Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Anderson’

Cheeks Wants Jennings To Step Up On ‘D’


VIDEO: Detroit at New Orleans, Dec. 11, 2013

NEW ORLEANS — Brandon Jennings filled up the hoop with 25 points, grabbed five rebounds and dealt out four assists.

As usual, that wasn’t the issue.

The Pistons have now lost three consecutive games and went down on back-to-back nights in large part because the middle of their defense might as well be a landing strip.

Brandon Jennings

Brandon Jennings (Dan Lippitt/NBAE)

On Tuesday night, the Timberwolves’ Ricky Rubio ransacked The Palace by doing almost anything he pleased. Barely 24 hours later it was Jrue Holiday along with Tyreke Evans (on a tender ankle) who took apart the Pistons with dribble penetration.

There is room for all of the routine excuses — the Pistons are the fourth-youngest team in the NBA, they have so many different new parts still learning about each other and how to play together. But Wednesday night they played a Pelicans team that was without its best player in Anthony Davis and overcoming a horrid 6-for-18 shooting night from Ryan Anderson – and they still found a way to get past Detroit.

Mostly that way was straight down the middle.

A Pistons team that should have a stifling front line of the sizable Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith has a defense that is ranked 19th in the NBA for a variety of reasons. Much of the problem begins at the top where opposing guards are usually able to run as free as colts in a meadow.

It’s enough to make Detroit fans long for the days of the Bad Boys and a couple of good forearm shivers.

That’s why coach Maurice Cheeks is looking for his point guard, Jennings, to take on his share of the defensive burden.

When he was asked whether he might “hide” Jennings in a run of three straight games against high powered point guards Holiday, Deron Williams (Nets) and Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers) by switching the assignment to rookie Kentavious Pope-Caldwell, Cheeks threw down the gauntlet.

“Yeah he’d be up for the challenge,” Cheeks said of the rookie. “But if you’re going to be good, and I’m going to say this again, a good point guard, I don’t like the word ‘hide’. I want the guy who’s guarding the ball, who’s running my team, to guard that guy, if you’re going to be good.”

Since he popped in 55 points as a rookie with the Bucks, Jennings has been all about his offensive ability. But in a league where point guard skill is more abundant than ever, if Jennings is going to get back into the headlines and crack the upper echelon, he’ll have to stop relying on his big men to cover up for his mistakes and lack of commitment on defense.

Cheeks, who was one of the best on-the-ball defenders during his 15-year NBA career, wants his point guard to take the challenge personally.

“I think Jennings has a chance to be very good,” Cheeks said. “I keep talking about steps. “You take steps, you get better at defending your position. That’s how you become one of those elite players. You don’t become elite by having someone else guard your guy.”

Blogtable: The Super-est Sub

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Big Apple busts | First off your bench | Blazers-Pacers


Ray Allen of the Miami Heat

Ray Allen of the Miami Heat (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

You have a solid, balanced starting five. Who is the one reserve you want first off your bench?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comJamal Crawford. Isaiah Thomas is bringing scoring so far off Sacramento’s bench but I’d like a bigger sample size and, speaking of size, a bigger player (he’s 5-foot-9). I’m assuming Ryan Anderson will be racking up starts in Anthony Davis‘ broken-hand absence in New Orleans. I’m partial to game-changing big men off the bench, such as Denver’s Timofey Mozgov and Chicago’s Taj Gibson. But of the 100 or so true “super subs” (at least a dozen appearances, four starts or fewer) so far this season, Crawford remains the gold standard. At 16.0 ppg, 38,6 3FG% and 26.9 mpg, this is his side of the street – other guys are just working it.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: You said I already have a solid, balanced starting five. So I’ll take Ryan Anderson off the bench filling up the hoop with all those 3s. That’s a valuable wild card.

Jamal Crawford

Jamal Crawford
(Noah Graham/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comJamal Crawford. Instant offense. The guy averages 16.0 ppg in 26.9 mpg. He’s devastating beyond the arc, can break ankles and can dish it, too. What else is there?

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: If I don’t have any obvious glaring holes in the opening lineup that create an obvious need – scoring, rebounding, playmaking, etc. – I want someone who can play multiple positions. To be able to plug my top reserve into two spots, depending what is needed at the moment, is an obvious advantage. Wanting versatility and someone who can make a quick impact brings me to Jamal Crawford. A former starter at the point, a former starter at shooting guard, a current scoring threat.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Ideally, I’d like a guy who can shoot and play defense. But I can’t find a bench guy out there who does both at an above-average level. So give me Ryan Anderson, an elite shooter who will complement the playmakers in my starting lineup. He’s not a good defender, but he can rebound. Depending on the exact makeup of my starting lineup, I’d also consider Omer Asik for rim protection.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comWow. Great question. And with the entire league to choose from, that would require me to know exactly what my starting five looked like and what sort of reserve help I needed (scorer/floor spacer, defender/rim protector, rebounding specialist, etc.). Whoever the guy is, I need him to be a game changer who has the experience and savvy to aid my team in whatever capacity is asked of him. I need a guy like Ray Allen, who even at this stage of his career can still work at a high level and in clutch situations (see his work in The Finals last season). If my starting five is as solid and balanced as described, I’d have the luxury of deploying a specialist and floor spacer like Allen into my lineup as a sixth man without worry that he’s not a great defender and doesn’t have the greatest size or range to work at several different positions. But I’d take solace in the fact that he’s arguably the greatest shooter the game has seen and has championship pedigree oozing out of his pores. There are plenty of guys who are younger and could probably do more on both ends. But when I needed that clutch corner 3, well …

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blog:  Elton Brand. I know he’s kind of toiling in obscurity with the Hawks this season, but whenever I see the Hawks play I’m struck by Brand’s versatility and professionalism. It’s hard enough to find quality bigs in the NBA, but to have a guy who can play the 4 or 5, who is smart enough to be physical without immediately fouling out, is a bit of a luxury. Also, Brand would be fun to have around just to explain technology to him.

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA Brasil: That seems opportunistic since I just posted a Sixth Man of the Year ranking on NBA Brasil! Still, even though I have Isaiah Thomas as the best reserve so far and Manu Ginobili isn’t even in the top 10 for this season, I’m always picking Ginobili when you ask me this question. Ginobili was a borderline franchise player when he got to the NBA, and even as he’s gotten older and injuries have slowed him, he still has such a great basketball IQ that he makes the game easier for everybody. He’s not as fast as he used to be, but still hustles on defense and gives you his best. And even though he looked like he was done for much of last season’s playoffs, he’s been pretty good so far this season with the Spurs.

Akshay Manwani, NBA India: I think Jamal Crawford deserved to win the Sixth Man Award last year and he sure is a contender this season as well. I know there is a lot of buzz about Nick Young, Mo Williams, Nate Robinson, but Crawford is averaging 16.0 PPG while playing on a Clippers team that has scorers all-round. Crawford is my man.

Aldo Aviñante, NBA Philippines: I like the way Taj Gibson has been playing for the Bulls lately. He is a really solid big man off the bench. He defends well, grabs boards and scores in an efficient manner. He knows his role and plays within his limitations. But Jeremy Lin when healthy is a great option as a sixth man because he can really run a team on offense — if he can improve on his defense he will be the perfect player off the bench for the Rockets.

Pelicans’ Big Five Seeing More Time


VIDEO: Holiday, Pelicans knock off Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Sometimes, you just have to put your five best players on the floor.

That’s what New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams is able to do now that Ryan Anderson is healthy. And on Friday in Philly, Williams played his big five – Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Anderson and Anthony Davis – for 18 1/2 minutes, the most they’d seen as a group in the six games since Anderson returned from a fractured toe.

Prior to Friday, the group had played almost half of its 32 minutes in the fourth quarter. But in Philadelphia, Williams went to the lineup midway through the first quarter, with Evans and Anderson replacing starters Anthony Morrow and Jason Smith. And the big five went right to work offensively, scoring 23 points on 11 possessions to end the period.

Evans attacked in transition, while Anderson and Gordon spaced the floor, getting easy 3s off pick-and-rolls here and here (video) thanks, in part, to the attention Davis drew in the paint. Davis is the Pelicans’ best player and that lineup’s success starts with him.

“When he runs the court, all of the attention focuses on him,” Anderson said. “So he leaves an open shot for me or, if we actually get set up down at the other end, Tyreke’s going to attack the rim and force a lot of attention himself. I think we just have a group of guys that really just know how to play in that lineup.”

That lineup struggled in a stretch during the third quarter, but overall, scored 54 points on 38 possessions on Friday, a rate of 142 per 100, which is pretty incredible.

Defense was another story, and that’s the trade-off. The Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Anderson-Davis group allowed the Sixers to score 48 points on 36 possessions, a rate of 133 per 100, which is pretty terrible.

During that same first-quarter stint, they continuously got beat by Tony Wroten on high pick-and-rolls here, here and here.

“We try to get to that lineup, but that’s not a cure-all,” Williams said afterward. “It is a lineup that can cause problems. But we just have to learn how to defend and share the ball better.”

In 51 minutes through Friday, the lineup has scored 132 points per 100 possessions and allowed 116. So far, the great offense has outweighed the bad D. But Williams doesn’t just want to accept that trade-off.

“You can’t just put a defensive lineup on the floor [to get better defense],” Williams said before the game. “Whoever you put on the floor has to play better defense. We’re a month into it. Our guys are going to figure that out. I would like to find more minutes for that group.”

He did find more minutes for that group. Of course, more minutes for that group could mean a heavy burden for Holiday, Gordon and Davis, who start the game and with a different pair of forwards and will remain on the floor to give the big five a good run. Holiday and Gordon each played season highs in minutes on Friday.

Williams knows that Gordon, in particular, needs monitoring. He’s now played in 15 straight games for the first time since January of 2011.

“I want to play him more,” Williams said. “But I have to be aware that this is the most basketball he’s played in 2 1/2 years. So I didn’t want to rush him into it and I’ve been talking to him lately about how he feels.”

How many minutes the big five lineup gets, as well as how it performs both offensively and defensively, will be something to keep an eye on all season. Williams clearly likes bringing both Evans and Anderson off the bench, but he’s still searching for a starting small forward. Al-Farouq Aminu started the first 13 games there, but was replaced by Morrow on Friday.

“The [starting] lineup can change the next game,” Williams said. “That’s where we are right now. We haven’t gotten a ton of production out of our starting small forward position.”

They have gotten a ton of production – at least on one end of the floor – from the big five.

Asik Wants A Trade And The Rockets Should Oblige


VIDEO: Houston holds off New York despite rough game from Howard

NEW YORK - If the Houston Rockets intend on competing for a championship this season, they will need to trade Omer Asik. And the process may have been accelerated on Thursday.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported before Thursday’s Rockets-Knicks game that Asik has asked for a trade.

With his starting job gone and his playing time slashed, Rockets center Omer Asik has asked to be traded, two individuals with knowledge of the request said Thursday.

Asik, who started every game after signing with the Rockets last season, came off the bench Wednesday in Philadelphia, but struggled. He played only four minutes and not at all in the second half. Asik has made his trade request within the past 48 hours, a person familiar with the conversations said.

The Rockets have no trade involving Asik in the works, with one individual saying a deal is more likely in months than in days.

This the second time that an Asik trade request has been reported. The first came in the summer, after Houston signed Dwight Howard. Asik is a terrific defensive center who started all 82 games for the Rockets last season and led the team in plus-minus. He was a valuable reserve in Chicago, but since signing a three-year, $25 million deal with Houston in 2012, he clearly has no interest in being a backup.

Rockets coach Kevin McHale started Asik and Howard together for the first eight games of the season, but the two-center combination has not worked (particularly on offense) and had put the Rockets in several first-quarter holes. On Monday against Toronto, McHale finally pulled the plug on the experiment, keeping Asik on the bench to start the second half. Wednesday in Philadelphia, Terrence Jones started in Asik’s place and Asik played just 4:22 in the Rockets’ overtime loss to the Sixers.

Less than 24 hours later, Asik was asking for a trade. And in the Rockets’ crazy 109-106 victory over the Knicks, he didn’t play at all. McHale used Greg Smith as the backup center late in the first quarter, and when Smith injured his knee less than a minute later, McHale played Jones at center.

It was the first DNP of Asik’s career and ended his league-leading streak of 239 consecutive games played. He was not available for comment after the game, having left the Houston locker room well before it was opened to the media. McHale said: “He told me today he wasn’t feeling good and he didn’t know if he could play,” McHale said after the game. “I asked him, ‘Are you ready to play?’ and he said, ‘I don’t feel good.’ That’s why I went with Greg.”

Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reported that the Rockets have told Asik that they have no intention of trading him. And before Thursday’s game in New York, McHale said that he hasn’t closed the door on using Asik and Howard together.

“I liked a lot of stuff he and Dwight did together,” McHale said. “They were big. They protected the rim. It’’s going to be a lot on matchups, a lot how things work. He’’s going to have to get out there and play. Will he start against some bigger teams? Possibly.””

A few more starts here or there doesn’t change the fact that the Rockets would be better off swapping Asik for a forward who can shoot and defend. While Asik gives Houston depth up front and insurance on Howard (who struggled to score against Andrea Bargnani on Thursday), he’s not worth what the Rockets are paying him as a 12-minute-a-night backup, especially if there are nights like this — if you think McHale’s “wasn’t feeling good” claim was a little dubious — when he doesn’t play at all.

The Rockets, who have had an up-and-down first 10 games, could raise their ceiling and put themselves in the driver’s seat of a wide-open Western Conference if they can trade Asik for a better fit with Howard and James Harden, someone who could play 30 minutes a night instead of 12. And with other Western Conference contenders (like the Clippers, Grizzlies and Thunder) also ripe for a trade, Houston shouldn’t hesitate to pursue the guy they want.

Though they currently rank 23rd in 3-point shooting (at 32.1 percent) and spacing the floor around Harden/Howard pick-and-rolls is critical, their biggest priority in any deal should be perimeter defense. They’ve had plenty of glaring breakdowns already this season and they have no one to defend the likes of Kevin Durant or, if they truly have title aspirations, LeBron James. Exhibit A is Carmelo Anthony‘s 45 points on 17-for-30 shooting on Thursday.

That’s why the Sixers’ Thaddeus Young should be their primary target, whether it be a straight trade with Philadelphia or a three-team deal. The Pelicans’ Ryan Anderson would be a great fit offensively, but would only add to the defensive problems.

Smith’s injury complicates things. He would be a capable backup in small doses, but if his knee injury is serious — he’s set to have an MRI on Friday — it would be more difficult to part with Asik.

Still, not only is it unlikely that Asik will change his mind, but a trade would give the Rockets an opportunity to get better. They obviously need at least one other team to make a deal, but they shouldn’t wait to start shopping.

Blogtable: What To Make Of The Pelicans

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Dual dueling PGs in Houston | Tough Guy award | What to make of the Pelicans


The exhibition season doesn’t mean a thing … does it? What are we to make of the New Orleans Pelicans? Are they any good?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comAs the late, great Tony Montana said, “Fly, Pelican. Fly!” But I see this as more of a “try Pelicans, try” season. The parts are intriguing, but it’s all promise, not yet payoff. I’ll believe in a durable Eric Gordon, for instance, when I see him playing 78 games again some year. Anthony Davis‘ length and liveliness will carry him far as a defender but he still has refining to do. Most of the Pelicans’ roster has that “yes, but…” aspect to it. And while the schedule is balanced, just looking at the big boys in the Southwest Division could be daunting for bayou birds.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Didn’t you just answer your own question? I hear with the right combination of cayenne pepper and a good roux, you can make a tasty pelican gumbo.  And if coach Monty Williams stirs the pot just right, a team that can battle for the No. 8 spot in the West.

Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comSometimes the preseason does mean something. Specifically for a young team learning how to win. Anthony Davis‘ impressive preseason is not a fluke. The kid, we are learning, is going to be a force. Are they a good team? Good is relative. Compared to what? Compared to what they were last year? Yes, they are a good team. Compared to the Spurs or Thunder. No, they are an improving team. But to the point, the Pelicans’ preseason does have meaning for a young team with a lot of talent, if not experience.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Yes. I don’t think playoff good, but no one should be surprised at the obvious signs of progress. Anthony Davis could still turn out to be the best player from the 2013 draft, Jrue Holiday is a nice add, Monty Williams is a quality coach, Eric Gordon continues to have good moments when healthy, and Ryan Anderson is an ideal complementary fit. New Orleans will go from 27 wins to 40-42.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Here’s a Schuhmann Stat: Over the last eight full preseasons (skipping 2011), 17 teams have gone through the exhibition schedule with less than two losses, and 14 of the 17 have made the playoffs. That’s kind of encouraging, though two of the three eventual lottery teams were last year’s Sixers and Raptors. The Pelicans have the talent – a strong top seven – to make get a seven or eight seed in the West, especially if Anthony Davis can carry this type of offensive production into the regular season. Ultimately, it will come down to how well they defend, something they did terribly last season. Watching some preseason film, Davis still needs improvement on his pick-and-roll coverage.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comI have a concrete stance about preseason evaluations and I won’t abandon it in this case, even though I’m high on the talent base the Pelicans have put together. I’m ready to buy Pelicans stock, I’ll go that far. But I’m not ready to proclaim them a legitimate playoff party crasher in the Western Conference based on their work in October. I need a larger and more reasonable sample size to work with. And let’s be real, we’ve been here too many times in the preseason or early in the regular season, cranking up the expectations on a team that goes nuts trying to win every quarter of every game, only to see them falter after a few weeks of playing above their heads. The undefeated preseason mark, to date, is indeed impressive. But it comes with an asterisk, just like everything else before Halloween does. Keep it up through Thanksgiving and then we can talk. The Pelicans are worth keeping an eye on, thanks to that collection of young talent that could and should be the basis for a playoff contender in the coming years.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I like their uniforms! As far as how they are going to be this season … yeah, we still don’t know. The one thing I feel like isn’t being talked about enough is their acquisition of Jrue Holiday — in the era of the point guard, going out and getting an All-Star caliber guard really makes a statement and helps establish your team on another level. I think health is the other thing to keep an eye on with the Pels — if Anthony Davis and, more relevantly, Eric Gordon are able to give you 70-80 games apiece, the Pels might mess around and sneak into the playoffs.

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA.com BrasilThe record doesn’t mean anything, but you certainly can take away something about chemistry, focus and individual player improvements. For a young, revamped team like the Pelicans, the preseason is important to develop a winning culture, so their impeccable record so far is certainly gonna translate well to the regular season. Anthony Davis looks like he stepped up his game to another level, and Eric Gordon has sparked memories of his best days as a Clipper. Nobody is suggesting the Pelicans are a title contender, but they will surely surprise a lot of people and could have a fast start to their season.

Davide Chinellato, NBA.com Italy: You can’t trust preseason games, but winning’s always a good way to boost your morale. I think the Pelicans could be a fringe playoff team this year. To go back to the postseason, though, they need a breakout season from Anthony Davis, they need Eric Gordon healthy and back to his Clippers days and they need Tyreke Evans to play as well as he did in 2009-10, when he won the Rookie of the Year. Now that I write that, I’m getting a little afraid that those are too many ifs.

One Team, One Stat: No D In New Orleans

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next is the New Orleans Pelicans, who hope not to defend like the Hornets did last season.

The basics
NOH Rank
W-L 27-55 26
Pace 90.9 30
OffRtg 102.7 17
DefRtg 107.6 28
NetRtg -5.0 25

The stat

111.2 - Points allowed per 100 possessions by the Hornets after the All-Star break. They had the worst post-break defense in the league.

The context

Head coach Monty Williams often says that his team has a defensive identity, but the Hornets were the third worst defensive team in the league last season. They were a top-10 defensive rebounding team, but ranked 25th in forcing turnovers and 27th in both 2-point (50.5 percent) and 3-point (37.4 percent) defense.

As the Spurs figured out last season, rebounds are nice, but contesting shots, is, by far, the most important thing you can do defensively.

Lowest % of opponent shots
from mid-range
Team %FGA
New Orleans 23.5%
Charlotte 24.4%
New York 26.0%
Miami 26.3%
Denver 26.4%

The Hornets’ poor shooting defense was, in part, a result of the shots they forced. Only 23.5 percent of their opponents’ shots came from mid-range, the lowest rate in the league. If you want to be a great defense, you need to run your opponents off the 3-point line and keep them out of the paint, and the Hornets didn’t do that enough.

They were particularly awful, allowing a whopping 115.0 points per 100 possessions, in 697 minutes with Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson on the floor together. They basically did everything worse in those minutes. They didn’t defend the 3-point line or paint as well, they didn’t force as many turnovers, they rebounded worse, and they fouled more.

The Orlando Magic ranked 27th offensively last season and went 8-49 after Dec. 20. But on March 4, they scored a ridiculous 72 points in just 25 minutes with Anderson and Davis on the floor, shooting 29-for-47 (62 percent) from the field. Here are some of the defensive lowlights…

Anderson’s primary issue is foot speed. He has a difficult time staying in front of quick guards on pick-and-rolls. Davis, meanwhile, was probably too quick for his own good in his rookie year. He has the potential to be a fantastic defender if he can stay in control more. The Hornets might be better off asking him to contain (stay back on), rather than hedge (jump out on), pick-and-rolls.

That night against the Magic, Robin Lopez was in foul trouble. Now, he’s in Portland. Williams could start Greg Stiemsma or Jason Smith at center, but Anderson and Davis will spend a lot of time on the floor together and they’ll have to defend a lot better than they did last season.

New Orleans added talent this summer, but Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday can’t improve this team as much as better defense can.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Pelicans Are Here, But Not On Jersey

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST –
Since those dark days not so long ago when Chris Paul wanted to bail and the NBA seized control of a listing steamboat lacking a working paddle wheel, there’s now plenty to admire about the franchise that proudly recast itself as the New Orleans Pelicans.

Longtime Saints owner Tom Benson, a New Orleans native, bought the team and likely saved it from the same fate as the Jazz. General manager Dell Demps has put his stamp on a roster that was routinely playing to a half-empty house and coach Monty Williams has created a culture of hard work.

The Pelicans will open the 2013-14 season with All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson and last year’s No. 1 pick Anthony Davis, who played very well at the Team USA training camp late last month in Las Vegas.

A new identity seemed in order and I was a big fan of the name change from an insignificant out-of-state insect to the Louisiana state bird. I prefer nicknames with significance. As owner Benson noted, any bird that can survive the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill makes for a great team name. The new logo is pretty good, too, although there was actually one floating around the Internet I liked better.

I also like the Pelicans’ uniforms the team unveiled at a Thursday press conference. Simple and sharp, they include home whites and blue roadies, both accented in red and gold. I’m a big uniform guy (in fact this guy has my dream job) and I think these new duds offer a pretty classic look (after all, there’s not a hint of teal or a giant cartoon pelican to be found). I like the typeface of the numbers and lettering, which was taken from French Quarter street signs.

However, I do have one beak, er, beef: Why isn’t the name “PELICANS” boldly emblazoned across the chest of the home jerseys? Both uniforms will read “NEW ORLEANS,” and in rather small lettering, I suppose because New Orleans is rather lengthy to strip across the chest.

The franchise put so much thought into its re-branding effort to Pelicans, yet it won’t utilize perhaps the most unique, if not silly-sounding, nickname in all of sports on its home jersey? They’re hard-selling the new team name, the franchise’s new identity — the mighty Pelicans — so put it in big letters on the front of the jersey for all to see.

(A third and fourth jersey will be introduced, respectively, for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 season so maybe they’ll address my beef then).

Traditionally, a team’s nickname goes on its home uniform anyway and the city name goes on the road uniform. Yet, even as the New Orleans group was seeking a classic, traditional look on its uniform, it veered from tradition and, unfortunately, “NEW ORLEANS” across the home uniform gives it a bit of a boring look.

“We wanted to make sure that they represented the city and the whole region,” Benson said of the unis during the press conference. “New Orleans does that and I think that was very important to us.”

A few years back, baseball’s Texas Rangers dropped “Rangers” from their home uniforms in favor of “TEXAS” on all their jerseys because, they said, they wanted to be the team for all of Texas. New Orleans is a city, not a region. They didn’t change the name to the Gulf Coast Pelicans, which, if they had, they could have gone with “Gulf Coast” on both uniforms to be inclusive to the region.

The last team to unveil new uniforms, the Brooklyn Nets, also chose to use “BROOKLYN” on both its home and road uniforms. That made sense. The franchise wasn’t selling the old sad-sack Nets, a name with no emotional value to its new fan base. They’re hard-selling Brooklyn.

Hey, it’s only a uniform and a pretty good-looking one at that. But, for me, “PELICANS” would be front and center.

Barnes Bulks Up For Small Ball





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Harrison Barnes wore his layer of new muscle in Las Vegas last week like a superhero wears his costume. He tried to act natural, like nothing had changed since the last time we saw him. But it’s hard to hide the obvious, especially when it’s 10 to 15 pounds of new muscle.

Barnes has bulked up considerably since his breakout showing against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals. With the addition of Andre Iguodala this summer, Barnes knows that the time he spent working at power forward in the Warriors’ small ball lineup could be a more common occurrence during the 2013-14 season.

So he had no choice but to go to work on his physique. The gains were on display throughout USA Basketball’s mini-camp for the Men’s Senior National Team, and specifically in the Blue-White Showcase (just ask Ryan Anderson).

Warriors coach Mark Jackson will have to sort out his rotation and find creative ways to use Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Barnes and Iguodala in a way that capitalizes on all of their individual talents. That could mean a sixth man role for Barnes or a position switch and perhaps another move, possibly even trading David Lee or Andrew Bogut to create more time for that smaller lineup.

A key piece of the Warriors’ core group, Barnes is prepared for whatever comes his way.

“I’ve really been working hard this summer to get ready for that,” Barnes said. “I’ve really been working on my body. I need to get used to the toll it takes down low, boxing out and rebounding with the bigger guys. [Denver's] Kenneth Faried definitely served as an inspiration and great guy to help prepare me for what it takes to play that position when you are considered to be undersized by people. But it’s like I said, I’ve been preparing for that change all summer.”

Thompson participated in the mini-camp, too. He acknowledged that changes that will come with Iguodala’s addition, and not just offensively.

“He’s going to help make us a stronger unit defensively,” Thompson said. “I think that’s the first thing that jumps out at you when you add him to our mix. We’ll adjust offensively. Coach Jackson can get creative with what he wants to do in that regard. Everybody will just have to wait and see what he comes up with.”

Watching Barnes work throughout the mini-camp and in that Blue-White game should be required viewing before any decisions are made. He played inside and out, ran the floor as well as anyone, guarded on the perimeter and in the paint and held his ground routinely against bigger guys. He scored 18 points in the game without any designed scheme to get him involved, which might be his best trait. He can adapt his game to whatever style of play the Warriors decide to utilize.

“The [USA Basketball] experience is great for me,” Barnes said. “It’s different for sure. But it’s kind of fun at the same time because you don’t have expectations for yourself. I don’t get game reps a lot at the [four], so I got to come out and here and just go on the fly. It was great, though. I’ve only had the chance to rock the USA on my chest one time, and that was in high school. So to come out here and get a chance to play against so many great players was fantastic.”

Barnes said he’ll take a similar approach to Warriors training camp. Instead of worrying about what he’ll have to sacrifice with the arrival of another player who will chew up minutes at small forward, he continue to focus on the positives and what it takes for him to be effective in whatever role he’s asked to fill.

“I don’t think it takes long for us to figure it all out as players,” Barnes said. “The best thing about Andre is he’s a great passer. And he’s got plenty of experience playing small ball. In my mind, our versatility is what’s going to set us apart. The fact that we’ll be able to play multiple guys at multiple spots is what will make us so dangerous, whether it’s me at the four and David Lee at the five or whatever it is we do against certain teams. We’ll have the advantage a lot of nights because we can match up basically with anybody.”

That was certainly the Warriors’ plan.


Young Stars Look To Make An Impression At USA Basketball Showcase

 

LAS VEGAS – Summer hoops continues Thursday on NBA TV (9 p.m. ET) with the USA Basketball Showcase, the culmination of a four-day mini-camp that brought 28 young players into the program that has won two straight Olympic gold medals and 50 straight games.

USA Basketball Showcase – Blue Team
No. Player Pos
46 Harrison Barnes SF
36 DeMarcus Cousins C
42 Anthony Davis PF
41 DeMar DeRozan SG
37 Derrick Favors PF
31 Gordon Hayward SG
22 Damian Lillard PG
62 Greg Monroe PF
34 Klay Thompson SG
51 Dion Waiters SG
26 Kemba Walker PG
50 John Wall PG

Twenty-four of the *28 players will take the floor at the Thomas & Mack Center on Thursday, split into two teams that will be coached by Men’s Senior National Team assistants Tom Thibodeau and Monty Williams.

* Not participating: College players Doug McDermott and Marcus Smart, as well as the Bucks’ Larry Sanders (who turned his ankle in a scrimmage on Tuesday) and the Wizards’ Bradley Beal (who is rehabbing a right fibula injury and has only participated in drills).

With only 40 minutes of game action, the average player will see less than 17 minutes of playing time, which might make it tough for some to make a strong impression on USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will be watching courtside.

But Colangelo and Krzyzewski won’t be making any roster selections in the wake of this mini-camp. The next step in the process will be to create a pool of 25-35 players from which to select teams for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain *and the 2016 Olympics in Rio. That won’t happen until next Spring at the earliest and they will be keeping tabs on the entire group during the course of the 2013-14 NBA season.

* If the U.S. wins gold in Spain next summer, they automatically qualify for the Olympics and won’t need to send a team to the 2015 FIBA Americas tournament. If they don’t win gold next summer, they’ll need to field a team in 2015 and finish in the top two at the FIBA Americas tournament to qualify for the Olympics.

USA Basketball Showcase – White Team
No. Player Pos
24 Ryan Anderson PF
20 Mike Conley PG
25 Andre Drummond C
33 Kenneth Faried PF
29 Paul George SF
27 Jrue Holiday PG
23 Kyrie Irving PG
35 DeAndre Jordan C
32 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist SF
21 Ty Lawson PG
39 Chandler Parsons SF
28 Tyler Zeller C

That pool of 25-35 will be made up of USA Basketball veterans, players from this group and a few others that weren’t able to participate this week because of injuries. On Wednesday, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love — who each played in 2010 and 2012 — committed to playing next summer in Spain. And there will likely be other vets that join them.

So there are precious few roster spots available for the players at this camp. Many of them — though they’re stars with their NBA squads — will never play for the National Team. It’s a numbers game and Colangelo and Krzyzewski just have too much talent to choose from.

Of the 24 players who will see action on Thursday, three have the inside track to roster spots next summer. Paul George and Kyrie Irving are simply the best players in camp, while Anthony Davis has USA Basketball experience (at last year’s Olympics) and the skill set needed from U.S. bigs.

Seven of the 24, including Irving, are point guards, who could all be competing with Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams for roster spots down the line. Though point guards also play shooting guard in this system, the wings and bigs we see on Thursday certainly have a better shot of making it to Spain or Rio.

This is still a tremendous opportunity for everyone involved, including fans who want to see some high-quality, competitive hoops in the middle of the summer. There’s no better basketball being played in July and even if they aren’t eventually selected for the National Team, these players are making the most of their week in Vegas.

“You just try to take as much advantage of it as you possibly can,” Chandler Parsons said, “learn from it, take it back to your city and try to have a good season next year.”

New Crop Of Bigs Vie For USA Spots

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LAS VEGAS – In the last two Olympics, the starting forwards for the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team were Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. In the 2010 World Championship, the starting forwards were Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala.

As the U.S. has gone undefeated in those three major competitions, they’ve started just one traditional big man — Dwight Howard in 2008, Lamar Odom in 2010 and Tyson Chandler in 2012 — and had just two others on their roster. Though the numbers made it clear last year that the presence of one of the bigs on the floor was critical, only two of them were in the rotation.

One of the two was Chandler, who is probably done playing international basketball. The other was Kevin Love, who was also on the roster in 2010 and could be back for next year’s World Cup in Spain.

At this point, more than 13 months before the World Cup tips off, absolutely nothing is set in stone. A couple of bigs that aren’t at this week’s mini-camp — Taj Gibson and David Lee — are still in the mix. So there could be as many as three and as few as one roster spot available for the 10 bigs that are here.

One of those 10 is Anthony Davis, who was the 12th man on last year’s Olympic squad. He was raw then, didn’t make a big impact as a rookie with the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans), and said this week that he’s not guaranteed a roster spot next summer. But USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo had good things to say about Davis on Tuesday.

“He’s had some experience, real early, last year with us,” Colangelo said. “He observed and he learned a lot, just playing with the guys he did. I can see growth and experience and maturity already in him. And you can kind of project him out. He could be a tremendous shot-blocker in the international game.”

We’ll have to wait and see how Davis does in his second season in the league, but his experience, potential and skill set make him the likely frontrunner among this week’s group of bigs. With his athleticism, his ability to protect the rim on defense and finish at the rim on offense, he’s the prototypical USA Basketball big man. With stars in the backcourt and in those forward positions, those are the kinds of skills that are needed from the guys who will play the five spot.

Colangelo doesn’t want to think that specifically just yet. This week is just about seeing what guys bring to the table, and the selection process will wait until next summer.

“It depends on who your nucleus might be,” he said. “It’s way too early to know what our nucleus is. That’s why we have to continue to look at all the bigs. And then when the time comes, when we have to select those who we want to bring into camp next summer, it’ll be based on what kind of complementary players we have.”

It will also be based, in part, on how these guys do with their NBA teams next season. And since most of the group is so young – seven of the 10 are 23 are younger – one or more just might have a breakout year and prove to be better than Lee or Gibson by next July.

“Some of them just have more growing to do,” Colangelo said. “They’re young bigs. And of all the positions in basketball, it takes them longer to get where they can be.”

This is the first exposure to Colangelo’s program for most of this group of bigs. In addition to Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors were here last year as a member of the Select Team that practiced against the Olympic Team. But the rest are new.

The rest = Ryan Anderson, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried, DeAndre Jordan, Greg Monroe, Larry Sanders and Tyler Zeller.

Maybe one or two of those names might get a trip to Spain next year, because there’s a possibility that Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski take four bigs instead of three to the World Cup. Better safe than sorry, especially if one or two hasn’t played in a major international tournament before. For Krzyzewski, the lack of bigs on last year’s roster — a result of injuries more than anything — was a concern.

“We were actually really vulnerable in London, because Tyson was our only true center,” Krzyzewski told NBA TV before camp opened. “We were vulnerable in the fact that then we had to use LeBron, Carmelo and Kevin Durant as guys who would have to guard the fours and the fives. And since you only get five fouls, we were vulnerable in that one of those guys could get in foul trouble.”

So it’s good that they have a deep group here in camp this week. It’s a little difficult to envision any of the 10 as a starting center on a U.S. National Team, but things could certainly be different a year from now.