Posts Tagged ‘Tyrus Thomas’

Morning Shootaround — Aug. 22


Gentry can’t wait to team with Davis | A new era for the NBA | Copeland moving forward in Milwaukee | Cousins gets key

No. 1: Gentry can’t wait to team with Davis NBA coaches are only as good as the players on their rosters. Which is why new New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is so excited: He has the chance to coach Anthony Davis, who is one of the NBA’s best players and is only 22 years old. As Gentry explained to our own Ian Thomsen, Davis is one of the few “generational” players in NBA history …

Magic Johnson. Larry Bird. Michael Jordan. Tim Duncan. Shaquille O’Neal. Kobe Bryant. LeBron James.

The dream of every NBA coach, as Alvin Gentry sees it, is to partner with one of those exceptional stars.

“They really are generational players,” Gentry says. “Anthony is a generational player, I think. And he is 22 years old.”

Anthony Davis of the Pelicans, whom Gentry will be coaching next season, has already earned an NCAA championship in 2012 (with Kentucky) and an Olympic gold medal four months later, in addition to two All-Star invitations, one first-team All-NBA selection and a breakthrough playoff appearance last season with New Orleans.

Coaches can navigate the NBA for decades and never connect with someone like him. Don Nelson, Jerry Sloan, George Karl and Rick Adelman — each with more than 1,000 wins — have coached many great players, but never that one transcendent star who could win the championship.

“Anthony is right in that category, and there is a lot of responsibility that comes with that,” says Gentry. “It is up to us to make him as good as he can possibly be, and not settle for him to be less than great in this area or that area. I told him that I have no doubt that he is going to be an MVP in this league. And I said to him, ‘We are going to be really, really good if you also win Defensive Player of the Year.”’

It is one thing to dream of coaching Davis. It is another thing to know how to coach him — to bring the experience and energy and wisdom that are crucial to the job. How do you make the dream come true?


No. 2: A new era for the NBA It’s something many NBA fans have probably taken for granted over the years: We all see the schedule — 30 teams criss-crossing the hemisphere in order to play 41 home games and 41 road games — but did anyone really consider how that tangled web of scheduling came together year after year? As Howard Beck writes, for the last three decades, the job of scheduling the NBA belonged to NBA executive Matt Winick, who is “moving on” after forty years with the NBA, and taking with him an era when things were done differently

The memorabilia has been bubble-wrapped—the autographed Willis Reed print, the kitschy poster from the 1978 Finals. A brawny typewriter, the Royal 440, rests on the radiator. An NBA staff guide, dated 1975-76, peeks out from a shelf.

And on the desk sits a yellowed Rolodex, jammed with four decades of key NBA figures. But the real power rests beside the Rolodex.

That’s where the PC is. The one with the spreadsheet containing all those arena dates and television commitments and grudge matches. The one that dictates where every NBA team will play, and when.

For the last 30 years, Matt Winick has punched the keys on this PC (or one like it) and arranged all of those dates, color-coding for home games (blue) and away (red), agonizing over every six-game road trip and every back-to-back set, bracing for the complaints that were sure to follow.

“I tell the teams, ‘Hey, that’s the way the computer did it,'” Winick said from behind his desk. “But it was never the computer. I was the computer.”

Officially, Winick has carried the title of senior vice president, but he is best known as the NBA’s Scheduling Czar—a role he alone has held since 1985, a role he is now relinquishing for good.

The 75-year-old Winick, who first joined the NBA in 1976, is stepping down (not retiring, he insists) at the end of the month, taking with him four decades of memories, mementos and scheduling wisdom.

The spreadsheet has been bequeathed to Tom Carelli, the league’s senior vice president of broadcasting. Carelli’s team produced the recently released 2015-16 schedule, the first without Winick’s fingerprints since the 1984-85 season.

“I always described it as a jigsaw puzzle with 1,230 pieces”—one for every game—”and if one of them doesn’t fit, it doesn’t work,” Winick said. “All 1,230 pieces have to fit.”


No. 3: Copeland moving forward in Milwaukee A few months ago in New York City, then-Pacers forward Chris Copeland was stabbed outside a New York City nightclub, necessitating emergency surgery and ending Copeland’s season. Now Copeland is a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, and as our Steve Aschburner writes, Copeland is looking forward to getting back on the court and playing for coach Jason Kidd and one of the NBA’s most promising young teams…

This is a guy for whom there were no bread crumbs marking his path to the NBA, no dots to connect in cooperation with a friendly GM that would help him realize a dream. Copeland got cut twice overseas and moved through teams in Spain, Holland, Germany and Belgium before turning himself — with some intense coaching from TBB Trier’s Yves Defraigne in Germany — into a player worthy of a Knicks summer league invitation in 2012.

With his solid play there and in camp that fall, Copeland won a roster spot. It all has gone so fast since then — 147 NBA appearances, 1,955 minutes played, 349 field goals — that getting derailed or even stuck with a reputation for one wrong-place, wrong-time mistake would have been cruel.

Instead, Copeland has focused on the positive.

“If I didn’t go through cold showers overseas or stuff like that, I wouldn’t understand as much what it is, when I say it’s a blessing to be here,” he said. “It’s different when you actually have an experience on the other side.

“Everything else that’s happened that’s led me to this point, I’m thankful for. I just keep it as a positive in my head.”

Reuniting with Kidd, who Copeland played with in the final year of his Hall of Fame-bound career as rookie, is the positive now. He said he learned much from the veteran point guard, from how to care for his body to proper positioning on the court. What Kidd helped the Bucks accomplish last season, improving from 15 to 41 victories, was no surprise to their new “stretch four” option.

“I knew he’d be someone I’d want to play for,” Copeland said. “He’s been a great basketball mind. Playing with him, I got to see his leadership abilities. A lot of things he did as a player, he was almost coaching then. You can see it over the last two years he’s been a head coach, he knows what he’s doing.”

Copeland’s strength, deep-threat shooting from a big, never has been more in demand. And Milwaukee has been eager to add some after finishing 26th in 3-point attempts and 23rd in 3-point makes. Golden State won a championship with shooters spacing the floor, so the Bucks are among the many hoping to replicate the success.

“I think with the guys we have on this team — [Giannis] Antetokounmpo, Jabari [Parker] when he gets healthy — we can make their jobs easier,” Copeland said.

Copeland hit 42 percent of his 3-pointers in his first two seasons, then dropped to 31 percent in 2014-15. It was a dismal year all around, from Paul George‘s ghastly summer injury and absence, through Roy Hibbert‘s continuing funk, to the regrettable incident in April.

“I always count blessings, but I always look forward,” Copeland said, happy for the fresh start. “I count on my blessing always — I’ve been like that before, after and in-between. I thank God every day for my life and for being able to be here as an NBA player. But I don’t look backwards in any way.”


No. 4: Cousins gets key There’s been plenty of drama in Sacramento, but the one thing nobody is arguing is that center DeMarcus Cousins is one of the most talented young players in the NBA. This week Cousins returned home to Mobile, Alabama, where the mayor gave him the key to the city and Cousins discussed plans to help revitalize parts of his hometown

The 25-year-old Cousins was born and raised in Mobile and this weekend he returned to hold a free youth basketball camp with free eye exams from VSP Vision. He held the same type of camp in Sacramento back in June.

“Teaming up with VSP is helping kids in Sacramento and Mobile see better and provides them with opportunities they may not otherwise receive,” Cousins said. “Having good vision is critical both on and off the court.”

Mayor Stimpson and Cousins spent two hours touring parts of the city on Friday. Part of Cousins visit was to share his vision of revitalizing Michael Figures Park in his old neighborhood.

The park has become dilapidated and over-run with graffiti, and it no longer serves a purpose for youth within the community.

Cousins, who played at LaFlore High School, is hoping to partner with the city to give the park a makeover. He wants to clean it up and add a new playground, as well as revitalize the basketball court, where currently one hoop is missing from the run-down court. He envisions turning the inner city park into something that would resemble New York’s Rucker Park.

The vision of the park restoration project is just the first of many that Cousins has planned for Mobile.

Also included of the hometown tour was a stop-off at Pritchard Prepatory, a charter school for elementary students. Cousins and the Mayor stopped in classrooms to visit with children and pose for pictures.

“Me growing up, I wish I would have had a chance to interact with an NBA player,” Cousins said. “This is just my way of giving back to them.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kobe Bryant joined Taylor Swift on stage at the Staples Center last night to present her with a “championship” banner … Michael Jordan won a lawsuit against a supermarket chain that used his likeness without permission … Tyrus Thomas is training for an NBA comeback … The Sacramento Kings will celebrate several #FlashbackFridays this season by bringing back their old baby blue uniforms

New Coaches: Heat Is On Already


HANG TIME, Texas — It’s not very often that 13 different teams decide to change coaches during one offseason. It’s a sign of these impatient times in which we live, especially when six of those teams finished last season with winning records.

It used to be “what have you done for me lately?” Now it’s “what have you done in the last 10 minutes?”

Of course, not every new coaching situation is the same. No one expects a pair of newcomers like Brad Stevens in Boston and Brett Brown in Philly to perform water-into-wine miracles with stripped-down rosters.

Doc Rivers goes coast-to-coast to show a 56-win Clippers team how to take the next step while Mike Brown returns to Cleveland with a roster full of young talent ready to bloom.

However, not everybody gets to settle in comfortably. Here are the five new coaches who’ll find that seat warm from Day One:

Dave Joerger, Grizzlies — Sure, he’s paid his dues and learned his craft in the minor leagues and as an up-and-coming assistant coach in the NBA. All he’s got to do now is take over a club that is coming off the best season in franchise history, including a run to the Western Conference finals. While that means the Grizzlies have a contending core in Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley and a supporting cast to repeat their feat, it also means that every decision, every move that Joerger makes from the first day of training camp through the end of the playoffs will be judged against his predecessor Lionel Hollins, who evidently could do everything except make his stat-driven bosses appreciate him. In a Western Conference that just keeps getting stronger, it will be tough enough survive, let alone thrive with a ghost on his shoulder.

Larry Drew, Bucks — After spending three seasons in Atlanta, where he always had a winning record but could never get the Hawks past the second round of the playoffs, Drew moves to a Bucks franchise that overachieves if it climbs into the No. 8 seed to play the role of punching bag for the big boys in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee has turned over its backcourt from an inconsistent pair of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to a spotty trio of Brandon Knight, O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal. Rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo has size, athleticism and a bundle of talent. But he’s only 18 years old and the question is whether Drew will be given the opportunity to stick around long enough to watch him grow. The Bucks are one of two teams with plenty of space under the salary cap, but have no real intention of spending it except to get to the mandated league minimum. This is a Bucks franchise that doesn’t have a sense of direction and that hardly bodes well for a coach. It’s not even a lateral move for Drew and could make getting the next job that much harder.

Brian Shaw, Nuggets — After waiting so long to finally get his opportunity to become a head coach, Shaw steps into a situation that is almost the opposite of Joerger. The Nuggets let 2013 Coach of the Year George Karl walk along with Masai Ujiri, the general manager who built the team, and then blew a gaping hole in the side of the 57-win, No. 3 seed in the West roster by letting Andre Iguodala get away, too. Shaw still has Ty Lawson as the fire-starter in the backcourt, but one of these seasons 37-year-old Andre Miller has got to run out of gas. As if the rookie coach didn’t have enough to juggle with the mercurial JaVale McGee, now he’s got Nate Robinson coming off his playoff heroics in Chicago with that ego taller than the Rockies. It’s never a good time to be stepping into a new job when management seems to be pulling back.

Steve Clifford, Bobcats — He’s another one of the longtime assistant coaches that has paid his dues and was ready to slide down the bench into the boss’s spot. But Charlotte? That’s more like the ejector seat in James Bond’s old Aston Martin. The Bobcats have had six coaches in the seven years that the iconic Michael Jordan has been head of basketball operations and then majority owner. From bad drafting (Adam Morrison) to bad trades (Ben Gordon, Corey Maggette), through constant changes of philosophy and direction, the Bobcats simply go through coaches faster than sneakers. Now it’s general manager Rich Cho calling the shots, but that didn’t stop the firing of Mike Dunlap after just one season. Clifford gets veteran big man Al Jefferson to anchor the middle of the lineup, but he’d better have his seat belt fastened tight and watch out for those fingers on the ejector button.

Mike Malone, Kings — Not that anyone expects Malone to be under immediate pressure in terms of wins and losses. What the Kings need now that they have a future in Sacramento is to re-establish a foundation on the court. Of course, the multi-million-dollar question is whether that base will include the talented and petulant DeMarcus Cousins. Everybody knows that he’s physically got what it takes to be a dominant force in the league. But the jury is still out when you’ve played three years in the league and you’re still getting suspended for “unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team.” Paul Westphal and Keith Smart couldn’t get through to Cousins to make him somebody the Kings can rely on and were spat out. Now as the big man heads toward a summer where he could become a restricted free agent, the franchise needs to know if sinking big bucks in his future is an investment or a waste of time. That’s the intense heat on Malone and the clock will be ticking immediately.

‘Amnesty THAT!’ An Amnesty Find Is Rare


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — The two-word tweet Kobe Bryant directed at Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban after he grilled Cuban’s team for 38 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a game last season was priceless. Earlier that week, Cuban suggested that the Lakers should consider amnestying Bryant this offseason as a means for Los Angeles to shrink the enormous luxury-tax bill coming after next season.

The notion was resurrected after Bryant, due to make $30.45 million in 2013-14, tore his Achilles tendon in the third-to-last game of the regular season because of the assumed probability that he will miss a chunk of next season. Of course, the Lakers had no intention to amnesty Bryant by Tuesday’s deadline.

Had they, making him available to a team for dirt cheap, Bryant would have become the first superstar cut loose via the amnesty provision that took effect at the conclusion of the 2011 lockout as part of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Twenty players in all have been waived via the amnesty provision. Three got the news Tuesday, bringing this summer’s amnesty total to five.

The wisdom of the provision is to allow each team the one-time ability to remove a contract from its books. The team must still pay the player’s remaining salary, but it no longer counts against the salary cap or luxury tax.

The amnestied player (who must have been under contract prior to the new CBA) goes through a waiver process with teams under the salary cap granted first crack to acquire the player through a bidding process. The highest bidder wins and signs the player at the bid price with the former team responsible for the balance.

It could provide a cheap way for a team to fill a hole with a serviceable rotation player set free by a team needing financial relief — which was the Miami Heat’s purpose Tuesday in amnestying popular sharpshooter Mike Miller. More often than not, however, teams, naturally, have utilized the amnesty provision to eradicate expensive mistakes or free themselves of players no longer worth their lucrative deals such as waiving disappointing, non-productive players (Darko Milicic, Travis Outlaw), older/high-mileage players (James Posey, Elton Brand) or headcases (Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche).

Of the 15 players amnestied in 2011 and 2012, four (Posey, Charlie Bell, Ryan Gomes and Milicic) were never signed by another team and eight (Arenas, Bell, Josh Childress, Baron Davis, Gomes, Milicic, Posey, Brandon Roy) are currently out of the league. Only five players remain with the teams that signed them through or after the amnesty waiver process, and of those just three — Luis Scola (Phoenix), Blatche (Brooklyn) and Chris “Birdman” Andersen — played significant roles last season.

Of the five players amnestied this summer, the underwhelming Tyrus Thomas has yet to be signed. Drew Gooden, Linas Kleiza and Miller are in the midst of the 48-hour waiver bidding process. Metta World Peace, amnestied by the Lakers, signed a two-year deal with his hometown New York Knicks.

The 6-foot-11 Blatche and the Brooklyn Nets are hands-down the feel-good story of the amnesty provision. Just 26, Blatche’s talent is immense, but so was his penchant for doing dumb things with the dysfunctional Wizards. Fed up, Washington gave up on him. Few teams bit until the Nets figured they had nothing to lose, signing Blatche to a one-year deal for less than $1 million while the Wizards were on the hook for more than $7 million. Blatche emerged as an integral part of the Nets’ return to the playoffs, averaging 10.3 ppg and 5.1 rpg off the bench. Last week Blatche re-signed for a reported two years and $2.9 million.

But Blatche is clearly the exception. The Mavericks hoped to get a steal with their winning bid of $2.1 million for the amnestied Brand, who was due to make $18 million last season with the Philadelphia 76ers. Brand, while well-liked in Dallas, posted his worst statistical season of his career, averaging 7.2 ppg and 6.0 rpg. He recently signed a free-agent deal with Atlanta.

Chauncey Billups, amnestied in 2011 by the Knicks to make room to sign Tyson Chandler, played just 42 total games the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, and recently signed a free-agent deal with the Detroit Pistons. Center Brendan Haywood was nonexistent in Charlotte last season after being amnestied by the Mavs.

And remember the potential Childress had? Amnestied by the Phoenix Suns in 2012, he’s one of the eight players no longer working in the NBA. The amnesty bust list goes on and on.

So who are the 10 teams yet to play their amnesty card, and which players are eligible? Here they are: Atlanta (Al Horford), Boston (Rajon Rondo), Chicago (Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah), Detroit (none), Memphis (Mike Conley, Zach Randolph), New Orleans (none), Oklahoma City (Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant, Nick Collison), Sacramento Kings (John Salmons), San Antonio (Tony Parker) and Utah (none).

But that is now speculation for next summer.

Luxury Tax Reality: Heat Amnesty Miller

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat are not immune to the harsh economic realities facing the league’s biggest spenders under the new collective bargaining agreement.

The waiving of veteran shooter and surprise 2012 Finals hero Mike Miller via the amnesty provision this afternoon is proof. Miller joins Metta World Peace, formerly of the Los Angeles Lakers and now a member of the New York Knicks, as the most prominent players to be amnestied this summer. The Charlotte Bobcats also used the amnesty provision on Tyrus Thomas last week.

(You can see all of the players who have suffered the same fate on’s Amnesty Tracker.)

The move came as something of a surprise after Heat boss Pat Riley addressed the possibility of this happening by saying there would be no need for the Heat to use this one-time measure to clear salary cap space.

“After many discussions internally and a sincere effort to explore the trade market, we made a very difficult decision to use our Amnesty provision on Mike Miller,” Riley said in a statement. “Mike had an incredible impact on the Miami Heat; helping us to three finals appearances and winning back-to-back world championships. This was a very difficult decision for me personally, the Arison family, Erik and the entire Miami Heat organization. Mike was one of the best we have ever had here, and will be sorely missed. We wish Mike, his wife Jennifer and their family nothing but the best.”

This was a purely economical move for the Heat, who could save $30 million in luxury tax payments over the nest two seasons simply by removing Miller’s $12.8 million in salary from the books for the 2013-14 season and the 2014-15 season. The Heat still will have to pay Miller the salary he is owed but it won’t impact their own salary cap bottom line.

Miller, whose penchant for knocking down big shots at big moments in both of the Heat’s title runs, was clearly wounded  by the move.

“I understand the business side of basketball,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s a combination of being very, very thankful for the opportunity that I’ve had, but it hurts that we had a chance to do something very, very special and I’d love to have been a part of it.”

This is the strictly business portion of the program for veterans like Miller and World Peace, guys who helped their now former franchises to championships.

“I know I can be very, very productive for a couple years for sure,” Miller said. “But at the same time, it would be very difficult to go into a situation where you’re not competing for a title. So I’m going to have to weigh those things, and we’ll see how it plays out.”

Miller’s time in Miami was well spent. He leaves having been an integral part of a Heat crew led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh that made three straight trips to The Finals and walked off with Larry O’Brien trophies in back-to-back years.

Heat fans will surely never forget some of his most memorable moments from the title runs, and that includes his shoeless 3-pointer from Game 6 of last month’s Finals and certainly the seven 3-pointers he made in the title-clinching Game 5 win over Oklahoma City in 2012.

“I love Mike. We all love Mike,” Wade told The Associated Press. “It’s tough to lose one of our brothers. But I think we all understand it’s not personal. It’s a business decision.”

It’s strictly business these days for the NBA’s biggest spenders.

Bobcats Pay Up To Nab Jefferson


From staff reports

In a potentially perception-altering move for one of the NBA’s most moribund franchises, the Charlotte Bobcats reached a verbal agreement Wednesday with one of the most sought-after big men after Dwight Howard, Utah’s Al Jefferson, who agreed to a three-year, $40.5 million deal.

The 28-year-old Jefferson was Charlotte’s top priority in free agency, as the Bobcats sought to finally find a low-post presence that would help their perimeter players get move driving and shooting space.

Jefferson will receive $13.5 million in each of the three seasons of the contract. He will have a player option for the third season.

The Bobcats, according to a source, will amnesty forward Tyrus Thomas in order to create enough cap room to sign Jefferson, who will, along with first-round pick Cody Zeller, give Charlotte a bolstered frontcourt next season, along with second-year small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Last season, Byron Mullens (when healthy) was the de facto starting center for Charlotte, notching 41 starts in 53 games played. But the Bobcats also gave playing time in the middle to second-year big man Bismack Biyombo as well as veterans Thomas, Brendan Haywood, DeSagana Diop and Josh McRoberts.

The Bobcats are finally free of Diop, a monumental bust who played in just 92 games over the past four seasons after Charlotte took him off the Dallas’ Mavericks’ hands, and they did not make a qualifying offer to Mullens, setting the forward-center free.

Haywood and Biyombo, who started 65 games last year and will enter his third season, are both on the books at bargain rates for next season. Charlotte signed Haywood before last season after Dallas used the amnesty clause to release him. He’ll be paid $2.05 million by the Bobcats next season. McRoberts is an unrestricted free agent.

The 6-foot-10, 289-pound Jefferson is a low-post tactician on the offensive end, but he certainly is no Bill Russell on the defensive end. He averaged 17.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg and 1.1 bpg last season with the Jazz.

Acquired by Utah from Minnesota in a July, 2010 trade, Jefferson could be the kind of acquisition for Charlotte that Vlade Divac was for Sacramento in 1998, when he left the Charlotte Hornets for the Kings in a free agent deal. With Divac aboard and Chris Webber coming from Washington, the Kings turned their up-to-then terrible fortunes around, becoming one of the league’s most exciting teams.

Charlotte has a way to go to get to that level, but Jefferson’s presence will make things easier for everyone. Averaging 16.4 ppg over nine NBA seasons, Jefferson has never shot less than 49.2 percent from the floor. He offers a creative low-post game that utilizes both hands along with an improved jumper.

Now with four centers on the roster for next season, it will be interesting to see Bobcats owner Michael Jordan’s next move is in a possible attempt to thin out the position and seek help elsewhere for the club.

Jordan has been criticized for poor drafts and seeming unwillingness in recent years to spend money, but in signing Jefferson and eating the final two years and $18 million of Thomas’s contract, Jordan is making a significant investment in trying to turn around the Bobcats’ fortunes. They’ve been the worst team in the league the last two years, with a combined 28-120 record, including a 7-59 season in the Lottery-shortened 2011-12 campaign.

Jefferson averaged 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds last season for the Jazz, who could also lose their other free agent big man, Paul Millsap. The two sides met in the opening minutes of free agency on Monday but Utah did not make an offer to Millsap.’s Jeff Caplan and TNT analyst David Aldridge contributed to this report

Morning Shootaround — March 5

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: Box scores rarely tell the whole story of a given game and such was the case in last night’s Raptors-Warriors game from The Oracle. A click over to said box score reveals Andrew Bogut‘s return to the Golden State lineup and a somewhat ho-hum stat line: four points, eight rebounds and two turnovers in 29 minutes. But what’s lost in the box score is seen on the court as Bogut helped the Warriors get a sense of what their full starting five is like while also providing some defense that the Warriors have lacked the last few weeks. Steph Curry and David Lee were the box score stars in this game, but don’t discount what Bogut adds to the Warriors.


News of the morning

Stoudemire ready for more minutes | Nuggets, Korver a match someday? | Jazz’s Williams may play vs. Cavs | Bobcats’ Thomas stays home | Sixers CEO chimes in on Bynum

Stoudemire wants more playing timeWe mentioned in this space yesterday that some were questioning Knicks coach Mike Woodson’s strategy in Sunday’s loss to the Heat, particularly the amount of minutes reserve big man Amar’e Stoudemire was playing down the stretch in that game. After Stoudemire logged 31 minutes and led New York with 22 points in a comeback win over the Cavs on Monday, it appears Stoudemire can handle more playing time. Jared Zwerling of reports that a source says Stoudemire is more than set to take on a bigger role if asked:

… According to a source close to the Knicks, Stoudemire is “ready” and “healthy” to play more minutes to help the team.

“He’s in tip-top shape,” the source told “He wants to play; whatever it takes for [the Knicks] to win.”

On Sunday, Stoudemire only got in for 21 minutes — sitting out the last eight — in the Knicks’ losing effort against the Heat. Down the stretch he was needed because when the Heat applied more aggressive defense on Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks didn’t have an inside scoring threat. Tyson Chandler was in the game, but he’s not one to create his own opportunities.

If Stoudemire’s body is ready, it would be important to increase his minutes now, to better prepare him for increased playing time in the postseason. That’s usually what happens during this critical period of the season, as coaches shorten their rotation to focus on their best players.

“Now is the time to be giving him extending minutes to see how his body reacts to it,” the source said, “especially when you’re not on [a] big winning streak. … Something has to shake up.”

Head coach Mike Woodson is still banking on basic perimeter play and 3-point shooting, which worked in the first two months of the season when the Knicks started 18-5. But since then, they’ve been mostly playing .500 ball, and there are still too many outside shots from Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith. In fact, against the Heat, while Smith shot 3-for-14 from 3-point, Stoudemire took just seven shots from the field, making five.

The source said the Knicks are “not a real hard team to figure out right now.”

Nuggets interested in KorverThe trade deadline is long gone, so any hopes of the Nuggets acquiring Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver in a trade (including this smart one suggested by John Schuhmann way back when) are out of the picture. But that doesn’t mean Korver wouldn’t be a natural fit for the high-octane crew coach George Karl is assembling in Denver, writes Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post. In fact, Karl in his pregame comments last night (before Denver hosted Atlanta) couldn’t help but gush about Korver’s skills:

Korver, an unrestricted free agent in his 10th year in the NBA, is expected to be one of the Nuggets top targets in the offseason as the team actively courts players who can fill that shooting void. Denver won’t be the only team looking to gain his services, but if the money is right (Korver makes $5 million this season) the situation might be hard for the sharpshooter, who grew up in Pella, Iowa, to turn down.

Shots figure to be much easier to come by in a system where guard Ty Lawson’s driving is so respected that he sucks defenders into the lane, and other players capable of hitting from long range – Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer – make it so that he would be difficult to devote additional resources to slowing just Korver down in the manner that the Nuggets are expected to try tonight.

“You don’t have a lot of pin-down offenses anymore, for some reason the game’s gone to pick-and-roll and away from the execution of a pin-down,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “You’ve got (J.J.) Reddick and some guys that come off of pin-downs but this kid right now moves without the ball as good as anybody in the NBA, and he will get his opportunity to be the first option in 10-15 minutes of the game that we’re going to have to be responsible and see how he’s shooting it. And then you can’t give them the open three, you can’t give him the ‘oh, what happened’ three. You’ve got to be ready. He’s a big part.”

“He’s an unbelievable shooter, he’s so gifted with that,” Kosta Koufos said. “He just has a positive outlook to everything. That’s why he’s been so successful in the league. He’s just been working hard, day-in and day-out.”

Koufos raved about Korver as a teammate.

“He’s great guy,” Koufos said. “He’s what you think of a professional. He comes in, works hard, he’s very motivational, very positive, a great player. He’s one of the better teammates I’ve ever played with.”

Jazz hoping to get Williams back soonUtah, the No. 8 seed in the West, has stayed in the thick of the playoff chase and gone 18-14 since Dec. 22. Why is that date significant? That’s when starting point guard Mo Williams was lost so he could have surgery to repair torn ligaments in his thumb. Guard play has been a problem for the Jazz during Williams’ absence, but he practiced with the team in Milwaukee on Monday and could play again as soon as Wednesday in Cleveland. Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune has more:

Williams said Monday at the Jazz’s shootaround in Milwaukee that he could return to games as early as Wednesday, when the Jazz play at Cleveland, where he played from 2008 to 2011.

“We’ll see,” Williams said. “We’ll see. That would be great to play in front of those fans.”

The 30-year-old point guard had two pins removed from his thumb on Feb. 13, and his rehabilitation began in earnest after the All-Star Break, and if Al Jefferson were the final judge, Williams would be cleared to play.

“He said he was a little winded,” Jefferson said. “I told him I couldn’t tell.”

But the Jazz are being cautious with the veteran.

“As he gets close, he’s getting a little frustrated with trying to get himself to get better fast and be ready to go,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. “It’s a process until the body responds and getting stiffness out and feeling comfortable with and not being hesitant with the hand.”

Corbin said he has not yet decided how to integrate Williams back with the Jazz, whether he would start right away or come off the bench to ease back into his leadership role.

“We have to get readjusted to him as he has to get readjusted to how the guys are playing now,” Corbin said. “It’s been a long time. … There will be an adjustment period hopefully we can make it as short as we can.”

Alec Burks has seen a substantial increase in opportunity and productivity since Williams went out, and has averaged 8 points in the 30 games he’s appeared in since Dec. 23. In February, he averaged 9.8 points and shot 44.9 percent from the field.

Bobcats tell Thomas to stay homeAround the trade deadline, there were reports of veteran guard Ben Gordon getting into a disagreement with first-year coach Mike Dunlap. While Gordon is still with the team, his role in the rotation has been diminished. Now another player the Bobcats have had troubles with in the past, Tyrus Thomas, has been told to stay home — although not for disciplinary reasons. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer says the Bobcats told Thomas to stay home during Charlotte’s West coast road swing to work on his conditioning and other aspects:

Charlotte Bobcats power forward Tyrus Thomas was told not to accompany the team on its four-game West Coast trip by team management.

Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins said Monday that the front office felt Thomas’s time would be better spent in Charlotte, doing some physical rehabilitation and individual on-court work, rather than on the road with his team.

Thomas, the Bobcats’ second-highest paid player this season at $8 million, has fallen out of the rotation entirely of late. Monday’s road game in Portland was the 10th straight game that Thomas was designated as inactive and the 12th-straight game in which he did not play.

When the Bobcats acquired another power forward, Josh McRoberts, at the trade deadline, McRoberts was activated for his first game before he had participated in a Bobcats practice or shootaround.

The Bobcats have a considerable financial obligation to Thomas going forward – $8.6 million for the 2013-14 season and $9.4 million for the 2014-15 season, both guaranteed.

Sixers CEO: Bynum trade ‘should have worked’We’ve detailed the plight of Andrew Bynum and the Sixers plenty around here during the season, so there’s no reason to get into Bynum’s back story or the latest news. The main takeaway with Bynum is that the Sixers haven’t gotten what they thought they would out of him this season due to Bynum’s lingering knee injuries. Still, the Sixers’ brass is coming out more and more to talk about the trade and a more or less lost season, with the latest name to step to the podium and pontificate being Sixers CEO Adam Aron. He had the following to say to John Gonzalez of

“This is a move that should have worked,” Aron said. “But, unfortunately, he got an injury in September and it’s been compounded since, post-trade and we haven’t seen a day. The fans hopes were justifiably high that the Sixers had made a move, a bold move, that would catapult us back into the top teams in the NBA. It hasn’t worked.”

“The issue for this season is not whether Andrew Bynum has surgery, it’s what are the condition of his knees?” Aron said. “We thought he was going to play opening day. His doctors gave us a four-week delay, then another four-week delay. In December, we went out publicly and said he would be out indefinitely because we just didn’t know when he would be back. If you go back in time just three weeks ago, Andrew himself was telling everyone that he thought he’d be actively playing after the All-Star break. He did practice with the team about 10 days ago. There were high hopes and he was working out hard in February behind the scenes at the practice facility. But when he practiced with the team five-on-five his knees started swelling up and that was a big setback.”

Late last week, when Bynum was asked whether his knees are degenerative, he didn’t directly answer the question, saying instead that “50 percent of the people in the United States” are in the same situation. Are Bynum’s knees degenerative?

“I can’t get into his exact medical condition,” Aron said. “But I can say this, which is obvious to all of us: All season long he’s had bone bruise issues. He’s had cartilage problems. It’s March. He’s still not playing. He hasn’t played basketball since last May. Clearly, Andrew is dealing with some knee problems that have prevented him from playing in the NBA.”

Aron said “four doctors cleared the trade in August, and six doctors have actively been treating him and examining him all year long.” The Sixers’ CEO insisted that the team, until now, was confident Bynum would play this season.

“We certainly thought he was going to play in August,” Aron said. “That’s why we made the trade. Even in early October, we thought he would play on opening night. Then there was a delay. Then there was [another] delay. Even when we announced that he was out indefinitely, inside the team we thought he would play in January or February. He himself, in February, said he would play in February. But here we are in March and the team is disappointed. Our fan base is disappointed. And that’s the story of the season.”

ICYMI of the night: One reason Monta Ellis is the 15th-best scorer in the NBA?: it’s because he can always find creative ways to get the ball in the basket, like this:

Bobcats Coach Dunlap Doing It His Way

DALLAS — Hey, every ugly streak can’t be slayed overnight.

The Charlotte Bobcats exhaled enough relief Friday night after snapping the 23-game losing streak that ended last year’s historically pitiful season to propel them all the way to Dallas for Saturday’s game against the rested and waiting Dallas Mavericks.

A valiant push by the Bobcats in the second quarter faded at the end of the half and collapsed in the third quarter as Dallas won going away, 126-99 thanks to a barrage of 3-balls. The loss prevented Charlotte from accruing consecutive victories for the first time since the final two games of the 2010-11 season.

And then there’s that little streak that now stands at 16, the number of consecutive losses to the Mavs, who continue to play without injured star Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas is the only team the Bobcats have never defeated since expanding into the league in 2004.

Camp Questions: Will The Bobcats Put Up Fewer Mid-range Jumpers?

The Charlotte Bobcats have nowhere to go but up. Last season, they finished with the worst record in NBA history and ranked last in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

While they added No. 2 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist this summer, the Bobcats didn’t exactly upgrade their roster in a major way. But they did hire a new coach, who could make a difference, despite the fact that you’d probably never heard of him before he was hired in June.

Mike Dunlap is a numbers guy, which automatically makes him a favorite in this space. And as a numbers guy, he knows that his team had the league’s worst shot selection last year.

The Bobcats took 39.6 percent of their shots from mid-range (between the paint and the 3-point line), the highest rate in the league. Furthermore, only 16.3 percent of their 3-point attempts came from the corner, the lowest rate in the league. Combine those two numbers and you’ve got a pretty good formula for a pretty bad offense, no matter how much talent you may or may not have on your roster.

Highest percentage of shots from mid-range, 2011-12

Charlotte 768 2,098 36.6% 39.6%
Boston 824 1,953 42.2% 38.4%
Philadelphia 839 2,096 40.0% 38.0%
Toronto 681 1,849 36.8% 35.9%
New Orleans 714 1,790 39.9% 35.1%

%FGA = Percentage of total field goal attempts

So Dunlap is trying to change things. (more…)

Wizards Undecided On Blatche Amnesty

The first day that NBA teams are officially allowed to sign free agents and make trades is also the first day of the six-day window where teams are allowed to use the amnesty provision to cut players and remove them from their salary cap. The Washington Wizards are still undecided about whether to use the amnesty provision on one of the top league-wide candidates, forward Andray Blatche, according to sources.

Washington is exploring several options for Blatche, who has fallen out of favor both with fans in D.C. and with the organization after signing a contract extension in 2010 that reworked his existing contract into a five-year deal worth $35 million. The Wizards could opt for amnesty, which would remove the remaining $23 million the team owes Blatche from its salary cap, freeing up resources that the team will need in the next few years to extend players like John Wall and this year’s first-round pick, Bradley Beal.

The Wizards could trade Blatche immediately. Or, they could continue to explore trade options while removing Blatche from the daily workings of the team–in essence, paying him his salary to stay away. The Pacers used a similar strategy in 2008, forcing guard Jamaal Tinsley to sit out the whole season while not playing after he clashed with then-coach Rick Carlisle and the organization.

But asking owner Ted Leonsis to write that $23 million check is a big ask, sources allow, even though Blatche is not in the team’s future plans. The Wizards have remade their power forward group in the last year and a half, drafting Jan Vesely with the sixth pick in the 2011 Draft and acquiring Emeka Okafor from New Orleans last month (along with small forward Trevor Ariza) for Rashard Lewis. Second-year forward Trevor Booker also played extremely effectively in spots the last couple of years. Washington has Ariza and Chris Singleton penciled in to take the lion’s share of minutes at small forward. (more…)

Something To Prove

Nothing in the NBA is guaranteed except contracts. So at least Tyrus Thomas has that in his favor. The Bobcats gave him five years at $8 million per, with the hopes that he’d stop teasing everyone and someday produce like a high lottery pick should.

But as Rick Bonnell mentioned in the Charlotte Observer, Thomas cold be in jeopardy of losing precious minutes to DJ White, a big, hungry bruiser who wasn’t blessed — cursed? — with a big contract.

White had just scored a career-high 21 points with 10-of-12 shooting. He was the one shining thing in an otherwise awful performance.
(Paul) Silas was asked if it would be a “problem” finding minutes for White once Thomas returns from a sprained ankle, hopefully this week. Silas replied that if this defines a problem, it’s certainly not his problem.
“He’s going to play now,” Silas said of White. “Tyrus is going to have to show that he can play better.”
At 68, Silas is an old-school guy expecting players to earn their minutes. The clear message was White deserves better than to just be a place-holder for Thomas.