NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Pop fires back at Sarver — You didn’t really think Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was going to let Suns owner Robert Sarver get the last word, did you? Sarver fired shots at the Spurs after Pop and most of his biggest stars no-showed for an exhibition game in Phoenix Thursday. Pop addressed Sarver and his words before the Spurs knocked off the Miami Heat at home Saturday. Dan McCarney of the Express News explains:
It’s the kind of question Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, on any other day, would greet with an exasperated smirk.
And he definitely did that Saturday at the AT&T Center when asked about Phoenix owner Robert Sarver grabbing the mic late in Thursday’s exhibition blowout to apologize for the lackluster game and offer credit to ticketed attendees after the Hall of Fame coach and five Spurs players missed the game. But Popovich also had plenty to say.
“As I said, the silliness begins,” he said. “Most wise individuals would check facts before they made statements. Unless you’re interested in putting on a show. In that case, the facts get in your way, as in this case.
“We had five guys we didn’t send. Patty Mills had a shoulder operation over the summer. Tiago Splitter (calf) has been out the whole preseason. Kawhi Leonard (eye infection) was out and is still out for 10 more days. The other two, Duncan and Ginobili, are two of the oldest guys in the league who just came back from a 13-day European trip.
“The only thing that surprises me is that he didn’t say it in a chicken suit. I’ll just leave it at that.”
No. 2: No scoring title for ‘Melo in triangle? — Even with Kevin Durant sidelined to start this season, Knicks scoring star Carmelo Anthony does not expect to run away with the NBA scoring title. Not in his first year in the triangle offense installed by new coach Derek Fisher. Like everyone else on the Knicks’ roster Anthony is just trying to get adjusted to the new system. And that means fewer shots and a tougher road to the scoring title than usual. Ian Begley of ESPN New York has more:
Carmelo Anthony doesn’t expect to win the NBA scoring title this season, his first in the triangle offense.
In fact, he suggested Saturday that he may score less and take fewer shots in the Knicks’ new offense.
“I don’t think I’ll be the scoring champ. Especially with this system, the way we’re playing — the way that it’s going to be well-balanced, the style of play we’re going to have, I don’t think I’ll have to lead the league in scoring this year,” Anthony said after the Knicks’ practice.
Anthony has established himself as one of the top scorers in the NBA over his 11 seasons in the league. He won the scoring title in 2012-13 by averaging 28.7 points per game, two-tenths fewer than his career high. Last season, he finished second to Kevin Durant.
Anthony has averaged 21.8 field goal attempts per game over the past two seasons. He suggested that number, along with his scoring, may dip this season thanks to the triangle offense, which the Knicks hope will produce quality shots for Anthony’s teammates.
“I think shots will be fewer,” Anthony said. “I think it will be more effective shots. So if that means taking fewer shots, then that’s what’s going to happen.
“But I really don’t know. We’ve been playing preseason; it’s still early. It’s not until you get in the flow of the game that you start knowing the minutes you’re going to play, knowing the group you’re going to be out there with most of the time. Until you find that rhythm, you’re not going to really understand.”
No. 3: Thunder’s Adams rising — The Oklahoma City Thunder don’t need a savior with Kevin Durant on the shelf to start the season. They do need someone to step up, though. And who better to fill that void than second-year big man Steven Adams? That’s right, the bruising Adams has found his offensive niche in the exhibition season and aims to keep it going as the regular season draws near. Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman explains:
As the locker-room crowd thinned out following the Thunder’s recent preseason win in Dallas, Steven Adams tried to sneak by the media.
Adams is a great talker. His quirky style and dry humor play well in interview settings. So he’s never shy. But there’s one thing Adams doesn’t seem to enjoy — speaking about his own success.
But when you’re the breakout player of the preaseason — including a 19-point performance during that win in Dallas — that’ll be tough to avoid.
“Really, 19?” Adams sheepishly asked, stumbling back toward reporters. “Gotta be a misprint.”
Not a misprint. And not a fluke.
Adams returned to training camp this year a much-improved offensive player. He showed flashes last season — even scored 17 points on an Andre Drummond-led Detroit Pistons frontline in his fifth career game.
But NBA life was new, the speed was different and the minutes fluctuated. His production was inconsistent and limited.
“I think he’s just settling down,” Kevin Durant said. “Getting more comfortable.”
And though it’s only preseason, the difference has been clear.
In the opener, Adams scored 15 points in 21 minutes against Denver. Two nights later, he had that 19-point outing against the Mavs, doing the brunt of his work against former defensive player of the year Tyson Chandler. Then, in his highest-scoring performance to date, Adams had 22 points in 21 minutes against the Grizzlies.
“I thought he made a leap last year in the playoffs,” Russell Westbrook said. “I think that’s when the leap started. If you kind of watch the games and see the different things he was doing in the playoffs, you could tell it was going to lead into the summertime and now into the preseason and now to the regular season.”
Overall, Adams is averaging 15.2 points on 74 percent shooting (34-of-46) in five preseason games.
No. 4: Lin-sanity? More like Lin-sane-ty this season in LA: — There won’t be a repeat of the craziness that was Linsanity in New York three years ago. Lakers point guard Jeremy Lin knows better. That’s why he’s taking the sane approach to what could be his first and last season in a Lakers uniform. Again, there will not be a repeat of the hair-raising phenomenon that took place in New York, per Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times:
That wild run in New York might as well have happened three decades, not three seasons, ago.
The Lakers guard now considers himself more Linteresting than Linsanity, in case you missed his online spoof of the debonair man in the popular beer commercial.
He’d rather be known as a hard worker than a flash-in-the-Big-Apple-pan who once had 38 points and seven assists against the Lakers in a frenzied, unbelievably overjoyed Madison Square Garden.
Lin was never arrogant — too much time in the Development League and too many appearances on the waiver wire took care of that — but the trek from Knicks star to Houston Rockets afterthought to a troubled Lakers team has reminded him of the importance of … let’s call it humility.
“Pretty much everything I expected or anticipated or hoped for didn’t happen,” Lin said.
The same could be said for the position he’s hoping to assume for the Lakers, a black hole for years.
They haven’t had a game-changing point guard since Derek Fisher, a turnstile that included Ramon Sessions, Steve Blake, and, of course, Steve Nash.
Lin will happily be a salve while looking for some personal salvation as well.
His savior status with the Knicks didn’t quite work out as expected when he left them as a free agent for more money in Houston. That didn’t end well either when he lost his starting job in year two to relative unknown Patrick Beverley.
All-Star shooting guard James Harden liked to play with the ball in his hands, leaving Lin as a spot-up shooter. Not his strength. Moving Lin to the second unit allowed him to assume his more natural point-guard role.
Also, quite simply, Houston liked Beverley’s defense better than Lin’s.
So the Rockets sent Lin to the Lakers in July as a salary dump, pure and simple. They were furiously trying to clear cap room to sign Chris Bosh and had to throw in their lottery-protected first-round pick next year to get the Lakers to bite on Lin’s $14.9-million salary this season.
A few days earlier, the Rockets added temporary insanity to insult in their attempt to woo free agent Carmelo Anthony, posting digitally enhanced images of him in a Houston jersey outside their arena. Anthony wore No. 7 in the images. That was Lin’s number.
“It was a time for me to go through some bumps and some hurdles and learn how to grow,” Lin said in retrospect. “When I first got there, I was supposed to be the guy and they were supposed to kind of hand the torch to me. And I ended up getting traded away basically for nothing. Actually, they had to give up a draft pick to convince someone else to take me. Pretty much given away for nothing. Definitely not how I envisioned it.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Trail Blazers have decisions to make in the frontcourt … It’s Groundhog Day in Sacramento for Ray McCallum … The time is now for Jazz big man Enes Kanter … Shabazz Napier and the Heat reserves carrying their weight in the exhibition season … The Bulls’ McDermott-Dunleavy quandary …