Posts Tagged ‘Stan Van Gundy’

Morning Shootaround — Nov. 9

VIDEO: The Fastbreak: Sunday, Nov. 8


Kobe fades in what could be his final call at MSG | Drummond joins giants with another 20-20 night | Thunder embrace their true identity | Grizzlies rotation will tighten during tough times

No. 1: Kobe fades in what could be his final call at MSG — His first points in 1996. The 61 he dropped on the crowd in 2009. Some of Kobe Bryant‘s greatest memories have come on the floor at Madison Square Garden. He added 18 more in what could very well be his final time playing on that floor Sunday in a loss to the New York Knicks. Lakers coach Byron Scott admitted that he and Kobe have spoken about the fact that his 20th season could indeed be his final season in the league. If so, the farewell tour took a decided twist at MSG, where our very own Lang Whitaker was on hand to witness what could very well be Kobe’s final call at the Mecca:

Following Sunday’s game, Kobe reminisced about that first appearance at the Garden — “It was like one of those VHS tapes when someone hit the fast-forward button and the TV was moving really fast.” — as well as that ’98 All-Star game — “In the locker room, I look to my right and there’s Stockton, and I look to my left and there’s Drexler.”

“I don’t think you understand how much I watched this building growing up,” Bryant said. “I mean, Frazier and Monroe and all those teams, DeBusschere and Reed and all those guys. I was like, truly, truly a fan of watching all these games. Then the Bulls, obviously, and the Pacers battles, and all that stuff. To be able to come here and have the performances I’ve had in this building, it feels extremely, extremely fortunate.”

Accordingly, Bryant is still respected like few opponents at MSG. Even Sunday, whenever he pulled up for a jumper, there was roar of anticipation. When Bryant pump-faked on the wing with three minutes left and the game in the balance, several fans sitting behind him leapt to their feet in anticipation of a big bucket, one that never came.

These days, the riddle the Lakers find themselves trying to unravel is exactly what they want and need out of Bryant. Do they need a volume shooter who occasionally flirts with a 40-point game? Or is the best course for the franchise to focus on the future? The Lakers used a lineup in the fourth quarter on Sunday featuring Kobe playing alongside a seven-year vet (Roy Hibbert), a second-year player (Jordan Clarkson), and two guys who, for all intents and purposes, are rookies (D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle).

“I think they’re developing extremely well,” Kobe said of the younger players. “They continue to improve reading on both ends of the floor, actually. My communication with them has been very tactical. The little things.”

“All he has to do is be himself,” said Bryant’s long-time teammate Metta World Peace. “He doesn’t have to do anything extra. He don’t have to be what his fans want him to be. He don’t have to try to prove to the media that he can still jump over the rim, or he don’t have to prove to anybody that he’s not who he was a couple of years ago. All he gotta do is enjoy us, just be a part of us, and we’ll be a part of him. We’ll do it together. It’s not about any individual on the team, it’s about us. As long as we continue to have that mindset, we’ll be fine.


No. 2: Drummond joins giants with another 20-20 night — If you’ve overlooked a struggling Detroit Pistons team in recent years, now might be a good time to end that practice. The Pistons, 5-1 and off to their best start in eight years, look for real. They’ve got a wild card in point guard Reggie Jackson (who led the team with a career-high 40 points, 26 in the fourth quarter, in Sunday’s comeback win in Portland) and an absolute double-double monster in center Andre Drummond (29 points and 27 rebounds in the win). Drummond is averaging 20.3 points and 20.3 rebounds, the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1970-71 to do so through the first six games of a season. He joins Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to record three 20-20 performances in the first six games of a season. Drummond is elevating his game, and his name, into the realm of giants with his start to this season, as Rico Beard of the Detroit News explains:

Another night with a double-double — and in the case of Sunday night’s 120-103 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, an almost-absurd 29 points and 27 rebounds. It’s becoming common for the fourth-year center, who boosted his jaw-dropping averages to 20.3 points and 20.3 rebounds through the first six games.

He joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players with three games 20-20 games in the first six games of a season.

On the offensive end, he displayed a fluid jump-hook and was a menace on the offensive glass, with nine, fueling the Pistons’ double-digit comeback, for their second win on the six-game West Coast trip.

“Andre’s numbers are phenomenal. I just told somebody if he didn’t get a rebound the rest of the trip, he’d be in the top three or four in the league in rebounding — he’d be averaging over 12 a game,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “What he’s doing on the boards is phenomenal; he was just swallowing the ball down the stretch. It was an incredible turnaround.”

But even as Drummond started to get more comfortable — hitting 14-of-19 from the field, Reggie Jackson started to break out, scoring 26 of his 40 points in the final period. Van Gundy said he wanted to get the ball to Drummond more, but with Jackson on a roll, there wasn’t a need.

All season, Drummond has focused on team success rather than individual stats, but with his All-Star-caliber numbers, it’s hard to ignore.

“Whatever night we win is a great win,” he said. “Individually, I’m just doing my part to help my team win, no matter what the numbers are — 5 rebounds or 20 rebounds. As long as we win the game, it was a good night for me.”

With his third game of 25 points and 25 rebounds, Drummond leads all active players, surpassing Dwight Howard and Al Jefferson, who have two apiece.


No. 3: Thunder embrace their true identity — Playing to your strengths is always the best plan for a team adjusting to a new coach and a new system. And the Oklahoma City Thunder are certainly still adjusting to Billy Donovan and his system. But as long as the strength in Oklahoma City remains Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, two of the most explosive scorers in the game, and a lineup filled with quality scorers, there’s really no mystery as to what will make the adjustment period tolerable for a team with designs on competing for a championship this season. Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman witnessed the Thunder’s offensive burst Sunday in a win over the Phoenix Suns:

Russell Westbrook entered at his customary time, early in the fourth quarter, and joined a unique but increasingly more customary lineup.

At shooting guard: Dion Waiters. At small forward: Kevin Durant. At power forward: Serge Ibaka. At center: Enes Kanter.

“Dangerous, man, dangerous,” Waiters said. “Lotta guys out there that can get buckets.”

When the group convened at the 7:56 mark of the fourth quarter, the Thunder led by 12. When the next substitution was made, at the 4:22 mark, the Thunder was up 22. In a spurt of fastbreaks and feathery jumpers, that offense-heavy five-man group sealed a much-needed 124-103 win over the Suns.

Westbrook started it with a layup off a nice Waiters assist. Then the favor was returned, with Waiters nailing a 3 set up by Westbrook.

Then it was Durant’s turn to take over. KD had 21 points at the time. He had 32 before the night was done.

Seven of those came within a 90-second span midway through the fourth, when he sandwiched a 3 and a 13-foot baseline turnaround with one of those patented Dirk Nowitzki one-legged fadeaways, uncontestable for 6-foot-1 Eric Bledsoe, who found himself stuck on Durant in the high post.

As he sauntered back down the court — his team on a 14-3 run, KD on a personal 7-0 run — Durant laughed and chirped at Bledsoe.

“E-Bled talks a lot of (stuff),” Durant said. “And I’m a (stuff)-talker myself.”

Durant followed his mini-spurt by turning from scorer to facilitator. His fourth assist of the night set up Kanter for a 12-foot jumper. Then the next possession down, the 12th of Westbrook’s 13 assists led to a Kanter dunk.

In less than four minutes, that five-man pairing rattled off a dominant 15-5 run, breaking away to a 22-point cushion. During the run, Ibaka, who had 10 himself on this night, was the only one who didn’t score.

“Everyone can score the ball crazy,” Kanter said. “Never played with a lineup like that.”


No. 4: Grizzlies rotation will tighten during tough times — Desperate times in Memphis require desperate measures from Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger, who is trying to figure out why his team cannot seem to find a rhythm this season. Joerger’s response, at this early stage of the process, will be to tighten the rotation. Something had to give and the first thing is the rotation, despite some insisting that it might be Joerger who was on the hot seat. But the Grizzlies are experiencing an identity crisis that Joerger will solve by tweaking his rotation. Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal details the looming changes:

Suddenly uncomfortable in their own skin, where do they stand?

The grit is all but gone.

The grind seems as fleeting as a gotcha moment.

Memphis (3-4) enters the final outing of a five-game trip perplexed as to how to get its mojo back. The Griz take more than a two-game losing streak into their game Monday night against the Los Angeles Clippers in Staples Center.

The Griz still are experiencing an identity crisis as they try to salvage a West Coast swing, having lost three of four. Last week began with an unfathomable 50-point loss to Golden State. Memphis beat Sacramento but dropped its next game to Portland.

That Memphis fell behind Utah by 21 points before an 89-79 loss last Saturday has coach Dave Joerger on the verge of shaking up the lineup because he can no longer stand by and watch his players not compete.

“I’m going to tighten the rotation,” Joerger said without saying which players will have minutes reduced.

However, Joerger did give a clue as to which way he’s leaning, based on his substitution pattern in that Utah game.

Joerger has routinely inserted Jeff Green for Tony Allen with the first substitution. But against Utah, Matt Barnes was the first to spell Allen, and Green later came in for Courtney Lee.

Joerger has increasingly grown fond of a lineup that has Barnes and Green at the wings. In fact, that combination was on the floor most of the fourth quarter. Allen didn’t play at all and Lee played just 94 seconds in the quarter.

“I was pleased with our effort overall,” Joerger said after the Grizzlies’ latest debacle. “We can get better. We know we can get better. We will get better and will keep plugging away.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: LeBron James offered some constructive criticism to Kevin Love (egos checked at the door) and it worked. … Phil Jackson wanted more emotion from Derek Fisher and got exactly that in Sunday’s win over the Lakers. … Charlotte’s Kemba Walker is a traveling man. … The Miami Heat’s second unit proves to be first rate. … The Washington Wizards have been extremely generous, but vow to end their frivolous ways with the basketball. …


ICYMI: Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson helped lift the Pistons to their fifth win in six games with yeoman’s work Sunday in Portland …

VIDEO: Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson go off for the Pistons in a comeback win over Portland

Morning shootaround — Oct. 21

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 20


Buss defends Bryant extension | Aldridge: Kobe was bright spot in Lakers’ pitch | Drummond passes on extension | Noah a sixth man in 2015-16?

No. 1: Buss defends Bryant extension, fires back at Johnson — Los Angeles Lakers executive Jim Buss has not lacked in the critics department. From analysts to ex-Lakers players to fans, many have questioned the moves Buss has made in steering the Lakers back into relevance, let alone NBA title contention. One such move that is questioned was Buss giving Kobe Bryant a two-year, $45.8 million extension in 2013. Since then, injuries have limited Bryant to 41 games (out of a possible 164). But Buss stands by his move and explains why in an interview with USA Today‘s Sam Amick:

The Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations made it clear that he has no regrets about the controversial contract.

“You give Kobe Bryant $50 million for two years,” Buss told USA TODAY Sports in a wide-ranging interview. “Are you kidding me? What did he bring us? In this day and age, what did he bring us, for 20 years? And if that isn’t what you’re supposed to do, then I have no idea what life is all about.

“You pay the guy. You believe in the guy. If he ends up (staying healthy), that’s fantastic. Well everybody (in the media) cut me up for that, but I’d say over 200 fans have come up to me and said, ‘Thank you so much for letting my kid see Kobe Bryant for two more years.’ And I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m glad I can see him for two more years.’ ”

Even now, as the Lakers approach the start of their latest regular season, Bryant is missing preseason games because of a left leg contusion suffered against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.

Give Buss credit for this much: He’s transparent about how he sees the Bryant deal. Yes, there was a lifetime achievement factor, with the Buss family deciding not only to pay Bryant in the future but to honor him for his past. And to anyone who dares bring up the piece from a year ago that so strongly suggested Buss was eager for Bryant to head for the exits so the Lakers’ rebuild could begin in earnest, he is quick to condemn the concept.

“It’s (BS), that’s exactly what that was,” he fired back when asked about the ESPN the Magazine article. “The organization absolutely loves him. You know why? Because he has made a living, as we (have) with the Lakers for the last 20 years, because of this man. Magic Johnson carried us (to) this part (of their history) … and Kobe Bryant has carried us for 20 years. So every person that works in that organization, why would they hate him? Why would they want him out of there? There’s only a basketball or a Kobe hater that would want that. There’s no other reason.”

He laughs.

“You can’t justify (being anti-Bryant),” Buss continued. “If you’re a secretary or a mail room executive or whatever, you can’t justify saying you don’t want Kobe there. He gets a thousand pieces of mail a day, so that keeps your job.”

Additionally, Buss took on one of his biggest critics, former Lakers star Magic Johnson, and had this to say:

“Magic Johnson going nuts on me?” Buss said with a laugh. “It’s like, ‘Really, dude? My dad made you a billionaire almost. Really? Where are you coming from?’ ”

Johnson — who sold his share of the Lakers in 2010 and two years later led the ownership group that paid $2 billion for the Los Angeles Dodgers — earned approximately $43 million during his playing days and has been wildly successful in the business sector ever since (a 2011 Forbes report estimated his net worth at $525 million). In the grander sense, though, it’s well-chronicled that late owner Jerry Buss‘ impact on Johnson went well beyond basketball.

“Dr. Buss gave me the platform to be Magic,” Johnson told the Los Angeles Times in Feb. 2013 after Buss’ death. “He gave me the knowledge to be Magic.”

When asked about Buss’ comment, Johnson issued a statement to USA TODAY Sports in response.

“It’s all about winning, Jim,” Johnson said.

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One Team, One Stat: Reggie, Andre and Space to Operate

VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Detroit Pistons’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Detroit Pistons, who found something that works late in the season.

The stat


The context

20151018_det_basicsThe Pistons had the numbers of the league’s best offense and a top-10 defense when Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond were on the floor together without Greg Monroe.

Less than 500 minutes isn’t a big sample, but it likely influenced the Pistons’ decisions this summer. Monroe left for Milwaukee without a fight from Detroit and Stan Van Gundy put together a roster that probably won’t ever have two non-floor-spacing bigs on the floor at the same time.

Defensively, the Pistons were more mobile and active with just one true big man on the floor last season, forcing a lot more turnovers while not giving up anything on the glass.


Offensively, with a floor-spacer at power forward, the court was more open for Jackson to attack. After averaging 8.3 drives per 36 minutes with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Jackson drove almost twice as often with just one big man on the floor in Detroit.


Jackson’s teams scored 1.23 points per possession when he drove. That mark was even with that of LeBron James and ranked 15th among 65 players with at least 300 drives last season.

This summer, the Pistons replaced Monroe with Ersan Ilyasova, a floor-spacing power forward who has shot 40 percent from 3-point range over the last four years. Ilyasova will be a better complement to Jackson/Drummond pick-and-rolls than Monroe was.

Again, we’re looking at only 409 minutes of data and the Pistons obviously won’t be as good over a full season. But last year’s numbers are an indication that Jackson and Drummond operate better with more space and that Detroit could be one of the most improved teams in the league this season.

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

Van Gundy: Odom ‘doesn’t deserve this’

CHICAGO – Add Stan Van Gundy to the long list of NBA players, coaches and front-office personnel shaken by the news of Lamar Odom‘s fight for life in a Las Vegas hospital. Van Gundy coached Odom when both were with the Miami Heat in 2003-04.

It was Van Gundy’s first season as an NBA head coach and Odom made an indelible impression on him, both as his best player (17.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 4.1 apg) and as a person.

“All of us who had the privilege of working with Lamar, we’re all in the same place right now,” Van Gundy told reporters Wednesday, before his Detroit Pistons’ preseason game against the Bulls at United Center. “I’m reading comments online. It’s occupying everybody’s mind right now. It’s hard to get away from thinking about it.

“He really was – I don’t mean was in the sense that he’s gone, I just mean as a player – one of my all-time favorites. I’ve said that numerous times. Not only a great player but a great teammate that everybody enjoyed being around.”

The two have maintained a relationship through the years, with Van Gundy well aware of the tragedies and harsh twists that have befallen Odom. Even his reality-TV marriage to Khloe Kardashian, something to ogle and discard for so many viewers, turned sad and heartbreaking, in the opinion of some who know Odom.

“I think we’ve all felt bad for everything that’s happened to him over the last three or four years,” Van Gundy said. “Now this is the worst. It’s just really rough thinking about it. The guy’s had such … a hard life in a lot of ways and still was such a positive person. He just doesn’t deserve this. He really doesn’t. And it’s really, really sad. Tough to deal with.”

Chicago forward Pau Gasol teamed with Odom on the Lakers for three-plus seasons (2008-2011), reaching the Finals three times and winning two NBA championships together. Gasol said after Wednesday’s game that he hadn’t been able to keep in touch with Odom in recent years, but the moments they shared while in Los Angeles made this a difficult day.

“We had a very special bond,” Gasol said. “We played off each other a lot. We finished most games or all games together. … It was really fun to play and we had an incredible respect for each other. We just played so well together. It’s hard.

“It’s an emotional day for me. Just trying to keep it together. Hopefully he’ll come back and recover well. … It’s just really, really sad that a person with that type of a heart and talent has gone through so much. It breaks my heart.”

Morning shootaround — Sept. 15

VIDEO: An all-access look at the 2015 Hall of Fame ceremony


Van Gundy unsure of Jennings’ role | Report: Nets, YES Network nearing new deal | Report: Pelicans add Douglas-Roberts

No. 1: Van Gundy unsure what Jennings’ role will be with Pistons  By most accounts, Detroit Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings is recovering nicely from the Achilles injury he suffered last season than ended his 2014-15 campaign early. He should suit up at some point this season. While that’s good for Jennings, what may be bad for him is the Pistons’ new point guard depth chart given that the team re-signed Reggie Jackson to a large deal this summer. Kevin Bull of the Detroit Free Press details how coach Stan Van Gundy is unsure what Jennings’ role will be in Detroit come 2015-16:

Detroit Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings is not expected back from his Achilles injury until mid- to late-December — at least a month and a half after Detroit’s season starts Oct. 27.

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said Thursday what role Jennings will play is unclear.

“That’s really hard to determine right now,” Van Gundy told WMGC-FM (105.1). “We don’t know where Brandon’s gonna be health-wise. Right now, he’s still recovering.”

“If he comes back and he’s the Brandon Jennings that we had last year, I think those guys can play together quite well,” Van Gundy said. “Reggie is big enough (6-feet-3) to guard guys off the ball and everything else. It just gives you two playmakers on the floor together. I think they can be pretty dynamic, but we’ll just have to see where Brandon is when he comes back.”

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Morning Shootaround — Aug. 24

VIDEO: Stephen Curry’s profile continues to rise, on and off the court, in the wake of his MVP and championship season


Curry to star in Under Armour campaign | LeBron’s busy summer continues with Survivor’s Remorse | Wesley Matthews says he’ll be ready for opening night

No. 1: Curry joins Tom Brady, Jordan Spieth in Under Armour’s first major brand campaign — Champions are the focus of Under Armour’s first major brand campaign. Tom Brady, Jordan Spieth and Golden State Warriors star and KIA MVP Stephen Curry will all be featured in the campaign, that will debut this week. It’s the latest superstar turn for Curry, whose magical year that began with a gold medal at the FIBA World Cup in Spain and continued with his first MVP award and the Warriors’ first title in 40 years in June. ESPN’s sports business guru Darren Rovell has the details:

Tom Brady won another Super Bowl. Stephen Curry won an MVP and an NBA title. Jordan Spieth won the Masters and the U.S. Open. Misty Copeland became the first African-American to become a principal dancer at a major ballet company.

It has been a big year for Under Armour’s most high-profile spokespeople, and the company this week will start to roll out its first major brand campaign featuring all of them. It’s called “Rule Yourself,” and the idea summons Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that it takes 10,000 hours of practice at something to be the best.

In the first spot, called “Anthem,” the premise is accomplished through speeding up those hours by showing thousands of replicas of Curry, Spieth and Copeland going through their repetitions.

“We sat around [founder and CEO] Kevin Plank’s table, and we talked about the momentum we’ve had this year, telling our brand story through the lens of the hottest athletes in the world, and the one thing that was constant, whether you are young or old, is that in order to be the best you have to train consistently on the field, court and gym and improve every day,” said Adrienne Lofton, the company’s senior vice president of brand marketing.

In the past year, the shots Curry takes before every game and his ball handling warm-up drill have received plenty of accolades. Less evident is what it took for Spieth to achieve his success, and, even more behind the scenes, what it took for Copeland — often 10 hours daily in a studio.

Brady’s spot, which takes on a similar theme, is still scheduled to make its debut in the coming weeks. Sources said his alleged role in “Deflategate” — and his four-game suspension, which is under appeal — never put him in jeopardy with Under Armour.

The spots were done in partnership with ad firm Droga5. The special effects were created by having five cameras focus on the athletes from different vantage points as they went through their motions. Computer-generated imagery was then used to give the effect of a thousand replicas.

Although direct sales from Brady, Curry, Spieth and Copeland are relatively small in the scheme of things, the momentum is palpable. Five years ago, Nike did 19 times the business Under Armour did. In 2015, that lead is expected to be cut to eight times. Footwear sales, most recently on the back of Curry’s first signature shoe, has grown by 40 percent for each of the past four quarters, while its total golf business has doubled in the past two years.


Morning Shootaround — August 8

VIDEO: Jerry Colangelo breaks down the roster for USA Basketball’s minicamp

Tempered expectations for Stanley Johnson | Connaughton’s a rookie with two-sport dreams | Thompson calls trade to Warriors ‘bittersweet’


No. 1: Tempered expectations for Stanley Johnson — Any conversation about the rookies most ready to make an impact on their respective teams next season includes the name Stanley Johnson. The Detroit Pistons are counting on it. Johnson has the size, talent and based on what we saw from him in Summer League action the temperament to handle the rigors during his first season as a professional. But as always, the expectations for Johnson and many others in the celebrated Draft class of 2015 need to be tempered, writes Sean Corp in The Detroit Free Press

Pistons president and coach Stan Van Gundy is even talking about a willingness to start Johnson at either shooting guard or small forward, as he mentioned during an interview with Grantland’s Zach Lowe recently.

However, if history is any indication, expectations for Johnson should be tempered. Rookies struggle, it’s just a fact of NBA life. It’s not a criticism it is an inevitability. Even last year’s All-Stars struggled to find much playing time as rookies. DeMar Derozan (1,664 minutes), LaMarcus Aldridge (1,392) and Paul George (1,265) played sparingly and looked lost on the court much of the time. If Johnson manages to eclipse even that modest amount of playing time (about 18 minutes per game) he will be the exception and not the rule.

Over the past 10 years, NBA lottery picks average just 1,457 minutes in their first NBA season. And Johnson isn’t a typical NBA lottery pick. Less than a month past his 19th birthday at the time of the draft, Johnson will be one of the younger rookies of the past 10 years. Just 12 lottery picks played most of their rookie season as teenagers, averaging just 1,213 minutes. Expanding the range to teens selected at any point in the draft, the average playing time is just 1,050 minutes. Even if you limit the analysis to those players selected 8th overall, like Johnson was, the average playing time is 1,292 minutes.

But what of his current head coach? Here is where a little excitement might be permitted. Van Gundy known nothing but success before arriving in Detroit, and as a consequence he has limited experience with rookies.

During a full season, Van Gundy has coached just six rookies in his career, including three first-rounders. The most prolific, unsurprisingly, is Dwyane Wade. Wade was selected fifth overall in 2003 and played 2,126 minutes, finishing third in the rookie of the year voting. The next year, the Heat selected Dorell Wright out of high school (19th overall) and he played a total of 27 minutes. Van Gundy’s other first-round pick was Courtney Lee in 2008, and Johnson and Lee make for an interesting comparison.

Lee came out of Western Kentucky as a 6-foot-5 combo guard-forward who could shoot the lights out and defend from day one, filling a glaring defensive need in Orlando’s high-powered lineup. He ended up playing 1,939 minutes as a rookie. Johnson, meanwhile, is 6-foot-7, capable of playing multiple spots on the floor, and is expected to be able to defend from day one. This defensive ability, on a team desperate to create the defensive identity Van Gundy is known for, could be Johnson’s ticket to regular playing time.

Is it fair to expect him to play 1,900 minutes like Lee did? No. A combination of competition on the roster, youth, and the history of rookies in the NBA says expecting more than that from Johnson would be an unreasonable expectation. Kevin Durant and LeBron James might have looked like stars from day one, but only because they grew from stars to superstars. For everyone else, a rookie year looks something like what Johnson is likely to experience – irregular playing time, regular mistakes and an invaluable learning experience.

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Morning Shootaround — July 21

VIDEO: Becky Hammon, Spurs win Summer League championship


The Spurs keep winning | Cavs, Smith meeting this week | Lawson gives Rockets another dimension | Paul Pierce is coming home

No. 1: The Spurs keep winning The San Antonio Spurs have set up a modern-day NBA dynasty, and manage to continually contend the last few decades. This summer has been no different, as the Spurs signed LaMarcus Aldridge and David West in free agency, and then yesterday their Summer League team, coached by Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, knocked off the Phoenix Suns to win the Las Vegas Summer League. As our John Schuhmann writes, the basketball may not always be great at Summer League, but you always get good stories

First, there was Becky Hammon, the first ever female Summer League head coach, leading her team to a 6-1 record and the title her in Las Vegas. A year ago, she was playing for the San Antonio Stars. And already, she’s got some head coaching experience.

“I’m just trying to progress as a coach,” Hammon said about her 10 days in Las Vegas. “It was eye-opening in a lot of different areas for me, just how much my mind was reeling during timeouts.”

But Hammon clearly wasn’t reserved in her new role. She took charge in the huddles and gave the refs the business when a call didn’t go her way.

“It was just a great learning process for me,” she said. “And the guys had to take my mistakes – and I made plenty – and we just kept hanging together as a group.”

A big part of that group and another great story was Jonathon Simmons, who was voted the championship game MVP after scoring 23 points on 7-for-14 shooting.

Simmons played at two different junior colleges before finishing his college career at the University of Houston. He played a season in the ABL and then made the Spurs’ D-League team through an open tryout two years ago.

After playing three games for the Brooklyn Nets’ Summer League team, the Spurs gave Simmons an NBA contract. He came to Las Vegas and averaged 17.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals for the Summer Spurs.

“It’s just a blessing,” Simmons told The Starters after the game on Monday. “I didn’t see it coming. I’m still kind of shocked right now. But I’m just ready to get to work.”


No. 2: Cavs, Smith meeting this week After going to the Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers, J.R. Smith opted out of his contract to test the free agency market. And though plenty of money was flying around during the free agency period, Smith’s name was rarely heard. Now, with most of the free agents off the market, Smith remains available and, as he said to’s Joe Vardon, Smith understands that opting out may mean he’ll make less next season

“That’s always part of the gamble of opting out,” Smith told the Northeast Ohio Media Group on Monday at the Four Seasons hotel in Las Vegas, where the NBA players’ union held its summer meeting.

Smith has kept a low profile during the NBA’s free agency period, which is a bad thing for a player who opted out of his contract to seek a raise.

He was the Cavs’ starting shooting guard during the regular season after he was acquired via trade in January, but Smith struggled in the Finals – his last and best chance to increase his earning potential.

Asked if he regretted his decision to decline his contract option, Smith said “Uh, I mean, yes and no.

“No because I’ve gotten offers that I wanted, I mean numbers that I wanted, it’s just different situations,” Smith said. “Right now it’s just a matter of seeing what the Cavs come back to me with. Right now they give me the best opportunity to win.”

Smith’s agent, Leon Rose, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. It is believed Smith was seeking somewhere in the $7 million to $9 million range annually, and he declined to disclose which teams his offers may have come from.

There are only three teams in the NBA that still have the cap space to give him a raise from last year: the Portland Trail Blazers ($16.4 million in cap space); Philadelphia 76ers ($16.3 million); and Indiana Pacers ($11.5 million).

But the Pacers only have the space in theory– a cap snafu with free agent Monta Ellis temporarily voided his free-agent contract. He will sign there and Indiana will be out of cap room.

Smith said he had some “discussions” with the Blazers but they didn’t go anywhere. So if the offers came from organizations outside of Philadelphia, they’re gone.

Smith has always said he wanted to come back to the Cavs, and he reiterated that point on Monday.

“I definitely want to come back to Cleveland,” he said. “The coaches, the team, everything about the situation, it’s perfect for me.”

Asked for the reasons why he does regret his contract decision, he said “just because I would be secure and I would already know I’m where I want to be.

“I wouldn’t have to go through this whole thought process anymore,” he said.


No. 3: Lawson gives Rockets another dimension So much of the Houston Rockets’ offense last season ran through James Harden, and understandably so — Harden is one of the NBA’s best creators. But with their trade for Denver’s Ty Lawson, as Jonathan Feigan writes for the Houston Chronicle, the Rockets feel like Lawson provides a new dimension to their offense that will give Harden the help he needs

They knew they needed more, with everyone from star guard James Harden to general manager Daryl Morey pointing to a need to add another playmaker. So when the Rockets on Monday completed their trade for point guard Ty Lawson, Morey did not immediately point to what Lawson has done or could do for the Rockets; he cited the quest that began when the season ended.

“A lot of what we had hoped to accomplish before next season he’s able to do,” Morey said. “He’s another guy that can attack the basket, can shoot, can make plays for others.”

Days after the season ended, Morey precisely described that need. Even then, he knew the Rockets would chase LaMarcus Aldridge, but would be unlikely to land him. He believed the Rockets would keep the bulk of their own free agents. But he knew even with better health and improvement, the Rockets would likely need help in the backcourt.

“Coach (Kevin McHale) feels and I agree, we could use another playmaker on the perimeter,” Morey said then as if he had skipped to the end of the book. “If it is something we can address, we will. Play off the catch playmaking. There are times people are loading up on James. To have a guy that can play off the catch, attack the basket, finish, make a play, that kind of thing. It’s not easy to find.”

The Rockets found that with Lawson, needing to give up only spare parts and a protected first-round pick because Lawson’s trade value shrank so greatly with his second DUI arrest of the past six months. Lawson was in rehab when the deal was completed and when he spoke to McHale on Monday.

Morey said the Rockets believed Lawson’s rehabilitation gave them confidence he will overcome issues and move past incidents he acknowledged are the type that “have a history of potentially recurring.” But he described the risk of obtaining Lawson as part of all deal-making. There was no doubt about the void that needed to be filled.

“As we saw, especially when we played tougher teams last year, we struggled against teams that would really load up on James Harden. We feel that will be a lot more difficult for teams to do now.”

“People always used to … say our point guard position was terrible, the worst, whatever. I always pointed out that Pat Beverley was a really good player. He’s just maybe suffering compared to all these perennial All Stars we go against in the West. Obviously, we’re still going to be going against those very difficult All Stars, but Ty Lawson is somebody who gives you a top 10 point guard in the league, somebody who can really help us.”

While Beverley can be the 3-and-D point guard that meshes well with Harden, Lawson is a second ball handler and playmaker needed when teams try to wrap their defense around Harden. With the second unit, he not only can be a needed playmaker, Lawson’s strengths – running an up-tempo offense and playmaking in pick-and-roll – fit well with Corey Brewer on the break and Clint Capela on pick-and-rolls.

“Coach McHale and Ty spoke for quite a while again today,” Morey said. “Coach McHale left that conversation feeling very good. Ty does not come in expecting anything. He just wanted to join a team with James Harden, Dwight Howard and a bunch of other guys he knows on the team like Trevor Ariza. I do think it does work either with him as a starter or off the bench.

“When James is off the floor, I do think Ty is going to add a lot and when James is on the floor it’s going to be much more difficult to double team James off pick-and-rolls when you have a secondary playmaker like Ty on the floor.”


No. 4: Paul Pierce is heading home It took him nearly two decades, but after 17 seasons in the NBA, Paul Pierce has returned home. After years with the Celtics, Nets and Wizards, the Inglewood, California native signed with the Los Angeles Clippers and, as Gary Washburn writes in the Boston Globe, Pierce is already playing a big part with the Clippers…

“It’s been pretty wild,” Pierce said of convincing Jordan to pass up a max contract offer with the Dallas Mavericks and return to Los Angeles. “I think that whole saga took a form and shade of its own. It got a lot bigger than it was supposed to be.

“I made my decision to be a Clipper. DeAndre [Jordan] changed his mind to be a Clipper.”

After verbally committing to the Mavericks, Jordan had second thoughts and began contacting Clippers players. A contingent of players, led by Pierce, Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin, headed to Houston to speak to Jordan.

“I wasn’t there last year with that team, so I kind of sat in and voiced what I thought but I was on the outside looking in,” Pierce said. “I think guys cleared the air if there was any tension, but I think a lot of the media made it more than it was.”

After spending 15 seasons in Boston, Pierce played one season in Brooklyn after a trade, and then signed last summer with Washington. Despite an impressive playoff performance and raves from teammates, Pierce opted out of his Wizards deal this spring and signed a three-year deal with the Clippers.

“It’s a dream come true to be able to come home, finally,” Pierce said. “I grew up a Laker fan but playing on all the Boston Celtic teams . . . there’s no way I could go there — so this was the next best choice. And it’s always been a dream to play in front of my family and friends.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Stan Van Gundy says Reggie Jackson‘s new contract will be a bargain a few years down the road … Quincy Acy says he’s returning to the Sacramento KingsDamian Lillard released his second song of the summer …

Johnson keeps firing on all Pistons

VIDEO: Stanley Johnson turns in solid double-double

ORLANDO — Before Stanley Johnson even took his very first sip of NBA competition, he declared that he wasn’t “going to let anybody punk me” on the court.

So when his most recent game at the Orlando Pro Summer League tipped off and the Pacers chose to run a post-up play for the man he was guarding, Solomon Hill, Johnson reacted as if someone had touched him with a cattle prod.

“For some guy to attack me the first play of the game, I think that says volumes about what the coach thinks about me and therefore I take it disrespectfully,” Johnson said. “From that point on, if he scores the basket, doesn’t score the basket, that’s just like a another chip on my shoulder already to start the game.”

Through four games in the practice gym at the Amway Center, Johnson has been constantly hustling, always forceful and giving Detroit fans a reason to look forward to his rookie year against the big boys. Though Pistons head coach and team president Stan Van Gundy says just because he was the No. 8 pick in the NBA Draft and has shown the joys of summer, it doesn’t mean Johnson will be handed a spot in the starting lineup or even the rotation.

“I think it’s important that (rookies) play when they deserve to play,” said Van Gundy. “And not just, ‘We’re going to play our guy.’ I know some people believe in that. I don’t.

“I think it inhibits a guy’s development when he’s simply handed minutes and doesn’t have to do anything to earn them and thus there is no reason to work hard or change the way you play.

“You always like to see him play against good players, but I’ve been at this long enough that I don’t get real pumped up if a guy plays well in summer league, and I don’t get too depressed if he doesn’t. There is just not a lot of carryover.”

Nevertheless, Johnson has been confident, effective and consistent, averaging 17.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals.

As a defender, Johnson has shown an ability to blow up the pick-and-roll. He’s repeatedly gone to the floor chasing down loose balls and can make the show-stopping play. Just when Indy’s Romero Osby thought he had a breakaway dunk, there was Johnson swooping in from behind at the last second with for a resounding rejection that showed he doesn’t simply write off a possession.

“Those are effort plays. Those are winning plays,” said Pistons summer league coach Bob Beyer. “When he blocked that shot at the rim he never gave up on the play. He just kept coming and again I think that says a lot about him as a competitor.”

There were questions about Johnson’s shooting ability coming out of Arizona, where he hit just 44.6 percent of his attempts in his only college season. But he’s making at a 64.3 percent clip here and is 4-for-9 on 3-pointers.

Most important, Johnson has shown an ability to play an overall game and to have the kind of personality that commands attention. He keeps telling everyone who’ll listen that he isn’t into comparisons with his good friend Justise Winslow, whom the Pistons passed over to take Johnson with the eighth pick and just wants to prove that he’s as good or better than anybody in his draft class. For now. He’s got the rest of the league in his long-range sights. He’s skilled, competitive and thoroughly engaging.

Somebody asked Johnson if it was accurate to just check off every box of all-around skills when it came to describing his game.

“I would say so,” Johnson said. “I have a lot of learning to do in making those checks darker, bolder and getting better at a lot of different things, but I can be very versatile on the court. Like I was preaching before the draft started, I can go one through four positions. I can do a lot of the things on the court.”

Then tell you about them.

Pistons’ Johnson already aims at LeBron

VIDEO: Stanley Johnson leads the way in the Pistons’ win

ORLANDO, Fla. — The summer league crowd has been looking forward to Monday’s scheduled matchup between Stanley Johnson and Justise Winslow.

There’s plenty of intrigue and backstory. Detroit took Johnson with the No. 8 pick in the June 25 draft, allowing Winslow to slide to Miami at No. 10. Did the Pistons make a mistake? Will the Heat rookie seek to prove them wrong?

Never mind that the pair are long-time friends. They ate dinner together Saturday night and planned to take in a movie Sunday and couldn’t care less about the so-called showdown.

Besides, after a silky smooth and effective 24 points and nine rebounds in the Pistons’ 77-69 win over the Clippers on Sunday at the Orlando Pro Summer League, Johnson has his sights set on bigger game than a rookie buddy he’s played with an against about a dozen times.

“Play against LeBron [James] — that means something,” Johnson said flatly. “He is the best player in the league and I want to be the best player in the league too, so I have a target on him. I will keep reaching for that goal. … He is a team player so I have to be a better team player to be on the same level as him. Did you see that Game 6 against Chicago where he had like 14 points and 14 assists and controlled everything? The best players win a lot of games, so it is not about your points or your rebounds.”

But in case anybody is counting, Johnson has plenty of both in the first two days of Summer League play. He came off the bench in the opener and now has 37 points, 13 rebounds and four assists and is shooting 15-for-22 from the field in two games.

VIDEO: Stanley Johnson on his big game vs. the Clippers

He started on Sunday and showed the complete package of skills that had the Pistons rank him as the No. 2 small forward on their draft board and make Johnson the pick ahead of Winslow. He battled through contact to finish strong around the basket, pulled up to nail a 3-pointer and was coolly confident late when he drove and stepped back to nail a short jumper.

“He is a really smart player,” said Pistons summer league coach Bob Beyer. “He is always grabbing coaches and wants to look at additional tape. He wants mistakes pointed out to him. He really is a sponge. He wants to learn everything he can. He absorbs everything.

“I think the thing that’s most impressive it’s the calmness to his game right now. We’ve thrown a lot at him in a very short time and for any player it’s quite the adjustment from college to the NBA. But he has really has grasped concepts very quickly. And he spends a lot of time off the court trying to become a really good NBA player.”

Johnson has not tried to do too much, making simple, effective passes rather than forcing things to happen.

“That goes back to his poise as a player,” Beyer said. “Some guys don’t want the ball in that position. Stanley is starting to demonstrate that he does want that ball. He has confidence in his abilities that’s been kind of an added plus.”

Johnson’s confidence comes off as less swagger than merely being certain of who he is and can become.

“To me, I have no pressure here,” he said. “I’m not out here trying to have the best game of my life. I’m not trying to have the worst game of my life. I’m just trying to be myself. Coach [Stan] Van Gundy tells me, ‘You don’t have to score a point.’ That was his words. ‘All you have to do is play defense and play hard.’ At the end of the day, what he says matters and that’s it.

“I think I should dominate every game, honestly. I’m not gonna sell myself short because it’s Summer League or it’s the Cavs or playing the Lakers. To me, it’s about every game having the same effort. Just keep with that, keep with that and if I can dominate, I’ll dominate. But as long as I give the same effort, that’s all the matters.”