Posts Tagged ‘Wilson Chandler’

After Home Blitz, Nuggets Rising in West


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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Who’s the league’s hottest team either side of San Antonio? Don’t look now, but it’s the Denver Nuggets.

With a grueling road schedule to open the first two months of the season, some observers predicted a hard charge up the standings once the schedule turned in Denver’s favor, which it did starting Jan. 1 with 15 of 18 games to be played in the Mile-High City.

On cue, the sky’s been the limit for George Karl‘s bunch, which is riding an eight-game win streak — while averaging a whopping 115.0 ppg — as part of a larger 15-3 run since New Year’s Day. They’ve won 13 of those 15 home games and have gone 2-1 on the road.

On Dec. 29, the Nuggets had dropped to 17-15 after an ugly 82-71 loss at Memphis. At that point, Denver had played a discombobulating 23 road games, stood seventh in the West and were just one game ahead of — believe it or not — the Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. was 15-15, the last time that outfit would sniff .500.

Now the high-octane, well-balanced Nuggets are 32-18 and have pushed past Houston, Golden State and Memphis to slide into the No. 4 position in the West, a hugely significant spot for a team that’s 22-3 at home. The top four teams in each conference earn home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Only the smooth-sailing Spurs have fewer home losses (22-2) among teams in both conferences, and no team has more home wins (San Antonio and Oklahoma City each also have 22).

Of course, Karl’s previous seven seasons in Denver have been marked by first-round disappointments six times and twice the Nuggets have wasted a top-four finish by not getting out of the conference quarterfinals (2006 and 2010). Only the 2008-09 Nuggets, who finished second in the West, made it out, with Carmelo Anthony finally taking the team all the way to the West finals before losing to the Lakers.

So home-court advantage isn’t a free pass into the second round, but would the run-and-gun Nuggets rather play four of seven games in the high altitude or, say, in the madhouse that is Golden State’s Oracle Arena?

So now the schedule evens out. Denver has played 25 games at home and 25 on the road (10-15), and next up is a four-game Eastern Conference road swing, including two back-to-backs: Cleveland (Saturday) and Boston (Sunday), followed by Toronto (Tuesday) and Brooklyn (Wednesday).

The Nuggets will look for their two pace-setters to continue their brilliant play that has led to the team’s longest win streak of the season. Neither point guard Ty Lawson nor forward Danilo Gallinari will be in Houston for the All-Star Game, but had they put up these kind of numbers earlier, both might have finally made the squad.

Gallinari is averaging 19.9 ppg during the eight-game win streak and is shooting the 3-ball at a 44.7-percent clip to boost his previously slumping season percentage to 37.3.

Lawson over the last eight games is averaging 18.9 points — more than three points better than his season average — and 8.1 assists — pushing his season average to a career-high 7.0 apg. After posting four double-doubles through the first 42 games, Lawson has two in the last three games and four of his six on the season have come in the last 15 games.

Add Kenneth Faried‘s (12.2 ppg, 9.7 rpg) relentless motor, a deep roster with six players scoring in double figures, and a seventh, Wilson Chandler, back from injury and averaging 9.7 ppg, the Nuggets have a team that can simply gas opponents.

Especially on their home floor.

Are Nuggets Just Starting To Take Off?

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HOUSTON — There were just a few ticks more than 30 seconds left in the third quarter when the ball and a thunderclap of inspiration came to JaVale McGee on the right elbow.

He took a step toward the basket, ducked under the outstretched arm of the Rockets’ Omer Asik and, well, what the heck, flipped the ball high off the glass, then climbed a ladder in the sky to grab it with one hand and blasted it through the rim.

Ground control to Major Tom.

“When I first got the ball I was thinking dunk,” McGee said. “Then I thought if I didn’t dunk it, I was going to get taken out of the game.”

Too late for those kinds of worries. The Nuggets had already taken the Rockets completely out of the game with a 4-1/2 minute stretch that was out of this world. Wilson Chandler off the bench with steals and jumpers. Ty Lawson with drives to the hoop. Andre Iguodala with all little things that he does.

It was a night for milestones that could have touched off an inter-generational rumble in the Nuggets’ locker room. Coach George Karl, who won the 1,100th game of his career, walked up to the locker stall of Iguodala, who scored his 10,000th career point and cracked: “I’m taking the game ball. You’re on your own.”

No worries. The way things are going, there could be plenty of other occasions to remember if the Nuggets keep up at this rate. The team that lived out of a suitcase through the end of 2012 with 22 of its first 32 games on the road, is now 9-3 since the start of the new year.

It’s more than just home cooking that had turned things around. It’s this delicious combination of all-around athletes that has simmered long enough in Karl’s pot to become a quite tasty dish.

The grueling season-opening forged toughness and togetherness that could pay off for the Nuggets down the road. Karl recently said that he is tired of scrambling down the stretch of the regular season to latch onto one of the final playoff spots in the rugged Western Conference. He has his sights set on battling with the Grizzlies and Warriors for the 4-5 spots. The Nuggets are currently sixth, just 2 1/2 games behind No. 4 Memphis.

“I still think we’re 20 games away from really establishing ourselves as a team that’s got to be reckoned with,” Karl told Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post.

That should be a shot across the bow of the Western Conference elite Thunder, Clippers and Warriors, who have already been taken down by the Nuggets since Jan. 1.

Here is Iguodala, finally free to just play his all-around game and fit in at both ends of the floor, reaching a significant career plateau and being unaware.

“I wasn’t predicted to be here, so it’s a dream come true to be in the NBA,” he said.

Here is Karl, now the seventh-winningest NBA coach of all time, with the miles and the scars on his resume, just watching the odometer flip over again.

“I’ll probably have a ball signed by the players to put in my trophy case, drink a few beers, some day remembering,” he said.

“I don’t know what to say. I’m at the stage in my career where fortunately I still love the game and still have the privilege to coach a good basketball team. The accolades are because of so many other people more than me. But I put a lot of losses on my belt, so maybe I’ll take some accolades every once in a while too.”

And as long as his team puts in the effort on defense, he’ll even smile at the same time he cringes while looking at the replays of McGee’s showboating dunk.

“It doesn’t fall under the fundamental area of basketball, but it worked and I’m glad it worked,” Karl said. “I hope he doesn’t try it a lot in the future.”

Because from the looks of things, the Nuggets might have too much serious ball to play.

Clippers Top League’s Best Benches

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – After Thursday’s 90-77 win in Minnesota, the Los Angeles Clippers are now 3-0 without MVP candidate Chris Paul.

All three wins have come on the road against good teams, and in none of them have the Clippers required a huge performance from one of their other starters. In fact, Blake Griffin has averaged just 16.3 points in the three wins. Eric Bledsoe, starting in place of Paul, has done a decent job of running the team, but has totaled only 11 assists.

The Clippers won the three games — and won them all comfortably –for the same reason that Paul has been able to sit the entire fourth quarter in nine of the 37 games he’s played in: They have the best bench in basketball.

Here’s all you need to know about the Clippers’ bench and why they’re a much-improved team: Last season, the Clips were outscored by 11.6 points per 100 possessions when Griffin was on the bench. This year, they’re outscoring their opponents by 11.7 points per 100 possessions with Griffin on the bench.

That’s a 23.3-point turnaround and that’s really what it’s all about. A good bench should build on leads, not lose them. That’s why the Bulls’ bench was so good the last couple of years, even though it didn’t have anybody who could really score. When Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer and Taj Gibson were on the floor together, the Bulls shut down foes and scored enough to build on the lead the starters gave them.

With that in mind, here are the best benches in the NBA …

L.A. Clippers

The Clips have a full, five-man bench unit that’s one of the best lineups in the league. In 243 minutes with Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf on the floor, L.A. is a plus-14.5 per 100 possessions.

Though Crawford is known for his offense, this is really a defensive unit that has only scored 102.8 points per 100 possessions, just a notch above the league average. But it has allowed only 88.3, making it the second-best defensive unit of the league’s 72 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes.

The question is how Grant Hill fits in. In Hill’s first game back, that unit only played six minutes together. And in the last three games, it hasn’t played together at all, though that may have more to do with Bledsoe starting.

Either way, it would be disappointing if coach Vinny Del Negro broke up such an effective unit. And it really could affect where the Clippers finish in the Western Conference standings.

San Antonio

Though Manu Ginobili has been neither healthy nor sharp, the Spurs’ bench continues to get the job done. It’s just tough to determine where the starters end and where the bench begins, because eight different guys have started at least nine games for San Antonio already. But coach Gregg Popovich‘s ability to mix-and-match lineups will little drop-off is part of what makes the Spurs’ bench so good.

The Spurs don’t have a full bench unit like the Clippers. Their latest starting unit is Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. Their most-used lineup that includes at least three other Spurs has only played 38 minutes together, and that lineup includes Parker and Duncan.

This is why we’d rate the Spurs’ bench behind that of the Clippers. But San Antonio is still outscoring its opponents by a solid 5.7 points per 100 possessions with Duncan off the floor. That’s a very good thing. (more…)

Report: Howard Won’t Go Back To Magic

HANG TIME, TEXAS– No matter where he plays next season, Dwight Howard should have his agent sign an endorsement deal with IHOP. Only a pancake griddle has more flip-flops than his story.

He’s going. He’s staying. He’s going. He’s staying. He plans to retire and become a coconut farmer on an island in the South Pacific. OK, we made that last one up. We think.

After meeting on Wednesday with new Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, the word is that the All-Star center wants to be in L.A. in this summer, Brooklyn in January or Dallas next July.

But according to Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM, the one scenario that Howard will not consider for a moment is a return to Orlando for the 2012-13 season:

Hennigan’s pitch to Howard had a heavy focus on the two men developing a relationship that would be valuable to the Magic moving forward. He expressed a sincere interest in getting to know the six-time All-Star and working with him to improve the team. Howard, however, was expecting an outline of how the team planned to improve and get back to a championship-contending level, something he didn’t receive during the hour-long meeting, according to sources. 

Howard was staunch in his stance and again made it clear to Hennigan that he has no desire to return to Orlando. He told the 30-year-old general manager that he would “never sign another contract with the Magic,” according to sources that spoke with RealGM. 

During the meeting, Howard informed Hennigan that he would be willing to re-sign with the Lakers at the end of the 12-13 season if the two teams were able to complete a trade.

The scenarios Howard was open to during the meeting were: An immediate trade to the Lakers, a January trade to the Brooklyn Nets or a clean break at the end of the 2012-13 season. But he was clear that he would not return to the Magic, choosing to leave as a free agent after the season, sources told RealGM. 

Hennigan informed Howard that he didn’t have any deals in the works and wasn’t quite sure how to respond to what he was told, according to sources. Hennigan was noncommittal on any of the discussed scenarios as the meeting ended. 

Hennigan’s noncommittal approach has only frustrated Howard more as it’s believed that several acceptable offers have been presented to the Magic only to be turned down due to a lack of a true intent to trade him, sources said. (more…)

Dwight update: Not close to a trade with Rockets




Friday came and went, and just like all the other days that have passed since June 24, 2004, Dwight Howard was still a member of the Orlando Magic.

Despite the Houston Rockets using the amnesty provision to waive forward Luis Scola, there was no trade of Howard from Orlando to Houston, and sources briefed on the talks between the two sides said the teams weren’t nearly as close to a trade as many have speculated. That can change in an instant, of course, but late Friday, there was no deal.

Talks between the two sides are “not active,” one source said Friday.

“There’s nothing happening,” another source said.

The Rockets, according to a league source briefed on the discussions, are willing to take one bad contract back from the Magic, not two or three, as has been speculated. And in return, Houston will give up one of the their three first-round picks in last month’s Draft– Jeremy Lamb, Royce White or Terrence Jones –but only one.

The Rockets would be willing to send a future draft pick to Orlando –presumably the Lottery-protected first-rounder Houston received this week from Toronto for guard Kyle Lowry — and send a veteran player to the Magic, helping Orlando clear $10 to $15 million worth of cap room, in exchange for the six-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

(more…)

Rick’s Tips: Waiver Watching





It’s time to hit up the waiver wire during the best part of the fantasy season as the playoffs are upon us. I haven’t been with y’all for a couple weeks, so I’m doubling your pleasure with 10 names that could come to the rescue for your team.

Ramon Sessions

In separate moves on deadline day, the Lakers shipped Derek Fisher to Houston and brought in Ramon Sessions from the Cavaliers to solidify the point guard position.

Ramon isn’t starting yet, but he averaged 8.5 points and 5.5 assists in 22 minutes in his first two games in Purple and Gold. Lakers coach Mike Brown recently told reporters Steve Blake may keep the starting job for the remainder of the season, but I’m not buying it. You don’t ship out Five-Ring Fisher and then not start his replacement. It may take another week or two, but when Sessions gets promoted, he’ll flirt with double-doubles on a nightly basis.

Klay Thompson

As soon as the Warriors selected this sharp-shooting two-guard with the 11th pick in the 2011 draft, the writing was on the wall regarding Monta Ellis’ future in Oakland. It was only a matter of time before Monta was dealt, which happened last Tuesday, opening the starting gig for Thompson.

In five games as a starter, Thompson is averaging 18.6 points, 3.2 assists and 2.2 3s in 36.2 minutes. The rookie is light on rebounds and steals, and he’s shooting just 40 percent since the promotion, but the points and 3s are a nice boost this late in the season. (more…)

NBA Still Rising In China





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The global game it is.

Anyone needing proof that the NBA is indeed still a big thing in China, even without Yao Ming in uniform, needs only take a peek at the TV ratings.

The TV numbers have increased 39 percent over last season, according to a report from Bloomberg’s Scott Soshnick that was confirmed by the league. Merchandise revenue in China has also quadrupled over the past three seasons, per the report, though no specific numbers were released.

The ever-popular Yao retired in July, a victim of repeated injuries. But the NBA still has a presence in China with former Nuggets Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith working in the Chinese Basketball Association this season.

Blogtable: Struggling Knicks

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

Carmelo says it might be his fault the Knicks are so terrible. Agree? Explain.

Steve Aschburner: Yes. And no. Anthony is partly to blame for the Knicks’ struggles and, as the club’s top-paid player, he owns a little more of the responsibility than his teammates, coaches or front office. He’s shooting horribly and in my view rarely has helped his teams much defensively or within an overall concept. But there’s plenty of blame to spread around here. (Funny day to ask this queston, BTW, with ‘Melo as the only player on his team not to score a field goal – when’s the last time that happened? – in the 33-point blowout of Charlotte Tuesday. He played nearly 30 minutes, scored one point on 0-of-7 from the floor but grabbed 11 boards and was plus-13.)

Fran Blinebury: It’s only “Carmelo’s fault” in that he, like Amar’e, isn’t playing up to his potential on a team that isn’t good or deep enough.  It’s actually Jim Dolan’s fault for giving up too many complementary pieces in the trade to get Carmelo instead of waiting to sign him as a free agent.  He should have listened to Donnie Walsh.

Scott Howard-Cooper: Unless Carmelo made the trade – as opposed to forcing the trade – and gave Amar’e Stoudemire the keys to the bank vault, it’s not Melo’s fault. He is part of the problem, for sure, because this is not the offensive weapon the Knicks envisioned. But this is about a lot more than Carmelo Anthony. (more…)

D’Antoni Still Spelled Without A ‘D’?

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There are impatient rumblings at Madison Square Garden, where the “deeee-fense” chant originated, because the Knicks under coach Mike D’Antoni are simply not deee-livering as they should.

Well, let’s just examine that statement a bit further. Especially the part about “as they should.”

Really, now: Should they? This is a team that hired a coach in D’Antoni who specialized in a quick-strike offense while in Phoenix, which won a lot of games but no championships. And this is a team that broke the Brinks for Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, a pair of hired guns who can score a bunch but often give up a bunch, too. And finally, this is a team that surrendered some decent defenders in the trade to get ‘Melo last season, a trade that never should’ve been made in the first place.

So yeah, that’s why we must ask: Should they? Or rather, can they?

The Knicks surrendered 118 points last night to the Bobcats, a team that usually needs two games to reach 118. It was surreal, seeing the offensively-challenged Bobcats shoot 55 percent, to see burly “center” Boris Diaw looking svelte as he tore through the Knicks for 12 of 15 shooting and 27 points, to see Gerald Henderson torch the Knicks’ backcourt for 24 points.

“We didn’t defend enough,” said D’Antoni, stating the obvious.

But how well can the Knicks defend, anyway?

With the exception of Tyson Chandler, there’s nobody on the roster who made their reputation with terrific D. Therefore, it’s hard to be a great defensive team when you lack great defensive players. Yes, the Knicks looked fine the previous game against the Raptors. And yes, defense is more an effort than an art form, and professional basketball players should at least give that effort on the other end. However, the Knicks as constituted paint a worrisome picture for New Yorkers, who see solid defense being played in Chicago, Boston and Miami, places where the Knicks must travel through to have any chance of reaching the NBA Finals anytime soon. The Knicks are giving up 99 a game, fourth-worst in the league, this early in the season.

Writing for the Daily News, here’s what Frank Isola said:

When the chant of de-fense, de-fense fell on deaf ears, the Garden crowd began calling for Iman Shumpert, who has instantly become a fan favorite. And if you listened closely enough there was a brief Phil Jackson chant before the mass exodus began. So for Mike D’Antoni perhaps the only positive thing to come out of Wednesday’s embarrassing 118-110 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats is that no one was calling for his head. but if the Knicks continue to perform poorly at home, that derisive chant is coming soon. And it will be loud.

Others are begin to wonder if it’s time to think about the future of the man on the bench in New York writes Adrian Wojnarowski‘s of Yahoo! Sports:

The Knicks don’t have a playmaker, and D’Antoni still doesn’t have a team that can defend consistently. D’Antoni has also come to the final year of his contract, the $24 million free-agent booty the Knicks gave him to escape a frugal owner and a GM, Steve Kerr, who tried to tell D’Antoni something he never wanted to hear: Defense mattered, and eventually it had to be important to him.

Back-to-back losses to the Toronto Raptors and Bobcats at the Garden dropped the Knicks to 2-4. It didn’t matter that the Bobcats had been obliterated by 74 points in three straight losses, that 24 hours earlier Cleveland had blown them out and Diaw had gone scoreless and owner Michael Jordan had one more mess on his hands.

“You’re talking about an NBA team,” D’Antoni said. “They’re good.”

Come on, Mike. Stop it. The Knicks will get over these losses, but this isn’t the way a lame-duck coach needed to start the season in New York. Bad week for the Knicks, but worse in the long run for the coach’s staying power on the job. This is a no-excuse season for the Knicks, and D’Antoni won’t be negotiating a contract extension without winning a round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

This isn’t simply D’Antoni’s fault. There are too many holes, and maybe too many parts that don’t fit together. The Knicks are counting on Baron Davis’ back to heal, Anthony and Stoudemire to learn to play together, and a Spartan bench to make serious contributions.

(more…)

Chinese Takeout: Kenyon Martin

HANG TIME TEXAS, Y’ALL – The Great Wall of China might be thousands of miles long, but it wasn’t tall enough to keep Kenyon Martin in the country.

The veteran power forward (who turns 34 next week) has arranged a buyout from his contract with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association that will allow a return to the NBA, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo!Sports.

Two questions quickly pop up:

  •  Will Martin’s homecoming open the door for his former Denver teammates J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler to make their own returns to the NBA?
  •  Since he won’t be able to join an NBA team likely until sometime in March, how much jockeying will take place for Martin among playoff contenders that might be looking for fresh legs near the end of the condensed 66-game, post-lockout schedule – Miami, Boston, San Antonio, the Lakers?

For Martin and Xinjiang, this breakup was simply a chance to end a partnership that hadn’t been productive. Martin, who turns 34 on Dec. 30, had been nothing resembling a dominant force in the CBA, averaging 14 points and seven rebounds in a league with few NBA-level big men.

After playing out his contract with the Nuggets last season, Martin is an unrestricted free agent. There are NBA teams interested in him, but clearly they’ll take a close look at his knees and try to understand why he struggled to find his past explosiveness in China. Was he simply not playing hard enough, or is he not healthy?

So that makes one more question: Now that he’s coming home, will K-Mart have anything resembling an NBA level game packed in his luggage?