Batum checks out, perks up

March, 5, 2015
Mar 5
3:19
AM ET
Adande By J.A. Adande
ESPN.com
Archive

Nicolas Batum tried something different during the All-Star break. He went down to a resort in Mexico and limited himself to only one hour of cell phone use every morning, then he turned it off for the rest of the day. He told his mother and his agent to call the hotel if they really needed to reach him.

That strict cell phone diet was a sign that Batum’s struggles this season – in which his shooting percentage has plummeted to a career low and his scoring average is at its lowest since his rookie year -- were mental as well as physical. Yes, he’s drained from playing for France in international competition so many summers, and yes he’s been bothered by wrist and knee injuries this season. But listen to what he said the time off meant to him:

“The All-Star break was a big thing for me; I just relaxed and refreshed my mind,” Batum said. “I’m feeling good now. I’m happy to be back and kind of get my rhythm back, my swag back a little bit.”

Swag isn’t something that can be surgically repaired. There’s no rehab program. Something was a little off in Batum and he knew it.

“Nobody’s been harder on Nic than Nic,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “He’s wanted to play well. He’s put a lot of pressure on himself.”

Batum averaged 8.9 points and shot 37 percent from the field and 27 percent on three-pointers before the All-Star break. In the six games since his phone break, he’s averaging 11.8 points and shooting 40 percent on threes, 50 percent overall. That includes his 20 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and two blocked shots in Portland’s comeback win against the Clippers in Los Angeles Wednesday night.

He took opportunistic shots. He found LaMarcus Aldridge on lobs off the pick and roll. He took over defensive duties on Chris Paul after Paul had his way with Damian Lillard and did a good job of forcing Paul left instead of his preferred right. He was, as he put it, “That all-around player like I used to be.”

At age 26, Batum’s too young to be telling back-in-the-day stories. But he did find himself watching video of last season, when he put up numbers more in line with his career averages, when he was that more aggressive player.

The Trial Blazers are a different team with the Batum of the past – and the post-All-Star present. They’re more dangerous, should be taken more seriously. He's a double-digit scorer and 40 percent shooter in their victories; he averages 7 points and only makes a third of his shots in their losses. They’re not going to go deep into the playoffs without a couple of podium games from Batum.

Apparently it took some time when he didn’t communicate with others for Batum to find himself. He liked what he saw in the old video, he realizes that player hasn’t vanished.

“I was okay last year,” Batum concluded. “I’m good now.”

If the Blazers are going deep into the playoffs, they’ll probably be better off if calls to Batum’s phone go straight to voice mail.

GM secrets with Warriors' Bob Meyers

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
6:27
PM ET
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
Archive
Part 1 of a series of conversations with Warriors GM Bob Myers.

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TrueHoop TV Live

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
12:36
PM ET
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
Archive
We're video chatting at 2 p.m. ET ...

The war on analytics

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
12:30
PM ET
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
Archive
Why do people get so angry about analytics in the NBA? We discuss with Tom Haberstroh and Amin Elhassan.

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First Cup: Wednesday

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
4:39
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Perhaps the Rockets enjoyed their double-digit lead a little too much. And now the Hawks can enjoy the fact they’ve clinched a playoff berth. Former Hawk Josh Smith hit a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter and raised a finger to his mouth to quiet the Philips Arena crowd. It was one of two straight long-distance shots to give the Rockets a 15-point lead with 10:32 remaining. The Hawks called time out. Smith and another former Hawk Jason Terry used the break to further incite the crowd. Oops. The Hawks responded with a 32-8 run to end the game and steal a 104-96 victory Tuesday night. According to the NBA and Elias Sports Bureau, the victory clinched a playoff spot for the Hawks, their eighth straight trip to the postseason. “It was chippy and that was what really got us going,” DeMarre Carroll said. “If they were quiet and just did what they did, they wouldn’t have woke up Jeff Teague, they wouldn’t have woke up myself, they wouldn’t have woke up Paul (Millsap). I think that’s when it got chippy and Josh Smith was doing all this.”
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford said before Tuesday’s home game against the Los Angeles Lakers that rookie P.J. Hairston would again be inactive. Hairston was deactivated for Sunday’s road game against the Orlando Magic. Two sources confirmed Hairston missed a weight-training session Sunday before that game. Clifford said Hairston, a first-round pick and former North Carolina star, has fallen behind both Jeff Taylor and Troy Daniels in the rotation among shooting guards and small forwards. Clifford said that could easily change over the remainder of the season, but that would involve Hairston applying himself better as an NBA player. “P.J., to me, has the chance to be a very good player,” Clifford said. “His approach has to be where he is constantly learning what the NBA game is about. He’s hasn’t done that well. He hasn’t been terrible, nor has he done as well as I would like.”
  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: The Nuggets are so inept they even botched the no-brainer firing of coach Brian Shaw. So consider the stumbling, bumbling actions of the NBA's lamest organization on a cold and gray Tuesday as fair warning to Mike D'Antoni, Chauncey Billups, Mark Jackson or anybody else with past ties to the Nuggets who might be crazy enough to believe he could lead Denver back to respectability. Only a fool would apply for this coaching vacancy. The Nuggets have a problem with a lack of professionalism. It starts at the top, with franchise president Josh Kroenke, and trickles down with an annoying drip, drip, drip to the locker room, where a brown cardboard box labeled "Phones" sits on a stool every game night, because irresponsible players developed a nasty habit of caring more about text messages than the final score. At approximately 9:30 in the morning, Nuggets management surprised Shaw with the news his services would no longer be needed after a mere 20 months and 141 often-miserable games on the job. Hey, why halt a downward spiral to a more desirable spot in the NBA draft lottery? It made no sense. Then, showing a complete lack of responsibility, neither Kroenke nor general manager Tim Connelly bothered to explain Shaw's dismissal until 6:32 p.m., when Connelly belatedly uttered a brief statement and took questions for less than three minutes.
  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: On Tuesday, the Nuggets got rid of their Josh McDaniels, a young disciple of a legendary coach who proved to be in over his head with his first head coaching job. And so, with coach Brian Shaw out the door, I began to think of veteran coaches who could instill discipline and change the culture at the Pepsi Center, a John Fox type, if you will. Perhaps Mike D'Antoni, who actually once coached the Nuggets before finding fame in Phoenix with his offense more NASCAR than basketball. But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered. Is Chauncey the answer? The whole thing would be a fairy tale — Denver native Chauncey Billups, a Colorado legend and former Nuggets all-star, hired to coach and, really, save the franchise. Yes, Billups has been retired for like 37 minutes. Still, it just makes so much sense. His passion, presence and credibility are what this organization desperately needs. ... I can't see someone like Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson allowing himself to let Chauncey down. Would the Nuggets hire Billups? It'd be a gamble. But here's thinking he's the man who could revitalize his hometown team.
  • Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune: The Grizzlies pride themselves on toughness and unrelenting defense, on grit 'n' grind. All those hallmarks were on display Tuesday night against the Utah Jazz, prompting Memphis coach Dave Joerger to offer praise for his team after the game. "I thought that was the hardest we've played," he told reporters. That might tell you a thing or two about the state of the Utah Jazz. The Jazz kicked off their four-game road trip by out-battling Memphis, 93-82, at the FedExForum, led by 21 points apiece from Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors and a 15-point, 24-rebound night from center Rudy Gobert. With the victory, the Jazz (23-35) claimed their first three-game winning streak of the season. "You know how I feel about all that, streaks one way or another," Utah coach Quin Snyder said. "We could lose three in a row and I don't want to feel like the sky is falling. But I feel like what we're doing right now is playing good basketball." Make that really good when it comes to D-ing up.
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Several times this season, Joakim Noah has referred to Nikola Mirotic as the Bulls' X-factor. Mirotic's secret is out. And with Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson out injured, Mirotic is looking like one of the go-to closers. The rookie scored eight of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter of the Bulls' 97-92 victory over the Wizards on Tuesday night at the United Center. Repeatedly, Mirotic recognized his matchup, taking larger defenders to the perimeter and smaller defenders to the post.Not only did Mirotic post back-to-back 20-point games for the first time in his young NBA career, he now has scored 24 fourth-quarter points since Butler joined Rose and Gibson on the sidelines. "Niko's a stud," Noah said. "Floor spacing is very important in this league. Niko can do that very well." With Gibson still in a walking boot, Rose out four to six weeks after knee surgery and Butler out three to six weeks with a grade 2/3 ulnar ligament sprain and small bone impaction injury in his left elbow, Mirotic's role will be important.
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: Vlade Divac was always coming back. His return was about as predictable as climate change. Though he began and ended his NBA career with the Lakers, his true colors were always purple and black. His finest seasons, his favorite teams, and except for the crushing conference finals in 2002, his best times involved his Kings. The only issue was this: How do you squeeze a 7-foot-1 global basketball icon, humanitarian extraordinaire, beloved Kings figure and his outsized personality into a box? You don’t. You punt, you flop, you run with him. Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive suddenly seems to have all the right answers. He is starting to play like a veteran. He hires George Karl, and weeks later, crafts a position that accommodates Divac’s unique and expansive abilities. Officially, Divac rejoins the Kings as vice president of basketball and franchise operations. Unofficially, Vlade will be all over the map. ...So about squeezing a 7-foot-1 icon into a box? Why would anyone want to? Divac is an anomaly in this business, that one size who fits all. Endorse the move and embrace the man. In Sacramento, in his old flopping ground, Divac is almost larger than life.
  • Chris Fedor of the Northeast Ohio Media Group: Once upon a time David Blatt eyed the final box score following a preseason game. He was asked what jumped out to him, responding with some frustration about the number of three-pointers the Cavs took that October night. That was a sign of things to come. Layups and threes is what it's about for the Cavs. Going into Tuesday's contest, they were averaging the second-most triples since Jan. 15, a night they beat the Lakers. Averaging a shade more than 30 per game, the Cavs trailed only Houston, a team averaging 33.8 in that span. Prior to that date, the Cavs averaged only 23.9 three-point attempts, which was 10th in the league. The difference, according to Blatt is roster adjustments. J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert provide much more spacing. James Jones is getting minutes instead of Shawn Marion. Of course, Kevin Love continues to drift to the line as well. Then there's the return of James, who attracts so much attention the defense is often forced to leave one of the outside shooters.

Morey on Barkley, Harden for MVP, more

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
2:53
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
Archive
Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey makes his pitch for James Harden as MVP and Charles Barkley as 2016 Sloan Conference headliner.

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Rajon Rondo a bad fit in Dallas?

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
12:39
PM ET
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
Archive
So far the Rajon Rondo trade has not worked out well for the Mavs, and this should come as no surprise, according to Amin Elhassan and Tom Haberstroh.video

$1M at stake in The Basketball Tournament

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
10:40
AM ET
By Matt Walks
ESPN.com
Archive
The Basketball Tournament winners Kyle Brasseur for ESPNBoston.com The Notre Dame Fighting Alumni emerged victorious in last year's final of The Basketball Tournament.
Have you ever wanted to raise the stakes of your pickup game? How's $1 million sound?

For the second year in a row, The Basketball Tournament is offering a massive purse to anyone -- former NBA pros, everyday joes and schoolyard legends -- with the skill to take the TBT title.

Entry is free, but teams must qualify by recruiting at least 100 votes online. This year, there's an incentive to vote as well. The winning team's fan group will split 5 percent of the prize -- $50,000. Registration runs from April 1 through June 1.

The 96 teams selected for the winner-take-all, single-elimination bracket will compete regionally in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia. The defending champion Notre Dame Fighting Alumni will draw a lower-seeded Chicago entrant live on ESPNU on July 23. The bracket then winds down to the quarterfinals, which will be televised by ESPN.

The $1 million championship game will be held Aug. 2 in New York City and shown live on ESPN at 3 p.m. ET.

The prize pool is double what it was last year, when the Fighting Alumni beat Team Barstool 72-68 in the title game behind former All-Big East players Russell Carter, Torin Francis and Chris Thomas.

Barstool, led by Ross Burns, Dave Portnoy and Dan Katz, also rostered former Clipper Dahntay Jones. Here's a deeper look at that team:

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More wheeling and dealing in the NBA?

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
8:48
AM ET
By Andy Larsen
ESPN.com
Archive
In a Saturday session of the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Rockets GM Daryl Morey revealed that he’s brought the idea of “contingency clauses” in trades to NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

In explaining the idea, Morey used the James Harden deal as an example: “If that Harden trade had [a clause saying], ‘If he becomes an All-Star, you have to send another first-round pick, or if he fails, we get back a pick,’ I think that would really grease a lot of deals.”

Daryl Morey, James Harden
AP Photo/Pat SullivanDaryl Morey and the Rockets swung a deal with OKC for Harden in 2012.
According to Morey, “One thing that made the James Harden deal, or any big deal, hard is that you have fear on both sides.” Allowing contingency clauses in NBA trades might “allow teams to not operate out of fear” and lead to more transactions overall.

Morey continued, “I actually brought it up with the commissioner, and he thought it was interesting. There are some practical reasons why the league won’t allow that, though I think there might be a way to overcome them.”

Other American professional sports leagues have implemented versions of this idea: Major League Baseball allows trades for “players to be named later,” chosen months after a deal is completed from a predetermined list. And the NHL uses the term “future considerations,” where the exact draft pick relinquished as part of a trade is determined by the level of play of the player after the trade.

Said Warriors GM Bob Myers, a fellow Sloan panelist: “The NBA, more than any other league, is the most constricted.”

Perhaps adding contingency clauses to the NBA GM’s toolbox could help that.

First Cup: Tuesday

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
4:47
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Roderick Boone of Newsday: Thrilled that the blood clots found on his lungs are gone, the Nets' Mirza Teletovic opted to take a few moments Monday night to extend a hand in the direction of Heat star Chris Bosh. "I really want to use this opportunity to reach out to Chris Bosh and tell him he doesn't have to worry," Teletovic said in his first extended chat with the media since he was diagnosed with bilateral pulmonary embolus -- or multiple blood clots -- in the lungs Jan. 23, the same situation Bosh is dealing with. "He's going to get better and he's going to start working out pretty soon." Teletovic said he's been doing just that now that tests show his lungs are free of clots, something he said the doctors are about "80 percent'' certain he developed from a hip pointer he suffered against the Cavaliers on Dec. 8. He said he started working out three weeks ago and has been doing everything -- running, jumping, dunking -- except contact. That will happen once he's off blood thinners in July. He fully expects to play basketball next season, which excites him, given the severity of the situation initially.
  • Diamond Leung of The Oakland Tribune: Warriors forward Harrison Barnes has enjoyed a bounce-back season after returning to the starting lineup. His disappearing act quietly comes before games. Barnes more often than not is absent when the public address announcer calls his name unlike the other four starters who high-five their teammates. He is usually missing during the playing of the national anthem while Warriors players and coaches stand shoulder to shoulder on the court. The reason according to Barnes is certainly nothing against the anthem or his teammates. “I just go to the bathroom, man,” he said, smiling. “It just always happens to be on the same time every game. Mother Nature, I can’t control that. Every once in a while you see me out there, but Mother Nature just calls. You’ve got to go to the bathroom.” And so in a season when the Warriors have laid waste on their opponents on their way to earning the NBA’s best record, Barnes’ quirk have led to pregame smirks.
  • Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: Tempers had been simmering between Whiteside and Suns center Alex Len since the beginning of the game. The two players locked arms momentarily after the Heat’s first basket, a dunk by Whiteside on Len less than a minute into the game. The wayward elbows and hard fouls continued until the third quarter when Whiteside dunked on Len again. Whiteside’s elbow came down Len, and Len took offense, slinging Whiteside to the ground. Whiteside then went after Len’s legs and took the Suns center to the floor. Both players were ejected following a review. “I just retaliated,” Whiteside said. “I shouldn’t have retaliated. I should have just walked away, but when you’re in the Heat of the moment …After I came down on him, after I dunked on him, I guess he felt like my arm hit him in the face.” Whiteside finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. From the beginning of the game, the Heat’s guards made a point to get the Heat’s young center involved in the offense. That wasn’t the case Saturday in the team’s loss to the Hawks. “I’m starting to realize a lot more teams are being physical with me, and I’m down for it,” Whiteside said. “That’s what I lift weights for.”
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Goran Dragic said he was stung by the Suns front office casting him as a selfish player after he felt like he had been a team player for two stints of 2 seasons in Phoenix. The criticism from Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough and President of Basketball Operations President Lon Babby was prompted by Dragic's public expression of a desire to be traded and mistrust in Suns management. Dragic regretted how harshly his comment sounded before that day was over, even saying so on social media at the time, but he stood by the sentiment Monday. Just as McDonough and Babby took it personally to have Dragic question their trustworthiness, Dragic said it was difficult for him to be called selfish by them and was surprised by it. "Hard," Dragic said. "But at the same time, I know that's not true. A lot of people (former teammates, coaches and executives), they text me why they came like that out. That's their opinion. I cannot do nothing else. Everybody has their own opinion and it's, how you say, a free country. Everybody can speak freely."
  • Dan Woike of The Orange County Register: Doc Rivers hasn’t seen Blake Griffin in a week, with the team making four stops on the road. But while the Clippers have been out on the road winning, their star has been back in Los Angeles working. According to a team official, Griffin has “ramped up” his workouts over the past two days. Rivers went further, saying Griffin’s given the team some reasons for optimism. “He's running, he's sweating, he’s going full-tilt now and that’s good,” Rivers said before Monday’s game. “(I’m) not sure what that means not being there. He’s working out and that's all we can hope for right now. It’s a good sign.” Rivers also said Griffin has begun shooting and a return Sunday against Golden State is possible, though that seems a little early. Griffin last played Feb. 6 at Toronto.
  • Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press: Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers was concerned about Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett's mental state when he held up the trade from Minnesota to Boston. The trade meant Garnett would go from a losing Wolves team to the Celtics, who had a chance to win the NBA title. "We had to do some convincing; I was amazed by that," said Rivers, who was coaching the Celtics at the time. "I was worried about him for a while, mentally, what's wrong with this guy?" Garnett finally acquiesced to the trade in 2007, and Rivers and Garnett won the NBA title in 2008, their first of six seasons together. The reason for Garnett's reluctance was allegiance to his current home. "It's almost nutty loyalty," Rivers said. "He held up the trade in Boston twice. The original one he blew up. All the sense for him basketball-wise, it was to come to Boston to have a chance (at a ring). Then the second time when we got Ray (Allen), and would have Paul (Pierce) and Kevin, he still held the trade up because he didn't want to feel like he was bailing on Minnesota." Rivers then understood once Garnett joined him in Boston. "Then you find when you get him, you get it," Rivers said.
  • Josh Rubin of the Toronto Star: Throw in a Raptors team that has been mired in its worst slump of the season, and sitting and watching becomes even harder. But the fiery point guard says he’s had to learn to think about the long game. In this case, the NBA post-season. For the second straight game, Lowry sat out as the Raptors played his hometown Philadelphia 76ers Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Against the woeful Sixers, it turns out they didn’t need him after all, as they snapped a five-game losing streak with a 114-103 victory. If left to his own devices, Lowry admitted, he probably would have been out on the court. “At the same time, you are getting older in your career and you’ve got bigger plans than to try to go out there and force and force something, especially when you have bumps and bruises, where you can take some time to get healthy, the long term is the plan, the long term for our season is really the goal in mind,” said Lowry.
  • Tom Moore of The Intelligencer: JaVale McGee, we hardly knew thee. The 76ers waived McGee on Monday, 11 days after the team acquired him in a Feb. 19 trade for the Thunder's top-18 protected pick. McGee, a 6-foot-11 big man, averaged 3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 10.2 minutes in six games as a Sixer. The Sixers are responsible for the remainder of McGee's $11.25 million 2014-15 salary, as well as reportedly his entire $12 million next season. ... “The move was done more because it was the right thing to do, we felt, to give him the opportunity to go play with a playoff team,” Brett Brown said. “He was maligned. In my view, he was a hell of a teammate. He did nothing wrong. We're going to move on with younger guys.” Brown cited the “logjam” at power forward and wanting to take a longer look at recent signee Thomas Robinson and Turkey native Furkan Aldemir, who has two more guaranteed years at just under $6 million, as an additional reason McGee is no longer a Sixer.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Mark Cuban weighed in for the first time since the Rajon Rondo-Rick Carlisle spat before Monday’s Dallas Mavericks game against New Orleans. The owner’s take: Nothing to see here. When asked if he thought the coach and point guard could coexist, Cuban said: “No question in my mind. When you have strong, smart guys, they bash heads and that’s not a bad thing. They’re communicating more. I don’t see it as a problem. “The best companies have people who are confident enough to yell at each other. My partners have had more knock-down, drag-out screaming matches. That doesn’t bother me at all.” Cuban said he believes Carlisle will devise ways to make the offense more efficient while still utilizing Rondo’s best assets. It just may take a little time.
  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: Coach Monty Williams didn't make enough defensive adjustments to keep the Mavericks from driving to the basket for shots. Maybe, he should have tried some zone defenses or traps to force more jump shots. The Mavericks, however, spaced the floor and got their desired shots in the lane. The Pelicans looked fatigue from playing on Monday against Denver. Their guards couldn't stay in front of the Mavericks' guards and centers Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca were unable to provide enough effective rim protection.
  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: On Monday, Nuggets coach Brian Shaw denied his players were referring to the remaining time this season when they broke a huddle chanting with "1, 2, 3, six weeks!" in Friday night's home game against Utah. The chant, reported first in Sunday's Denver Post, drew national attention in the past day. Shaw said he referenced the long home losing streak in practice last week. "I said, probably three or four days ago in practice, that we hadn't won a home game in six weeks," Shaw said. "Which dated back to Jan.14, against the Dallas Mavericks, was the last time we won a home game here, which was six weeks ago. So, the comment that the players made when they got together and said '1, 2, 3, six weeks!' was the players saying 'this is the end of the six weeks, we're going to get a win tonight on our home court and break the six-week losing spell on our home court.' Not six weeks that it's the end of the season. Now, coincidentally it does happen to be a little over six weeks from then, that it's the end of the season. But I think our players and the Denver Nuggets as a whole were misrepresented in how that was reported."

Mike D'Antoni on Suns' golden years

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
5:11
PM ET
Elhassan By Amin Elhassan
ESPN.com
Archive
Former Suns head coach Mike D'Antoni sits down with his former employee, Amin Elhassan, to talk about playing in Italy, the Suns' golden years and how not to pronounce "bruschetta."

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First Cup: Monday

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
4:38
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Randy Harvey of the Houston Chronicle: The game Sunday at Toyota Center between the Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers was as close to any alley fight as you'll see in a regular-season game. It was not just one of 82. Playoff intensity is the phrase most often associated with the rare occasions when regular-season games make throats tighten and pulses race. But this game had more than playoff intensity. It had seventh-game intensity. ... But this game wasn't about any individual. Or two individuals. It was not about the best man winning. This game was about the Rockets' establishing themselves as a contender by displaying a toughness that has been lacking when they reached the playoffs in recent seasons. This didn't look like a one-and-done team. The Rockets stood their ground.
  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: With his team trailing by 26 points midway through the second quarter Sunday, Draymond Green sat on the bench and hoped that no cameras would catch his unusual reaction. “I was laughing,” the Warriors’ power forward said. “I just told everybody that there was a bunch of time left in the game, a lot of time.” The Warriors needed almost all of the game’s remaining 30 minutes to match the NBA’s biggest comeback of the season, riding Green’s confidence, Stephen Curry’s brilliance and a handful of other contributions to grind their way back to a 106-101 victory over the Celtics at TD Garden. Just two nights after being up by 41 points in Toronto, the Warriors found themselves down by double digits for a stretch of 21 minutes, 24 seconds that extended from the first quarter to the third and ballooned to 26 points at the 6:53 mark of the second. To trim the Celtics’ lead to a single digit, the Warriors generally showcased a small-ball lineup with Green (6-foot-7) playing center, defending 7-foot Tyler Zeller and switching to contest shots by 5-9 Isaiah Thomas. The Warriors limited Boston to 30.9 percent shooting in the final three quarters. Green “deserves some accolades for what he does,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said.
  • Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times: It takes some doing to keep DeAndre Jordan out of an NBA game. The last time it happened, on March 23, 2011, the Clippers center had been hospitalized the previous week because of a mild case of pneumonia. "Iron man," Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford said of his teammate. "He's unbelievable." Jordan played in his 300th consecutive game Sunday at the United Center during the Clippers' 9686 victory over the Chicago Bulls, extending the NBA's longest active streak. Jordan said there was no secret to his durability. "It means I'm lucky just to be able to play and not have any injuries to where it holds me out," he said. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said what's even more impressive than Jordan's consecutive games streak is his consecutive practices streak~ Rivers couldn't recall Jordan having sat out one in his two seasons as the team's coach. Clippers point guard Chris Paul said Jordan's presence in games has been such a constant that he couldn't imagine Jordan sitting in street clothes on the bench. ... Jordan remains a long way from threatening the franchise record of 595 consecutive games played by Randy Smith from February 1972 to April 1979.
  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: This Thunder season has gone from cursed to crazy. You’ve got to laugh, else you’ll cry. Forget “Thunderstruck.” Or “Oklahoma!” The new Thunder anthem is the theme from M*A*S*H. Good thing the NBA has its own health insurance; the Thunder alone would bankrupt ObamaCare. Now we know why Reggie Jackson wanted out of town so badly. He figured the Chesapeake scoreboard would fall on his head while he dribbled across halfcourt. Kevin Durant is the NBA MVPP. Most valuable podiatrist patient. He’s missed 33 games, with four episodes: foot fracture, sprained ankle, sore toe and a procedure to fix swelling around the fractured foot. This time, docs put in a headless screw. Geez, wish they’d have had that technology in October. Westbrook has missed 15 games, with the broken bones. Steven Adams, so tough that he played rugby back in New Zealand, has missed 10 games. A migraine and a broken hand. Adams. Westbrook. We’re talking rough and tumble dudes. Alley fighters. Now they’re like china in a bull shop. The plague has afflicted all but Serge Ibaka, who has answered the bell for all 60 games. Nick Collison is next on the list, with 53.
  • Mike Richman of The Oregonian: As important as the Blazers securing their first three game winning streak in over a month was the most important development came from the man running the offense. Simply put, Damian Lillard started to look like Damian Lillard again. After a forgettable start to 2015, Lillard has put together back-to-back performances more fitting of an All-Star point guard. After a 29-point game in a win over Oklahoma City on Friday, Lillard poured in 31 points (9 in the fourth quarter) along with seven assists and four rebounds. He shot 11-for-20 from the field, including 3-for-5 from the three-point line. He attacked the paint early, going the entire first half without shooting a three-pointer. Possession after possession he probed the defense either finishing at the rim or kicking out to a waiting teammate. He recorded five assists in the first half. And then when the game suddenly got close, Lillard showed flashes of the go-to scorer Portland relied on so heavily early in the season. Is it safe to say Lillard is back after he suffered through the worst shooting month of his career in February? "I have been feeling good, but shots weren't falling and things weren't going our way as a team. It was a little rough," Lillard said.
  • Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star: March can be kind to the Indiana Pacers, considering they have one of the softest schedules remaining among the Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls. However, this doesn't mean the Pacers plan on making it easy for themselves. Indiana defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 94-74 Sunday, even though stretches of the second half dragged with poor shooting from both sides and unexpected rallies from one of the worst teams in the league. Even though the Pacers held the Sixers, ranked last in the league in points per game, to just 28 in the second half, Philadelphia still trimmed a double-digit lead to seven or six points on multiple occasions. Yet, the Pacers still won by 20. Bad opponents have a way of mystifying basketball. ... Over the next seven games, the Pacers play more opponents like the Sixers: Orlando Magic, New York Knicks (twice) and Brad Stevens' surprising Boston Celtics, who can vie for the eighth seed but are still 11 games under the .500 mark. But if the Pacers can survive those challenges the same way they did Sunday – shooting only 16.7 percent from the 3-point circle and scoring just 14 points through the third quarter – they'll take the result while understanding the need to stay focused.
  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: The Pelicans have struggled on the road this season, but they closed out strong enough on Sunday night to beat the Denver Nuggets, 99-92, at the Pepsi Center. The victory allowed the ninth-seeded Pelicans, who are 12-17 on the road, to remain a half-game behind eighth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference playoff race. The Pelicans (32-27) are on a five-game winning streak, their longest of the season. It was the Pelicans' first win against the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center in seven games. New Orleans closes out its two-game road trip on Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks. "We have been in this position so many times I am sure guys understand we can win the game in different ways," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "Offensively, it wasn't there for the full 48 minutes; we just found a way to grind it out. For a young team, that's a big moment for us."
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Charlotte Hornets rookie P.J. Hairston was inactive for Sunday’s game against Orlando after missing a weight-training session. Two sources confirmed Hairston missed his weights obligation. It’s the latest in a series of transgressions large and small in Hairston’s rookie season. The Hornets traded for Hairston’s draft rights on draft night in June in a prearranged deal with the Miami Heat. Just before the start of summer-league practices, he got into an altercation with a high-school basketball player at a Durham YMCA. Charges related to that fight were later dropped at the request of the alleged victim. Hairston also retained a player-agent who hadn’t been certified by the National Basketball Players Association. Had the Hornets signed Hairston while he was still under noncertified representation, the team could have been subject to a fine from the NBA. Hairston was also made inactive from a December game against the Boston Celtics after an unexcused absence from practice.

Remembering Anthony Mason

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
7:45
PM ET
Elhassan By Amin Elhassan
ESPN.com
Archive

Amin Elhassan remembers an NBA great who passed away Saturday at age 48.


video

Hawks Or Cavs?

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
7:02
PM ET
By Kevin Arnovitz and Amin Elhassan
ESPN.com
video
Kevin Arnovitz and Amin Elhassan discuss which team is the best in the East, the Hawks or Cavs.


MIT Sloan 2015: Best of Day 2

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
5:31
PM ET
By Matt Walks
ESPN.com
Archive
BOSTON -- The annual Sloan sports analytics conference wrapped up with the annual presentation of the Alpha Awards on Saturday.

This year's award for best research paper was shared between "Who is Responsible for a Called Strike" and "Counterpoints: Advanced Defense Metrics for NBA Basketball," the latter of which was detailed extensively on Grantland earlier this week.

Elsewhere, the award for best analytics organization went to the San Antonio Spurs, with Spurs general manager R.C. Buford also collecting a lifetime achievement award for his role in the team's sustained excellence.

Earlier in the day, it was two other NBA general managers, Houston's Daryl Morey and Golden State's Bob Myers, who bantered throughout a panel on sports negotiations that also included sports agent Arn Tellem.

Moderator Deepak Malhotra gave Morey and Myers each a minute near the end of the panel to stump for their respective MVP candidates, James Harden and Stephen Curry.
"Take James Harden off our team, and we're nowhere," Morey said.

"I like to bring up that deal whenever I can," he joked, drawing teases from Myers and Malhotra. But the insight into the Rockets' decision to open the war chests was illuminating.

“We basically told [Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander], ‘We should just give [Oklahoma City] everything. Like, literally, every possible thing that isn’t bolted down at the Rockets should be traded,’” Morey said.

Myers was less overt about campaigning for Curry but did point out the Warriors' 4-0 record against the Rockets this season.

When each general manager had finished, Tellem leapt out of his chair.

"Russ Westbrook is better than both of them!" Tellem shouted. "Who would you pay to see?"

Westbrook, of course, is represented by Tellem.

Overheard at Sloan


"We don't want to see data. We want to see representations of the actual phenomena going on in the world." -- Kirk Goldsberry, expounding on his work designing defensive shot charts.

"Oh no, that was last year. They're good now." -- Goldsberry, invoking the Jazz as an example of terrible defense, only to correct himself and substitute in the Lakers.

"I don't really like human beings that much." -- Grantland's Jonah Keri, making a tongue-in-cheek case for robot umpires in baseball.

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