Posts Tagged ‘Zydrunas Ilgauskas’

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 19

VIDEO: Recapping the 2015 FIBA EuroBasket semifinals


Lithuania punches ticket | Catching up with Blake | Scott talks state of Lakers

No. 1: Lithuania punches ticket As we move closer to the start of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, the field that will compete for the men’s basketball gold medal is beginning to take shape. After Spain qualified by beating France earlier in the week, at EuroBasket yesterday, Lithuania earned a trip to Brazil by beating a strong Serbia team. As our own John Schuhmann writes, sometimes in international basketball there’s a thin line between dominance and heartbreak …

Lithuania is heading to the Olympics after holding on for a 67-64 victory over the team that had won its first seven games by an average of 15.1 points. It wasn’t a pretty game (the teams combined to shoot 8-for-42 from 3-point range), but appropriately, it went down to the wire.

Lithuania beat up Serbia inside early and built a double-digit lead in the second quarter. Serbia climbed to within one at the half, but scored just nine points in the third quarter and trailed by nine early in the fourth.

Serbia came back again, but fell victim to two tough plays late. With 3:36 left, Stefan Markovic saved the ball under the Lithuania basket … right to Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who put Lithuania up four. Two possessions later, Bogdan Bogdanovic was called for a foul on what looked like a clean block, and Jonas Maciulis put Lithuania up six at the free throw line.

Milos Teodosic put Serbia within one with a ridiculous three with 14 seconds left, but Bogdanovic was bumped and stumbled as he tried to tie the game on a frantic drive after Lithuania missed one of two at the line.

The Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas led Lithuania with 15 points (on just six shots) in less than 27 minutes. Teodosic had 16 for Serbia, but didn’t get enough help from Bogdanovic or the Wolves’ Nemanja Bjelica.

Lithuania punched its ticket to Rio and to Sunday’s gold medal game against Spain. Serbia will play France for bronze on Sunday and will have another chance at the Olympics in one of the qualifying tournaments next July.


No. 2: Catching up with Blake Between ownership and coaching changes, the last few years for the Los Angeles Clippers have been filled with noise. And perhaps lost in the shuffle in some ways has been the development of Blake Griffin, who has met the high expectations that accompanied being a No. 1 overall draft pick, and made himself into the franchise cornerstone people projected him becoming. Alex Kennedy from Basketball Insiders caught up with Blake to talk everything from his work ethic to the Clippers’ offseason to his myriad off-court pursuits…

Basketball Insiders: You’ve added different things to your game each summer. Where are you working out this offseason and what aspects of your game are you working on?

Blake Griffin: “I did a lot of my offseason stuff here in L.A. I like to get out of the training facility and I work out with my trainer, doing strength and conditioning stuff in El Segundo in his gym. I’ll use just random gyms, like I use this high school gym down in Manhattan Beach sometimes. Then, I kind of bounced around a bit. I did some workouts in New York because I had to be there for a little bit so I worked out there. As far as what we worked on, a lot of face up, off the post, off the elbow, a lot of short roll stuff, getting into the lane, floaters – just because we get so much of that with our spacing of the court and how many pick and rolls we run with CP. [I worked on] a lot of stuff actually off the dribble too, just like one dribble pull-ups and things like that. A lot of post-ups too. This summer, I really did a whole lot and kind of mixed it up. Like last summer, I did so much shooting – a lot of catch and shooting, a lot of pick and pop – and I still did that this summer a lot, but I just tried to kind of focus on literally everything this summer.”

Basketball Insiders: As you mentioned, you spent a lot of time in the gym working on your jump shot last year and it translated to success during the season. Now, after another offseason of work, where is your confidence level with your jump shot?

Blake Griffin: “Every summer and every year, it really gets better and better. I feel a lot more confident going into this season, definitely more so than last season. Each year and each offseason, I try to kind of reflect on the last season and see what I did – what I maybe did too much of, what I didn’t do enough of – and I think last year sometimes I settled [for jump shots] a bit too much. This year, I’m really trying to perfect that balance of pick and pops versus putting it on the floor and making plays, so that’s kind of why I focused on everything this summer. Just being able to use the spacing of our floor, having J.J. [Redick] out there spacing the floor and the same thing with CP when he gets doubled team, [I] just really wanted to being able to have an array of shots and not just focus on pick and pops and catch and shoots.”

Basketball Insiders: I don’t think people realize how hard you work. I’ve known Jamal Crawford for years and he always raves about your work ethic, saying you’re always the first guy in the gym. Can you walk me through one of your typical summer workouts, just so people can get a glimpse of what you do?

Blake Griffin: “A typical day, when I’m really into the full swing of things in the offseason, starts early in the morning because I don’t really sleep in. I wake up around 6:45 a.m. and I’m starting by 7:30 a.m. or sometimes 8:00 a.m. Every now and then, I do kind of a crazy week where I start my workouts at 6 a.m. just to kind of mix it up and make me concentrate a little bit more, taking me out of my comfort zone a little bit. I do that for a week once a month. But once I start with my trainer, we do a lot of corrective stuff early like balance, all of my stuff for my back and any type of little problems I have, we just work on correcting those things. Then, we move on to weights and then for conditioning we do like basically a heart rate training program. It’s kind of a more efficient way of training and doing cardio. We mix it up though. I did a lot of pool stuff this summer, a lot of swimming this summer, which I love. I did a lot of that two summers ago, so I got back into the pool a lot, did a lot of swimming, I’ll do some sand workouts and just kind of mix up the cardio just so I’m not constantly just doing the same thing – running on the treadmill or on the court. After weights, we do that, then I go straight into basketball and we’ll do ball-handling and then we do a lot post-up moves like hooks and things like that and then kind of work our way out. So that’s probably another hour and a half. I try not to be on the court for a ton of time. For me, it’s more about me doing everything [in] game speed and [taking] game shots rather than just catching and shooting and going through the motions. That’s about an hour and half and then a lot of times I mix in yoga. And this summer I really focused a lot on my body, just unloading just as much as I loaded. I’ll do a lot of yoga, do a lot of deep tissue stuff, a lot of stretching and things like that. I thought last summer I worked really hard, but I also didn’t do as good as job of taking care of my body from a deep tissue and stretching standpoint so I made that more of an emphasis this year. It’s a long time working, like five or six hours a day, but I see the difference now in the way my body feels. Going into training camp, I probably haven’t felt better so I’m excited about the work we put in this summer.”

Basketball Insiders: You guys were very active this summer, adding players like Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith and others. What are your overall thoughts on the offseason additions?

Blake Griffin: “I’m very excited, man. Obviously with the whole DJ (DeAndre Jordan) thing – that was a priority bringing him back and everybody kind of knows about that – that kind of almost overshadowed all the other things we did. Adding Josh Smith to our bench is huge, adding Lance Stephenson, adding Paul Pierce with all of his his experience, I thought we did a really good job this summer of just putting a plan together of guys that we wanted and positions that we wanted and then going out and actually getting it done. I feel really good about our bench, but obviously, like every team, we have to put it together. But I’m excited, especially since the past of couple weeks we’ve started having more guys in [L.A.] and our team is starting to take a little shape just through our workouts and playing pick-up. I think this could be a special season for us.”


No. 1: Scott talks state of the Lakers The Los Angeles Lakers are entering what appears to be Kobe Bryant‘s final season, and aren’t expected to contend for a title anytime soon. But do they feel they’re on the right path to once again becoming one of the NBA’s dominant franchises? Bill Oram from the Orange County Register sat down with Lakers coach Byron Scott for a long Q&A that hits on many topics, from their offseason to Kobe’s future…

Q. You guys missed on some pretty high-profile guys in free agency. After everything settled, how do you feel about roster construction and where you guys are going into October?

A. I don’t look at the summer as a big disappointment, to be honest with you. We missed on a guy we were after, obviously, in LaMarcus (Aldridge, who signed with the Spurs). But to get Roy (Hibbert) and to get Lou Williams and to get Brandon Bass, I think (General Manager) Mitch (Kupchak) did a hell of a job of recovering and making it a summer that you kind of looked back and said, ‘Man, that’s a pretty good recovery.’ I’m happy with the roster we have. We’ve got competition it seems like at every position, which I think is going to be fun to watch in training camp. We’re still very, very young, with the exception, obviously, of (37-year-old) Kobe (Bryant), so I’m excited about that.

Q. When you talk about trying to establish a defensive identity, last year 29th in defense. Do you feel like the moves that were made are moving you closer to that, and getting a team that is in your mold?

A. I think so, I think obviously it starts with Big Roy, Jordan (Clarkson) being a year older, understanding our philosophy on what we need to do on the defensive end, Julius not playing at all last year but understanding what we want to do. So, yeah, I think it is starting to be molded in that direction of being a much better defensive team. We still have a long way to go. We have a lot to work on. And I think we’re probably ahead of schedule right now. These guys have been coming in every day, working out for the past six-to-eight weeks. So that’s something I’m very encouraged about. But from the defensive standpoint everybody that is here, they know how I am about that. They know how important that is to me and to us as a team for us to have any type of success.

Q. How big of a difference does having a defensive-minded center in the middle make?

A. I think first of all it’s a mentality. And I think Roy has shown that from Day One. When he’s out here, the No. 1 thing is he’s a great communicator, which is something we didn’t have on the back end of our defense last year. Our No.2, he has a reputation for protecting the rim, so he knows that’s his bread and butter. And No. 3, the one thing I saw so far with him is that guys are going in for layups the first day he was like, ‘No easy layups.’ And that’s something we didn’t do a good job of last year, is protecting the rim or giving up easy layups. So I think he’s bringing that mentality to our young guys and to the rest of the team and I think hat’s going to be huge for us.

Q. What decisions are you facing with Kobe?

A. I think the biggest decision is playing time, trying to make that as limited as possible and also back-to-back games. That’s something we have to talk about. Other than that, there really is no other decision to make. He wants to play, and he wants to go out the way he wants to go out — if this is indeed his final year. He and I have talked a number of times on the phone, we’ve talked about playing time, we’ve talked about back-to-back, we’re going to probably sit down as we get closer to training camp or as we get in training camp and even talk more about it. Because the one thing I want, if this is his last year, I want him to go out standing. I don’t want him to go out hurt. I want to make sure I do everything in my power to make sure we stick to the game plan, as far as his minutes and as far as back-to-back games.

Q. What do you mean by as “limited as possible?”

A. I didn’t mean play as limited as possible. Obviously we want to keep him as efficient as possible, but I know he knows his body better than anybody. When we start talking about those minutes, I want to listen to him more than anything. I’m not going to go by what I think he can play like I did last year, I want to really go by what he thinks he can play. Then I want to make sure we stick to that.

Q. To what extent do you regret the way that decision was made last year? There was a lot made about you playing him more minutes than he thought he should play. Is that a burden for you? Do you feel some guilt?

A. I felt bad about it. I don’t know if I would say guilty. I know Kobe’s a competitor and he’s going to play as many minutes as you want him to play. I’m also a competitor, so I want to win and I know having him on the court gives me the best opportunity to win. But I also know that I’ve got to think about him more than anything. And I thought there were points in time last year where I thought he could play a certain amount of minutes. He told me Day One the minutes that he thought he could play in and like I told him at the end of the day, ‘You were absolutely right and I was wrong.’ I won’t make that mistake again.

Q. How do you avoid making that mistake again when it’s December and you guys are on a bad run and Kobe’s playing well and he seems to be OK? You don’t do it?

A. I don’t do it. Stick to my guns. This is what we talked about, this is what we felt would be the best way to use you and to make you the most efficient that you could be, I’m going to stick to it. Win or lose, I’m going to stick to it.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Warriors consultant Jerry West says as far as he’s concerned, talent trumps numbers … Former Pistons great Bill Laimbeer was named WNBA Coach of the Year for a second time … Former Cleveland Cavaliers great Zydrunas Ilgauskas found a new part-time gig: high school assistant coach …The Knicks are hoping Sasha Vujacic can help teach the triangleHarrison Barnes reportedly has a new agent

Blogtable: All-time, All Soviet Union/Russia NBA team

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: Remembering “Chocolate Thunder | Can anyone beat USA in 2016? |
Name your all-time, All Soviet Union/Russia NBA team


VIDEO: The best of Arvydas Sabonis

>Former NBA standout Andrei Kirilenko has been elected president of the Russian Basketball Federation. Perfect time to ask you to name your all-time, All Soviet Union/Russian NBA team.

Steve Aschburner, Nobody told us there was going to be geography and geo-politics on this quiz. But here’s my best group of five: Kirilenko (Russia), Arvydas Sabonis, Sarunas Marciulionis and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Lithuania) and Zaza Pachulia (Georgia). The best of them likely was Sabonis, but he was an older, slower player by the time he reached the NBA with Portland at age 31. Loved his gruff exterior and his clever, Dan Quisenberry-like submarine passing.

Fran Blinebury,   I’m tempted to just go with the 1988 Olympic gold medalists, but have got to make room for the versatile AK-47 and the leading scorer from the infamous 1972 final over the U.S.

C : Arvydas Sabonis — We never saw him at the peak of his powers in the NBA.
F : Andrei Kirilenko — Slashing scorer, first-rate defender.
F : Aleksandr Volkov — Two so-so NBA seasons, but a force at PF for Soviet national team.
G : Sarunas Marciulionis — The feisty, aggressive guard opened the door for Europeans in the NBA.
G : Sergei Belov — Leading scorer in 1972 gold medal game, first international player voted into Naismith Hall of Fame.

Scott Howard-Cooper,  Fans of some of the former Soviet states won’t be happy — Arvydas Sabonis was Lithuanian, after all, and so on — but for purposes of the question:
C: Arvydas Sabonis
PF: Timofey Mozgov
SF: Andrei Kirilenko
SG: Sarunas Marciulionis
PG: Alexey Shved
If I’m missing anyone, and I can’t help but wonder I am, I hope they’re a guard. The frontline is the strength, especially Sabonis and Kirilenko as the top selections no matter the position. Sabonis is the best talent on the list, but in the context of NBA play, as the question says, Kirilenko is No. 1 after playing more years, playing better, and with his best seasons in the NBA. North American fans sadly mostly saw the injury-depleted Sabonis.

Shaun Powell, Sasha Volkov, Andrei Kirilenko, Arvydas Sabonis, Sarunas Marciulionis, Timofey Mozgov. That’s my squad, with Sabonis the obvious choice as the Godfather of Soviet/Russian ball. Becky Hammon just misses the cut.

John Schuhmann, Picking the frontcourt is pretty easy: Kirilenko, Arvydas Sabonis and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. And I’ll go with Sarunas x 2 in the backcourt: Marciulionis and Jasikevicius, though the latter was a lot more fun to watch when he played for Lithuania than when he played for the Pacers and Warriors.

Sekou Smith,   Any team of this kind has to start with the great Arvydas Sabonis in the middle, flanked by Alexander Volkov and Kirilenko at the forward spots with the criminally underrated Sarunas Marciulionis in the backcourt alongside one of my all-time favorite big-moment competitors, Sarunas Jasikevicius. If Kirilenko had that kind of starting five to work with as president of the Russian Basketball Federation, he could ride the wave in that job for years.

Ian Thomsen, The old Soviet regime (unlike the former Yugoslavia) did not produce a lot of NBA guards, and neither has the Russian federation. So I am piecing together this team in faith that Sabonis and Ilgauskas could complement one another inside and outside, and that Kirilenko would have the skills and defensive versatility to shift to the backcourt when necessary.
C: Arvydas Sabonis
C: Zydrunas Ilgauskas
F: Alexander Volkov
F: Andrei Kirilenko
G: Sarunas Marciulionis

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: Well, Kirilenko is on my team, if only for that run he had in the 2000’s with the Jazz, when he was fully healthy and seemingly capable of posting a quadruple-double on any given night. We always heard that we in the U.S. never saw the best of Arvydis Sabonis, but even playing with injured knees in Portland, he was pretty great. Sarunas Marciulionis won gold with the USSR at the 1988 Olympics, and had a great run with the Golden State Warriors. How about my main man Sasha Volkov, who was one of the pioneers of the international movement to the NBA when he played for some of the Atlanta Hawks’ better early-‘90s teams? And if we’re picking one for the future, Timofey Mozgov is coming off an NBA Finals appearance and looks like he still has a lot of years left in him.

Morning shootaround — Aug. 27

VIDEO: Relive the top 5 plays from the USA-Slovenia exhibition game

Wolves’ owner, Love in war of words after trade | Recapping Team USA’s final tune-up | Agent: Big Z won’t be making comeback

No. 1: Taylor, Love exchange words over trade — Tuesday afternoon, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers either moved on from or moved into their respective eras with Kevin Love. The All-Star big man was officially introduced the the Cleveland media yesterday, while the Wolves introduced the haul they got from the Cavs and Philadelphia 76ers — Thaddeus Young, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett — in the offseason mega-deal. Now that the move is in the past, Wolves owner Glen Taylor opened up to the media about trading his superstar and his regrets in not signing him to a longer contract a few years ago. Derek Wetmore of in Minneapolis has more:

Afterward, Taylor spoke freely about the blockbuster Kevin Love trade that landed the Wolves this year’s No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young. He said that his preference would have been to keep Love, but after it became clear that would not happen, the Wolves accommodated the disgruntled star and got a nice haul in return.

Still, if he could do it all over again, Taylor said he would have signed Love to the five-year maximum contract in 2012. That way Love would have three seasons left on his contract and the team’s outlook would be considerably different. With the benefit of hindsight, it appears safe to say the contract was a mistake. Love made it known that he wanted out and would exercise the opt-out clause that would make him a free agent following this season. So the Wolves once again have hit the reset button.

“I spoke the truth when I said if Kevin [Love] would stay here then we would have the best season. Inside I knew Kevin wasn’t giving us that alternative even though it’s what I wanted,” Taylor said Tuesday. “So now you have the thing where Kevin kind of said, ‘trade me or you’re going to pay the fine next year if you don’t trade me.’ I think once we got going on that, we had about four teams that came to us with significant offers. But this one truly had the biggest upside. Flip [Saunders] pushed it and negotiated it the best he could so I’m really happy with it.”

“Kevin and I have always had a good relationship. Kevin always said, ‘I want to win.’ I said, ‘I do, too. Stay here, let’s win together.'”

In the end, that didn’t happen of course, and the Wolves settled on a backup plan that may end up working out for the team. That’s yet to be determind. As for Love, Taylor said he questions if Cleveland is the right landing spot for him, where he’ll play alongside the best player in the world, LeBron James, and point guard Kyrie Irving. Taylor also nitpicked portions of Love’s game.

“I question Kevin if this is going to be the best deal for him because I think he’s going to be the third player on a team. I don’t think he’s going to get a lot of credit if they do really well. I think he’ll get the blame if they don’t do well. He’s going to have to learn to handle that.

“I think he’s around a couple guys are awful good. Now I’m not saying that Kevin’s not good, but I think where maybe he got away with some stuff, not playing defense on our team, I’m not sure how that’s going to work in Cleveland. So I would guess they’re going to ask him to play more defense. And he’s foul-prone,” Taylor said.

After these comments surfaced, Love had his say about them and basically told Taylor to worry about his own team, not him:

Love, appearing on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” on Wednesday morning, responded to Taylor’s comments about how he may get exposed for his play on the defensive end and that Love may wind up being the scapegoat if the new-look Cavs struggle.

“I think emotions are definitely running high right now,” Love told “Mike and Mike” on Wednesday. “For Glen to say that, I just think that he should be focusing on the players that he just received. I mean, he has two of the No. 1 picks in the last two drafts: Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. He has another guy who can really play in Thaddeus Young.

“I think he got a lot for me. So I’d be focusing even more on that. More than anything, I’m just excited to start my time in Cleveland, get to work with my new teammates, and start with this new family here.”

VIDEO: GameTime’s crew talks about the Minnesota Timberwolves’ new faces (more…)

The day the rafters almost got ‘Big Z’

VIDEO: Big Z’s No. 11 is raised to the rafters

That warm, embracing jersey-number retirement ceremony in Cleveland Saturday night for Zydrunas Ilgauskas? The one that even LeBron James, in a true show of respect to a admired teammate, felt was mandatory to attend?

It never happens if Ilgauskas had been sitting 18 inches to the right…

I’ve told this story before but the timing is right again, what with Ilgauskas’ No. 11 hoisted into the Q’s rafters: Before Big Z was drafted in 1996, maybe a year before, he came to Minnesota with the Timberwolves’ Euro scout Boris Karebin for some medical procedure on one of his feet (a sign of uncomfortable things to come). He visited the Timberwolves’ practice one afternoon, a gawky 7-foot-3 unknown, and sat on a bench up against one wall.

The practice was being videotaped by the team from a balcony/running track above (this was at the practice court in the health club beneath Target Center, where club members could peer down and watch Christian Laettner, Isaiah (J.R.) Rider & Co. through entire sessions). As the video guy was packing up, he dropped his tripod over the railing and the heavy metal gadget crashed down onto the bench below — right next to Ilgauskas. Scared the heck out of everyone, with a few sheepish, awkward sideway glances to follow, as the realization of what almost happened hit home.

Eighteen inches over, Big Z gets craniumed and maybe isn’t around for the jersey-number retirement. So Ilgauskas got the rafters Saturday but about 19 years ago, the rafters nearly got him. And now you know the rest of the story…

Morning Shootaround — March 4

VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Mar. 3


LeBron runs wild on Charlotte | Nash may not play again this season | Big Z’s special guest for Saturday | Abdul-Jabbar, Bridgeman want stake in Bucks?

No. 1: LeBron goes bonkers vs. Bobcats — This far into his career, it seems there are few things LeBron James can do amaze those who follow him or are just NBA fans. But yet, last night in Miami, James found yet another way to add to his lore. He scored a franchise-record 61 points in Miami’s rout of Charlotte, nailing eight 3-pointers and fashioning a night of scoring wonder that harkened back to his days as a Cleveland Cavalier. Our Sekou Smith excellently details how James’ monster night has added a new chapter to a history that is already plenty robust:

What do you do for an encore of one of the greatest months in NBA history? When you’re LeBron James you turn in one of the greatest nights of your storied career.The Heat star had a February for the ages, becoming the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 2003 to average 30 or more points and eight or more rebounds while shooting better than 57 percent from the field for an entire calendar month (a minimum of five games played). Toss in LeBron’s seven assists a game in February and only Wilt Chamberlain, in February of 1966 has had a wicked stretch of that sort.

That’s why LeBron going for a career-high 61 points in the Heat’s 124-107 home win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday ranks right up there among his greatest performances ever. He did it with a mask on, protecting his recently broken nose. He did it with Dwyane Wade resting in street clothes, as part of ongoing maintenance program. And he did it with work from all over the floor, including a career-high tying eight made 3-pointers.

He needed just 33 shots, 22 makes, to notch the 10th game of 50 or more points of his career and his first outing of 60 or more. He’s one of just five players to reach the 60-point plateau shooting better than 65 percent since the 1985-86 season — joining Carmelo Anthony from earlier this season, Shaq in 2000 and Tom Chambers and Karl Malone (both in 1990) as the only players to accomplish that feat.

How many other guys can get 60-plus points without it becoming an absolute hysterical exercise from one basket to the next? If you watch the highlights, it looks just like any other night from LeBron … save, of course, for the 3-point storm he rained down on the Bobcats.


No. 2: Nash likely done for seasonRecurring injuries to the roster have sapped any overall sense of hope the Los Angeles Lakers might have had for 2013-14. On the top of that list of injuries has been point guard Steve Nash, who has played in just 10 games this season. He’s unlikely to be back in the lineup before the end of this campaign, writes’s Dave McMenamin:

Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni thinks we’ve seen the last of Steve Nash on the court for the 2013-14 season. Does that mean Nash has played the last basketball of his brilliant 18-year NBA career?”I doubt it,” D’Antoni said after the Lakers’ shootaround Monday when asked if Nash would play again this season with 23 games remaining, starting with the Trail Blazers on Monday night. “I don’t think so. What’s the end game? We’ve talked about it. He’s not completely healthy. We have 23 games left. We’re not going to make the playoffs. So what’s his objective into taking minutes away from the young guys that we’re trying to develop? That’s kind of the theme that we’re talking about.”

Nash was noncommittal about his chances of playing again this season.

“We’ll see,” he said. “I couldn’t really make a prediction. If I get the chance, it would be great.”

Nash has missed the Lakers’ last seven games after returning from nerve root irritation to play a four-game stint in early February. During his short-lived comeback, he collided with Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich, with the point of impact occurring in nearly the same spot on his left leg where he suffered a fracture last season.

“That knee to [his leg], that was crazy,” Nash said. “It just flared everything up. But it’s subsiding, and I’m kind of working through it and coming back to where I was.”

Nash looked like his old self in a 112-98 win against the Philadelphia 76ers in a game played on his 40th birthday, racking up 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting with five assists and four rebounds.

“You look at an 18-year career and, like, one game against Philly [should not matter],” Nash said, “but it meant so much to me just to say, ‘OK, I showed I can do it still.’ Can I sustain it? That’s the next step, and I haven’t been able to prove that yet.”

Nash has one year remaining on his contract with the Lakers, set to pay him $9.7 million. Under the collective bargaining agreement, L.A. could waive Nash via the stretch provision before the start of training camp and have one-third of the $9.7 million owed to him (approximately $3.2 million) counted against the salary cap for the next three seasons.

Nash commented on the possibility of being a stretch provision candidate in the second episode of his documentary series “The Finish Line” on’s Grantland.

“I’d imagine that’s the outcome,” Nash tells his agent, Bill Duffy, in the documentary, believing he will be waived.

Nash said Monday that the stretch provision was a key motivator in him coming back in February after being sidelined since Nov. 10 because of back, neck and hamstring discomfort because he did not know if this would be the last time he would get a chance to play professional basketball.

“The reality that next year’s not guaranteed made me realize that I had to take more risks with my training and try to get back on the court,” Nash said. “When you’re looking at potentially the last few months of your career, I didn’t want to just let that slide by without getting back on the court.”

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told reporters shortly after the trade deadline two weeks ago that Nash’s future will be in the point guard’s hands.

“It’s really his decision,” Kupchak said. “He’s under contract to play basketball next year. There’s a lot of moving pieces in something like this. For us to sit down and influence one way or the other is not ethical.”

VIDEO: The Nash-less Lakers score a big upset win over the Blazers


No. 3: Ilgauskas’ jersey retirement may have special guest — Former All-Star center Zydrunas Ilgauskas spent 12 of his 13 NBA seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers and, upon his retirement from the NBA after the 2010-11 season, stands among Cleveland’s all-time leaders in points, games played, rebounds, blocks and more. His No. 11 jersey is set to be retired by the team on Saturday and one of his famous former teammates — LeBron James — says he’d like to attend Ilgauskas’ ceremony if possible:

LeBron James is considering a return to Cleveland. Well, for one night, anyway.James has been asked to attend Saturday night’s Cavaliers jersey retirement ceremony for his former teammate and longtime friend Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who now works for the organization.James and Ilgauskas were teammates in both Cleveland and Miami.The timing works for James, at least with regard to the Heat schedule. Miami is at San Antonio on Thursday, is scheduled to be off Friday and then hold a practice in Chicago on Saturday afternoon in advance of its Sunday afternoon game there against the Bulls.

That would afford James plenty of time to make the short flight to Cleveland for Ilgauskas’ big night.

“I want to be there, but we’ll see. I’m not sure just yet,” James said. “But I think it’s going to be a great day for my friend, a real dear friend of mine. And I’m excited for him.”

James spent the first seven seasons of his career in Cleveland, and his trips there with the Heat have been highly anticipated by Cavs fans ever since. The venom many felt over his departure for Miami seems to have tapered considerably since the summer of 2010 – even a smattering of cheers have been heard at some recent Miami-Cleveland games – but still his presence at such an event could potentially overshadow the guest of honor.

James said if he goes, he hopes all the attention remains where it should be, on Ilgauskas.

“I hope it doesn’t, if I’m able to make it,” James said when asked if he was worried that his presence would overshadow the former center. “I hope it doesn’t. It’s not my day, it’s not about me. It’s about Z. But it wouldn’t matter to me. Obviously I’m there for a dear friend, to be able to support him, if I’m able to make it, and that’s the main thing.”

VIDEO: Zydrunas Ilgauskas is the Cavaliers’ all-time leading rebounder


No. 4: Familiar faces from past may try to help Bucks’ future — The Milwaukee Bucks have been in town since the 1968-69 season and have an NBA title, multiple division championship banners and a storied legacy of legendary players to show for their time in the league. But the Bucks are dealing with an uncertain future of sorts as they search for funding and support for a new arena to replace the aging BMO Harris Bradley Center. Team owner Herb Kohl remains steadfast in keeping the team in town and is only interested in selling it to a buyer who would be committed likewise. Two names from the Bucks’ past, players Junior Bridgeman and NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, may be among those interested in getting in on owning the team, writes our own Steve Aschburner:

First it was Junior Bridgeman, a Bucks alumnus who dropped by Milwaukee over the weekend and fueled speculation that he might buy a chunk of the franchise from owner Herb Kohl to keep it in town.

Now it’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, talking in more general terms about his interest in NBA ownership but doing so on the day he’s back in Milwaukee, too.

Abdul-Jabbar, the Bucks’ first and greatest superstar, acknowledged to the Milwaukee Business Journal on Monday that he hasn’t talked with Kohl about investing in the Bucks.

It also sounded as if his commitment — whenever, wherever and if ever — would have more to do with reputation and perhaps sweat equity than the deep pockets Bridgeman can bring to any deal. The NBA’s all-time leading scorer (38,387 points) and six-time champion talked with the Business Journal’sRich Kirchen more about his fit as a minority NBA owner than about securing the Bucks in the city he left after six seasons.

Abdul-Jabbar was in Milwaukee on Monday to promote his role in a new Wisconsin Department of Tourism ad campaign that teams him with “Airplane!” co-star Robert Hays and directors David Zucker, Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams. In the retro commercial, Abdul-Jabbar reprises his role as pilot “Roger Murdock,” with he and Hays’ character marveling at Wisconsin scenery from their cockpit view.

Part of the joke is Abdul-Jabbar’s mock second-guessing of his decision after six seasons to leave Milwaukee in 1975, when he pressured the Bucks into trading him to the Los Angeles Lakers. He won five more championship rings by teaming up with Pat Riley, Magic Johnson and the rest of the “Showtime” Lakers, but the Bucks haven’t returned to The Finals since winning the title in 1970-71 with a team featuring NBA legend Oscar Robertson and a young Abdul-Jabbar.

So it rang a little hollow when the Hall of Fame center spoke with Kirchen about the challenge faced by Kohl to build and maintain a winner in a small market.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Tayshaun Prince had a bit of a throwback performance in the Grizzlies win in D.C. last night … Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova got off the schnide a bit with his 31-point game against the Jazz … Kings rookie Ray McCallum draws praise from the coaching staff for his play of late …

ICYMI of the Night: Sit back and enjoy as the Blazers’ Robin Lopez powers down a ferocious jam over the Lakers’ Robert Sacre … 

VIDEO: Robin Lopez powers through the lane and jams on the Lakers’ Robert Sacre

Hit And Miss: The Cavaliers’ 40-Year Draft History Has A Bit Of Everything!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Teams use all sorts of information to guide them during the Draft process.

Everything from analytics to eye-witness accounts to brain waves (in Boston) to studying a guy’s tattoos is used as a way to gain insight into what sort of projection a team can make on a particular player.

It wasn’t always this complicated. There was a time when the recommendation of the right scout or college coach, along with a standout career in the college ranks, was enough to convince a team that they’d found their man.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have a 40-year history of hit-and-miss first-round picks that span the entire spectrum of the Draft process, dating back to 1970 and then 1971 with their selection of Austin Carr as the No. 1 overall pick. Nearly every uptick in their franchise history is tied to the work they did well in the Draft,  from Brad Daughtery in 1986 to LeBron James in 2003 to Kyrie Irving in 2011 and whatever they do with the No. 1 overall pick tonight.

The Cavaliers have a chance to change the course of their franchise history once again, provided they do the right thing with the pick tonight and that player they get turns out to be like Daughtery or James and not one of their many lottery misses over the years (apologies to Trajan LangdonLuke Jackson, DaJuan Wagner, DeSagana Diop and several others who, for various reasons, never lived up to their Draft hype).

With that said, the Cavaliers have had more hits than misses if you grade out their Draft history since 1971, as The Plain Dealer‘s Mike Peticca did this morning.

In addition to those overall No. 1 picks they hit on, the Cavaliers can boast of drafting the likes of John Johnson (sixth overall) in 1970, Campy Russell (eighth) in 1974, Ron Harper (eighth) in 1986, Kevin Johnson (seventh) in 1987, Terrell Brandon (11th) in 1991,  Zydrunas Ilgauskas (20th) in 1996 and Andre Miller (eighth) in 1999.

For every miss the Cavaliers have at least one hit, which is a pretty solid track record for a franchise with decades of Draft history. We can only speculate how different things might have been if the focus and attention to detail on the Draft was as meticulous 40 years ago as it is now (not that combing through every bit of minutiae prevents a team from making a Draft night blunder or two) …

And One: Fade To Green

Some quick takes on the happenings around the NBA …

  • The Old Men and the Cs: If this is the end, and indications are that it is, viewed through the standings or the honesty of Danny Ainge in admitting a willingness to break up the Big Three, then there should be no regrets. It was a short run for the Celtics but a great one, three full seasons of one title and another push deep into the fourth quarter of Game 7 of The Finals in 2010 before falling short. Quickly going from contender to geriatric was always part of the deal. The initial investment from summer 2007 – acquiring Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett and spending big on a KG extension rather than building with Rajon Rondo, Al Jefferson and lottery picks – is a no-brainer in retrospect.
  • The Celtics aren’t necessarily road kill, by the way. While not in the same class as the Heat, Bulls or 76ers in the East, and maybe the Hawks, there is still time to find the rip cord and reach the playoffs if the roster stays together and they can delay rebuilding until the summer. Anyone sure about the Magic in the playoffs if Dwight Howard is traded? The Pacers, the team that just gagged on a 16-point lead and lost to the Kings as Sacramento shot 30.1 percent from the field and 68.3 from the line? The Knicks? Boston won’t be champions, but it can still be respectable. (more…)

What’s Next For The Heat?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — With The Finals in the books (and in case you missed anything, check out our nifty recap above), it’s never too soon to start analyzing the participants. We’re not ones to wait, so here’s our quick post-Finals take on the state of the Heat and Mavs and what’s next for each of them. Up first are the Eastern Conference champs and Finals runner-up.


A quick look back: The most anticipated combination since beer and pizza, the debut of the Dwyane Wade-LeBron James-Chris Bosh Era left a bad taste in the mouth when the Heat lost at Boston on opening night and delivered the message that this was going to be a process.

After Udonis Haslem was lost to a torn ligament in his foot on Nov. 20, things hit rock bottom on Nov. 27. A 106-95 loss at Dallas dropped the Heat to 9-8 and was marked by the episode of James bumping into coach Erik Spoelstra. The loss precipitated a postgame, players-only meeting that cleared the air and set things straight.

The meeting led to sizzling stretch of 21-1 from Nov. 29 through Jan. 9 where the only loss was — in perhaps another hint at the future — at home to Dallas.

A four-game losing streak in January and a five-game losing streak in early March set the alarm bells ringing again. But the Heat closed the regular season on a run of 14-3 to complete a 58-24 record that was good enough for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and they cruised through the playoffs with a swagger that never stopped until they ran into the Mavs again.


Where have you gone, Mr. Mourning?

CHICAGOAlonzo Mourning‘s tougher and better and would scare the Bulls more than any big man in a Heat uniform. Like, right now, at age 41.

‘Zo currently cuts a dignified presence in the Heat front office, the scowl replaced by a compassionate heart that reaches deep into the community, the Popeye forearms hidden by a tailored Brioni suit. But you could forgive the Heat for wondering if ‘Zo could find some sneakers and some shorts right now, 24 hours after Miami was bloodied on the boards by Joakim Noah and crew.

The Bulls own a huge advantage over the Heat from a big man’s perspective, and that won’t change in this series. It’s a fixed advantage for Chicago, meaning there’s nothing the Heat can do about it. Not only does Miami have the weakest collection of bigs of any team left in the playoffs, you’d be hard-pressed to recall another team that advanced this far in the post-season with a weaker group.

Remember those howls heard in Chicago when the Bulls trotted out Luc Longley and Bill Cartwright and Will Purdue? The Heat would kill for any of those guys right now.

Put it this way: The centers (Erick Dampier and Zydrunas Ilgauskas) who started 73 of the 82 regular-season games sat in suits for Game 1 because they couldn’t be trusted.


Rebound now, or maybe not at all

CHICAGO — If the Miami Heat hope to rebound in Game 2 from their 103-82 pasting Sunday by the Chicago Bulls in the opener of the East finals, they will need to do just that: Rebound.

Rebound as they did at times in previous playoff games (52 vs. Philadelphia back on April 16). Rebound like Spider-Man working the glass. Rebound as if their postseason lives depend on it. Which they might.

Choose whichever you want, the Heat got beat on the boards. They managed to grab only six offensive rebounds (one more than their 2011 playoff low). That limited them to just eight second-chance points and worse, only 68 field-goal attempts. That matched their previous low in these playoffs.

So it did Miami little good to shoot at a higher percentage than Chicago; to match the Bulls’ 38 field goals while taking only 68 shots, the Heat would have had to shoot 55.8 percent. And no one shoots 55.8 percent against a Tom Thibodeau-coached defense in the postseason.

At the other end, the Heat grabbed 27 defensive rebounds but allowed Chicago to take back 19 of their misses. That fueled the Bulls’ bounty of 31 second-chance points. That’s deflating in its own sense but it really hurt because Miami did not make Chicago pay for its aggressiveness on the offensive glass. The Bulls still managed to get defenders back to close off Miami’s fast-break opportunities, even as Joakim Noah was grabbing eight offensive rebounds Carlos Boozer was getting four and Taj Gibson managed three off the bench.

Some of this is personnel, certainly. NBC Sports’ Pro Basketball Talk addressed that issue:

“[The] Heat have had their best success these playoffs with a small ball lineup. Meaning the 6-foot-9 Joel Anthony at center. The 76ers couldn’t expose the Heat for that, and the Celtics by design don’t try to grab offensive rebounds. But the Bulls do and just destroyed the Heat so severely it made Erik Spoelstra go to Jamal Magloire for 10 minutes to see if that would help. If the Heat have to go away from the Anthony lineup, they could suffer in other ways.”

Yeah, when your options in the middle are Anthony, Magloire or Juwan Howard Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Erick Dampier were inactive Sunday – that can happen.

But the Bulls deserve credit too for tiptoeing that fine line between going after their missed shots vs. heading off Miami’s transition game. Thibodeau had said Saturday, after his team’s final practice before the series, that he wanted his guys to do exactly what they had done all season, boards-wise.

“Our smalls have a responsibility of getting back to protect,” the Bulls coach said. “Our bigs, if they’re inside, go to the offensive glass. If a big is on the perimeter, he gets back. I don’t want to change what we do in terms of responsibility. But you are concerned about giving them easy baskets, so if it does mean you get everyone back, you get everyone back.”

Don’t overlook the Bulls’ accuracy from 3-point range (47.6 percent) and their care in not hoisting reckless long jumpers from out front, the ones most likely to kick back as breakout chances. It all conspired to beat the Heat on this particular night.

“When they started to overwhelm us on the glass,” Spoelstra said, “I think we started to lose our focus on the other end of the court. And it affected us.”