NBA

Game 6 loss may have been last stand for Paul Pierce

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Game 6 loss may have been last stand for Paul Pierce

Losing a playoff series marks the end of a long season for one team. Sometimes it can mark to end of a career for the players on it.  This could be the case for 18-year NBA veteran Paul Pierce.

When ask about retirement and what his future holds, Pierce, noticeably emotional, said it would be something he really thinks about this offseason

“Each and every year for the last couple years, I’ve thought long and hard about walking away from the game." Said Pierce. "The process is even going to continue this summer as I think long and hard, as I step closer to getting older in age, seeing how my body feels, talk to my family. Don’t want to make an emotional decision right now.”

Pierce entered the league in 1998 as the 10th overall pick of the Boston Celtics.  After spending the first 15-years of his career in Boston, “The Truth” was shipped to Brooklyn before the 2013 season. He spent one season with the Nets, then spent the next season in Washington, before eventually signing a 3-year, $10.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers in July of 2015.

With two years remaining on the contract it might not make financial sense to walk away. However, Pierce has seen a steady downward trend in his production over the past four season; father time may be catching up to him.

This past season with the Clippers, Pierce had the worst statistical output of his storied career. He averaged just 6.1 ppg, 1.0 apg, 2.7 rpg, 18.1 minutes, and started just 38 games; All career lows. In fact, it was the first time in his career Pierce didn’t average double-digits scoring. With those numbers, it may be time for Pierce to hang them up. But 18-years in the league is hard to walk away from.

“You just never know…Right now it’s 50/50. We’ll see how I feel when I wake up. If I feel like getting ready for next season. If I don’t feel that feel, if that fire’s not there, then it’s going to be tough.”

Oakley some sort of martyr? I don't think so

Oakley some sort of martyr? I don't think so

By now, you all know about the Charles Oakley incident at Madison Square Garden.

I'm not sure exactly what to believe about the events of that night. The story linked above gives both sides of it. Garden officials say Oakley was "abusive" and "disrespectful" from the moment he walked through the doors of the arena. Oakley called the accusations "outrageous." The video, also in the above link, shows Oakley getting physical with security guards who were attempting to escort him out of the arena. His actions toward those people certainly did not make him a sympathetic figure. And neither did witness reports obtained by TMZ.

Particularly when his reputation as a player was as an enforcer and frequent fighter. It was obvious security people were handling him with great caution.

Public and media outrage have followed, most of it, predictably, critical of Knicks/MSG owner James Dolan and his treatment of a former player. I assume a lot of the media is attacking Dolan simply because this incident gives them another chance to do so. But when I watch the video of the incident it's pretty hard for me to sympathize with Oakley, who seemed to escalate his problems by physically confronting the security people. Should he have been ejected from his seat and the building? Hard for me to judge, but if the stories are true about his conduct in the arena, he should be treated like anyone else whose actions are threatening to those around him.

Many in the media are turning him into a martyr.

I've always sympathized with sports franchises when it comes to the way they are expected to treat former players. In a good many cases the players are paid handsomely for their tenure with a team, then upon retirement, return to the franchise and expect special treatment and some sort of paid position -- oftentimes a job that requires little work and high salary. I have heard, over the years, front office people in just about every sport complain about players who have earned big bucks from a team and then expect special treatment when their playing days are over.

VIP treatment? You get plenty of that as an active player and anything beyond your retirement is a bonus. I'm a big fan of employing ex-players if they are willing to earn their pay. But beyond that, I don't see a responsibility for a team to have to continue the sort of pampering these guys get while playing.

Oakley, by the way, is not one of those players who has squandered his salary as a player and is expecting a handout. His net worth, according to one source, is $52 million. He has been at odds with Dolan for years for reasons not entirely known. But Oakley earned more than $15 million from the Knicks during his tenure there. The franchise owes him respect for what he gave his teams, but nothing more.

To me, he's just another disgruntled ex-player running around whining about how "soft" the NBA is today:

The coaches in this league, in this day and era, are soft; the players are soft, how can you build something? They put all these stat guys, these analytic guys, and put them on the bench and make them GM because of numbers.

Or worse:

“When we played in the ’80s, it wasn’t OK [for European players to play in the NBA]. They weren’t coming over here. They were scared. The game was tough and they weren’t tough.

I believe if he walks into that building and is responsible for making people feel uncomfortable or threatened, he ought to be removed from the building, whether he played for the Knicks or not -- just like you or me. Oakley made a big deal about buying his own ticket for that game, but so what? He did so, apparently, to sit near Dolan, for whatever reason.

To me, Oakley having to buy his own ticket is not a great hardship and it buys him nothing more than the same rights and responsibilities of any other ticket holder. I have very little sympathy for him.

The NBA has been very, very good to Charles Oakley -- and I'm not sure he was in Madison Square Garden the other night with the idea of returning the favor.

CSN NBA Insiders Notebook: Is Melo on the move?

CSN NBA Insiders Notebook: Is Melo on the move?

AT AN ARENA NEAR YOU – Welcome to the latest and greatest edition of the CSN Insiders Notebook.

The rumor mill is starting to get hot and heavy with some of the game’s biggest names being talked about as being on the move.

At the top of the list these days is the New York Knicks and their star player, Carmelo Anthony.

Our CSN Philly Insider Jessica Camerato gives us the latest on how Melo is handling this latest round of trade rumors.

MELO ON THE MOVE?

Who will Carmelo Anthony be playing for after the trade deadline?

Anthony holds a no-trade clause with the Knicks, but his time in New York seems like it will be coming to a close. If the Knicks find a team that Anthony agrees to, this could mark the end of the Melo era in the Big Apple.

The Clippers have emerged as the main suitor for the 14th-year veteran who is averaging over 22 points, six rebounds and three assists this season. Now comes the challenge of finding a third team to make a deal work.

So far the Cavaliers and Celtics -- two enticing destinations for a player looking to win -- reportedly have said they are not interested. (LINK: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/18561036/report%C2%A0knic ks-clippers-discussing-trade-for%C2%A0carmelo-anthony)

This leaves Anthony waiting out his time on a losing Knicks team while he waits to see what the front office does before mid-February.

"You've got to deal with that, even though I try not to read it. And everywhere you go, even if you don't hear about it, somebody is telling you about it, somebody is saying something," Anthony said, via ESPN.com (http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/18570450/new-york-knicks-fans-boo-carmelo-anthony-calls-last-week-mentally-draining ). "It can be mentally draining, mentally fatiguing."

ATLANTIC DIVISION

SIMMONS RECOVERY ON TRACK

While there is no timetable for Ben Simmons’ return, the number one pick in last June’s NBA draft continues to make progress in his rehab from a Jones fracture in his right foot.

Simmons had a scheduled scan with the operating specialist last week in New York. The results showed his recovery is moving along as expected. As part of that recovery, Simmons began one-on-one activity at the Sixers training complex. He competed “very slow” at about “80 percent,” according to Sixers head coach Brett Brown, against Delaware 87ers forward James Webb.

“If you said it’s 20 percent, 10 percent I’d get thrilled,” Brown said. “I can’t wait to coach him. I really can’t wait to coach him.” (LINK http://www.csnphilly.com/philadelphia-76ers/brett-brown-ben-simmons-i-cant-wait-coach-him ) – by Jessica Camerato

CROWDER’S PLAY OF LATE STANDING OUT

Jae Crowder has far exceeded the expectations many had for him when he came to Boston two years ago as a throw-in to the Rajon Rondo trade with Dallas. His play of late has been really good which has only added to the reluctance on Boston’s part to include him in any trade.

In his last nine games, Crowder has averaged 18.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 45.3 percent from 3-point range.

The Celtics were contacted by the New York Knicks regarding a possible deal involving Carmelo Anthony. If Boston was open to the idea of adding Melo which at the time of this writing they were not, they would most likely have to include Crowder in the deal. He is not untradeable, but his versatility, production and extremely team-friendly contract will make it difficult for the Celtics to part ways with him. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

IS SULLINGER THE ANSWER TO RAPTORS’ BIG MAN NEEDS?

The recent skid by the Toronto Raptors only highlighted what many NBA execs have been saying all season. Toronto has a good team, but title contender? Nope.

And the Raptors know this, which is why they’re in the market for an impact power forward.

Could they already have him and not know it?

Jared Sullinger was supposed to be that guy, but foot surgery has kept him off the court until recently.

 And let’s just say the early returns have not been encouraging, which is why the Raptors are open to trying to acquire another power forward such as Atlanta’s Paul Millsap.

In his first five games, Sullinger averaged 4.0 points and 2.6 rebounds while shooting a woeful 25.8 percent from the field and 18.2 percent on 3’s. The Raptors recently announced he would do a rehab stint with their Development League affiliate, the Raptors 905.

“I tell them all the time, when I come back I’m gonna bring one thing and that’s probably rebounding right now,” Sullinger told CSN’s Abby Chin recently. “Just because everybody is in midseason form. It’s gonna take time for me to fit in, know where my shots are, kind of know the offense.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

 NETS AMONG TEAMS TO ‘REST’ HEALTHY PLAYERS

It’s hard to imagine that the Brooklyn Nets won’t finish this season with the NBA’s worst record. And yet you will still find some nights where some of their best players – and I use the word ‘best’ very loosely – are on the bench in street clothes. 

Like San Antonio, Atlanta, Memphis and others throughout the league, the premise is to make sure players are relatively healthy as can be as they near the end of the season and prepare for the playoffs.

And then there’s the Nets who are not only going to fail to make the playoffs, but they can’t even cash in on the one benefit to being a bad team – a high pick in that upcoming year’s NBA draft.

The Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry trade in 2013 netted Boston several picks which included the right to swap this year’s pick which at this point is looking like the top overall selection.

So no playoffs and no lottery pick and guys still getting time off to rest?

Nets guard Randy Foye is among those who likes the approach taken by GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson who came from San Antonio and Atlanta, respectively.

“I think fatigue injuries [result from] back-to-backs or three-in-four-nights where you don’t feel anything, but at the end of the day, you’ve strained a hamstring or pulled a muscle or something like that,” Foye told Newsday. ‘I think the way we’re doing it right here is pretty smart. We’re building toward something.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

CENTRAL DIVISION

DRAMA TAKES CENTER STAGE WITH THE BULLS

Drama, thy name is the Chicago Bulls.

First it was Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler calling out their teammates for a perceived lack of commitment, then Rajon Rondo calling out Butler and Wade on Instagram for their leadership style.

Then there was a team meeting, fines, pseudo-punishments and a blowout.

Well, a blowout loss to the Miami Heat Friday night.

But in the end, there were no regrets as Wade said he’d have no issues working and playing with Rondo despite Rondo’s feelings. And Wade stuck to his sentiment even through the firestorm.

“When you’re a leader, certain things you do and say aren’t always going to be the popular thing in the locker room,” he said. “As a leader, sometimes you can’t be liked. It’s the harsh truth and harsh reality. I’m probably not liked in this locker room today. I’m OK with that.”

And with all that, the Bulls are still holding onto a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. – by Vincent Goodwill

JAMES WANTS MORE HELP IN CLEVELAND

Drama seems to carry in the Eastern Conference or even more specifically, the Midwest as LeBron James again laid down the gauntlet for what he perceives is a lack of help from the Cleveland Cavaliers management and ownership.

James, in his 14th year, is averaging a league-leading 37.5 minutes per game—not a great sign for a 32-year old who’s played deep into June every year since 2011.

After a losing streak that included a puzzling loss to a New Orleans Pelicans team playing without Anthony Davis, James said to reporters, “I just hope that we're not satisfied as an organization."

The Cavaliers have the highest payroll in the NBA and have paid the luxury tax in the two years since James’ return from Miami, in addition to losing $40 million in operating losses, according to Forbes Magazine.

And with his relationship with owner Dan Gilbert always being a point of contention, one wonders if the Cavaliers will continue to press forward with personnel moves or try to save a few bucks—if so, will James try to save his ailing body before the playoff run? – by Vincent Goodwill

DUMARS INTERESTED IN RETURN TO NBA

Hall of Famer Joe Dumars has been synonymous with the Detroit Pistons for 29 years, starting with being drafted in 1985 all the way through his playing career and run as president of basketball operations before his reign ended after the 2013-14 season.

Dumars has laid low from the public eye since but confirmed he wants to get back into the NBA in a podcast with the Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski this week.

“Actually, it’s been great,” Dumars said. “The run in Detroit was tremendous on a lot of levels -— on and off the court. I enjoyed every moment of it. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine straight years, I enjoyed every moment of it. But then sometimes, it’s time to turn the page and have someone else come in and do this and carry that load.”

Dumars led the Pistons to a championship in 2004, another Finals appearance in 2005 and was at the helm of a team that went to six straight Eastern Conference Finals from 2003-08.

His run in Detroit ended when he admitted he should’ve rebuilt instead reloaded, but his resume is as stacked as anyone not with an NBA job—and better than most who have jobs currently.

He should be back in the NBA and fairly soon. – by Vincent Goodwill

ROBINSON III TO COMPETE IN SLAM DUNK CONTEST

Indiana Pacers second-year forward Glenn Robinson III hasn’t hit the league by storm in the way his father, Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson did two decades ago as one of the league’s most deadly scorers.

But Robinson III can get up and above the rim in a way his father never could, so it’s no shock to see him enter his name into the participants of All-Star Weekend’s Slam Dunk contest in New Orleans in the middle of February.

Robinson will be the third Pacer in franchise history to enter the contest, and the small-town Pacers have had decent moments for Robinson to live up to. Paul George was part of a winning combination in the 2014 dunk contest with John Wall, and who could forget Terence Stansbury in the 1987 dunk contest with his “Statue of Liberty” dunk that’s been remembered through time.

So basically, Robinson II has more footsteps to follow, and he’s used to it by now. – by Vincent Goodwill

NBA POTENTIALLY IMPACTED BY PRESIDENT’S TEMPORARY BAN

The Milwaukee Bucks are mired in a terrible losing streak but recent world events have put that in the background as Thon Maker’s status has come into question with President Trump’s temporary ban on the entry of non-American citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Maker was born in Wau, Sudan, which became part of an independent South Sudan in 2011. Sudan is one of the seven banned countries, along with Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

With the NBA having several players who fit this description, the league has to get on top of this and league spokesman Mike Bass issued a statement Saturday saying, “"We have reached out to the State Department and are in the process of gathering information to understand how this executive order would apply to players in our league who are from one of the impacted countries. The NBA is a global league, and we are proud to attract the very best players from around the world." – by Vincent Goodwill

SOUTHEAST DIVISION

WALL-BEAL BACKCOURT CLICKING

John Wall wishes Bradley Beal could be an All-Star with him, and after an offseason in which he raised eyebrows by admitting to CSNmidatlantic.com that they had a tendency to “dislike” each other they’ve smoothed out their differences which is a big reason why the Wizards were 26-20 heading into Sunday’s game at the Pelicans.

The backcourt is having its best season together, and individually, as Wall and Beal are averaging career highs in multiple categories and defending as well as in duo in the league.

“People say we couldn’t get to this road together. Whatever dislikes we had with each other we put that to the side when we stepped between those lines because we know how much we both want to win, how competitive we are,” Wall told CSN after being selected to his fourth consecutive All-Star Game. “I know I can’t be John Wall without Bradley Beal, and Bradley Beal can’t be (himself) without John Wall.” – by J. Michael

HEAT’S WAITERS SERVING UP BETTER PLAY, WINS

With Rodney McGruder, Willie Reed and Luke Babbitt in the starting lineup – and no Hassan Whiteside – the Heat won their sixth game in a row entering the weekend to give themselves hope though they’re still mired at the bottom of the East.

Babbitt, who Tony Allen of the Grizzlies admitted he voted for as an All-Star, plays reserve minutes to score 22 points during the streak has had an impact if you believe in plus-minus ratings. With him on the floor, the Heat have been on the positive side five times.

But it’s the clutch shot-making of Dion Waiters that has keyed the hot streak as he beat the Warriors with a three and slammed the door shut with one vs. the Nets. Miami is 5-15 without him. They’re 12-15 with him.

Waiters only makes $2.9 million when he signed as a free agent and is surely going to opt out of his second year to test the market. – by J. Michael

ANOTHER REBUILD IN THE MAGIC’S FUTURE?

A team built to be defense-first is failing miserably, and the Magic lost even more offense with Jodie Meeks being knocked out indefinitely following right thumb surgery.

“It’s everybody,” Bismack Biyombo said after Orlando gave up 128 points to the Celtics which made for 100-plus in 14 of 15 games. “Our efforts are not good enough. We talk about the right thing. Everybody says the right thing but we’ve got to hold each other accountable. … It is embarrassing to be out there.”

Another restructuring seems to be in order for a roster with good pieces that don’t fit. For Meeks, he hasn’t played a full season since 2013-14 with the Lakers and he only has played 24 games after missing the start of this season with injuries. – by J. Michael

PACIFIC DIVISION

KINGS FALTER AT HOME, FALL OUT OF PLAYOFF SPOT

After a 1-6 homestand, the Sacramento Kings embarked on a season-long eight-game road trip that included three sets of back-to-backs. Six games in, the Kings are holding their own with wins over the Pistons, Cavs and Hornets. Following Tuesday’s game against the Rockets, the Kings return home where they will play 11-of-13 at Golden 1 Center. They do not leave the Pacific time zone from February 1-March 5. … Rudy Gay, 30, underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon on Monday in New York. According to Dr. Martin O’Malley, Gay is expected to make a complete recovery in time for training camp before the 2017-18 season.  … DeMarcus Cousins is an All-Star again. The 26-year-old big man will make his third straight appearance in the annual event next month as a Western Conference reserve. Cousins is posting huge numbers across the board, but over his last 18 games, he’s handing out 6.2 assists per game. Not bad for a 6-foot-11 big man.- by James Ham

DURANT THE PLAYER IS GOOD, BUT THE ACTOR …

In their fourth month as Warriors teammates, Draymond Green finally is willing to admit he is not impressed with Kevin Durant.

As an actor, that is.

Green recently re-watched “Thunderstruck,” a 2012 comedy in which Durant plays himself, a star for the Oklahoma City Thunder whose talents are switched with those of his biggest fan, a 16-year-old aspiring hoopster who previously couldn’t make a simple layup. Durant, meanwhile, becomes as hopeless as the kid once was.

“I’ve seen it multiple times,” Green said. “But that’s the first time I’ve seen it since KD was my teammate, though. I thought it was bad before. But now that we’re really close, I can really voice my opinion on it.

“It was bad, man. It was really bad. Oh, it was bad.”

Identifying “He Got Game” and “Coach Carter” as his favorite hoop movies, said his review was less a knock on Durant than on the movie, which is intended for children.

“I’m not saying KD is a bad actor, I’m saying that was a bad movie,” Green said. “Somebody else should give him another shot, though.

If somebody brought me a movie (script), I would have probably done it too. But after seeing his first movie, if somebody brought me a script like that now, I wouldn’t do it.” – by Monte Poole

DOC RIVERS WILLING TO TRADE HIS SON AUSTIN?

It could happen any day, any hour, any minute. Clippers coach/president Doc Rivers could bring Knicks star Carmelo Anthony to Los Angeles.

And Rivers’ son, Austin, the team’s backup point guard behind Chris Paul, reportedly is among the players that intrigue the folks in New York. Would Doc trade his son for a player entering his twilight years?

“Listen, I would trade anyone,” Doc Rivers told ESPN. “You have to be willing to do that, so -- and (Austin) would be one of them, and any of them would be one. But I don’t want to trade any of our guys. I like our team.”

The Knicks have essentially placed Anthony in a “for trade” ad. The veteran forward, however, has a no-trade clause in his contract. He’d have to approve any deal.

Because the Clippers one of the few teams Anthony would agree to join, there have been discussions regarding a deal. At issue is with whom, exactly, are the Clippers willing to part. Rivers and veteran guard Jamal Crawford are among the names.

Can Doc resist? – by Monte Poole

KOBE RETURN TO THE LAKERS … AS A COACH?
Coach Kobe?

Retired Lakers legend Kobe Bryant in a recent radio interview made it clear he’d be available to assist his former team, which sits in the Western Conference cellar.

“The Buss family knows I’m always one phone call away,” Bryant told ESPN Radio.

Though LA coach Luke Walton is a former Lakers teammate of Bryant and consistently expresses admiration for the future Hall of Famer, he’s not sure the timing is right for a dose of Kobe.

“It depends in what capacity he will come in and help,” Walton told reporters. “After losing by 40, he’s not the first guy I’m calling.

“Kobe is more about tough love. At that moment, I didn’t need tough love. I didn’t hear (Bryant’s comments), but it’s good to know he’s here for us.”

Insofar as Bryant, who retired after last season, is notoriously intense, the concern is that might alienate a talented young team seeking growth under a first-year head coach. – by Monte Poole

SOUTHWEST DIVISION

HARDEN CONTINUES MVP CHASE

James Harden went off for a historic 51-point, 13-rebound, 13-assist triple-double on Friday against the Sixers. With those remarkable numbers, he became the second player to record two 50-point triple-doubles in a single season, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Remember, we’re not even at the All-Star Break yet.

Of those 51 points, Harden scored 19 points in the third and 17 in the fourth. He finished with a stat line of 16-28 FG, 6-11 3PG, 13-14 FT, 13 rebounds, 13 assists, 5 turnovers, 4 fouls, 2 steals and 1 block in 39:09.

"Tonight was me just scoring the basketball, being aggressive," Harden said after the Rockets’ 123-118 win (LINK http://www.csnphilly.com/philadelphia-76ers/after-triple-double-vs-sixers-james-harden-praises-joel-embiid-calls-him-problem ). "They were doing a really good job of not leaving our shooters and so I had to make plays." – by Jessica Camerato

GASOL PLANS TO STAY WITH THE SPURS

 Pau Gasol intends to opt in to his $16 million player option for next season with the Spurs. The 36-year-old big man is currently out of action after undergoing surgery on his left hand. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with the injury.

Rookie DeJounte Murray went scoreless in two minutes of action in the Spurs loss to the Pelicans on Friday. But in the four games leading up to the contest in New Orleans, the 20-year-old guard averaged 13.3 points, including a career-high 24 against the Nuggets on Jan. 19. … Jonathon Simmons has missed three straight games with a wrist injury. – by James Ham

FERRELL MAKES THE MOST OF LAST-MINUTE OPPORTUNITY

A day after signing a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks, Yogi Ferrell found himself in an unexpected play … the starting lineup.

“It was definitely very eye-opening for me,” Ferrell told reporters. “You know, when coach (Rick Carlisle) told me I was going to start, my mind switched and I made sure I was ready.”

He was indeed up for the moment, helping the Mavericks pull off a 105-101 upset of the San Antonio Spurs.

Ferrell had nine points along with seven assists and zero turnovers, in addition to tallying a pair of steals.

Among his nine points were a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to secure the victory.

Regardless of whether he sticks with the Mavericks or not, to get a last-second start and deliver how he did in the clutch … it’s exactly what you have to do as an undrafted player, to stick in the NBA. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

NORTHWEST DIVISION

NOT THE BREAK THAT KANTER, THUNDER WERE LOOKING FOR

Enes Kanter, the high-scoring big for the Thunder was having a nice stretch of games before deciding to punch a chair during the Thunder’s 109-98 win over the Dallas Mavericks. Kanter, 24, will miss the next two months with a broken forearm, leaving Oklahoma City without their third-leading scorer.

The Thunder have won three in a row heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Russell Westbrook posted three straight triple-doubles early in the week to give him 23 on the season. His streak was broken against the Mavericks, but he still managed to drop in 45 points, grab eight rebounds and dish out three assists in the win. – by James Ham

TWITTER BEEF BETWEEN MCCOLLUM AND PARSONS

There was quite the Twitter war last week in Portland between the Blazers’ CJ McCollum and Memphis wing Chandler Parsons after the Trail Blazers beat Memphis.

Parsons, who was pursued by the Blazers in free agency in July and offered $94 million before he opted to sign with Memphis, air-balled a three-point attempt during the game.

After the game, the Blazers’ team authorized Twitter account sent out a video of Parsons’ air-ball, with a tweet that read, “To be fair, the NBA 3-point line is really, really far away from the basket.”

Parsons immediately retaliated, tweeting back to the Blazers, “good luck in the lottery show this year” in reference to the Blazers being 21-27 at currently out of the Western Conference playoff seeding.

McCollum then fired back at Parsons: “We hit the lottery by not signing you’’ in reference to Parsons being hobbled by knee problems this season.

Parsons tried to counter with a response aimed at McCollum: “Stop it. Technically, I hit the lottery.’’

 When McCollum arrived at Blazers practice the next morning, his exchange was quite the topic. 

“A lot of jokes being made,’’ McCollum said. “I always have a sense of humor, so when I see something that I want to respond to, I respond. I felt like that was something I wanted to respond to.’’

Teammate Evan Turner, for one, said he nearly lost himself when he first read the tweets on Friday night while dining at Departure in downtown Portland.

“I knocked like everything over at the bar,’’ Turner said. “Everybody went crazy. I went crazy … threw my cellphone. It was unreal, man. It was crazy: On Chandler’s part, on CJ’s part … very funny. Hilarious.’’

McCollum said he knows Parsons in passing from a few encounters throughout the years. He said he made the response mostly because he was defending his team.

“It’s my team. I ride with my guys,’’ McCollum said.

Turner said one of the things that made the exchange so funny is knowing the personality of the two players involved. Turner said Parsons is very sarcastic and McCollum is usually very conservative.

“I’m surprised CJ said it because he is always so politically correct like he’s trying to run for president,’’ Turner said. – by Jason Quick


HAYWARD EARNS FIRST ALL-STAR SELECTION

The Utah Jazz have been one of the surprise teams this season, and the play of Gordon Hayward has had a lot to do with that. That’s why it came as no surprise when he was selected by the Western Conference coaches as an all-star reserve this season.

He becomes the first Jazz player to be named an all-star since Deron Williams in 2011.

"My teammates, our coaching and support staff helped put me in this position," said Hayward. "We still have work to do but I'm excited about the direction we're headed. I look forward to representing Utah in New Orleans."

This season, he’s averaging 21.6 points and 5.7 rebounds – both career highs.

While the numbers are good, it’s the team’s success that certainly played a significant factor in the coaches selecting him as an all-star.

Including games played Sunday, Utah (30-19) has the best record in the Northwest Division and are currently fifth in the West overall. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

LAVINE PASSES ON SLAM DUNK CONTEST

There will be no sequel to what was one of the greatest slam dunk competitions in recent memory. Zach LaVine, who defeated Orlando’s Aaron Gordon last year in slam dunk overtime – a first – said he will not participate in the event next month in New Orleans.

“I feel like I’ve accomplished everything I could in the dunk contest,” LaVine told reporters. “I’m never saying I won’t ever do it again, but I’m focused on this (season). We’re getting close to being able to make the playoffs, and we have that on our mind. Getting the rest and I guess just focusing more on the game was a big thing.”

Gordon said he’s not sure he’ll participate in the slam dunk contest, either. And his reasons sound very similar to what ultimately led to LaVine deciding to not participate.

“I don’t know what else I have left up my sleeve or in the tank dunking-wise,” Gordon told reporters in Boston recently. “The other reason is, I’d like to focus on the Orlando Magic and game play. That’s the most important, the main priority right now.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

NBA referees vs. Mark Cuban -- if fines don't work, suspend him

NBA referees vs. Mark Cuban -- if fines don't work, suspend him

If you haven't read about the latest shots fired in the war between the NBA and its officials, you need to go here to check it out. Already irked about the league's "last two minute reports," referees are up in arms about all the harassment they're taking from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. A letter from the officials' association's counsel details several examples of Cuban's mistreatment of officials and the impact it may be having:

In a recent letter to Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president of league operations, NBRA general counsel Lee Seham outlined what the union considers to be a lengthy pattern of documented violations by Cuban of the NBA constitution and “undue influence of the league’s management of its officials.”

“We consider the threat to the integrity of NBA basketball presented by Mr. Cuban’s misconduct to be real and growing,” Seham wrote on Dec. 9.

Cuban's public harassment of officials has been documented in the past and anyone who has watched Dallas games frequently has seen examples. He is not shy about showing them up -- conduct league owners are not supposed to engage in.  The problem is, like a lot of NBA owners, the league cannot influence Cuban's behavior with fines. He is too rich. He mocks them. I believe at some point the NBA is going to have to start barring him from arenas or from the vicinity of the court if it wants to deter him.

At the same time, if the league's officials are being intimidated by his antics, they need to take inventory. His behavior should not impact them any more than fan reaction to their calls. In fact, I would assume his antics would push the average official into making more calls against Cuban's team. In the old days of rogue officials, that stuff happened all the time in the NBA with players. Referees held grudges and never hesitated to show it.

I don't want that day to ever return. But I also believe that in order to recruit and maintain the best officials in the world -- which the NBA has -- they must be treated properly by everyone associated with the league. If fines don't stop poor behavior, suspensions must be next.

 

 

CSN Insiders Notebook: Time running out on Faried in Denver?

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USA Today

CSN Insiders Notebook: Time running out on Faried in Denver?

AN NBA ARENA NEAR YOU – Happy Holidays NBA fans, and welcome to another edition of the CSN Insiders notebook.

We’ve gone heavy thus far on analysis, injury updates and all the happenings within the association the first few weeks of the season, but you’ll notice this week’s notebook is chock full of … you got it, trade rumors!

And while some trade talk requires a bit of connecting-the-dots for it to make sense, there are some players and teams that are so far apart at this point that it’s a matter of when, not if, they will go their separate ways.

Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel certainly falls into that category.

CSN Philly’s Jessica Camerato writes about Noel’s frustration level with his lack of playing that’s at a point now where a trade is likely prior to the February trade deadline.

NOEL: THEY NEED TO FIGURE THIS (BLEEP) OUT

It didn’t take long for Nerlens Noel to grow frustrated with the Sixers’ bigs situation upon his return. Noel played eight minutes in his second game back on Friday and sat out the entire second half against the Lakers. Meanwhile, fellow centers Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor started together.

“I just want to play basketball,” Noel said. “I don’t really care who I’m playing with. I’m not an eight-minute player so I don’t know what that’s about. I don’t really care. I need to be on the court playing basketball. I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s--- out.”

Noel met with head coach Brett Brown on Saturday to discuss the topic they have had conversations about many times before.

“He’s highly competitive, he’s in a very unusual situation,” Brown said. “The fact that it came out as soon as it did caught me off guard. We’ve discussed it and I’ll be surprised if everybody’s not seeing how we all need to handle this better going forward.”

Brown plans to continue pairing Embiid and Okafor as starters.

Editor’s note: Here’s the latest on the Nerlens Noel saga which, for Noel at least, has gone from bad to worst. – by Jessica Camerato

FARIED ON TRADING BLOCK?

It appears time is running out on Kenneth Faried’s time in Denver. 

 The Nuggets’ power forward has been told by coach Mike Malone that his role will be diminished as the team goes in a different direction, leading to speculation that the “Manimal” and his $12 million salary will be on the trading block.

Faried has three years and about $39 million left on his deal.

In the last seven games, Faried has played 23 minutes against Utah, 13 minutes against Philadelphia, 12 minutes against Brooklyn, did-not-play (coach’s decision) at Washington, 24 minutes against Orlando, 8 against Dallas and 25 against Portland.

Malone is starting to use Wilson Chandler at power forward and has committed to playing Nikola Jokic as the starting center. The Nuggets also want to get youngster Jusuf  Nurkic and newly signed veteran Darrell Arthur playing time at power forward.

Malone communicated his plan to Faried last week, and the former Team USA player tersely said he will do what is in the best interest of the team.

“It’s just basketball,” Faried told the Denver Post. “I just focus on what I can do. All I can do is just stay in the gym and try and get better.”

Faried this season is averaging 9.1 points and 8.3 rebounds in 22.5 minutes a game. – by Jason Quick

NBA, SPURS REFLECT ON PASSING OF REPORTER CRAIG SAGER

San Antonio -- The NBA carried on this week with a heavy heart after long-time sideline reporter Craig Sager passed away after a lengthy battle with leukemia.

“What he’s endured and the fight he put up, the courage he’s displayed during this situation is beyond my comprehension,” Gregg Popovich said of Sager. “If any of us can display half the courage he has to stay on this planet - to live every life as if it’s his last, we would be well off.”

The Spurs plan to retire Tim Duncan’s no. 21 jersey Sunday afternoon, honoring one of the greats in the game. The two-time MVP and 15 time All-Star retired over the summer after 19 seasons in a Spurs uniform. – by James Ham

CONLEY IS BACK, SOONER THAN ANYONE EXPECTED

Mike Conley made headlines this summer when he signed a five-year, $152.6 million contract which raised obvious questions about whether a player who has never been named to an all-star team can command that kind of money.

Well one thing no one questions when it comes to Conley is his toughness, evident by him returning to the Grizzlies lineup three weeks ahead of schedule following a lower back injury suffered in late November that was supposed to keep him on the shelf until sometime after the New Year.

And there he was on Friday, back in the Memphis lineup on Friday against Sacramento. He played just under 29 minutes, scoring eight points on 2-for-7 shooting.

“Worn out” was how Conley described how he felt after missing the previous nine games to reporters. “It was going to be tough. I knew, conditioning-wise, but the back held up great. Just a little fatigue here and there. I have to get used to getting back at that level and playing at that pace.” - by A. Sherrod Blakely

 SUNS, BOOKER STRUGGLE TO HEAT UP

Break up the Suns! After a 2-2 week, Phoenix now stands at 8-18 on the season.

Devin Booker, 20, is supposed to be a sharpshooter, but so far this season he’s struggled to find his range. The University of Kentucky product is averaging 18.4 points per game, but he’s shooting just 31.5 percent from behind the arc and 40.6 percent from the field. Shooters are going to shoot.

After missing 12 straight with a minor head injury, T.J. Warren was cleared to play Saturday. The high-scoring forward will help, but if the Suns can’t figure out how to improve their 29th ranked defense, it’s going to be a long season in the Valley of the Sun.- by James Ham

MCGEE MAKES MOST OF CHANCE TO PLAY WITH WARRIORS

JaVale McGee’s summer was mostly a mystery, as in the 7-footer had no idea what was ahead, or if he’d be back in the NBA. All through July and August, as teams signed free agents, he got nothing.

Just two weeks before training camps opened, the Warriors offered an invitation. No guaranteed money. Realizing this may be his last chance, McGee signed.

In a little more than two months, McGee has earned a role with the championship favorite. He’s playing significant backup minutes at center, even starting a few times in place of the injured Zaza Pachulia. A recent 17-point night, highlighted by dunks off lob passes, even landed McGee on the postgame podium.

“It’s definitely a positive to finish plays and it’s definitely a positive for them to be looking for me – especially when the people who are passing it to me are prolific scorers,” McGee said. “That’s crazy that they’re so willing to pass the ball.”

Crazy, indeed, considering only months removed from wondering if a team would have you, you’re receiving passes from All-Star teammates. – by Monte Poole

WIZARDS SEEK ADDED DEPTH VIA TRADE

Some names that could be available on the trade market that can help the Wizards’ bench, though it has played better in recent games, are Mario Hezonja, Omri Casspi and Nikola Mirotic.

All three have had less-than-stellar seasons with their current teams.

Hezonja, a No. 5 pick in 2015, isn’t in coach Frank Vogel’s rotation for the Magic and they’ve considered sending him to the D-League. His propensity for blowing defensive assignments was an issue last year under Scott Skiles as it is now and as of Friday he hadn’t appeared in 11 games.

Hezonja is averaging 10.5 minutes when he does play, almost eight fewer than a year ago, and has gone from 6.1 points and 35% shooting from three-point range to 3.5 points and 19.4% three-point shooting.

Casspi had been on the outs with Kings coach Dave Joerger though he has played more. He’s averaging seven minutes a game fewer than a year ago (20.2) and is averaging 7.1 points which is down from 11.8.

Unlike Hezonja who is all about potential, Casspi is in his eighth NBA season so there’s more certainty that he can stick. With an injury to Rudy Gay, however, Casspi has gotten back into the rotation.

Mirotic is struggling to get time under Fred Hoiberg with the Bulls after opening the season with at least 14 points in four of five games. But the stretch power forward has dipped to less than 30% shooting from three and less than 40% overall. The Bulls fined him for missing Friday’s pregame walk-through.

All have strengths that a team such as the Wizards could use off the bench with the three forwards. The question, of course, is what would have to be sacrificed to execute a deal. They don’t have much to offer from their own bench is part of it, but Trey Burke has begun to play better. Tomas Satoransky is out of the rotation because of his shooting but he has the defensive effort and sense that Hezonja has lacked. The Wizards aren’t in any rush to move on from him. – by J. Michael

HORFORD DELIVERS, LOOKS AND PLAYS GO-TO ROLE

You won’t find anyone inside the Boston Celtics locker room who isn’t happy with the job Al Horford has done so far this season. But among Celtics fans, they want more from the four-time all-star; or at least enough in their minds to warrant having a $113 million contract.

The easiest way to win over the fan base is to come up big in the clutch, something Horford did in Boston’s 105-95 win at Miami on Sunday night.

He finished with 17 points, 11 coming in the fourth quarter. He grabbed seven rebounds and dished out eight assists, both team highs.

And the fourth quarter scoring came on a night when Isaiah Thomas was ejected with more than three minutes to play after his elbow landed just below the eye of Heat wing Justise Winslow.

Good ball movement by Boston led to Horford having mismatches around the rim which he took advantage for points in the paint.

“That’s what they pay him to do,” Thomas jokingly told reporters after Sunday’s win. “That’s what he does. Nine times out of ten he makes the right play. Whether that’s score for himself or make a nice pass to a teammate for a basket or get an offensive rebound; whatever it may be.

Thomas added, “He’s always in the right spot at the right time. We depend on Al to do those types of things. We know he’s capable of doing it. I’m glad he made those plays and we got the win.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

LBJ, CAVS NOW PART OF THE ‘SCHEDULED REST’ DEBATE

Rest or play?

The Cleveland Cavaliers were the latest team to have that subject be a topic of discussion, with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love taking a road game off in Memphis for a scheduled rest, with coach Ty Lue taking the lead on calling for it.

James, the league's top individual sell for quite some time, made note that he's played in every NBA arena and tacitly believes he's fulfilled his covenant and responsibility of living up to the top billing. It's a delicate balance and an argument that will not end any time soon, even with the new collective bargaining agreement calling to start the season a week sooner to eliminate more back-to-back sets.

"I think you look to get guys rest when you can," Love said. "and I guess my opinion is we are looking forward. And obviously, right now, in the meantime, trying to win as many basketball games as you can and be first in the East and have the best record, but we also want to look long term, as well." – by Vincent Goodwill

MILES SERVES AS CAUTIONARY TALE FOR NBA TEENAGERS

The Clippers once saw their future in the hands of a teenager from East St. Louis, Ill., named Darius Miles. Chosen with the third overall in pick in 2000, Miles started 21 games as a rookie – and spent the next eight years searching for his game.

The 6-9 forward sustained a serious knee injury in 2006, keeping him out of the league for two seasons. He made a brief comeback in 2008 before being waived out of the league in January 2009. Miles during his career made $62 million.

Every cent is gone, and even Miles is scarce. Now 35, the one-time phenom is auctioning off his belongings, everything from shoes and weapons and new furniture – even a jersey signed by ex-teammate LeBron James – outside St. Louis.

Sad as it is, yet another cautionary tale of a youngster with everything except a clue. – by Monte Poole

HORNETS DEFENSE NOT BUZZING LIKE IT USED TO

Defense is a staple of the Hornets under Steve Clifford, but he’s noticing that his 48-win team from a season ago isn’t the same in this regard even with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back healthy.

“It’s our biggest weakness,” Clifford said of their lack of physical play. “It’s evident from teams that aren’t even physical off the ball. I’ve been telling them for three weeks not. (Other teams) are saying, ‘be physical, make it hard on them, make it hard to run offense, bump them off every cut, bump them off every screen.’ Sooner or later, we got to respond. … I’m sick of watching it, frankly.”

Just as Charlotte had emerged as the best team in the Southeast Division, it slipped. If they lose to the Hawks on Saturday night, it’ll make for an 0-5 road trip.

Marco Belinelli was one of the Hornets’ big ticket additions in the offseason because of his three-point shooting, but he’s an open door on defense. Marvin Williams, who re-signed this past summer, hasn’t been the same, either. While Ramon Sessions is a good scorer behind Kemba Walker, his pick-and-roll defense is hardly a strength. – by J. Michael

YOUNG TIMBERWOLVES STANDING PAT

 Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate to a 7-18 record, but indications are the team will be patient with its young roster.

 “We don’t have anything right now that we’re going to do,” owner Glen Taylor told the Star-Tribune. “I just think Scott [Layden, Wolves general manager] will be looking at all the possibilities out there. I think you always want to be looking if there’s a trade that will make your team better. I’m sure if he finds one he’ll bring it to me. But at this point, I’m not aware of anything that is likely that we’re going to do soon.”

 Taylor’s comments come on the heels of ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reporting the Wolves have been calling other teams looking for frontcourt help.

With the Wolves fading out of the playoff picture by Christmas, there is thought the team might commit even further to youngsters Kris Dunn at point guard and Andrew Wiggins at small forward, leaving veteran point guard Ricky Rubio and small forward Shabazz Muhammad available. – by Jason Quick

ROCKETS CONTINUE TO SOAR

‘Tis the season for winning streaks if you are on the Rockets.

The Rockets have won ten straight games dating back to Dec. 1. They lead the NBA with 119.9 points per game this month. During this streak the Rockets have defeated the Warriors, Nuggets, Celtics, Lakers, Thunder, Mavericks, Nets, Kings, Pelicans, and Timberwolves (OT).

James Harden is averaging 25.6 points, 11.4 assists and 9.3 rebounds in the last 10 games, including three triple-doubles and four double-doubles. – Jessica Camerato

CHICAGO BULLISH ON GETTING BACK TO THE BASICS

The Chicago Bulls look headed in a downward spiral of sorts, losers of three in a row and getting whipped on back to back nights by the Milwaukee Bucks in a home-and-home set. The worst 3-point shooting team turned into one of the worst defensive teams last week, as they were worn out by the young legs of the Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves as Tom Thibodeau left Chicago a triumphant man.

The Bulls gave up a 21-point lead Tuesday to the Timberwolves, starting the trend.

"Well, even a bad matchup, you shouldn’t be down 30 in back to back games," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "You still have to fight. Obviously, we showed that that first game in Milwaukee, battling back to give ourselves a chance."

Hoiberg said Sunday's long practice and film session was about getting back to basics, and their ugly fourth-quarter numbers can't be ignored.

Last in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage while being second-to-last in offensive rating. In short, things had better turn around and fast. – by Vincent Goodwill

TEMPLE MOVES INTO STARTING LINEUP, MAKING AN IMPACT

The injury bug has hit Sacramento with Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore and Omri Casspi missing time this week due to injury. Dave Joerger has also chosen to rest both Matt Barnes and DeMarcus Cousins for “scheduled rest.”

Plenty of people raised an eyebrow when Sacramento inked veteran Garrett Temple to a 3-year, $24 million deal during the summer. But the 30-year-old wing has been just what the doctor ordered for head coach Dave Joerger. The defensive-minded Temple has moved into the starting lineup alongside Darren Collison and made a huge impact. Every team needs a guy that does the dirty work and the fact that Temple is knocking down a career-best 43.4 percent of his 3-point attempts is huge.

Malachi Richardson and Skal Labissiere both made an appearance in the Kings’ 132-98 loss to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday after spending the last few weeks with the Reno Bighorns. – by James Ham

WINSLOW RETURNS, HEAT CONTINUE TO STRUGGLE

Justise Winslow is back after missing 16 games with an injured left wrist that he’d fallen on during a game to start the season.

He played two games going into the weekend as Miami has struggled keeping healthy bodies on the floor.

“Still figuring things out, getting used to playing against actual defense,” said Winslow, who scored 15 points in 29 minutes off the bench in Friday’s loss to the L.A. Clippers. – by J. Michael

OLADIPO REMAINS OUT, RETURN UNCERTAIN

Victor Oladipo missed his third straight game on Saturday with a right wrist sprain. The Thunder indicate that he’ll be out for Monday’s game against Atlanta and have yet to put a timetable on his return. In the three games he has missed, the Thunder are 1-2 with a pair of blowout defeats on the road at Portland and Utah, with the lone victory coming at home against Phoenix which is one of the league’s worst teams this season.

Russell Westbrook’s streak of seven straight games with a triple-double came to a screeching halt Sunday against the Boston Celtics. He’s now gone three consecutive games without a triple-double and his numbers are down across the board. Still, Westbrook’s 41.6 percent usage percentage is obscene. It’s possible that he’s running out of juice a bit without Oladipo (16.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists) to shoulder some of the weight. – by James Ham

NETS BRINGING LIN BACK INTO THE FOLD, SLOWLY

Jeremy Lin is back. The Nets point guard played 20 minutes against the Rockets on Dec. 12, his first game since Nov. 2 after straining his left hamstring. He scored 10 points with seven assists and three rebounds. Lin sat out the next game because of back stiffness and suited up Friday against the Magic. Lin posted 17 points, three boards and three dimes in another 20 minutes. The Nets are awaiting his return to the starting lineup. - Jessica Camerato

LAKERS’ NANCE APOLOGIZES FOR POSTERIZING LOPEZ

After a torrid start, the Lakers these days are finding the going rough and highlights few and far between. Thankfully, they still have Larry Nance Jr. to deliver.

The 6-9 forward making a name for himself as one of the league’s most devastating dunkers, recently put yet another big man on a poster, driving at Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez and throwing down a nasty slam.

So nasty that even the Nets’ bench had a demonstrative reaction.
So nasty that Nance actually apologized to Lopez.

Nance told reporters he was “hoping it would give us a little bit of adrenaline and light a fire under us.”

In that regard, he failed. The Lakers left Barclays Center with yet another loss, their eighth in a row. – by Monte Poole

 

What changes are coming to the new CBA?

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USATI

What changes are coming to the new CBA?

It was a big day off the court in the NBA Wednesday, and that’s where we learned the most.

1) There will be peace in our time — NBA owners, players tentatively agree to new Collective Bargaining Agreement. There will be no lockout this time around. With both the owners and players swimming in the flood of cash from the new television deal, nobody wanted to screw up a good thing, so the two sides agreed to a new NBA CBA far earlier than anyone can ever remember. Give some credit to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players’ Association director Michele Roberts for not letting the old scar tissue of their predecessors impact the new talks. While both the players and owners need to ratify the deal, that is seen as a formality.

This is a seven-year deal, and while we don’t know all the parameters here are the key things we do know.

• This is the big one — the roughly 50/50 split of revenue will remain (the players get between 49-51 percent of “basketball related income” depending on if the league meets revenue goals). This is always the ultimate stumbling block and everything else is secondary. The fact the two sides agreed on this split quickly — in part because the rising tide of the new national television contract has floated all boats — made the rest of this relatively straightforward.

• The college one-and-done rule will remain. For now. Both sides will continue to look at the issue. Nobody likes it much, but the players want the age limit gone, the owners want it bumped up to 20, and neither side apparently was willing to give up enough on other issues to move the needle. It’s a negotiation, if one side really wants the limit moved they are going to have to give something else up.

• We should just call this the Kevin Durant Rule: Teams can now choose a “designated veteran” and offer said veteran a much larger and longer extension (maybe up to six years) than could previously be done. That extension can be a full max deal (35 percent of the cap) even if the team does not have cap space. However, the player must meet certain criteria, for example having made an All-NBA team. This is not like the NFL’s designated player rule where the player is locked in once selected, this is simply a larger incentive for him to stay. The first test cases with this will likely be Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins(the question in both of those is would the player take it or is he willing to make a little less to get out of town).

CONTINUE READING

NBA, players postpone CBA opt-out deadline to Jan. 13 to allow time for ratification

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AP

NBA, players postpone CBA opt-out deadline to Jan. 13 to allow time for ratification

A new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement is agreed upon.

That’s the important news in negotiations between players and owners.

The saga doesn’t end there, though. League and union representatives crafted the new CBA. Membership on both sides must still approve it.

But the deadline to opt out of the current CBA was tomorrow – sooner than ratification can logistically be completed.

What if one sides votes down the new CBA? If neither sides opts out of the current CBA, both sides could be stuck in a deal nobody wants through 2021. Or if one side opts out of the current CBA, an acceptable fallback compromise of continuation could be lost.

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association found a solution to that dilemma, which they announced in a joint statement:

The NBA and NBPA have reached a tentative agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, pending ratification by players and team owners.

CONTINUE READING

Video: Klay Thompson's 60-point game a tribute to unselfish Warriors

Video: Klay Thompson's 60-point game a tribute to unselfish Warriors

If you haven't seen a highlight reel from Klay Thompson's incredible offensive performance Monday night, I invite you to take a quick click over to this one.

I watched those highlights and am still amazed at someone being able to score 60 points in 29 minutes of action. Nobody has scored that many in fewer than 30 minutes during the shot-clock era. And remember, Thompson is the Warriors' third option on offense and in this game, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant still ended up with more touches than Thompson.

But there are several things worth watching in the highlights:

  • The Warriors used a whole lot of different offense to get Thompson shots, including their weave, their triangle, their motion and the same "horns" offense that many other teams run. Golden State is unselfish and as soon as it was obvious Thompson was having a special night, he got the ball plenty, quite obviously.
  • The Pacers did an almost historically bad job of defending Thompson. He got way too many wide-open jumpers and dead-cold layups for a man on his way to 60 points. In fact, in the third quarter Indiana seemed to just give up on him. You could see Coach Nate McMillan squirming on the sidelines. I'm guessing some Pacers got a full blast from him after the game.
  • Steve Kerr does a terrific job of creating an unselfish, winning culture at Golden State. Every guy on the floor feeding Thompson knew that if THEY were the hot one, they'd be getting the ball in much the same manner.
  • I've said this before but the anti-Durant people just don't want to listen: Don't you understand why Durant wanted to go to this team? Forget about rings, NBA players have to muddle through 82 games during the regular season. For months, their lifestyle is a game just about every other night. And wouldn't you want to play with a team that's unselfish? A team that wins just about every game it plays? Seriously, did you watch the Warrior bench while Thompson was going off? Those guys were going crazy. There cannot be a more fun place to play anywhere in sports.

CSN Insiders Notebook: Warriors just keep scoring, Rockets shoot the 3... a lot

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USA TODAY

CSN Insiders Notebook: Warriors just keep scoring, Rockets shoot the 3... a lot

Welcome to another week of the CSN Insiders notebook where we give you the lowdown on all the happenings in the NBA courtesy of our band of Insiders.

While trade rumors never take a day off, most of the league at this point is in wait-and-see mode as far as what they’ll do to (hopefully) bolster their roster.

And then you have teams like the San Antonio Spurs whose growth seemingly every season is organic.

Off to one of the more impressive starts in their franchise’s history, the Spurs are once again finding impact talent from unlikely sources that many teams passed over.

CSN California’s James Ham sheds some light on the latest where-did-he-come-from talent that the Spurs consistently find and soon develop into a steady contributor in what’s shaping up to be yet another NBA title run.

SPURS UNEARTH ANOTHER DIAMOND STUD: DAVID BERTANS

San Antonio has built a franchise mining the world for diamonds in the rough. Their latest find appears to be Latvian rookie David Bertans. The 6-foot-10 forward has caught fire from the perimeter over his last five games, hitting 10-of-18 from behind the arc.

He was among the key players in San Antonio’s 109-103 win over Boston on Nov. 25, coming off the bench to score 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting which included 3-for-5 shooting from 3-point range.

The Spurs have quietly won nine straight and they sit at 14-3 on the season. But head coach Gregg Popovich wasn’t exactly happy with his team’s effort in their 96-91 win over the Mavs on Monday night - “I thought we showed a lack of humility, a lack of respect for the opponent,” Popovich told reporters following the game. “A very pathetic performance at both ends of the court. Both in execution and in grunt, in fiber, in desire. It was an awful performance.”

He had similar comments following their win at Boston on Friday, a game in which the Spurs’ bench outscored Boston’s second unit 56-30 in part because Popovich went to them early and often during the afternoon matchup. “Our first group was still in bed,” Popovich said. “It was hard to watch.” – by James Ham

DEROZAN GOAL: BECOME GREATEST RAPTOR EVER

DeMar DeRozan surprised many when he re-signed a long term deal with Toronto without even giving his home town teams – the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers – a chance.

The two-time all-star recently spoke with Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated about his decision to stay with the Raptors who selected him with the 9th overall pick of the 2009 NBA draft.

For DeRozan, he has a clear and undeniable goal in re-signing the Raptors.

He wants to be the franchise’s greatest player ever.

“Without a doubt. No question,” he told the Undefeated. “How many people get to say they hold one record for an organization, or were on the winningest team in Raptors history, or did this with one organization? All of those things last longer than your playing career. It took time for me to get out of the second round (of the playoffs) in Raptors history. And we did that (this year), and that’s something that is going to be there.

DeRozan added, “If we don’t do it and someone else wins a championship, they are still going to revert back to the 2015-2016 team as the best team until then. Ten, 15, 20 years from now, whatever it might be, those things last longer. It’s something you put your all into.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

WARRIORS’ EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE, ‘SETTLE’ FOR 149 VS LAKERS

When the Warriors added Kevin Durant to the NBA’s highest-scoring team, scoreboards around the league were put on notice. With the four-time scoring champ now on board, how high could they go?

They’ve issued a warning, scoring 149 points in a 43-point win over the Lakers last week at Oracle Arena and surpassing by 13 points the most they had previously scored in two-plus seasons under Steve Kerr. Though that was the most points by any team this season, the Warriors believe they can go higher. Can they get 150? They believe it’s within reach.

“I don’t think a team I’ve been on has ever scored 150 points in a game,” Klay Thompson said. “I thought that would be cool. But I can settle for 149.”

Settle? That’s what Thompson said. Maybe he was aware that came within a point of 150 despite missing six layups and 11 free throws. – by Monte Poole

JEREBKO ‘BARGAIN’ FOR CELTICS PAYING OFF

The Boston Celtics have a roster full of bargain-priced talent, a group that includes their $5 million man Jonas Jerebko. He finished off the season as a starter in the playoffs, with a return to the bench this season likely.

To his credit, Jerebko has not allowed his reduced role to affect his impact on the team’s success.

Boston has won four of the last six games with Jerebko being an instrumental part of that run. In that span, his effective Field Goal Percentage of .974 is tops on the team in that span. And by grabbing 19.4 percent of his defensive rebound opportunities, that too is tops on the roster.

“He’s really a solid player for them,” an NBA scout told CSNNE.com. “And at the price tag, toss him into that bunch of really great bargains Danny (Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations) has going for the Celtics now.”

Indeed, Jerebko’s recent stretch of play has caught the eye of head coach Brad Stevens.

“This past week has been a really good week for him,” Stevens said. “His greatest strength is his ability to space the floor on offense for us, then mix up his cuts and energy to get baskets. And on defense, to guard multiple positions.

Stevens added, “we just need everybody to be great at what they do best. Especially in the past week to 10 days, he’s been great at what he does best.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

 DESPITE STRUGGLES, TOO SOON FOR WIZARDS MOVE

The chances that the Wizards make a roster move now? Despite a sub-.500 record, that still remains very unlikely.

League sources told CSNmidatlantic.com that the Wizards had discussions about Archie Goodwin, released by the New Orleans Pelicans, but that didn't go anywhere.

Goodwin, a 6-5 guard who orchestrated his release from the Phoenix Suns before the season when he was unhappy with his role, spent one season in Kentucky like John Wall and was a late first-round pick in 2013.

The defensive effort has gotten better and with Ian Mahinmi back to help bolster the second unit, team president Ernie Grunfeld doesn’t seem likely to make a decision this early. Giving up on rookies such as Danuel House, Sheldon McClellan and Daniel Ochefu, all three on non-guarantees that are a minimal hit on the salary cap, to clear a roster spot wouldn’t make sense at this stage either. – by J. Michael

EXUM OUT OF ROTATION IN UTAH?

The (sprained right thumb) injury to George Hill was supposed to be Dante Exum’s opportunity to establish himself as a player head coach Quin Snyder could lean on going forward.

Well, the Jazz lost four of those six games and upon Hill’s return, Exum found himself back – way, way back – on the Utah bench. Shelvin Mack has remained the team’s backup while Exum’s minutes have diminished significantly.

The 5th overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft has played just 13 minutes in the last two games – both Utah wins – since Hill’s return.

In the six games prior to that as a starter, he averaged 29.8 minutes while scoring 9.5 points to go with 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists.

While there will be some who will question Snyder’s decision to sit the former lottery pick, here’s what you have to keep in mind.

Snyder and that entire Jazz front office understands that, while developing young players is important, winning has to come first and foremost for this franchise.

Not only in terms of being successful, but also because it will play a factor in whether they can retain Gordon Hayward who is expected to opt-out of his contract and become a free agent this summer.

And while Exum may have more upside than Hill, the reason Utah acquired Hill was in large part because of his veteran experience and track record of success – two things that Exum does not have going for him. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

MELO’S TEAM NOW, PORZINGIS’ SOON … VERY SOON

Cumulative statistics are often grouped in five-game segments. In the case of Kristaps Porzingis, let's stretch it out to his last six to include two 30-point performances.

Dating back to Nov. 16, Porzingis is averaging 23.4 points and 8.0 rebounds. During that stretch he scored a career-high 35 points in 40 minutes against the Pistons and another 31 over 40 minutes against the Trail Blazers. 

In only his second season, Porzingis is on the heels of Carmelo Anthony for the Knicks' leading scorer. As of Saturday, Anthony was averaging a team-high 23.3 points per game with Porzingis close behind at 20.7. Porzingis edged him out slightly with a 21.7 PER to Anthony's 21.5. 

Still, the Knicks' remain Anthony's team. On Friday, his jumper with seconds left in overtime gave the Knicks a win over the Hornets. – by Jessica Camerato 

TIMBERWOLVES ON THE PROWL TO MAKE A TRADE?

There are a bunch of teams that are just waiting for the call from Tom Thibodeau to say that he’s open to moving one of his promising, up-and-coming players. While most would agree that Minnesota’s roster has the most 21-and-under talent that you’ll find in the NBA, the pieces don’t seem like a natural fit which is why they have not been able to close out teams despite seemingly playing with a lead for large chunks of most games. Inquiries about Karl-Anthony Towns are a waste of time. The only way he’s leaving Minnesota is if one day he says he wants out, and that day isn’t anywhere close to being on the horizon.

Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine are intriguing talents who are both having career-best seasons. Do not be surprised if one of these two (Lavine the more likely) to be made available between now and the trade deadline if the Timberwolves continue to struggle at closing out games. They need at least one veteran player, preferably a defender in the frontcourt or a point guard who can shoot (Ricky Rubio does a lot of good things for them; shooting ain’t one of them) and run an offense.

One thing is clear: the idea that this team will stay as they are between now and the trade deadline is unlikely to happen if they continue to struggle so mightily at winning games. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

JIMMY BUTLER MVP CANDIDATE?

Who knows if the Chicago Bulls are for real in the context of being a Eastern Conference power but they’re sure wearing the uniform of a team deserving respect.

They finished perhaps two narrow calls away from sweeping the six-game circus trip, although the NBA’s two-minute report likely gave them no solace in losses to the Clippers and Nuggets.

At 6-5 on the road and 10-6 overall, the Bulls are second in the East, with signs this is sustainable. What’s really sustainable is the MVP-level play of Jimmy Butler, who’s raising the bar from his usual all-around performances.

In the six-game trip, Butler averaged 28.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists—numbers if were kept up, he would have to be in the conversation for most valuable. He reportedly tells his teammates, “I’m the best (bleeping) player in the world” and although one Mr. James would have something to say about that, he’s closer to telling the truth than anyone would’ve imagined. – by Vincent Goodwill

LAKERS STARTING FIVE RAVAGED BY INJURIES

Just when the revival of the Lakers was going so well, the team 7-5 through 12 games, the injury bug bared its hateful fangs.

First-year coach Luke Walton suddenly was without three-fifths of his starting lineup: point guard D’Angelo Russell, power forward Julius Randle and shooting guard Nick Young.

Boom. The Lakers lose five of seven and Walton is left searching for the silver lining.

“When you try to find a bright side in a bad situation, you get to give guys opportunities to do things the right way,” he said.
The brighter side is this: Only Russell, who underwent platelet-rich plasma therapy on his left knee, will miss more than a couple games. He’s expected back by mid-December. – by Monte Poole

GRIZZLIES ON THE WAY UP

One of the hottest teams that no one is talking much about, is the Memphis Grizzlies. With Saturday’s 110-107 overtime win at Miami, the Grizzlies have won seven of their last eight games and six straight on the road.

And they’re doing it the way they always tend to do things which is to grind away opponents with their physical, grind-it-out defense.

The Grizzlies’ run has been fueled by their defense which has been among the NBA’s best during their last eight games.

In that span, Memphis has had a defensive rating of 95.6 which ranks 3rd in the NBA. They also rank among the top 10 in defensive rebounding percentage (.814, 2nd), opponent points off turnovers (13,8, 7th), opponent second-chance points (11.8, 8th), opponent fast break points (10.1, 6th) and opponent points in the paint (35.0, 2nd).

And while they are far from being an offensive juggernaut, they have used one of their great strengths – size – to create easier scoring opportunities via free throws.

In the last eight games, they average 19.6 made free throws which ranks 4th in the NBA while shooting 81.8 percent from line during that span which is the second-best mark in the league. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

GREG MONROE ON THE TRADE BLOCK?

Greg Monroe, the Milwaukee Bucks’ big man is averaging a career-low in minutes (17.7), points (8.4) and rebounds (6.6), although his per-36 minutes show he’s just as productive as he’s ever been.

The Bucks are playing smaller and quicker, which makes the ground-bound Monroe an awkward fit in Jason Kidd’s system— and Monroe does have the option to opt-out of his three-year contract this summer so the Bucks have to be proactive.

If so, the New Orleans Pelicans would seem to be a good fit. Anthony Davis protects the rim as good as anyone, and they sorely need low-post scoring to complement Davis’ all-around prowess. Monroe is a New Orleans native as well. Big men who can average 16 and 10 don’t come around often, so if Monroe does come on the market, one would think he’ll have at least a few suitors. – by Vincent Goodwill

PICKING ROCKETS OVER KINGS, TOUGH CALL FOR ANDERSON

The Kings finished their five-game home stand Friday night with a loss to the Houston Rockets. Sacramento went just 2-3 over the stretch, but they played four division leaders and a solid Rockets team.

For one of the few times this season, veteran Omri Casspi got some burn. Out of Dave Joerger’s rotation, Casspi found his way onto the court against Houston, playing 28 minutes in the Kings’ 117-104 loss.

Sacramento-native Ryan Anderson made his first appearance at Golden 1 Center after choosing to sign with the Rockets in free agency over his hometown team. “Man, it really was the hardest decision of my life,” Anderson told CSN California. “Obviously, there are so many factors that go into free agency. For me, I was praying like crazy, like, where am I supposed to be, give me a clue or sign.”- by James Ham

GEORGE INJURY KEEPS PACERS GROUNDED

If you had the Indiana Pacers as the first team in the “players’ only meeting” contest, give yourself a round!

The Pacers have struggled mightily in the early going after being pegged as a possible threat to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East, and star swingman Paul George wanted to bring his team of new players together to get themselves back on track before a pattern of mediocrity is established.

“I wanted to get the guys together and kind of wanted to get them to just start seeing the game differently,” said George to the Indy Star on Thanksgiving, before the Pacers beat the Brooklyn Nets.

George’s ankle and back injuries—along with his mortal play (20.8 points, 6.9 rebounds) has seemingly kept the Pacers from taking the next step. Missing five games and on track to miss a few more is probably the biggest reason the Pacers have underachieved. – by Vincent Goodwill

SUNS SHOOTING BLANKS; WARREN OUT INDEFINITELY

The Suns love to shoot the 3-ball, but so far this season, they haven’t connected like you would expect. Phoenix ranks 29th in the league in 3-point field goal percentage, knocking down just 31.5 percent from long range. Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight are all shooting well below their career averages.

T.J. Warren is out indefinitely with a minor head injury. “He was feeling a little off in the Indiana game on Friday,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough told a Phoenix radio station. “We took him out of the game and ran a bunch of tests. I’m not going to elaborate too much on it, but he’s going to be fine. He’s starting to get back in the flow. I think he’ll be out a matter of weeks; I don’t think it will be days but I don’t think it will be months. He’ll come back and play when he’s ready.” – by James Ham

LOVE IN SELECT COMPANY TO START THIS SEASON

Figuring out Kevin Love has been the biggest mystery for the Cleveland Cavaliers the last few seasons, considering his shooting skills and ability to rebound like few others in the NBA.

But it looks like they’ve unlocked Love this season, as evidenced by his NBA-record 34-point first quarter against the Portland Trailblazers a few nights ago, where Love scored 40 and hit eight triples.

Averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds, he and Anthony Davis are the only ones averaging 22 and 10 rebounds this season. If the champs have indeed figured out the final piece to an already-full puzzle, they will play second-fiddle to no one. – by Vincent Goodwill

WESTBROOK’S VIDEO GAME-LIKE NUMBERS STILL GOING STRONG

Russell Westbrook continued his torrid early season pace this week, picking up three more triple-doubles, giving him six on the season. Westbrook is leading the league in scoring at 32 points per game, but he’s also averaging 10.9 assists and 9.8 rebounds.

“16 years in the league, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player like him,” Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told reporters on Friday. “His strength, his size, his athleticism, his explosiveness, his attack mindset - just a phenomenal player. He plays like someone pissed in his Cheerios every morning.”

Despite Westbrook’s big numbers, the Thunder are just 3-7 over their last 10 games and sit at 9-8 on the season. – by James Ham

PISTONS SPUTTER WITHOUT JACKSON

What’s wrong with the Detroit Pistons? Is it just the absence of point guard Reggie Jackson, who’s recovering from a knee procedure in the preseason? They’ve lost five of their last seven games, have just one win on the road and are 8-10 after entering the season with some lofty expectations.

Andre Drummond may be counted on to do more if the Pistons are to shake this sluggish start. Being intentionally fouled in the waning moments of a 99-96 loss to Houston put the spotlight on his critically-criticized free-throw shooting yet again, and he stayed after the game working on his shot well after everyone left the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Even when Jackson returns, the spotlight will still be on the man who signed the largest deal in franchise history—and he’ll have to live up to it. His numbers are down so far across the board, and although he’s playing fewer minutes than last season, he’ll have to take more upon his shoulders because of the added pressure. – by Vincent Goodwill

SEE THE 3, SHOOT THE 3 … A LOT

The Rockets were grateful for the three-point line the day after Thanksgiving.

They set a league record with 50 three-point attempts in Friday’s 117-104 win over the Kings. The Rockets connected on 21 of them for a 42.0 percent performance.

Eric Gordon led the way with 12 attempts off the bench (he made four). Trevor Ariza (six made) and James Harden (four made) each shot 11. Ryan Anderson (3 for 7), Patrick Beverley (2 for 4), Sam Dekker (1 for 3) and Corey Brewer (2 for 2) rounded out the rest.

The Rockets are atop the NBA with 37.1 attempts per game. They are second with 13.8 made and fifth with a 37.3 percentage.

The Mavericks held the previous three-point attempt record with 49 against the Nets 20 years ago in 1996. – by Jessica Camerato

HAWKS: SPLITTER (CALF STRAIN) OUT AT LEAST SIX WEEKS

Tiago Splitter has had yet another setback and this was to another body part. According to the team, Splitter has a “Grade 2 right calf strain” – essential a tear in the muscle – and will miss a minimum of six weeks.

Splitter hasn’t been on the court this season because of right hip surgery and a “related” hamstring strain. Since he was traded by the Spurs in the summer of 2015, Splitter has played in just 36 games for Atlanta.

The Spurs flipped him for a protected 2017 second-round pick and the draft rights to Georgios Printezis. It also created cap room to land LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency – by J. Michael

HORNETS STUNG (AGAIN) BY INJURY

Marvin Williams went down with what the Hornets have called a hyper-extended left knee, and he left the court limping.

The Hornets have come down to earth after a 5-1 start, and if Williams is out for any prolonged period it will push his backup, Frank Kaminsky, into duty as the starting power forward.

A defensive-oriented team under coach Steve Clifford, the Hornets have allowed 100-plus points in four consecutive games – all losses – entering Saturday. – by J. Michael

PERIMETER INJURIES PILE UP FOR THE HEAT

The Heat already are without forward Justise Winslow (left wrist), and now have their best perimeter player, point guard Goran Dragic, ailing with a left elbow strain. 

"His elbow doesn't have a lot of movement, and I think you saw that the other night," coach Erik Spoelstra said before Dragic, who is left-handed, sat Friday's game vs. the Grizzlies. "It was really more of a hindrance. He wasn't able to be effective."

Rodney McGruder started for Dragic and Tyler Johnson had a major bump in his role off the bench. But with Wayne Ellington (right thigh bruise) yet to play this season, the Heat lack backcourt depth beyond that. – by J. Michael

CLIPPERS LATEST ON BOARD THE COWBOYS BANDWAGON

After crushing the Mavericks on Wednesday in Dallas, the Clippers stayed in Big D for Thanksgiving. The highlight of the day was a trip to AT&T Stadium, home of the NFL Cowboys, where they hitched a ride on the bandwagon of America’s Team.
Oh, the fun the Clippers had. Blake Griffin, launching passes. DeAndre Jordan, in a Cowboys T-shirt, was running pass patterns. Chris Paul, wearing a Cowboys ski cap, posing for pictures with team owner Jerry Jones. The coach, Doc Rivers, also participated in this team-bonding session.

Ah, yes. There is nothing like having fun on the road.

The immediate results, however, were not good. The Clippers played Friday night in Detroit and took their worst loss of the season, 108-97, to the Pistons.
“They came out with so much more energy than we did in the first 10 minutes,” Rivers said afterward. “And it’s tough to dig yourselves out of a big hole on the road.” – by Monte Poole

DALLAS GEARING UP FOR SOME HOME COOKING

When you look at all the injuries that the Dallas Mavericks have endured in this still-young NBA season, it’s not a surprise that they have struggled so mightily in the Western Conference.

But what is lost in their historically bad start, has been the fact that most of their games played have been on the road.

That’s about to change, and if they have their way, so will the trajectory of their season.

After having 10 of their first 15 games on the road, the Mavericks will play in front of their fans in six of the next seven

By no means will that be the elixir that’ll fix all their problems. But at least at home there’s a sense that maybe, just maybe, the Mavericks can at least tilt their season towards respectability after what has been one of the worst starts in franchise history. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Turner struggling, Lakers on the rise...this week's NBA Insider Notebook

Turner struggling, Lakers on the rise...this week's NBA Insider Notebook

Welcome to another edition of the CSN Insiders notebook, the most comprehensive gathering of NBA news and nuggets on the planet that’s compiled by our coast-to-coast Insiders.

Drum roll please …

At the top of the alphabetic CSN Insider food chain is A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England who covers the Boston Celtics; up next is Jessica Camerato of CSN Philadelphia who covers the no-longer-winless Philadelphia 76ers; Vinnie Goodwill of CSN Chicago; James Ham of CSN California who covers the Sacramento Kings; J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic on the Washington Wizards beat; Monte Poole of CSN Bay Area who covers the Golden State Warriors and Jason Quick of CSN Northwest on the Portland Trail Blazers beat.

A.Sherrod Blakely (CSNNE/Celtics): We start this week with a really good item from Jason Quick on Evan Turner, Portland’s prized offseason free agent pick-up who signed a four-year, $70 million contract after spending the previous two seasons in Boston.

Having covered him in Boston, I had a chance to see both the strengths and weaknesses to his game, a player who can be a special player for your team in the right situation, or a complete bust if that situation isn’t present or significantly limited.

Is that what he has in Portland?

Hear what Turner had to say on the matter...

ROUGH START FOR TURNER

These are frustrating times for Evan Turner, whose transition from the Boston Celtics to the Trail Blazers has not gone smoothly.

Through 10 games, Turner has the NBA’s worst plus/minus by a longshot, and with every head-scratching pass and every flat shot that bangs off the front rim there is growing unease among the fan base: What exactly did the Blazers spend $70 million on this offseason?

Turner is averaging 6.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists in just less than 24 minutes a game while shooting 38 percent from the field. Hailed as a play-maker when the Blazers signed him, Turner has 24 assists and 20 turnovers.

What is even more confusing than his play has been Turner’s recent assessment of his role. To hear the Blazers talk in July, Turner would be riding shotgun with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in directing this team. But after three weeks, it appears Turner feels like he belongs in the back seat.

In the past week, there has been a noticeable step-back from Turner in terms of his engagement within the offense. During his first six games, Turner averaged 7.8 shots; over his last four he is averaging 3.7 shots.

“What can you possibly do?’’ Turner asked after the Blazers’ overtime win Friday against Sacramento, when he had two points, four rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes. “When you get three shots and play 27 minutes … that’s not a knock, because we have the best guards in the league, but I mean, what can I possibly do besides be accountable to defense, take care of the ball, rebound and play the floor? Where I just came from, I had the ball in my hands tons of times to make plays.’’

Lillard is averaging 30.6 points on 19 shots a game and McCollum 22.2 points on 17 shots a game. Turner is averaging six shots.

“Obviously, everybody is paying attention offensively, and I mean, I think I’m playing the best I possibly can for the situation,’’ Turner said. “It’s not even ‘I’m only getting three-or-four shots’ … it is what it is. We’ve been winning, and that’s pretty much it. I think I’m helping rebounding, defending, and I think I’ve gotten better taking care of the ball.’’

Coach Terry Stotts has become defensive amid growing questions about Turner’s play.

“I think everybody is kind of targeting Evan and I don’t think that is necessarily very fair,’’ Stotts said. “The game against (Memphis) he didn’t take a shot and played very well. He’s playing good defense, he’s adapting … it’s a process. He’s a smart basketball player, has high basketball IQ and he is only going to get better.’’

As the grumblings at home games become louder, and the questions after games become more frequent, Turner says he has become used to scrutiny, dating back to 2010, when he was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. 

“This isn’t my first rodeo with this kind of stuff,’’ Turner said. “It doesn’t shock me. The gun is going to be left in my lap whether I have something to do with it or not.’’

At the forefront of the criticism is his plus/minus rating, which is a league-worst minus-110, 35 points more than the next closest player, Phoenix’s Brandon Knight.

“Whoever is on court with Dame is going to have a positive plus minus,’’ Turner said, chuckling. “I don’t really know what else to say. I could counter and be like ‘Hey, whoever scores on …’  but that don’t look good. I’ve always been in situations where I’ve been a positive. I started out last year as having one of the best (plus/minus) in the league.

“I mean, when it rains it pours,’’ Turner said. “There’s more to make sense of and more to complain about, but what do you want to do? I mean, if you want to point blame or whatever, I’ve been I’ve been blamed numerous times before so I don’t really dive too deep into it.’’

Turner was never angry or defensive Friday when talking about his season. Instead, he seemed uneasy talking so much about himself, because he wanted the focus to be more on the Blazers’ 6-4 record than his struggles or dwindling role.

 “What can you knock if you are winning?’’ Turner said. “These dudes are making the right plays, the right reads, and you fit in where you fit in. The contract is going to draw attention, but even if I didn’t have a big contract I’m an easy target, so that doesn’t keep me up. As long as we are winning, it’s not about me.’’ – Jason Quick

DAVIS TO THE CELTICS?

The Boston Celtics have played most of this season with at least one starter out due to injury, but even at full strength they’re going to struggle rebounding the ball.

That is why they will forever – or at least the next three-plus months whichever comes first – be linked with any and every big man who 1) wants to be traded or 2) is on the trading block.

But I’m told the Celtics at this point are only interested in potential “game changers” on the trade market.

One name to keep an eye on is New Orleans’ Anthony Davis.

The only way Davis will come into play is if Davis wants out, something that isn’t that far-fetched when you consider the steady run of injuries he’s enduring on a team that’s going nowhere fast.

The Celtics have draft picks galore, young talent with very team-friendly contracts and being in the East, that would mean the Pelicans would only see Davis twice a season.

But again, it all depends on whether Davis wants out of New Orleans.

That doesn’t appear to be his desire … for now at least. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

LAKERS (SURPRISINGLY) ON THE RISE
If there were an award for the most surprising team in the NBA, early-season division, the Lakers would be the favorites to win it.

Projected to win 25 to 30 games, first-year coach Luke Walton has coaxed his group to five wins in its first nine games, including victories over the Warriors, Hawks and Rockets.

A win over the Kings last week snapped a seven-game losing streak to Sacramento. More significant, it was the first time in nearly two years that the Lakers won consecutive road games – and the first time three years they won four of five.

One of the biggest reasons behind the rise has been an effective bench, led by veteran guard Lou Williams, who leads and team in scoring. – by Monte Poole

‘BEBE’ RAPTOR GROWING UP

As much as DeMar DeRozan’s eye-popping video game-like numbers have carried the Raptors this season, they’ve also gotten some solid – and unexpected – contributions from Lucas ‘Bebe’ Nogueira?

Who is he?

Don’t worry. You’re not the first and certainly won’t be the last to wonder where the heck did this guy come from.

A former first-round pick from the 2013 NBA draft (he was selected by Boston, then traded to Dallas on draft night for the rights to Kelly Olynyk), ‘Bebe’ has been charged with helping fill the void left by Bismack Biyombo.

He has provided some much-needed energy, hustle and surprisingly efficient scoring.

In four games played, he has averaged 8.2 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting a blistering 88.2 percent from the field.

As you can imagine, pretty much everything he gets offensively comes from point-blank range.

But that’s not the point.

The Raptors have their sights on challenging the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, and will need everyone on the roster to step their game up and have their best season ever.

‘Bebe’ looks like he’s ready grow into that role. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

 

MELO’S EJECTION PERSONAL?

Melo wasn’t feeling mellow.

Carmelo Anthony got ejected for arguing a foul call in Friday’s game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. He was assessed a foul against Amir Johnson and then two technicals for “bad language,” said referee Tony Brothers. (http://www.csnne.com/boston-celtics/carmelo-anthony-ejected-from-new-york-knicks-loss-to-boston-celtics )

The situation didn’t end at the Knicks’ 115-87 blowout loss. Anthony’s wife, La La, took to Twitter to express her feelings about the ejection. (http://www.csnne.com/boston-celtics/la-la-anthony-criticizes-nba-official-on-twitter-after-carmelo-anthony-ejected-from-new-york-knicks-loss-to-boston-celtics )

“He hates Mel. It's personal. Always has,” she wrote.

Brothers replied “no” when asked after the game if he had a history with Anthony. – by Jessica Camerato

DISAPPEARING ACT CONTINUES FOR MAGIC OFFENSE

The Aaron Gordon experiment as a small forward has hit its first bump in the road with coach Frank Vogel switching to Jeff Green for his offensively challenged unit.  

While Gordon is noted for his defense, the Magic have trouble scoring. Gordon was shooting 40.2% from the field and 30.8% from three in the first eight games he started before the switch. Green was shooting just 36.5% from the field during the same span, and just 35.5% from the three-point arc.

The Magic went into the weekend last in the NBA in scoring (92.3). – by J. Michael

CLIPPERS DEFENSE CONTINUES TO IMPRESS

After several years of teasing their fans in the postseason, the Clippers may have found a formula that will endure. It’s called defense.

With center DeAndre Jordan, forward Luc Mbah A Moute and guard Chris Paul leading the way, coach Doc Rivers’ squad has been the stingiest in the league.

The Clippers, with a 111-80 win over Portland, are the first team this season to hold Damian Lillard and the explosive Trail Blazers under 100 points.

“It kind of breaks the spirit on the other end on their defense because they can’t score and they’re thinking about scoring,” Rivers told reporters afterward. “It’s good. We’ve just got to keep doing it and keep getting better.” – by Monte Poole

HAWKS SOARING ON THE BOARDS WITH HOWARD

Going from Al Horford to Dwight Howard has elevated the Hawks to one of the NBA’s best rebounding teams and they could be getting closer to getting frontline backup with Tiago Splitter showing signs of recovering from a right hamstring strain that has kept him on the shelf since training camp. 

Though Horford could rebound with the best of them in his nine years here, he spent more time stretching the floor from the arc. With Howard, a traditional center who might be past his best but still a force to be reckoned with on the glass. 

The Hawks were 24th in overall rebounding last season when they won 48 games. They were 30th – aka last -- on the offensive boards. Through the first eight games, Atlanta is seventh in overall rebounding and fourth on the offensive end. 

Splitter, a backup center, is doing non-contact drills with a time frame of his return to the lineup uncertain. When a player reaches full contact drills, a more accurate gauge can be made regarding his return. – by J. Michael

SIXERS GET RARE NOVEMBER VICTORY

Some teams begin tallying their wins in October. For the Sixers, though, winning in November has been an uphill battle. The Sixers last November win dates back to 2013. On Friday they snapped the skid with an overtime victory at home against the Pacers.

“Happy isn’t the word,” Robert Covington said. “Relieved.”

The Sixers entered the game 0-7. They were the last team in the NBA to earn a ‘W’ this season.

“That first win for the group is massive,” said head coach Brett Brown. “I know it’s only one, but you can take a deep breath and go fight again.”

The Sixers were led by 25 points and seven rebounds from Joel Embiid. He scored a combined 16 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The big man played so well down the stretch, he turned the head of Pacers All-Star Paul George.

“He’s real impressive,” George said of Embiid (http://www.csnphilly.com/philadelphia-76ers/sixers-get-best-joel-embiid-clutch-during-win-over-pacers )  “I think his skill set is similar to Karl-Anthony (Towns). I think those guys are ... what GMs look for now, is big men that can essentially do it all -- put the ball on the floor, make plays, step out to the three, and protect the rim. I think those are becoming, in our game, the most complete guys. He’s got the total package. It’s good late in games and he already has that mentality of wanting to put games over.” – by Jessica Camerato

DURANT SCORING STREAK ENDS

For the second consecutive week, a member of the Warriors experienced the end of an impressive personal streak. First Stephen Curry, then Kevin Durant.

By coming out in the fourth quarter of a blowout win at Denver with 18 points, Durant’s streak of consecutive games with at least 20 points was snapped at 72, tying him with Michael Jordan for fourth place on the all-time list.

“We won the basketball game,” said Durant, who left with 5:51 remaining and the Warriors up 112-86. “That’s the most important thing.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr pulled the star forward two seconds after Durant was whistled for a charge.

“I knew about the streak, and I told him that when he came off the floor,” Kerr said. “But I’m not going to mess with the basketball gods. If you want to leave a guy out there to get some kind of record, you’re asking for an injury. The game called for him to come out, he came out. He had no problem with it.”

Durant’s streak ended six days after Curry’s streak of consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer was snapped at 157 in a 0-of-10 performance against the Lakers.

“There’s going to be a lot of that stuff this year,” Kerr said. “There’s going to be people talking about stats and records and who’s scoring and who’s not. The only way this is going to work is if guys throw that out the window. That’s exactly what KD did.” – by Monte Poole

INJURIES TAKING EARLY SEASON TOLL ON WIZARDS

The injury front is an issue for the Wizards early on for the second year in a row, but they’re being more cautious and concerned about later than now. That means John Wall, Bradley Beal and Ian Mahinmi, the latter whom has yet to play this season, aren’t being pushed early. 

“Health is more important than today,” coach Scott Brooks said after announcing that Beal would miss his first game over the weekend after injuring his right thigh in an awkward fall. 

Wall isn’t playing in back-to-backs in the short-term coming off surgeries to both knees May 5. Mahinmi had surgery to clean up loose cartilage Oct. 15 and should be practicing soon and on the court by late November.

With Beal, this is a team that’s in the bottom five in three-point shooting accuracy. Without him, they’re significantly worse. – by J. Michael

Johnny O’Bryant, who the Wizards would’ve drafted had he not been taken in 2012 second round by Milwaukee, was among their final cuts. Now he’ll be playing for the Phoenix Suns’ D-League team, the Northern Arizona Suns.

League sources tell CSNmidatlantic.com that O’Bryant turned down “several good international options” but declined. O’Bryant appeared to have a good shot at making the final 15 in Washington, but the injury to Mahinmi made a backup center the Wizards’ top priority which gave rookie free agent Daniel Ochefu an edge. – by J. Michael

HEALTH CONTINUES TO KEEP MKG, MIA FOR HORNETS

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can’t stay healthy, and after a dislocated shoulder ended his time on the court last season he missed a game over the weekend because of his back. 

Coach Steve Clifford suggested when the 23-year-old small forward returns he could be on a minutes restriction, but the Hornets rely heavily on defense and that’s the strength of Kidd-Gilchrist’s game. 

The Hornets are thin at his position and have started rookie Treveon Graham in his place. Veteran Marco Belinelli also logged time there off the bench as the duo split those minutes. – by J. Michael

VAN GUNDY SOUNDS OFF ON TRUMP

We have seen a rise in professional athlete chiming in on the political state of things. 

But Detroit head coach/president of basketball operations couldn’t stay silent any longer, not seeing how the presidential vote weighed so heavily on his mind as well as his players. 

He wasn’t alone, with San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Golden State’s Steve Kerr chiming in as well. 

But Van Gundy’s response was by far the most powerful among the coaching ranks.

“I don't think anybody can deny this guy (Trump) is openly and brazenly racist and misogynistic,” Van Gundy told reporters. “We have just thrown a good part of our population under the bus, and I have problems with thinking this is where we are as a country.”

He wasn’t done. 

“Martin Luther King said, 'The arc of the moral universe is long, but bends toward justice.' I would have believed in that for a long time, but not today,” Van Gundy said. “What we have done to minorities … in this election is despicable. I’m having a hard time dealing with it. This isn’t your normal candidate. I don’t know even know if I have political differences with him. I don’t even know what are his politics. I don’t know, other than to build a wall and 'I hate people of color, and women are to be treated as sex objects and as servants to men.' I don’t know how you get past that. I don’t know how you walk into the booth and vote for that.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

NOT SO FAST, SUNS

First in pace, last in defense. It’s a recipe for disaster for a young and very talented club. The big three of Eric Bledsoe, T.J. Warren and Devin Booker are a nice base, but they need to commit on both ends of the floor. Brandon Knight continues to struggle as a six man. He’s shooting just 33.9 percent from the field and 23.5 from long range. The Suns early season schedule is filled with the who’s who of the Western Conference. – by James Ham

WANTED: REBOUNDER, RIM PROTECTOR IN INDY

The Boston Celtics are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA … scratch that, they are THE worst rebounding team in the NBA. You can imagine the red flags that should have gone up within the Pacers organization when the Celtics came to town and not only beat them 105-99 at home (their first home loss this season), but won the battle of the boards and got a lot of great looks down the stretch at or near the rim. 

Don’t be surprised if Indiana starts to take a long, hard look at potential trades that could land them a coveted frontcourt player who can rebound and protect the rim. 

Sacramento’s Willie Cauley-Stein is a name that has been put out there recently as possibly being available (we’ll have more on that later). If he is, Indiana should make a serious pitch for him. 

While Cauley-Stein has his limitations offensively, that’s OK. Between the emergence of Myles Turner and Big Al Jefferson coming off the bench, scoring from the power forward and center positions should not be a major concern. 

Because right now, Indiana just doesn’t have the kind of personnel that can provide the kind of resistance at the rim that they need to make some noise in the East. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

TOUGH SCHEDULE ROUGH ON THE KINGS

There is a certain amount of doom and gloom in Sacramento after back-to-back losses on Thursday and Friday. But the Kings played one of the toughest schedules in the league through the first two weeks of the season with 11 games in 17 nights, including seven of those contests on the road. The rumor mill has been buzzing regarding both Willie Cauley-Stein and Omri Casspi. According to sources, Cauley-Stein, the team’s first selection in the 2015 NBA Draft, is not on the block and Casspi confirmed to CSN California that he did not request a trade this week despite the decrease in role during a free agency year. – by James Ham

HIELD HEATS UP, HELPS PELICANS TO FIRST WIN

The Pelicans finally picked up their first win, stunning the Lakers Saturday night 126-99. Buddy Hield, who had 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting against the Lakers, was drafted to shoot the ball and that is exactly what the rookie out of Oklahoma is doing through the first 10 games. He’s averaging 10.2 points per game but shooting just 37.6 percent from the field and a woeful 23.6 percent on 3s.  But shooters gonna shoot, right? Jrue Holiday’s return is just around the corner. He’s been away from the team while caring for his wife, former Team USA soccer player Lauren Holiday, who just gave birth to the couple’s first child followed by surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. Family first.- by James Ham

PARKER, GREEN, POPOVICH UPDATES

San Antonio’s 34-year-old Tony Parker is back on the court after missing four of the Spurs first eight games with a knee issue. He’s starting and once again putting up Tony Parker-like numbers. He had a season-high 16 points in the Spurs’ 106-100 win over Houston on Saturday. Danny Green has also returned after missing the first eight games with a strained left quad. Nine different players have started a game for San Antonio through the first 10 games. Their defense is in midseason form (their defensive rating is ranked 7th in the NBA) and they continue to systematically destroy teams with their efficient offensive effort in which their offensive rating of 107.7 is the sixth-best mark in the NBA. If you haven’t heard Gregg Popovich’s thoughts on the 2016 presidential election, it’s a must listen, regardless of party affiliation. – by James Ham