Posts Tagged ‘Thaddeus Young’

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 16


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 15

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Celtics getting in Asik trade mix? | Granger, Pacers set return date | Dalembert’s role dwindling in Dallas | Lin to miss next game

No. 1: Report: Celtics getting into Asik sweepstakes? — In case you missed it over the weekend, the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled their name out of the hat as a team interested in acquiring Rockets center Omer Asik. (Basically, the Cavs would be interested in being part of a three-team deal for Asik, but don’t want him coming to Cleveland.) So where will Asik end up? ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that the Boston Celtics have emerged as a potential suitor for Asik, joining the Philadelphia 76ers (who remain the favorites to land Asik):

There is no hard proof yet to support the theory — first presented in this tweet from my USA Today colleague Sam Amick — that the Houston Rockets already have a trade framework in place to solve their Asik conundrum and are only waiting to see if someone else out there steps up to beat the mystery offer between now and Houston’s self-imposed Thursday deadline to deal Asik.

However …

While strong rumbles persist that the Philadelphia 76ers are the team most likely to go along with such an arrangement, given the close ties between Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and Philly counterpart Sam Hinkie, there’s fresh talk in circulation about another potential co-conspirator.

The Boston Celtics.

The advice offered to us on Sunday was stern: Keep an eye on Boston. The Celtics possess two players in different salary ranges that would presumably fit in useful ways next to Dwight Howard: Jeff Green and Brandon Bass. The Celts also have a spare first-round draft pick or two to plug into any trade equation to sweeten the deal for Houston, amid rising suspicions around the league that Morey’s Rockets are going to find a way to come out of the Asik saga with at least one future first.

The same Rockets who happen to have a GM (Morey) and coach (Kevin McHale) who have long-standing relationships with Celts president Danny Ainge.

So, yes, I’d say you should keep an eye on Boston.

Question here that must be asked loudly: Can Houston, in whichever Asik trade it ultimately chooses, really afford to take back a player possessing substantial long-term money like Green (two seasons at $18.4 million after this one) or Philly’s Thaddeus Young (two seasons at $19.4 million after this one) when it knows it’s going to have to give an extension bump to Chandler Parsons as soon as Parsons is eligible for the raise his play merits via extension?

Which is another way of saying you shouldn’t be surprised if Young gets routed to a third team should the Rockets and Sixers officially join forces to construct an Asik deal, as some observers have been expecting all month.


VIDEO: TNT analyst David Aldridge addresses the Omer Asik rumors and more

***

No. 2: Pacers, Granger set target return date — Just last week — before the much-anticipated Heat-Pacers showdown in Indianapolis — injured Pacers forward Danny Granger said he pondered returning for that game, but ruled it out so as not to put the spotlight on himself over the team. On Friday, Granger ruled himself out of the Pacers’ home game with the Charlotte Bobcats, but said he was closer than ever to a return. Indiana now is hoping for an early Christmas present as Granger is planning on a Dec. 20 return, writes Scott Agness of Pacers.com:

Might this finally be the week that Danny Granger makes his anticipated season debut? That’s the plan right now for the Pacers.

“I was waiting for the Danny Granger [question],” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said more than four minutes into a post-practice interview. “I finally have news on Danny Granger. We’re going to target next Friday for a hopeful return to see how this week of practices goes.”

Until now, the Pacers stayed away from publicly announcing a timeline after the initial diagnosis. Now, both Vogel and Granger appear giddy about the possibility of him playing Friday when the Houston Rockets are in town. Coincidentally, the game will be nationally televised by ESPN.

“I had a good practice today,” Granger said. “It’s really just fine-tuning my game, honestly. Making sure my timing is on, making sure I know all the plays. That’s a big thing when you haven’t played in awhile. I know the plays but I haven’t repped through the plays like all the other guys constantly get a lot of reps through the plays.”

Granger said he and coach Vogel are always on the same page, and that both agreed that he needed more practice time before putting on his game uniform.

“Me and Frank talk after practice — he’ll call me in or he’ll call me over,” said Granger. “Just because I said ‘Hopefully I can play on Friday,’ I was thinking hopefully. And then when I came and I practiced, and I dribbled the ball off my foot twice and I shot an airball on a layup, me and Frank met again and I’m like, ‘I’m not ready,’ and he was like, ‘No, you’re not ready yet.’ ”

Now in his ninth NBA season, Granger has typically been a slow starter. It’s fair to expect that again, though he doesn’t anticipate it.

“In the past in preseason, I always would tinker with different things in my game,” he explained. “I always used it as a time to do the things you’re good at, but just experiment with other things and notoriously I would always have a slow start. I’m trying to avoid that this year.

“I don’t know if (fans) think we’re just machines that you just turn on and all of sudden we’re playing in rhythm. Every basketball player is a rhythm player. It’s takes awhile. That’s why we have a preseason.

“I’m hoping the practices that I’ve been getting now, and the playing that I’ve been getting now is very similar to what I will do in a game. Obviously, when you get in a game you got adrenaline that you have to account for and that changes things a little bit. Just me practicing fullcourt, playing everyday, playing one-on-one, shooting a lot of shots, doing ball handling drills, I’m hoping that’ll be my time where I can get some of these kinks out.”

The team’s medical staff continues to keep a close eye on Granger.

“They’re not out of it,” said Vogel. “They’re still very much involved because part of the final process of recovery from a calf strain is, is his body going to respond to the extra work? Is the calf going to flare up? They’re still checking it everyday and not ruling him 100 percent healthy until they see he can go through added work and the calf can still respond the right way.”

Should Granger step onto the floor Friday night, as hoped, it’ll be his first regular-season appearance since March 3, when he left the game (also against the Bulls) due to soreness in his left knee, which kept him out all but five games last season. The knee is really good, according to Granger, and he’s motivated more than ever to return to game action.


VIDEO:
Danny Granger addresses is potential return on Dec. 20

***

No. 3: Dalembert’s role dwindling in Dallas — The Dallas Mavericks signed big man Samuel Dalembert in the offseason in hopes of seeing him provide the kind of interior defense and paint protection that Tyson Chandler gave the Mavs during their run to the title in 2011. That hasn’t been the case so far, though, as Dalembert has gone from starting 16 of Dallas’ first 19 games to seeing his minutes cut as coach Rick Carlisle has given DeJuan Blair the starting job. Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News has more on how the return of Brandan Wright may force Dalembert even further out of the rotation:

The return of Brandan Wright had a ripple effect on the Mavericks’ interior rotation, though it’s difficult to draw conclusions from Saturday night because Dallas was playing without Dirk Nowitzki.

On this night, at least, Samuel Dalembert dropped to fourth-team center, behind starter DeJuan Blair, second-teamer Brandan Wright and late third-quarter sub Bernard James.

Dalembert started 17 of Dallas’ first 18 games, but Saturday marked Blair’s sixth straight start. Dalembert did not play.

Dalembert, who as a free agent signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract over the summer, is averaging 6.7 points and 6.5 rebounds.

“He’s shown his moments,” said Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. “I just don’t think he’s been in a position where he’s been expected to perform to help a team win since his first or second years.”

Last season, the Mavericks signed Chris Kaman to a one-year, $8 million contract and anointed him the starter. Though he wound up starting 52 games, his minutes decreased as the season wore on and so, it appeared, did Kaman’s effort level.

In other words, rather than inspiring Kaman, cutting his minutes seemed to have an adverse effect. Are the Mavericks concerned the same will happen with Dalembert?

“No, I think Sam is the exact opposite,” Cuban said. “Sam is figuring out how to contribute. I think he’s disappointed in himself. I don’t think he thinks he’s playing well. He wants to get better.”

***

No. 4: Rockets’ Lin expected to miss game vs. Bulls — A knee injury in November kept point guard Jeremy Lin from the Rockets’ lineup for six games. Although he returned to play in Friday’s win over Golden State, he suffered a back injury when he collided with Warriors big man Andrew Bogut. Lin sat out last night’s loss to the Sacramento Kings and seems sure to miss Houston’s date with Chicago this week, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

The Rockets’ injury issues took another unexpected turn when guard Jeremy Lin developed back spasms following a collision Friday with Golden State center Andrew Bogut.

Lin missed Sunday’s loss and is expected to be out Wednesday against Chicago, having played two games after missing six with a sprained and bruised right knee.

Lin said he ran into Bogut on a screen in the first half, but kept playing. He played 21 minutes in that game and returned in the final minutes after Pat Beverley fouled out.

In addition to leaving the Rockets short-handed, it took away another game for Lin to work his way back from the six games out.

“I only played him 14 or 15 minutes in Portland because you could tell he was out of rhythm,” assistant coach Kelvin Sampson said. “The game kind of dictates your substitution patterns, … but I certainly made an effort against Golden State to get him more minutes. He needs to get in a rhythm.

“We’re disappointed that he’s out, not nearly as disappointed as he is, I’m sure.”

Guard James Harden left Sunday’s game with a sprained ankle. With Lin and center Omer Asik out, Rockets players have been out for a combined 43 games. The entire roster was out for a combined 50 games last season.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Heat might be looking to work a trade for the Celtics’ Jordan Crawford … Good look at how rookie point guard Trey Burke has proven to be worth the Draft-day gamble for the Jazz … Magic rookie swingman Victor Oladipo got some preseason pointers from fellow a guy he long looked up to: fellow D.C.-area star Kevin Durant

ICYMI(s) Of The Night: You all know we love Kenneth Faried around these parts, so here’s the latest must-see alley-oop from “The Manimal” last night …


VIDEO: Kenneth Faried gets up high to finish off the Randy Foye alley-oop

Up 3, Time Running Down: Foul Or Defend?


VIDEO: James Harden fouls Carmelo Anthony in last seconds

DALLAS – It’s an age-old (well, at least since the implementation of the 3-point arc) question that might not have a right or wrong answer: To foul or not to foul?

You’re up three, time running down. What do you do?

“The right answer is whatever ends up working out,” said Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle prior to finding his team in the very situation in the waning seconds of their 123-120 comeback win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

“The thing that’s hard in this league is being able to get to a guy to foul him because end-of-game plays are very sophisticated,” Carlisle continued. “Guys are dynamically quick, they create separation and if you can’t foul a guy as he’s catching the ball, these guys will turn and shoot and if you don’t watch out you’ll be giving up a four-point play or something like that because some of these guys can turn and then go up, draw contact and still get a 3-point shot up.

“It’s challenging, it’s something you’ve got to spend time on, work on and you have to be able to have players that are mentally disciplined to lay off the foul if the guy’s in the process of turning and going up. Otherwise you’re giving him three free throws.”

That’s exactly how Mavs forward Shawn Marion played it defending James Harden. With Dallas up three and 6.7 seconds to go, Chandler Parsons inbounded to Harden several feet above the top right arc. Harden faked left and went right. Marion looked to be in the process of reaching both arms around Harden’s waist as he curled to the right, presumably to draw the foul before Harden could get up a shot. Such a foul would have resulted in Harden going to the free-throw line for two shots with little more than four seconds left.

But at the last moment, Marion yanked his arms away, demonstrably pulling them behind his back as if to emphasize that he did not touch Harden, who got up a lunging 3-pointer that didn’t draw iron. As soon as Harden saw his shot was ill-fated, he pleaded for a foul call that didn’t come.

Just a few nights earlier at New York, Harden found himself on the opposite end of a near-identical situation. Harden was guarding Carmelo Anthony on the inbounds pass with 5.8 seconds left and the Rockets protecting a 107-104 lead. Anthony got the ball above the arc at the right wing, almost the same spot where Harden got it in Dallas. Harden immediately slapped Anthony across the arms. The whislte blew and instantaneously Anthony continued his motion and as he launched a desperation 3-pointer, Harden again caught his arm. The shot remarkably went in and the Madison Square Garden crowd roared expecting a potential four-point play and an improbable win.

But the basket was emphatically waved off as the initial slap was ruled to have occurred before Anthony got off the shot. Anthony went to the line for two free throws with five seconds left. He made both, although it appeared he actually tried to miss the second to create a potential offensive rebound. Anthony was livid he didn’t get the continuation call.

“They’ve done studies and I’ve heard people tell me that the studies they did say that for sure you foul,” McHale said. “Other people have done studies that say that it doesn’t make a difference. But I do think fouling; a lot of things have got to go [right] for the offense — they’ve got to make the first free throw, they’ve got to miss the second, they’ve got to get it, they’ve got to put it back in. So I would just as soon foul.”

Yet that’s not the call McHale made in the two games prior to the great Garden escape.

On Nov. 11 at the Toyota Center, the Rockets blew a 17-point lead against Toronto and were up 95-92 in overtime. With about six seconds left, Raptors forward Rudy Gay dribbled right to the top of the arc, positioned his feet just outside the arc and drained the game-tying 3-pointer over the outstretched arms of Parsons. Before that shot, Gay had been 9-for-25 from the floor, so the Rockets took their chances. Double OT. The Rockets eventually pulled out the win.

That wouldn’t be the case two nights later in Philadelphia.

This time having blown a 10-point lead, the Rockets found themselves protecting a 106-103 lead with 18.2 seconds to play. Sixers guard Tony Wroten had the ball up top, drove the lane and was shadowed by Dwight Howard under the basket. In trouble on the baseline, Wroten tossed a high-arching pass all the way out top to James Anderson. With Rockets guard Jeremy Lin draped on him, Anderson rose up and nailed the game-tying 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds to go. The Rockets failed to score on their final possession and the 76ers eventually won the game in overtime.

Rockets guard Patrick Beverley had backed off Anderson to guard against a pass to Thaddeus Young, who was stationed to Anderson’s left at the top of the arc.

“I played in Europe and they told us to foul, but it’s a different game,” Beverley said. “Hitting a 3 to send a game to overtime is a very tough shot, so I don’t know, it’s a tough question. In some situations, like when we played New York, we fouled and if they don’t call that [first] foul it’s an ‘and-1′ 3 for Carmelo.”

It’s the classic what-to-do debate with no clear-cut answer for every situation.

“Ideally, you’d like to foul,” McHale said. “But there’s a lot that goes into that — how much time’s on the clock? Are the guys catching it cleanly and going into a [shooting] motion? Are they dribbling it? So we have a lot of different things that we talk about for times that we like to foul.

“But there’s also times when things happen where they start off with maybe 13, 14 seconds and your guys have got to be in tune to understand that if they pass, pass, pass, now if it gets down to four or five [seconds], now you want to foul. But you don’t want to foul with 15 seconds left. So there’s a lot of different scenarios that we’ll keep working on and getting better at.”

It’s Never Too Early To Make A Move


VIDEO: Jameer Nelson talks about sharing the backcourt with Victor Oladipo

The season isn’t even a month old, but there are some places where things are clearly not working and it’s already time for a change. Here are a handful of names that could or should be on the move:

Omer Asik, Rockets — At this point, he should have a moving van at the front door and his luggage packed. It’s only a matter of time before last year’s flavor of the season gets his wish and a ticket out of Houston. Despite his workmanlike double-double consistency in 2012-13, there’s no faulting the Rockets for leaping at the chance to upgrade to Dwight Howard. The twin towers experiment didn’t work. Asik is unlikely to be happy playing just the spare minutes available as a backup and it only makes sense to get the kind of piece missing — rugged, bruising big man or stretch 4 — that can be a more comfortable fit at both ends of the floor. It also wouldn’t hurt to unload that $15 million due next season to Asik. There are any number of places that Asik could help right away. New York and New Orleans immediately come to mind. GM Daryl Morey is in no rush and will pull the trigger when he’s ready on the right deal.

Jameer Nelson, Magic — The handwriting has been on the wall since the Magic made Victor Oladipo the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft and promptly announced going into summer league play that he would get a run at point guard. That message might as well have been spray-painted in Day-Glo orange on Saturday night when coach Jacque Vaughn removed the veteran Nelson from a winnable game against Dallas and let the rookie run the offense all the way to the end of a 108-100 loss. Oladipo, as uncomfortable as he may often look at the point, is the future of the franchise along with all of the other young parts. In a season when the Magic don’t really expect to win many games, it only makes sense to move Nelson and make the full-time commitment to the rookie. The fact that the $8 million on Nelson’s contract next season is a team option will only make him easier to move for another future asset.

Danny Granger, Pacers — The fact that Granger has not yet come back from a calf injury more than three weeks into the season hasn’t stopped the Pacers from running out to their league-best 10-1 record, which matches the Spurs. In fact, it could mean that coach Frank Vogel will have to disrupt the humming of a well-oiled machine when he eventually has to find the minutes and shots that Granger will surely want when he’s back in the lineup. Can he really afford to give up a single possession by MVP candidate Paul George? Lance Stephenson has fit quite well into the starting lineup. The Pacers pushed the Heat to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals without Granger last spring. By moving his desirable expiring contract they could add another valuable piece to the bench.

Thaddeus Young, 76ers — The long, versatile forward does not shoot well from behind the 3-point line, but does so many other things that make him desirable and valuable on the court. Considering the fact that the Sixers are still several years away under GM Sam Hinkie’s total reconstruction program, it doesn’t make sense to keep Young around for another $19 million over the next two seasons. Hinkie would probably like to get rid of Evan Turner first, but Young is the player that other clubs are most interested in and could bring in return the kind of asset that Philly wants and needs for the future.

Anybody But DeMarcus Cousins, Ben McLemore, Kings — It might be time to set up the folding tables and the hand drawn price tags in the parking lot at Sleep Train Arena and hold a flea market to clean out the locker room. As Scott Howard-Cooper pointed out, the Kings have already benched Marcus Thornton, John Salmons and Patrick Patterson and are ready to make a full-time commitment to the future by sweeping the locker room clean. Cousins may have his own baggage, but he is putting up solid numbers of 21.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Despite all of the optimism that the “saved in Sacramento” Kings brought into this season under new coach Michael Malone, losing seven of their first nine games delivered a heavy dose of reality.


VIDEO:
Danny Granger speaks on Nov. 13 about progress with injury

Tough Circumstances, But 76ers Push On


VIDEO: The GameTime crew discusses Evan Turner and the Sixers

DALLAS – This might be the worst season to be a Philadelphia 76er. One day, it might be looked upon by these players as the most meaningful of their careers.

Before it even started, they were blown off as losers, expected to pile up losses at potentially an historic rate. It is a roster in the early stages of long-term construction, patched together with veterans Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young, exciting No. 11 pick Michael Carter-Williams (and injured No. 6 pick Nerlens Noel) and undrafted rookies and grunts added from the end of other teams’ benches.

First-year coach Brett Brown‘s starting lineup in Monday’s 97-94 loss at Dallas, a hard-fought game lost during a faulty stretch late in the third quarter and into the fourth, did not include Carter-Williams (foot) for a fourth consecutive game. It did include Grizzlies’ castoff Tony Wroten going for 19 points with five steals, and James Anderson, the former Oklahoma State swingman who has swung in and out of San Antonio, Houston and the D-League, scoring 14 points with seven rebounds in 42 minutes.

Hollis Thompson, Lavoy Allen, Darius Morris and Brandon Davies combined to play 58 minutes off the bench. Ultimately the kind of mistakes — an unforced turnover, a rushed possession, a lost rebound — that doom young teams sabotaged their hard work and the Sixers lost a third consecutive game and fell to 5-7. But the fight was there.

“I kind of think it starts from the top and [Brown's] attitude is pretty infectious in that regard,” Hawes said. “Coach has done a great job since Day 1 of being realistic and really letting us play and letting us all continue to improve. We all still have a lot to learn from what he’s bringing to the table and a lot to improve on, and I think when you look at it through that lens it keeps you motivated.”

Brown, his unmistakable New England accent ever-apparent despite more than a decade working in San Antonio under Gregg Popovich, pedals passion, genuine hard work, accountability and camaraderie.

“At the end of the day, we’re a hard-working team,” Young said. “So that should tell you a lot right there.”

Ask the Heat, Bulls and Rockets. Philly’s beaten all three. Ask the underachieving Nets and Knicks. Both are looking up at the Atlantic Division-leading Sixers.

Young, who once called Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday teammates, said this team’s daily goal is straightforward.

“To get better as a team, to help the growth of the young guys and to go out there and build something that in the future we can go out there and be ready to win basketball games or playoff series,” Young said. “That’s the biggest thing right now is the growth and development of what we’re trying to do here.”

Which, of course, begs the question: Why? On most nights the squad is severely undermanned. The veterans — Young, Evans and Hawes — could eventually be traded and each could be resentful of the franchise’s direction.

“All of us in this room, we plan to win games and we plan to keep on trying to win basketball games,” Young said. “I’m here, I’m ready to work, so are the rest of the guys. That’s the main focus. We’re just thinking about winning basketball games.”

The day after the Sixers’ worst loss of the season, a 37-point whipping Saturday at New Orleans, Brown, as is his custom, led a brutally candid film session, then transferred the discussion from the screen to the practice floor.

“I feel that by keeping it candid and by putting it all in perspective that we can inch along and continue to improve as a team, and keep our guys improving, either as a group or individually,” Brown said. “I hope that that’s the formula to keep all of us together over a long year [that] at times is going to be one where we experience some losses. We just have to go head-down and stay focused on continuing to try to get better.”

After returning to the hotel a worn-out unit, Brown called a team dinner.

“I like seeing our guys interact together, and the group is good. The group stays together,” Brown said. “The veterans have been doing what veterans should do in relation to keeping the young guys on track; the young guys are pliable, they listen, they want to get better. I’m proud of the camaraderie and the chemistry we’ve shown to date, albeit an early period of time, even when we’ve taken hits.”

The next night against Dallas, unbeaten at home, the Sixers jumped out to an 8-0 lead, played tough defense, but couldn’t contain Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Shawn Marion long enough to get to the finish line. Still, in a season where wins won’t always go in the win column, and hard truths will be gashed wide open, Brown could honestly say he got the positive response he hoped for in the aftermath of the New Orleans blowout.

“The truth — in relation to ‘this is your rotation’ or ‘this is a problem that we have as a team’ — has to be our compass,” Brown said. “Anything short of that, I’m doing them a disservice. This group wants to be coached, it has to be coached. When it starts getting to the stage where people feel uncomfortable accepting that type of educating process — it’s not a personal thing — then we may have some problems or maybe this isn’t the program for them.

“And that’s the mission we’re all on, to keep this thing real, to keep it tight, to keep it candid, to be positive, to be down when people need to be told the truth, and life moves on.

“And that’s the only way I know how to do it, and I hope it’s the right way.”

Asik Wants A Trade And The Rockets Should Oblige


VIDEO: Houston holds off New York despite rough game from Howard

NEW YORK - If the Houston Rockets intend on competing for a championship this season, they will need to trade Omer Asik. And the process may have been accelerated on Thursday.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported before Thursday’s Rockets-Knicks game that Asik has asked for a trade.

With his starting job gone and his playing time slashed, Rockets center Omer Asik has asked to be traded, two individuals with knowledge of the request said Thursday.

Asik, who started every game after signing with the Rockets last season, came off the bench Wednesday in Philadelphia, but struggled. He played only four minutes and not at all in the second half. Asik has made his trade request within the past 48 hours, a person familiar with the conversations said.

The Rockets have no trade involving Asik in the works, with one individual saying a deal is more likely in months than in days.

This the second time that an Asik trade request has been reported. The first came in the summer, after Houston signed Dwight Howard. Asik is a terrific defensive center who started all 82 games for the Rockets last season and led the team in plus-minus. He was a valuable reserve in Chicago, but since signing a three-year, $25 million deal with Houston in 2012, he clearly has no interest in being a backup.

Rockets coach Kevin McHale started Asik and Howard together for the first eight games of the season, but the two-center combination has not worked (particularly on offense) and had put the Rockets in several first-quarter holes. On Monday against Toronto, McHale finally pulled the plug on the experiment, keeping Asik on the bench to start the second half. Wednesday in Philadelphia, Terrence Jones started in Asik’s place and Asik played just 4:22 in the Rockets’ overtime loss to the Sixers.

Less than 24 hours later, Asik was asking for a trade. And in the Rockets’ crazy 109-106 victory over the Knicks, he didn’t play at all. McHale used Greg Smith as the backup center late in the first quarter, and when Smith injured his knee less than a minute later, McHale played Jones at center.

It was the first DNP of Asik’s career and ended his league-leading streak of 239 consecutive games played. He was not available for comment after the game, having left the Houston locker room well before it was opened to the media. McHale said: “He told me today he wasn’t feeling good and he didn’t know if he could play,” McHale said after the game. “I asked him, ‘Are you ready to play?’ and he said, ‘I don’t feel good.’ That’s why I went with Greg.”

Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reported that the Rockets have told Asik that they have no intention of trading him. And before Thursday’s game in New York, McHale said that he hasn’t closed the door on using Asik and Howard together.

“I liked a lot of stuff he and Dwight did together,” McHale said. “They were big. They protected the rim. It’’s going to be a lot on matchups, a lot how things work. He’’s going to have to get out there and play. Will he start against some bigger teams? Possibly.””

A few more starts here or there doesn’t change the fact that the Rockets would be better off swapping Asik for a forward who can shoot and defend. While Asik gives Houston depth up front and insurance on Howard (who struggled to score against Andrea Bargnani on Thursday), he’s not worth what the Rockets are paying him as a 12-minute-a-night backup, especially if there are nights like this — if you think McHale’s “wasn’t feeling good” claim was a little dubious — when he doesn’t play at all.

The Rockets, who have had an up-and-down first 10 games, could raise their ceiling and put themselves in the driver’s seat of a wide-open Western Conference if they can trade Asik for a better fit with Howard and James Harden, someone who could play 30 minutes a night instead of 12. And with other Western Conference contenders (like the Clippers, Grizzlies and Thunder) also ripe for a trade, Houston shouldn’t hesitate to pursue the guy they want.

Though they currently rank 23rd in 3-point shooting (at 32.1 percent) and spacing the floor around Harden/Howard pick-and-rolls is critical, their biggest priority in any deal should be perimeter defense. They’ve had plenty of glaring breakdowns already this season and they have no one to defend the likes of Kevin Durant or, if they truly have title aspirations, LeBron James. Exhibit A is Carmelo Anthony‘s 45 points on 17-for-30 shooting on Thursday.

That’s why the Sixers’ Thaddeus Young should be their primary target, whether it be a straight trade with Philadelphia or a three-team deal. The Pelicans’ Ryan Anderson would be a great fit offensively, but would only add to the defensive problems.

Smith’s injury complicates things. He would be a capable backup in small doses, but if his knee injury is serious — he’s set to have an MRI on Friday — it would be more difficult to part with Asik.

Still, not only is it unlikely that Asik will change his mind, but a trade would give the Rockets an opportunity to get better. They obviously need at least one other team to make a deal, but they shouldn’t wait to start shopping.

Never Too Soon For Snap Judgments


VIDEO: Sixers begin season with strong start

 

So what if we’ll have to skip the clocks ahead again before we even finish the long grind of the regular season? Does it really matter that it will take more than seven months for somebody to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy? It’s never too soon to leap to conclusions about what we know — or think we know — one week into the 2013-14 regular season.

Heat – Nobody this side of Miley Cyrus gets more scrutiny, criticism and hyperventilating overreaction than the two-time defending champs. LeBron James and Dwayne Wade already have to talk over the alarm bells, trying to put out the fires of two losses in their first three games. They still have the best player in the game, still have a more than capable No. 2 man if he stays healthy and still will be the team to beat when the playoffs begin in April. That won’t stop the sky from falling on nearly a weekly basis. But you still want to pick them for next June.

Clippers – So much for the closing down of Lob City by the new mayor Doc Rivers. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are still running free and easy with the top-rated offense in the league (119.5), but we’re going to have to see more out of DeAndre Jordan and that unicorn defense before we consider the Clips to be true playoff contenders in the West.

Derrick Rose — The Bulls’ star will be right behind the Heat with the Chicken Little crowd that will fret and worry and complain with every missed shot and turnover. He’ll have the most scrutinized repaired leg in the league until Kobe Bryant returns. The good news is that Rose hasn’t shown any ill effects from the knee surgery and it’s only a matter of time until he regains the stroke and the confidence that make him an MVP candidate and Chicago a threat to push Miami and Indiana in the playoffs.

Advantage Howard – The 2-2 Lakers might be saying they’re having fun without the 6-foot-11 distraction, but Dwight Howard is healthy and living up to all expectations in Houston as both an inside force (15 rebounds per game) and solid veteran presence in the Rockets locker room. No longer suffering from back and shoulder problems, Howard is playing joyfully and stress-free for the first time in three seasons. He’s been accepting of instruction from coach Kevin McHale, willing to move out to guard power forwards as part of the twin towers tandem experiment with Omer Asik, and has the Rockets on track to their stated goal of getting home-court advantage in the West playoffs, at the very least.

Lakers – If they were in a swimming pool, the Lakers would be wearing an orange life jacket and just trying to bob their heads above the water line. It’s a two-part season that’s B.K. and A.K. — Before Kobe and After Kobe – and things just don’t look good for the long haul with Steve Nash struggling badly and a bench that provides as much real support as a, well, bench.

Sixers – Other than LeBron and Wade declaring that they were taking the season off to visit an ashram to find inner peace, could there have been a more shocking start to the season than a 3-0 start in always sunny Philadelphia? Michael Carter-Williams, Eastern Conference Player of the Week, is the real deal. But the Warriors proved Monday that the Sixers will eventually settle down to their real level in the Andrew Wiggins Derby, especially after GM Sam Hinkie possibly parlays the quick starts by Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and maybe Thaddeus Young into deals for more draft picks.

Thunder – OK, everybody kicks five bucks into the pot and the winner is the person who picks the exact time — day, hour, minute and seconds — when some knucklehead rips Russell Westbrook for being the kind of bad/selfish teammate that will never help Kevin Durant win a championship. The truth is, since GM Sam Presti’s benevolent giveaway of James Harden to Houston, Westbrook is Durant’s only chance of getting back to The Finals. No more Memphis getting past half a Thunder team. No more avoiding the toughest challenge in the West, Spurs. Yes, Durant is OKC’s best player. But Westbrook, healthy and with a chip on his shoulder, is the hard edge on the court.

Wizards – How many times can we wait on the revamped Wizards to have that bust-out season that propels them back into the playoff picture in the East? John Wall is fine, Trevor Ariza is averaging a double-double, they have a healthy center in Marcin Gortat and yet Washington is still 0-3 with a defense that is simply dreadful. Coach Randy Wittman still leads the race for first coach fired.

Warriors – They’re like the magician that has your eyes glued to his pretty assistant in the skimpy outfit that is their high octane, high scoring offense, while coach Mark Jackson’s team really wants to pull rabbits out of their hats with a defense that will get in your face and get after it. Andre Iguodala couldn’t have been a better fit if he’d been sewn into the lineup by a British tailor.

Love Is All You Need – Well, it would certainly help to have Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and the rest of the star-crossed Timberwolves remain ambulatory through the 82-game schedule. But if there were a Comeback Player of the Year Award for the first week of the season, it would have to go to Kevin Love, who’s been nothing short of a beast scoring and rebounding. This is why it was never rash to envision the Timberwolves Western Conference playoffs the past two seasons. If Love stays healthy, they make it even in a crowded race.

Nets – While losing two of their first three was seen as a sign of the apocalypse in Miami, that trendy, high-priced collection of talent in Brooklyn might be the real candidate for being oversold as championship contenders, a win over the Heat notwithstanding. It still remains to be seen if Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce can continue to produce like their old selves as they become older selves. In the end, it will all come down to whether Deron Williams can get himself back among the elite level of point guards. So far, the shot just isn’t falling.

Knicks – Like the buzz over Gangnam Style and Zero Dark Thirty, Carmelo Anthony and his friends are just so last year. In fact, since their blazing start out of the gate in 2012-13, the Knicks have been positively mediocre and there is no indication that things will change soon. They were laughably “all-in” for a championship run last season, came up way short and now the brightest news is Melo saying he’d like to retire as a Knick. Perfect. Looks like a lot of them already have.

Anthony Davis – The No. 1 pick from the 2012 draft has positively exploded with his growth in the league, almost doubling his scoring from 13.5 to 23.7 ppg, bumping rebounds up from 8.2 to 12.3 and blocks from 1.8 to 4.0. This the Davis who had everyone drooling over his potential at Kentucky and makes the Pelicans a fun stop when flipping channels on League Pass. Now, if only coach Monty Williams could find a way to put some zip into an offense that is only mediocre because they play at such a horridly slow pace in an up-tempo league.

Pacers — Let the Nets spend all the money, the Knicks suck up all the oxygen with talk of Melo’s free agent destination and the Bulls ride the frenzy around every peak and valley in Rose’s return. Meanwhile in the heartland, Paul George keeps getting better, Lance Stephenson keeps learning about consistency, coach Frank Vogel keeps cranking up the intensity on the league’s best defense and the Pacers happily keep playing in the shadows as the real top threat to Miami in the East.

 


VIDEO: The Beat crew talks about Westbrook’s swift return

No Looking Back For Pelicans’ Holiday





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Surprising trades usually leave the players involved suspended in a state of shock for at least a few days after the deal goes down.

Not Jrue Holiday.

He only needed minutes to wrap his head around the Draft night deal that sent him from Philadelphia to the New Orleans for Nerlens Noel. Yeah, the whole “Pelicans” thing takes some getting used to, but from a purely basketball perspective, the All-Star point guard said he needed only minutes to process exactly what went down.

“It was like five minutes, to be honest,” Holiday said. “After I got the call and they said I got traded, I immediately thought about [Sixers guard] Evan Turner. We’d been through everything together in Philly, really grown up together in the league in Philly along with Thad Young, Spencer Hawes and those guys, But then I thought about it and it was like, ‘oh snap, Eric Gordon‘s on your team. Anthony Davis is on your team. Ryan Anderson, Austin Rivers and at the time [Robin] Lopez. This could be crazy.’ They sent me to a good team. This could be a blessing in disguise.”

There is no camouflage needed. The Pelicans have transformed their roster from a mismatch of ill-fitting parts to a talented core of versatile young players poised for a climb, that could come sooner rather than later, in the Western Conference playoff chase.

Holiday gives the Pelicans all sorts of flexibility in their stacked backcourt, that also includes Tyreke Evans. Holiday got a chance to work with Davis and his new coach, Monty Williams, during USA Basketball’s mini-camp last week in Las Vegas. Williams was on the coaching staff and Davis on the opposite team during the Blue-White Showcase.

“He’s a genuine guy sand he’s a winner,” Holiday said of Williams. “He wants to build a winner. And that’s what I’m about, so that should be an easy transition. Anthony is a beast and one of the best young big men in the game. At the end of the day, they’re winners and that’s what I’m trying to be in this league.”

Holiday was the youngest player in the league when the Sixers selected him with the 17th pick in the 2009 Draft. He experienced his share of growing pains early on, having to adjust from playing off the ball at UCLA to being the Sixers’ primary ballhandler and facilitator. He mastered the job by his fourth season, earning All-Star plaudits during what turned out to be a tumultuous season for the Sixers.

They followed a surprise playoff run in 2012 by making a blockbuster trade for Andrew Bynum that cost them valuable pieces, including Andre Iguodala, Nik Vucevic and Moe Harkless.

By the time the dust had settled, Bynum’s fragile knees kept him from playing a single second during the 2012-13 season and the Sixers crashed, with coach Doug Collins moving on to a front office position and ultimately Holiday being jettisoned for yet another franchise reboot under new general manager Sam Hinkie.

“All of that is in the past,” Holiday said. “I’m not looking back.  We’ve got a chance to do some special things in New Orleans.”

And the glut of bodies in the backcourt and on the perimeter is something that Holiday insists will work in the Pelicans’ favor as opposed to being the source of friction. Making it work, of course, is up the men involved.

“I think that comes with being good teammates and good team players,” Holiday said. “It’s not about one dude coming in and dominating the ball and trying to do everything. Obviously, I don’t need the ball to score and make an impact on the game. I feel like I can do that in other ways. Same thing with Eric, Austin and Tyreke. I think the depth makes it easier on all of us.”

The only thing Holiday doesn’t have a great handle on right now is the Pelicans nickname, the world itself makes him smile when discussing the franchise’s new moniker and image.

“It’s funny, I’m not going to lie,” Holiday said. “‘We’re the Pelicans.’ But I’ve said it about a half million times now. I’m pretty much used to it now, though. The new color scheme is dope. The uniforms are going to be sick. I’m excited. I think we’re going to do big things.”


Sixers’ Collins Out As Coach, In As Adviser



.

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For any father or son, the reasons Doug Collins gave for leaving his coaching job with the Philadelphia 76ers for a less taxing consultant’s role make perfect sense.

Collins has grandchildren he wants to spend more time with in his golden years, he wants to watch his son, Chris Collins, now the coach at Northwestern, thrive in the family business.

After giving the last 40 years of his life to the game he loves and the merciless grind that is the pursuit of a championship ring, Collins wants his next four or five years to be on his terms.

“There’s a lot of things I want to enjoy,” Collins said. “I think it’s every man’s dream to be able to live that life that you work so hard to try to live. And that’s what I want to do.”

He knew it at Christmas, when he had to be away while “the grandkids were opening their presents,” that he was done coaching, that he didn’t have the energy to give to the profession the way he knows great coaches have to if they’re going to do the job the justice it deserves.

It wasn’t about wins and losses, Collins said this morning as he addressed the media in Philadelphia. No amount of either would have changed his mind. The sacrifices had become too great, the benefits, financial and otherwise, that come with a NBA coaching job were outweighed by the important moments a proud father and grandfather had to miss.

“I didn’t get down to a Duke game last year,” Collins said. “My son … I want to see him grow, want to see him coach. That’s important to me.”

If only Jrue Holiday, Even Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and the rest of the players he coached through a tumultuous season this year in Philadelphia had been just as important. Collins never told them of the exit strategy that had been brewing for months. They were left to the rumblings that grew into rumors the past couple weeks and into full blown hysterics last week.

Collins is a brilliant basketball mind. No one disputes that. And he’s a fine coach, as passionate as he is relentless about teaching the game and as focused and fanatical as they come in his profession. Widely regarded as one of the best analysts around, Collins chose to dive back into coaching three years ago with the franchise he’s always considered home.

He was not pushed out the door. Sixers owner Josh Harris made that clear before Collins said a word this morning.

“Doug is not being pushed out,” Harris said. “I would love to have him back as my coach. This is his decision … I want to make that unequivocally clear.”

A decision that no doubt became clear to us all during that infamous February postgame rant when Collins seemed to crack under the pressure of a season gone awry. “Go back and listen to the transcript,” Collins said. “I didn’t throw anybody under the bus. I spoke the truth. We played our best basketball after that.”

Andrew Bynum, the Sixers’ prized summer acquisition from a blockbuster trade that saw Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless traded away for the All-Star center, didn’t play a single second this season.

Instead of contending in the Eastern Conference a season after a surprise run to the conference semifinals, the Sixers finished ninth in the East and four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot, despite playing their “best basketball” in the six weeks after his frustrations boiled over.

I don’t care how diplomatic they try to be, the Bynum debacle stained this season for Collins, Harris and the entire organization.

“We spent $84 million and don’t have much to show for it,” said Harris, who was extremely careful when talking about Bynum and what the Sixers’ plans are regarding the soon-to-be unrestricted free-agent big man. “You look at our cost per win, and its pretty low.”

Collins plans to serve as an adviser to Harris the next five years, a time-frame both men referenced, as they work to increase that cost per win number.

His days of, as he put it, “trying to be Frederick Douglas, Dale Carnegie, Dr. Phil and then trying to draw up a play to win the game,” are over. He said he won’t get the coaching itch again.

He’ll leave that to guys like Michael Curry, the only one of his assistants to get a public endorsement for the coaching vacancy in Philadelphia during Monday’s festivities.

“Michael Curry has been a head coach before,” Collins said. “What he’s done here defensively has been remarkable. I think Michael’s ready. The thing about it is, they are going to get a great coach. This is a great city …  to me, this is a win-win. They get a great a coach and it gives me a chance to do some of the things I want to do.”

http://www.nba.com/2013/news/04/18/sixers-collins-resigns.ap/index.html

Blogtable: Under-The-Radar Stars




Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Week 5: Under-radar stars | Kobe’s legacy | Fix this, please


Who is someone who has gone under the radar so far, someone playing better than anyone expected?

Steve Aschburner: I’m using this to plug Marc Gasol. Not that he’s been off the radar, exactly, but he has been playing at such a high level for the team with the NBA’s best record,  in what is and always will be an overlooked market, that it’s important that he not be overlooked. How good has Gasol been, both in terms of getting his own and helping teammates get theirs? I’ve had at least three coaches and/or scouts suggest that he’s the early-season Most Valuable Player. And that Erik Spoelstra comparison, mentioning Gasol  in the same breath as Arvydas Sabonis, is high praise indeed.

Fran Blinebury: While James Harden has gobbled up all the headlines and Jeremy Lin all the hype, Chandler Parsons, 38th pick in the 2011 draft, is averaging 15.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and shooting 42.9 percent on 3s to help put the high octane into the fastest-paced offense in the league that makes Houston relevant again.

Jeff Caplan: I’m going with a guy that is putting himself out there for Most Improved Player, and that’s Rockets big man Patrick Patterson. In his third season, the former Kentucky Wildcat is a full-time starter for the first time and is proving he is deserving of the promotion. Averaging 30.1 minutes a game, the 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward-center has nearly doubled his scoring from a year ago to 14.6 points a game and is shooting 51.1 percent, even showing he can knock down a 3 from time to time (12-for-32, 37.5 percent). He’s averaging 5.3 boards a game, up from 4.5 last season. On the second night of a back-to-back at Oklahoma City last week, he had 27 points and six rebounds. He’s scored at least 20 points in four of his last five games and has has shot at least 50 percent in nine of his last 10.

Scott Howard-CooperO.J. Mayo probably can’t be considered under the radar — well known since high school, lottery pick coming out of college, a subject of attention for not building a career in Memphis — but I don’t think anyone saw this start in Dallas coming. He went from being able to get only a two-year free-agent deal in the summer, the second as a player option, to the top 10 in scoring. It’s not just the absence of Dirk Nowitzki, either. Mayo is shooting pretty well and with range.

John Schuhmann: I don’t think he’s necessarily playing “better than anyone expected,” but Thaddeus Young has definitely gone under the radar so far. Jrue Holiday, thanks to big bumps in his scoring and assist numbers, seems to be getting most of the press for the surprisingly 10-8 Sixers, but Young has been the team’s best player once you consider both ends of the floor. His scoring is actually down on a per-minute basis, but he’s rebounding well despite being out-sized at the four every night, and he’s holding the Sixers together defensively. Bottom line: he’s a plus-76 for a team that’s been outscored by 31 points overall. The Sixers are much better both offensively and defensively when he’s on the floor.

Sekou Smith: Chandler Parsons is doing the impossible this season in Houston, trying to have a breakout year with Jeremy Lin and James Harden hogging up all of the spotlight. But Parsons is averaging 15.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 41 percent from deep and doing all of this in the considerable shadow cast by two of the league’s most popular young stars. While Lin and Harden endure their share of ups and downs as faces of the franchise, Parsons has continued his role as one of the best bargains in basketball (he’s making a fraction of what those other two guys are and will in the very near future, but is second on the team in scoring and rebounding and third in assists).

Sixers Lack Continuity, But Still Deep





PHILADELPHIA – In getting off to a hot start last season, the Philadelphia 76ers had two big advantages over other teams. The first was continuity. They had made minimal changes to their roster and brought back guys who played an incredible 99 percent of their minutes from the previous season.

The second advantage was depth. The Sixers didn’t go 10 or 11-deep, but they had three or four guys coming off their bench – namely Evan Turner, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young – who could keep the scoreboard going in the right direction. That trio was especially strong offensively, and the Sixers outscored their opponents by almost eight points per 100 possessions when the three were on the floor together.

“We had three guys coming off our bench who were capable of being starters,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said at training camp on Friday.

Turner eventually did become a starter. And that should be a permanent thing this year. The Sixers don’t have nearly the same continuity as they had last year (only 45 percent of last year’s minutes were played by guys on this year’s roster), but they should once again have little drop-off, especially offensively, when they go to their bench.
(more…)