HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Detroit Pistons are a franchise that’s going younger, but might they have found their point guard of the future in 31-year-old Jose Calderon?
Detroit was the third wheel in the trade that made it possible for Memphis to ship Rudy Gay to Toronto. Career-long Piston Tayshaun Prince, the last remnant of Detroit’s 2004 title team, went to Memphis and Calderon, a career-long Raptor, and his $11 million expiring contract landed in Detroit.
The Pistons created additional cap room by taking on Calderon’s expiring deal and sending out Prince, who has nearly $15 million coming to him over the next two seasons. However, Detroit, with young building blocks such as Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Brandon Knight and Kyle Singler, might not be viewing the eight-year veteran Calderon simply as a money saver before letting him pick his next destination in free agency.
The Calderon trade created even more financial flexibility for the Pistons going into the summer trade and free-agency season but Joe Dumars, the team’s president of basketball operations, has made it clear that Calderon is not just any player on an expiring contract which pays a base salary of about $11 million this year.
Dumars has said he is interested in re-signing Calderon but neither side will discuss much beyond that; the Pistons won’t break the bank to keep Calderon and he isn’t painting himself into a negotiating corner by vowing to stay.
Calderon has impressed his new team with his steady play, averaging 12.3 ppg and 7.8 apg while keeping his turnover rate right about the same as it was this season with Toronto despite playing with unfamiliar teammates and garnering little practice time.
He’s increased his shooting percentages in his first 12 games with Detroit to 50.0 percent overall and 51.1 percent from beyond the arc. He’s averaging 31.8 mpg and that has pushed Knight, a second-year player, to shooting guard. He received six of Calderon’s 18 assists in Wednesday’s road win at Washington.
Those 18 assists quickly put Calderon in the Pistons’ record books next to Isiah Thomas, Mayo reported, as the only Pistons players with as many as 18 assists and as few as two turnovers in the same game since 1974.
The Pistons, who continue a three-game road trip tonight at the New Orleans Hornets, are 5-7 with Calderon, which isn’t terrible considering Detroit is 23-37 overall and seven games back of eighth-place Milwaukee.
BOSTON – It’s streak vs. streak on ESPN Friday (8 p.m. ET), when the Miami Heat, winners of 12 straight games, host the Memphis Grizzlies, winners of eight straight.
The Heat have seemingly flipped the switch after coasting through the first half of the season. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, have found their legs after losing three of their first four games in the wake of the Rudy Gay trade.
The two streaks have been quite different. One has been a result of ridiculously efficient offense, while the other has come with some stifling D. And you can probably guess which is which.
The Heat … are hot
Led by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Heat offense seemingly can’t be stopped. Over their last 12 games, they’ve scored an amazing 117.5 points per 100 possessions to take over the No. 1 spot in offensive efficiency for the season.
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Crazy note: The Heat rank only second in NetRtg over the course of their winning streak. Thanks to a few blowouts, the Thunder (7-3 since Feb. 3) have had a better point differential and the Pacers (8-3) are just a hair behind Miami.
The Heat’s shooting during the streak has been pretty ridiculous. James has shot 65 percent, while Wade and Chris Bosh have each shot better than 53 percent. Four different guys have attempted at least 40 threes and shot them at 40 percent or better.
That kind of shooting just isn’t fair, and it’s been the the most important aspect of the Heat’s offensive improvement. But we shouldn’t overlook a decrease in turnovers, from 14.6 per 100 possessions before the streak to just 12.8 over the last 12 games.
Not only has the streak taken the Heat to No. 1 in offensive efficiency this season, but it has them among the top offenses of the last 36 seasons. They’re scoring 8.1 points per 100 possessions more than the league average, a difference that ranks third among all teams since the league started counting turnovers in 1977.
Biggest difference, team vs. league OffRtg, since 1977-78
The Heat have played four top 10 defenses during the streak, but they’ve also played six bottom-10 defenses. In their last two games, against No. 28 Cleveland and No. 30 Sacramento, the Heat and their opponents have combined to score about 119 points per 100 possessions.
The Grizzlies have actually improved on both ends of the floor…
But they’ve scored less than a point per possession in each of their last three games, including an ugly 76-72 victory in Brooklyn on Sunday. So while there’s more of a difference in their offensive numbers, there’s been more consistency from the D.
Here’s the asterisk with the Grizzlies’ streak: Only two of their last eight opponents — Golden State and Brooklyn — have winning records. And only two others — Dallas and Toronto — are somewhat decent. That makes Friday’s game in Miami a huge test for that improved defense.
Do you believe in the Grizzlies? Agree with that Rudy Gay trade?
Steve Aschburner: No, I’m a mourner of the Grizzlies (which kind of answers the second part of your question). I’m a believer in Lionel Hollins as an exacting coach and snappy dresser. I’m a believer in Marc Gasol, a point forward with a towering chassis. I’m a believer in Zach Randolph‘s career redemption and in Mike Conley‘s grit and Tony Allen‘s channeled lunacy on defense. But I didn’t even like the trade that preceded by eight days the Gay transaction — the one gifting (remember that word from the Pau/Lakers trade?) Marreese Speights & Co. — with a first-round pick to Cleveland. Moving Gay in a “Carrie“-like shocker/second ending after the financial pressure had been alleviated really slammed Memphis’ championship window down hard, in my view. This 8-of-11 and 11-of-15 since the two trades? Squeeze the schedule (especially the winning streak) for a softness check.
Lionel Hollins (Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Fran Blinebury: It was a good move for the long-term health of the franchise. Rudy is a nice player, whom Michael Heisley vastly overpaid. He can’t carry a team. Still, in the short term, the Grizzlies would have a better chance of advancing if they’d have kept him. But in the end, they were not going to win the West. The guy it hurt most was Lionel Hollins, who has done one helluva job in Memphis, but will take a bum rap now if they flame out in the playoffs.
Jeff Caplan: As someone who wrote that the Grizz should give the Gay-Randolph-Gasol-Conley quartet one last postseason whirl and also wondered out loud if new management will drive lame-duck coach Lionel Hollins out of town, I have to say that the new Grizz remain intriguing. It can’t be ignored that their recent hot streak hasn’t exactly come against a murderer’s row, but they’re picking up road wins and the team is meshing, especially with Tayshaun Prince, who was about as good a fit for that club as anyone. As far as the Rudy Gay trade being bad or good, yeah, I thought it was bad because I wanted to see that group stay together through the postseason. Still, you knew that if Gay wasn’t dealt now that he was a goner in the summer. That core had come so far, was hurt by injuries the last two seasons, and, in my estimation, deserved a shot to get to the West finals together when the finances could have been sorted out this summer.
Scott Howard-Cooper: I’m a believer in the Grizzlies as a good team in the Western Conference but not as a pressing threat to win the West. There’s still a lot to like, mostly the inside game that can harm some team in the playoffs in a bad matchup. Trading away Gay, though, is further setback to a club already struggling for scoring. Dealing him was not the shock. It was dealing him and not addressing the primary need.
John Schuhmann:I believe in them as the fourth best team in the West, but not better than the Spurs, Thunder or Clippers if everybody is healthy. I just don’t think they have enough offense to beat those teams four times in a series. Even over the course of this seven-game winning streak, they rank only 15th offensively. Still, I was fine with the trade, because Gay wasn’t nearly enough of an impact player on either end of the floor for the salary he was being paid. They ranked 21st offensively at the time of the deal and had really regressed since a strong first month. And I would absolutely love a Memphis-Denver, No, 4 vs. No. 5 series in the first round.
Sekou Smith: I’ve always been a big believer in the Grizzlies, even when no else around here was willing to ride the bandwagon with me. They were the “Hang Time Grizzlies” long before they actually became a playoff team and started making real noise. That said, I did not like the Rudy Gay trade when it went down, mostly because I felt like he gave them the ideal swingman needed to compete with the rest of the Western Conference elite. I still believe that and will continue to do so until I see them prove otherwise in the playoffs. But in retrospect, it wasn’t a move that will cripple the franchise or anything outrageous. No player is above being traded at some point in his career. The Lakers trading Shaquille O’Neal was a sobering reminder. Good or bad is always relative.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: When the Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay to Toronto as part of a three-team swap, we had our questions before the deal went down as to why Memphis would even ponder such a move. Teams in their pecking order in the West didn’t lose too much sleep over what the Grizz did (the Warriors, in particular, had clear thoughts on the deal) and a 1-3 start to the post-Gay era didn’t engender much hope in Memphis’ future. But as we detail below, Memphis is back to its grit-and-grind self. That makes last night’s Nets-Grizzlies recap as one to watch (particularly if you enjoy seeing Memphis play its unique style of basketball).:
Report: Thunder bring back Fisher — In one of the more surprising trade deadline moves in recent memory, the Lakers dealt stalwart defensive point guard Derek Fisher to Houston last season for Jordan Hill. After Fisher was sent to Houston, the Rockets agreed to a buyout of his contract so he could sign with a contender, which he did, joining the Oklahoma City Thunder for the final 20 games of the season and the playoffs. The Thunder opted not to re-sign Fisher in the offseason and he played nine games with the Dallas Mavericks before being waived on Dec. 22. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that Fisher is headed back to OKC and will sign his deal with the Thunder on Monday:
The Oklahoma City Thunder have reached agreement to sign veteran guard Derek Fisher for the remainder of the season, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Fisher arrived in Oklahoma City Sunday night and will sign his contract on Monday.
Fisher, 38, signed with the Thunder late last season and helped Oklahoma City make its push to the NBA Finals. He joined the Dallas Mavericks early this season and played nine games in December before suffering a knee injury. He asked the Mavericks to release him, so he could spend more time with his family.
The Thunder have room for another guard after trading Eric Maynor to the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday. Reggie Jackson is receiving most of the backup point guard minutes behind Russell Westbrook.
Fisher joined the Thunder last March after the Los Angeles Lakers traded him to the Houston Rockets and he negotiated a buyout. He averaged 6.3 points and 1.3 assists in 20 playoff games for the Thunder last season.
Fisher has remained president of the National Basketball Players Association, which recently ousted Billy Hunter as its executive director.
ESPN.com first reported that Fisher was close to the signing with the Thunder.
Jack praised as Warriors’ leader –For the Golden State Warriors, David Lee is the 2013 All-Star member, Stephen Curry is the thrilling, do-it-all point guard, Klay Thompson is the enticing shooting guard prospect and Harrison Barnes is the high-flying rookie. Although this doesn’t fully encompass the Warriors’ talent base — we’re leaving Andrew Bogut and some others out here — these are the names most think of with the team. But the player who has made the biggest impact for Golden State in terms of leadership, clutch playmaking and veteran know-how is Jarrett Jack. Warriors coach Mark Jackson had nothing but praise for Jack, who was instrumental in Sunday’s win over the Timberwolves, writes Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Jarrett Jack will be praised for giving the Warriors their first fourth-quarter lead with a three-pointer in the final two minutes Sunday and for setting up the bucket 40 seconds later that resulted in a lead they would not relinquish.
Jack actually started leading the Warriors to their 100-99 matinee victory over Minnesota an hour before the game tipped off at the Target Center.
When two of the team’s rookies wanted barbecue sandwiches and fries in the pregame locker room, Jack reminded the first-year players that the game started in an hour. They quietly switched their orders to chicken sandwiches with no fries.
“That’s who he is for us,” Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said. “He’s been a leader, and he’s been a no-nonsense guy with a tremendous voice.”
And Jack has been pretty stinking good on the court, too. Jack had team highs with 23 points and eight assists, provided the Warriors with their only energy in the first half, and then made all of the clutch plays down the stretch.
“We try to have resolve, man,” Jack said. “We’ve got resiliency and fight. The one thing we respect above all is effort, and through it all – the turnovers, missed shots and everything that wasn’t going our way – we still played hard.”
The Warriors (33-23) have won three in a row after a season-worst, six-game skid to move 1 1/2 games back of Denver for the fifth spot in the Western Conference. Seventh-place Utah is two games behind the Warriors, followed by eighth-place Houston (three games back) and the ninth-place Lakers (5 1/2 games back).
It’s a good thing for the Warriors that they were playing the Timberwolves (20-33), who have lost 18 of their past 22 games and 18 of their past 23 against Golden State, and it’s a good thing the Warriors have Jack.
Jack is the NBA’s first player to come off the bench to record at least 23 points and eight assists in consecutive games since Clyde Drexler did it for Portland in 1985-86. Jack is the first Warriors reserve to score 20 points in three straight games since Corey Maggette accomplished the feat in 2009.
“Having someone like coach Jackson and these teammates, who have a world of confidence in me, goes a long way,” said Jack, who said he has never experienced a stretch like this in the NBA. “Confidence is the No. 1 thing in this game. I’ve always believed in myself, but they continuously show that they believe in me to handle the ball at the end of games, giving me big shots and putting me in huge situations.”
On-court stuff is way easier than handling the rookies’ eating habits.
Grizz keep on rolling — Talk of the sky falling in Memphis after the Rudy Gay trade was a popular topic and Memphis, for its part, did little to quell that by going 1-3 immediately after the deal. But if you haven’t been paying attention, the Grizzlies boast the NBA’s second-longest win streak (behind Miami’s 11-game run) with a seven-game win streak. Not surprisingly, the Grizz are getting it done with a healthy dose of defense. As well, one of the players they got in the Gay deal – Tayshaun Prince — has fit in well with Memphis’ defense and was crucial in Sunday nights road win against the Nets, writes Ronald Tillery of The (Memphis) Commercial-Appeal:
There were questions when the Grizzlies’ revolving door stopped spinning — doubts about how quickly and how soon a collection of new players would mesh.
A bit of suspicion even crept in as the Griz began to build a winning streak that is now close to their season-best mark established in November. After all, Memphis’ previous five opponents before Sunday own a combined winning percentage of .354.
However, the Grizzlies’ 76-72 victory over the Brooklyn Nets before 17,098 in the Barclays Center provided more evidence that there still is one constant amid change, quality of opposition and venue.
Like a picture in a frame, the Grizzlies’ defense remains the same. The Griz dominated without the ball when it mattered most as their winning streak swelled to seven games.
“This was a test game to see if we are playing well or not, and to come in and beat a very good team on the road says a lot,” Griz point guard Mike Conley said. “It says a lot about our integrity and ability to step up in big games.”
That, and how stingy the Grizzles can be.
The Nets didn’t score in the final 2:50. Griz center Marc Gasol had two blocks, guard Tony Allen added another and Tayshaun Prince grabbed a steal as the Griz closed the game on a 9-0 run.
No play was bigger than Allen’s block on a shot by Nets guard Deron Williams with the score knotted at 72 and 26.9 seconds left. Williams drove by Allen but was met at the basket by Zach Randolph. Allen recovered to reject Williams’ shot from behind.
“I just had my antennas up and was ready to be aggressive,” Allen said. “And I thank Zach for being there to stop his angle. Once he cocked the ball back I was able to get my hand on the ball.”
Stoudemire stepping up more and more — As Amar’eStoudemire recovered from offseason knee surgery and the Knicks got out to an 21-9 start without him, talk in New York and around the league was how he’d fit in to what New York is doing once healthy. Although the Knicks are 6-6 since Stoudemire returned and had a four-game win streak entering Sunday’s game against the Sixers, New York seems to be working their big man back into the mix. He came through with a solid performance in a win last night and is getting more and more into a flow, writes BarbaraBarker of Newsday:
While he sat out the first two months of the season recovering from knee surgery, many wondered if he ever would be a big-time player again. Their fears seemed to be confirmed when he returned from injury and coach Mike Woodson decided that the best thing to do with him — the best thing to do with the fourth-highest-paid player in the NBA — was to bring him off the bench.
Suddenly, however, it appears to have been a wee bit early to throw Stoudemire into the has-been heap. Since returning from the knee injury on New Year’s Day, he has been getting stronger and stronger.
“I thought Amar’e was solid,” Woodson said. “He was catching the ball on the block, he had a couple of offensive putbacks, he made his jump shots. He did a little bit of everything. That’s what we’re going to need him to do the rest of the way.”
It was Stoudemire’s first 20-point game of the season and even featured a very athletic reverse dunk that thrilled the Garden crowd.
It may have been his best game, but it wasn’t his only important one. Since coming back from the knee injury, Stoudemire has averaged 13.7 points and 5.0 rebounds despite playing limited minutes. And he seems to be getting stronger.
“I’m 100 percent. I feel strong in every aspect,” he said after the game. “I think the limited minutes are great for me so far. It’s keeping me fresh and I feel great.”
Stoudemire was careful and diplomatic Sunday, however, when asked if it is hard for him to accept his role as a reserve when he is playing this well. He said he wants to do whatever the team needs him to do.
Stoudemire did admit, however, that it is difficult to be on the bench at the end of games.
“As long as we’re winning, it’s not hard,” he said. “When we start losing a bit, it gets you thinking about it.”
Pistons’ Knight gets some good news — Pistons second-year guard Brandon Knight suffered a knee injury against Charlotte last Wednesday and many around Detroit were hoping that it wasn’t anything serious. The good news for the Pistons, writes Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press, is that Knight’s MRI came back negative. But the Pistons are also expecting Knight to miss a few games while he recovers from the hyperextended knee:
Pistons doctor Ben Paolucci visited Knight before Friday night’s game with Indiana, but coach Lawrence Frank said he’s day-to-day and won’t play again until he’s 100%.
Knight suffered an injured knee and ankle in the victory against Charlotte on Wednesday and missed Friday night’s game. The MRI showed swelling but no damage.
“He has fluid behind his knee,” Frank said. “You can see it. He can’t really jump, and he just doesn’t have total confidence in it. The MRI, like I said, was more for precautionary reasons. It didn’t show anything other than what we already diagnosed. It’ll be day-to-day. He’ll be taking some medication and just kind of see how he does in terms of trying to get the swelling down.”
Knight said he felt fine before the game as he rushed to the court to put up some shots.
There’s no rush to get him back into the lineup, especially with the way the team is struggling.
Knight had one of his better games against Charlotte when the injury occurred. He finished with 21 points.
“He was in the facility all day today getting treatment and shooting some shots to see how he felt,” Frank said. “They’ll give him whatever medication they’ll give him, but until he’s cleared he won’t be doing anything.”
ICYMI of the night: The healthier Ricky Rubio gets, the more we get to see plays like this amazing behind-the-back dime to Andrei Kirilenko on the fast break … :
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST –Lionel Hollins starred at Arizona State. I wonder how he’d enjoy coaching down the road in Phoenix (not that I’m trying to push out interim coach Lindsey Hunter).
Or maybe Hollins would enjoy taking his coaching chops to Brooklyn — he’s certainly tough enough for the borough (not that I’m wishing interim coach P.J. Carlesimo be shoved out either). Carlesimo has saved the most critical season in Nets franchise history as far as I’m concerned.
But, look, there are going to be multiple coaching openings this summer. Given the current (disappointing) direction in Memphis, the lame-duck Hollins seems to be greasing the path for his own departure. Hey, it ain’t easy having champagne taste on a beer budget — and, really, who would want to?
It isn’t easy watching your team’s championship dreams be dismantled mid-season. Debate all you want about the Grizzlies’ title odds as previously constructed, but minus leading scorer Rudy Gay and key reserves Wayne Ellington and Marresse Speights, those odds have plummeted while frustration within the locker room is on the rise.
With Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis and others now in the fold, the remaining Grizzlies are begrudgingly hitting the reset button on their season. That much showed in Tuesday’s 96-90 home loss to Hunter’s Suns, Memphis’ second loss in three games since the Gay trade. It’s a small sample size and there’s plenty of games to get it right, but there has to be concern.
“It’s a real frustrating loss,” Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph said. “I feel like we should have won the game. We had the chance to win and we didn’t get the win. It takes time to get acclimated and get all of the plays. It’s a variety of things. It’s a tough loss, a disappointing loss.”
Memphis wasn’t an offensive juggernaut before the trade, but in the three games after it, scoring has dropped by nearly six points to 88.0 ppg (the first of the three games was played without Prince). They’ve also committed 36 turnovers in the last two games and were fortunate to get a home win against Washington a couple nights earlier. Four turnovers in the final three minutes Tuesday doomed them against the lottery-bound Suns, who entered the game with a West-worst four road wins.
“We had every chance to win the game, but we had too many turnovers in the fourth and didn’t get any opportunities,” guard Mike Conley said. “It’s a work in progress. We have to find plays everyone is familiar and comfortable with. We just have some times where we have miscommunication with new guys and older guys who have been here. We just have to do a better job finding plays that work for everyone.”
Defense has also taken hit with Memphis allowing 92.7 ppg after the trade, up more than three points a game. The Grizz (30-17) are hanging onto the No. 4 seed by their fingernails.
And so we get back to Hollins, the franchise’s most successful coach, who has lobbed some subtle firebombs — depending on your interpretation — at the front office since it started shaking up the roster for financial reasons.
With Marc Gasol in foul trouble Tuesday and the 6-foot-10 Speights now a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Hollins lamented his inability to match up when the Suns went big.
“We didn’t have any big guys to put in the game,” said Hollins, 170-146 in now his fifth season in Memphis. “That was a big thing down the stretch. They went at Jermaine O’Neal and we didn’t have a big guy to play him because we didn’t have a big guy to put in the game.”
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Two great games last night (Clippers-Wolves and Lakers-Suns) that we’d like to nominate as a must-see this morning, but if we have to pick just one, we’re going with Clippers-Wolves. Great back-and-forth action all game, slick passing from Ricky Rubio here and there, Blake Griffindoing his thing, a little bit of chippiness between two West teams that haven’t liked each other much the last few seasons. Going in, this looked like an easy one for the contending Clips against the banged-up Wolves, but it turned into an overall solid game.
Dwight’s shoulder flares up again — Dwight Howard got his shot blocked by Phoenix’s Shannon Brown with 6:57 left in the game and that was the end of the night for the Lakers’ star big man. Check out the video, but Howard is clearly in pain and reaches for that bothersome right shoulder and the torn labrum that’s hobbled him at times all season. ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin and the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding both chime in on what’s next for Howard, who says he won’t shut himself down for the season:
Howard checked out of the game and did not return as the Suns finished on a 19-8 run without him in there. Howard’s shoulder will be re-evaluated Thursday after the team flies to Minneapolis and his availability for Friday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves will be determined.
“It’s real sore,” Howard told reporters after icing his shoulder and applying kinesiology tape to the joint following the game. “Everything on (the right) side (of my body) is hurting pretty bad right now.”
Howard originally injured his shoulder during a Jan. 4 game against the Los Angeles Clippers and sat out three games to try to strengthen the muscles surrounding his shoulder. He re-aggravated it in the second quarter of the Lakers’ 106-93 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies last week and sat out the second half, but did not miss any subsequent games.
The All-Star center said Wednesday’s aggravation was the worst pain he’s had since the original injury occurred against the Clippers and he will have to consider resting again to help it heal.
“I’m going to try as much as I can but I don’t want to cause more damage to my shoulder,” said Howard, who finished with nine points and 14 rebounds in 29 minutes against Phoenix. “I don’t want to (miss any games), but we’ll see.”
Dwight Howard flatly ruled out shutting himself down or turning to surgery for the labrum injury in his right shoulder, even though he said the pain from this aggravation was the greatest since he first got hurt.
“Just got to deal with it as much as I can,” he said late Wednesday night after the Lakers’ loss to Phoenix.
Howard said that the shoulder pain on previous occasions has abated the day after, which he hopes will be the case again. Accordingly, the Lakers are expecting him play Friday in Minnesota, and Kobe Bryant said the labrum issue is one that will go on all season but with which Howard can learn to deal.
“I’m going to try as much as I can, but I don’t want to cause more damage to my shoulder,” Howard said.
Howard’s injury is not the common tear in the labrum itself that has sent many athletes into surgery and months of recovery. Howard has explained his injury as a tear only in the sense of the labrum tearing away from the bone in his shoulder.
Howard said: “I won’t lose my spirit, and I’ve just got to continue to do whatever I can to get my shoulder strong.”
It has been obvious for some time that it is time for Bargnani to move on, for his sake and for the Raptors, and Colangelo indicated a move could happen soon, though it is not a certainty.
“Andrea is a player that has definitely garnered interest. Unfortunately when he gets hurt that takes him off the market,” Colangelo explained after breaking down the Gay trade to reporters.
“That’s not to say we’re going to trade Andrea … He’s a unique talent, but sometimes a change of address is not bad. I’m not saying he’s asked for a trade, but he would certainly not fight or resist a situation if it was the right situation.”
Bargnani has two years left on his contract, but is a tremendous offensive weapon, when in top form, a player opposing coaches gameplan around. He has many faults, and this corner has addressed them many times, but someone will come calling for him.
But likely only if he returns to the lineup soon, and well in advance of the February 21st deadline.
“Right now there’s no assurances we trade Andrea. Right now, the goal and the focus is to get him back healthy on the court and let him contribute to this team and we’ll see where things go,” Colangelo said.
Not long before Colangelo spoke, Casey let loose, after the officials declined to call a foul at the end of Toronto’s one-point loss when DeMar DeRozan clearly was mauled.
“I’m tired of losing games because of missed calls at the end of games. I know the league is going to come down on me, but I don’t care,” said a seething Casey, smoke practically billowing out of his ears.
“These guys have fought their hearts out, played their hearts out and at the end of the game, we get cracked, (league sends out an) apology, go back to Canada. I’ve been in this league 18 years and I’ve never seen so many missed calls at the end of the game to cost us the game. We’ve got great officials in this league, and too good to miss calls and short-change young men like this. It’s not right. I watched the replay three or four times, hoping that they (somehow made the right call) but they didn’t,” he said.
“This is fourth time this year that we’ve been in this situation … Clearly DeMar DeRozan was cracked on that last play. Make him go to the line and make two free throws.”
Pistons bid adeu to last title-team link — Tayshaun Prince will always be remembered in Pistons folklore for a play known as “The Block” — Prince rejecting Reggie Miller‘s breakaway layup in Game 2 of the 2004 Eastern Conference finals. The Pistons would win that series and the ’04 crown and Prince was an integral part of the Pistons’ lockdown defensive crew of the 2000s that featured Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton. Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press says parting with Prince in the Rudy Gay trade was what Detroit needed to do to official move on from that era:
There’s a graphic montage of the 2004 NBA champion Pistons in their practice facility, honoring all the contributions from that blue-collar, superstar-devoid anomaly. The image of Tayshaun Prince captures his lanky arm swooping up from behind an unsuspecting Reggie Miller, swiping away what should have been a game-clinching lay-up for Indiana in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals in Indianapolis.
“The Block” shifted momentum in the Pistons’ favor.
It was fitting that Prince’s long career as a Piston ended Wednesday at the site of his signature moment.
The Pistons parted with Prince and Austin Daye in deal with Memphis and Toronto that landed them point guard Jose Calderon — and more important, his expiring $10.5-million contract.
Prince represents the last link of the “Goin’ to Work” Pistons era highlighted by the 2004 championship as well as six consecutive trips to the conference finals. It’s always a difficult decision parting with someone so deeply intertwined with an identity that paid many dividends.
But it was a move that was long overdue.
The Pistons finally have closed the chapter on that period.
In the Pistons’ locker room following their loss to the Pacers, Prince expressed his surprise over the trade but acknowledged that he was ready to take “the next step” in his career.
This was a good trade, but it also places an unwritten ultimatum on Pistons president Joe Dumars. If the Pistons aren’t a playoff team capable of advancing beyond the first round next season with all the possibilities now available to them, Dumars should be shown the door. After this summer, there are no longer any excuses.
This season’s written off — as it should be. Throw the young guys out there into the deep waters and see how they respond. Not making the playoffs guarantees that they can keep the conditional first-round draft pick Dumars offered Charlotte to entice it into taking Ben Gordon‘s toxic contract off his hands.
It made no sense keeping Prince around as a reminder of what once was. The memories always will be there, but it’s time to move forward. This trade actually provides hope that finally the Pistons can return to local relevance and attract more people to the Palace in another season. They’re finally turning the page, finally saying farewell to a period of great pride and performance.
Heat deal crushing blow to Nets’ confidence? — Since parting with coach Avery Johnson on Dec. 27, the Nets have gone 13-5 under coach P.J. Carlesimo and made up ground in the East playoff chase. Wednesday night’s matchup with the Heat — Miami’s only visit to Brooklyn this season — was supposed to be a showdown of East powerhouses. What happened instead was a Heat romp led by LeBron James and Co. that left some doubts in Brooklyn, writes Howard Beck of the New York Times:
For the better part of five weeks, the Nets evolved. They focused a bit harder, reached a bit higher, listened more intently and became a better version of themselves. But evolution is a squiggly path, not a straight line, and that path was obliterated Wednesday by a team that needs no growth or introspection.
The Miami Heat dealt the Nets a blow so forceful, so profoundly humiliating, it might have knocked them right back into the doldrums of December. The final score was 105-85, but the gap seemed twice as wide, and the psychic damage perhaps even deeper.
Most of the Nets’ players left the locker room before reporters arrived. Those that remained wore dull expressions, except for Gerald Wallace, who was simply seething.
“Typical Nets basketball,” Wallace said. “We don’t play together. Careless turnovers. We don’t execute offensively. And defensively, we don’t do anything. We don’t defend. We don’t guard the ball. We don’t help each other out. It’s the same story as it’s been all season.”
It hadn’t looked that way for most of January, with the Nets winning 11 of 14 games before this one, steadily climbing the Eastern Conference standings. Wallace said it was an illusion, a product of a soft schedule, and he may be right. The Nets have lost three of four games, all by double digits.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, two fully evolved N.B.A. superstars, led the charge for Miami, putting together a highlight reel of flying dunks, all before a national television audience and with the Nets’ owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, watching from a luxury suite.
James put up 24 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Wade added 21 points. And the Heat hardly broke a sweat after putting the game away with a 36-14 third quarter.
“When the bubble burst, it burst completely,” said P. J. Carlesimo, the Nets’ coach.
The Heat have beaten the Nets by an average of 21 points over three games, but Wallace and Joe Johnson both insisted they were not that far behind Miami, or at least shouldn’t be.
“It has nothing to do with the talent,” Wallace said, adding, “It just has to do with teamwork.”
The tension started hours before tip-off, with Reggie Evans’ deriding the Heat’s championship in an interview with The Daily News, and James accusing the Nets of quitting on Coach Avery Johnson, who was fired in December.
“They are playing with more passion, more together — they are playing like they want to play for their coach,” James told reporters after the Heat’s shootaround.
By that time, Evans had already slighted the Heat, saying their title “doesn’t prove nothing.” He added, “That was a lockout season.”
Taunting the N.B.A.’s best team is always inadvisable. The Nets should be clear on that much now.
It’s never a goal for Gregg Popovich or his players, but now that Popovich has been officially installed as coach for the Western Conference All-Star team, the veteran of 16-plus seasons on the Spurs’ bench admits he looks forward to a weekend with some of basketball’s best players.
Popovich earned his spot because the Spurs are guaranteed a better record than the Clippers on Sunday, the deadline for determining the coaches for the Feb. 17 showcase at Houston’s Toyota Center.
While it is still possible for Oklahoma City to have a better winning percentage than the Spurs, Thunder coach Scott Brooks isn’t allowed, by league rule, from coaching because he led the West at the 2012 All-Star Game in Orlando.
“It will be just like it has been in the past: a heck of an opportunity to enjoy amazing talent,” Popovich said after his team’s 102-78 victory over the Bobcats. “That’s not just a B.S. or trite statement. It’s true. When you’re around those guys, you look around the room and you can’t believe you’re in the same room with them. It’s a huge honor just to be a part of it.”
Popovich also coached the West All-Stars in 2005 and 2011.
Gallinari, Nuggets keep rounding into form — Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari had a rough November and December, shooting a combined 40.2 percent and averaging 15.9 ppg. But January has been a different story as he’s shooting 46.9 percent (and 43.2 percent from 3-point range) and averaging 19.3 ppg as Denver has picked up steam. Last night’s win over the Rockets only kept he and the Nuggets humming, writes Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post:
The Italian Danilo Gallinari hit three key 3-pointers, two of them back-to-back, in Wednesday’s crazy fourth quarter, and the Nuggets did it again. Make it a dozen. The Nuggets won their 12th game of January in the final game of the month, and fifth straight overall, 118-110 against Houston, a team Denver also beat one week ago.
The Nuggets made it interesting, indeed. Just as in the previous game against Indiana, a big fourth-quarter lead dwindled. On Wednesday, Denver led by 13 points with 6:54 remaining, but the home team made the necessary stops and sent the fans home happy (with tacos, too!).
Gallo was gallant. The Nuggets forward, the team’s top player in this 12-3 month, scored a team-high 27 points, doing so on a respectable 10-for-17 shooting. He also unleashed two monster slams, one a one-handed hammer over Greg Smith, the other after dribbling the length of the floor.
And his two consecutive treys gave Denver a 94-86 lead during an push in the early stages of the final quarter.
And so, the Nuggets (29-18) have won those five consecutive games heading into two winnable games, first against New Orleans on Friday and then against Milwaukee on Tuesday.
ICYMI of the night: Anyone wondering if John Wall is completely healed from his knee injury should go ask Sixers big man Spencer Hawes:
That’s not to say that Gay hasn’t been a nice player during his six-plus seasons in the NBA; the kind who could often fill up the basket and make it look easy.
But that was the trouble. The Grizzlies have carved out their place, if tenuous, in the upper half of the Western Conference. Like Tina Turner and her band: they never, ever do anything nice and easy.
Gay has been barely shooting 40 percent from the field this season, checking it at a myopic 31 percent from 3-point range. For a player taking such a big bite out of the payroll, Gay too often seemed to drift, which was the rap as far back as 2006 when he was drafted eighth overall out of UConn.
Now the Grizzlies get veteranTayshaun Prince, who can knock down the 3s, play solid defense and do all of the dirty work/little things, if he’s still so inclined at 32. They also get Ed Davis’ ability to finish at the rim and a couple of contracts that are far more palatable.
In short, the Grizzlies saved themselves a bundle and in a roll-of-the-dice way may have gotten some answers for a team whose chances to reach the NBA Finals this season were probably closer to a scratch-off lottery ticket than money in the bank.
Now the question is whether they’ll do the right thing by coach Lionel Hollins, who’s been allowed to quack like a lame duck without a new contract all season.
While the new ownership group (which is led by Robert Pera and celebrity pals Justin Timberlake and Peyton Manning) and the management team (which includes stat guru John Hollinger) are clearly making their mark on the operation, it is Hollins who has already placed his stamp on the Grizzlies.
Yes, he’s often cranky and challenging. But those are the same attributes that describe the Grizzlies when they’re at their best. A lot of coaches talk about professionalism and accountability, Hollins demands it. He learned during his playing career from championship teams in Portland and Philadelphia that sacrifice and teamwork are not just to be valued, but expected.
Much was made of Hollins recent statement when he said: “We get hung up on statistics a little too much, and I think that’s a bad trait all over the league.”
Was it a shot at Hollinger and the new regime? Or simply Hollins being Hollins? Likely a little bit of both.
In the four years since Hollins has been on the Grizzlies bench, he has pushed, prodded, cajoled, driven and turned the quaint little franchise in the league’s smallest market that had never won a single playoff game into a “Grind House” team which Memphis could support. He did it by making the Grizzlies a reflection of his own personality, often flinty and contrarian.
This is Hollins’ team, even if they change pieces, because they share his DNA. You can’t have the “Grind House” without the head grinder.
ATLANTA – The aftermath of draft night and the night of a big trade in the NBA involve similar routines for the executives whose fingerprints are all over the selections and deals. Study your own handiwork hard enough and it becomes easier with each passing second to justify whatever was done in the name of the greater good.
That’s also why front office types are fond of this theory that you can’t just judge draft picks or trades on the spot. They both require a little extra time before being examined.
But that’s only in the insulated world of said front office types, the men whose jobs are on the line each and every time a draft pick busts or a prized acquisition doesn’t live up to the hype.
Raptors general manager Bryant Colangelo (in the video above and here) has coveted Gay since the 2006 Draft, when the Raptors selected Andrea Bargnani with the No. 1 overall pick, the same Bargnani they are also trying to deal before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace gushed about veteran forward TayshaunPrince and Austin Daye, acquired from Detroit, and promising young big man Ed Davis snagged from Toronto:
“We are excited to add three players who bring with them a tremendous amount of value to our team and have achieved incredible success on the pro, college and Olympic levels,” Wallace said in a statement. “In these players, we welcome NBA Champion and Olympic gold medalist Tayshaun Prince, as well as up-and-coming athletic forwards Ed Davis, who won an NCAA title at North Carolina, and Austin Daye.”
Pistons boss Joe Dumars was just as effusive in his praise of Jose Calderon, the veteran point guard with the expiring contract who relocates from Toronto to Detroit with his coveted expiring ($10.5 million this season) contract:
“We are pleased to welcome Jose Calderon, knowing that he fits our mold as a high character individual who is a great competitor,” Dumars said in his statement. “Jose is a great facilitator at the guard position and a player that we feel gives us tremendous flexibility on the court when added to the core of guards we have on the roster.”
And in that regard, all three of these teams can and will walk away claiming victory.
The Raptors got their man in Gay, 26, a dynamic wing player from a Western Conference contender whose contract (two years and $37 million after this season) forced the Grizzlies’ financial hand more than anything. Gay is hardly the only member of the top 20 salaries list who would not make your top 20 players in the league list, but he’s far from a bust. He just hasn’t reached All-Star status (yet?).
In the Eastern Conference, the road back to respectability is often just the right player or two or one big summer away. On the other hand, the Grizzlies were forced to weigh the long-term sustainability of a salary structure that doesn’t support coming up short of the Western Conference finals.
They reduced their payroll with this deal and also shed some $6 million in payroll after completing a multiple-player deal with the Cavaliers last week. Prince, 32, whose best days in the league predate Twitter, still pays immediate dividends with his experience and leadership. Davis provides a huge development chip for the future and Daye, the No. 15 pick in the 2009 Draft, serves as the wild card, depending on how he adjusts to his new city and new role.
But the question will linger well into early spring for the Grizzlies: did they move up a spot on the Western Conference food chain, stay the same or take a step back by breaking up their promising (but expensive) core four of Gay, All-Star power forward Zach Randolph, former All-NBA center Marc Gasol and point guard Mike Conley?
“The Thunder, Clippers and Spurs are loving this deal,” an Eastern Conference assistant general manager said late Wednesday night. “Rudy would have been someone they had to worry about if they saw Memphis in the playoffs. Tayshaun was a great piece in his prime. But he hasn’t been that guy for a few years now. The big winners in this deal are the Thunder, Clippers and Spurs.”
Perhaps it’s best to give the final word to a man whose statistical value has often paled in comparison to some of the other, tougher to quantify benefits he brings to his own particular situation …
Wow that was 1 crazy trade today. Are you serious Rudy Gay is right there under KD, Lebron, Kobe, and Melo. #badtrade— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) January 30, 2013
DALLAS – The Detroit Pistons have crashed as hard as the Michigan economy over the last few years and the combination has resulted in a lot of eerily quiet nights inside The Palace at Auburn Hills.
“It is strange for sure,” Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva said before the Pistons dropped a 10th road game in 11 tries Saturday against the Mavericks. “The fact that my first five years in the league, seeing that place sold out every game; every time we went into Detroit it was sold out. It just shows how hard the economy hit, but I think it will bounce back. It’s just a matter of time.”
For now, there are more empty seats than filled ones at Pistons games. But to pin Detroit’s turnstile problem mostly on a rotten economy is to discredit die-hard Pistons fans that have grown weary of throwing good money at bad basketball.
Entering tonight’s eighth home game of the season against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit’s average attendance is 12,392 and ranks last in the league — behind Sacramento, New Orleans and last season’s worst team, Charlotte. Take away the home-opener crowd of 16,646 and the average dips to 11,683. On most nights the actual attendance is much less.
FROM FIRST TO WORST
The Pistons rank last in the league in attendance this season. A look at the club’s average attendance over the last 13 seasons
“It’s not weird because it’s not a situation where it’s been drastic, where this season it was packed and the very next season it was nothing,” said Tayshaun Prince, a career Piston and last remaining member of the 2004 title team. “It didn’t just hit rock bottom at one point. When things are going so well for a long period of time and then all of a sudden when things hit, then they started to veer down, veer down, veer down.”
From 2002 through 2009, not coincidentally the last time Detroit made the playoffs, the Pistons ranked No. 1 in attendance in six of those seven seasons, routinely boasting sellout crowds of 20,000-plus. The one season they weren’t No. 1, they were No. 2. The run included the ’04 championship and a repeat Finals appearance under Larry Brown, and four other East finals appearances, one prior to Brown under Rick Carlisle, and three more after Brown under Flip Saunders.
Since Saunders won 59 games in 2007-08, but lost in the East finals for a third consecutive time, Detroit has rolled through coaches Michael Curry (39-43) and John Kuester (57-107), with Lawrence Frank now in his second season and trying to rescue a 5-13 start that opened with eight consecutive losses.
Detroit hasn’t won more than 39 games in any of the last four seasons and average attendance has steadily declined from the top spot in ’08-’09 to eighth to 18th to 28th and now to rock bottom.
“It’s not on the fans to come out. It’s on us to put together a product every night that fans can be proud of,” Frank said. “Detroit has always shown great support, not just for basketball, for all their sports teams when they’re competing at the highest level. You’re used to seeing a lot of fans out there, but we’re appreciative for the fans that do go. Obviously, we understand the economic crisis and what hit, and Detroit obviously was hit harder than most. But from the beginning, it’s going to be on us to put together something that the fans can be proud of and want to support.”
To Frank’s point, and further proof that tough economic times alone doesn’t kill attendance, the Detroit Tigers have averaged more than 30,000 fans in each of the last six seasons. Even the Lions, amid another last-place season, are averaging more than 63,000 through six home games, better than 98 percent capacity. Both clubs play in relatively new downtown venues and some debate if the Pistons would be better served leaving their suburban digs some 30 miles north of the city.
But that ignores the club’s attendance track record over much of the last decade and before that when the Pistons shared the Pontiac Silverdome with the Lions.
So how close are the Pistons to rising up again?
“I think it’s real close,” impressive third-year center and leading scorer Greg Monroe said. “We have to find a way to come out every night and just play hard and outwork teams. I think we’re very close to doing that, but it’s going to take games to get the actual body of work to say we are doing it consistently.”
It’s hopeless to still lament the Darko Milicic draft and the free-agent millions thrown at Villanueva and Ben Gordon. Monroe is surrounded by a roster that might not contend for a title, but is at least intriguing for its youth. Second-year guard Brandon Knight and rookies Kyle Singler and Andre Drummond join Monroe as possible long-term core pieces. Veterans Jason Maxiell, Corey Maggette, Rodney Stuckey, Prince and, yes, Villanueva, should help to at least make a push toward playoff contention in a mediocre Eastern Conference.
No progress was made on that front during the recent two-game road swing through Memphis and Dallas with two more double-digit losses (nine in 11 road games). It was a disappointing development coming after the season’s first flirtation with momentum, a modest two-game home win streak that gave Detroit four wins in six games.
They put on an offensive show for the few souls that came out, beating Portland, 108-101, and then drilled Phoenix 117-77. That beat down drew an announced crowd of 10,517, about 300 more than the previous night.
Even the league’s top draws haven’t delivered bigger crowds. The Celtics drew 12,214 and 12,784 came to see three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“It’s been tough,” Maxiell admitted. “The last couple years the crowd’s been trimming down. We’re trying to bring the crowds back with some big entertainment. The guys that were here a couple years ago know how it was when we were winning, and we’re trying to bring them back.”
DALLAS – The Mavericks won’t be having your average training camp. Not with an international trip to Berlin and Barcelona mixed right in the middle.
Yet it is still far preferable to coach Rick Carlisle than last season when the Mavs had to defend their 2011 championship practically on the run in the wake of the labor lockout.
“Well, it’s a big advantage over last year,” Carlisle said. “Let’s make that clear. Last year we were integrating three guys who were going to be rotation guys. When we acquired (Lamar) Odom the trade didn’t happen until the day camp started, or the night before. He was behind anyway; then it was (Vince) Carter and (Delonte) West. But those guys were experienced pros and adapted well.
“Here we’ve got a lot more time. It’s going to be a completely different deal from last year, which is good.
“This is not going to be normal. But the trip is well-planned in terms of scheduling. I like the way it’s laid out. It’ll give us a chance to spend some time together as a team, which I think is good. It extends our training camp with a bunch of new guys, which helps.”
A year ago it was all about a lack of time with just a two-week mini-camp to try to pull a team together before the season opener on Christmas Day. Even team leader Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t in shape and had to be pulled from the lineup for four games in January and the Mavs never developed a rhythm. (more…)