Posts Tagged ‘Tony Allen’

Have Grizzlies Lost Their Bite?

VIDEO: The Grizzlies needed everything they had to get their only win of the year so far

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — “It gets late early out there.”

Yogi Berra was talking about the left field shadows at the old Yankee Stadium. But he could have been referring to the shadow of former coach Lionel Hollins in Memphis.

Not even a week into the 2013-14 season and there seems to be something missing from the Grizzlies. Teeth and claws.

Or as they call it at the FedEx Forum, “Grit and Grind.”

It’s unwise to read too much into just the first three sips from an 82-game regular season. Otherwise we’d be guzzling the Kool-Aid of the confounding 3-0 Sixers and already making hotel reservations for next June in always sunny Philadelphia.

But there are times when a few early leaks in the bucket could be cause for concern that the bottom might fall out.

The Grizzlies, who advanced to the Western Conference finals a season ago, have carried around a style and reputation as subtle as an anvil in their climb up the ranks of legitimate contenders. Yet the early returns have shown that anvil dropping onto their toes.

Were it not for a couple of timely jumpers by Tayshaun Prince in overtime on Friday that finally put down the Pistons, Memphis would be looking at an 0-3 start that might have some reaching for the panic button. As it is, it might not hurt to at least get a finger loosened up.

After an uninspiring 111-99 loss at Dallas Saturday, the Grizzlies have surrendered more than 100 points three times in three games. While on their way to winning a franchise record 56 times last season, the Grizzlies and their No. 2-rated defense allowed opponents to hit the century mark just 10 times in 82 tries.

That certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed within the locker room, as noted by Ron Tillery of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal:

“This ain’t us,” Griz forward Zach Randolph said. “I don’t know if we’re focusing on the offense or not, but we’re a defensive team and that’s what we’ve got to hang our hats on. And another thing is we’ve got to come out faster.”

Yes, it is early. But the trend could bring out all of the fears that were left by management’s decision to let Hollins — the best coach in franchise history — walk out the door. While the thought was that rookie coach Dave Joerger would be able to put some juice into the Grizzlies offensive by getting more ball movement and a faster pace, it was not supposed to be at expense of their lockdown defense.

While the Memphis offense that had the slowest pace in the league a year ago has jumped from 17th to 13th through the opening weekend of the season, the defense has fallen from 100.3 (No. 2) to 109 (26th). Opponents’ shooting percentage is up overall, especially from behind the 3-point line. However the interior defense that is supposed to be anchored by the bruising play of Randolph and 2013 Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol, is being exploited regularly.

After after reeling in the Mavs with a stretch of solid defense in the middle of the game, too often the Grizzlies were simply trading baskets, giving up layups or committing interior fouls that produced a parade to the free-throw line.

“We didn’t come out and play with any force,” Joerger said. “They’re at home. You’ve got to come out and set the tone early. We did not do that. We did not defend. We didn’t cut hard.”

These are all the areas that were as much a part of the Grizzlies appearance in games as their jerseys and sneakers under Hollins. If he was often critical, sarcastic and demanding, it was because there was a purpose. If it was Tony Allen who gave their home court the “Grind House” nickname, it was Hollins who laid the foundation and planted the seeds in the front lawn.

When the Spurs eventually exploited Memphis’ lack of offensive firepower in their conference finals blitz, it was clear that an upgrade was needed in order for the Grizzlies to take the next step. Was adding 33-year-old Mike Miller enough? Definitely not if the defensive intensity was going to drop.

In a Western Conference race that has only become more crowded and contentious, the last thing the Grizzlies can afford to lose is their identity.

So with the shadow of Hollins looming, it might not be too early for the grit and grind to heed another old Yogi-ism:

“When you come to a fork in the road…take it.”

One Team, One Stat: Grizz Win With D, But Must Find More Shooting

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Memphis Grizzlies, who are looking to build on a trip to the Western Conference finals.

The basics
MEM Rank
W-L 56-26 t-5
Pace 91.1 29
OffRtg 101.7 18
DefRtg 97.4 2
NetRtg +4.2 8

The stat

94.3 - Points allowed per 100 possessions by the Grizzlies’ defense with Tony Allen on the floor.

The context

That’s the lowest on-court DefRtg of 263 players who logged at least 1,000 minutes last season. There’s no doubt that Allen is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Whether he’s the most important defender on his team is another question.

As the anchor of the Grizzlies’ No. 2 defense (and a great one at that), Marc Gasol was more important. The defense suffered a hair more when Gasol stepped off the floor than it did when Allen stepped off, and Gasol played about 700 more minutes than Allen did last season.

Mike Conley, Tayshaun Prince and even Zach Randolph played their roles in the Grizzlies’ defense too. When the post-trade starting lineup was on the floor, Memphis allowed a paltry 89.1 points per 100 possessions. Only one lineup — the Spurs’ starters — that played at least 200 minutes together was better defensively.

The lineup was particularly good at forcing turnovers. Overall, *the Grizzlies ranked second, forcing 16.9 turnovers per 100 possessions. With Allen and Conley on the floor together, they forced 18.4.

*The Clippers ranked first, forcing 17.2 turnovers per 100 possessions, but forced just 11.3 out of the Grizzlies in the playoffs.

Here some clips from a December game in which the Grizz forced the Mavericks — who had the third lowest turnover rate in the league — to cough it up 19 times in less than 34 minutes with Conley and Allen on the floor…


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Offense, of course, is another story. The Grizz ranked 18th offensively in the regular season and scored just 93.4 points per 100 possessions in getting swept by the Spurs in the conference finals.

Gasol and Randolph are maybe the best high-low combination in the league and Conley is a water bug who can get to the basket, but Memphis has lacked the 3-point shooting needed for a top-10 offense. They ranked 24th in 3-point percentage and dead last in 3-pointers made last season.

Allen, who shot 56-for-193 (29 percent) from outside the paint last season, can be left alone on the perimeter. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Grizzlies were better offensively with Conley and Jerryd Bayless in the backcourt, but it’s amazing how much better they were offensively…

Grizzlies efficiency with Allen, Bayless and Conley

On the floor MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
All three 172 112.5 91.7 +20.7 +55
Only Allen & Conley 1,594 101.6 92.7 +8.9 +238
Only Bayless & Conley 472 109.4 103.5 +5.9 +95
Only Allen & Bayless 265 90.0 102.8 -12.8 -75

Of course the defense took a big step back in those minutes. And that’s why the Grizzlies couldn’t let Allen walk as a free agent this summer. He’s a huge part of their success and their grit-n-grind identity.

If the Grizz are to be a better team this season, they will have to find the right balance between more perimeter offense (from Mike Miller and Quincy Pondexter) and the defense that made them who they are.

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

Summer Dreaming: Defensive Player Of Year

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HANG TIME, Texas — These are the dog days of summer. They get their name from Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog), which long ago used to rise just before the sun at this time of year.

The Romans believed that during the dog days, the sea boiled, wine turned sour and dogs grew mad, causing diseases, fevers and hysterics among men.

Today we just see them as a reason to pop open another cold one and pop open our imaginations to look ahead and come up with the 2013-14 NBA award winners.

Today we’re celebrating the dog days by barking out my top candidates for Defensive Player of the Year. Send me yours.

Dwight Howard, Rockets — Assuming he’s healthy, assuming he’s happy, assuming he wants everyone to put the bad memory of last season with the Lakers in the rear view mirror, this is one race that should be no contest as Howard reestablishes himself in Houston to prove a point. With no pains in his back, shoulder and posterior (compliments of Kobe Bryant) to hold him back, the former three-time Defensive Player of the year takes control under the basket for the Rockets and lets the world know that he’s back. Yes, there is all the buzz and excitement about what Howard can do off the pick and roll with Jeremy Lin and James Harden at the offensive end. Yes, he’ll work with Hall of Fame tutor Hakeem Olajuwon to try to expand his post moves. Yes, he’ll get to see up close every day in practice from his coach how Kevin McHale carved out his place in the Hall of Fame with solid fundamentals. But if Howard just goes back to being the monster who used to roam the middle for the Magic, he’ll be worth every penny of his four-year, $88-million contract.

LeBron James, Heat — After four MVPs, back-to-back titles and a pair of Finals MVPs, what is there left for James to do to polish his legacy? Why not win MVP award No. 5 in the same year that he is named Defensive Player of the Year? It’s a feat accomplished previously only by Michael Jordan (1988) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1994) and shows that level of greatness that James has achieved. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast, he’s quick and you don’t want to see his shadow coming from behind when you’re at mid-court with the ball and trying to get to the basket to finish. There are those who say he takes too many possessions off. There are those who criticize by saying he only gets the toughest defensive assignments in the fourth quarter. The truth is they are only picking nits, because that’s pretty much all that’s left to do. His competition now is strictly with the history books and if James decides to set his mind to being the best in the league at this end of the court, he could pull off the MVP-DPOY double.

Serge Ibaka, Thunder –  Three-time former winner of the award Dwight Howard said that it should have gone to Ibaka over Marc Gasol last season. His reasoning was that the guy who blocks the most shots is the best defender. Ibaka did set the pace with an average of 3.03 per game. The Thunder big man is clearly the best rejector in the league, at least and until Howard returns to form. In a league where quick, slashing guards are constantly trying to get to the hoop, rim protection is key for any would-be contender. But Ibaka really should improve on his help defense, rotations and overall court awareness in order to be considered the top defender in the league. For flash and the big block, Ibaka’s got everything but the Dikembe Mutombo finger-wave and that attracts the notice that will always have him among the top three on most ballots.

Tony Allen, Grizzlies — Teammate Marc Gasol received the votes, the notoriety and the award last season, but those closest to the Grizzlies and to inner workings of the game itself — i.e. head coaches — will tell you that it’s Allen who puts the real sharp edges and teeth into The Grind House. There is nobody in the league who relishes a 1-on-1 matchup more. He’s in your face, in your game, practically in your jersey, a nettle that becomes more painful and bothersome as the games get late. There is nobody who will throw himself into a defensive challenge more. If the Grizz are going to keep that defensive identity that was instilled in them by former coach Lionel Hollins, it’s probably going to be a result of Allen working the locker room, working the huddles and working his buns off on every defensive position. There is a reason that the league’s head coaches, who vote for the All-Defensive teams, gave Allen the highest number of first team votes, tying LeBron James.

Andre Iguodala, Warriors — If you were stitching together the ideal wing defender in a laboratory, the 6-foot-6 Iguodala with a 6-11 wingspan might be the product that would eventually climb down off the operating table. He gets plenty of credit for being one of — if not the best — on-ball defenders in the league with his size, speed and quickness. But that is also the end result of his excellent off-ball defense as he uses video study and his own sharp, calculating mind to deny players from getting the ball in positions where they want it in the first place. He understands angles, tendencies and rotations. Coach Mark Jackson has been preaching defense for two years with the Warriors and adding a ballhawk like Iguodala to a lineup that already includes Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson is going to produce turnovers, steals, transition buckets and a Defensive Player of the Year profile that could rise as the Warriors continue to improve.

PREVIOUSLY: Sixth Man of Year | Most Improved Player | Rookie Of Year

Got Shooting? It’s Going Fast

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The 2012-13 season shall forever be known as the year of the three. There were 3-point records set on the individual, team and league levels. And Ray Allen‘s 3-pointer to tie Game 6 of The Finals will go down as one of the biggest shots in NBA history.

Furthermore, there was a much stronger correlation between offensive efficiency and the percentage of a team’s shots from 3-point range than we’d seen previously. With one notable exception — the Denver Nuggets — the best offenses in the league shot a lot of threes, or at least shot them very well.

Top 10 offenses, 2012-13

Team OffRtg 3PM 3PA 3PT% Rank 3PA% Rank
Miami 110.3 717 1,809 39.6% 2 28.5% 5
Oklahoma City 110.2 598 1,588 37.7% 3 24.4% 12
New York 108.6 891 2,371 37.6% 5 35.4% 1
L.A. Clippers 107.7 627 1,752 35.8% 16 26.5% 8
Denver 107.6 521 1,518 34.3% 25 21.7% 22
Houston 106.7 867 2,369 36.6% 9 34.9% 2
San Antonio 105.9 663 1,764 37.6% 4 26.4% 9
L.A. Lakers 105.6 715 2,015 35.5% 19 30.3% 3
Brooklyn 105.0 628 1,760 35.7% 17 26.9% 7
Golden State 104.2 658 1,632 40.3% 1 23.9% 14

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
3PA% = Percentage of total shots from 3-point range

The Nuggets were upset in the first round when they couldn’t make 3-pointers and, more importantly, couldn’t stop the Warriors from making them. And now, Denver is without the three guys who made the most 3-pointers for them last season. Danilo Gallinari (135) is recovering from ACL surgery, Corey Brewer (91) is a free agent (who could come back), and Andre Iguodala (91) is heading to Golden State.

There’s a lot more to success in this league, but if you want to compete for a championship, you need guys who can knock down long-distance shots. There were several available on the market and a handful of good teams that needed them to take the next step. A couple of those teams will be signing a couple of those shooters. Here’s a look at the contending teams that needed shooting the most and what they’ve done to address the problem…

Chicago Bulls

OffRtg: 100.4 (24), 3PT%: 35.3% (21), 3PA%: 18.9% (29)
The Bulls’ offense will obviously be better with the return of Derrick Rose, but they still need better perimeter shooting to complement their penetrating point guard. They ranked fourth in 3-point percentage in 2011-12, but then said goodbye to Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson.

They’re heading back in the right direction this summer, upgrading from Marco Belinelli (35.7 percent) to Mike Dunleavy (42.8 percent), who ranked third in 3-point percentage among the 57 free agents who attempted at least 100 threes last season. There are few players in the league better than Dunleavy at coming off pin-down screens and draining threes on the wings.

Jimmy Butler should also be a more dangerous shooter, especially with Rose coming back. After shooting just 1.3 threes per game at 38 percent in the regular season, Butler shot 3.1 per game at 41 percent in the playoffs. No. 20 pick Tony Snell is known as a shooter, but hit just 64 threes in 35 games at New Mexico last season.

The Bulls haven’t exactly turned into last year’s Knicks when it comes to shooting threes, but they have taken a step forward.

Denver Nuggets

OffRtg: 107.6 (5), 3PT%: 34.3% (25), 3PA%: 21.7% (22)
The Nuggets took a big step backward by losing Iguodala and trading Kosta Koufos to Memphis. And we don’t know if they’ll play the same fast-paced, attacking style under coach Brian Shaw that they did under coach George Karl.

But Denver will get one of the better shooters on the market by sending Iguodala out via a three-team, sign-and-trade deal with the Warriors and Jazz that brings them Randy Foye, who ranked second among free agents with 178 threes last season and shot them at a 41.0 percent clip. Foye will likely split time at shooting guard with Evan Fournier, who shot a solid 22-for-54 (41 percent) in limited regular season action last season (and went 0-for-8 in the playoffs).

The Nuggets will also have a full season of Wilson Chandler, who shot well after returning from injury last season. Denver’s defense will most certainly fall off without Iguodala, but the Nuggets might actually have a little more inside-out balance to their offense.

Indiana Pacers

OffRtg: 101.6 (19), 3PT%: 34.7% (22), 3PA%: 24.5% (11)
Like the Nuggets, the Pacers thrive in the paint (just not as well). And the No. 1 defense in the league helped them make up for their lack of shooting. But they could have used a few more weak-side threes against the Heat’s aggressive defense in the conference finals, when Lance Stephenson shot 7-for-23 (30 percent) from beyond the arc.

Over his last six full seasons, Danny Granger hit 901 threes at 39 percent. And with Granger set to return from the knee injury that kept him out of all but five games last season, returning team president Larry Bird didn’t have to do a thing to improve his team’s 3-point shooting.

But Bird went out and got Watson (41 percent last season) and Chris Copeland (42 percent) to give his team some more punch off the bench. No. 22 pick Solomon Hill was also decent shooter (39 percent on threes) at Arizona. He might not play much as a rookie, but he can’t be a worse from the perimeter than defensive specialist Sam Young was.

Last season, Frank Vogel only had D.J. Augustin — a defensive liability — to turn to when he needed more shooting on the floor. Now, he’s got plenty of options.

Memphis Grizzlies

OffRtg: 101.7 (18), 3PT%: 34.5% (24), 3PA%: 16.6% (30)
The Rudy Gay trade didn’t change much for the Grizz, who made a league-low 4.6 threes per game after the deal. And they have yet to do anything in free agency to improve their perimeter offense. Tony Allen, returning on a new contract, is the definitive shooting guard who can’t shoot. Even their top draft pick — Jamaal Franklin — is a wing who doesn’t shoot very well.

The Grizzlies still have their mid-level exception to spend. And there are a couple of shooters still left on the market (see below). They also have a trade exception worth almost $7.5 million to absorb a contract from a team willing to deal them a shooter. But right now, they look like they could rank last in the league in 3-pointers for a second straight season.

Still on the market

For the Grizzlies and other teams still looking for shooters, the pickings are rather slim. Here are their six best options (in order of how many threes they hit last season), all of which come with issues …

Nate Robinson — 141-for-348 (40.5 percent)
Robinson had his best shooting season with the Bulls. And though he was mostly the Bulls’ back-up point guard, 101 of his 141 threes were assisted, so he can certainly play off the ball. He has improved defensively and is certainly making better decisions than he was earlier in his career, but it still isn’t easy for a coach to trust him with the ball in his hands for big minutes.

Wayne Ellington — 94-for-240 (39.2 percent)
Of the free agents that are still available, only three — Brandon Jennings (173), Robinson and Alan Anderson (95) — hit more threes than Ellington did last season. He was a decent role player in Memphis before it sent him to Cleveland for financial flexibility.

Gary Neal — 89-for-251 (35.5 percent)
Neal hit six threes in Game 3 of The Finals, but shot just 35 percent from beyond the arc last season (31st among the 57 free agents who attempted at least 100 threes) after shooting 42 percent in his first two years with the Spurs, who have seemingly swapped him for Belinelli. (They didn’t have an Italian on their roster, after all.)

Roger Mason Jr. — 66-for-159 (41.5 percent)
Of the 57 free agents who attempted at least 100 threes last season, only 11 shot them better than 40 percent. And only two — Robinson and the Pelicans’ Mason Jr. — are still on the market. Mason doesn’t do much more than make threes, but you can do worse if you need a fifth guard on your roster.

Mo Williams — 59-for-154 (38.3 percent)
Jazz starting guard Williams can handle the ball or play off it. In his two seasons playing next to LeBron James, he shot 43 percent from 3-point range, and only two players — Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen — hit more threes than Williams did over those two years. But he played a career-low 46 games last season and defense is an issue.

Anthony Morrow — 16-for-43 (37.2 percent)
There was a point a few years ago when Morrow qualified as the best 3-point shooter in NBA history. He’s still a great shooter, but doesn’t have as quick a release as some others, struggles when he needs to put the ball on the floor, and is a defensive liability. He couldn’t get off the bench for the Mavs as they were making their playoff push last season.

Three more points

  • The Timberwolves were by far the worst 3-point shooting team in the league last season, but should move up the rankings with a healthy Kevin Love (who shot 22 percent), a healthy Chase Budinger (who shot 32 percent) and with the addition of Kevin Martin (who shot 43 percent for OKC). Martin’s presence will also mean that they’ll need less minutes from Alexey Shved and Luke Ridnour (who may be traded) at the two. The pair combined to attempt 500 threes last season, connecting on only 30 percent of them.
  • Brooklyn shot a lot of threes last season, but didn’t shoot them particularly well. Things will get better with Paul Pierce (38 percent) replacing Gerald Wallace (28 percent) at small forward. But Watson (41 percent) was their best 3-point shooter last season and he’s been replaced by Shaun Livingston, who has made a grand total of nine threes in 390 career games. Assuming that coach Jason Kidd will have one of his starters — Deron Williams, Joe Johnson or Pierce — playing with the second unit, a back-up point guard who can shoot (Toney Douglas, perhaps?) would have been a better option. Either way, the Nets’ success could be determined by the ability of Bojan Bogdanovic and Mirza Teletovic to knock down shots and keep Pierce and Kevin Garnett fresh.
  • The Clippers were another team that shot a lot of threes at a mediocre percentage. And while they’re getting two great shooters in Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick, they’re replacing two guys — Caron Butler (39 percent) and Willie Green (43 percent) — who shot rather well from 3-point range last season. (Green is still on the roster, but likely out of the rotation.)

Free-Agent Roundup: July 3

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From NBA.com staff reports

The courting of Dwight Howard is officially over (thank goodness!) … now we’ve just got to wait on his decision. The Dwight/Lakers drama isn’t affecting what the Clippers are doing this offseason as they continue to add solid pieces to their Pacific Division-winning group, with their most recent move coming courtesy of three-team trade. The Clippers picked up free-agent shooter J.J. Redick and Suns marksman Jared Dudley in a deal between themselves, the Suns and Bucks. Although the Clips had to deal prized guard Eric Bledsoe to pick up the shooters, it’s a deal that keeps the Clips humming along. Other teams out West either made themselves better (in the case of the Wolves, who added Kevin Martin and re-signed Chase Budinger) or kept a key piece in place (such as the Grizzlies, who retained defensive ace Tony Allen).:

Smith’s chances of staying with Knicks improving?

As shooting guards like Redick, Martin and others have been snapped up on the free-agent market, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, J.R. Smith, waits for an offer. Smith opted out of his contract to test the waters on a big payday, but according to the New York Daily News’ Frank Isola, Smith could decide to go back to New York if the market keeps playing out as it has:

J.R. Smith’s list of potential suitors continues to grow but the contracts signed by two free agent shooting guards on Tuesday increases the likelihood of Smith returning to the Knicks.

The Clippers agreed to acquire J.J. Redick in a sign-and-trade with the Milwaukee Bucks while Oklahoma City Thunder free agent Kevin Martin verbally agreed to a four-year, $28 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The maximum the Knicks can offer Smith, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, is a four-year contract starting at approximately $5.5 million per season.

Smith has told close friends that if the money is comparable his preference would be to re-sign with the Knicks. Still, some of the teams that contacted Smith’s representatives have the ability to offer a deal approaching $30 million. The Pistons, Mavs, Rockets, Bucks and Bobcats have all expressed interest in Smith, who is coming off his best season.

With Redick and Martin setting the market for shooting guards, there is a sense that Smith’s free agency can reach a conclusion by the end of the week. The Knicks have made it known that they want their second leading scorer back and ideally they’d like to sign Smith to a two-year deal. But Smith, who came to the Knicks midway through the lockout season during a tumultuous stint in China, is looking to be rewarded for his performance and loyalty.

The fact that both Carmelo Anthony and Garden Chairman James Dolan are both in Smith’s corner is a factor to say the least. Dolan, according to a source, was briefed on the club’s free agent negotiations on Tuesday. Dolan has been more involved in the day-to-day operations of the basketball side since 2010 when he was front and center during the Knicks free agent presentation to LeBron James.

Report: Pistons make offer for Raptors’ Gay

When the Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay as part of a three-team deal with Memphis, Detroit and Toronto, the Grizz came out of the deal with Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye. The Raptors ended up with Gay, who played 33 games for them and — on a points-per-game basis — finished as their top scorer. But apparently the Pistons originally wanted Gay in the first swap, so they’ve solicited the Raptors to try and get him again, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:

The Detroit Pistons were among the bidders for forward Rudy Gay when the Memphis Grizzlies made him available last season and they are once again going after him now that there’s been a management changeover in Toronto.

The Pistons have offered the Raptors the expiring contracts of Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva in an attempt to acquire Gay, league sources told ESPN.com.

Stuckey and Villanueva are both scheduled to make $8.5 million this season and Gay has two years and $37 million left on his contract. Gay averaged 19.5 points on 43 percent shooting in 33 games after a midseason trade sent him to Toronto.

Rockets trying to land J-Smoove and Dwight?

Our man David Aldridge touched on this overnight, but it seems that what Howard does in free agency may have a direct effect on what Hawks free agent Josh Smith does as well. USA Today’s Sam Amick reports on Smith, who has long been on the Houston Rockets’ radar. Houston is also actively pursuing Howard and is thought to have a good shot to land the All-Star center. And while some have reported Smith is a backup plan for Houston should it lose out on Howard, that may not be the case:

According to two people with knowledge of the situation, the Rockets’ Monday meeting with free agent forward Josh Smith in Los Angeles included a discussion about a possible partnership with him and his childhood friend from Atlanta in Howard.

Smith has long been known to be on the Rockets’ radar, but he is not viewed solely as a backup plan to Howard should he decide to sign elsewhere and the possibility remains of another superteam being created with Howard and Smith joining franchise centerpiece James Harden. The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the talks.

There would be serious hurdles to this sort of deal, but the Rockets may be able to get it done if they could convince Smith’s former team, the Atlanta Hawks, to take part in a sign-and-trade that would clear the necessary salary cap space to sign both players.

To that end, a CBSSports.com report on Sunday indicated that the Rockets have been discussing possible trades involving center Omer Asik and point guard Jeremy Lin with other teams. Both players are scheduled to earn $8.3 million in each of the next two seasons, meaning they could possibly be moved as a way to free up the funds to bring Howard and Smith together.

Howard completed his free agency meetings on Tuesday by meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers. He met with the Rockets first on Sunday night, followed by Golden State and Atlanta on Monday and the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday before the Lakers. Smith is also being targeted by the Detroit Pistons and is believed to have at least five suitors.

Suns-Clips trade spells trouble for Marshall

Kendall Marshall was the 13th overall pick of the 2012 Draft and the third point guard (behind Rookie of the Year winner Damian Lillard and the Pelicans’ Austin Rivers) off the board that night. However, he struggled to find minutes with the Suns and even had a nine-game stint in the NBA D-League. The Suns’ acquisition of Bledsoe from the Clippers in last night’s trade may only spell more bad news for the second-year guard, writes Bob Young of The Arizona Republic:

The Suns won’t say it, but we will.

The Kendall Marshall draft pick last season was a mistake.

Then again, maybe the Suns did say it by taking part in a three-team deal first reported by Yahoo! Sports to obtain a quick, athletic point guard in Eric Bledsoe and veteran small forward Caron Butler from the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Suns sent Jared Dudley to the Clippers, who once played in his hometown. The Milwaukee Bucks, the third-team in the deal, ship guard JJ Redick to the Clippers and get second-round draft picks in exchange.

This isn’t to say that Marshall, who was selected when Lance Blanks served as general manager, doesn’t have a place in the Suns future. It’s just that it’s probably as the team’s third point guard.

Twitter quick hits: On Korver, Gay, Hamilton, Copeland, Cavaliers and more

2013 Free Agents: The Numbers

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – At 12:01 a.m. ET on Monday, 144 free agents became available. While there are some big names at the top of the list, it’s not the deepest free-agent class we’ve seen.

Only two 2013 All-Stars — Chris Paul and Dwight Howard — are on the market. Only 19 of the 144 free agents scored at least 1,000 points last season, and only 11 started at least 50 games for a playoff team. One of those 11, of course, was Paul, who took himself off the market pretty quickly.

Two of the other 10 — Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings — started for the 38-44 Milwaukee Bucks. Jennings was a minus-289 last season. The other eight: Howard, Tony Allen, Andre Iguodala, Kyle Korver, Josh Smith, Tiago Splitter, Jeff Teague and David West.

Jennings’ minus-289 was not the worst mark of available free agents. That belongs to Byron Mullens, who was a minus-419 (in only 1,428 minutes) for the Bobcats last season. Mullens’ teammate Gerald Henderson was a minus-402.

The Bobcats were pretty awful whether or not Henderson was on the floor. The Bucks were pretty good (+6.9 points per 100 possessions) with Jennings on the bench and pretty bad (-4.4) with him in the game. His on-off-court differential of 11.2 points per 100 possessions was the worst among free agents who played at least 1,000 minutes with a single team last season.

Worst on-off-court NetRtg differential among free agents

Player Min. On NetRtg On NetRtg Off Diff.
Brandon Jennings 2,896 -4.4 +6.9 -11.2
D.J. Augustin 1,226 -1.1 +7.8 -8.9
Byron Mullens 1,428 -16.2 -7.4 -8.8
Tyler Hansbrough 1,366 -0.6 +8.0 -8.6
Al Jefferson 2,578 -3.5 +4.3 -7.8

Minimum 1,000 minutes with a single team
NetRtg = Team point differential per 100 possessions

On the opposite end of the spectrum was Devin Harris, whose Hawks were 10.0 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the floor than when he was on the bench.

Best on-off-court NetRtg differential among free agents

Player Min. On NetRtg On NetRtg Off Diff.
Devin Harris 1,421 +7.3 -2.7 +10.0
David West 2,435 +8.5 -0.9 +9.4
DeMarre Carroll 1,111 +5.4 -3.1 +8.4
Kyle Korver 2,259 +4.4 -3.7 +8.0
Brandan Wright 1,149 +5.1 -2.6 +7.7

Minimum 1,000 minutes with a single team

It shouldn’t be any surprise that, on offense, Paul was the biggest difference maker of the 145 free agents …

Best on-off-court OffRtg differential among free agents

Player Min. On OffRtg On OffRtg Off Diff.
Chris Paul 2,335 112.1 101.3 +10.8
David West 2,435 104.9 96.1 +8.8
J.J. Redick (ORL) 1,575 103.7 95.3 +8.4
Kyle Korver 2,259 105.7 98.8 +6.8
Roger Mason Jr. 1,218 107.2 100.6 +6.6

Minimum 1,000 minutes
OffRtg = Team points scored per 100 possessions

And it’s no surprise that the Lakers were much better defensively with Howard on the floor, or that the Grizzlies got more stops with Tony Allen in the game. Lamar Odom‘s DefRtg differential, combined with Paul topping the list above, makes it clear that the Clippers were an offensive team with their starters in the game and a defensive unit when they went to their bench.

Best on-off-court DefRtg differential among free agents

Player Min. On DefRtg On DefRtg Off Diff.
Lamar Odom 1,616 95.4 104.9 -9.5
Tony Allen 2,109 94.3 101.1 -6.8
Tiago Splitter 1,997 96.1 102.3 -6.3
Devin Harris 1,421 97.9 104.1 -6.2
Dwight Howard 2,722 101.7 107.8 -6.0

Minimum 1,000 minutes with a single team
DefRtg = Team points allowed per 100 possessions

Redick was a big difference maker on offense with Orlando, in part, because he shot 39 percent from 3-point range and helped spread the floor. But he shot just 32 percent from beyond the arc after being traded to Milwaukee and isn’t among the top 10 3-point shooters among free agents…

Highest 3-point percentage among free agents

Player 3PM 3PA 3PT% 3PA%
Jose Calderon 130 282 46.1% 44.4%
Kyle Korver 189 414 45.7% 68.9%
Mike Dunleavy 128 299 42.8% 47.9%
Kevin Martin 158 371 42.6% 47.7%
Martell Webster 139 329 42.2% 51.7%
Chris Copeland 59 140 42.1% 36.8%
Roger Mason Jr. 66 159 41.5% 52.1%
C.J. Watson 88 214 41.1% 46.6%
Randy Foye 178 434 41.0% 58.8%
O.J. Mayo 142 349 40.7% 34.0%

Minimum 100 3PA
3PA% = 3PA/FGA

Howard ranked second among free agents in rebounding percentage, only topped by J.J. Hickson

Highest REB% among free agents

Player MIN OREB% DREB% REB%
J.J. Hickson 2,323 13.1% 28.0% 20.5%
Dwight Howard 2,722 10.6% 27.5% 19.3%
Zaza Pachulia 1,134 13.9% 21.5% 17.7%
Marreese Speights 1,300 12.6% 22.8% 17.4%
Lamar Odom 1,616 8.6% 25.2% 17.2%

Minimum 1,000 minutes
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds grabbed
DREB% = Percentage of available defensive rebounds grabbed
REB% = Percentage of available total rebounds grabbed

There are a good amount of distributors on the market, including a couple of guys who had more assists than field goal attempts last season…

Highest ASTRatio among free agents

Player MIN FGA AST TO ASTRatio TORatio
Jamaal Tinsley 1,221 234 290 106 45.2 16.53
Pablo Prigioni 1,263 220 236 86 42.7 15.55
Jose Calderon 2,159 635 518 126 39.4 9.59
Chris Paul 2,335 856 678 159 36.9 8.66
Beno Udrih 1,457 476 302 108 32.4 11.60

Minimum 1,000 minutes
ASTRatio = Percentage of possessions ending in an assist
TORatio = Percentage of possessions ending in an turnover

Paul doesn’t only dish dimes, but he’s pretty good at getting himself to the free throw line, ranking fourth among non-big (PG, SG, SF) free agents in free throw rate…

Highest FTA Rate among non-big free agents

Player FGA FTM FTA FT% FTA Rate
Andrei Kirilenko 560 188 250 75.2% .446
Manu Ginobili 539 164 206 79.6% .382
Darren Collison 724 242 275 88.0% .380
Chris Paul 856 286 323 88.5% .377
Gerald Henderson 855 258 313 82.4% .366

Minimum 500 FGA
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA

Who Should Stay And Who Should Go

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HANG TIME, Texas
— The start of free agency always has plenty of decisions. The most basic are which players should look for greener pastures and who should be smart enough to realize what they’ve already got.

Here’s a quick look at a handful of players that need to find a new address and five more who should stay at home:

FIVE WHO SHOULD GO


Dwight Howard
, C, Lakers

Let’s face it. There hasn’t been an NBA marriage this shaky that didn’t involve a Kardashian. Howard went to a team where Kobe Bryant was already firmly entrenched as the alpha dog and then found himself on a leash that included geezers Steve Nash and Metta World Peace. Toss in a coach like Mike D’Antoni who has never favored playing a low post game and it was a recipe for disaster. Another several years of playing in the harsh glare of the Lakers spotlight might be too much for Howard to bear. The overly sensitive must flee to someplace that will give him a big hug before he turns into a pillar of salt.

Josh Smith, F, Hawks

If you were building a 21st century basketball player in a lab — speed, strength, leaping ability, size — chances are you would come up with someone resembling J-Smoove. After nine NBA seasons, he’s got career numbers that rank him among the greats. After nine years in his hometown of Atlanta, he’s about worn out his welcome with all of those wild, late, long shots. In the right situation, with the right coach, he might take a team to the next level or send it over the edge. A man has got to know when it’s time to change the scenery.

Tony Allen, G, Grizzlies

He’s the guy who introduced the grind into the Grindhouse and one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. He can cut to the basket and score, but that’s about all he can do offensively and that hole in his game was badly exposed by the Spurs in the Western Conference finals. The new analytics-driven Grizzlies have Tayshaun Prince to fill the defensive role and they’re not likely to fork over the kind of money Allen wants for a one-dimensional figure. It’s time to take those defensive claws to another contender or wannabe and show the Grizzlies what they’ll be missing.

Tyreke Evans, G, Kings

Was it just three years ago when Evans was a 20-5-5 guy and winning Rookie of the Year honors with the Kings? His fall from grace was like an anvil being tossed off the edge of a cliff. Now that new management was able to reel in shooter Ben McLemore in the draft, it would seem that there’s little room left for Evans. Will the Kings even think about matching four-year, $44 million offer from the Pelicans? This is a separation that’s been that’s been coming for a while.

Monta Ellis, G, Bucks

It just wasn’t a good idea to put together two small guards that need the ball in their hands together in Milwaukee. It’s definitely isn’t a good idea to re-sign both of them as free agents. Brandon Jennings is hardly the model of efficiency, but Ellis makes him look like a Swiss knife in comparison. He needs to find a new home where he can be a designated scorer and not asked to do anything else, because he won’t.

FIVE WHO SHOULD STAY


David West, F, Pacers

He may yearn for one more big pay in another location, but at the end of the day West and the Pacers know that they’re made for each other. He’s a very efficient scorer, a hard-nosed defender and played a big role in Indiana taking the Heat to a seventh game in the Eastern Conference finals. He also has great leadership skills and has always managed to fly below the radar while delivering in a big way almost every time out.

Andre Iguodala, F, Nuggets

He exercised his right to opt out early from his contract and maybe it was only about maximizing his earnings. Or maybe he needed time to digest what the change from George Karl to Brian Shaw as coach could do to the Nuggets’ style of play and how he fits into the attack. At the end of the day, the Nuggets still have plenty of players who can get up and down the floor in transition and it Shaw wants to place even more emphasis on defense, he’s most capable of delivering and thriving.

Chris Andersen, F, Heat

This is a perfect fit in so many ways. The Heat gave Andersen a place where he could continue this career and make a significant contribution. Andersen gives the Heat the kind of rugged, tough guy, free spirit personality that is a nice balance inside a locker room filled with three mega-stars. When you’ve got LeBron, Wade, Bosh and all of the hullaballoo that constantly swirls around them, almost no one even notices the Birdman. Almost. It’s a long grind from October to June and it helps to have an iconoclast like Andersen on the court and in their midst to keep the Heat fresh.

Nikola Pekovic, C, Timberwolves

New Wolves president of basketball operation Flip Saunders is likely to let free agent Andrei Kirilenko walk out the door in order to find someone cheaper and with better shooting range. But the big man Pekovic is a must-keep asset not just for his size, strength, rebounding and scoring efficiently, but also to show Kevin Love that the team is serious about building a team that — barring injury — can jump into the rugged Western Conference playoff race and thrive. Pekovic’s numbers in points, rebounds and blocks have gone up in each of his first three seasons and at 27 he can grow more into a dominant inside force.

Tiago Splitter, F, Spurs

The difference in Splitter from his first to second playoff seasons was a quantum leap. Of course, it also helped that he had a full training camp and was healthy. He’s a quietly efficient scorer who can be trusted to hold down the middle while the Spurs continue to monitor and limit the minutes played by Tim Duncan. He is a perfect complementary part for now and his role can increase in another couple of years. There are lots of teams that would like to have the 28-year-old, but he’s at home with the franchise that patiently waited for him to arrive and there is no reason to think the Spurs would want him to walk out the door.

Free-Agent Roundup: July 1

From NBA.com staff reports

In case you missed it overnight, the Rockets met with Dwight Howard as free agency began overnight with a contingent that was equal parts Hall of Fame and front office in an attempt to woo the big man to Clutch City. As we all await what happens next with Howard, there are other names in the free-agent stew that we’ll update you on as well:

Blazers interested in Allen

Widely regarded as the best defensive shooting guard in the NBA, Tony Allen is due for a big payday this summer and the suitors are lining up to make their pitch to him. According to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com, the two-time All-Defensive First Teamer has been contacted by the Blazers:

Late Sunday night the Portland Trail Blazers contacted the representatives of unrestricted free agent guard Tony Allen, a league source conveyed to CSNNW.com.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the free agency period, says at that at this point, the reason for the conversation was merely “exploratory” with interest on both sides.

They are expected to resume discussions shortly during the free agency period. As of now, no meeting has been scheduled.

Bulls targeting Williams, Bynum?

Without Derrick Rose last season, the Bulls managed to win 45 games, take a Game 7 in the first round on the road and give the eventual-champion Miami Heat fits in a physical semifinal series. They did all of this with Nate Robinson and Kirk Hinrich putting in most of the work at point guard while Rose recovered. It stands to reason, then, that since Rose is expected back next season (and Robinson has all-but-assuredly played himself into a bigger contract) that the Bulls need to rethink their point guard depth. According to RealGM.com, Chicago is potentially targeting Jazz starter Mo Williams and Pistons backup Will Bynum to fill that reserve point guard role:

With uncertainty in the backcourt, the Chicago Bulls are showing significant interest in Mo Williams and Will Bynum and have started exploratory discussions with the representatives of the free agent guards, league sources told RealGM.

Williams averaged 12.9 points in 46 games a season ago with the Utah Jazz, and he has a stated desire to receive heavy, contributing minutes. The Jazz acquired Trey Burke at No. 9 in the NBA draft and could start him early in his NBA career. At 30, Williams has established himself as a combo guard, and Tom Thibodeau would undoubtedly place the 10-year veteran in shooting and playmaking situations.

Bynum has been a pace-changing guard, averaging nearly 10 points on 46.9 percent shooting in 2012-13. He has played five of his six seasons with the Detroit Pistons. Given Chicago’s salary structure, Williams and Bynum both could be inclined to make less money in a potential deal with the Bulls.

The Bulls appear unlikely to retain Nate Robinson or Marco Belinelli, and they are expected to waive Rip Hamilton before his entire contract becomes guaranteed. Still, they’ll have Derrick Rose back next season, leading to fewer minutes for Kirk Hinrich.

Wolves interested in Martin, Budinger

As Oklahoma City’s sixth man last season, Kevin Martin was the third-leading scorer for the Thunder and their top option off the bench. Once the playoffs came around, Martin’s scoring average stayed the same (14.0 ppg), but his 3-point shooting drooped from 42 percent in season to 37 percent in the postseason. Still, Martin remains one of the more efficient scorers in the league and is drawing interest from a team in need of 3-point shooting and scoring: the Timberwolves.

The Timberwolves also never got to see much of what Chase Budinger could do in their lineup last season. He tore the meniscus in his left knee six games into the season and played just 23 games with the Wolves. Now a free agent, Minnesota is interested in keeping Budinger around, writes Sam Amick of USA Today:

The Minnesota Timberwolves honed in on perimeter scorers at the outset of free agency, visiting with small forward Chase Budinger in San Diego while also calling shooting guard Kevin Martin.

Budinger tore the meniscus in his left knee six games into the season and had surgery that kept him out three months, but has averaged 9.4 points per game as a valuable reserve in his three seasons in Houston and one in Minnesota. He is also known to be receiving interest from the New Orleans Pelicans, Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks.

The interest in Martin is no surprise, as Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman brought him up as a young player in for the Sacramento Kings and later coached him with the Rockets. Martin also received a call from the Bucks on Sunday night, and is receiving interest from the Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies.

What about Monta?

Monta Ellis is a tried and true scorer in the NBA, something that has got the interest of the Bulls, Spurs, Nuggets and Suns. But as Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports, the Knicks might be the frontrunner for the former Most Improved Player of the Year Award winner due to the combination of factors they provide:

As the free-agent negotiating period opened Monday morning, the Knicks expressed an interest in pursuing a deal with Bucks shooting guard Monta Ellis, league sources told CBSSports.com.

A union of Ellis and the Knicks is viewed as a long shot, as the Knicks have only the $3.2 million taxpayer mid-level exception available. Ellis just opted out of a deal that would have paid him $11 million next season in Milwaukee.

But Ellis, 27, and his Washington, D.C.-based agent, Jeff Fried, are known to be willing to compromise in order to sign with a contending team. And the Knicks, who face the free-agent loss of sixth man of the year J.R. Smith, would provide ample opportunity for Ellis to showcase his scoring prowess deep into the playoffs.

The Bulls, Spurs, Nuggets and Suns also are among the teams who expressed interest in Ellis as the free-agent negotiating period began Monday at 12:01 a.m. ET, league sources said.

The Mavericks and Hawks are also keen on adding a player like Ellis, who Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today Sports points out, is prepared to do what it takes to finally play for an outfit that wins big:

The Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks — both teams with significant salary cap space — are two teams who have shown strong interest in Ellis and two teams Ellis has an interest in, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of Ellis’ situation.

They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about free agents.

Ellis is also at the point in his career where he wants to play deep into the playoffs. Other teams have shown interest — such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks — but those teams are handcuffed by salary cap restrictions and would need to make other moves in order to accommodate Ellis, who is willing to find common ground between salary and playing for a contender. (more…)

Hollins’ Ouster Puts Memphis’ Brass Squarely On The Hot Seat


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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – RIP, GnG?

Lionel Hollins, the gruff, old-school head coach who delivered the embraceable blue-collar, Grit-and-Grind identity to the once-floundering Memphis Grizzlies, is officially out. And the organization’s new ownership group, led by young tech billionaire Robert Pera and his analytics-charged management team headed by CEO Jason Levien, is officially on the hot seat to keep a good thing going.

The apparent choice to replace Hollins has been his understudy, Grizzlies assistant Dave Joerger. Joerger is credited as the architect of Memphis’ stone-cold defense and would take over a club that won a franchise-best 56 games and appeared in its first Western Conference finals.

“On behalf of the Grizzlies organization I would like to thank Lionel for his service and hard work in helping this organization throughout his years in Vancouver and Memphis,” Levien said in a statement. “We have begun to identify our next head coach, who we feel can best move us forward.”

Where will the staunch Hollins, 196-155 in four-plus seasons with Memphis, land? Perhaps with the stylistically opposite Denver Nuggets. Reports out of Los Angeles have him on the Clippers’ long interview list for this week.

Lionel Hollins, Mike Conley

Lionel Hollins was key to the development of point guard Mike Conley.

But back to the Grizzlies. Memphis is a fragile small market and Hollins, along with key player acquisitions by general manager Chris Wallace – who took a back seat to Levien and is reportedly a top candidate for the GM job with the Sacramento Kings — turned a second-class citizen to its FedExForum co-tenant, the Memphis Tigers, into the pride of the city.

That’s rare stuff. Even so, Memphis’ attendance ranked 19th out of 30 teams this season. They played to 91.8 percent capacity. Only 13 teams played to fewer home fans (in terms of arena capacity) and only three were playoff teams — Indiana, Atlanta and Milwaukee.

“One thing I think is very unique about [our] market which helps us is that we’re the only game in town,” Levien, a former agent and former assistant GM with Sacramento, said last month in an interview during the second round against the Oklahoma City Thunder. “So if you’re in L.A., you’re competing with all these pro sports teams and all this other entertainment. If you’re Memphis, the FedExForum is the spot. The Grizzlies are the team. And even though it’s a smaller market, we need to do a better job of commanding that attention consistently, but we think that’s an advantage for us.

“The great thing about Memphis also is we’re in the Southeast. This is a basketball city, this is a basketball region. Even though SEC football is big all around us, people love basketball and a lot of that is the Tigers’ tradition. So we are very cognizant of the fact that we are growing on the backs of the Tigers and what they built here in terms of the love of basketball.”

The Grizzlies’ plan is to keep growing, to widen their fan base by expanding television deals into regional markets such as the recent TV and radio deal into Little Rock, Ark. To sustain and grow attendance and increase television reach — which often creates new sponsor opportunities, ticket sales and other revenue streams — Memphis must keep a winner on the floor.

Levien has major decisions ahead and tough ones in shaping a team under the constraints of the salary cap. A coach is No. 1. Then comes whether to re-sign defensive specialist Tony Allen. The free-agent swingman is affectionately called “The Grindfather” by fans who wear T-shirts bearing that name in the style of the “The Godfather” logo from the movies.

Will Levien shop Zach Randolph, who turns 32 next month and is owed $34.3 million over the next two seasons? Randolph became a beloved figure in Memphis as well as a two-time All-Star under Hollins, who deserves credit for sticking with and developing point guard Mike Conley and 2012 All-Star and 2013 Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol. Does Levien prefer the Grizzlies move away from the Grit-and-Grind foundation and to a more up-tempo attack to mirror the rest of the West?

Levien said he had begun earlier in the season the process of calling every season-ticket holder to share his vision for the club.

“The thing I’ve noticed in Memphis is they were down for so long they want to know that you want to win,” Levien said. “And If they think that you are serious about it, and that you have a process, and that you have a strategy and that you really want to win, I think they’re with you and they’re excited about that.”

Dismantling the structure of an operation that reached new heights is risky business. Mark Cuban took apart a championship team (his reason being to better deal with the changes of the new CBA) and two years later the Mavericks are out of the playoffs. Memphis doesn’t possess the longstanding fan goodwill (or deep-rooted corporate sponsorships) as Dallas does to sail through a public relations storm of a precipitous fall.

And its players that are locked up don’t want to even think about that.

“I’ve seen both ends of it,” Conley, who went 22-60 as a rookie, said during the West finals. “We were terrible, the support was pretty bad and now we’ve seen it hit an all-time high and I don’t want to go back to what it was before. Trust me. It would be huge if we could just stabilize what we have and just keep moving forward.”

Heat, Pacers Hit With Flopping Fines



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Not all flops are created equal, as LeBron James and David West (above) and Lance Stephenson (below) illustrated in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The fines handed down by the league, however, came down the same. All three of those players were slapped with a $5,000 penalty for the extra flair they showed in their flops, Hollywood-worthy acting jobs in all three instances.

There were just four flop fines (Tony Allen of the Grizzlies vs. the Spurs in Game 2, J.R. Smith of the Knicks vs. the Pacers in Game 1, Derek Fisher of the Thunder vs. the Rockets in Game 5 and Jeff Pendergraph of the Pacers vs. the Hawks in Game 5) before this current windfall.

The message from the on high is clear to us: Enough of the dramatics!

Unlike foul calls that can be interpreted a million different ways, no one can dispute the acting jobs turned in on these flops. All three of these latest fines were well-earned.

Now we’ll see if the fines will curb the enthusiasm of the Heat and Pacers in Game 5 tonight in Miami (8:30 p.m ET, TNT) …

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