Posted on: November 30, 2009 11:49 am
Edited on: November 30, 2009 9:45 pm
Some teams have no decent point guards and are in desperate need of a holiday shopping spree. Others have an embarrassment of riches. Put the Orlando Magic in the latter category, as we explain in the Weekly Post-Ups, Cyber Monday edition:
• The Magic lost Jameer Nelson last season and traded for Rafer Alston. Voila – a perfectly capable point guard who steered Orlando all the way to the NBA Finals. This season, when Nelson went down again with torn meniscus in his left knee, there was no need for GM Otis Smith to scan the waiver wire, scour the D-League, or make a desperation play for Allen Iverson. That’s because he did his homework during the summer, signing veteran Jason Williams out of retirement. All Williams has done is lead Orlando to a 6-1 record as the starting point guard while leading the league in assist-to-turnover ratio. His backup, Anthony Johnson, has been capable, too. Make no mistake, the Magic need a healthy Nelson to get back to the Finals. But Orlando once again will be able to get through a significant portion of the regular season without him.
• Speaking of the Magic: When is getting Rashard Lewis back in the lineup a bad thing? When your name is Brandon Bass. With Lewis starting to gather his legs and find his shooting stroke after missing the first 10 games due to suspension – and with Ryan Anderson playing well as a stretch power forward – there are no more minutes for Bass, who was thought to have been a key offseason acquisition. In the eight games Lewis has played, Bass has seen only 31 minutes of floor time, including four DNP-CDs and a two-minute stint against the Knicks Sunday night. Bass could still be useful when Orlando plays teams with size, but he also could wind up being a valuable trade chip. He’s only 24, has a reasonable contract, and there are plenty of teams looking for size.
• Keith Smart is only 1-2 as coach of the Warriors as he fills in for Don Nelson, who is recovering from pneumonia. But Golden State showed signs of a turnaround during a six-game stretch against elite teams – including a surprising win against Dallas in which Smart had only eight healthy bodies and played six. Smart, who is fiercely loyal to Nelson, dedicated that victory to “our man in charge.” It’s true that Monta Ellis’ resurgence – he’s averaging 28.7 points on .476 shooting in the last six games – began before his nemesis, Nelson, fell ill. But if you think Ellis’ long-term prognosis is the same with Nelson at the helm as with Smart, you don’t know the difference between the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate. One person familiar with the mood in the locker room described the fortitude displayed against Dallas as an unmistakable message to Nellie. But before the Warriors can be viewed as ready to seriously revisit the possibility of Nelson stepping into a consulting role and Smart taking over permanently, you have to remember who’s in charge: Nelson and his self-appointed yes man, Larry Riley.
• Sixers chairman Ed Snider reportedly will let his basketball people determine whether to orchestrate an Iverson comeback, which is an encouraging sign if true. From the standpoint of ticket and merchandise sales, an A.I. reunion would be a no-brainer. From a basketball standpoint, there are serious reservations on the coaching staff. Consider that among the members of the coaching staff is Randy Ayers, for whom Iverson once lobbied strongly to be his head coach before quickly turning on him and getting him fired.
UPDATE: Sixers president Ed Stefanski and coach Eddie Jordan met with Iverson for two hours Monday in Dallas, hours before Philadelphia was to play the Mavericks. There was no resolution, according to a source, who said, "Both signs remain noncommittal."
• Courtesy of the irreverent Basketbawful: With Carmelo Anthony’s 50-point game against the Knicks, two of the last three 50-point games in the league have come against the Knicks – and four of the last 10, dating to the back-to-back 50s by Kobe and LeBron last season.
• That said, the Knicks aren’t even the worst defensive team in the league. That honor goes to the Raptors, who are 29th in points allowed (109.1 per game) and 30th in points allowed per 100 possessions (116.9).
• That’s not all that’s wrong with the Raptors, one of the biggest disappointments in the league thus far. Prospective free agent Chris Bosh has been carrying the Raps of late, with nothing to show for it. Toronto has lost three straight and seven of nine, with Bosh posting a double-double in all but one of those games – and all but three the entire season. Adding insult to groin injury, Bosh was furious that none of his teammates displayed any anger or fight after Boston’s Paul Pierce dunked on Bosh and simultaneously kicked him in the groin, leaving the superstar sprawled on the court.
• Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman tries to get to the bottom of the often-used NBA phrase, Basketball IQ.
• Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post digests the delicious irony of Jason Kidd returning to New Jersey Wednesday night with a chance to escort the Nets to an 0-18 start, the NBA record for season-opening futility.
• Ron Artest, a career 72 percent free-throw shooter, is only 24-for-46 (.522) this season. What’s even more telling is how infrequently Artest is getting to the line, evidence that he has settled into a passive, jump-shooting role in the Lakers’ triangle offense. Only once this season has Artest attempted more than six foul shots in a game.
• Surprisingly positive starts by the Hawks and Bucks haven’t stemmed the West’s early dominance of the East. John Schuhmann of NBA.com points out that the West is 50-31 against the East so far, including 16-2 over the last seven days.
Posted on: November 23, 2009 3:44 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2009 9:14 pm
When is turning down $63 million a good idea? That question is best posed to the Hawks’ Joe Johnson, so we’re playing through him first in the Weekly Post-Ups:
• Johnson has been a very good/borderline outstanding player for the past few years, averaging 20-plus points four years in a row on a team that has improved every season. But a four-year extension for about $63 million would seem to be a no-brainer for a player who’s never had true superstar impact and who will turn 30 in 2011. Not so fast. Johnson passed, instead opting for the chance to get a more lucrative six-year deal next summer – either by staying in Atlanta or achieving a sign-and-trade arrangement to play for another team of his choice. But there’s more to this equation that could wind up paying off very handsomely for Johnson. With so many teams having money to spend next summer, what happens if LeBron James stays in Cleveland and Dwyane Wade stays in Miami? Regardless of what happens with Chris Bosh, there will be at least 10 teams standing around with massive cap space and nothing to spend it on. Enter Johnson, a nice fallback option. “Does it cross my mind from time to time? Yeah,” Johnson told me last week. “But for the most part, I’m just trying to do whatever it takes for us to be as good as we can be.”
• The perception that his system can only take a team so far still haunts Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni. Speaking with a few reporters before a game against the Nets on Saturday, D’Antoni admitted that the pressure to prove critics wrong and advance past the conference finals got to him during his last days in Phoenix. “Without a doubt,” D’Antoni said. “And I was probably leading the charge there. It got to be where winning and playing great and having fun wasn’t good enough. It got to, ‘Yeah, but you haven’t won a championship.’ Then when you lose … they go, ‘See, you can’t win that way.’ San Antonio was a good darn team, and they beat us. And Joe Johnson goes down with a broken face. Well, if (Manu) Ginobili had a broken face and Joe Johnson played, we would’ve killed ‘em. But that never came into the equation. Raja Bell and Josh Howard go down at the same time. Josh Howard comes back, and Raja Bell doesn’t come back. If Josh Howard stays down and Raja comes back, we win that one. The pressure got to us. It got to me, for sure.”
• Dwight Howard asking Magic coach Stan Van Gundy to lose the negativity only underscored what league observers already knew: Van Gundy walks a fine line between inspiring his team to reject mediocrity and losing the locker room with his nit-picking. Van Gundy is not a good tactician; he’s a great one. But he rarely encounters a victory he can’t find fault with, and his dour nature gets old – especially for the ebullient Howard, the leader of a new generation of players who aspire to win and have fun at the same time. Howard could use more of a killer instinct, and Van Gundy could use less. It remains to be seen whether that long-term balance can be struck.
• The fact that Nate McMillan can send the Blazers’ prized free-agent acquisition, Andre Miller, to the bench and watch his replacement, Martell Webster, respond with 21 points and 13 rebounds, speaks to the depth and versatility he has at his disposal. But it also underscores the delicate balance McMillan must achieve – both starting and finishing games – as it relates to Miller’s level of happiness. This is a situation that will bear watching all season. When I caught up with Miller in Atlanta last week, he didn’t seem sold on how he was being used. “Any player can tell you in this league, any time you get that opportunity to get on the court, you get more confidence and you get more comfortable,” Miller said. “You just have to go with the flow.” Miller didn’t get into much of a flow Saturday night against Minnesota, recording four points and four assists on 1-for-3 shooting in 20 minutes off the bench. Portland beat the lowly T-Wolves, though, 106-78.
• Despite the obvious difference of opinion between Tracy McGrady and the Rockets as to when he’ll be ready to return to the lineup, one NBA front office source wondered if Houston might be better off seeing this through and letting McGrady’s $23 million contract expire after the season rather than trading him. Now that the Knicks have turned down Allen Iverson, they’d be a perfect suitor for T-Mac. New York needs some scoring punch, and Chris Duhon’s anemic play at the point could be partially solved by McGrady’s ability to handle the ball and initiate the offense. T-Mac also doesn’t possess the alpha-male tendencies that, in the end, scared the Knicks about adding Iverson. McGrady was scheduled to undergo an MRI Monday on his left knee, which underwent microfracture surgery in February. Feeling he should’ve been back in the lineup by now, McGrady reportedly forced a meeting with coach Rick Adelman by suiting up before a game at Minnesota last week. The next clue as to McGrady’s immediate future will come Tuesday when the MRI results are back. The Knicks’ motivation to add McGrady would be to pawn off future money, which is something Houston doesn’t want in return. In fact, the Rockets have yet to begin shopping McGrady to anyone, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
UPDATE: The Rockets released the MRI results Monday night, via a vague statement saying that McGrady has "no change" from the previous exam in September. The team said McGrady is "on a normal course of recovery and has the expected level of performance for someone at his stage following microfracture surgery." McGrady practiced Monday, but there was no word on when he might actually play.
• The Celtics’ Ray Allen raised an interesting point about the 10-game suspension served by Orlando’s Rashard Lewis for ingesting an anti-fatigue supplement that was on the league’s list of banned substances. “When did he take the drug test?’’ Allen said in an interview with the Boston Globe. “Because if he took the drug test during our series, we’re supposed to be playing in the conference finals.’’
• Warriors coach Don Nelson has been notably effusive in his praise of Monta Ellis lately, which is no coincidence considering that Ellis’ agent, Jeff Fried, flew to Oakland last week to meet with the Golden State brass. No long-term solution was reached; it is believed that Nellie still wants to trade Ellis and the feeling is mutual. But getting into verbal confrontations with a player and making him a miserable scapegoat is no way to get full value in a trade. The situation between Nellie and Monta will be further cooled by Monday’s diagnosis showing that Nelson has contracted pneumonia. Nelson, closing in on the NBA’s all-time record for coaching wins, will miss games this week against Dallas and San Antonio.
• After publicly pleading for his job last week, Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy might have saved it with a victory over Denver Friday night. The race to be the next coach fired is on between Dunleavy and Lawrence Frank, whose 0-13 Nets left for a West Coast trip Monday with their coach aboard the charter.
• A great read on the San Antonio mafia by our content partner, SI.com’s Ian Thomsen.
• If you haven’t seen the clips yet of Kobe Bryant making a basket over the backboard or Nate Robinson infuriating his coach by shooting at the wrong one, let me be the last to break the news.
Posted on: November 17, 2009 12:50 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2009 3:44 pm
Allen Iverson in New York? There is legitimate interest percolating in Madison Square Garden, according to a high-level source familiar with the Knicks' front-office discussions. Before Iverson signed with the Grizzlies, the Knicks had flat-out zero interest in Iverson. So what's changed? That's the leading topic of this week's Post-Ups: