Posts Tagged ‘Will Bynum’

Morning Shootaround — Oct. 18

NEWS OF THE MORNING


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played Oct. 17

Griffin reaching breaking point | No longball for Lakers | Dwight for MVP? | Pistons and Celtics make deal

No. 1: Griffin reaching breaking point — Clippers forward Blake Griffin is one of the most athletic and high-flying players in the NBA. And as frequently as he drives hard to the rim, he just as often finds himself at the end of a lot of hard fouls. Thus far, Griffin has managed to take the physicality in stride, keeping a cool head time after time. But after another incident last night in a preseason game against the Utah Jazz, Griffin noted that his patience is reaching its breaking point. Dan Woike of the Orange County-Register has more

After the game, Griffin was asked if it was difficult to keep things from escalating.

“I was going to (take things further), and I thought, ‘It’s preseason. It’s not worth it. That’s not the person I’m going to waste it on,’” Griffin calmly said.

[Trevor] Booker was called for a flagrant 1 foul, and Griffin, Booker and Chris Paul were all called for technical fouls for their roles in the incident.

After the game, Paul didn’t hide his amazement at picking up a technical, as he said he was trying to play peacemaker.

“That was ridiculous,” he said. “…He gave me a tech. He said it was because I escalated the fight. You can fine me, do whatever. I know Trevor Booker. I’m trying to keep him away. Like, I know him personally. And they give me a tech. It’s preseason. Everyone’s trying to figure it out.”

Griffin admitted to trying to figure out what to do with the extra contact he takes. Following the Clippers win, Doc Rivers said he thought Griffin gets hit with more cheap shots than anyone in the league.

“I don’t think it’s close,” Rivers said.

Griffin, who has been often criticized for his reactions to hard fouls, realizes he’s in a bit of a Catch-22.

“On one hand, everyone tells me to do something. On the other hand, people tell me to not complain and just play ball,” Griffin said with a smile. “That happens. You’re not going to please everybody. I just have to do whatever I think is right and use my judgment.”

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No. 2: No longball for Lakers — Over the last decade, NBA teams have increasingly noted the importance of the 3-point shot, even designing offenses around the long-range shot. But just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean the Lakers under new coach Byron Scott will do the same. This is not only because the Lakers are currently coping with injuries to perimeter players such as Nick Young and Steve Nash, but it’s more of a philosophy Scott is embracing. Baxter Holmes of ESPN Los Angeles has more:

“You’ve got a lot of teams that just live and die by it,” Scott said after the team’s practice here Friday. “Teams, general managers, coaches, they kind of draft that way to try to space the floor as much as possible. But you have to have shooters like that; you also have to have guys that can penetrate and get to the basket, because that opens up the floor.”

But does Scott believe in that style?

“I don’t believe it wins championships,” he said. “(It) gets you to the playoffs.”

Seven of the last eight NBA champions led all playoff teams in 3-point attempts and makes.

And it’s not as though Scott isn’t familiar with the 3-point shot. During his second season with the Lakers as a player, he led the NBA in 3-point field-goal percentage in 1984-85 (43 percent) and was in the top-10 in that category in three other seasons. Scott also ranked sixth in the NBA in 3-point attempts (179) and ninth in makes (62) during the 1987-88 season.

But are the Lakers’ low 3-point attempts this preseason a reflection of injuries or of how the Lakers will really end up playing this coming season?

“I don’t think that’s an indication of what we’ll be when we’re fully healthy,” Scott said. “I think it will still be 12, 13, 14, 15 (attempts per game), somewhere in that area, when we’re fully healthy.”

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No. 3: Dwight for MVP? — With Kevin Durant out with a fractured foot, the MVP race doesn’t have a clear leader at the start of the season, at least if you’re eating at our Blogtable. But with all the names being tossed around, former MVP Hakeem Olajuwon says don’t forget about Houston big man Dwight Howard, who by all accounts is healthy and ready to return to the dominant style of play he showed in Orlando. Dwight himself says he’s never felt better. Our own Fran Blinebury has more

“He’s healthy. He’s strong. He’s ready,” said Olajuwon, who won the award in 1994 when he led the Rockets to the first of their back-to-back championships. “Now it’s about having the attitude to go out every night and dominate.”

The Hall of Famer officially rejoined his former team as a player development specialist after Howard signed a free agent contract with the Rockets in July 2013 and recently concluded his second training camp stint working with the All-Star center before returning to his home in Amman, Jordan. Prior to the start of camp, Olajuwon had not worked with Howard since the end of last season.

“He’s older, more mature and you can tell that he is feeling better physically,” Olajuwon said. “I like what I saw. He is a very hard worker. He takes the job seriously and you can see that he has used some of the things we talked about last season and is making them part of his game.”

Howard averaged 18.3 points, 12.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots in his first season with the Rockets and Olajuwon thinks the 28-year-old was just scratching the surface as he regained fitness.

“It was a good start, but last year Dwight was still trying to recover from the back surgery and to feel like himself again,” said Olajuwon. “I think a lot of people don’t appreciate what it is like for an athlete to have a back injury. It is serious. It is a challenge.

“I could see last year when I worked with him in camp that there were some things that he could not do. Or they were things that he did not think he could do. The difference now is that he is fit and those doubts are gone. This is the player who can go back to being the best center in the league and the kind of player that can lead his team to a championship. I think he should be dominant at both ends of the floor.”

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No. 4: Pistons and Celtics make deal — Neither Detroit nor Boston are expected to contend for an Eastern Conference crown this season, but they found themselves able to do business together yesterday. The Pistons moved reserve point guard Will Bynum to Boston in exchange for reserve big man Joel Anthony. According to the Detroit Free Press, the trade clears room for recent draft pick Spencer Dinwiddie.

The first trade of the Stan Van Gundy era wasn’t exactly a blockbuster, but it does give insight into the Detroit Pistons’ thinking as the Oct. 27 deadline for roster finalization looms.

The Pistons today added frontcourt depth by acquiring NBA veteran Joel Anthony from the Boston Celtics in exchange for point guard Will Bynum.

The move signals that the team is comfortable with second-round draft pick Spencer Dinwiddie as the No. 3 point guard as he continues to rehab the left knee injury he suffered in January.

Dinwiddie is progressing nicely and recently took part in 5-on-5 drills for the first time. So Bynum, whose days were numbered when the organization hired Van Gundy as its president and coach, became expendable.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Sixers organization is offering support for Joel Embiid, who’s younger brother was tragically killed in a vehicle accident in Cameroon … After undergoing “a minor outpatient surgical procedure,” Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders will miss the rest of the preseasonDeMarcus Cousins is dealing with achilles tendonitis … Glen “Big Baby” Davis is out indefinitely with a strained groin … Jason Kapono says if he doesn’t make the Warriors, he will “go back to chillin'” …

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 10


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Feb. 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Pistons’ Gores has more decisions ahead | Clippers soar in Paul’s return | World Peace has advice for Smart | No change in Kobe’s plans; another setback for Nash

No. 1: Pistons owner Gores has more work to do fix Motor City mess Tom Gores took the first step in attempting to fix the mess that is the Detroit Pistons by firing his head coach, Maurice Cheeks. That’s only the beginning of the heavy lifting he’ll have to do to fix what ails the once-proud Pistons, according to Terry Foster of the Detroit News., who reiterates what our Steve Aschburner said in the immediate aftermath of Cheeks being fired. And the list is long and starts with Pistons president Joe Dumars and includes several players who should all be in the crosshairs for a franchise that expected so much more from this season:

Gores owns this shipwreck and he probably doesn’t know what to do with it. Let me give him some advice:

He’s already issued his playoff-or-else edict for the season and can’t back down now. However, he can’t ignore long-term goals — that should be his most pressing concern.

Rodney Stuckey, Greg Monroe and Charlie Villanueva have been dangled as trade bait. The Pistons could go one of two ways. They could trade these pieces and try to get a small forward that could help them win now. Or they could trade these guys to free up cap space and retain their draft pick by slumping to one of the eight worst records in the league.

Option No. 2 means the Pistons would miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season. I am OK with that as long as they have one of the league’s eight-worst records so they can keep their pick in this talent-heavy draft.

The Pistons are a half-game behind Charlotte for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The last time the Pistons made the playoffs as an eight seed was 2009. They were swept by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

How did that experience work out? The Pistons are 132-226 since.

The Pistons likely would play the Pacers as an eight seed or the two-time defending champion Heat as a seventh seed. Both teams would sweep the Pistons. So what is the point?

The Pistons are a young team and playoff experience is an important learning experience. However, the Pistons might get drummed out before they can get their notebooks out.

“I still have a lot of hope for this season and I expect our players to step up,” Gores said.

Speaking of players, black marks on Cheeks’ record undoubtedly were the run-ins he had with Josh Smith and Will Bynum — which continue a trend of Pistons players having too much say. Does anyone remember the John Kuester mutiny?

Gores has to provide direction to this franchise. He has to establish a vision. If he doesn’t the Pistons will continue to play in front of a lot of empty seats.


VIDEO: Detroit became the first team to fire its coach this season

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No. 2: Lob City was alive and well in Chris Paul’s return to the Clippers – Life without Chris Paul for the Los Angeles Clippers was certainly manageable. In fact, Blake Griffin ripped it up in Paul’s absence. But it’s good to have their All-Star point guard and floor leader back, as the world saw Sunday in the Clippers’ rout of the Philadelphia 76ers. It was a welcome back party, of sorts, that signals a second-half charge for the Clippers that should include a rise up the Western Conference food chain. Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times recounts the return of Paul in the biggest (literally) win in franchise history:

It was Showtime at Staples Center on Sunday night, starring the return of Chris Paul, the comeback of Blake Griffin from an injury scare and the rest of the Clippers playing their roles.

Playing in his first game since he separated his right shoulder Jan. 3 at Dallas, Paul had seven points and eight assists in the Clippers’ show-stopping and franchise-record-setting 123-78 victory over the overmatched Philadelphia 76ers.

With Griffin overcoming a bruised left shin suffered in the first quarter to score 26 points, grab 11 rebounds and hand out six assists, the Clippers set a franchise record for biggest margin of victory.

The Clippers held the 76ers to an opponent franchise-low 27% (27 for 100) shooting. The Clippers set a franchise record for biggest lead at the half when they opened a 69-30 lead after two quarters.

They built a lead as big as 56 points, their largest of the season. So after missing the last 18 games recovering from his injury, this is what Paul came back to.

“It felt great to play,” said Paul, who played 22 minutes 44 seconds. “It’s one of those things you never know what it’s going to be like until you actually get out there and compete and play. It just felt good.”

Griffin went down late in the first quarter after Tony Wroten slipped while driving and stumbled into Griffin.

After he limped to the locker room with head athletic trainer Jasen Powell, Griffin checked back into the game with 7:31 left in the second quarter.

In case anyone was wondering if Griffin was fine and that he and Paul were on the same page, they got their answer twice in the second quarter.

Paul had a breakaway layup, but threw the ball off the backboard, allowing Griffin to catch it and throw down a windmill dunk.

Then later in the second quarter, Griffin dribbled up court, made a behind-the-back pass with his left hand to Paul, who threw a lob that Griffin dunked, bringing the crowd to its feet again.

So, Griffin was asked after the game, how hard was it play with Paul again?

“It was tough, but we managed,” Griffin deadpanned, laughing along with the media.


VIDEO: Who didn’t get dunked on Sunday? The Top 10 plays includes plenty from the Clippers

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No. 3: World Peace has words of wisdom for Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart – If there is any one man on the planet who knows what Oklahoma State Marcus Smart is feeling in the aftermath of the fan-shoving incident he was in the middle of Saturday night, it’s veteran New York Knicks forward Metta World Peace. He, as Ron Artest then, was at the epicenter of the infamous Malice at the Palace of Auburn Hills. World Peace insists there are plenty of lessons to be learned from what Smart is going through now and will during and after his three-game suspension:

World Peace said Smart — who is projected to be a high NBA draft pick — might benefit from learning how to deal with obnoxious fans at age 19, before he becomes a pro and millions of dollars are on the line.

“Just in general, I heard the kid is pretty good and a potential pro,” World Peace said Sunday before his game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. “So those types of challenges on the court when you’re playing and fans are rooting against you — that was a great lesson learned, so that hopefully when he does become a pro, he’ll be able to kind of withstand the fans that are rooting against him on the road.”

World Peace also said Smart needs to learn to control his energy.

“I think that emotion and that fire could be directed towards winning on the court instead of directed other ways,” he said.

World Peace said given the chance, he would advise Smart to be aware of the big picture when making decisions.

At 19 years old, when I came out of St. John’s, I was fresh out the ‘hood. I was fresh out of Queensbridge,” he said. “So my mentality was still struggle, defensive and things like that. I wasn’t really conscious. I’m 34 years old now. So he’s a young kid. I wish I would have listened when I was a kid to my elders or people who had my best interests at heart, and then I wish I would have been more conscious at that age also. Those are two things that, if you were to reach out to a kid like Marcus — a talented kid, future leader in the community — you would tell him those things.”

World Peace said more guidelines should be in place for college fans because college players don’t get paid. He said fans should have more leeway at NBA games.

“As far as the pros, people pay to come and see us, and I appreciate it because I’m able to take care of my family,” he said. “So I don’t really judge fans about what they say, good or bad.”

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No. 4: No change for Kobe’s return and another injury scare for Nash — For all of us who think we know what’s best for Kobe Bryant, save the advice. Bryant isn’t making any changes to his comeback plans for the Los Angeles Lakers this season. He told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin as much over the weekend:

Despite continuing to be sidelined with a left knee injury and seeing his team continue to fall further out of the playoff picture, Kobe Bryant remains steadfast in his intention to return to the court this season.

“My plan hasn’t changed,” Bryant said Sunday at an event to promote his newest signature sneaker, the Nike Kobe 9 Elite Masterpiece. “I’m just going about it every single day just trying to get better. That’s my job. My job is to get my butt back out there on the court when I’m healthy enough to play and that hasn’t changed.”

Bryant, out since Dec. 17 with a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee and averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 42.5 percent shooting this season, has missed the Lakers’ last 26 games. He missed the Lakers’ first 19 games this season because of a torn Achilles in his left leg.

The 18-year veteran is scheduled to be re-evaluated after the All-Star Game next week, but wouldn’t venture a guess as to when he could actually return to game action.

“That I don’t know,” Bryant said. “It’s completely out of my control. I really got to sit here and just wait until this thing heals up and then go out there and do what I do.”

He reiterated his confidence that he would not miss the rest of the 2013-14 season, however.

When asked what his best-case scenario would be upon a return this season, Bryant replied: “Play like me. That’s it.”

The news on Steve Nash isn’t quite as positive. He didn’t finish Sunday’s game against the Bulls, exiting with a nerve irritation in his left leg. He’s scheduled to be evaluated today. But things don’t look good for the NBA’s elder statesman:

Nash received contact to his left leg from Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich as he turned the ball over with 9:18 remaining in the third quarter. The contact was near the same spot where he suffered a fracture in the leg last season. He stayed in the game until there was 5:00 remaining in the quarter and went straight to the locker room.

“I just took a knee to the spot where I broke my leg,” Nash said. “Ever since I did that I’ve had a lot of nerve issues there and it just really flared up on me. I don’t think it’s going to be a long-term thing at all. Hopefully it’s something that can just settle down this week, hopefully by Tuesday.”

The Lakers host the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.

“[Once] that nerve flared up and I started to compensate, I wasn’t going to be very effective … and I also was going to risk going back on all that work I did to get back on the court,” Nash said.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said Nash’s back started to tighten up from the nerve issues, causing the veteran point guard to limp on the court.

Nash, who turned 40 on Friday, had played in three of the Lakers’ last four games after missing nearly three months of game action because of nerve root irritation in his back and hamstrings.

“It wasn’t like I broke it again,” Nash said. “I just kind of irritated the nerve and I’m hopeful that all the stuff that I’ve been doing will be able to overcome that little bit of irritation. It’s kind of transient and hopefully I’ll wake up tomorrow and feel better.”


VIDEO: See how easy Kevin Durant makes it look in the Nightly Notable

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: You’ll have to forgive the Magic for acting like they won a championship when they knocked off the Pacers but every win, especially against an elite team, matters when they come as sparingly as they do in Orlando … Acting Cavs GM David Griffin says they are buying at the trade deadline in Cleveland … Thunder star Russell Westbrook is gearing up for his return after the All-Star breakRick Carlisle couldn’t resist the inevitable Dirk Nowitzki-Larry Bird comparisons over the weekend in Boston …

ICYMI of the Night: The Clippers went to town in their rout of the Sixers and no one had more fun in the blowout than the Clippers’ All-Star power forward Blake Griffin, who shows off a bit with one of his many dunks …


VIDEO: Blake Griffin goes off the glass, courtesy of Chris Paul

Surprise: Dumars Fires Yet Another Coach


VIDEO: Cheeks is out at Detroit after only eight months

Mo Cheeks, the eighth coach to serve during Joe Dumars‘ run as president of basketball operations for the Detroit Pistons, lasted eight months before, as multiple media outlets reported and the team eventually confirmed Sunday, getting the ax.

Dumars is in his 14th season, six years removed from Detroit’s last .500-or-better season. And the Pistons’ lone championship on Dumars’ watch (2004) came so long ago, Yao Ming, Latrell Sprewell and Seattle still were in the league and Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and the Charlotte Bobcats weren’t.

That math no longer adds up.

In fact, with the clamor for advanced analytics to measure and dictate every motion and inclination of every player associated with an NBA team’s success or failure, the league is overdue for a concrete rating system for front-office executives. They’re the guys, after all, who are lauded or ripped by a new generation of sportswriter/analyst, depending on how avidly they embrace or eschew such calculations.

Or how ’bout this? A simple ceiling on the number of coaches a GM can hire or fire before it is his head on the chopping block.

Three would seem to be plenty, though four might be a reasonable number as well. If you spot the boss one for clearing the deck after he takes the job – the way Dumars did in 2001, replacing George Irvine with Rick Carlisle – two or three more ought to be enough, after which the scrutiny needs to shift from the sideline to the executive suite.

That would have only gotten Dumars to about the halfway mark in presiding over his personal coaches’ Boot Hill.

After Irvine and Carlisle, Dumars and the Pistons turned to Larry Brown, who did precisely what everyone expected him to do: he got Detroit to The Finals in his first season, steered its ensemble cast to the 2004 championship, then won another 54 games before his AWOL DNA kicked in and he was on the move.

Flip Saunders was brought in and did even better, in terms of victories, going 176-70 in three seasons. But he never had full control of the Pistons’ veteran-laden locker room – thanks, Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton – though Saunders’ non-confrontational style was well-established before Dumars ever hired him. The core of that Detroit team was in decline, anyway, so when Saunders was dumped in 2008, so was its trips to the Eastern Conference finals and, for that matter, days sniffing air above .500.

Saunders at least holds the distinction of lasting longest under Dumars. After him, Michael Curry, John Kuester, Lawrence Frank — and now Cheeks — have followed in rather rapid succession, each staying two years or less.

The Cheeks firing borders on Kim & Kris eye-blink brief, with the added touch that Pistons players apparently learned the news Sunday through media and fan postings on Twitter. Sure, they’re the ones allegedly responsible, underperforming at a 21-29 pace that most experts felt should have been flipped to 29-21 by now. But class is as class does, and while Dumars – always classy as a Hall of Fame player in Detroit – can’t be held responsible for every leak, it does add to the impression that there’s chaos and scapegoating going on in the Motor City.

The Pistons have been in or near the league’s bottom third both offensively and defensively. As of Sunday morning, they were ninth, out of the playoff picture, despite an East standings that from No. 3 down ought to be a land of opportunity. Detroit has been OK within its conference actually (18-14) but a 3-15 mark vs. the West has been killer, as was the Pistons’ 7-15 mark at home halfway through the schedule.

The inability to meld the work of big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, some reported rancor among the players over the rotation and the confrontation/aftermatch between the coach and guard Will Bynum – that’s all on Cheeks. The question, though, of whether 50 games was enough to decide his fate – after successive two-years-and-out terms of Frank and Kuester – was answered by Dumars and owner Tom Gores.

“Our record does not reflect our talent and we simply need a change,” Gores said in a team statement. “We have not made the kind of progress that we should have over the first half of the season. This is a young team and we knew there would be growing pains, but we can be patient only as long as there is progress.

“The responsibility does not fall squarely on any one individual, but right now this change is a necessary step toward turning this thing around. I still have a lot of hope for this season and I expect our players to step up. I respect and appreciate Maurice Cheeks and thank him for his efforts; we just require a different approach.”

Pinpointing where that approach begins or ends, that’s the challenge. And that’s the area – made up top in jest but maybe a real void in need of filling – to be addressed. There’s got to be a more concrete way of capturing Dumars’ successes and failures.

The talent of which Gores spoke is largely of the individual variety; there’s no one even casually familiar with the NBA who didn’t stack up as many or more “cons” on the right side of Brandon Jennings‘ and Josh Smith‘s ledgers as “pros” on the left. It was, in a sense, a higher risk/reward gamble on “me first” guys than Dumars had perpetrated in 2009 when he splurged on free agents Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to little positive effect.

The Pistons constantly tout their youth – their starting lineup ranks as the NBA’s most tender (23 years and change) – and the fact that their record is best among the league’s four youngest teams. But if that’s something to overcome in the short term, the W-L mark that the kids cobble together seems an odd thing to hold against Cheeks. He didn’t wave a wand and make them young.

More Dumars: Rodney Stuckey was going to be the Pistons’ future until he wasn’t, and only lately has done better in his new zero-expectations world. Then there was the Darko Milicic gaffe, a blown No. 2 pick in 2003 from which the franchise still hasn’t recovered. All while the No. 1 (LeBron James), 3 (Carmelo Anthony), 4 (Chris Bosh) and 5 (Dwyane Wade) picks will be at All-Star weekend in New Orleans.

Gores’ arrival as owner apparently was a reset button for Dumars, because new bosses need basketball people they trust the same as chaotic, distracted owners (the previous Pistons regime). But eight coaches in 14 years and, with whoever takes over on the sideline now, six in eight seasons goes beyond fickle toward feeble.

Even if, in formulating an analytic to apply to the GMs, some allowance gets made for the length of the exec’s reign, Dumars would seem to have exceeded an acceptable average for pink slips. The next one he hands out, he needs to be standing in front of a mirror.

Or better yet, he needs to take over as coach himself and demonstrate that his GM/president knows what he’s doing.

Yoda, Father Time And Billups’ Dual Role

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Marketing whizzes love to throw big, rhetorical “choices” at us. Is it a phone or is it a computer? Is it soup or is it a meal? Is it a salad dressing or is it a floor wax?

Well, here’s another one … NBA-style: Is Chauncey Billups a combo guard for the Detroit Pistons or is he a mentor and coach’s apprentice?

For now, and both the player and the team are sticking to this story, Billups is both. That’s usually the “wink-wink” point of those commercials anyway.

Billups, 37, is in his 17th NBA season, a five-time All-Star who has played for seven different teams, twice finished in the top six in MVP balloting and won the Finals MVP award for being the floor leader of Detroit’s ensemble title in 2004. The No. 3 pick in the 1997 (Tim Duncan) Draft, Billups enjoyed the best six-plus seasons of his career with the Pistons and he re-signed in July with the idea, again, of boosting their point guard play. After all, through two years, young Brandon Knight had handled the position more like a miscast shooting guard.

Two weeks later, though, Detroit president Joe Dumars swapped Knight in a sign-and-trade for Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings, no purist’s dream as a playmaker but at least more proven and committed as a point guard. That cast Billups’ return in a different light — he had played shooting guard next to Chris Paul for the stretches they both were healthy in 2011-12 and last season, but then the Pistons also had Rodney Stuckey, Kyle Singler and lottery pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as options there.

So, Billups told Detroit reporters that he didn’t need to start and understood the team’s vision, adding “Here’s my thing: I don’t mind playing the 2 only if I’m able to play like a point guard. Control it, play with the ball in my hands, make plays, have an effect on the game.”

Everyone, most notably Billups, still is waiting to see how that works out. Through the Pistons’ first four preseason games, Billups logged just 19 minutes in one game, missing four field goals, hitting a pair of free throws and dishing a couple assists. With Detroit getting a lovely preseason back-to-back, there was a chance he would play again Thursday in Cleveland. The veteran guard said he’s healthy after two horribly scarred seasons of injuries (left Achilles, foot tendinitis, groin strain and back pain).

Coach Maurice Cheeks still sees a guy in a uniform, working on a $2.5 million salary with a team option next summer for the same amount.

“No. 1, I think he can still play,” Cheeks said Wednesday night in Chicago. “His knowledge and the things he can still do on the court — he can still shoot the ball, he can still run pick-and-roll, he can still do certain things that he did before. Maybe not at the pace he did before, but he can still do ‘em.”

In the six consecutive seasons in which he helped Detroit reach the East, from 2002-03 through 2007-08, Billups on a 36-minute basis averaged 17.7 points, 6.6 assists and 1.1 steals, with a PER rating of 21.0 and shooting percentages of 42.4/40.0/89.2.

Since the start of 2008-09, same 36-minute prorating, he’s been at 18.9 points, 6.0 assists and 1.1 steals, with a PER of 18.8 and a shooting line of 41.6/39.5/91.3.

He’s very well could be capable of similar performances. Just not for as long or as often.

“You’ll see it, you’ll see it,” Billups said, when a familiar face asked him about his DNP against the Bulls. “Absolutely I’m fine [being a veteran voice]. But I’ll be here to play and help. As needed. I mean, I’m not going to play 35 minutes a game. If I want to make it through I’m not. But nah, I’m here, man. I’m healthy to play.”

The openings might be there, given the NBA’s injurious ways. Jennings and Stuckey both are hurt, the former with a hairline jaw fracture and impacted wisdom tooth, the latter with a bum thumb. Caldwell-Pope looked good with 18 points and seven rebounds in 40 reserve minutes Wednesday and another newbie, Peyton Siva, logged 26 minutes backing up Will Bynum. But they’re rookies.

In the meantime, Billups can be Yoda, the vestiges of his serious Jedi game under wraps.

“Off the court, his knowledge can only help our team,” Cheeks said. “He’s been through every situation imaginable. … Things I’m trying to tell ‘em, he can reinforce it to players. Any time a player of Chauncey’s [status] says it, it validates what the coach is saying.

“Jennings, Bynum, Siva, Kentavious. He can help a lot of guys: big guys, small guys. He can help ME.”

Said Bynum: “Chauncey’s been through the wars. He’s been through ups, he’s been through downs. We’re all eager to learn from that. It’s the small attention to details, the critical things. Splitting the screeners, small things Chauncey’s telling us that can be the difference between winning and losing.”

Then Bynum — with Stuckey, the only two Pistons remaining from Billups’ first Detroit stint — stuck in a needle for old time’s sake. “I hope he’s healthy enough to play on an everyday basis,” Bynum said. “Father Time’s undefeated, though.”

Rose Gets Respect Of Rivals’ Rugged Play

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CHICAGO – Maybe when all the firsts become seconds in Derrick Rose‘s much-anticipated, heavily-scrutinized comeback from 17 months lost to knee surgery, the attention will wane, the media crush will recede and everyone involved will exhale.

For now though, the firsts still are dictating the terms. First game back. First dunk. First time facing defensive double-teams. First regular-season game. First bounce back from the floor. First test of his surgically repaired left knee through back-to-back games. First drive through the paint with Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, DeAndre Jordan or some other big planted down there.

Turn all those into seconds, and maybe the clamor around Rose will ease. Maybe other people will start to relax about his physical condition, his resiliency, his confidence and even his need for occasional “precautionary” DNPs when the knee barks at him and his bosses dare not tempt fate.

When will Rose, himself, know for certain that he’s back? His answer Wednesday night, after the Chicago Bulls went to 4-0 in the preseason with a victory over Detroit at United Center, came out a little sideways. And he buried the lead.

“I don’t really know,” the Bulls point guard said. “We’re winning games, so as long as I’m playing the way that I’m playing and we’re still winning games, I could care less about getting back to my regular self. Even though I think I’m already there.”

As firsts go, this one was pretty good. Rose took the court for real – not as a pregame tease, the way he warmed up before most Bulls home games over the second half of 2012-13, only to disappear or don street clothes by tipoff. Rose took the court for real at United Center for the first time since April 28, 2012 and, though the game itself meant nothing, the moment meant a lot.

The sellout crowd cheered his name in the introductions, cheered again when he got the ball on Chicago’s first possession, cheered once more when he cut, took a pass and scored the Bulls’ first points.

Rose scored 18 points in 14 minutes in the first half, 22 in 22 overall. He got knocked into the photographers by Pistons center Andre Drummond and popped up, scurrying to the foul line like it never happened. Just before intermission, he went airborne and sideways while taking a foul from rookie Peyton Siva for a 3-point play that ranks as his top highlight in three October appearances. (more…)

Free-Agent Roundup: July 1

From NBA.com staff reports

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

Blazers interested in Allen

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

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

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

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

Bulls targeting Williams, Bynum?

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

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

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

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

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

Wolves interested in Martin, Budinger

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

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

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

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

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

What about Monta?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Drama; Heat Streak Reaches 25!

 

MIAMI – All those texts, Tweets and subliminal messages from friends, family and fans were answered by the Miami Heat this time.

Sure, they trailed at halftime for the ninth straight game Friday night against a Detroit Pistons team still searching for its 24th win of the season. But that didn’t stop the Heat from cruising when it mattered most, at winning time, on their way to their 25th straight win, a somewhat methodical 103-89 disposal before an appreciative AmericanAirlines Arena crowd.

Instead of the heart attack finishes they’ve been delivering recently, Boston Monday night and then Wednesday in Cleveland, they simply ran away from the Pistons late in the third quarter and into the fourth. And it was a welcome sight for guys like Shane Battier, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

Never mind the fact that they’re eight games from the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA record 33-game win streak, and all of the pressure that comes with chasing that mark. Sometimes you just want to take the edge off for family and friends whose emotions rise and fall with every double-digit deficit incurred and every heart-racing comeback.

“My parents, they’re great fans and a lot more emotional than I am about this than I am,” Battier said. “I told them ‘sorry, we’re working on playing better.'”

At least they could keep the TV on for the game against the Pistons. The win in Cleveland, when the Heat rallied from a 27-point deficit behind huge shots from Battier and James in particular, was too much.

“They didn’t turn the TV off but they were close,” Battier said. “They’re a little older so they were close to going to bed.”

Just finding ways to win games sounds reasonable enough for the Heat. But lost in the haze of their streak is the fact that they are taking the best shot the rest of the league has to give basically every night.

The Pistons came into the night on the complete opposite end of the standings spectrum, having lost nine straight games. But if you were one of the folks in town for the Ultra Music Festival and wandered into the arena by accident and watched the first half, you would have been hard-pressed to identify the team on the losing streak from the team on the second-best winning streak in NBA history.

“Everybody wants to win by 30 every night,” Wade said. “Sorry guys, it’s not possible.”

They aren’t crazy. They realize that they are in the midst of a stretch — against the Cavaliers, Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats (Sunday) and Orlando Magic (Monday) — where a team 50 games over .500 should have no trouble handling its business against the lottery crowd.

“Win the games we’re supposed to win,” Wade said. “Right now we’re playing teams that we are better than and we are winning games we’re supposed to win.”

That’s easy to do when you always have an advantage in the, as Wade put it,  “games within the game.” An 11-point deficit with James and Wade there to dig you out of it looks completely different when you are hoping that Jose Calderon and Greg Monroe rescue you.

Heat coach Erick Spoelstra isn’t overly concerned about the sluggish starts, but he is by no means dismissing them.

“It’s on the radar,” he said. “There’s no question about it. We need to put together complete games. Now it has been three games in a row where we haven’t gotten off to the energetic start that we’re looking for, so we’ll have an opportunity to get back to it on Sunday. But no excuses. We are not making excuses for ourselves.”

The Heat don’t have to make excuses for winning all the time, especially not with James dominating on both ends the way he did against the Pistons. He finished his night with 29 points, on 12-for-15 shooting from the floor, eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals.

Catching and passing the Lakers is not one of the career milestones James had on his bucket list. So while he’s honored to be a part of a team chasing that historical ghost, he said he feels no pressure to pacify others who are caught up in the hype of what this team is doing right now. And that includes anyone texting after games about their blood pressure spiking at the end of games like the one in Cleveland.

“Right now we are taking each and every game as its own,” he said. “We need to prepare for the next one, which is Sunday. I am not going to sit here and downplay it and act like I don’t know what the record is. I know it’s 33. But we don’t get caught up and say, ‘okay, eight games until we get it.’ We just play our next game and see what happens.”

 

Shaqtin’ A Fool: Vol 2., Episode 16


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Another Thursday night, another batch of NBA fools. This week Shaq calls out Will Bynum, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James (!!), Tony Paker and Iman Shumpert. Vote for your favorite Shaqtin’ A Fool moment!

Expanding The Cast In Miami

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Who needs a reality show when the Miami Heat provide us with so much of their own original content anyway?

It’s not LeBron James this time, though, who plays the star in this drama.

Dwyane Wade gets top billing in this funny but sort of strange one-man act, courtesy of Matt Moore at ProBasketballTalk.com, with a message to the villain that hacked his Twitter account.

After watching Wade frown and scowl his way through the end of the season in The Finals, and with good reason, it is nice to see him laughing and smiling again.

As for that reality show … if it’s anything like the three minutes of hilarious energy displayed in his viral ode to the hackers of the world, we’re buying.

In addition to Wade and James, the Heat could add reality show veteran Eddy Curry to the cast as well, — he starred in the highly underrated “PREPS: Chicago Hoops” back in 2001 alongside Pistons guard Will Bynum, former Duke point guard Sean Dockery and others.

According to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel, the former Bulls, Knicks and Timberwolves center has been auditioning for the Heat in recent days in hopes of joining the Big 3 for next season’s run at the title:

The Pistons’ Player Revolt

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Things have gone from bad to worse for the Detroit Pistons after Thursday’s trade deadline.

Several Pistons missed this morning’s shootaround practice in Philadelphia in some sort of “player protest” against coach John Kuester, per the Detroit Free Press.

Tracy McGrady, Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton and Chris Wilcox all missed the shootaround. But that’s just the start. More from the Vince Ellis of the Free Press:

Team spokesman Cletus Lewis said Rodney Stuckey and Austin Daye missed the team bus as well, but they did arrive toward the end of the media session.

Lewis said McGrady had a headache, Prince had an upset stomach and Hamilton and Wilcox missed the bus from the team hotel.

Ben Wallace also missed the shootaround. Lewis said Wallace was dealing with a family matter. Wallace has missed games and practices over the past month because of the issue.

Only Greg Monroe, Will Bynum, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Jason Maxiell and DaJuan Summers were full participants in the morning shootaround.

Sources indicated that the discontent is directed at Pistons coach John Kuester, who has clashed with players repeatedly this season. The organization downplayed the absences, insisting Prince and McGrady were ill.

One source, who asked not to be identified, said he didn’t know what the next step would be, and didn’t say who organized the absences. But he said it was an organized protest, with some players deciding it was best to show up anyway.

Has it come to this for the Pistons?

Have things really gotten this bad for this Kuester, who said he will go with whoever is available for tonight’s game against the Sixers?

Maybe the players thought there was going to be some mass exodus at the trade deadline. And when that didn’t happen, they decided to take matters into their own hands.

Either way, this is a disastrous start to the stretch run of the season for a Pistons team that certainly didn’t need any more distractions.