximize my abilities until they take the basketball away from me.”

‘Chubbygate’ ends with chuckle in Dallas


VIDEO: Parsons says he’s pleased that coach Rick Carlisle apologized for his comments

DALLAS – When Mark Cuban was asked to weigh in on what has become a sensitive issue around here, the Dallas Mavericks owner peered down from his step machine, sweat beading on his forehead and said: “I have to talk about Chubbygate?”

The hubbub started in the early stages of training camp when Mavs coach Rick Carlisle called out prized new acquisition Chandler Parsons for being out of shape. Carlisle suggested that Chandler was a bit too paunchy around the mid-section.

It’s quite the accusation against a heartthrob and bona fide blue-jeans model.

The 6-foot-9 small forward has said he wanted to bulk up some above the waist to help him better guard power forwards when needed. Still, Carlisle shoved on with his ill-fated motivational tactic following Friday night’s preseason game.

“An increase of 18 to 20 pounds is just too much,” Carlisle said. “We talked about it today. We talk about it a lot. He’ll get there, but he looked tired out there and a little heavy-legged, and the extra seven or eight pounds aren’t helping.

“I don’t mean to call him out in public or ridicule him, but it’s just a fact. He’s an important guy for us. We just need him to get to his right conditioning and weight level so he can play his best because we’re going to need him to play a lot of minutes over the course of 82 games.”

Chandler, who signed a $46 million offer sheet from the Mavs in July and officially joined the franchise when the Houston Rockets decided not to match, wasn’t appreciative of such motivation. He could have just rolled his eyes understanding that in years past Carlisle had called out Lamar Odom a few seasons ago and Samuel Dalembert last season.

Of course, neither of those players had instantaneously become the franchise’s second-highest-paid player in a very public courting, and is arguably the Mavs’ most important player for title contention.

Over the weekend, Chandler wanted the world to see just how “overweight” he is, so he snapped a shot of his bare washboard torso while standing on a balcony of a Dallas high-rise and posted it on Instagram. It made the social media rounds, quickly. A lot of people took notice, including, Carlisle said, his wife and daughter.

“I received my punishment,” Carlisle said. “My wife and daughter became full-time Chandler Parsons Twitter and Instagram followers.”

At that point, Carlisle must have felt he was seeing a different body image than everybody else, so he felt compelled to apologize? Carlisle issued a statement Sunday prior to the Mavs’ preseason game against Indiana:

“It was unfair and inappropriate to single out Chandler Parsons after the game Friday night. I have apologized to him and the entire team for this error in judgment. Not only is Chandler Parsons one of our best players, he is also one of our hardest working players and the kind of high-character person we strive to bring to our city and franchise.

I also made it clear to our players and staff this morning that this type of bad example is not acceptable and beneath the dignity of a championship organization like the Dallas Mavericks.”

Well then.

The apology was well-received by Parsons.

“It just shows what kind of guy he is,” Parsons said after Sunday’s game. “We’re in this together. Everybody makes mistakes and he came to me as a man. We have a great relationship. It’s in the past, and we’re going to move forward. It’s over with.”

Thank goodness.

But was Carlisle really wrong for publicly airing his concerns? Or was it bad judgement to take such a tact? Was Parsons, 25, just overly sensitive? And either way, was an apology of such conviction truly warranted from one of the league’s most successful coaches?

Cuban, known at times to fuel his own headlines by speaking out to the media, called “Chubbygate” a non-event and said he doesn’t know if it was necessary for Carlisle to apologize. But, he’s glad Carlisle did.

“Rick’s smart,” Cuban said. “When he feels like somebody’s sensitive about something or he touched a nerve, he deals with it. He doesn’t run away from it. He doesn’t pretend it didn’t happen. It was no big deal. It’s a non-event.”

We now return your regularly scheduled programming.

Morning Shootaround — Oct. 12


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for the Global Games played October 11

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Beal’s hurt, Wizards scramble | Parsons packed on pounds | No pressure on Lillard for quick return | NBA seeks to unlock China, India codes

No. 1: Beal’s hurt, Wizards scramble — Bradley Beal is hurt again. Few things tell us it’s NBA season again than the Washington Wizards’ young shooting guard coping with an injury. In his first two NBA seasons, Beal played 56 and 73 games, and worked under a minutes restriction in many of them. Now comes the news that Beal, 21, will be out six to eight weeks with a non-displaced fracture of the scaphoid bone in his left wrist, suffered Friday night in a preseason game against Charlotte. It’s a blow to Washington, a team built around its young backcourt of Beal and John Wall, especially for reasons pointed out by our own David Aldridge in his report:

A source says Beal did not suffer nerve damage in his wrist or have any displacement in the wrist, injuries that would have kept him out much longer than the current expected prognosis.

With Beal out, and veteran Martell Webster still recovering from offseason back surgery, the Wizards would have to turn to Glen Rice Jr., the second-year guard who was the MVP of the Samsung Summer League in Las Vegas this summer, or young veterans like Garrett Temple or Xavier Silas.

The Wizards currently have 14 players under contract, and would be able to add a veteran two guard on a temporary basis if Beal indeed misses significant time. The only vet in which Washington has significant interest at the moment is Ray Allen, who has yet to sign with a team and remains a free agent. Allen’s agent, Jim Tanner, shot down reports earlier this week that Allen was about to sign with the Cavaliers, where he would re-join former Miami teammates LeBron James and Mike Miller.

And here’s some speculation from Ben Standig of CSNWashignton.com:

The prospect of being a starter again with Beal’s absence isn’t likely to make Washington any more enticing for Allen. He’ll soon be 40. Six teams have actually contacted his reps since he became an unrestricted free agent — the Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder and …. the Milwaukee Bucks. Yes, the latter is not a mistake. Allen spent the first six-plus seasons of his career in Milwaukee, and the franchise’s pitch was a chance to end things where they began. Creative and worth a shot? Yes. Did it work? No. The Wizards are still hopeful, but suffice to say the Cavs are the front-runners as GM David Griffin has been in contact as recently as a few days ago, CSNwashington.com can confirm. Still, nothing.

The bigger issue isn’t Rice, who only appeared in 11 games as a rookie and had a wrist fracture after a collision with a teammate during a post-game celebration at Madison Square Garden. It’s who will back him up. Garrett Temple is a 6-6 guard but is more of a defender and has been working on being a third point guard this offseason. But he has played with Wall in the backcourt and started in place of Beal previously with moderate success. And remember, last year the Wizards tried then-rookie Otto Porter at shooting guard during summer league. He didn’t look fluid there, though he wasn’t fully healthy either because of his right hamstring/hip flexor strain. If Porter can play some at the No. 2 spot behind Rice, that’ll make navigating this minefield easier.

***

No. 2: Parsons packed on pounds — Boris Diaw got some notoriety last week for the weight clause his bosses with the San Antonio Spurs negotiated into his contract. It’s a series of incentives to stay sleek that, if met, will pay the frequently well-upholstered Diaw a cool $500,000 by the end of the regular season.
Little did the Dallas Mavericks realize that Chandler Parsons might need one when they put together their offer sheet to the now-former Houston Rockets’ forward. Parsons, a perpetual motion type and rather lean-looking through his first three NBA seasons, has caught flak at least twice so far from Mavs coach Rick Carlisle for being too heavy.
“One man’s bulking up is another man’s not quite in shape yet,” was Carlisle’s response when told that Parsons sought to add muscle in the offseason. The former Rocket even posted a shirtless photo on Instagram to show he still was more fit than, oh, 98.9 percent of the general population. Here’s more from Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com:

The 6-foot-9 Parsons, who was listed at 215 pounds in his three-year tenure with the Houston Rockets, reported to training camp at approximately 235 pounds.

Carlisle believes the increased weight has created conditioning issues for Parsons, who had nine points on 4-of-12 shooting, six rebounds and six assists in 20 minutes during Friday night’s preseason loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“He looked tired out there tonight to me, and his shot is short,” Carlisle said. “He’s working on losing some weight. He’s a little bit heavier than he’s been. He’s up over 230, and we want to see him get down to at least 225. That’s a work in progress, and tonight’s one of those nights where I think the extra weight was a hindrance.”

Parsons focused particularly on lifting weights during the free-agency process, when he didn’t play basketball to protect himself from injury. Primarily a small forward, Parsons felt he needed to add strength to play significant minutes at power forward, a role he could fill for the Mavs when Dirk Nowitzki rests during the season.

Carlisle has made his opinion clear to Parsons, who doesn’t necessarily agree with his coach on the matter but is willing to shed some weight.

“His opinion of heavy is different than mine,” said Parsons, who shot 1-for-6 from 3-point range against the Thunder. “We kind of go at it every day about it. At the end of the day, I respect his opinion. After training camp, my weight fluctuates. I’ll get it down.”

***

No. 3: No pressure on Lillard for quick return — No pressure on Lillard for quick return – Preseason? We talking about the preseason? That’s how Allen Iverson might have put it, if asked about the severity of Damian Lillard‘s sore left foot and its implications for the Portland Trail Blazers now and later. Lillard’s foot got stepped on in the Blazers’ first preseason game and caused him to miss the second. His status for Sunday’s tune-up vs. the Clippers was in doubt, too. But it’s nothing over which anyone should fret quite yet, writes Mike Tokito of the [Portland] Oregonian:

Lillard and the Blazers don’t regard the injury — which they are calling a “left foot sprain” after originally listing it as an ankle injury — as serious or a long-term issue.

“I would be able to play if it was a regular-season game, but it’s preseason,” Lillard said. “You don’t want it to be nagging, ongoing throughout the season. It was more precautionary than anything else. I’m just trying to take care of it right now and get it over with. That’s the smartest thing to do.”

Damian Lillard shoots Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard takes shots after practice, which he did not participate in Saturday because of a foot injury.

Lillard said he will see how the foot feels before ruling himself out for Sunday’s game, but feels in no rush to return.

***

No. 4: NBA seeks to unlock China, India codes — “Global” was a word that got a lot of play when the NBA announced its new broadcast and digital mega-deals last week with Turner Broadcasting and ABC/ESPN. It’s no secret that China and India, representing two massive and largely untapped consumer markets for the league, figure prominently in the business model the NBA and its partners will be pursuing between now and 2025. Of course, it all might go more smoothly and at a little faster pace if India had a known-quantity NBA star around whom its fans could rally and China had one to extend the kick-start it got from Yao Ming. Extending the NBA’s brand worldwide was the topic of Stuart Leavenworth‘s piece in the Sacramento Bee, pegged to the league’s Global Games this fall and filed from Shanghai:

Give it some time, say NBA officials and owners. Vivek Ranadive, an India-born Silicon Valley tycoon who led the purchase of the Sacramento Kings last year for $535 million, says that, in a country as big as China, new stars are out there. He added that the NBA and China are partnering on several initiatives to tap into the top talent, including basketball camps led by none other than Yao Ming.

In China, the system is mainly in the hands of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), which was formed in 1994 and now has 20 teams. There is also the second-tier National Basketball League, for men, and a Women’s Chinese Basketball Association.

According to the Chinese Basketball Association, there are 300 million people in China playing basketball regularly, slightly less than the entire population of the United States. But high schools and sports leagues don’t identify talent early enough and give them the team skills essential for basketball…

Lack of venues is another obstacle for the NBA’s expansion plans. Shanghai and Beijing have NBA-quality arenas, but other major cities don’t have the means, or the year-round demand, to build modern entertainment palaces.

Like other NBA owners, Ranadive wants to develop a Chinese-language app for China to broaden his team’s fan base. Ranadive is a leading proponent of what he calls “NBA 3.0,” using technology to network fans and the team. His perfect app, he says would let fans see instant replays, crowd-source suggestions for the team and even deliver food and beverages to ticket holders at the press of a button.

Ranadive, who made part of his fortune from TIBCO Software, a company he started in 1997, says that India holds unlimited potential. He and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver are leading a league mission there next month. Ranadive said he recently met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in advance of the mission.

Asked whether India is ready for basketball, with its cramped cities, grinding poverty and near-devotion to cricket, Ranadive noted that India is rising faster than many realize. Makeshift courts are popping up across the country.

“Basketball is a game that can be played anywhere, by anyone — rich, poor, boys and girls,” he said. “You don’t need a lot of space to play basketball, as you do with cricket. So I really think basketball is poised to take off.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Members of the Miami Heat sounded relieved to have their big LeBron James reunion game behind them in Brazil. … Maybe Toronto’s Bruno Caboclo isn’t “two years away from being two years away” after all. … Alexey Shved thinks he’ll find the climate in Philadelphia preferable to Minnesota, for his game anyway. … Kyrie Irving is buying Daniel Gibson‘s house. … Boston’s Rajon Rondo did some shooting (but don’t get carried away). …


McHale counts ways he’ll miss Parsons


VIDEO: How will the Mavs benefit with the addition of Chandler Parsons?

DALLAS – While Dwight Howard and James Harden have suggested the Houston Rockets will be just fine without Chandler Parsons because, well, they’re the best center and two-guard in the game, thank you, at least one member in red might just miss the small forward now playing in Dallas: Kevin McHale.

Parsons had been the sole survivor off McHale’s first team in Houston in 2011-12. The coach grew fond of the rapidly ascending second-round pick who, under McHale, emerged as a fringe All-Star candidate and a final cut this summer for Team USA.

McHale brought his Rockets to Dallas on Tuesday night to open the preseason. The 6-foot-9 Parsons led the Mavs with 14 points, all coming in the first half when he played a game-high 16 minutes, as if Dallas coach Rick Carlisle wanted to immediately show the Rockets exactly what they’ll miss.

“I talked to Rick about him. I told Rick he’ll do well for him,” McHale said. “I thought he was a good glue guy for the team. I think he’s in a good spot right now. Rick will do a good job with him. As with all young guys, he talked to me about it multiple times, he wanted to get a contract, he wanted to get all this stuff. Everybody, when you come into the league, you want a lot of stuff, and then when you get it, you realize it’s basketball and basketball is the most important thing. But I’m glad he’s got it. I’m sure he’ll settle down now and not be talking about money all the time. He’s killing me with talking about money all the time. He’s got enough of it now.”

McHale, of course, was grinning, if not aching inside. And Parsons, who has acknowledged that he never believed he’d be leaving Houston, is all smiles, too. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey passed on matching the three-year, $46 million offer sheet that Mavs owner Mark Cuban hand-delivered to Parsons at an Orlando, Fla., bar in early July.

Chandler scored with relative ease on his old mates and in a variety of ways, sinking two of his three 3-point attempts, splashing a mid-range jumper, slashing to the basket and going 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. The Mavs are anticipating a big year for their new acquisition playing off Dirk Nowitzki, the league’s 10th all-time leading scorer, and Monta Ellis, a super penetrator. The 3-ball, which Parsons shot at a 37 percent clip last season, should be readily available to him on the weak side.

“I thought Chandler got better every year,” McHale said. “He’s a good playmaker, good off the dribble, shoots that line-drive jumper just good enough it goes in every once in a while. He’ll make 3s even though you wouldn’t probably look at his shot and think he’s a 3-point [shooter], but he makes a high percentage of them. He’s a big guy, you can switch stuff with him defensively, so I mean he gave us a lot. He was a very good player for us and he’ll be a very good player for Dallas.”

McHale couldn’t stop.

“I just think he had a good all-around game, his ability to drive-and-kick, likes taking big shots,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff we’re going to miss. We’re just going to have to fill in around him and find players that can come in and do some of the stuff he did.”

Houston signed veteran two-way forward and former Rocket Trevor Ariza to replace the 25-year-old Parsons in the starting lineup.

“Trevor’s got really good instincts defensively, he’s long, shoots the ball real well … so he’ll help,” McHale said. “Of course, he’ll have to help us a lot. He’ll have to have a big year for us like Dwight and James has to also.”

Houston believes Donatas Motiejunas is ready to make an impact. The skilled, 7-foot power forward had a game-high 18 points to lead the Rockets to the 111-108 victory in a strange exhibition that included 81 fouls and 109 free throws. The Rockets are hopeful Greek import Kostas Papanikolaou can contribute and that former Mavs guard Jason Terry has some 3-ball magic left in his game.

It’s certainly a reshuffled roster from the team that won 54 games in the first year of the Harden-Howard pairing. After flirting with Carmelo Anthony, it seemed Houston’s big-game hunting GM was on the cusp of signing Chris Bosh and bringing back Parsons to form a true heavyweight. But Bosh took Miami’s money and Houston was left empty-handed.

So now it’s up to McHale to figure out how to mold a handful of new role players, most unaccomplished in the league. And it’s up to Howard and Harden, the self-anointed best center and two-guard in the NBA, to lead and keep the Rockets in the Western Conference title conversation.

“Just play basketball,” Howard said after getting six points, six rebounds and six fouls in 15 minutes of game time. “I let the people up top do their job. I can’t focus on nothing but what I can do to help this team win. We got some pretty good pieces on this team and I think we’re going to continue to get better as the season goes on.”

NBA coaching in the time of social media

One by one they arrive, each man pulling up in his elegant sedan, sports coupe or luxury SUV and, for all intents and purposes, bringing his family, his friends, his fans — his peeps — and his digital world along with him.

Denver coach Brian Shaw says keeping players off social media and engaged with the task at hand is one of his biggest challenges. (Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE)

Denver coach Brian Shaw says keeping players off social media and engaged with the task at hand is one of his biggest challenges. (Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE)

In the locker room, where they dress and tease and bond and strategize, it’s all about chemistry. Except when it’s about technology.

“Say we have a shootaround or a team meeting that starts at 9:30. Guys start trickling in at 9:15,” Denver coach Brian Shaw said the other day, talking about these modern times. “We used to come in and sit around and talk to one another face to face. Now these guys have their devices and they’ll all be sitting at a table and nobody’s saying anything to anybody. They’re just punching buttons and looking down, and there’s no interaction.”

That novel about Love in the Time of Cholera? The men who oversee NBA teams are coaching in the time of social media, which might just be trickier.

Red Auerbach never had to worry about some tabloid photographer popping out of a darkened doorway to snap a photo with his date. Lenny Wilkens and Don Nelson barely stuck around long enough for cell phones. Coaches today face the full arsenal of gadgetry, as far as where their guys might turn to lose themselves or what a civilian might use to catch players unawares. TMZ, remember, pays real folding money and, after all, 15 minutes of fame is better than none.

“It’s a big challenge coaching now,” said Shaw, who  — when he was an NBA rookie in 1988 — needed a quarter and a glass booth if he wanted to fiddle with a phone at the Boston Garden. “There are so many more options for them, so many more things to take their attention away from what you’re trying to do as coach. You have to constantly bring them back in and keep them engaged.”

Twenty years have passed since Magic Johnson, in his unsatisfying 16-game stint as Lakers coach, threw Vlade Divac’s cell phone against the wall after it rang during a team meeting.

Sounds quaint now.

“I feel his pain,” Shaw said, chuckling. “A coach like Phil Jackson, the majority of the years that he coached, these are challenges that he didn’t have to deal with. To me, the X’s and O’s kind of cancel each other out, between me and the coaches I’m opposing at the other end. Keeping everybody dialed in and not being distracted by outside forces — that’s what the real challenge is.

“I’m contemplating making the players, an hour before practices and an hour before games, check their cell phones in. So they can’t even have ‘em in the locker room. It’s, ‘You’re here. We need your undivided attention right now.’ “

Been there. Doing that.

“We have rules against cell phones in the locker room after a certain point before a game,” said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, whose owner, Mark Cuban, is the king of NBA social media, at least among the Board of Governors. “If someone’s cell phone goes off, the guy gets hit with a pretty hefty fine. And we all have a good laugh about it. If it happens again, we may have to have a serious discussion about it. And the fine’s going to be heavier.”

(more…)

Cuban ramps up roster, analytics push

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Mark Cuban talks about the Mavericks’ busy offseason

DALLAS – This has become an annual tradition here this time of year. The Dallas Mavericks combine their open house at the American Airlines Center for prospective season-ticket buyers and invite them to watch — and even participate in — a press conference introducing Team Turnover’s new batch of players.

Each summer since the 2011 championship, the Mavs have moved ‘em out and moved ‘em in like no other, searching for the right collection of chemistry and salary. A year ago, nine new players sat across a very long stage. On Tuesday, seven new players held up new Mavs jerseys over their chests for pictures — well six because Vince Carter-replacement Richard Jefferson couldn’t make the affair.

Those fans checking out the sight lines gave a hearty cheer to welcome back center Tyson Chandler, and then something very interesting happened. Mavs owner Mark Cuban has always maintained that his decision following the 2011 championship not to re-sign the 7-foot rim protector and spiritual-leader extraordinaire was dictated by the harsher rules of the newly ratified collective bargaining agreement. And, Cuban has always reiterated, he’s never looked back.

However, when a fan asked Chandler to offer a percentage of his chances of re-signing with Dallas next summer when he will again be a free agent, Cuban quickly stepped in: “Let’s just say I learn from my mistakes.”

File that in the FWIW category for next July…

Seated to Chandler’s right was Chandler Parsons, the dashing small forward Cuban pried from shell-shocked Houston with an aggressively detailed offer sheet. To Chandler’s left was Al-Farouq Aminu, the lottery bust who spent the last three seasons with the Pelicans. Then came the big-bodied Greg Smith, the redemptive Raymond Felton and the consummate Jameer Nelson.

“We’re going to be a better team this year,” said coach Rick Carlisle, who is again welcoming the challenge of shaping a re-shaped roster. “We know that by the analytics.” (more…)

Morning shootaround — Sept. 21


VIDEO: Chris Paul talks about new Clippers owner Steve Ballmer

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Playoff collapse lingers with CP3 | Crowded backcourt in Dallas | Taylor ready to go for Hornets

No. 1: Playoff collapse lingers with CP3 — The Los Angeles Clippers are happy to begin the season with new ownership. L.A. doesn’t look back too fondly on what happened on the court in last season’s playoffs either. With the conference semifinals tied at two games apiece, the Clips were up 13 with four minutes to go in Oklahoma City. Even after they let the Thunder cut that lead to two in the final seconds, they still had a chance to seal the game at the free-throw line. But Chris Paul lost the ball. He then helped OKC take the lead by fouling Russell Westbrook on a pull-up three. And on the final possession of the game, Paul coughed the ball up again. That kind of sequence is going to haunt a competitor like Paul for a long time. And, as Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times writes, it is certainly still on his mind as he gets ready to begin his fourth season in L.A.:

Paul was so devastated he cried in the locker room afterward.

Four months later, the emotional fallout lingers.

“It would be lying to you to say I’d forgotten about it,” Paul said during a break on set. “It’s one of those things that I don’t want to forget, to tell you the truth. I think for me, I feel like you have to remember things like that and therefore you don’t want that feeling again. I know I don’t.”

Paul wouldn’t go as far as to say the Clippers would use their Game 5 meltdown as inspiration a la the newly crowned NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, who suffered a similar playoff implosion in the 2013 Finals against the Miami Heat.

“I don’t know,” Paul said when asked if he saw any potential similarities between the situations. “I mean, the Spurs do what they do, we’ve got to do what we do. I think for us, it’s all about coming into training camp being ready to go.”

***

No. 2: Crowded backcourt in Dallas — With the return of Tyson Chandler and the addition of Chandler Parsons, the Dallas Mavericks could be back among the Western Conference elite. To get Chandler, they had to swap Jose Calderon for Raymond Felton. But they added Jameer Nelson and still have Devin Harris at point guard. That’s a crowded backcourt, especially when you consider that shooting guard Monta Ellis is the Mavs’ primary playmaker. But, talking with The Dallas Morning News‘ Eddie Sefko, they believe that it can work:

How the point guard logjam unfolds is what training camp is for, of course. Coach Rick Carlisle has proved to be a master when it comes to implementing his strength-in-numbers philosophy.

When there are multiple good options at one position, they tend to sort themselves out during camp.

“A team can never have too many playmakers,” Carlisle said. “They can all play with or without the ball, so in my mind, they aren’t just point guards, they’re basketball players.”

Which brings us to the possibility that the three point guards will do a lot of the NBA’s version of “bunking together,” i.e., playing together and perhaps with Monta Ellis on the floor whenever Carlisle elects to go with a small lineup.

***

No. 3: Taylor ready to go for Hornets — The Charlotte Bobcats were the most improved team after the All-Star break last season, and that was without second-year forward Jeff Taylor, who was lost for the season in December with a ruptured right Achilles’ tendon. Now, the Bobcats are the Hornets, and they’ve added Lance Stephenson. They’re also getting back Taylor, who provides depth, defense, and shooting on the wing. The road back was long, but Taylor used his time off to put on some weight, as Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes:

Taylor injured himself Dec. 20 and he was given the option to put off surgery until after the holidays. That’s not Taylor’s way; he had the tendon reattached Dec. 22. He spent Christmas and New Year’s in a cast, followed by a boot, followed by a corrective shoe.

It’s the first time he was ever seriously injured, and the experience was enlightening.

“It’s been a long road,” Taylor said. “With an Achilles’ injury, you have to be really patient – slowly getting back all your strength, back to what you were.”

In one way, he is beyond what he was. With his lower body shut down for three months, Taylor beefed up his upper body. Constant lifting – the only exercise available to him from January through March – had a noticeable effect on his arms and shoulders.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Ramon Sessions is heading to Sacramento. … Andray Blatche, hero of the Philippines, is taking his talents to China. … Jeff Green knows he has to be more consistent. … Kobe Bryant might soon own a piece of an Italian soccer team.

Budenholzer deals with double-duty

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer will be taking on some front-office duties this season. (Bart Young/NBAE)

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer will be taking on some front-office duties this season. (Bart Young/NBAE)

CHICAGO – Long characterized as a “copycat” league for trends ranging from basketball strategies to hiring practices, the NBA has a new move that everybody’s getting in on: Coaches doing double-duty as general managers, presidents of basketball operations or other titles vested with personnel control.

The latest to take all that on is Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer, who had decision-making responsibility dropped in his lap last week in the fallout from the Hawks’ front-office mess. GM Danny Ferry, beleaguered after making racially charged comments about free agent Luol Deng, took an indefinite leave of absence, and Hawks CEO Steve Koonin appointed Budenholzer to be the team’s head of basketball operations for now.

His circumstances are unusual, but Budenholzer joins the likes of the Los Angeles Clippers’ Doc Rivers, Minnesota’s Flip Saunders, Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy and of course San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich in holding added clout beyond their work on the court.

Until Rivers beefed up his role last year when he moved from Boston to L.A., Popovich was more of an exception. Most teams in recent years preferred to separate the powers, believing that a coach focuses on tonight (win the game) while a front-office exec thinks about tomorrow, next season and several years after that.

So is this the start of a new trend? A pendulum swing?

“I don’t know, those pendulums seem like they’re always swinging,” Budenholzer said Thursday in Chicago, in town for the annual NBA coaches meetings. “There are a couple of people who have done that, and obviously Pop’s been doing that for a long time, with R.C. [Buford, Spurs GM to Popovich's president title] doing a ton. Those two together have been just an amazing combination. So I don’t know.”

Flip Saunders (David Sherman/NBAE)

Flip Saunders (David Sherman/NBAE)

The long-established view that the jobs should be kept separate has led to some coaches, hungry for more input on their teams’ architecture, finding themselves on the sidewalk. The most recent example: Jason Kidd, whose power play in Brooklyn wound up with Kidd coaching in Milwaukee and coach Lionel Hollins slipping in beneath GM Billy King in the Nets’ flowchart.

“A lot of people question it,” Saunders said. “Agents especially — they don’t necessarily like someone having that much control over their clients. Because as a coach, you can basically dictate how much you’re going to pay a guy.” By growing or limiting a player’s role, that is.

Saunders added duties in the opposite direction from Budenholzer and Rivers — he was the Timberwolves’ basketball boss when he appointed himself as head coach for 2014-15, taking over for the retired Rick Adelman. But Saunders made his NBA bones on the sideline, coaching Minnesota, Detroit and Washington for 15-plus seasons.

“I believe, if you look at many of the successful football teams, they were built that way,” Saunders said Thursday. “Look at [Bill] Parcells. [Bill] Belichick, he’s got total control. Then in our sport, look at the success that Nellie [Don Nelson] had — he pretty much ran the whole thing [in Milwaukee, Dallas and Golden State]. Then Pat Riley‘s situation, when he pretty much ran a lot of those things.”

Just as Popovich has “nurtured” Buford to work in concert on personnel matter, Saunders, Rivers and Van Gundy also have titular GMs or other execs to tackle salary caps, administer scouting and handle other chores that would pull them away from player development and game preparation.

“The best thing about it is,” Saunders said, “I believe in most organizations when you have a falling out, the tendency is there’s a relationship that is lost between the coach and the owner. Because maybe they don’t all have the same agenda from management to the coaching staff. Well, when somebody is your coach and your president or GM, he’s going to talk to the owner. So there’s never going to be a disconnect on what the message is.”

Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks coach and president of the National Basketball Coaches Association, said the added power and work aren’t for everyone.

“In my case, I’m not looking to do that. I love my owner [Mark Cuban] and I love my GM [Donnie Nelson] — my GM and I go back 30 years as friends,” Carlisle said. “I want to concentrate on my craft. But I applaud these other guys for taking on the other responsibility.

“If you get a great coach like Gregg Popovich or Doc Rivers or Stan Van Gundy and you have the opportunity to meld those two positions into one guy who is high-quality in so many areas, if you’re an owner, you should go for that. More than anything, it’s pointing to the vortex of the connection between the coach and GM. The fact that some owners are looking at this and saying, ‘These two jobs should be one and the same’ highlights the importance of coaching.”

No one, however, is saying it’s easy. The consensus is that a GM has less-grueling days and better job security than his head coach. Saunders adapted comfortably to that last season, his first in the role with Minnesota, though coaching competitiveness still coursed through his veins.

In Budenholzer’s case, it comes just one year into his head coaching tenure with the Hawks, with the true impact of the front-office mess (analyzed well here by our Sekou Smith) still to be felt. The longtime Spurs assistant has a lot coming at him, on the brink of training camp.

“There are extra things you have to do to prepare for camp and the season,” Budenholzer acknowledged. “But we’ve got a great group. So there’s more work but I think we can manage it. The team, for the most part, is in place. That’s the most important thing.”

Growing up in the NBA in the Spurs organization — Ferry logged valuable time there, too, under Popovich and Buford — helped prepare Budenholzer for this beefed-up role. “It’s something where I spent 19 years in that kind of a set-up,” he said. “To whatever degree I can be comfortable, I wouldn’t feel that now if I hadn’t spent all those years around that in San Antonio with Pop and R.C.”

Asked where he would turn with questions, he said: “Oh, Pop and R.C. have always been open to me. I’ve obviously learned a ton from them and I’ll continue to.”

And if rivalries of the NBA prevent his Spurs pals from helping too much?

“I’m sure if I cross the line unintentionally,” Budenholzer said, “they’d say, ‘You’re a big boy, you’re going to have to figure certain things out for yourself.’ “

Nelson happily moves on to fresh start with Mavericks

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com

Jameer Nelson

Jameer Nelson is moving on to Dallas after 10 seasons with the Orlando Magic.

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Jameer Nelson is finally packing up. The moving trucks have been summoned to transport a decade’s worth of belongings and memories halfway across the country. It won’t be easy for Nelson and his wife, Imani, and their four children — Jameer Jr., two weeks from turning 13, and daughters Jamia, 8, Jayden, 6, and Jayce, 2 — to pick up and leave the city he’s played his heart out for, or the community the family loved … and that loved them back.

Yet sometimes even the youngest ones can sense when it’s time for a fresh start.

“My daughter is back there listening, my 8-year-old, she’s excited,” Nelson said during a phone conversation with NBA.com on Thursday afternoon. “My 6-year old, they’re both excited. My son hasn’t said too much, but I actually picked his brain a little bit when I was figuring teams out, asking him some questions. He said, ‘wherever you want to go, let’s do it.’

“So, yeah, we’re going to all move down and build up the population in Dallas.”

Nelson is leaving the Orlando Magic after 10 seasons to join the Dallas Mavericks. An intriguing team after a busy summer, Dallas hasn’t landed the superstar it covets. But it has added Nelson, center Tyson Chandler and small forward Chandler Parsons to play alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis. 

Nelson will earn $2.73 million this season and holds a player option for next season.

The missing man in the Mavs’ plans was a trustworthy, veteran starter to run coach Rick Carlisle‘s flow offense. They lost reliable Jose Calderon in the Chandler deal to New York, which foisted the erratic Raymond Felton upon Dallas to complete the trade. Dallas re-signed Devin Harris, but prefer to utilize him off the bench.

“I feel like one of the reasons I chose Dallas is I wanted to play a significant role on a good team and I felt like there’s opportunity there,” said Nelson, who averaged 12.1 ppg and 7.0 apg in 32.0 mpg last season.

“Nothing’s going to be given to me; nothing’s ever been given to me my entire life. I’m up for any challenge that’s in front of me, so if we got to battle for the [starting] spot, we’ll battle for the spot.”

Nelson, 32, was waived by the Magic on June 30, a salary-cap-saving move made by a franchise deep into a rebuilding movement. He responded by gracefully thanking the organization for all it had done for him and his family and the team responded in kind. In 2012, at the height of Orlando’s “Dwightmare,” Nelson opted out of the final year of his contract only to re-sign. Even after coach Stan Van Gundy was fired and Dwight Howard was traded, setting the stage for a ground-up rebuild, Nelson never asked out.

“That [loyalty] was something that was instilled in me through my younger years by my parents and the people who helped mold who I am,” Nelson said. “I was willing to stay the first year, and the second year got a little tougher. It was just time for me to go. It was time to go.”

In retrospect, he witnessed one of the more stunning free falls in sports. The Magic reached The Finals in 2009 — an injury-plagued season for Nelson, who missed the entire postseason before making a courageous, but ultimately unsuccessful Finals return against the Lakers — and then the Eastern Conference finals in 2010. From there, a series of personnel moves and the Howard disaster sent the franchise spiraling.

“I thought that team was going to be together forever,” Nelson said. “One of my good friends, Keyon Dooling, always preached to us as one of the veteran guys to never take things for granted because you might be on a good team now, but next year you might not be on such a good team. It’s the truth. You think things don’t end, but that obviously ended pretty quick.”

Nelson looks at yet another revamped Mavs roster and compares it to those potent Magic teams, boasting multiple shooters and scorers and a defensive backbone.

“And then fortunately,” Nelson said, “I’m in the mix of being there as the quarterback.”

The marriage of Nelson and the Mavs was a two-way street from the start. Nelson made a list of desirable destinations based on roster strength, need at point guard, organizational culture and location. While Dallas was linked for weeks to combo guard Mo Williams, who recently signed with Minnesota, Nelson was the team’s more pressing need.

His level-headed, team-oriented approach are the most desired traits in a Mavs locker room long led by Nowitzki, one of the league’s most down-to-earth superstars. The 7-footer proved it again this summer by agreeing to a massively below-market contract worth $25 million over the next three seasons. His willingness to take less allowed Dallas to make Parsons an aggressive offer and also add roster-wide depth.

“Dirk sets the tone, he’s a superstar and he takes a three-year, $25-million deal,” Nelson said. “Now it’s like who else can argue? Nobody can argue with that, nobody can complain. This guy is sacrificing a lot to win. That’s what it all should be about. That’s one of the major reasons I came to Dallas, to win.”

Nelson won’t end up being a career one-team player, and he must leave the community where and his wife raised a family.

But opportunity beckons in Dallas, where the population just increased by six.