Posts Tagged ‘Wes Johnson’

Morning shootaround — Oct. 4

VIDEO: The Top 5 plays from Saturday’s preseason action


Chris Paul wants victory at the negotiation table | Carmelo says he’s far from finished as a superstar | D’Antoni talks point guards | Otto Porter says for him, the time is now

No. 1: Chris Paul wants victory at the negotiation table — On the cover of the new ESPN magazine is Chris Paul, striking a serious pose and wearing a business suit, with the headline: The Player NBA Owners Fear The Most. The gist of the piece is Paul is a serious businessman who’ll be serious business when the owners and union begin talks for the next labor agreement. As union president, Paul has been vocal about what he believes are inequities in the system; vocal yet respectful. Here’s a snippet in the piece written by Kurt Streeter:

When I ask about his relationship with Silver, Paul is guarded. “I know Adam really well. We communicate at different times and different things like that.”

When I ask what he’d like to work on with Silver, he leans back and grimaces. He looks at Karen Lee, the publicist. He wants to cite an issue that came up during a recent season — but not on the record. Lee asks that my recorder be turned off.

Paul recounts an innocuous vignette showing that he and Silver have a good relationship. It casts both in a positive light. I urge him to tell it on the record, but he doesn’t want the details known. Private discussions, he says, should stay private.

We continue. Silver has said that some franchises are struggling. What does Paul think? The restaurant is still. “That’s why we’ve got a lot of talking to do,” Paul says.

I say I’ve often wondered why the players or the league would want to risk a work stoppage now, with the NBA’s increasing popularity, the new revenue, with franchises selling for crazy amounts. The Kings for $534 million, the Hawks for $850 million, Paul’s own Clippers for a mind-boggling $2 billion.

“I’ve never been in this situation,” Paul says. “You know, going through what we’re about to. I would say, hopefully, no work stoppage or anything like that. That’s the ultimate goal.”

I press. He looks me in the eye, smiling. He’s not going to show his cards. After a while, Lee chimes in. The negotiations, she says, “will be tough but respectful. Is that a good way to put it?”


No. 2: Carmelo says he’s far from finished as a superstar — When Carmelo Anthony began training camp, he did so with a chip on his shoulder. Based on his perception, the basketball world believes he’s no longer among the NBA elite, in part because he’s coming off an injury-filled year and slipping into middle-age, and also because his team isn’t expected to contend anytime soon. Well, Melo takes offense to that. Here’s Ian Begley of ESPN New York with the report:

The 31-year-old Knicks star is confident that he can play at a high level for the next “four or five years.”

“Without a doubt. Without a doubt,” Anthony said after the Knicks’ final training camp practice on Saturday.

Anthony is entering the second year of a five-year, $124 million contract. Only one member of his draft class in 2003 (LeBron James) has played more regular-season minutes.

So many are predicting that Anthony is entering the downward arc of his career. But he doesn’t see it that way.

“Come on, you’re counting me out already?” he asked a reporter with a laugh.

Anthony believes that his decision to undergo knee surgery will help him perform at an elite level through the remainder of his current contract and beyond.

“I wasn’t a guy who would run straight to surgery for anything. But I think now, [taking] care of this really put me in position to perform at a high level for the next four or five years,” he said.

Anthony also believes that he can play effectively past age 35 because he doesn’t rely on a freakish vertical leap or foot speed to perform.


No. 3: D’Antoni talks point guards and more — Being away from the game allows a former coach to gain a different perspective, and Mike D’Antoni offered such, and more in a Q&A with Sports Illustrated. D’Antoni coached with the Nuggets, Suns, Knicks and Lakers, and nobody would be surprised if he gained another shot; it was his system that indirectly helped the Warriors put up pinball numbers and win the NBA title. Here’s the story with Jake Fischer of SI: There are a ton of teams starting to fully embrace this small ball strategy. Did you ever anticipate this would become so widespread, where teams like the Indiana Pacers essentially just banished Roy Hibbert because they didn’t want to play with traditional big guys anymore?

D’Antoni: Well, the league has always been a copycat league. I’m sure somebody is going to come up with something else and it will then go some place else. It’s just the game has changed. The rules have changed and the ability of players to be able to shoot threes and space the floor and be a power forward and be able to space all the way out to the three-point line—even centers can go out and shoot threes—it’s changed and people have to follow that. You give it enough time and I just think that it was kind of going that way anyway. And then what Golden State did, I just think it put everybody on notice and in order to beat them, you’re going to have to play that way. I think it’s a great thing. Obviously, I like that type of basketball. I like watching it. I think it’s exciting and I think fans love it. You’re trying to win and entertain and I think the Golden State Warriors accomplished both. I read about the presentation you gave during the Las Vegas Summer League and, essentially, you said to build a team’s offensive attack around a post player playing with his back to the basket is wasting an opportunity offensively. Why do you think that?

D’Antoni: If you look at the stats around the league, a post-up is not a very good shot. [Laughs] It just isn’t. Now again, in our business and leagues, a lot of times you say something and people take that as 100%: You’re always going to have post-ups and you’re always going to have 15-foot shots. They have not become the best shots. The best shots are layups and foul shots and three-point shots. So you try to gear your offense to where you can exploit those three things. And then, other teams are smart: They run you off the three so you have to shoot a 15-footer, or you can get a mismatch inside where you can post-up, and when you get a mismatch, you have to exploit that. But to go down and put your best offensive player on the block against their best defensive player, it’s just not a great option anymore. It just isn’t.


No. 4: Otto Porter says his time is now — The age difference in Washington between last years’ small forward and this year’s is striking. In that sense, Otto Porter Jr. is no Paul Pierce. But he wants to be just as effective on the court as the since-departed Pierce. Porter played well for the Wizards as last season progressed and believes that, after a shaky rookie season, he’s prepared to take on a bigger role. Interestingly, the Wizards are trying to get someone to play his position next year. Guy by the name of Kevin Durant. Anyway, here’s Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post:

“It’s a huge opportunity for him,” Marcin Gortat said. “He had been waiting for the opportunity. I think he’s ready. He’s having fun out there. He’s enjoying his time. But the most important thing, he’s not going to be out there to prove that he belongs in this league.”

A significant increase in playing time during the Wizards’ two-round playoff run allowed the lanky 6-foot-9 Porter, who was in and out of Coach Randy Wittman’s regular season rotation, to showcase his skill set. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft is a persistent cutter, sneaky rebounder and dogged defender. He does not need the basketball on offense to make an impact. Instead, he defers to teammates, spotting up for three-pointers and filling lanes to the basket to field passes and retrieve misses, assuming the dirty labor most players avoid.

On the surface, Porter’s postseason statistics — 10 points and eight rebounds in about 33 minutes per game — do not awe, but they were giant compared with his regular season numbers and don’t properly delineate Porter’s impact: The Wizards had six lineups log at least 15 minutes and tally a plus net rating, and Porter was the only player in all of them.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Haha. Steph Curry laughed off the “chillin’ on defense” comment by Ty Lawson … Clippers Wes Johnson says there was big confusion on the Lakers last season … Kobe Bryant and D’Angelo Russell getting along just fine. … Tony Parker thinks (and hopes) good health is just around the corner.

Morning shootaround — Oct. 3



‘Holdout’ turns screws on Thompson, Cavs | Cuban ‘gets’ Chandler’s barbs | Greater Heat depth brings minutes challenge | Clippers still counting on Wes

No. 1: ‘Holdout’ turns screws on Thompson, Cavs — If there’d been a statue of Tristan Thompson outside of Quicken Loans Arena, it would have been lassoed and pulled to the ground as happens when banana republics undergo regime change. Instead, the Cleveland Cavaliers had to settle for scrubbing their backup power forward/center’s likeness from signage around the Q and purging any merchandise specific to Thompson from the team’s arena and online stores. Why? Thompson officially is a “holdout,” now that the deadline for him to sign either the Cavs’ one-year qualifying offer or a long-term deal passed at the end of Thursday. Thus the dicey business situation moved into a new phase Friday, as detailed by’s Dave McMenamin:

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ message on Friday, considered the first official day that Tristan Thompson’s contract standoff with the team escalated to a “holdout” situation, was loud and clear:

If you are not going to be present for training camp, you are not going to be weighing on our minds.

“Right now, my thoughts are just about the guys that are here and how hard and how well they are working and no specific expectation otherwise,” said Cavs coach David Blatt when asked for his reaction to Thompson letting the Cavs’ one-year, $6.8 million qualifying offer for this season expire at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday without accepting it. “Just happy to see our guys working as well as they are.”

With the qualifying offer off the table, negotiations will shift to both sides focusing on a multi-year agreement. Thompson’s agent, Rich Paul, recently vacated a five-year, $94 million max contract demand for his client in favor of a preferred three-year, $53 million deal, per league sources. The Cavs have already tendered a five-year, $80 million offer to Thompson, according to sources.

Friday was the fourth consecutive day of camp that Thompson missed, however Blatt was adamant that the big man’s absence has not caused a distraction as his team readies itself for the regular season.

“We got a veteran group,” Blatt said. “We got a very professional group of guys going about their business and going about their jobs the way that they should. The team is working and we are going to continue to do so.”


No. 2: Cuban ‘gets’ Chandler’s barbs — When Clippers center DeAndre Jordan reneged on his agreement to sign as a free agent with Dallas, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban chose some of his words carefully but didn’t exactly hide his displeasure. More recently, it was Tyson Chandler‘s turn to vent about the turn of events and Chandler – the former Mavs center who kind of got squeezed to Phoenix when Dallas targeted Jordan at the start of free agency this summer – came out strong in support of his fellow big man re-upping with L.A. Well, Cuban didn’t bristle at Chandler’s human, understandable reaction, writes Tim McMahon of

“He does have the right to be salty,” Cuban said during an appearance on 103.3 FM ESPN’s “Dennis and Friedo” on Friday.

Chandler, a hero during Dallas’ 2011 title run, has now twice been given second-fiddle treatment by the Mavs’ front office in free agency. The big man was blunt when asked this week about DeAndre Jordan’s decision to renege on his verbal commitment to replace Chandler as Dallas’ starting center. Chandler considers Jordan’s choice to stay with the Los Angeles Clippers a better-late-than-never, wise decision.

“I thought it was crazy,” Chandler told reporters during media day with the Phoenix Suns, his new team. “I never thought that DeAndre was going to sign with the Mavs, to be honest. I thought he was leaving a great situation back in L.A. Clearly, their roster is very talented and they have an opportunity to contend, so I didn’t understand it to begin with. Him going back on it, I actually thought that he got a good look at the picture.”

It’s not the first indication that Chandler — who informed the Mavs that he was heading to Phoenix minutes before their July 1 meeting with Jordan started — is a bit miffed about being disrespected by Dallas. His peace sign/sun combo was an underrated tweet during the comical emoji battle that unfolded while Jordan snacked on chicken with his Clippers pals and ignored Cuban’s phone calls while waiting to officially sign his deal with L.A.

Cuban said a year ago that he had “learned his lesson” from letting Chandler leave and intended all along to keep him … until he learned that the Mavs had a legitimate shot to add an NBA rebounding leader who was just entering his prime.

“I didn’t think it would get to that point,” Cuban said of the 33-year-old Chandler’s departure from Dallas. “We actually tried to have discussions right at the start of the year about an extension and it kind of just died on the vine. His agent didn’t really take it anywhere, and I was the first to say ‘If you don’t want to take it right now, we’ll try to figure something out at the end of the year,’ because I realized that by waiting that gave Tyson an extra year.

“Then the opportunity for DeAndre came along and we were pretty straightforward. Tyson or his agent gave us the ultimatum before the decision was made. He said he wouldn’t wait. That’s his decision. It is what it is. He does have a right to be salty, because I really did suggest to him — and it’s exactly the way I thought — that he’d be here for a long time.”



No. 3: Greater Heat depth brings minutes challenge — The deeper the NBA roster, the greater its flexibility and the more varied its looks in butting heads with the league’s 29 other teams. But “deep depth” brings with it some hard math for a lot of players: Divvying up the 240 minutes of a typical game by 10 or 12 players means less playing time than a guy could expect in a tighter rotation of eight (assuming he’s one of the eight). That’s what the Miami Heat will face this season and that’s what the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson wrote about:

The upshot of adding skilled veterans Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudemire and 10th overall draft pick Justise Winslow, along with the return of Josh McRoberts from knee surgery, means the Heat’s second unit — which could potentially include those four and Mario Chalmers — is “obviously a big upgrade from what we had last season coming off the bench,” [Dwyane] Wade said.

But Wade also cited this potentially uncomfortable flip side of adding depth: fewer minutes for players unaccustomed to that.

“Everyone talks about how excited we are about our depth, but you’ve got to understand at times the depth will get in the way of your playing time,” Wade said. “How are we going to get past that? Those are the things people don’t look at that affect teams. We’ve got to be able to get over that hump.”

Two players who stand to be most affected by that: Chris Andersen, who played in 60 of the 65 games he suited up for last season, and Udonis Haslem, who played in 46 of the 77 that he was available for.

“It takes a special person to do that,” Haslem said. “When it takes a hit on playing time, it takes a hit on your ego. My job is to walk guys through who haven’t experienced it. I can instill a positive influence, keeping guys engaged in practice.”

Erik Spoelstra said the Heat does research to make sure it doesn’t sign players who are likely to complain about playing time. Asked about the six power rotation players, Spoelstra said all are selfless.

“This type of situation might not be for every veteran player,” Spoelstra said. “We try to over-communicate that early in the process of recruitment. When we sign them, we over-communicate the role. With any great team, it’s necessary you have talent and depth.

“But you have to be willing to sacrifice to leverage all of that depth. We haven’t gotten to that point yet with [defining] roles. It’s not about minutes, it’s not about shots, it’s not about opportunities. It’s about an opportunity to come together and do something special.”


No. 4: Clippers still counting on Wes — Hey, there was an NBA preseason game Friday night! The Clippers led by as much as 21 points en route to beating Denver at Staples Center, with Cuban’s pal Jordan contributing 15 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots in 26 minutes. But much of the focus for the Clippers was on the small forward spot, where Matt Barnes is the only starter missing from last season and where veteran All-Star Paul Pierce and underachieving Wes Johnson figure to time-share. Beat writer Dan Woike of the Orange County Register stayed up late in filing this roster update:

Barnes, one of the faces on the banners last season, is now with Clippers rival Memphis, and while the team feels it has upgraded on the wing, there’s still a loss to be dealt with.

“There’s no question we’re going to miss Matt,” Chris Paul said. “Matt brought a lot to our team – leadership, toughness. I don’t know; Matt was one of a kind. Replacing Matt, it’ll be a lot of different guys.”

It was never going to be one guy; at least that wasn’t the plan for Coach Doc Rivers and the Clippers over the summer.

“I just think the guy in that spot is going to have success because those other four guys are really good, so he’s going to get shots that you don’t get on other teams because of that,” Rivers said. “One of the things I really wanted was an athlete in that spot, a guy that could make shots and finish at the rim.

“From afar, Wes (Johnson) has the ability to do that. He has not done it yet really in his career, but you know he can, or at least you believe he can. And then you want a veteran as well, and so that’s where Paul (Pierce) came in.

“We went into this with a plan.”

They had a plan for who they would sign. But who will start [in the regular season]? That’s still up in the air.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Boston’s Isaiah Thomas hasn’t been jacking up shots with his usual carefree frequency lately – but he’s quick to assure Celtics fans it’s not a permanent alteration in his game. … The Chicago Bulls still seem committed to a Twin Tower lineup using Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol in a league going smaller and smaller. … The better your team, the easier its schedule – because it doesn’t have to play itself, right? breaks down some of the schedule disparity on tap for 2015-16. … In case you missed it, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts gets the Q&A treatment in Cosmopolitan magazine. … LeBron James voiced his displeasure with the too-many recent shootings across the land and has his foundation working on getting kids away from the guns-and-violence culture.

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 9 Recap

By Drew Packham,

LAS VEGAS — The last full day of seven games featured several returning players putting up big numbers.

Phoenix’s Markieff Morris wrapped up his solid showing, putting up 25 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Suns to a 96-87 win over the Grizzlies. Morris was 10-for-17 from the floor, hit a pair of 3s and looked like the best player on the floor, impressive considering Josh Selby did his thing again for the Grizzlies, scoring 23 points to maintain his scoring lead (27.5 ppg) over Damian Lillard (26.5 ppg).

Non-rookie of the day: Malcolm Thomas, Bulls. For the fourth straight game, the SDSU big man dominated the boards, pulling down 16 to go with 21 points in Chicago’s 77-74 win over the Clippers. Thomas is opening eyes in Vegas and should find himself on a roster this fall after spending most of last season bouncing around the D-League.

Other notables: Wes Johnson, Wolves. Minnesota’s swingman is looking confident with his shot and scored 28 points Saturday to increase his scoring average to 22.7 (fourth overall). “I just need to relax and play basketball the way I know how,” Johnson said. “I don’t think I’ve lost anything.” Jimmy Butler, Bulls. The second-year guard out of Marquette scored 23 points on 6-for-10 shooting. In four games, Butler has topped 20 points three times and is sixth overall in scoring at 20.8 points to go with 6.5 boards. His role could increase this season, so Chicago fans must love seeing these numbers.

Rookie of the day: Will Barton, Trail Blazers. Portland’s second-round pick (40th overall) has been overshadowed by the team’s two lottery picks (Lillard and Meyers Leonard) but has quietly been doing a little bit of everything. Saturday, though, with the Blazers resting their top players, Barton played all 40 minutes, scoring 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting. “I’m a role player, but when I get the opportunity to be the man, I take it,” Barton said.

Other notables: Jae Crowder, Mavericks. Crowder closed out his impressive showing with 21 points and six rebounds in Dallas’ 82-76 overtime win over San Antonio. Crowder, a second-round pick (34th overall) out of Marquette, finished with five-game averages of 16.6 points and 5.4 rebounds. Crowder could be a steal out of the second round. Kendall Marshall, Suns. The point guard taken 13th overall has looked terrible here, but closed out with his best game yet, scoring 15 points (on 6-for-10 shooting, 3-for-4 on 3s) and handing out 10 assists, giving him the overall lead in assists at 6.5 per game. Also, John Henson had another good game for the Bucks (22 and nine) in an 88-87 win over Boston.

Coming up: Summer League comes to an end Sunday with just three games on the slate. Two games will air live on NBA TV — Celtics-Clippers at 6 ET and Grizzlies-Wolves at 8 ET — while the Bulls-Bucks game will be shown on replay at 4 a.m. ET. The All-Summer League teams will be announced at the end of the day.

Wolves’ Johnson Trying to Get Groove Back

By Drew Packham,

LAS VEGAS — Two summers ago, Wes Johnson entered Summer League as one of the players to watch.

He had just been drafted fourth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves after three seasons at Syracuse. His expectations were high, and so were the team’s.

Then, he tweaked his hamstring in the Wolves’ first game, ending his first Summer League before it could get going.

“I was frustrated,” Johnson said. “Not even one full game, so yeah, I really wanted to come out here.”

Two years later, though, things have changed and the 6-foot-7 swingman is here with much different expectations and goals. After two less-than-stellar seasons in Minnesota, Johnson is trying to get back to what made him successful at Syracuse and hoping to prove he wasn’t a wasted pick.

“I’m just trying to be assertive,” said Johnson, who scored 28 points while hitting five 3-pointers Saturday in the Wolves’ 86-78 win over the D-League Select team. “I just need to relax and go out there and play basketball.”

So far, Johnson has looked confident shooting the ball, averaging 22.7 points (fourth in Las Vegas) on 47.9 shooting through three games. Those numbers are a far cry from what Johnson’s done in Minnesota. After averaging 9.0 points his rookie season, Johnson averaged 6.0 points and has done it on 39.8 percent shooting both seasons.

Johnson says playing with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio opens up opportunities for him and last year’s No. 2 pick Derrick Williams, shots he’s still confident taking.

“It’s just me thinking too much,” Johnson said, still smiling. “I was overthinking things. I just need to relax and play basketball the way I know how. I don’t think I’ve lost anything.”

If he can play like he has here, he may be right.

Arrested Development?


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — John Wall is struggling.

Maybe you’ve heard.

In addition to his shooting issues, he was taken to the shed Wednesday night in Chicago, not by Derrick Rose but John Lucas III, who had  25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. No offense to JL3, but this was a new low for Wall, the former No. 1 pick who came into the league with “star” stamped on his forehead.

If it’s any consolation to Wall, he isn’t alone. A few other young-uns are finding it rough as they try to take that next step to being established and bona fide stars. And why is this? Maybe they played too many summer league games during the lockout.

Maybe they were overhyped.

Or maybe they just need time.

Whatever, here’s a sampling:

— DeMar DeRozan, 22 years old: Double D is shooting 41 percent and had three straight games where he didn’t get double figures. The Raptors were hoping he’d be at least a borderline All-Star this year, and he might still break out. But it’s coming very slowly at the moment for a guy with obvious skills. Here’s DeRozan on his issues, courtesy of Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun:

“I just got to play better,” DeRozan said after an 11 point game that saw him hit just one of his first 10 field goal attempts.

“I take a lot of the (blame) when we’re not doing as well because I got to step up and start being consistent on both ends of the floor.”


The Awkward Handshake

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — You ever wonder what goes into the strange free throw ritual of tapping the hand of every single teammate after a shot?

We did (sorry, but we ponder things like this in our down time between games).

And thanks to our friends at, we’ll solve at least one of those mysteries. Our good friend Jonah Ballow and his crew have gone CSI Minneapolis on us and launched a full-blown investigation into the awkward free throw handshake used by rebound-machine Kevin Love and rookie Wes Johnson.

The Ultimate Hype Man


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Give David Kahn his credit for keeping things interesting in Minnesota.

A day after the Timberwolves took out a full-page ad in the Star Tribune admitting that, surprise, they are not likely to contend for the NBA title this season, Kahn drops an even bigger bombshell.

In a detailed letter to Timberwolves’ fans (season ticket holders), he’s touting a “singular” move that will be made to complete his roster transformation and, we’re assuming, set the franchise on a championship path.

Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune offers up some insights on what exactly this singular move could be, tossing around names like Carmelo Anthony (with the Timberwolves as potentially the third-party in a blockbuster, three-team deal) and even Josh Smith and Joe Johnson.

Of course, Kahn can’t mention specifics — he’s already been fined once this summer for saying too much. But you already know that no one does the hype man routine better than Kahn (remember that summer league gem, above). And he certainly cranks up the hype machine with this letter that you have to read to believe.

Here’s a snippet:

During the last 14 months, we have added several pieces to our ballclub:  perimeter shooting, athleticism and length to the roster, and all while maintaining our youth.  Just as important, we have done so with an eye toward adding more talent by choosing to operate under the salary cap.

The reality is, we are still lacking a dominant player – our version of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade or Kevin Durant – and that will remain an item at the top of the To-Do list.

It’s possible this player could emerge from within the roster.  Nearly every player on our team has his best days ahead of him.   Some could make an All-Star team during their careers and one has already become an impact player on the USA Men’s National Team in this year’s FIBA World Championships.  We also have eight players currently on the roster who were selected in the top-seven of their respective drafts:  Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Wes Johnson, Jonny Flynn, Darko Milicic, Corey Brewer, Martell Webster and Ricky Rubio.

The average age of those eight players is 22.

However, if one of our players fails to emerge, we will be prepared to find more talent for our team – and we will seek a singular move rather than a series of moves, as we did these last 14 months.

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny him.

Kahn is the ultimate hype man!