Posts Tagged ‘Washington Wizards’

Morning shootaround — Nov. 17

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 16


Rockets a mess after latest loss | Shumpert could return by mid-December | Durant says hamstring feeling ‘way better’

No. 1: Rockets a mess after latest loss — After reaching the Western Conference finals a season ago, the Houston Rockets entered 2015-16 with hopes of a Finals run. Eleven games into the season, they sit at 4-7 after last night’s home loss to the Boston Celtics and are searching for any kind of answers. Our Fran Blinebury was on the scene in Houston last night and has more on the state of the Rockets:

The Rockets are a team that won 56 games last season without ever losing more than two in a row. Now they’ve already had a three-game losing streak, followed by the current four-game skid and, even worse, they’re making a habit of getting blown out, perhaps giving up. The second half at Miami, the first half at home against Dallas, surrendering a 32-13 third quarter to the Celtics.

“I wouldn’t say full effort all the time, no,” said coach Kevin McHale. “We’re hanging our heads. Things aren’t going our way and we hang our head. We haven’t put together really good basketball all year long.”

Can anybody remember the last time a team that had advanced as far as the conference finals less than six months earlier, fell this far this fast without suffering a major injury to a key player?

Have Josh Smith, Pablo Prigioni and Kostas Papanikolaou ever been missed so much by anyone outside their own families? Should the acclimation to new point guard Ty Lawson be quite so difficult?

The Rockets are not just 4-7 on the season, but 2-5 at home in the Toyota Center, where boos are becoming a regular part of the fan experience. Of those seven losses, five of them have come by margins of 20, 20, 20, 18 and 16.

In case anyone’s wondering, the winless Sixers come to town on Nov. 27.

“There’s negativity all around,” said Dwight Howard. “Out there, in here. We have to stay away from it. We have to be positive. That’s my job.”

It should be the job of Howard and James Harden as co-leaders, yet neither is truly comfortable in the role of fully shouldering the responsibility. Harden is nonpareil in his brilliance at the offensive end, but has fallen back into many of his old defensive shortcomings. Howard plays confidently and aggressively at defense and rebounding, but at no point in his career has he ever been a tall flagpole to rally around.

The criticism and the fingers have already pointed at Kevin McHale for his inability to pull the Rockets out of the ditch, though he’s changed lineups, tried different tactics, done virtually everything but consult a Ouija board. A year ago McHale guided a team that played without Howard for 41 games to the Southwest Division title and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, then pushed them all the way into June.

Has this team suddenly tuned him out and, if so, why? McHale, who is in the first season of a new three-year contract, is the winningest coach by percentage in franchise history. In his four years in Houston, he’s established a reputation as a players’ coach, one that cajoles, relates, inspires and does not grab at the spotlight to bask. If he is being rolled under the bus by anyone inside the locker room, it would only be to cover up their own deficiencies.

The Rockets have fallen into the habit of letting one or two bad possessions snowball until it starts an avalanche. The Celtics fed off the on-court sniping and squabbling that resulted in a 34-point turnaround from the middle of the second quarter to the end of the third.

“I think every game that we’ve lost it’s been something like that where they go on these crazy runs,” Harden said. “It’s kind of hard to get out of them. I don’t know what the case is … but you have to fight through it. It’s pretty bad, but the good thing about it is it’s still early in the season.”

As for Lawson, Calvin Watkins of reports Lawson may soon be out of a starting job

VIDEO: Kevin McHale talks after Houston’s loss to Boston

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Morning shootaround — Nov. 11

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 10


MRI next for Durant | Davis’ status for next game unclear | Kings air grievances in meeting | Cuban still has Jordan texts

No. 1: MRI next for Durant in wake of hamstring injury — Kevin Durant‘s return to his hometown of Washington, D.C., was a newsworthy one as expected. But it wasn’t because of what Durant said about his looming free agency and the Wizards’ expected courting of him. Instead, it was notable because Durant logged only 16 minutes and 45 seconds of game time before a hamstring injury forced him out of the game. He finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in OKC’s 125-101 romp and afterward, addressed his injury. Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman has more:

For the Thunder, this night went almost ideally.

Likely due to Durant’s recent comments about the “disrespectful” nature of cheering for an opponent, the Wizards crowd barely made a peep when he was announced pregame. There was even a ‘KD stay in OKC’ sign spotted in the lower bowl.

Then every time he touched the ball during the first half, light boos sprinkled down.

“They were?” Durant asked of the fan’s booing. “I don’t care.”

Led by KD’s quietly dominant 14 points and 10 first half rebounds and Russell Westbrook’s loud 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists before the break, OKC burst out to 68-50 halftime lead. The Thunder lead only widened from there.

OKC’s offense looked crisp. Dion Waiters popped 25 points off the bench. Westbrook finished with a 22-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist triple-double in only 28 minutes. All 13 active Thunder players scored.

But the tenor of the game changed late in the first half.

On a slicing drive with 54 seconds left, Durant was fouled by Kris Humphries and landed a bit awkwardly on his left leg. He immediately grabbed his hamstring, grimacing and reaching for it the rest of the half.

Durant slowly went to the halftime locker room with Thunder trainers by his side. He didn’t return, icing and watching the Thunder blowout from the bowels of the Verizon Center with what the team deemed a left hamstring strain.

“I mean, I can walk,” Durant said postgame. “It’s just a little sore.”

KD is scheduled for an MRI back in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. The Thunder doesn’t play again until Friday and that comes against the 0-7 Philadelphia 76ers at home. So there’s a window to get some rest.

But at this point, he doesn’t know how serious a strain it is. Durant said he’s never had one before.

“I don’t know (if I’ll miss time) right now,” Durant said. “It’s unfortunate but it’s part of the game. Can’t hang my head. Just gotta work to get back. I’ve been here before.”

One of the toughest parts of this setback for Durant is it came right as he was hitting a stride. Against Phoenix on Sunday, KD went for 32 points in 32 minutes, adding 11 rebounds and a 12-of-19 shooting line. On Tuesday, he had a first half double-double in only 17 minutes.

VIDEO: Kevin Durant addresses his hamstring injury


No. 2: Davis’ status unknown after suffering hip injury — The good news for the New Orleans Pelicans last night was that they finally got their first win after an 0-6 start. The bad news was superstar Anthony Davis had to leave the game with a hip contusion. Injuries have played a big part in the Pelicans’ awful start to 2015-16 and they’re hoping Davis doesn’t join a lengthy list of wounded players that already includes Tyreke Evans, Norris Cole and others. John Reid of The Times-Picayune has more:

Despite ending a six-game losing streak to start the season by beating the Mavericks, 120-105, Pelicans star forward Anthony Davis suffered a right hip contusion injury in the second quarter that forced him out from playing in the second half.

While his teammates were in the locker room explaining how they got their much needed victory, Davis was going through a series of tests after the game to determine the exact extent of his injury, but X-rays came back negative.

The injury occurred in the second quarter after Davis took a knee to his hip area.

”I just know he had some problems and I don’t know if it is a groin or hamstring,” Gentry. ”But we’ll just have to wait and see. Nothing surprises us here.”

Gentry could not say after the game if Davis would be making the trip to Atlanta for Wednesday night’s game against the Hawks.

Now, there is a chance Davis could be joining an injury list that already includes guard Tyreke Evans, who underwent arthrscopic surgery to remove bone chips from his right knee Oct. 20. There is no timetable on Evans’ return, but he was initially projected to miss six to eight weeks.

Backup point guard Norris Cole has been out since last month with a high left ankle sprain, and there is no timetable on his return. Small forward Quincy Pondexter continues to go through rehabilitation after undergoing surgery on his left knee in May. He could return later this month, but no set date has been released yet. Veteran center Kendrick Perkins said last week that he will miss two-to-three months with a right pectoral injury.

Starting center Omer Asik, though, made his return against the Mavericks after missing three games with a sore right calf. Asik played 15 minutes and scored two points five rebounds. Point guard Jrue Holiday remains under a minute restriction and will miss Wednesday’s game against the Hawks because he has not been cleared yet to play in back-to-back games to avoid any problems from recurring with his surgically repaired lower right leg.

VIDEO: Alvin Gentry discusses Anthony Davis’ injury and the Pelicans’ first win


No. 3: Kings hold team meeting to air grievances — Sacramento Kings superstar DeMarcus Cousins hinted after Monday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs that the team needed to have a “players-only” meeting to try and right the ship after a 1-7 start. That apparently happened … and some other folks had meetings, too, in an effort to fix what’s ailing the Kings. According to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, players, coaches and the front office all held meetings yesterday:

A meeting that was supposed to be just for the players became a group therapy session for Kings players, coaches and the front office Tuesday.

With Cousins missing four games because of injury, the players lacking trust in the system and coaches unhappy with the players’ effort and attitude, there’s already been enough tension to force everyone to gather around the figurative campfire and speak their minds.

“Guys and the coaching staff and the front office talked about how comfortable players are with plays, coaches with the attitudes and stuff like that,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac said. “When you have a problem in the family, you address it, you talk about it. I was very pleased how we talked about it openly.”

The player-coach dynamic is most likely between Cousins and George Karl stemming from their feud in the summer.

But the Kings’ issues go deeper than Cousins and Karl. Multiple players are concerned about the defensive schemes. The Kings rank among the worst defensive teams through eight games.

The Kings are giving up 110.6 points per game, third most in the league. Opponents are shooting 49.3 percent, highest allowed in the league.

Conversely, coaches had reason to be upset with the effort on some nights. The Kings have started games sluggishly, and some defensive performances have looked lackadaisical at best. Karl even noted last week the Kings had “lazy” defensive possessions.

Then there is the lingering notion of players not being all-in with Karl and his style of play. For some players, like Cousins, their only measure of success as a pro came last season, when the team started 9-5 under Michael Malone before Cousins became sick. The Kings fell to 11-13, and Malone was fired.

Some players still yearn for Malone’s defensive-minded approach that led to last season’s good start. Perhaps the Kings need similar success under Karl (he’s 12-26 since taking over last season) to gain confidence in him, even as he experiments with lineups searching for the right mix.

“I never said they don’t like the system,” Divac said. “They just didn’t buy in, yet.”

Karl did not speak with reporters Tuesday, but said he would Wednesday morning following shootaround. That’s noteworthy considering home coaches are not required to do so per NBA media access rules.

Caron Butler was signed to be a leader in the locker room for situations like this. He’s known to speak his mind. He and swingman Omri Casspi were the only players to address reporters Tuesday.

Casspi said Cousins’ outspokenness Monday night was part of being a leader. While some might fear the bad start again could spark trade rumors of Cousins going to the Los Angeles Lakers or Boston Celtics, Cousins still has never asked to be dealt.

And he reached out to his teammates Monday night to remind them he’s committed to playing with them.

“(Cousins) was the one to send out a text to the players (Monday) night about how he cares about the team, wants to win and he feels like he has the right pieces here,” Casspi said. “So we’ve all got to step up.”


No. 4: Cuban says he kept all his texts with Jordan — The free-agency signing saga between the Dallas Mavericks and DeAndre Jordan was the story of the offseason and tonight (8 ET, ESPN), things come to a head of sorts as Jordan’s Los Angeles Clippers visit the Mavs. It’s the first time the center will play against the team he famously committed to (and then spurned) in free agency, a move Mavs owner Mark Cuban hasn’t forgotten about at all. The Los Angeles TimesBen Bolch, via Twitter, reports that Cuban still has all the texts he exchanged with Jordan from the big man’s reversal of field:


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey sees some Dirk Nowitzki-like skills in New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis … Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson says he should have rested his back more to start the seasonKevin Durant heard some boos from the Washington Wizards’ crowd last night … Miami Heat rookie Justise Winslow is impressing the team’s veterans with his defense … Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder and Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Sasha Kaun once shared a dinner of ‘meat jello’ when both men were in Russia … Rookie R.J. Hunter is turning heads in Boston

ICYMI of the Night: Lakers rookie Marcelo Huertas submitted a potential #ShaqtinAFool play last night … 

VIDEO: Marcelo Huertas’ buzzer beater goes all wrong

… and we loved this strong finish here by Utah Jazz forward Trevor Booker …

VIDEO: Trevor Booker dunks with authority against the Cavs

Morning shootaround — Nov. 10

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 9


Cousins hints at ‘players-only’ meeting | Beal doesn’t want fans cheering for K.D. in D.C. | Report: Pelicans bring back Fredette

No. 1: Cousins hints at ‘players-only’ meeting after loss to Spurs — The Sacramento Kings in 2015-16 were expected by many to, at best, push for a playoff spot in the Western Conference and, at least, show marked improvement from the last several seasons. Yet this morning they are 1-7 after a 106-88 home drubbing at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. Following the loss, Kings star DeMarcus Cousins — back in the lineup after missing four games with an Achilles injury — said the team has issues to work through. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee has more:

The Kings are 1-7 and have lost six in a row. This time the Kings fell apart in the fourth quarter and were outscored 34-19.

Again, the Kings’ defense did little to slow down an opponent, which has been the case often this season. The lineups were unpredictable again as the group that started the game didn’t start the second half.

Cousins, who missed the previous four games with a strained right Achilles’ tendon, was asked if he learned anything about the team while injured.

“Everything I can’t really speak on,” Cousins said. “We got some issues that we got to carve out. Can’t really speak on that. But one thing is, us players, we got to stick together. And just with that, that’ll get us through most battles. We got some issues in-house we need to figure out.”

Cousins was asked if these were issues that could be fixed before the Kings host Detroit on Wednesday.

“Can’t answer that,” he said.

Are these on-court issues?

“Not at all,” Cousins said.

Cousins was asked if the Kings needed a players-only meeting.

“It’ll be a players-only meeting,” Cousins said. “… Just to make it clear I believe in every single person in this room. We just got to stay together. That part I’m not worried about. But there are issues we need to figure out.”

Cousins was asked if the issues would be fixed with a few wins.

“I feel like when those issues are fixed, the winning will come,” Cousins said.

The Kings have used a different starting lineup in the last six games and seven different starting lineups overall.

Anderson was benched to start the second half and did not re-enter. Ben McLemore went from the doghouse to starting the second half.

“It’s different lineups, man, so people we haven’t necessarily played with before and it’s tough,” Rudy Gay said. “Not just on the people that do play, it’s tough on everybody. The guys that do come in and try to fill in the pieces. And we have a lot of young people who are expected to do a lot of things. We just have to be better.”

Coach George Karl was also asked about the mood of the locker room. The optimism from preseason is being overtaken by the frustration the Kings have only one win.

“Right now it’s probably a little angry and frustrated and confused,” Karl said. “Fortunately we have a day tomorrow to straighten that out and get back on track.”

VIDEO: DeMarcus Cousins hints at Kings’ need for a ‘player-only’ meeting


No. 2: Beal, Durant: D.C. fans cheering for Durant ‘disrespectful’ — There’s a big matchup tonight on NBA TV as the Oklahoma City Thunder visit the Washington Wizards (7 ET) in a Fan Night showdown featuring two contenders. Aside from that, of course, is the storyline of D.C. native Kevin Durant and whether or not he’ll use his looming free agency in 2016 to leave Oklahoma and head back home come 2016-17. That’s unknown at this point and Durant has done all he can to stay away from the topic. Still, there will be D.C.-area fans at tonight’s game purely cheering for the native son, which is something Wizards star Bradley Beal (and Durant) doesn’t endorse. J. Michael of has more:

Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal are on the same team when it comes to this, before the Oklahoma City Thunder arrive to square off the Wizards on Tuesday: They don’t want Verizon Center fans cheering their favorite son in an attempt to placate him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. In fact, both loathe it.

“It is disrespectful because he plays for Oklahoma City,” said Beal, who is questionable because of a sore left shoulder, when asked if he agreed with Durant’s assessment. “He doesn’t play for Washington.”

Earlier in the day, Durant spoke about his experience playing here last season. While he’s a native of D.C. and the Wizards (3-3) have made moves to clear cap space to make a run at him in 2016, the adoration makes him uncomfortable.

“It was cool to see all my family there but if our team did that to somebody coming into our arena, I wouldn’t like it. I didn’t really like it,” Durant told reporters after practice in Oklahoma City. “We’re playing a really good team in the Wizards, a great team. Great young talents. Good coach. I think that was disrespectful so I didn’t like it.”

Wizards center Marcin Gortat was more understanding, knowing that’s how fans can be and doesn’t take it personal.

“They are fans. At the need of the day, they pay my salary. They can do whatever they want to do,” said Gortat, who is in the second year of a five-year, $60 million contract. “Kevin Durant has a huge fan base. Wherever he goes he’s got thousands of people cheering for him. We can’t be mad about that. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll have some fans that cheer for us and hopefully we’re going to get a win because we need that win.”

Durant coming to the Wizards would be a game-changer. It’s still a year away but it’ll continue being a hot topic until there’s a resolution less than a year from now.

“That’s why the NBA is better than a lot of sports. … In basketball, one or two stars going to a different team, your expectations are different,” said Jared Dudley, who is an unrestricted free agent next summer and acknowledged he might not be around to see what happens first-hand. “This is a star league and he’s a top three player. … Hopefully he does (come to D.C.).”

VIDEO: David Aldridge discusses the likelihood of Kevin Durant joining the Wizards in 2016-17



No. 3: Report: Pelicans bring back Fredette — Just before the start of the 2015-16 season, former lottery pick Jimmer Fredette seemed to have run out of NBA chances after he was cut by the San Antonio Spurs. He was taken No. 2 overall in the NBA D-League draft by the Westchester Knicks and was seemingly on the long path many failed draft picks and NBA hopefuls take. That road didn’t last long for him, though, as Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania reports the 0-6 New Orleans Pelicans are set to bring Fredette back to the team:

Jimmer Fredette – the No. 2 pick in the NBA Development League draft by the Westchester Knicks – has re-signed with the New Orleans Pelicans under the injury hardship exception, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

edette will provide insurance to the Pelicans’ backcourt, with Jrue Holiday still on a playing restriction. The Pelicans weren’t granted an injury exception to sign a player during the first week of the season, but were given one Monday, sources said. New Orleans, hampered by numerous injuries, is off to a 0-6 start this season.

Fredette played 50 games with the Pelicans last year, averaging 3.6 points and 10.2 minutes per game.

Fredette, 26, was waived by the San Antonio Spurs during training camp. He had signed a partially guaranteed contract to compete for an open roster spot, which ultimately went to veteran Rasual Butler.

Fredette’s D-League rights will remain with Westchester.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Golden State Warriors roundly agree they have the ‘best’ bench in the NBA. Do you? … Knee soreness kept Joakim Noah from making what would have been his first start of the season … The Washington Wizards say Bradley Beal’s injury is not serious … How these Detroit Pistons are different from coach Stan Van Gundy‘s Orlando Magic teams of the 2000s … Dwyane Wade is really looking forward to however many clashes he has left with Kobe BryantWhat in the world is wrong with the Memphis Grizzlies this season? … Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr was at shootaround and participated in a free throw shooting contest with Stephen Curry … Former NBA player and collegiate star God Shammgod is enjoying his new gig at his alma mater, Providence CollegeDewayne Dedmon is making the most of his opportunity with the Orlando Magic

Morning shootaround — Nov. 6

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 5


Beal in it for long haul with Wizards | The evolving Love-James relationship | Grizzlies miffed by Clippers’ tweet | Duncan: Spurs thinking too much

No. 1: Beal letting his game do the talking in D.C. — Earlier this week, as our David Aldridge reported, the Washington Wizards and shooting guard Bradley Beal agreed to hold off on a contract extension … for now. The Wizards have hopes next summer of landing marquee free agent Kevin Durant and pairing him with All-Star guard John Wall, all while keeping Beal in the fold, too. While it’s unknown how next summer will shake out in terms of big names coming to D.C., Beal is committed to what the Wizards are building. Yahoo Sports’ Michael Lee has more on that:

The Wizards view the 22-year-old Beal as a foundational piece for the organization, a future star who has already teamed with Wall to form the best backcourt in the Eastern Conference, a duo that’s surging on Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as the best in the league. But the Wizards also have plans to upgrade the roster next summer – preferably with the signing of a four-time scoring champion who was born and raised in the area and will be a free agent in 2016 – and need Beal to exercise both patience and faith for that to occur.

“This is where I want to be. I’m not looking at any other teams. I’m not looking to go anywhere else. I believe in this team we have in this locker room. I’m a big cornerstone of this team, so I’m here. I want to be here. Hopefully, the front office knows that. I’m pretty sure that they know that,” Beal told Yahoo Sports. “It’s a business at the end of the day. I can’t let that affect the way I play, nor will I ever let it. It’s money at the end of the day. And I just want to go out here and play my butt off, each and every night and get what I deserve. Earn every penny that I get. If that’s the max, then it’s the max. And if it’s not, it’s not. At least I can look at it and say I gave it my all.”

Beal stands to make more money by waiting. Since Wall was already named the team’s designated player when he agreed to a five-year, $80 million extension in 2013, Beal was eligible for only a four-year extension worth more than $90 million. By becoming a restricted free agent, Beal could sign a five-year contract with the Wizards worth more than $120 million.

The incentive for Beal to sign a rookie extension, however, was more for the security of not having to worry about the risk of injury, since he has missed parts of his first three seasons with stress injuries in his right leg. When Anthony Davis agreed to his record, five-year, $145 million extensionwith New Orleans only a minute into the free-agent negotiating period, Beal fully thought the Wizards would quickly take care of him, especially since Wall received his deal before making his first All-Star team and following a season in which he missed 33 games with a knee injury.

“When you’re in that situation, you’re sitting there waiting, like, ‘Here we go,’ ” Beal, who went third overall in the 2012 draft, told Yahoo Sports of his reaction to Davis’s extension. “But it didn’t happen. It’s no hard feelings and you just have to move on. It was frustrating at first, but I understood it. I couldn’t be selfish about it. I couldn’t think, ‘Oh, they don’t want me.’ Because that’s not the case. They’re just being smart with what they want to do. And I honestly, I respect it, because it makes sense for both sides to wait until next year anyway.”

The Wizards offered an extension for less than the maximum with a purely strategic purpose, considering Beal’s talent would surely command such a deal with the deluge of television money arriving next year. But Beal’s cap hold will be $14 million next summer, as opposed to $20 million had they agreed to an extension. With the extra room, the Wizards could chase Kevin Durant and add some help to a roster that currently has just four other players under contract for 2016-2017 – Wall, Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre.

“That’s the goal. Obviously, that’s the goal,” Beal told Yahoo. “I trust what they’re doing. I understand what they’re doing. I have no [anger] toward [team president] Ernie [Grunfeld] or anyone else in the organization. I know at the end of the day, this is where I’m going to be and hopefully that I continue to be here. I don’t even worry about it. I’m worried about this season and controlling what I can control. I’m not in there arguing back and forth with Ernie like, ‘I need this!’ I’m just out here playing and doing what I do and letting my game speak for itself.”

Beal has adjusted his game, vowing to take more 3-pointers and “stop shooting those damn long twos” after heeding the advice of Pierce and watching film with his trainer, Drew Hanlen. He has also adjusted his attitude, with that nasty streak sticking around for a while. He’s motivated to be a better player, to earn the contract he believes he deserves and to help the Wizards advance further than the second-round inferno that has ruined the past two seasons.

The smile might come back. He might even shave. But Beal has no intention of letting up with so much at stake this season.

“I promised that every time I stepped on the floor, I was going to give it my all,” Beal told Yahoo. “I’m not playing for anybody else but my family, the man upstairs, myself and these guys in this locker room. The biggest thing for me is making sure I’m confident in myself and continue to prove to myself and prove to my teammates that this is what I’m going to continue to do for the rest of the year.”

VIDEO: Bradley Beal’s clutch 3-pointer seals a win over the Spurs

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Blogtable: Most entertaining team to watch in 2015-16?

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

BLOGTABLE: Top international newcomer? | Most entertaining team? | Too many preseason games?

VIDEOWho are the must-watch teams on League Pass in 2015-16?

> The ________ will be the most entertaining team to watch this season, and here’s why.

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Warriors. They already were, and they brought the band back together. Steph Curry spent the summer trying to become even more efficient, and dropped 40 on New Orleans in the opener. The second and third years in a new offense are when a truly smart and skilled team blossoms. Which means trouble for the other 29 teams.

Steve Aschburner, For the second straight season, the NBA’s most entertaining team probably will be its best team — the Golden State Warriors. A club like the Clippers might pack more personality and purists might find entertainment value in the care and nurturing of a young, developing crew such as Milwaukee or Orlando. Personally, I still get my kicks watching 40 percent of the Memphis Grizzlies – that is, big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol playing old-millennium ball in a 3-crazed NBA. But night in, night out, for pace and production and their undersized leader out top (Steph Curry), Golden State is sports’ DWTS.

Fran Blinebury, The defending-champion Golden State Warriors. Have we forgotten so quickly, the ball movement, the shot-making the versatility, the sheer beauty of the Warriors that practically begged for a musical score in the background?  Play it again, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and the rest.

Scott Howard-Cooper, The Warriors. I considered the Thunder because it’s Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka joined by the uncertainty of a new coach, and that wonder of how Billy Donovan will work out adds to the good theater. But c’mon. Golden State is a fun watch anyway, and now the defending champs have the entire league chasing them … while hearing about how the title was luck … and firing back at doubters … with a coach who routinely dishes snark. That’s entrainment.

Shaun Powell, The Thunder. So much at play here, with Kevin Durant returning and seeking to restore his MVP glow, and how Russell Westbrook tries to top what he did the last three months of last season, and what Billy Donovan has in store for a system. Oh, and there’s also the backdrop of KD’s pending free agency. To me, entertainment means points and wins and showdown games against top competition, and OKC will hit that trifecta.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThe Warriors are the easy answer, and the Thunder are a distant second. But in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards could be Warriors Light. John Wall can’t shoot anything like Stephen Curry, but he’s one of the league’s best passers who will thrive with more space to operate. If Bradley Beal and Otto Porter can build on their postseason performances, this can be a pretty potent offense led by one of the league’s five best point guards.

Sekou Smith, The Clippers have all the ingredients you need to be the No. 1 reality TV show in basketball, both on and off the court. They’ll be the most interesting team to watch, as coach Doc Rivers tries to tinker with the chemistry of a championship-caliber group that has added three ridiculously strong personalities in Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson. This is still Chris Paul‘s team, but he might have to share the leadership load with others in ways that he has not been accustomed to recently. They’ll put on a show when they are at their high-flying best.

Ian Thomsen, The Clippers are going to be the edgiest and therefore most entertaining team. Their impatience will be their strength: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are fed up with hearing about what they haven’t done, while DeAndre Jordan, Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith all want to be taken seriously. They are going to play with more attitude than any rival contender.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogHere’s the thing: Whichever team is the correct answer to this question is a team we aren’t talking about right now. Last season the Atlanta Hawks quickly evolved into a sweet passing tribute to Jogo Bonito, which transformed them into darlings of the basketball nerd set. And then there are the young teams that play entirely on spirit and fire with a style that may be unsustainable, but no less watchable. So I’ll take a guess and say a team that might be worth tuning in for, if healthy, will be the Minnesota Timberwolves. Between Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine performing nightly high-wire acts, Ricky Rubio splashing the ball around with abandon, and Kevin Garnett and Karl-Anthony Towns in the post, what’s not to like?

New offense energizes Wizards

VIDEO: Bradley Beal’s evolution is crucial to the Wizards’ season

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Bradley Beal insists it’s the best the Washington Wizards have looked during his time with the team.

So what if he’s talking about the often flimsy sample size that is NBA preseason.

When you basically pass on free agency (until next summer’s Kevin Durant free-for-all), install a new offensive system and ask everyone to buy into new and tweaked roles heading into what is sure to be a pivotal season, a seamless transition to a decidedly different way of operating offensively should ease whatever tensions might have lingered.

A comfort zone for Beal and All-Star point guard John Wall has to be the top priority for a Wizards team few people mention a contender in the Eastern Conference this season. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are at the top of everyone’s list, followed in some order by the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat … and then the Wizards.

That dynamic backcourt is not only the key to the Wizards’ season, they’re also the selling point for the future, along with this new, player-friendly offense that coach Randy Wittman unveiled during the preseason. If the Wizards are serious about making noise this season in the Eastern Conference playoff chase and carrying that momentum into the summer of 2016, it all starts with this emphasis on the faster pace, which takes advantage of what Wall and Beal do best.

The Wizards had the highest offensive rating in the preseason (106.8 points per 100 possessions) and were fourth in pace (104.45 possessions per 48 minutes), a stark contrast from a team that finished 19th and 16th, respectively, in those categories last season.

We saw signs of the shift in the playoffs, when the Wizards threw a scare into the Hawks in the conference semifinals with their small-ball lineup. A summer of tinkering, training and a preseason of on-the-job training gives a team with basically the same core personnel (sans Paul Pierce, of course, who moved on to the Los Angeles Clippers) a chance to reinvent itself on the fly.

Otto Porter and Jared Dudley inherit the minutes and responsibilities Pierce handled last season, including the floor-stretching duties that opened things up for Beal and Wall in the postseason.

VIDEO:’s John Schuhmann breaks down the Wizards’ new look on offense

Beal spoke of improved team camaraderie, better focus on the details and the always important good health that evaded him and the Wizards this time a year go. An improved and more efficient offensive system that the players “love,” according to Wall, paired with a top-10 defense that’s been a staple under Wittman, could serve as the wrinkle the Wizards need to move into the East’s upper echelon.

“Well, I think the Wizards obviously are a dangerous team, and they’ve proven that,” ABC/ESPN analyst Mark Jackson said, “and Randy Wittman has done an outstanding job coaching that team, leading that team, being strong in the face of tough times, holding on to the rope, which became contagious with the players where they bought in.

“I think it’s a different look for them because they certainly have post-up players that are skilled that they can take advantage of, at certain points of the game, but it really gives — adds versatility to that basketball team when you look at that dynamic backcourt in Wall and Beal, playing at a faster pace, creating an offense, stretching the floor is only going to make them tougher to defend, and I think ultimately a tough out in the Eastern Conference.”

If anyone knows about the importance of playing to the skills and abilities of a dynamic young backcourt duo, it’s Jackson. It’s what led to the rise of the Golden State Warriors during his tenure as he catered his system to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Wall and Beal are not Curry and Thompson, and there’s no one suggesting as much.

But they are talented in their own right and on a trajectory that could very well push the Wizards into the realm of teams capable of upsetting the projected East order before whatever free agent splash the team is planning for the summer.

Yes, we’re working on the fumes of the preseason, and that’s always a dangerous predicament.

But if you’re trying to both engineer a revolution and outperform expectations, as Beal and the Wizards are this season, you have to start somewhere.


A photo posted by Bradley Beal (@bradbeal3) on


One Team, One Stat: Space in D.C.

VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Washington Wizards’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Washington Wizards, who changed their identity in the postseason.

The stat


The context

20151024_was_basicsThe Wizards were a different team in the playoffs than they were in the regular season. After his team ranked 19th in offensive efficiency in the regular season, Wizards coach Randy Wittman broke out a floor-spacing lineup that made the offense more potent in the playoffs.

Back-up bigs Kris Humphries and Kevin Seraphin had their roles reduced, while starters Nene and Marcin Gortat played fewer minutes together.

Small forward Otto Porter, who was out of the rotation just three weeks before the playoffs began, averaged more than 33 minutes over postseason games. In fact, Porter and Paul Pierce played more minutes together in the playoffs (147) than Nene and Gortat did (139).

The Wizards were at their best, outscoring their opponents by 10.8 points per 100 possessions, with Porter on the floor. They were a plus-32 in 69 minutes with John Wall, Bradley Beal, Porter and Pierce on the floor with one of the two starting bigs.


The smaller lineup wasn’t just about shooting more 3s. It also provided more space for Wall and Beal to attack the basket. Both of the Washington guards drove more often in the playoffs than they did in the regular season.


Other teams have seen a similar increase in the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range. But of the last eight that saw a jump of at least six percentage points, only one really sustained it with a jump of at least that big from that regular season to the following one.


But Wittman and Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld have seemingly embraced the idea of keeping the floor spaced for Wall and Beal. Pierce is gone, but the Wizards replaced him with Jared Dudley, another small-ball four. Porter is now the starting small forward, rookie Kelly Oubre Jr. is another wing who gives them some versatility, and Humphries has started shooting 3s.

In the preseason, Washington shot 28.9 percent of its shots from 3-point range, a higher rate than it did in last year’s playoffs. Pierce will be missed, but the Wizards could be one of the most improved offensive teams in the league. And if they can maintain a top-10 ranking on defense, they’ll have a shot at a 50-win season.

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

Morning shootaround — Oct. 11

VIDEO: Recap the preseason games from Saturday night


Hornets’ Lin plays, and plays it safe, in China | Metta World Peace: ‘It’s a baby’s game’ | Wizards’ Humphries stretching his game | Jordan touts NBA, Nike brand on trip

No. 1: Hornets’ Lin plays, and plays it safe, in China — Here, Jeremy Lin is a little more famous than other NBA players of his caliber, owing to his ethnic background (Chinese) and memories of his “Linsanity” splash onto the league’s scene with New York in February 2012. There – that is to say, in China, where Lin is visiting with his Charlotte Hornets team – he’s some combination of Michael Jordan, Elvis and Beatlemania. His popularity since he picked up that country’s basketball baton from Yao Ming is tremendous – but also something to respect and handle properly, as the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell wrote from the Hornets’ stop in Shenzhen:

China has been very good to Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin.

He has millions of followers on Weibo, the Chinese parallel of Twitter. He makes millions off endorsement deals for cars, sports apparel and sports drinks. He draws massive crowds on the mainland for every promotional appearance or basketball camp.

And then there’s the other side of being so famous in a country with more than 300 million basketball fans.

“It can be scary, too,” Lin said in a lengthy interview with the Observer. “When people somehow know what room I’m in, what floor I’m on. Fans aren’t supposed to get up that elevator, but somehow they do. And then they’re waiting for me and all I can say is, ‘You know you are not supposed to be up here?’

“If I am in China I always have a personal body guard, and if I’m making an appearance I’ll always have a team of security. The body guard is legit; he’s always there to stay by my door to hear every knock. Then I can be comfortable and feel safe.”

Lin is an Asian-American who played college basketball at Harvard. His parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan and his grandparents were born and raise on mainland China.


No. 2: Metta World Peace: ‘It’s a baby’s game’ — Besides going global, the NBA allegedly is going soft. At least, that’s the opinion of Metta World Peace, who cites what he considers to be diminishing toughness in play and players compared to what greeted him as a rookie in 1999. Of course, World Peace was named Ron Artest back then, a reminder that lots of things have changed since then. His analysis came after the Lakers’ practice Saturday – he’s attempting a comeback at age 36, with a contract that isn’t guaranteed – and was reported by the Los Angeles Times, among others:

“I remember I came into the NBA in 1999, the game was a little bit more rough. The game now is more for kids. It’s not really a man’s game anymore,” World Peace said. “The parents are really protective of their children. They cry to their AAU coaches. They cry to the refs, ‘That’s a foul. That’s a foul.’

“Sometimes I wish those parents would just stay home, don’t come to the game, and now translated, these same AAU kids whose parents came to the game, ‘That’s a foul.’ These kids are in the NBA. So now we have a problem. You’ve got a bunch of babies professionally around the world.”

World Peace wasn’t quite done.

“It’s no longer a man’s game,” he said. “It’s a baby’s game. There’s softies everywhere. Everybody’s soft. Nobody’s hard no more. So, you just deal with it, you adjust and that’s it.”

On a nonguaranteed $1.5-million minimum contract, World Peace is hoping to make the Lakers’ 15-man roster for opening night. The team currently has 19 players almost midway through the preseason.
In his debut, World Peace gave the team’s second unit a boost against Utah, leaping over courtside seats while chasing down a loose ball last Tuesday. The Lakers would ultimately lose in overtime.

“I forgot that I was on a nonguaranteed contract when I dived,” World Peace said. “My brother reminded me, ‘What are you doing? You’re on a nonguaranteed contract. You’re going to kill yourself.’

“I was like ‘Oh wow, that’s right,’ but that’s the only way I know how to play, so I don’t care about a nonguaranteed contract. I just want to play hard.”


No. 3: Wizards’ Humphries stretching his game — So often, it’s NBA fans taking shots at and otherwise heckling journeyman forward Kris Humphries over his don’t-blink marriage into the schlock-famous Kardashian family (his marriage to Kim had a shelf life of 72 days, from vows uttered to divorce papers filed). This time, Humphries is the one taking shots – specifically, 3-point shots, a new challenge for him driven by the Washington Wizards’ recent embrace of small ball and the league’s trend of deep-threat big men. With Humphries doing work from the arc early in the Wizards’ preseason schedule, Ben Standig of wrote about this old dog’s new trick:

“This is a different game for me,” Humphries stated this week.

The obvious difference involves the 3-point shot, a non-factor in his game truly until this past offseason. Playing a traditional power forward role, Humphries attempted only 26 shots from beyond the arc for his career. That included seven last season. He missed them all. The last make came during his 2004-05 rookie season.

Through two preseason games, Humphries leads the Wizards with 10 attempts. Yes, change is coming.

“That’s what they want to do here. You kind of have to adapt to help your team,” Humphries said following Tuesday’s preseason opener. “I just wish I would have started shooting 3’s earlier. This is really like the first summer where I was like I’m going to work on my 3-point shooting. Before you might shoot a few corner 3’s or something in a workout. This year I was like, I’m going to work on it.”

Yet the actual deep shot isn’t the only distinction in the 6-foot-9 forward’s game this season. Anybody playing the 4-spot for Washington this season won’t simply be camped out in the lane for offensive rebounds or interior passes. The spread-the-floor philosophy deployed during last season’s playoff run is the primary staple now.

“It’s different, especially for me,” Humphries said. “I haven’t really played on the wing, like at the 3-point line to where I’m going to try to get an offensive rebound and then running back and then running again. It’s adding that extra [23 feet 9 inches] of running in there. It doesn’t seem like a lot but it catches up to you. It’ early on. I’ve just got a little extra shooting and conditioning — I’ve got to be in better shape if I’m going to play this way.”

Humphries went 2 of 4 on 3’s in Tuesday’s blowout win over the Philadelphia 76ers, but struggled in Friday’s loss to the New York Knicks, missing five of six attempts.


No. 4: Jordan touts NBA, Nike brand on tripMichael Jordan, as the Hornets’ principal owner, a Nike icon and the NBA’s most recognizable ambassador, was in China with his team. Not known for his interview availability these days, His Airness did sit for a chat pegged to this trip, with the story carried in the Shanghai Daily. The Web site’s translation to English was a little spotty but it did capture some insights into Jordan:

Jordan visited China only once in 2004, which caused a national craze. “Ah, 11 years ago,” Jordan, talking about the visit in 2004, said what impressed him most was the Chinese fans. “You know the fans, the way they were passionate about game of basketball. Obviously they remember me playing, I enjoyed spending the time there,” Jordan recalled, “it gives me an opportunity after 11 years going back. It’s kind of reconnecting with the fans based over there. Jordan Brand fans, Michael Jordan fans, so I’m looking forward to it.”

As for Hornets’ prospects for the new season, Jordan showed his sober optimism. “They should be okay. We changed a lot of personnel. Everybody is excited I’m very excited but I don’t want to get overexcited.”

Jordan made specific mention of Jeremy Lin, who joined in the Hornets from the LA Lakers this summer. Jordan saw it a successful deal, “We just got Jeremy Lin, who I think is going to be our biggest acquisition. His penetration, his shooting capability, his point guard savvy, he can really pass the basketball, his energy about the game of basketball something,” Jordan said.

Jordan’s success derives from his desire to excel and unparalleled confidence, which, as he said, was an inborn instinct accompanying his growth.

“No point did I doubt my skills. As a basketball player, there are things I feel like I had to improve on, but in terms of confidence about me playing the basketball I never doubt that at all,” Jordan told Xinhua, even if when he entered NBA as a rookie in 1984, “Rookie? I always felt like I could play, I just need to learn, I considered myself the lowest on the totem pole but I know I have to work my way up, but I didn’t lack confidence at all. I lacked the experience.”

Jordan said that it was the game of basketball that gave him a chance to do a lot of different things and meet a lot of different people, affecting and inspiring them. “The game allowed me to touch a lot of people I probably would never be able to touch if I don’t play the game of basketball.”

Jordan said he hoped people looked at him from a lot of different aspects. “When you see Michael Jordan you are going to see him in the sense that he is very versatile. He adapted, he looked at challenges, he looked at things can make himself better and he worked hard at it. So I would like people when they look at Michael Jordan is an all-around, good person, good competitor, good businessman, good basketball player, all the above.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were planning to put their proximity to Michael Jordan to good use on the Clippers’ and the Hornets’ China trip. … Paul’s broken left index finger, which kept him out of Sunday’s game in Shenzhen, reportedly won’t sideline the Clippers point guard for long or pose much of a problem. … LeBron James might own motorcycles but that doesn’t necessarily mean he rides motorcycles. Ditto for that motorcycle helmet and wearing it or not. … Kevin Love participated in his first full 5-on-5 practice with the Cavaliers since undergoing shoulder surgery during the playoffs. … The Hornets’ Steve Clifford is trying to stay flexible and be creative in moving lineup pieces around to pick up injured wing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s slack. … Derrick Williams‘ contract might wind up getting blamed by New York Knicks fans for hurting the team’s chances of landing Kevin Durant in free agency next summer. But for now, the underachieving former No. 2 pick in the draft has shown signs of “getting it” and might actually help this season. … Washington anticipates bumps along Otto Porter‘s learning curve as he tries to fill Trevor Ariza‘s and Paul Pierce’s veteran shoes. … Relieved that his New York criminal trial is over, a vindicated Thabo Sefolosha scrambles to catch up with Atlanta Hawks teammates. He might play Wednesday. …

Morning shootaround — Oct. 6

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 5


George gets ‘clarification’ on role | Bucks’ Parker to miss preseason opener | Beal seeks to tweak his game | Bulls’ Gasol ages like a fine wine

No. 1: George gets ‘clarification’ on power forward role — Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George wasn’t a fan of moving to the power forward spot when the idea was first breached. He wasn’t a fan of it after scoring 18 points in the Pacers’ first preseason game (a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans). Yet after a talk with the team’s brass, it seems George has reversed field on his feeling on the switch and is more open to it, writes Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star:

Paul George drew national attention by making comments about his new role as the Indiana Pacers starting power forward after the first exhibition game. George matched up against New Orleans Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis – either a welcomed introductory challenge or a complete nightmare depending on your view – and later opined: “I don’t know if I’m cut out for a 4 spot. I don’t know if this is my position.”

Then, George said he would seek input from coach Frank Vogel and team president of basketball operations Larry Bird into how he performed at the position. By Monday afternoon, George had spoken to them and found more interpretation.

“Yeah, we talked about it,” George said after Monday’s practice. “Just going over what was the plan going forward.

“I mean, there was clarification on what we’re (doing) going forward,” George added later. “That’s what it was, just clarification.”

When asked if the “clarification” meant changes to his role, George said: “We’re going to still stick with it, see how it works.”

Then, when quizzed if he’s OK with that, George responded: “I’m a part of this team.”

Though George offered few specifics of this meeting, the “clarification” appears to be more like repetition.

“Nothing we haven’t said in the past,” Vogel responded when asked about the conversation with George. “We’re going to continue to evaluate and get his feedback and what he’s comfortable with and what he’s not comfortable with. We’re not going to put him in a position where he’s not comfortable with his role. We’re just not going to do that. But we’re going to play both small lineups and big lineups, and he understands that.”

However after one preseason game – in fact, a loss in which Davis produced 18 points and eight rebounds without playing through the second half – George felt the matchup did not go well.

“We took it way left field. It’s Game 1 of the preseason, and we’re playing against arguably one of the best, if not the best, power forwards in this league,” George said on Monday. “So it was an adjustment. And (Davis) kicked my (butt). He kicked my (butt) Game 1.”

George and the Pacers will get a more moderate test in Detroit (7:30 p.m., Tuesday) against Ersan Ilyasova (who was 12-of-14 for 34 points in a game against Indiana last season). Ilyasova might be 6-10, 235, 15 pounds heavier than George, but he relies more on a perimeter game. Players such as Ilyasova are the reason the Pacers remain committed to playing with a smaller lineup.

“You can’t make small reactions. It’s going to be a big picture thing, and we’re going to do what’s best to win basketball games,” Vogel said. “Winning is more important than style of play, but this style of play, I think, gives us, this group, the best chance to win basketball games.”

VIDEO: Paul George talks about the discussion he had with the team’s brass

*** (more…)

Morning shootaround — Sept. 26

VIDEO: Brent Barry reports from Clippers media day


Jackson to be more involved with Knicks | Pierce talks title, retirement | Skiles wants Magic to get defensive | New vets bring leadership to Boston

No. 1: Jackson to be more involved with Knicks — Team president Phil Jackson and head coach Derek Fisher won just 17 games in their first full season in New York. Now, to get better, they think they need to get together … more often. Jackson said Friday that he will take a more active, day-to-day role with the Knicks this year. Newsday‘s Al Iannazzone has the story…

Phil Jackson won’t be sitting on the bench, but he will spend more time in the coach’s office and film room this season — at the request of coach Derek Fisher.

Jackson, the Knicks president who won an NBA-record 11 championships coaching the Bulls and Lakers, wanted to give Fisher his space last season. But after the first-time coach guided the Knicks to a franchise-worst 17-win season, Fisher asked Jackson for assistance.

Fisher said he wanted more “one-on-one” discussions with Jackson to see how to prepare himself and the team better, and welcomes counseling from “one of the great basketball minds we’ve ever seen.” Jackson promises to be more involved and hands-on for his hand-picked protege.


No. 2: Pierce talks title, retirement — Paul Pierce is home. Paul Pierce is with a championship contender. And Paul Pierce turns 38 years old in a couple of weeks. You can write the script from there, as Dan Woike of the Orange County Register writes…

Paul Pierce already has an idea of how this all might end.

The Inglewood native and NBA veteran signs a deal to play for his hometown team, helping the Clippers win their first NBA title. He rides in the parade through his streets, trophy in hand, leaving his career behind him.

That’s the hope.

“I don’t have much basketball left – whether it’ll be this year or another year. To come home and play in front of family and friends and possibly win a championship, it’s like a dream come true,” Pierce said at Friday’s media day. “If we win this year, win a championship, I’ll probably be done with basketball to be honest.

“It’ll be a dream to be home and carry that championship trophy down Manchester Boulevard.”

By the way, all is cool with DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul. It always was, apparently. Melissa Rohlin of the L.A. Times has the story…

When a Clippers contingent went to DeAndre Jordan’s home in Houston in July to help convince the center to re-sign with the Clippers, rumors abounded that Jordan and Chris Paul had a powwow to clear up their strained relationship.

Only thing is, according to the players, there was no strain.

“I think that there was forced tension because of everything we all heard that we said about each other, which was not true at all,” Jordan said at Clippers’ media day on Friday. “It was just the outside, and we never asked each other about it.

“These guys are my brothers. I talk to them every day. Yeah, there’s times that we bump heads on the court, but five minutes later, we’re good because it’s constructive, it’s for the right reasons: We want to win. … There’s not any tension; we don’t not like each other. And all three of us [Jordan, Paul and Blake Griffin] are going to be here for a very long time. This is our team; this is our unit. There was no clearing of the air. We just had a sit-down to tell them I was going to be in a Clipper uniform this year.”


No. 3: Skiles wants Magic to get defensive — When Scott Skiles took over the Milwaukee Bucks in 2008, they went from last in defensive efficiency to fourth in his second season. Now, Skiles is hoping to lead similar improvement with the Orlando Magic, who ranked 25th defensively last season. The Orlando Sentinel‘s Josh Robbins was at Magic media day on Friday…

Skiles intends to imbue the Magic with a brand-new identity: defensive-minded and hard-nosed. On several occasions Friday, he said the Magic need to transform themselves into a team that ranks in the top five in field-goal percentage defense.

Last season, they finished 28th in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to make 46.3 percent of their shot attempts.

“There’s been a lot of talk, even before I came here, about turning into a good defensive team,” Skiles said. “It hasn’t happened, and we need to do it.”

The Magic know all about Skiles’ goals. He has spoken with all of the players since he was hired in late May, and he has told them that they need to make significant strides defensively if they’re going to climb out of the NBA cellar and approach a winning record.


No. 4: New vets bring leadership to Boston — After squeezing into the playoffs with a young team last season, the Boston Celtics are looking to another step forward. It was another summer where Danny Ainge wasn’t able to acquire a star, but the Celtics did add a couple of veteran big men to their rotation.‘s Ian Thomsen was at media day in Boston and takes a look at how David Lee and Amir Johnson could make an impact…

Lee, the 32 year old power forward, should fit in beautifully. The Warriors were able to win the championship last season in no small part because Lee (along with Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut) was willing to accept a reduced role for the good of the team. As Lee pursues a new contract next summer, his view of the bigger picture promises to affirm his identity: He will help the Celtics intangibly by keeping the focus on team goals.

He fills many needs for the Celtics. Lee, a two-time All-Star, is a strong rebounder, a smart passer and a versatile scorer. After sitting for most of the season, he was able to identify his team’s needs and make an impact instantly when the Warriors went small midway through the NBA Finals, helping to launch their comeback from a 2-1 deficit against the Cavaliers. Because the Celtics lack a singular playmaker in this era of leading point guards, Lee’s ability to make quick decisions with the ball should be crucial.

Neither Lee nor free-agent Johnson (whose two-year contract is non-guaranteed for 2016-17) has a reputation for selfishness. Both will be expected to provide leadership by example for the young Celtics. Johnson, at 6-9 and 240 pounds, will be asked to play minutes at center, along with Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Bulls’ Mike Dunleavy is out 8-10 weeks after undergoing back surgery … The Wizards have offered Bradley Beal a less-than-max extensionThe Wolves still like Ricky RubioJared Sullinger lost weightAn oral history of the best in-game dunk we’ve ever seen … Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is going to camp … and the Nuggets waived Kostas Papanikolaou.

ICYMI: The best buzzer-beating highlights from last season:

VIDEO: 2014-15 Top 10 Buzzer-beaters