Posts Tagged ‘Wesley Matthews’

Morning shootaround — Oct. 30

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 29


Nash’s big moment in Phoenix arrives | Report: Pistons to retire jerseys of Billups, Wallace | Cuban downplays rivalry with Clippers | Carlisle: Williams’ return unknown

No. 1: Nash gets his moment in sun in Phoenix — Tonight, during halftime of the Phoenix Suns’ home game against the Portland Trail Blazers (10:30 ET, League Pass), former two-time MVP Steve Nash will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor. To call this a big event for the franchise is to vastly undersell it as Nash’s impact on the team revitalized the franchise at a low point and also, helped spark an offensive revolution of sorts in the NBA over the last decade. ( alone has Q&A’s with Nash’s old teammates, his former coach, Mike D’Antoni, a two-part hour-long special on Nash’s career and more.) One observer who was part of Nash’s golden age with the Suns in the 2000s, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, tries to put into context a player who meant so much to so many:

From draft-night boos to “We want Steve” curtain-call chants. From a bloody nose to a swollen-shut eye.

From flying hair to finger-licking free throws. From a sweet shot with a soft touch to a sweet side with a soft spot.

From the nickname “Two-Time” (for his MVP awards) to the Ring of Honor now to the Hall of Fame later.

Dallas borrowed him, but this Canadian snowbird is eternally colored in purple and orange for 10 winters in Phoenix that produced a franchise rebirth. Friday night, Nash the basketball retiree returns, stirring memories of every other version of No. 13.

Entering his prime belatedly at age 30, Nash redefined point-guard play, combining with the offensive genius of coach Mike D’Antoni, who put his stamp on changing tempo, spacing and lineup innovation.

“It was the start of what we see now by the majority of teams in the league,” Nash said of the 62-20 season. “The style was new. The speed and pace was shocking people. They had a hard time adjusting.”

“Sometimes, I watch what (Stephen) Curry is doing and think, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy is incredible,’” said Nash, now a player development consultant for Golden State. “But in that Dallas series, it was kind of similar. It was a great will to win the series. It was obviously personal for me – not in a vindictive way, but a personal way.”

Nash made the Suns the NBA’s most efficient offense for six seasons and remained an All-Star at age 38. That included another vengeful moment in 2010, when he shot 56 percent and averaged 22 points and eight assists to lead a Suns sweep of the San Antonio team that had ousted his Suns from three previous postseasons. That Suns team had the NBA’s most prolific offense per possession in three decades.

Think Nash edged Shaquille O’Neal for MVP by the benefit of his surrounding talent in 2005? In the next season, he repeated the MVP feat over Kobe Bryant even after losing each starting teammate except Shawn Marion.

The Suns won 54 games and again reached the conference finals during the first of Nash’s four 50-40-90 seasons. The only other player to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent on 3-pointers and 90 percent at the free-throw line in a season multiple times is Larry Bird, who did it twice. The only other point guard to be a repeat MVP was Magic Johnson.


His background in soccer, hockey and lacrosse gave him unique vision to go with underrated athleticism. Nash was cognizant to keep all of his teammates involved and they learned to be on their toes for passes that would come around his back, underhanded, ambidextrously or through defender’s legs.

Nash showed both strength of his game in a classic 2006-07 season duel with Jason Kidd, whose 38 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists were outdone by Nash’s 42 points, 13 assists and six rebounds with a clutch 3-pointer that saved a double-overtime Suns road win.

For pure passing, the quintessential game came in that season’s first-round playoff series. Nash dished out 23 assists against the Lakers and tied an NBA playoff record with 15 in the first half.

“When you’re at this stage of your life, I’m like, ‘Man, I used to do that? What?’” Nash said. “You forget. Those type of nights happened quite a lot.”

VIDEO: A look back at Steve Nash’s glory days in Phoenix

*** (more…)

Morning shootaround — Oct. 28

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 27


Barnes halts extension talks with Warriors | Kobe’s new era begins | Hawks get a wake-up call in opener | Williams, Matthews embrace Dallas reunion

No. 1: Barnes breaks off extension talks with Warriors — Just a week ago, the Detroit Pistons and center Andre Drummond decided to table contract extension talks until the summer. Another pick from Drummond’s 2012 Draft class, Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes, is apparently doing likewise as well. USA Today‘s Sam Amick reports on why Barnes is holding off on an extension for now and why his move isn’t a surprise given the upcoming salary cap jump in the NBA:

Fourth-year forward Harrison Barnes broke off extension talks with the Golden State Warriors on Monday night nearly a week before the league-issued deadline of Nov. 2, and no one should be surprised that a deal won’t get done here right now.

Crazy as it might sound, Barnes — who wanted to focus on the start of the regular season and who will be a restricted free agent next summer — is well within his right to want an annual salary in the $20 million range. The league’s salary cap is soaring like a Six Flags roller coaster in the coming years, meaning players with huge upside like him will come at a far greater cost than before. Barnes and his agent, Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports Management, have this security blanket covered in dollar signs on their side here.

The Warriors, meanwhile, have a one-of-a-kind locker room where there is a positive culture and across-the-board cohesion to protect. It was just four months ago, remember, that they gave fellow fourth-year player/starter Draymond Green a five-year, $82 million deal to return. It was a generous deal, to be sure, but one can only imagine how Green — the 35th pick in the 2012 draft who was deemed the “heartbeat” of this team last season by head coach Steve Kerr — might have felt if Barnes (who was the seventh pick in the same draft) wound up making more than him to stick around.

Sure enough, the annual salary that the Warriors are known to have offered Barnes in a four-year extension and that was turned down — approximately $16.4 million — would put him right alongside Green in that regard. That wasn’t a coincidence.

“The deal has to work for Harrison and the organization,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said. “And I always — maybe it’s my background (as a player agent) — but I always respect the position that an athlete takes in these situations. And now, representing the organization, we’re going to make the decision the best decision for us.

“I would not say (they’re) disappointed, would not say frustrated. Like I said, (Barnes) has conducted himself tremendously well — as has his representative — and I think we ended the discussions in a very healthy place, if that’s possible. And I say that will all sincerity.”

*** (more…)

One Team, One Stat: Drop-off in Dallas

VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Dallas Mavericks’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 Dallas Mavericks, who couldn’t sustain the league’s best offense after making a big trade.

The stat


The context

20151021_dal_basicsThe Mavs’ regression actually began with the Rajon Rondo trade in December, a risky deal that clearly didn’t work out. They had the league’s best offense, by a pretty wide margin, at that point. In fact, at 10.1 points per 100 possessions better than the league average, the Mavs had the best offense of the last 38 years.

And it was on offense where they fell off the most once Rondo arrived. They scored almost 10 fewer points per 100 possessions after the trade than they did before it, regressing on that end of the floor in each of the “four factors” of efficiency (shooting, rebounding, turnovers and free throw rate).


Rondo’s inability to shoot hurt the Mavs’ spacing. Rondo (33.9 percent) shot a better percentage than Jameer Nelson (33.1 percent) with the Mavs. But because Nelson (sent to Boston in that December trade) took a lot more 3-pointers, he was a more effective shooter and floor-spacer.


Rondo had had the highest turnover rate on the team and made just 19 free throws in 46 games with the Mavs. On top of the bad numbers, he had issues with coach Rick Carlisle.

The Mavs’ defense did improve after the trade. In fact, Dallas ranked fifth in defensive efficiency for about a 10-week period between Dec. 20 and Feb. 24. But they couldn’t sustain that level against some tougher opponents down the stretch.

The Mavs will be a different team, especially offensively, this year. Monta Ellis‘ attacks and Tyson Chandler‘s rolls to the rim will be missed.

But Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews will provide much better spacing around Dirk Nowitzki. The pair attempted 312 more 3-pointers than Ellis and Rondo did last season, even though they played 20 fewer games. The Mavs can also run their offense through Matthews in the post.

Of course, neither Matthews (recovering from a torn Achilles) nor Williams (calf injury) has played in the preseason. Health is the biggest question for the Mavs.

If his team is whole, Carlisle will have some new tools to work with, a fresh start, and a chance to put last year’s regression in the rear-view mirror.

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. 13

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 11


Bosh provides insight on Aldridge’s role | Matthews gets through first full practice | Anthony wants to be held accountable | LeBron, Cavs not sweating winless preseason

No. 1: Bosh chimes in on Aldridge’s new role — Come next offseason, when a go-to guy (and free agent) on an NBA team thinks about taking on a supporting role somewhere else, his first call should be to Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh. Few in NBA lore understand or have experienced that path like Bosh did when he transitioned from superstar with the Toronto Raptors to complimentary piece with the Miami Heat teams of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. As the San Antonio Spurs try to fit new addition LaMarcus Aldridge into their star-studded mix this season, Bosh chimed in on the challenges of Aldridge’s transition before last night’s Heat-Spurs game in Miami. Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News has more:

Of course, their situations aren’t completely identical. Bosh was clearly going to be third in that pecking order, while Aldridge, who signed the largest free agent deal in Spurs history after spending his first nine seasons in Portland, should remain the offensive focal point in San Antonio with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan both past their prime.

But though he won’t have to transform his game as substantively as Bosh, who became primarily a floor-spacing shooter with the Heat after doing pretty much whatever he wanted in Toronto, Aldridge will almost certainly have to sacrifice shots on a Spurs team brimming with depth.

And that, Bosh told the media in advance of tonight’s preseason game in Miami, could be easier said than done.

“The transition is the hardest part. He was getting a high volume amount of touches. Frankly, it’s a lot easier to be a team guy then. But now you have to play within the offense and then people are telling you to be aggressive and you don’t know how to do that. It’s going to be a continuous thing. And usually when you figure it out, the season’s over.

“At least that’s how it was for me. I’m sure in that organization, they’re going to try to fast-track him along. But when you’re playing with all that talent, with all those expectations, you got people chirping at you what you should be doing and you know what you need to be doing within the organization, it’s tough.

“I’m sure it’s going to be frustrating at times for him, because he’s used to getting the ball down on that left block. And he might get it on the right block. Or he might not get as many post touches or as many pick-and-pop looks. So, if it’s limited, he’s looking to move it, instead of shooting as usual.

“But they’re saying, ‘You’ve got to be aggressive.’ So it’s a fine balance, and you have to learn it.”

VIDEO: The Heat rally to top the Spurs in preseason action

*** (more…)

Morning shootaround — Oct. 10

VIDEO: Top plays from Friday’s preseason action


Dave Meyers — UCLA star, Bucks enigma — dies at age 62 | Klay gives Doc some of own medicine | Sefolosha clears name, can work on game | Mavs’ injuries dampen Dirk’s mood

No. 1: Dave Meyers — UCLA star, Bucks enigma — dies at age 62Dave Meyers‘ greatest basketball achievements came at UCLA, where the 6-foot-8 forward anchored legendary coach John Wooden‘s 10th and final NCAA championship team. But for a lot of NBA fans, particularly in Milwaukee, Meyers represents a terrific player who got away and a man who lived life on his terms rather than strangers’ expectations. Meyers, 62, died Friday at his home in Temecula, Calif., after a lengthy battle with cancer.

His basketball accomplishments came in the first half of his life, including the national championships he won with Wooden and UCLA in 1973 and 1975. Meyers was the No. 2 pick in the ’75 NBA Draft, behind only North Carolina State’s David Thompson. Three weeks later, Meyers was packaged in one of the NBA’s most famous trades ever, sent by the Lakers with Junior Bridgeman, Brian Winters and Elmore Smith to Milwaukee for an unhappy Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley. He averaged 11.2 ppg and 6.3 rpg in four seasons with the Bucks but is most remembered for walking away from the game at age 26. Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times was working in Milwaukee then and wrote about that in Meyers’ obituary for the Times:

Another member of the Meyers family gained fame in the sport. Ann Meyers Drysdale, Dave Meyers’ sister, was also a UCLA basketball All-American and is currently a vice president of the Phoenix Suns in the NBA and the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA, as well as a broadcaster for both teams.

“People always remembered Dave as a tenacious player with a big heart,” Meyers Drysdale said Friday.

Meyers was also known as a private person, who shocked the sports world in 1980 — five years into a productive and lucrative pro career with the Bucks — by announcing that he was leaving the NBA to spend more time with his family.

“Remember, David played for an unbelievable teacher at UCLA,” Meyers Drysdale said, referring to Wooden. “He was taught more about life than about basketball.”

Meyers returned to California, and after a stint in sales for Motorola received his teaching certificate and taught elementary school — mostly fourth and sixth grade — for more than 30 years. He began teaching in Yorba Linda and later taught in Temecula.

An aggressive, fundamentally sound player, he rebounded, played defense and handed out assists with the same enthusiasm that he took shots. From his power forward position, he used the backboard on his shots more than most players and became known for those skillful bank shots. It was something he learned from Wooden.

“I’d run into Bob Lanier,” the former Bucks’ star, Meyers Drysdale said, “and he would always tell me how sad he was that David retired. Lanier always said that, if he had stayed, the Bucks would have won the championship.”

Meyers suffered a serious back injury during his pro career and was pressured by team management to undergo surgery. He refused, partly because that surgery went against principles of his Jehovah’s Witness religion and, according to Meyers Drysdale, partly because there were extreme risks to that kind of surgery.

“In the end, it was what he said it was,” Meyers Drysdale said. “He wanted to be with his family and watch his children grow up.”


No. 2: Klay gives Doc some of own medicine — Make up your own mind which you think is sillier: Folks elsewhere in the NBA saying things that seem to detract from what the Golden State Warriors did last season or the Warriors dignifying little barbs and digs by responding. Who cares what Houston’s James Harden or Ty Lawson thinks about Steph Curry‘s MVP season, at this point? Or whether Clippers coach Doc Rivers was sticking a Phil Jackson-esque asterisk on Golden State’s championship run from last spring? But Warriors guard Klay Thompson didn’t let the opportunity to zing back pass, as chronicled by Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group:

Warriors players issued several retorts to Doc Rivers after the Los Angeles Clippers coach commented on Golden State being lucky it faced neither the Clippers nor San Antonio in the playoffs.

“Didn’t they lose to the Rockets? Exactly,” Klay Thompson said Friday, laughing in reference to Houston coming from behind to beat the Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals. “That just makes me laugh. That’s funny. Weren’t they up 3-1, too? Yeah, tell them I said that. That’s funny, man.”

Walking away from reporters after his interview session, Thompson continued, “I wanted to play the Clippers last year, but they couldn’t handle their business.”

Rivers’ remarks were the latest in a string of perceived swipes at the defending NBA champions. In published comments, Rockets guard Ty Lawson lamented that Stephen Curry was allowed to relax on defense in the Western Conference finals, and teammate James Harden insisted he felt he deserved the Most Valuable Player Award that Curry won.

Asked on KNBR about the suggestion from other teams that the Warriors were lucky last season, Andrew Bogut joked, “I’ve actually got my ring fitted for my middle finger.”

“We respect all previous champs,” Bogut said. “We’ll respect future champs. They don’t want to respect us, so be it.”


No. 3: Sefolosha clears name, can work on gameThabo Sefolosha missed all of the Atlanta Hawks’ training camp while testifying in New York in his own defense against three misdemeanor counts, stemming from an incident outside a nightclub there in April. The 6-foot-8 wing player also missed the Hawks’ preseason game against New Orleans Friday in Jacksonville. But Sefolosha, who suffered a broken leg while being arrested by police that night for allegedly interfering with them, did get acquitted on all counts earlier in the day. Now he and the Hawks can get back to basketball, as detailed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Now he wants to get back to playing basketball with the Hawks. Sefolosha hasn’t fully recovered from the injuries apparently suffered when a police officer kicked his right leg. He has been cleared for all basketball activities and has participated in training camp before leaving this week for the trial. He hopes to be ready when the Hawks’ season opens Oct. 27.

“I hope I still have a long career,” he said.

Jurors declined to comment as they left the court, but several of them shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with Sefolosha on the street outside the courthouse. Sefolosha thanked them in person and with his public comments.

“I want to assure them this was the right verdict,” he said. “They were on the side of truth and justice today. I’m happy this is over now.”

Sefolosha, a 31-year-old native of Switzerland who has played in the NBA for nine seasons, thanked his family, attorney Alex Spiro and the Hawks organization. He singled out coach Mike Budenholzer, who testified on his behalf Thursday.

“I’m thankful to the American justice system,” Sefolosha said. “Justice was made today.”


No. 4: Mavs’ injuries dampen Dirk’s moodDirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams participated in their first contact workouts of the preseason Friday, but the overall health of what’s projected to be Dallas’ starting lineup still is a work in progress. Wesley Matthews (Achilles tendon) and Chandler Parsons (knee) still are rehabbing from offseason surgery, and center Samuel Dalembert has been hobbled this week by a swollen knee. Nowitzki apparently was pretty candid, according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, when he spoke of the effect such injury absences have on October enthusiasm:

The plethora of injuries, combined with the light workload for Nowitzki early in camp, has made getting a handle on these Mavericks impossible. They have been beaten soundly in two exhibition games, but with four of their projected starters yet to play, that’s understandable.

“It’s disappointing,” Nowitzki said. “Honestly, you’d wish more guys would be doing more, at least more contact or run more. But that’s not the case. Some of these guys have had major, major surgeries. And whatever the doc tells them, you got to take it slow.

“Obviously, Parsons and Wes are both guys that want to be here for a lot of years. It would be wrong to push it too much in October and not have them later in the season. You want to take it slow and progress week to week, and whenever they’re ready, they’re ready.”

Carlisle, by the way, said Parsons and Matthews are on similar timetables. Neither is close to playing in the preseason, and both players have said their only goal is to be ready by opening night Oct. 28 in Phoenix. Playing exhibitions is not a prerequisite for being ready when the games count, although it wouldn’t hurt.

At the least, it would help foster some chemistry with so many new players in the rotation.

“It’s not optimal, especially when you have a new point guard [Williams] trying to learn the system,” Nowitzki said. “You can run all the five-on-oh you want, but until you practice and play with each other, it’s not going to help much. But we’re doing all we can to get everybody used to the plays and the calls.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: When The Logo speaks, real NBA fans should want to listen. Here’s an Q&A with Hall of Famer and current Golden State advisor Jerry West. … LaMarcus Aldridge‘s adjustment to his new job in San Antonio is proceeding as methodically as his selection of the Spurs as his free-agent destination, per our man Scott Howard-Cooper. … Our own Steve Aschburner talks with Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker about his rehab methods and his coping techniques in coming back from ACL knee surgery. … Dallas owner Mark Cuban, never shy about speaking out, obviously has at least one qualification for the job. But Speaker of the House in Congress? Really? … Members of the Warriors staff would love to seek out coach Steve Kerr for input on various preseason issues, but they’re consciously avoiding that so Kerr’s aching back can recover (second item). … ICYMI, as folks say on social media: Bill Bridges, a 13-year NBA player and three-time All Star who died in late September at age 76, was a pro’s pro and formidable rebounder.

Morning shootaround — Sept. 22


VIDEO: Relive LeBron James’ epic return season in Cleveland

Report: Love, Varejao, Mozgov, Irving will be ready for camp | Matthews, Parsons, McGee out for start of camp | Report: Ridnour will sit out 2015-16 season

No. 1: Report: Love, Varejao, Irving, Mozgov all expected to be ready for camp — Reports circulated a few weeks ago that LeBron James was summoning his Cavs teammates to Miami for workouts and judging by a photo that circulated on social media, there was a pretty good turnout for it. As we close in on official team training camps, though, there could be some good news for Cleveland once things get rolling. According to Chris Haynes of the Northwest Ohio Media Group, injured players Anderson Varejao, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and Timofey Mozgov are all expected to participate in training camp:

The Cleveland Cavaliers anticipate that Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov and Anderson Varejao will be ready for the start of training camp Sept. 29, Northeast Ohio Media Group has learned.

All four players are recovering from surgery.

Irving (fractured knee cap) and Love (separated shoulder) will be active during camp, but on a limited basis. The Cavaliers will work the two in slowly and cautiously. The anticipation is that Love will be fully cleared with no limitations before Irving is given the green light, I’m told.

Love said on the “Late Night with Seth Meyers” talk show Sept. 11 that he was “a month and a half away” from returning.

Irving refused to give a timetable for his return in a recent interview with the Associated Press in Miami.

So far, Love’s workload on the court consists of non-contact drills; while Irving has been coy about what he has been doing.

NEOMG is also told Mozgov (knee scope) and Varejao (Achilles’ tendon tear) are not expected to be restricted once camp opens, but the team will closely monitor their involvement

*** (more…)

Morning shootaround — Aug. 12

VIDEO: Steve Smith and Stu Jackson review the first day of Team USA mini-camp

Durant returns for Team USA | Lillard understands why Aldridge left Portland | Anthony a fan of Knicks’ offseason | Report: LeBron may participate in Wednesday’s practice | Markieff Morris wants trade from Suns


No. 1: Durant returns for Team USA — Oklahoma City Thunder star and 2013-14 NBA MVP Kevin Durant hasn’t played in a basketball game since Feb. 19 when he was shut down for the season as he needed foot surgery. But word circulated yesterday that Durant would take part in some drills as Team USA holds its ini-camp in Las Vegas this week. Durant spoke to reporters after Tuesday’s mini-camp opener and says he’s feeling good and just happy to be playing again, writes our Steve Aschburner

Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s All-Star forward and the NBA’s 2014 Kia Most Valuable Player, had been sidelined by a right foot fracture that required bone-graft surgery. He played his last game of the 2014-15 season on Feb. 19, limping into the sunset with more than a third of OKC’s schedule remaining.

While the Thunder sank in the standings and missed the playoffs, while head coach Scott Brooks got scapegoated and fired, while teammates Russell Westbrook won the scoring title and attracted MVP votes, Durant was left to recuperate, rehab and reflect on the game he loved and missed like never before.

“You remember Christmas as a kid? It’s like that,” Durant told reporters after Team USA’s first session Tuesday.

“I can go 100 percent. I’m not going to play 5-on-5 just yet, but everything else is no restrictions,” he said. “I’ve got to play against some guys to see. But I feel like I’m back to myself.

“I haven’t played since February. So of course, I’m human. I’ll go through a little bit of rust. But I think after two trips down, I’ll be all right.”

“You take it for granted a little bit,” he said of the game to which he’s devoted so many hours. “I missed the routine the most. Getting up, going to practice, getting my shots up before practice, I missed all that part. Hanging out with the guys in the locker room before the game, I think that’s what I missed the most. You can take that type of stuff for granted. I think I did and I learned my lesson.”

OKC trainer Joe Sharpe is one of three NBA trainers working with Team USA. That should reassure Thunder fans that Durant won’t overdo things even in this controlled environment. Besides, the 6-foot-10 forward doesn’t want to go re-setting his own recovery clock.

“It’s a long process, man,” Durant said. “I just tried to stay patient with it. … I have my days where I’m like, ‘Man, it’s not getting any better. I’m sick of working out. I’ve been working out for a year, I’m ready to play.’ … Feels good to stretch my legs a little bit.”

Durant, 26, said that his layoff has been made to feel even longer by the number of strangers or acquaintances who suddenly seemed interested — with him way less than 100 percent — in testing him.

“So many people been trying me though,” he said. “I walk down the street, everybody wants to play me 1-on-1. … The competitive juices are just boiling in my body and I’m just ready to play.”

*** (more…)

Blogtable: Playoff teams poised for a fall?

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: Rising second- or third-year player? | Playoff teams set to stumble? | Your all-lefty team

VIDEOSteve Smith takes stock of the NBA offseason

> Which of last season’s playoff teams is in for the biggest dropoff in 2015-16? Name one from each conference, please.

Steve Aschburner, I could start by asking for our working definition of “big,” because in the East, the Brooklyn Nets could win 38 games again (or something close) and slip out of the playoffs with another sub-.500 record. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks could fall from 60 victories down to 50 or fewer in the wake of roster changes, yet still claim a top-4 seed. In the West, the obvious candidate figures to do both: Portland will tumble from the playoffs and win a lot less often than last season (51-31). Four of five starters gone, that’s all the heavy analysis needed.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comBrooklyn and Portland. The Nets will be down there scraping the bottom of the East barrel with Philly. Portland won’t fall as far, but the drop will be harder for a team that looked like a rising contender two seasons ago before losing 4 of 5 starters over the summer.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comWell, this is easy, like summertime. The Blazers are due for a sizable dip after losing LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez. We’re talking a possible 20-game slide. And then there’s Brooklyn. While the Nets probably won’t fall much from winning 38 games a year ago, making the playoffs again as a 30-something-win team will be sketchy, even in the shoddy East. Just imagine how poor they’d be had they kept Deron Williams.

John Schuhmann, Brooklyn and Portland are the obvious answers. The Nets were the eight seed in the weaker conference and weren’t even that good. They had the point differential (minus-236 for the season) of a 31-win team, with a bunch of narrow wins and blowout losses. And though he had the worst season of his career, Brooklyn was a much better team when Deron Williams was running point than when Jarrett Jack (the new starter) was out there. Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez are quality players, but they need a real point guard to maximize their production. The Blazers have the point guard (used with a pick the Nets traded for Gerald Wallace), but not much else after losing four starters in free agency.

Sekou Smith, The Portland Trail Blazers will have to work a miracle not to take a giant step back given who and what they lost this summer. Damian Lillard is one of my favorite players in the game today, but without the core of LaMarcus Aldridge, Wes Matthews, Nic Batum and Lillard together this season, I can see some struggles for coach Terry Stotts and his crew. The Atlanta Hawks are going to be a playoff team and one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, but a 60-win team again … I don’t know if they’ll be able to match the majesty of the finest season in franchise history. They had so many things fall into place last season. I just don’t know if they can count on all of those good things lining up the way they did for a second straight season, given all that has happened since they melted down against Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals.

Ian Thomsen, After dominating the East during the regular season, the Hawks are going to find it difficult to win 60 games again in the absence of DeMarre Carroll – especially with several conference rivals appearing to have improved this summer. Even so, Atlanta is certain to return to the playoffs – the same can’t be said of the Blazers, who have already gone younger since the departure of Aldridge.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog The obvious team to watch in the West is the Portland Trail Blazers, who lost LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez and traded Nic Batum, and now have to figure out a path to rebuilding around Damian Lillard. In the East, how about the Atlanta Hawks? Which is to say, I don’t think they’ll miss the playoffs entirely or anything like that, but last season they had that magical January, had a mostly injury-free regular season, and ended up winning 60 games. This year they’ll have to learn how to get along without DeMarre Carroll, hope they get lucky lucky with health, and have to play most of the season with a target on their backs. A 50-win season would still put them in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, and it would also be a significant drop from last year.

Morning shootaround — Aug. 4

VIDEO: Take an All-Access look at Basketball Without Borders’ trip to Africa

Allen not quite retired yet | Mavs plan to take it easy with Matthews in first season | Report: Adidas offers Harden $200M shoe deal


No. 1: Allen not quite retired (yet) — Once LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers last season and other ex-Heat teammates (like Mike Miller and James Jones) joined him there soon after, it was thought that it wouldn’t be long before Ray Allen did likewise. But last season came and went without Allen on the Cavaliers — or any other NBA roster. So, is the all-time leader in 3-pointers made done with the NBA? According to Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant, don’t count him out just yet: 

Yes, Ray Allen cleaned out his closets this summer and gave away some of his shoes, leading fans on an Instagram-driven scavenger hunt around Hartford. But don’t read into it. He still has lots of shoes, and he’s not yet retired.

“I haven’t said anything about that and I won’t officially retire,” Allen said Saturday during a break in his basketball camp for kids at East Granby High. “Because if something came to the table, contractually and situational­ly, I want to be able to take a strong look at it. I don’t want to be that guy that says he’s retiring and then is coming back.”

Allen, the former UConn star and the most accomplished three­point shooter in NBA history, turned 40 on July 20 and has now been out of the game a full season, though, he said “a quarter to half” the teams in the NBA contacted him about coming back in time for the playoffs last spring.

“I didn’t miss it,” he said. “I realized how much time I missed not being home with my kids. I probably missed it in the Finals. Watching Cleveland and Golden State play, it just seemed like an epic battle that required a lot of precision on the floor and that’s when I felt, that was probably the only time thatI felt like, ‘Man, I should have been out there.'”

If he does not play again, Allen is comfortable with the run he’s had, which includes championships with the Celtics and Heat.

“It would be one thing if I played 10 or 11 years,” he said “But playing 18, I got a lot out of it. I like the feeling of knowing I don’t have to beat myself into the ground.”

His lifestyle hasn’t changed. Allen remains in playing shape. “I just stay in shape, period,” he said.

VIDEO: Ray Allen chats with Rick Fox

*** (more…)

Morning shootaround — July 12

VIDEO: Porzingis’ Summer League debut

Opportunity for Okafor | Hammon makes history | Bargnani to Kings | Porzingis shines | Lillard stands ready

No. 1: Embiid loss changes rookie race — There are all sorts of implications that rise out of the news that Joel Embiid could miss another entire season following a second surgery to repair the broken bone in his foot. The biggest question, of course, is about the career of the Sixers big man. Does it mean another season of tanking in Philly? But Embiid’s loss could also open the door for this year’s top Sixer draft pick Jahlil Okafor to be the 2016 Rookie of the Year, according to our own Scott Howard-Cooper:

No Embiid means no crowded big-man rotation with second-year man Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, and that means an unquestioned clear path for Okafor to probably have the featured role in the Sixers offense.

In the coldest terms, the crushing setback for Embiid is a prime opportunity for Okafor with the largest portion of minutes at center and power forward now being split two ways instead of three. Not only that the good possibility that Okafor will be able to score inside immediately makes him the ideal fit alongside Noel, an impact defender as a 2014-15 rookie but offensively challenged.

Tony Wroten led Philly in scoring last season at 16.9 points a game, and that was with just 30 appearances. Michael Carter-Williams was second, at 15 per, and he got traded. Okafor, with advanced post moves and a pro body at 6-11 and 270 pounds, will likely generate offense this season, and will absolutely have the chance.


No. 2: Hammon breaks another barrierBecky Hammon got a baptism by fire in her history making debut as head coach in the Las Vegas Summer League, drawing up a play for her Spurs in the final seconds. The last-second shot missed, but  it was Hammon’s latest step to break down barriers for women in sports. Our Shaun Powell was on hand to document the event and discuss the possible importance down the line:

She fit like any male coach in Vegas, the only difference being her voice was softer. Last season, as the junior coach on staff, Hammon sat behind the Spurs’ bench, not next to Gregg Popovich. But Pop put her in charge of the Vegas operation, partly because he felt comfortable enough with her, and also because Pop wants to advance the notion of a woman coaching in a men’s league.

Nobody’s quite sure where this is headed or how quickly. Will the NBA have its first female head coach in the foreseeable future? And if so, will she be Hammon? Coaching on the highest level can get very political. There are only 30 jobs and they don’t come easily even to experienced coaches; Hammon has never been a coach on any level until now. It’s about timing and networking and persistence and sometimes they’re not always in your favor.

But Hammon’s ace card is Pop, the winningest active coach in basketball; and by extension, the Spurs organization, regarded as the finest in all professional sports.

If Pop one day gives another team a glowing recommendation of Hammon, how could that team resist?

Before that happens, Hammon will need to work her way up the Spurs’ bench and sit next to Popovich for at least a year. The Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer, the reigning Coach of the Year, didn’t get his break until he served as Pop’s assistant for 16 years. Given the uniqueness of her situation, and the track record of the NBA as a progressive league, Hammon won’t need to wait that long once she gets the Popovich Blessing.

But first things first, as Lieberman said. Just getting to the point of coaching in the summer league qualifies as a breakthrough.

“She has such a great opportunity in front of her,” said Lieberman. “And it’s fantastic. They couldn’t have chosen anyone better than Becky. We’ve been friends for years and I’m so proud of her.”


No. 3: Kings closing in on Bargnani — If the smoking hole in the ground that has become of the Kings during offseason is going to be repaired at all, the team will need to put some shooters around center DeMarcus Cousins. To that end, Marc Stein of says the team is close to a deal with former No. 1 overall draft pick Andrea Bargnani that would take him to the Western Conference for the first time in his career:

The Kings are looking for additional shooting to surround big man DeMarcus Cousins, and have already imported former NBA 3-point shootout champion and fellow Italian Marco Belinelli in free agency, in addition to the looming signings of Rajon Rondo, Kosta Koufos and Caron Butler.

The Kings have also re-signed swingman Omri Casspi and, of course, selected Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein with the sixth overall pick in last month’s draft.

Bargnani has missed 160 games over the past three years with various injuries, but had a productive spell with the Knicks late last season to convince the Kings to extend his NBA career. The 29-year-old has struggled to live up to expectations since the Raptors selected him No. 1 overall in the 2006 draft.


No. 4: Porzingis solid in summer debut — The 19-year-old player that Phil Jackson made the No. 4 pick in the draft last month didn’t dominate in his first taste of NBA competition on Saturday. But Kristaps Porzingis was solid and competent enough to turn some of those draft night boos into cheers in a win over San Antonio at the Las Vegas Summer League. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News has the details:

It was the opposite of what I heard on draft night,” Porzingis said. “It was nice to hear some cheers out there.”
Porzingis, the player Phil Jackson selected fourth overall, didn’t dominate a team of mostly unknown and unproven San Antonio Spurs but the rookie certainly didn’t embarrass himself, that’s for sure. The 7-foot-3 forward finished with 12 points in the Knicks’ 78-73 win over the Spurs, who were coached by Becky Hammon and featured one player — Kyle Anderson — who was on San Antonio’s roster last year. Porzingis made three of five shots from the field, including a soft bank shot for his first basket with the Knicks. He also converted six of seven free throws but grabbed only three rebounds.

“I’m happy we won,” he said afterward. “It’s always good to win. I played physical so maybe I proved to some of the people who thought I was soft that I can play physical. It wasn’t my greatest game but I played OK.”
Jackson, the Knicks president, was seated along the baseline next to newly acquired forward Derrick Williams and several team officials, including general manager Steve Mills. In what has been a dreadful 16 months for Jackson, Porzingis’ first outing was by far the most positive development for the Jackson regime.

Porzingis played with confidence and had no issues with the pace of the game. His one glaring weakness is strength. The only thing in this town taller and thinner than Porzingis is a stripper pole. He can get away with that against the likes of Livio Jean-Charles and Cady Lalanne. The problem will arise when Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge are the opposing starting center and power forward, respectively.


No. 5: Lillard says he’s up to the challenge — The last time Damian Lillard saw his Trail Blazers they had won 51 games, the Northwest Division title and still had a bright future as a playoff team in the rugged Western Conference. But in a blink-and-you-missed-it summer, Lillard turned back around to see a roster suddenly stripped of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez. So the Blazers are, in essence, starting over. But Lillard tells Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports that he’s up to the challenge of leading the rebuilding job:

“We’re a young team,” Lillard said. “There are going to be ups and downs. But I’m not giving up on anything. I don’t doubt that we can still compete. We got a lot of young athletes. I don’t feel like it’s going to be me up there. I feel like we got guys capable of stepping up and doing more than they’ve done in the past.

“I don’t know how long it will take. I’m committed to the next six years to try to turn this around.”

Lillard has noticed plenty of people on social media disparaging the Blazers’ roster.

“I’ve been reading. Everything I worked for or received, nothing has been handed to me,” Lillard said. “I could take comfort in knowing that everything that happened isn’t by luck. It’s me working hard and me going after things, making it happen. Being doubted is not unfamiliar territory to me.”

With a new contract in hand, Lillard knows there will be pressure on him to lead the Blazers during their rebuilding. He said he never considered the possibility of attempting to leave Portland.

“Nope. I didn’t have a reason to,” Lilllard said. “I’m fully committed to playing in Portland. I’m committed to my teammates. I had no reason to wait. Not that it was about the money, but I’m not going to get any more money [later] than what I would get now. And what better way to show that commitment than doing that.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Timberwolves trade Chase Budinger to the Pacers…GM Billy Kings says it was just time for Deron Williams to leave the Nets…Aaron Harrison signs two-year deal with Hornets…Nuggets give Wilson Chandler multi-year extension.