Posts Tagged ‘Shannon Brown’

Spurs Need To Get Healthy On Rodeo Trip


VIDEO: Tim Duncan has 23 points and 17 rebounds as the Spurs beat the Kings

In one way, the 2014 edition of the Spurs’ Rodeo Trip is like all the others. It’s a time for coming together.

Usually that means bonding as a team, forging a closeness in spirit, identity and execution on the court.

This time it simply means picking up the pieces and trying to glue them all together.

As they open the nine-game, 8,989 mile odyssey tonight in New Orleans, the Spurs would appear to be about as fragile as Peyton Manning’s Super Bowl legacy. They good news is they’ll face only four teams with records above .500 on the trip. They bad news is they’ll do it with a roster that has Manu Ginobili (hamstring), Kawhi Leonard (hand) and Danny Green (hand) all in various stages of injury rehabilitation and Tiago Splitter (shoulder) just getting back into the rotation after more than three weeks on the shelf.

“We’ve still got to go play all the games,” coach Gregg Popovich told reporters before Saturday’s home win over Sacramento. “When the game is over nobody cares. Nobody says, ‘Well, who was out for that team?’ You either won or you lost and you got better or you didn’t. So it’s all the same stuff. We want to concentrate on all the same things offensively and defensively, the things we want to get better at, and just go.”

Despite their current position tied for the No. 2 seed in the West, the Spurs do have a need to get better quickly, having lost three of their last four games and five out of eight since the middle of January. After a stellar 35-6 home record a year ago, they have also lost eight games already this season at the AT&T Center. Perhaps most telling, the Spurs are just 1-11 against opponents with the top six records in the NBA this season — Pacers, Thunder, Blazers, Heat, Clippers and Rockets.

It would then hardly seem a good time for a team to embark on a lengthy All-Star break-straddling road trip that will take them from coast to coast and playing games in four time zones before their next home game on Feb. 26.

However, the Spurs have traditionally used the period they have to vacate their own stable for the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo as time to solidify their standing in the conference and make a push for elite playoff seeding.

Since the beginning of the tradition in 2003, the Spurs have an overall mark of 65-26 on 11 rodeo trips and have posting a losing record. In the past three seasons, they are 21-6.

According to Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News, while the Spurs have the best winning percentage (70.5) in North American professional sports since Tim Duncan joined the team in 1997, they are actually better on the rodeo trip (71.4).

A year ago the Spurs went 7-2 on their trek, even though they played the first five games without the injured Duncan and Ginobili.

But this might be a more difficult challenge. In their final home game before departing, a narrow 95-93 escape past the Kings, the Spurs started a deep backup point guard Cory Joseph at the shooting guard spot and started at small forward with Shannon Brown, a player who’d just been signed to a 10-day contract and never had time for a practice.

With Splitter getting back onto the floor briefly against Sacramento, Green is expected to be the next to return, maybe playing by the end of the week. Leonard is a possible addition by the time the Spurs hit the West Coast after the All-Star break, while Ginobili could miss the entire journey.

“They’re trickling in,” Duncan said. “It’s great to have bodies back out there, great to start getting everyone healthy. Now it’s about getting their rhythm back, their wind back and get into game shape.”

Mild-Mannered Hornacek Infusing Suns With Just The Right Amount Of Fire


VIDEO: Jeff Hornacek talks about learning the ropes as an NBA coach

It took until the end of the second week of the season, five minutes into the second half of a game against the visiting Pelicans. It took five sloppy turnovers in the space of just three infuriating minutes.

It was, in fact, all  Jeff Hornacek could take. As he signaled for a timeout to apply a tourniquet, he whirled, raised an exasperated fist and slammed it down hard on the court side press table.

“Oh yeah,” said guard Eric Bledsoe as he thought back to the moment. “That got our attention. That was the first time I had ever seen him get that mad. You’re thinking to yourself, ‘Oh, he does have that in him.’ “

It was one of the questions that loomed from the time the 50-year-old Hornacek took over as the Suns coach in May following Phoenix’s 25-win season of 2012-13, the fewest wins in franchise history since the expansion season (1968-69). Was Hornacek simply too nice of a guy to do the heavy lifting required by the job?

“You can see where people might get that impression from the outside,” said small forward P.J. Tucker. “Because for the most part he’s always the same. He doesn’t have those emotional swings that you see from a lot of coaches. I know you hear a lot of coaches say they don’t intend to be that way. Then you watch them and see them losing it.

“From the first day that he got together with this team, all Jeff has been focused on is getting us to play with emotion, play hard, play aggressive. He channels his energy into us.”

“It important that the coach can stay calm, especially on a young team like this one,” said guard Goran Dragic. “When players are going through bad minutes on the floor, you need someone that can keep his confidence. It allows you to move forward. I will say that he is a nice guy as long as you don’t take advantage of him. If you do, he can bring you back to the ground.”

It was hardly the ideal situation to have your coaching baptism. After the misery of last season, the Suns went into an almost total rebuilding mode, purging the roster of most of their veteran players. Luis Scola, Jared Dudley, Michael Beasley, Jermaine O’Neal and Wesley Johnson were moved over the summer. Marcin Gortat, Kendall Marshall and Shannon Brown were traded to the Wizards just before the season opener.

So who was left? Veterans Dragic and Channing Frye to mix with Bledsoe, Tucker, Marcus and Markieff Morris and a No. 1 draft choice in Alex Len (who needed ankle surgery and has played just token minutes in four games). It was a roster picked by most experts to finish rock bottom in the rugged Western Conference and Las Vegas oddsmakers posted the over-under on Suns wins for the season at 21.5. The Suns and their coach getting his first crack at being the man in charge could have been offended.

“No,” Hornacek said. “Obviously this team won 25 games last year. We traded away a lot of our veteran guys who helped them win games last year. So we understand how it looks. But we went into this season and training camp tell our players, hey, you’re gonna read all that stuff, hear all that stuff. But if we play hard, we believe you guys are good players and if we play together and play hard we’ll win our fair share of games. I’m not going to put our a number on it or anything like that. But we’ll win our fair share and so far that’s what’s happened.”


VIDEO: Bledsoe fuels Suns’ victory in Houston

So the group went out and made Hornacek the first coach in Suns history to win his first four home games. They kept every game within a five-point margin in the final five minutes for the first three weeks of the season. After a home win against Toronto on Friday night, they stand at 11-9. They are doing it with an offensive style that wants to run when it can and a defensive approach that is always attacking on the perimeter. Hornacek is making the most of the guard tandem of Dragic and Bledsoe that many thought create duplication and conflict.

“Look, I’m only a rookie in this league myself, but I’ve had a lot of coaches at other levels of the game,” said center Miles Plumlee, “and I think what we are is a reflection of Jeff’s personality. What I know of him during his pro career is a guy that used no excuses, took no shortcuts and got the most out of his ability.”

All the while he’s been doing it by keeping a lid on those outward displays of emotions.

“I slip every once in a while,” Hornacek said. “They could drive you crazy. That’s part of it. Not everything’s gonna go perfectly. I think all coaches get frustrated when they see the same errors over and over. If they see something new, OK, maybe haven’t seen that. But the guy makes a mistake and does the same thing and does the same thing that’s when you’re gonna pound your head and say ‘OK, we talked about that.’ That’s the way it is.

“We’re also pretty young except for a couple of guys, Channing and Goran have been around. Everyone else is playing minutes that they’ve never played before. So we hopefully learn, but that’s a big part of it. I think it’s also part as an ex-player to want to be out there. You see things happen and you can give these guys all the preparation and talk about reads, but they actually have to do it out there … Maybe as ex-players, you see, ‘This is gonna develop.’ But they’ve got to figure that out.”

So far, Hornacek is giving his Suns enough room and push to do that.

New-Look Suns Getting It Done


VIDEO: Suns keep rolling, drop Pelicans

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Of the 16 players that suited up for the Phoenix Suns last season, 12 are gone.

Then there was the ultimate short-timer Caron Butler, a Suns player this summer just long enough to model the franchise’s new uniforms at a Scottsdale mall. In all, eight players are new to the roster, and straight from the feel-good department is Channing Frye returning from a scary heart condition that robbed him of the entire 2012-13 season. Frye is the Suns’ longest-tenured player, signed as a free agent way back in 2009, before current general manager Ryan McDonough had celebrated his 30th birthday.

The Suns’ starting five includes two players from last season: P.J.Tucker and Goran Dragic to go with Frye, Miles Plumlee and star-in-the-making Eric Bledsoe.

And here they are, a team that figured to lose games at a rapid rate is 5-2 and leading the Pacific Division. So how is it possible for an organization that hired a new GM, hired a new coach, cleaned house and then traded its talented starting center Marcin Gortat to Washington a week before the season started (for an injured one who might not play at all) to have already secured one-fifth of its win total from all of last season?

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Wizards Going All In With Gortat-For-Okafor Five-Player Trade

Phoenix Suns v Golden State Warriors

In Marcin Gortat, the Wizards have the big man they need to fill out their supporting cast.

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – No excuses in Washington this year.

That’s what Wizards’ owner Ted Leonsis has been preaching for months. Injuries will not be used an excuse for the Wizards not chasing a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

So, out goes injured center Emeka Okafor, who is out indefinitely after neck surgery, and in comes Marcin Gortat from Phoenix. It’s a deal that bolsters the Wizards’ frontcourt rotation and allows them to continue on with their plans to ride John Wall, Bradley Beal and a talented young core group into playoff contention this season.

It’s the sort of aggressive, risky move you would expect from a team with playoff aspirations that they want to realize now rather than later. Leonsis planted the seed after last season, when injuries to Wall and others prevented the Wizards from taking off the way they expected.

When Wall signed his five-year, $80 million extension in August, it became a playoffs-or-else proposition in Washington. The injury to Okafor, as well Chris Singleton and rookie swingman Otto Porter Jr., took some of the steam out of the hype train. But the arrival of Gortat, a 7-footer who averaged 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds last season in Phoenix, pumps some adrenaline back into things in Washington.

The deal, first reported by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, will also include the Wizards getting veteran guards Shannon Brown, Malcom Lee and Kendall Marshall, who was at one time expected to be the heir apparent to Steve Nash, for Okafor’s expiring contract and a protected first-round pick in the 2014 Draft.

The Wizards are not expected to keep Brown, Lee or Marshall on their already stocked roster, waiving all three to get to the league-maximum 15-man group in time for the start of the regular season next week.

The Suns acquisition of both Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe in consecutive summers, however, pushed Marshall into the margins in a rebuilding process in Phoenix that has yet to find a true foundation.

With a new direction and a new boss, general manager Ryan McDonough, the Suns are essentially waiving the white flag in the Western Conference playoff hunt and plotting a course with assets, cap space and a robust crop of talent in the 2014 Draft pool. Contract extension talks with Bledsoe are reportedly ongoing, but he appears to be the only established player safe from the trade chatter. (There have been rumors for months about Dragic being dangled as trade bait for the right asset).

It’s an interesting move by both parties, one that signals a definite shift in strategy by a Wizards team focused on the here and now and similarly deliberate move by a Suns team planning for the long-term future.

Randy Wittman and the Wizards have the big man they need to fill out that supporting cast around Wall and Beal. And Gortat gets his chance to prove he’s not just a great backup (to Dwight Howard in Orlando) or a guy who can put up solid numbers on a struggling team.

The best part, though, is the Wizards are not just talking about doing whatever it takes to become a part of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, they are making the moves necessary to make sure those words have a chance to become a reality.

It’s like the owner said, no excuses.

One Team, One Stat: Stay In The Corner, Jeff Green

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 are the Boston Celtics, who are starting over without Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

The basics
BOS Rank
W-L 41-40 16
Pace 94.0 17
OffRtg 101.1 20
DefRtg 100.4 6
NetRtg +0.7 14

The stat

17.9 percent - Difference between Jeff Green’s 3-point percentage from the corners (45.0 percent) and from above the break (27.1 percent) over the last three seasons.

The context

That’s the biggest difference among 134 players who attempted at least 100 threes from both the corners and above the break over the last three years. (The league-wide difference is 4.0 percent.)

In his two full seasons with the Celtics, a Green corner three has been worth 1.35 points per attempt and a Green above-the-break three has been worth 0.81. That’s the difference between a great shot and a bad one.

Biggest difference, corner 3P% vs. above-the-break 3P%

Corner 3 Above the Break 3
Player FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG% Diff.
Jeff Green 76 169 45.0% 58 214 27.1% 17.9%
Kawhi Leonard 75 170 44.1% 31 113 27.4% 16.7%
Chandler Parsons 90 191 47.1% 122 381 32.0% 15.1%
*Shawne Williams 77 191 40.3% 28 105 26.7% 13.6%
Corey Brewer 112 329 34.0% 42 200 21.0% 13.0%
Arron Afflalo 148 334 44.3% 117 374 31.3% 13.0%
**Martell Webster 114 236 48.3% 117 325 36.0% 12.3%
Darren Collison 46 105 43.8% 77 242 31.8% 12.0%
***Shannon Brown 52 120 43.3% 128 407 31.4% 11.9%
Rashard Lewis 89 218 40.8% 65 224 29.0% 11.8%

* Williams’ discrepancy was the source of this great line from my man Howard Beck (now with Bleacher Report: “And Williams is reliable only from the corners — meaning even his one dimension is one-dimensional.”)
** Led by Webster, the Wizards are the Jeff Green of 3-point shooting teams.
*** Geez, Shannon Brown. Take a look at your shot chart before you go and take more than three times as many threes from above the break again.

Three seasons ago, Green took 80 more above-the-break threes than corner threes. But last season, upon returning from heart surgery, he took more corner threes.

A closer look reveals that the difference may have been the team Green has played for. Upon being traded from the Thunder to the Celtics in February of 2011, Green found himself in the corner a lot more.

Jeff Green 3-point shooting

Corner 3 Above the Break 3
Season Team FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG%
2007-08 SEA 16 45 35.6% 5 30 16.7%
2008-09 OKC 23 59 39.0% 73 187 39.0%
2009-10 OKC 41 118 34.7% 63 192 32.8%
2010-11 OKC 20 46 43.5% 36 135 26.7%
2010-11 BOS 8 18 44.4% 0 9 .0%
2012-13 BOS 48 105 45.7% 22 70 31.4%
SEA/OKC Total 100 268 37.3% 177 544 32.5%
BOS Total 56 123 45.5% 22 79 27.8%

That’s a product of the two teams’ offenses. In four full seasons under Scott Brooks, only 22 percent of the Thunder’s 3-point attempts have come from the corners. In the same time, 29 percent of the Celtics threes have come from the corners. And that number was up to 34 percent over the last two seasons.

Here are Green’s seven 3-point attempts from that March 18 game in which he almost single-handedly ended the Heat’s winning streak at 22 games. He was 4-for-4 from the corners and 1-for-3 from above the break…


Brad Stevens brings a new offense to Boston, Rajon Rondo‘s absence means that Green will have the ball in his hands more, and the departures of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett mean that he’ll be asked to carry more of the offensive load. All that could certainly mean less attempts from the corner.

Through five preseason games, Green is 5-for-10 on corner threes and 0-for-11 from above the break. So the saga continues…

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

Vegas Chips: Kings, Cousins Rising? Goodwin A Keeper? Brown At Home?

 

LAS VEGAS – Not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. OK, that does. But these don’t:

KINGS FIND ‘GOOD-LUCK CHARM?’

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The most remarkable comment I heard during Summer League came from new Sacramento Kings coach Mike Malone about DeMarcus Cousins after he watched the final game from the bench with the summer Kings searching for their first win, which they got: “I told him he was our good-luck charm.”

Wow. When Cousins is suddenly deemed a good-luck charm, you know things aren’t the same old same old. This guy was like the Grim Reaper in Sac, delivering seriously bad vibes wherever he wandered. But maybe, just maybe, new ownership, a new front office and a new coaching staff is breaking through the darkness (74-156 during Cousins’ three seasons) and getting through to the immature-yet-wildly talented big man.

Throughout the game, Cousins was encouraging rookie Ben McLemore to remain confident with his shot and the former Jayhawk went on to score 27 points with nine rebounds.

“I went to Alabama and spent some time with him and his family (this summer),” Malone said. “I thanked him for coming to this game and I’ll come back up (to Las Vegas) and spend some time with him with USA basketball. But I told him he was our good-luck charm. All our other veterans came, we couldn’t win a game. DeMarcus came and we got a win, so we needed that presence on the bench.”

Nothing wrong with doting on Cousins. Malone will give The 6-foot-11, 270-pounder who turns 23 next month — yes, it’s difficult to remember how young he still is — equal parts coddling and hard coaching. Cousins, entering his fourth season, is working on his third coach for a franchise that has operated at the height of dysfunction since he was drafted fifth overall after one season at Kentucky.

Even so, Cousins, despite rampant childish behavior, ejections and fines, has put up impressive numbers thus far. His career averages? Try 16.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg and 0.9 bpg in 29.8 mpg. Want to do a little comparison? Here’s Dwight Howard‘s numbers after his first three seasons: 15.1 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 1.6 bpg in 35.4 mpg. If you extrapolate Cousins’ numbers to per-36 minutes, his totals jump to 19.1 ppg, 11.8 rpg and 1.1 bpg.

It’s why new ownership and management believe if they can straighten out Cousins upstairs, they’ll have a foundation block and the face of the franchise they desperately want. That’s a notion that even Cousins says he can now envision. Continuing to compete with the game’s other young stars at Team USA workouts as he is this week can only benefit Cousins and the Kings.

“I believe I mature after every season,” Cousins told reporters Monday’s workout. “I believe people forget I am just 22. At the same time I’ve got a big responsibility. It’s going to take me time, and I’m still learning. But I believe I do improve every year.”

How much can the Kings improve this season? It’s not time to call them a playoff contender in a stacked Western Conference, but they finally appear to be headed in a positive direction. The Kings acquired emerging 6-foot-6 point guard Greivis Vasquez (career-highs 13.9 ppg, 9.0 apg last season) from New Orleans in the Tyreke Evans trade. Marcus Thornton will likely start at shooting guard, with rookies McLemore and Ray McCallum, who had an impressive Summer League (12.6 ppg, 4.0 apg), adding intriguing depth. Blue-collar forward Carl Landry is back in town and defensive-minded Luc Mbah a Moute joins a front line that includes Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes and Jason Thompson.

There’s also a budding camaraderie. Point guard Isaiah Thomas, Thornton, Thompson and Jimmer Fredette made appearances in Vegas and even worked out with the summer team.

“From Jason Thompson to Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer, Marcus Thornton, even DeMarcus, them coming around, sensing the change in the ownership and the commitment from ownership, our front office staff, our coaching staff, they know it’s a new day in Sacramento,” Malone said. “I think they’re all excited, looking forward to the change that’s ahead.”

It’s a welcome change for a beleaguered franchise that just months ago was on the brink of bolting for Seattle.

LATE FIRST-ROUND SLEEPER?

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One-and-done Kentucky point guard Archie Goodwin was advised to stay in school. His Summer League performance might have been the start of showing why he did not. A lanky 6-foot-5 with long arms, Goodwin finished third on the Suns in scoring (13.1 ppg). More impressive, he shot 50 percent from the floor (26-for-52) — significantly better than his 44 percent as a college freshman — and made eight of his 14 3-point attempts for 57.1 percent (he was 17-for-64 at Kentucky).

“I know what I’m capable of and I just wanted everybody else to know that I can be something they had question marks on,” Goodwin said.

Most impressive was Goodwin’s last game in the inaugural Summer League tournament championship game against eventual-champion Golden State. Yes, it’s only Summer League, but the stakes and pressure were at their highest in a very competitive atmosphere. Goodwin scored 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting. He also had games of 22 and 20 points and scored in double figures in five of the seven games.

He consistently outplayed 2012 lottery pick Kendall Marshall, who averaged 5.6 ppg and 4.0 apg while shooting just 38.7 percent overall, although 40 percent from beyond the arc. (As our own Scott Howard-Cooper reported, Marshall was on the trading block in Phoenix even before Summer League began.)

Goran Drajic has the starting point guard job locked down along with newly acquired shooting guard Eric Bledsoe. Shannon Brown is a veteran presence off the bench and Malcolm Lee was acquired via a Draft-day trade with Golden State that netted Goodwin.

First-year coach Jeff Hornacek, a salty combo guard in his playing days with Phoenix and Utah, coached the Suns’ summer squad and aid Goodwin’s talent and athleticism are obvious. Now it’s a matter of how much he improves and learns through training camp, Hornacek added.

“I’ve learned just about how to play the game,” Goodwin said of playing under Hornacek. “He’s taught me a lot of things. Before we came here I was with him working out. He taught me things on my shot, taught me how to read situations, when to kick the ball, when to attack, things like that. So he’s been really good for me.”

BROWN IN CLEVELAND COMFORT ZONE

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It’s a little weird for a coach to go back to the team that fired him, unless he’s Billy Martin. But, Mike Brown is doing just that, returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers after being fired after the 2009-10 season and before LeBron James‘ decision to bolt. Cleveland hired Byron Scott to replace Brown and now Brown, fired last season by the Lakers after a 1-4 start, replaces Scott.

Brown, 43, is a bit older and wiser after his experiences as the only man to coach both James and Kobe Bryant. Maybe he was out of his element in post-Phil Jackson Lakerland (and who wasn’t last season?), but Brown said he wouldn’t change his approach if he had it to do all over again.

“I don’t know if there’s any one thing. I feel like I’m going to be the same coach,” Brown said. “If I was able to go through the same experience again, I’d probably do it the same way. I felt like I worked hard. I felt like I had a plan. It felt like in time the plan would have been executed in the right way, so I enjoyed my time there. But just like any other business that you’re in, when you go through trials and tribulations, whether it’s positive or negative or whatever, you grow in all types of ways. So I feel like I’ve grown. I feel like I’ve matured, not only on the floor as a coach, but even off the floor, too. So a lot of positives I take from that situation.”

Brown said he and his family always loved living in Cleveland, in fact, they were moving back even before the job offer came along. And, by the way, he has a pretty nice roster to work with, including a rising star in Kyrie Irving, as Brown tries to lead the Cavs back to the playoffs for the first time since he and LeBron left town.

No Shock: KG Is A Difference-Maker On D

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Points, rebounds and assists are nice, but plus-minus is the most important stat in basketball.

Teams win games by outscoring their opponent, and plus-minus reflects how much a team has done that in a player’s minutes on the floor. If a player isn’t scoring, he can help his teammates score and also prevent the opponent from doing so.

But in basketball, with nine other guys on the floor affecting what each player does, plus-minus always needs context, and lots of it. Who is a guy playing his minutes with? Who is he not playing his minutes with?

Furthermore, sample size is important. Single-game plus-minus can help tell a story about key sequences or the impact of a player or two on a particular night. But if you really want to get a good idea of how a team performs when a player or group of players is on the floor, you’ve got to look at a large chunk of games.

At this point in the season, we can get a pretty good idea of where teams are strong and weak. Through Thursday, 224 players have logged at least 500 minutes for one team this season.

On Wednesday, we looked at the players with the biggest on-off court differential in regard to their team’s offensive efficiency. Today, we look at the defensive end of the floor.

Measuring the difference in a team’s offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) when a player is on the floor vs. when he’s off the floor, here are the league’s five biggest difference makers, as well as a pair at the bottom of the list.

For all of them, the discrepancy between their team’s defensive numbers with them on and off the floor is as much about the guys replacing them as it is about what they’re doing themselves.

1. Kevin Garnett, Celtics

On/off floor MIN DefRtg
On floor 905 96.3
Off floor 613 110.7
Diff. -14.4

Because the Celtics use a unique substitution pattern with KG, you can get a pretty clear idea of the impact he makes. No other Celtics regular has played more 63 percent of his minutes with Garnett.

You probably figured Garnett would be at or near the top of this list, but 14.4 points per 100 possessions? That’s an amazing number, and it’s an indictment on Brandon Bass (382 minutes with Garnett off the floor), Jared Sullinger (331) and Chris Wilcox (297) … and Paul Pierce (391) and Rajon Rondo (432).

It’s also an endorsement of both former Celtics center Greg Stiemsma and guard Avery Bradley, because the Celtics’ defense only fell off 0.5 points per 100 possessions when Garnett stepped off the floor last season.

Bradley’s return (he made his 2012-13 debut on Wednesday) offers some hope, but interior defense will continue to be an issue whenever Garnett rests. (more…)

Rick’s Tips: Waiver Watching



If you’ve made it this far, then you’re still alive for a fantasy championship. I’m back with waiver wire advice at the toughest position to fill in fantasy hoops: shooting guard.

There once was a day when SG was arguably the deepest position in the NBA. Think about the 90s with Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Reggie Miller, Joe Dumars, Mitch Richmond, Allan Houston, Steve Smith, Nick Anderson, Jeff Hornacek, John Starks, Hersey Hawkins, Latrell Sprewell, Ron Harper, and the list goes on and on…

Today, you have Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Joe Johnson, Manu Ginobili, James Harden, Monta Ellis, Eric Gordon and Jason Terry headlining the 2-guard position. However, beyond those big names, it’s a collection of rising players like Paul George, DeMar Derozan, Marcus Thornton and Rodney Stuckey, the injury-prone Kevin Martin, and a plethora of timeshares.

Because filling the 2-guard spot in a position-based league has become so challenging, I will offer up five shooting guards for your perusal. They are listed in order of how much I trust them this week.

Courtney Lee

It doesn’t sound like Kevin Martin will return from his shoulder injury anytime soon, so it appears fantasy owners can safely expect Lee to get full run at the 2 for at least another week. In 15 starts this season, Lee is averaging 14 points, 1.6 threes, and 1.3 steals in 37.3 minutes. He should have no problem meeting or exceeding those digits this week.

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Rosen’s Report: Dallas at Phoenix

Despite the dismantling of their championship squad, the Mavs still nurture hopes of defending their title. For now, they are languishing in the lower-seeded playoff bracket but are only one game away from earning the third seed in the West. They also anticipate that their corps of veterans will have their respective A-games honed when the money season commences.

For the Suns, competing in the playoffs is both a distant memory and an unimaginable future. While Phoenix is still a moderately competitive team, two of their stalwarts — Grant Hill and Steve Nash — are learning that the older they get the faster they get old. Is it time, then, for management to utter the “R” word — Rebuilding?

HOW THE MAVERICKS CAN WIN

Unless he’s double-teamed, Dirk Nowitzki’s dreadnaught arsenal of off-balance, step-back, wrong-footed shot-releases can seldom be deterred. Plus, he’s a dead-eye shooter with 3-point range, is virtually unstoppable when driving left, and has the most convincing shot-fakes in the NBA. Nowitzki has certainly recovered from his early-season slump, yet he remains somewhat erratic — especially before the halftime intermission.  However, Nowitzki usually has long arms whenever a game is up for grabs. Even though Jared Dudley is Phoenix’s best defender, Nowitzki will still have to be two-timed — which will create opportunities for Nowitzki’s timely passes to generate open shots for his teammates.

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Does Huge Bynum Give Lakers Big Three?


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HANG TIME HQ, TEXAS – News flash for Andrew Bynum: four and a half years after the infamous video taken at a Newport Beach mall, Kobe Bryant believes you’ve got the right stuff to help him run down that sixth NBA championship that would pull him even with Michael Jordan.

After falling out of the starting gate with back-to-back losses, the Lakers have won six out of their last eight going into tonight’s game against the Suns. Bryant told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports! that he’s feeling good about many things: The right wrist that is holding up despite torn ligaments, the attitude and philosophy of new coach Mike Brown and especially the play of his front court teammates Bynum and Pau Gasol.

Bryant loves that Brown’s pushing people within the organization, that he’s pushing Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, and, yes, that he’s pushing Bryant, too. The Lakers are still struggling to find themselves, but Brown is transforming them on the fly, fortifying them defensively and moving far away from the triangle offense. For everything that’s changed, Bryant still believes the core of a championship contender is here.

“We have our own Big Three,” Bryant said. “Andrew. Pau. And myself. Those are three bona fide All-Stars.

And you’d put that against anyone else’s three?

“Yes, I would.”

This promises to be a grueling sprint of a season where no one wants to hear about tired legs and injured players. Bryant’s always made it harder for Lakers teammates to sit out with injuries, because they know he’s plays through everything. For Gasol and Bynum, this has never been more important. “Mike’s pushed us hard, especially our bigs,” Bryant said of Brown. “He demands a lot from Pau. … But you’re seeing, Andrew has an incredible drive, an ambition to be great. And we need to encourage him in that.”

That’s a far cry from the way Bryant used to view the young big man in the middle of the L.A. lineup. But since starting the season late following his four-game suspension, Bynum has come a long way from the player who showed only flashes of his ability in the past. In his first half-dozen games this season, Bynum is averaging 18.8 points and 15.7 rebounds per game while shooting 53.6 percent. What he’s brought to the early part of this season has been consistency. He has only one game when he didn’t score in double figures and has hit double digits in rebounds every time out.

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