Posts Tagged ‘Stan Van Gundy’

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


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Detroit Pistons

NBA.com’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

20151018_det_rj_ad

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.

20151018_det_defense

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.

20151018_det_rj_drives

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

NEWS OF THE MORNING

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

NEWS OF THE MORNING

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.

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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’

NEWS OF THE MORNING

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

NEWS OF THE MORNING

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.”

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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 Cleveland.com’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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

Morning Shootaround: June 21


NEWS OF THE MORNING
Heat hot for Dragic | LeBron in a funk | No breaking up Warriors | Dealing in Detroit

No. 1: Miami to offer Dragic 5 years, $80 mllion — It won’t be a max deal, but Miami plans to turn up the heat early in the free agency period by offering point guard Goran Dragic $16 million per season to remain in South Florida as a key part of resurrecting the former champs. Marc Stein of ESPN.com says that the team will offer less than the allowable $100 million overall, because the Heat still have to deal with a new contract for franchise icon Dwyane Wade:

Sources told ESPN.com that the Heat are planning to offer Dragic a five-year deal in excess of $80 million to keep him in Miami after acquiring the 2014 All-NBA third-team selection from Phoenix on trade deadline day in February.

Only Miami can offer a five-year deal this summer to Dragic, who told local reporters after the season that he “had a great time” with the Heat despite missing out on the playoffs. He said on more than one occasion that “I want to come back.”

Heat president Pat Riley has likewise expressed confidence in Miami’s ability to retain him, saying at a season-ending media availability two months ago: “If he doesn’t sign, my ass will be in that seat [next to reporters] next year.”

A five-year maximum deal for Dragic would exceed $100 million but Miami also might find itself dealing with Dwyane Wade’s free agency one summer earlier than expected if Wade decides to bypass his $16.1 million player option for next season. The Heat also await a decision from Luol Deng about his plans to either invoke next season’s $10.2 million player option or opt for free agency.

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No. 2: LeBron still trying to deal with Finals loss — If only it were a case of James Brown, Sly Stone or George Clinton filling up the head of LeBron James. But when the four-time MVP says he’s “still in a little funk,” he’s not dancing. In a streamed testimonial on Bleacher Report’s “Uninterrupted,” James said he’s still trying to get over the 4-2 loss to the Warriors, but vows to keep the Cavaliers contending for championships in the years to come, according to Joe Vardon of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:

“Hopefully I can put our team in position once again to try to compete for a championship next year and year in and year out,” James said on Bleacher Report’s “Uninterrupted,” a series of streamed testimonials James takes part in as part of an undisclosed financial arrangement. “That’s my goal, and my inspiration hasn’t changed.”

James told the Northeast Ohio Media Group during the Finals he is “happy where I’m at” in Cleveland, and in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s Game 6 loss to the Golden State Warriors he reiterated his family was happy to be home.

James has a $21.57 million player option on the deal he signed when he returned to Cleveland last summer. He’ll likely decline the option for a new one-year contract worth roughly $22 million with a player option.

In James’ latest “Uninterrupted” video, in which he speaks while sitting in a barber’s chair getting a haircut, he said “being back home is everything that I dreamed of, everything that I thought about.

“Being back with these fans, being back with this community, just being back here and trying to bring joy to this city, which deserves it,” James said. “Bringing a sense of pride to this city, which deserves it. Giving this city something to talk about, which they deserve.”

Of the Finals, in which James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists but the Cavs’ lost 4-2, he said “it hurt to lose, and I’m still in a little funk right now, but I’m trying to work my way out of it.”

“You know, for a team that’s first getting together, in our first year to be able to reach the Finals, (I’m) not saying I’m happy with the results, but I’m proud of our guys,” James said. “Just the growth that they had from the first day we walked in the gym to the other day, us losing, I’m proud of the guys and what they was able to accomplish.”

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No. 3: Warriors want to stay together — Though league rules prevent him from talking in specifics, first-year general manager Bob Myers hinted that keeping free agent Draymond Green is the high priority, but bringing back most of the roster that won Golden State’s first championship in 40 years is the plan for next season. He spoke to Al Saracevic of the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Our hope is to keep the core together,” said Myers. “That is within our control.”

“Clearly, with the success we’ve had this season, the players have shown this group can win. High character. A lot of youth. They’ve been able to complement each other.”

Beyond Green, the Warriors have a few other questions to answer, but nothing too pressing. With the expected departure of Lee, a former All-Star whose minutes were curtailed drastically because of Green’s rise, the team will be looking for a backup power forward.

A key reserve, Leandro Barbosa, is an unrestricted free agent. Myers and the ownership group, led by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, will have to decide whether to re-sign the 12-year veteran or look for an upgrade.

“I think the league has shifted a little bit,” said Myers. “Even though it’s perceived we have a lot of shooting, we still could use more shooting, especially in the second unit.

“We could always use a shooter who can defend. That’s on the wish list of the entire league. Spacing the floor has become a major focus for all teams, as we saw in the playoffs and the Finals.”

The good news for Myers? His bosses have plenty of money, and they’re not afraid to spend it. Lacob and Guber have made it clear that success on the court is a priority.

“We want to be fiscally responsible. And we want to win,” said Myers. “Clearly, from ownership, it’s win first. It’s a good place to be. It gives you a great chance to be successful when the ultimate goal is winning.”

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No. 4: Pistons might be ready to deal pick — After trading for “stretch four” Ersan Ilyasova, whom coach Stan Van Gundy says will be in the starting lineup, the Pistons brought in a pair of forwards in Frank Kaminsky and Myles Turner for pre-draft workouts and Terry Foster of the Detroit News says that could be a sign that the team is getting ready to shop its No. 8 pick:

The Pistons sent more signals Saturday that they might be willing to trade away the eighth pick in Thursday’s NBA draft when they worked out big men Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin and Myles Turner of Texas.

Then again, perhaps Stan Van Gundy and his staff don’t want to leave any stone unturned. Both Kaminsky and Turner will be available at No. 8. And the Pistons appear to be set at power forward after obtaining from Milwaukee “Stretch Four” Ersan Ilyasova, who Van Gundy said would start the 2015-16 season for the Pistons.

If Van Gundy is interested in adding more depth at power forward, he can turn to either Kaminsky, the college basketball player of the year, or Turner. Both have similar games. They can hit perimeter shots and dip inside for buckets. Kaminsky’s major weakness is perimeter defense. And Turner must show more fluidity when he runs.

Both are 6-foot-11 and projected to go anywhere from 11th to 16th. They are competing for a better draft slot.

The Pistons are expected to select a small forward if they keep the eighth pick. There is also a chance they’ll trade up with the New York Knicks, who are looking to deal the fourth pick. If that happens it gives the Pistons a solid shot at Duke forward Justise Winslow or shooting guard Mario Hezonja of Croatia.

Regardless, whomever the Pistons select will be a premier perimeter shooter.

If the Pistons select Kaminsky or Turner it would put them in the market to sign a free agent small forward — perhaps former Piston Arron Afflalo. That becomes a dicey proposition because this has not been a big destination for free agents.

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Karl-Anthony Towns works out for Timberwolves and looks more and more like No. 1 pick … Greg Oden to take part in mini-camp with Mavericks … Doc Rivers’ mother dies in Illinois … Celtics legend Bill Russell enjoys his role as link to the past at the NBA Finals … Spain’s Rodriguez planning return to NBA … Lance Stephenson says he seeks to change his image with the Clippers.

Morning shootaround — June 5


VIDEO: Top 5 plays from Game 1 of The Finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Irving needs MRI on knee | Love maintains desire to stay with Cavs| Report: Hawks sale will be done June 24

No. 1: Irving needs MRI on knee — Two days after saying he would do what he could to ‘will’ himself through The Finals, Kyrie Irving‘s body may have other thoughts in mind. Irving suffered what appeared to be a knee injury early in overtime of Game 1 of The Finals, hobbling off the court and needing crutches after the game. He needs an MRI today to diagnose the extent of the injury. Our Steve Aschburner, who was on the scene last night, reports that Irving’s injury casts a definite shadow over what was shaping up to be a great championship series:

Kyrie Irving limped up the ramp at Oracle Arena that leads from the court, behind one basket, up to the visitors’ dressing room. Angry, distraught, frustrated — take your pick. He peeled off his Cleveland Cavaliers jersey, balled it up in one fist and threw it to the concrete.

Then he yelled out — loudly! — a one-word expletive that captured his mood, the moment and the fear of many that this potentially excellent 2015 NBA Finals might be over even as it was getting started.

A few minutes later, Irving — the Cavaliers’ point guard who had played so effectively through four quarters, only to re-injure his already ailing left knee in overtime — came out of the shower area. He was worse off than before, holding himself up dressing stall by dressing stall as he lurched toward his. He spoke with reporters for about four minutes, then limped into the trainers’ room.

David Griffin, the Cleveland GM, had poked his head out of the locker room in search of Irving’s father, Drederick, and his agent, Jeff Wechsler. Both of them wound up in the trainers’ room too while Irving’s teammates dressed, spoke to reporters and veered as much as possible around the elephant in that other room.

Actually, there was a little more than two minutes left in OT and things already had turned miserable for the Cavaliers. Golden State scored the first four points and was on its way to a 10-2 advantage in the period when Irving tried to put a move on Warriors guard Klay Thompson.

It backfired. He appeared to slip, his left leg taking his full weight awkwardly while his right went that-a-way.

“I tried to decelerate,” Irving said. “To try to go by Klay. What I felt obviously didn’t feel right. It was a little bit different than what I had been experiencing in the Chicago series and then in practices. This was a quick pinch. I could still feel what was going on in my knee. This time I kinda knew it was, uh, a little bit different from the other times.”

“Obviously you can see in the tone of my voice I’m a little worried,” he said. “It’s just a natural reaction. … I hope it’s just a re-aggravation of what was originally going on. I mean, it’s a little disappointing and frustrating ’cause, just coming in, I felt amazing.”


VIDEO: How might Kyrie Irving’s injury affect the direction of these Finals?

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