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Posts Tagged ‘Stan Van Gundy’

Morning shootaround — April 29

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Blazers look to finish off Clippers | Pacers’ George willing to play full game | Warriors’ depth getting it done | Drummond to shoot Barry style?

No. 1: Blazers look to close out series tonight — Months ago, when the 2015-16 season began, who would have thought the young, mostly-untested roster of the Portland Trail Blazers would be one win from the Western Conference semifinals? Granted, injuries to the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin and Chris Paul made life a little easier on Portland in their series with L.A. But nonetheless, the Blazers are on the cusp of their first Western Conference semifinals trip in two years and as John Canzano of The Oregonian writes, want to seal the deal in tonight’s Game 6 in Portland (10:30 ET, ESPN):

The Blazers defeated the Clippers 108-98 Wednesday night in Game 5 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, snatching a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. A Blazers win Friday night at the Moda Center would improbably secure them a second-round date with the Golden State Warriors and add a stunning twist to a surreal season.

As Griffin scooted off toward uncertainty, the Blazers pushed ahead toward inevitability. Doesn’t it feel like this series is over? Doesn’t it seem like the shorthanded Clippers need a miracle?

Fighting without injured stars Chris Paul and Griffin, the Clippers played inspiring basketball Wednesday, pushing the Blazers to the brink before Lillard went nuts in the fourth quarter. But the Blazers won their third consecutive game in the series and left Los Angeles fueled by momentum, optimism and purpose. They return to Portland aware they’re on the cusp of doing what was once unthinkable, saying they remain the underdogs but sounding very much like the favorites.

“We want to close the series out,” CJ McCollum said. “We’ve got a unique opportunity here to play an elimination game at home, and we want to make sure we take full advantage of it.”

About 90 minutes before tipoff Wednesday, Clippers coach Doc Rivers spent nearly eight minutes answering questions about his injured stars, his team’s bleak outlook and his long-term hopes for his hard-luck franchise. Near the end, a reporter asked Rivers who he leaned on during such trying moments, when it was hard to stop from growing discouraged.

This series was supposed to be emotional, as two budding rivals went toe-to-toe in what was expected to be the most competitive and alluring series of the first round in the West. But it wasn’t supposed to feature this kind of emotion.

A couple hours after tearing up, Rivers, who had said he was contemplating 10 different lineups, was forced to start Austin Rivers, JJ Redick, Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce and DeAndre Jordan. The group had played just four minutes together all season.

Now the Blazers come home, leading 3-2, owning the unlikely opportunity to close out their series and continue their improbable season.

“Obviously we want to finish it off,” Ed Davis said. “We don’t want to come back (to Los Angeles). We’ve got to watch film, focus on us, stay in the moment and just be ready to play.”

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No penalty from NBA for Drummond’s elbow? LeBron James not surprised

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The reaction to this one from many in the NBA’s 29 other precincts might be along the lines of puh-leeeze: LeBron James suggested Sunday that he doesn’t get his share of whistles when on the receiving end of physical play.

The bruised and bloodied bodies of fallen opponents strewn behind him might argue to the contrary.

But then, when the NBA has an opportunity to review video of some of the hits the Cleveland star takes – like a high elbow from Detroit center Andre Drummond in Game 3 Friday of the teams’ first-round Eastern Conference series – and issues no retroactive flagrant or technical fouls or fines, maybe James has a case.

James wasn’t complaining at the Cavaliers’ shootaround session Sunday in advance of their closeout opportunity in Game 4 at The Palace of Auburn Hills. But he wasn’t hiding his belief, either, that all physical contact isn’t adjudicated fairly.

Asked about the Drummond blow and the absence of any rebuke, James told reporters: “Initially I was surprised. But then I thought who he did it to and I wasn’t surprised.”

Given the size, speed and power of James’ game, at a muscular 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, the sense among NBA observers long has been that he dishes out punishment without even trying, just from incidental contact that can hurt. The flip side is that, given his strength, he absorbs a lot of contact without getting knocked off course or sent to the floor, resulting in fewer whistles that way as well.

“He’s the Shaq of guards and forwards,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “He’s so strong and so physical when he goes to the basket guys are bouncing off of him. Those are still fouls. But he doesn’t get that call because he’s so big and so strong and so physical.”

Lue, since taking over at midseason as the Cavs head coach, assiduously avoids criticizing the referees or NBA HQ over calls made or not made. It’s a button many coaches push at playoff time, dating back at least to Phil Jackson‘s tweaks while with the Bulls and the Lakers and probably all the way back to Red Auerbach and John Kundla.

Their goal: Plant a seed for the next game. But it can get expensive – witness Stan Van Gundy‘s $25,000 fine after Game 1 for bemoaning what he felt was the refs’ disinterest in calling offensive fouls on James – and it doesn’t suit Lue’s personality.

“It’s their job to clean it up,” said Lue, who proudly notes that he never got a technical foul in 11 years as an NBA point guard. “It’s not my job to complain about the situation at hand.”

James rarely is shy in complaining in the moment about calls he feels should have gone his way. His lightning-rod game and expressive gripes, added to every NBA player’s default position regarding fouls, generates a lot of hoots and hollers from fans in arenas who think James actually gets preferential treatment from the refs.

Some teammates, such as Cavs center Tristan Thompson, are in the middle of the physical play that ramps up in the playoffs and see it differently.

“He gets beat up the most. He gets beat up the most in the league,” Thompson said. “He takes a lot of hits night in and night out, especially in this series, and he keeps pushing and he stays mature.”

James takes the hits but clearly he doesn’t take them lightly. He had a no-nonsense look Sunday morning, suggesting a resolve to limit the Pistons’ shots at him by limiting their playoff run to the minimum of four games.

“I just like to gather my composure, my guys’ composure, going against the opponents’ fans,” James said this close-out opportunity on the road. “I thrive adversity and hostile environments.”

In LeBron’s career, shorter playoff series not necessarily better


VIDEO: Cavs ready for Game 3 in Detroit

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – No team has done it and none likely will break through this postseason, as far as cruising through the NBA playoffs without a loss. Five teams currently are unbeaten but 2-0 is a long way from 16-0 and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers know it.

Even for the old school, perfection was elusive. Hall of Famer and man of few words Moses Malone missed by just one on his famous 1983 prediction of “Fo’, fo’, ‘fo” and that was back in the days of three rounds rather than four.

The appeal is obvious, beyond bragging rights. Fewer games at this point on the NBA calendar is better than more, given wear and tear on the players’ bodies and their minds. Keeping series short cuts down on the adjustments an opponent can make and, even bigger, on exposures to injury. There also are psychological benefits to advancing quickly and earning extra days off while upcoming opponents still are fighting to survive.

LeBron James qualifies as the league’s active expert on long playoff runs, given his five straight Finals appearances and six overall. So, in advance of Game 3 against Detroit in the Eastern Conference first round (7 ET, ESPN), James talked Friday morning at The Palace of Auburn Hills about his experiences not just winning the four games that matter most in these best-of-seven series but avoiding seven games. Or six or ideally even five.

“It’s been a balance of both,” James said before the Cavaliers’ shootaround. “I’ve had points of my career where we’ve swept a lot and it’s hurt us the next series, ’cause we got out of rhythm. I’ve had times where we were banged up as a team and we needed to rest, and it benefited us.”

James and his teams are on a roll, with 15 consecutive victories in the first round, including sweeps of Boston (2015), Charlotte (2014) and Milwaukee (2013). As far as his personal playoff history, his scattergram shows eight four-game series (a 7-1 record), nine five-game series (8-1), 11 six-game series (7-4) and five seven-gamers (3-2).

In the years James’ Cleveland and Miami teams have reached The Finals, they’ve played in a total of six sweeps, winning five. But the two runs that ended with championships, in 2012 and 2013, curiously had none. They logged 23 games both teams en route to the Larry O’Brien trophy, the most James ever has played in a postseason.

So shorter hasn’t necessarily been better.

“It all depends on that particular season,” James said. “You can’t really base it on another season. It depends on how you’re feeling and how that other team is playing in that particular season.”

James was asked for the third or fourth time this week about Detroit rookie Stanley Johnson‘s brash claims that he has “gotten in” the Cleveland star’s head. Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy talked with the 19-year-old Johnson about verbally poking at a dangerous opponent. But James saved his most pointed responses for Game 2 and, presumably, for Game 3, because he didn’t get drawn into a war of words Friday morning.

“I don’t think it’s about that,” James said. “There’s always going to be conversation outside of the four lines, and how much you indulge in it can take away from what the main thing is.

“Guys have been always kind of trash-talking me since I was a kid. My coaches always told me, it’s not about that. It’s about trying to score and whatever you can do to help your team stay focused.”

Even $25K fine can’t spoil Van Gundy’s day


Angry or chastened, Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy remains one of the most quotable, candid and entertaining bench bosses in the NBA.

Van Gundy got a little too, er, entertaining Sunday in the Pistons’ Game 1 loss to Cleveland when he criticized the officiating in the live TV quarter-break interview on ABC. He felt Cavaliers’ forward LeBron James was getting preferential treatment in not being called for a couple offensive fouls and NBA headquarters felt on Monday that Van Gundy was out of line in his comments.

So on Tuesday Van Gundy got entertaining about the $25,000 fine imposed by the league for those initial comments.

First, he quibbled with the suggestion that $25K is chump change, even for an NBA head coach/president of basketball operations with a salary estimated at $7 million annually, as reported by the Detroit Free Press:

“Slap on the wrist?” Van Gundy jokingly lamented when asked about the fine. “Relative to what? That’s a lot of money, my man. That’s not a slap on the wrist. A slap on the wrist would’ve been a reprimand. Put a reprimand or letter of censure in my file. That would’ve been a slap on the wrist. This was a punishment.”

Sideline reporter Lisa Salters caught Van Gundy in a typical truthful moment Sunday, and he paid the price.

“I probably deserved to be penalized for being myself,’’ Van Gundy said. “I got no comments on it.”

Considering that Monday was a big day for another three-lettered operation known for requiring big checks from certain citizens, Van Gundy was asked about the tax implications of his fine.

“That’s a good question, ‘Is it tax-deductible?'” he wondered. “It goes to charity, which is good. I support most charitable organizations. I don’t know which one I just supported, but I’m happy to do it.”

‘Reaction Jackson’ gets costly T

VIDEO: Pistons reflect on Game 1 loss.

CLEVELAND – Much has been made of Reggie Jackson‘s status as the lone Detroit Pistons starter with actual NBA postseason experience, an indication of how young and raw that group is.

So who was it acting like the newbie in Game 1 Sunday, costing his team a point at an inopportune time in its opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers? That’s right, Reaction Jackson.

It’s not as if Jackson, who turned 26 Saturday, is the Pistons’ resident old head (guard Steve Blake, at 36, is the oldest player on the roster). In fact, he’s one of the most obviously irrepressible, high-revving players in the league. But he messed up when he overreacted to a non-call with 3:24 left to play, his team trailing 96-92 and the pull-up jumper he’d just taken from 13 feet bouncing off.

Jackson felt he had gotten fouled and let it be known vociferously to referee Derrick Stafford, walking up fast on close on the veteran NBA official for an easy-to-give technical foul. Kyrie Irving hit the free throw, then one more on the ensuing possession.

So when Jackson drove for a layup and got a call his time for an and-1 play, Detroit still trailed 98-95. And it would get worse before it got better, the Cavaliers’ pumping their lead to nine in the final minute.

Van Gundy had been outspoken about the refs in his TV interview after the first quarter, alleging that LeBron James was getting away with offensive fouls. But the Detroit coach didn’t go there afterward, instead mentioning Jackson’s ill-advised exchange.

“I understand you’re frustrated, you think you got fouled, whatever,” Van Gundy said. “Doesn’t matter. First of all, we can’t give [points] away even in the first quarter. We don’t have the margin for error against this team to give those. But certainly not at that point in the game. I mean, one point’s huge. … He knows that. I’m sure if you ask him, he’ll tell you the same thing.”

Uh, we did. And he didn’t.

“Nah,” Jackson said, when asked if he regretted his technical. “I wish I got the call. I wish [the ref] had seen me get slapped on the arm.”

Van Gundy’s logic seemed preferable, though.

“So because ‘I’m mad at the referee, the way I’ll show my anger is give the Cavaliers a point,’ ” Van Gundy said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Jersey ads, N.C. gender law among topics at Board of Governors meeting


NEW YORK — Convening appropriately enough on some of the priciest real estate in the U.S., the NBA’s Board of Governors is expected to discuss and approve its own brand of pricey real estate at its annual spring meeting that ends Friday.

If an average two-bedroom Manhattan condominium seems steep at $1.9 million or $1,500 per square foot, consider the advertising on NBA jerseys that the league’s owners are expected to approve for the 2017-18 season. At a projected 2.5-inch by 2.5-inch size on the left shoulder of uniform shirts – approximately 0.04 square feet – and revenue streams estimated at upwards of $4 million per team contract, the little embroidered corporate logos would be worth the equivalent of $100 million per square foot.

Actually, NBA commissioner Adam Silver used that $100 million figure – as the anticipated payday for the 30 teams overall – back in 2011, long before he took over for David Stern as the league’s top executive. Silver has studied and spearheaded the revenue potential of the in-game branding.

In 2014, after speaking at the IMG World Congress of Sports, Silver said: “It’s inevitable. It’s such as enormous opportunity for our sponsors to connect with us.” And the commissioner re-visited the selling of the lucrative ad space last month in an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, suggesting the logos would solidify the marketing relationships between the NBA and its corporate partners.

“Let’s begin by saying this isn’t going to affect the competition,” Silver said then. “What we’re talking about is a patch on the jersey. … But once they put their name on the jerseys, they’ll then use their media to promote the NBA extensively.”

The NBA would be the first of the four major U.S. sports leagues to sell ad space on its jerseys, though the WNBA has done so for years. Players wore a Kia logo on their All-Star jerseys in February in Toronto, part of a two-year deal between the auto maker and Turner Sports.

A report by TSN Sports in February noted that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, parent company of the Toronto Raptors, had begun talking with potential advertisers about the jersey ads for 2017-18, citing sources that a price tag of $4 million to $5 million per season was discussed.

ESPN reported this week that a proposal to NBA owners over All-Star Weekend called for 50 percent of jersey-ad revenue to be kept by each team and, to adjust for large vs. small market disparities, 50 percent to be added to the league’s revenue-sharing pool.

Also on the agenda for this week’s BOG meeting, which will conclude with Silver news conference Friday afternoon:.

  • Discussion of (but not necessarily any sort of vote on) the new “HB2” law in North Carolina generating controversy over its language and intent involving gender-specific restroom and locker room access in government buildings and schools. A half-dozen U.S. senators reportedly drafted a letter to Silver urging the NBA to move the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, something the Atlanta City Council also has sought. TNT broadcaster and NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley weighed in for a move, as did Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy.

The NBA has maintained its initial position, hoping that a resolution to the matter could be reached within North Carolina. On Tuesday, Gov. Pat McCrory filed an executive order that extends further protections to state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity, though other provisions of the law remain intact.

  • Reports on the collective-bargaining agreement from the Labor Relations Committee in anticipation of the labor deal’s reopening by the National Basketball Players Association or the owners by a December deadline, as well as updates related to officiating and to international basketball development.
  • An official vote, essentially a formality, to approve the Sacramento Kings’ move from Sleep Train Arena to Golden 1 Center.

Pistons win ‘biggest game’ so far, while Bulls sink further in East

CHICAGO – The Chicago Bulls were all about clinching playoff spots Saturday night.

For Miami. For Charlotte. Just not for themselves with their 94-90 loss at home to the Detroit Pistons.

Instead of seizing the two-fer opportunity against the Pistons (who were playing the tail end of a back-to-back) and at least keeping pace with the Pacers (who rallied to win in Philadelphia), the Bulls dug their hole at the bottom of the Eastern Conference bracket a little deeper. At 38-38, they remain in ninth place, two games behind Indiana and 2.5 behind Detroit.

Chicago has six games left and holds the tiebreaker against the Pacers but lost it, along with the game, against the Pistons. In the four-game series against Chicago, including five overtime periods, Detroit outscored the Bulls 440-439 in 217 minutes but wound up 3-1.

Stan Van Gundy had billed this one, coming in, as the biggest game of the season for his club. So when they closed it out, the Pistons coach didn’t back away from its significance.

“Up to this point,” he said, qualifying it just a bit. “Hopefully there are even bigger ones to come. But for four of our starters – and they all agreed – that’s the most meaningful win of their NBA careers. All of our starters except Reggie [Jackson]. But we’ve got bigger things to do. So we’re not there yet.”

Detroit closed out the playoff-style game by holding Chicago to 7-of-23 shooting in the fourth quarter, while its 11-of-16 work from the foul line was better than their 9-for-18 through three quarters. Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris and Jackson were a perfect 8-for-8 in the final 2:17, with Van Gundy sitting center Andre Drummond for the final 5:22 after he bricked nine of his 10 free throws.

“He was 1-for-10 – he made the decision easy tonight,” Van Gundy said. “In a close game like that, we can’t be playing or hoping for one point at most when they’re playing for two or three. You can’t do that. You’re putting too much pressure on your defense.”

Chicago has been putting too much pressure on its entire game after flopping in that gauntlet last week against the Knicks, the Knicks again and the Magic. Taking even two of those would have them in seventh right now, a game up with the tiebreaker over ninth-place Indiana. Now?

“We are well aware of our situation,” veteran Pau Gasol said. “The math is probably against us at this point.”

With Derrick Rose (left elbow) and Taj Gibson (rib contusion) out, and with the four starters besides Jimmy Butler shooting zero free throws in a combined 112 minutes, the offensive load fell to Butler. He posted the first triple-double of his career – 28 points, 17 rebounds, 12 assists – but he shot 10-of-25, dominated Chicago’s stagnant offense down the stretch and was exhausted before the final horn.

“He put up good numbers. He shot a lot of shots, too,” said Morris, who stayed physical with the Bulls’ scorer until Van Gundy switched Kentavious Caldwell-Pope onto Butler late. “Hopefully that’s what happens. He’s a good player, an All-Star. I love Jimmy, one of my closest guys in the NBA. Great player. He’s just one of those guys, we go back and forth.”

There’s no back or forth for the Bulls now, just falling down and looking up at the Pistons, the Pacers and six other East rivals in the standings.

Morning shootaround — March 26


VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from Friday night

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Dallas capable of 2007 payback? | Rest takes priority for Spurs | Pistons getting cozy at home | Gentry gets ‘confidence’ vote

No. 1: Dallas capable of 2007 payback? — It’s not the ideal way to go about knocking off one of your conference’s elite teams. But if the Dallas Mavericks have to go the underdog route and angle for a first-round upset of the NBA defending champion Golden State Warriors, well, they know such a crazy thing can happen. Back in 2007, it was Golden State in eighth place in the West, ousting a Mavericks team that won 67 games and was hoping for a return trip to the Finals that spring. Dallas played well enough in its loss to the Warriors in Oakland Friday – with star Dirk Nowitzki sitting for rest – to entertain such thoughts, wrote Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com:

“They did it to us, so hey, you never know,” said Mavs guard J.J. Barea, a rookie towel-waver on that 2006-07 Dallas team who scored 21 points as a fill-in starter in Friday’s 128-120 loss to the Warriors. “We could do it to them.”

If the playoffs started now, the Mavs would have the opportunity to trump the “We Believe” bunch for the biggest postseason upset in NBA history.

Those Warriors in ’07 had good reason to believe they could beat the Mavs. Golden State swept the season series, including a blowout in the final week when coach Avery Johnson foolishly rested his stars instead of attempting to prevent the Warriors from making the playoffs. It also helped that Golden State had Don Nelson, who knew all the deep secrets about Dirk’s game, scheming to stop his former prodigy.

These Mavs, who have a coach in Rick Carlisle whose schematic sorcery pushed the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the first round a couple of seasons ago, can convince themselves that they can compete with the best team in basketball.

Dallas players point to their Dec. 30 rout of the Warriors without focusing too much on the minor detail that reigning MVP Stephen Curry sat out that game. And the Mavs’ two meetings with the Warriors this month were close well into the fourth quarter.

“We’ve definitely proven we can play with them,” guard Raymond Felton said after scoring 17 points. “We’ve proven we can beat them. … If that happens that we play them in the first round, it’s going to be a battle, that’s for sure.”

There’s no such thing as a moral victory for a team that’s fighting for its playoff life. However, the Mavs hopped on their bus for the drive to Sacramento with their heads held high after somehow making it a one-possession game with a few minutes remaining despite Nowitzki and Deron Williams wearing warmups and watching from the bench, and Chandler Parsons viewing from home hours after undergoing season-ending knee surgery.

“If we’re at full strength, I think we have the firepower to put up a fight,” said center/forward David Lee, sporting the championship ring he received in a pregame ceremony before putting up 12 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists in his Bay Area return.

“They would obviously be the heavy favorites, and they’ll be the heavy favorites against anybody they play not named the San Antonio Spurs.”

One minor problem for the Mavs: They’d have to figure out a way to stop the Splash Brothers, who have combined to average 71.5 points in the Warriors’ two wins over Dallas in the last week.

It’s unclear how much help Dallas owner Mark Cuban might be if the teams clash in the postseason. Cuban, who did not travel to Oakland for Friday’s game, got busy from afar with criticizing the game’s officiating. He put out some strong stuff for the 4.9 million followers of Twitter feed about which he might just hear from league HQ:

***

 No. 2: Rest takes priority for Spurs — For many NBA fans, this is Easter Weekend and will be celebrated as such right through Sunday. For the San Antonio Spurs, it’s more like Festivus – as in, “the rest of us.” Rest annually is a priority for the Spurs at this time of the season and rest is what several of the Western Conference powerhouse’s key players were scheduled from what otherwise would have seemed a crucial clash with the Oklahoma City Thunder Saturday:

Granted, in the case of forward Kawhi Leonard, injury is the concern rather than fatigue. Leonard still is nursing a bruised right quadriceps suffered against Miami Wednesday. It kept him out of the Spurs’ game against Memphis Friday, a game from which coach Gregg Popovich withheld Danny Green, Boris Diaw and Patty Mills. Leonard’s sore thigh muscle remains too “tight” to play, but the plan to sit out Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker from Saturday’s ABC prime-time game at OKC and a Grizzlies rematch Monday in Memphis is entirely discretionary. We’ve all been down this road before with the Spurs, per ESPN.com.

That’s a luxury San Antonio can afford, considering the win Friday night locked up no worse than the No. 2 seed for the Western Conference playoffs with 10 games remaining in the regular season. The Spurs can now rest key veterans as the regular season comes to a close, which in turn increases the minutes for inexperienced role players such as Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons, as well as newcomers Andre Miller and Kevin Martin, who could all be called upon during the postseason.

The victory on Friday was San Antonio’s 37th straight at home, which ties the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the longest home winning streak to start a season in NBA history

“You just try to do your best,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “You don’t want to decondition them and you don’t want to lose rhythm. But you want to rest.”

LaMarcus Aldridge made that an easier proposition by knocking down 7 of 8 shots in the first quarter on the way to 17 points, the most he has scored in a single quarter all season. Aldridge poured in a total of 32 points, including 21 in the first half, while

Duncan started off the opening half hitting 4-of-5 for eight points. He also recorded five rebounds and five assists before finishing with 12 points and eight rebounds.

Heading into the game, Miller averaged 8.3 minutes in his previous 10 contests, while Martin averaged 10.4 minutes over the same span. The duo contributed 16 and 34 minutes, respectively, versus Memphis and gained a level of comfort in their new surroundings and new teammates that could pay dividends for San Antonio in the postseason.

Duncan called the situation “a good experience game for a lot of different guys, a good execution game for us. A lot of these guys haven’t been in our offense and executed everything perfectly to this point.”

They didn’t execute perfectly against the Grizzlies, either. But that’s inconsequential as the Spurs accomplished their goal of keeping everyone as healthy as possible heading into the playoffs, while providing needed game experience for their role players.
“It’s obviously good for these other guys to get minutes and play in situations where they get used to the guys,” Popovich said. “Kevin just got here. Kyle has … rarely started. It’s all good experience. It can only be good for them.”

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No. 3:  Pistons getting cozy at home — If a man’s home is his castle, as the old saying goes, the Detroit Pistons’ Palace (of Auburn Hills) has been their refuge and salvation in chasing a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Two-thirds of the way through their franchise-record nine-game homestand, the Pistons are 5-1 and now two games in front of the Chicago Bulls for eighth place in the East standings, thanks to their impressive victory Friday over conference rival Charlotte. Detroit scored 72 points in the first half and survived a considerable late scare from the Hornets. While veteran teams in Chicago and Washington deal with East angst, the young Pistons took another step in their quest to play with the league’s big boys. Here are some details from the Detroit News:

Throughout their up-and-down season, the Pistons have been plagued by stretches of playing to the level of their opponent. In several of their marquee games, the Pistons have come up with an empty effort.

Not this time.

In a critical matchup for their final playoff push, the Pistons played one of their best games of the season, against a team that had dominated them in both meetings this season.

Reggie Jackson said it was as satisfying a win as the Pistons have had this season, especially given the implications.

“Definitely with the way we’ve been punched in the mouth by them twice, especially with the position we’re in, fighting for a playoff spot,” said Jackson, who had 17 points, six rebounds and seven assists. “This is one of the better wins for us, where we felt like we controlled the game. The only thing better would be if we closed out those last few minutes.”

In those last few minutes a 26-point lead with 7:49 remaining shriveled to five with 37.6 seconds left. But the Pistons were able to close it out, with four free throws in the final stretch

That lapse normally might have driven coach Stan Van Gundy berserk, but given the need for wins to solidify a playoff spot, he wasn’t nearly so critical.

“We need to win and move on,” Van Gundy said. “We played 39 great minutes. We really outplayed a very good team for 39 minutes and then their last five guys played really well. Against their best players, we were dominant and it was a great 39 minutes.”

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 21 points and seven rebounds, Marcus Morris 20 points and seven rebounds and Andre Drummond notched his 60th double-double of the season with 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Pistons, who are 5-1 — ensuring a winning record — on their nine-game home stand.

***

No. 4: Gentry gets ‘confidence’ vote — When you add up the pieces – 45 defeats against just 26 victories, an emergency room’s worth of injuries and the capriciousness with which NBA head coaches get fired these days – you might reasonably conclude that New Orleans’ Alvin Gentry would be dealing with some job insecurity. But Gentry doesn’t see or feel it, nor should he if we’re to take Pelicans GM Dell Demps at his word. Demps gave Gentry the proverbial vote of confidence Friday for reporters while expressing some for himself, according to ESPN.com:

With Alvin Gentry standing by his side, New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps dismissed a report indicating friction between the two and emphasized his support for the head coach.

“I just want to say, my confidence in Alvin has not wavered,” Demps said Friday. “The only regret that I have is that our team is not at full strength. And Alvin hasn’t had the opportunity to coach the team at full strength. I think he’s done a fantastic job.”

The Vertical reported earlier Friday in a video on its website that Demps has second-guessed Gentry often this season, including in front of Pelicans players and staff and opposing teams.

But Demps, in his first interview with local media since September, disputed the claim
“I told [Gentry] this last week: I think our guys are playing hard. Last night was a great example of how hard our guys played and competed,” Demps said. “All the credit goes to Alvin and the coaching staff. I think our guys are still getting better, I think guys are showing up and working every day, and they’re buying in.

“I’m thrilled with the system, I’m thrilled with everything that’s happened. And I think it’s irresponsible reporting for someone to come and say something like that. Because it’s totally untrue.”

Coming off a 45-win campaign that saw them earn their first postseason berth since trading Chris Paul, the Pelicans were widely expected to make a leap this season.

But injuries have ravaged the roster. New Orleans, now 12th in the Western Conference with a 26-45 record, has lost 243 games to injury and shut down five players — Anthony Davis (left knee), Tyreke Evans (right knee), Eric Gordon (right finger), Quincy Pondexter (left knee) and Bryce Dejean-Jones (right wrist) — for the rest of the season.

Asked if he has any concerns about his job security as a result of the struggles, Demps said, “I feel great about my job. I come to work every day, and I feel great about it.”

Gentry, in the first year of a four-year contract that he agreed to amid last season’s NBA championship run with the Golden State Warriors, said he expects to be back in New Orleans next season.

“Yeah, I do. I do,” Gentry said. “I don’t have any doubt about that. I’ll be back, and we’ll be much better because we’ll be much healthier.”

***

Hard to blame a Splash Brother for some sibling overconfidence these days:

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: D’Angelo Russell’s “ankle touched the ground when I rolled it” but the Lakers are hoping the “crazy pain” he felt is nothing serious for the rookie. … The Houston Rockets are getting effort and production from James Harden that, let’s face it, without which they they can’t survive as a playoff aspirant in the West. … Kevin Durant, who won’t have Kawhi Leonard to worry about on the court Saturday night in OKC, stands by his long-ago opinion and still likes Paul George’s game better than Leonard’s. … David Lee had to wait longer than the rest of them, but he got both his 2015 NBA championship ring and some overdue love from the fans in Oakland Friday. … As the days dwindle down to a precious few…

Morning shootaround — Feb. 23


VIDEO: Highlights from Monday’s games

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Varejao should play Wednesday | Anthony: Knicks’ instability ‘a lot to go through’ | ‘Too much risk’ for Pistons in Motiejunas trade | Buss assesses state of Lakers

No. 1: Warriors hoping Varejao can chip in immediately — The Golden State Warriors are hoping the Cleveland Cavaliers’ loss at the trade deadline will be their gain in the long run. The Cavs had to cut fan favorite Anderson Varejao in order to pull off their trade with the Orlando Magic for Channing Frye. Varejao, who was dealt to Portland in the trade and later cut by the Trail Blazers, found a new gig soon as a backup center for the defending-champion Warriors. As Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, Varejao will likely play Wednesday vs. Miami and will have a chance to show he can contribute:

“He’s hard not to like,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s a guy who gives effort multiple times in one possession and competes every second he’s out there.

“With the enthusiasm he plays with, and from what I gather, his personality in the locker room, he’s going to be a fan favorite … just like he was in Cleveland.”

The 33-year-old also considered signing with San Antonio after being released by the Trail Blazers and clearing waivers, but he has some strong ties with the Warriors. He played with lead assistant coach Luke Walton, backup point guard Shaun Livingston and reserve big man Marreese Speights in the NBA and with reserve guard Leandro Barbosa on the Brazilian national team.

“I’m glad I came here, because I can tell that they love each other. That’s what it’s about,” Varejao said. “When you want to win, you have to be like they are: friends who have fun out there (on the court) and fun in the locker room.”

The Warriors favored Varejao, because he’s a true center. Thompson is a hybrid power forward/center. Backup center Festus Ezeli will be rehabbing his surgically repaired left knee until at least mid-March; starting center Andrew Bogut returned Monday after missing Saturday’s game with a sore right Achilles.

Varejao is similar to Bogut on offense, favoring playmaking over scoring and seemingly being a natural fit in how the Warriors use their centers in dribble handoffs and as the hubs to make passes to backdoor cutters.

Varejao will be given a video playbook and is expected to practice with the team Tuesday. Kerr believes the center’s instincts for the game will help him incorporate quickly.

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(more…)

Anthony Davis shines with transcendent performance


VIDEO: Anthony Davis dropped a NBA season-high 59 points on the Detroit Pistons

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Anthony Davis served up a reminder Sunday of why so many NBA pundits and observers pegged this season as his opportunity to take his game to the next level.

His 59-point, 20-rebound effort in a win over the Detroit Pistons was jaw-dropping in both effort and result. Davis became just the fourth player in NBA history to pile up that many points while also grabbing 20 rebounds (Shaquille O’Neal did it once, Elgin Baylor twice and the great Wilt Chamberlain did it 33 times, including 17 times during the 1961-62 season).

It was a transcendent effort from one of the truly unique talents the league has seen. Davis, just 22, and having barely scratched the surface of what he can do in this league, showed off all facets of his current offensive arsenal. He finished with authority around the rim, was precise off the dribble and with his mid-range game and even stepped out beyond the 3-point line a couple of times for good measure.

It was a virtuoso performance that left Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy shaking his head and accepting blame for his team not being able to contain Davis, who admitted to surprising himself with his performance.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical the same:

Ever seen something like it? “I haven’t,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry told The Vertical in a text message. “Not by a big with that skill level.”

This season had been targeted as Davis’ MVP breakthrough, his time. Now, he’s nowhere near the conversation. Sit down with him, and the sense comes quickly: That’s the least of his concern. Winning matters to him, and that’s how Davis wants to be judged. Chris Paul pushed his way out of New Orleans, but Davis is starting a new five-year deal, and he’ll have to find a way to become part of the solution there.

Throughout All-Star weekend, Davis probed the biggest winners in the NBA. Throughout this lost Pelicans season, Kendrick Perkins has been guide to his personal inventory of franchise star stories – from Kevin Garnettand LeBron James to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

“Perk tells me stories from 10 years ago, and says: As the franchise player and leader of this team, you have to do this, you have to do that,” Davis told The Vertical.

Davis listens, but here’s the truth of the matter: The franchise star job demands that you learn through experience. Otherwise, everything will devour you. Davis is so gifted, so dedicated. And he takes everything – the losing, the unrealistic insistences that he ought to be to able to win all alone – in the most personal way possible.

“It’s tough,” Davis told The Vertical recently. “You start hearing all the white noise. ‘They lost three in a row, and it’s Anthony Davis’ fault.’ The blame gets put on you. Of course, there are other factors that go along with it – like the praise when you are winning. But to handle that when you’re so young, and haven’t really accomplished anything, it’s tough – especially when people put you on a pedestal. ‘He should be doing this, he should be doing that.’ It’s frustrating.

“It’ll make you overthink your game. You start thinking too much. You start listening and trying to figure out, ‘Well, I’m going to try to do this,’ and it takes you away from your game. Now, you’re losing more because you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do.”

Davis said Gentry challenged the Pelicans to be the best team in the league after the All-Star break, a task that will be difficult given the way the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs have been grinding all season.

The more realistic task, even with Stephen Curry playing the way he has all season, is for Davis to be the best player in the league the rest of this season.

That’s what many thought he’d do last summer, after his breakthrough effort in pushing the Pelicans into the playoffs. Injuries and the adjustments from an old system to Gentry’s didn’t allow that to happen early on this season. But Sunday’s effort could be the start of something spectacular for Davis the rest of the way …

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VIDEO: Anthony Davis joins the Game Time crew after his 59-point, 20-rebound effort in a win over Detroit


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