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.

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.


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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.

Blazers show fire in overcoming Westbrook

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
3:26
AM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
Archive
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PORTLAND, Ore. -- Damian Lillard believed the Portland Trail Blazers hadn't been themselves lately.

The evidence was obvious.

Portland, once on Golden State's heels for the best record in the West, staggered into the All-Star break with nine losses over a stretch of 15 games. Then the Blazers stumbled into the stretch run after a full week off with their worst loss of the season in a 92-76 setback in Utah.

"It wasn't the same energy," Lillard said of the recent malaise. "It just didn't feel like us."

A far more familiar feeling returned Friday night, when the Blazers frantically erased a double-figure deficit in the fourth quarter and absorbed a third consecutive triple-double assault from Russell Westbrook to hold off Oklahoma City 115-112 for their most important win of the season.

[+] EnlargeRussell Westbrook, Arron Afflalo
Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Blazers managed to overcome Russell Westbrook's third straight triple-double.
Typically, coaches and players don't overstate the significance of a regular-season game, especially in February. But Portland coach Terry Stotts took the opposite approach entering Friday's game against division rival OKC. Stotts spoke before the game about the opportunity the Blazers had to not only build on a productive week, but to move to 3-0 and clinch the season series against the Thunder.

Then, Lillard went out and notched his highest-scoring game in a month with 29 points.

Then, LaMarcus Aldridge followed with a phenomenal outburst in the fourth quarter, when he neutralized Westbrook's impact and finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds. Role players Nicolas Batum and Wes Matthews shot a combined 4-for-19 from the field, but it was the shot in the arm they provided on defense to help slow Westbrook that highlighted their efforts.

Then, newly-acquired swingman Arron Afflalo made some key plays in the final seconds to seal the win.

It had all of the ingredients of the type of basketball the Blazers played at the beginning of the season, when everyone was healthy, happy and contributing to one of the best starts in franchise history. The Blazers rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final eight minutes to improve to 9-2 at home this season in games when they entered the fourth quarter trailing.

Some might see that as flirting with danger. The Blazers see it as resilience.

"It was an important win for how we managed to stick with it, come back, fight through some adversity," Stotts said. "I don't think we necessarily played our best, but we found a way. It'll do us well going forward. Like I said before the game, as much as the implications were as far as the division and tiebreaker, it was as much or more about the 20-something games to go and finding ways to win."

It helps when Lillard is engaged and aggressive. Perhaps Westbrook commanded his full attention in the point guard matchup. With 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, Westbrook became the first player since LeBron James in 2009 to post triple-doubles in three consecutive games. Westbrook received a scare late in the game when he was inadvertently kneed in the head by a teammate and was taken after the game to a Portland-area medical facility for further evaluation.

But the Blazers met -- and ultimately -- exceeded Westbrook's energy and tenacity.

It helps when Aldridge, who had been dealing with injuries to both thumbs, grasped the challenge of getting into the paint and dominating that area on both ends of the court. Aldridge admitted afterward that he spoke up aggressively in timeout huddles to spark his team.

"I don't even remember what anybody else was saying, because I was talking," Aldridge said.

He did far more than talk. His actions spoke volumes during a stretch when he had nine points, five rebounds, two assists and a block in the fourth quarter to ignite the Blazers. At one point, Aldridge completely abandoned his feathery-soft perimeter jumper and repeatedly attacked the lane. It resulted in Portland holding an 18-8 edge in free throw attempts in the fourth quarter.

"I just felt like the game was right there for us to take," Aldridge said. "We never believe that we're out of it. We understand that if we turn up our defense and play to the level we're capable of, anything is possible. Our guys played together. Our confidence is back. It wavered for a minute. But our swagger in the fourth quarter has come back to us. And that's good."

And that was the point Lillard made from the outset. In the West, where teams are bunched together in a thrilling race to secure playoff seeds, the postseason intensity has arrived early in Portland.

"The way that we were there for each other -- the high fives, the emotion from everybody -- I think it's back to what we're accustomed to. That's what we do. We play exciting basketball games and get the crowd into it. And that's what we did," Lillard said.

MIT Sloan 2015: Best Of Day 1

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
6:33
PM ET
By Matt Walks
ESPN.com
Archive
Adam Silver headlined the last panel of the first day of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and among the topics the NBA commissioner discussed was the future ability of fans to watch an NBA game from a first-person virtual perspective.

Companies such as Samsung and Oculus are making it possible for consumers to experience events in revolutionary ways, and Silver believes it could be key to reach billions of global NBA fans who would never have the opportunity to see a game in person.

[+] EnlargeAdam Silver
Tom Dulat/Getty Images for LeadersNBA commissioner Adam Silver said the day may come when fans experience the NBA virtually.
"It's not a substitute for the real, live communal experience of being in a building with thousands of people," Silver said. "Arenas are modern-day town halls . . . But I think it really has an ability to change what it means from a media standpoint for what we can provide to our fans."

Could the day come when you purchase a digital courtside seat?

Elsewhere . . .

Shane Battier may have been the MVP of Day 1. The former NBA player spoke on three panels and punctuated his support of advanced analytics in basketball with droll anecdotes from his playing career.

One of his best stories took place during the early 2000s, when he played for Hubie Brown's Memphis Grizzlies. The nascent idea of advanced stats was becoming a popular topic of conversation, so Brown gathered his team together and told them he knew the real secret to winning basketball.

As the staff and players leaned forward, ready to take notes, Brown took to the chalkboard:

"If you do not have good players," Brown wrote, "you will not win."

Later, Battier discussed the motivation superstars add to a team.

"Peer pressure is the most powerful force on a sports team," Battier said. In his experience, he said, players like Steve Nash and Kevin Garnett raise the level of their entire teams just by example.

Overheard at Sloan

“The two keys in fourth-grade girls’ basketball are this: Can you make a layup, and do all of your players show up? Because if all 10 show up, you have to play them equally, but if you can convince two that they’re really sick ... your two best players play three quarters. That’s how you win at fourth-grade girls’ basketball.” -- ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, embarking on a tangential rant about Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive

"Are you worried your shrimp cocktail on the plane is going to be a little bit warmer?" -- Former head coach Mike D'Antoni, on the concerns of travel fatigue on NBA players

"To be honest with you, they're doing great things with therapy. I'm good." D'Antoni in response to a fan question of whether coaching Carmelo Anthony's ball-stopping tendencies gave him "nightmares"

"This is the panel I’m moderating because, as Charles Barkley put it, I couldn’t get girls in high school.” -- ESPN The Magazine writer Pablo Torre, having a little fun with Barkley's recent comments about basketball's stat nerds

The state of Larry Sanders

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
5:13
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Kevin Arnovitz discusses Larry Sanders and the quest to find an active player to be the face of mental health in the NBA.

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Luol Deng keeps surviving

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
5:10
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Amin Elhassan discusses Luol Deng and all of the ugliness that he has been subjected to in his life, including racist remarks this past summer.

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Jeff Van Gundy's tip for fourth-grade hoops

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
1:56
PM ET
By Andy Larsen
Special to ESPN.com
Archive
Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive once starred in a 2009 Malcolm Gladwell story called "How David Beats Goliath" about using unconventional methods to overcome big obstacles.

In Ranadive's case, it was coaching a 12-year-old girls' team to a championship game by aggressively deploying a full-court press.

Speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Friday, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said in his own coaching, he prefers a different tactic.

"That owner of Sacramento, saying that he won a girls championship with no talent just by pressing? I’m like, are you kidding me?" Van Gundy said. "I coached fourth-grade girls basketball this year. It’s all about the players!”

Van Gundy’s youth-team experience gives him a different perspective on being a successful girls’ team coach: “The two keys in fourth-grade girls’ basketball are this: Can you make a layup, and do all of your players show up? Because if all 10 show up, you have to play them equally, but if you can convince two that they’re really sick ... your two best players play three quarters. That’s how you win at fourth-grade girls’ basketball.”

There was no word on how successful Van Gundy’s girls’ teams have been.
2013 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics ConferenceDov Friedmann/NBAE/Getty Images

First Cup: Friday

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
4:46
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Kevin Durant and Steven Adams both went through light on-court workouts before Thursday’s game at Phoenix. Durant, who is recovering from a second surgery to his right foot, did some light shooting from various spots, even taking shots from as far out as the 3-point line. Durant, however, did not take jump shots. His feet barely left the court on all his shots. Durant also did a series of calisthenics, including inverted push-ups and a core exercise using resistance ropes. A timetable for Durant’s return to the lineup is still unknown. He is scheduled to be evaluated early next week. ... Adams, meanwhile, joined fellow big men Enes Kanter and Mitch McGary in a workout with coaches. ... Adams has been out since fracturing the fourth metacarpal in his right hand on Feb. 8. He also is scheduled to be re-evaluated early next week.
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: A year ago, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic were the ceremonial co-captains of the Suns, but P.J. Tucker and Channing Frye emerged as the team's leaders. Tucker continues to bring the moxie to yell at teammates and display the unbridled effort for a young team to follow, but all of the ideal ingredients for the next Suns leader might be present in Brandon Knight. At 23 years old and one week as a Sun, it would be too soon to turn the franchise over to Knight's leadership, particularly with a restricted free agency status coming in July. But Knight is already showing a willingness to be vocal with teammates that is backed well by his playing ability and his basketball intelligence. "He understands the game, so that's always helpful," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said.
  • Diamond Leung of The Oakland Tribune: Steve Kerr had a simple explanation for the Warriors' 110-99 loss at Cleveland. "The best player on the planet from the last five years had a huge night on us," the coach said. LeBron James dominated with 42 points in his first game against the Warriors this season, providing a reminder that he is once again very much a candidate for the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award. James' 15-for-25 shooting performance happened to come on a Thursday night when Stephen Curry, the Warriors' MVP candidate, was in the building. Curry scored 18 points on 5-for-17 shooting, with only four of his points coming in the second half. He also committed four turnovers. "If I'm playing one on one against (James) and you just look at tonight, then I lost obviously," Curry said of the MVP race. "But it's about a body of work. It's about what your team's doing. It's about just being consistent over the course of the season. And that's my job. Tonight just wasn't my best, and it won't be the last bad game of my career, so I'll be all right." ... "I gotta be the MVP for these guys, the 14 guys in this locker room," James said, downplaying that the presence of Curry had something to do with his big game."
  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: Any celebration over this victory will have to wait until the results are back on Kyrie Irving’s MRI. It’s surprising, if he needs an MRI, that he was even put back in the game in the fourth quarter. The initial in-game injury update indicated Irving shoulder was “bumped” but he was fine. If he’s headed to the Clinic, clearly all is not well. Irving is listed as doubtful for Friday’s game against the Pacers, a team that ended the Cavs’ 12-game winning streak three weeks ago at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. This is why the Cavs were searching for another point guard at the trade deadline. It will be curious to see which way Blatt plays this. Common sense would indicate Matthew Dellavedova starts at point guard, but it wouldn’t completely shock me to see Iman Shumpert in the starting rotation. James is the pseudo point guard anyway and Shumpert has also played there in spurts this season. Again, the smart money is on Delly starting, but I don’t think that’s a lock at this point.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Rick Carlisle and Rajon Rondo are going through the recovery process after their temper flare-up Tuesday led to Rondo’s suspension for Wednesday’s game at Atlanta. It’s a fact of life when you’re a point guard, said Devin Harris, a 10-year veteran. It’s particularly important when it comes to play-calling and what the right mix is for a coach calling the shots and a point guard having the freedom to run the team. He is, after all, an extension of the coach, right? ... At this point, it doesn’t matter if Rondo has any intentions of re-signing with the Mavericks beyond this season. All that matters is right now — and the Mavericks’ position as a legitimate contender with the ability to make serious noise in the playoffs. That still hasn’t changed, by the way. ... With only 22 games left in the regular season, the clock already is ticking. The Mavericks are coming off five games in seven days. They took Thursday as a complete rest day.
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: To think Rondo and Carlisle wouldn’t have problems is to mix two parts hydrogen with one part oxygen and be utterly stunned at the creation of water. The accelerant here was expectation. The Mavericks were hoping Rondo would be the element that could work well with what they already had and legitimize their shot at this season’s championship. But his play had grown inconsistent, and Rondo lost some important fourth-quarter minutes to others. With Dallas down nine to Toronto in the third quarter Tuesday, Carlisle called a play, but Rondo had something else in mind. And while it is generally accepted that, in such split-second situations, NBA teams most often go with the point guard’s call, a boiling point had been reached. And the fact is Rondo comes equipped with a Bunsen burner. His first coach with the Celtics, Doc Rivers, said that these things happen with a number of players and added that Carlisle and Rondo will “figure it out; I really believe that.” It’s all about adapting to one’s environment. This is not to suggest that Rick Carlisle needs to change his life to suit Rajon Rondo’s mood, but he should not have expected anything less than the response he got when he called out someone who’s made a living off small man’s anger.
  • Jason Reid of The Washington Post: The Washington Wizards have 24 games remaining in the regular season, and they seem utterly incapable of winning any of them. Their strong start a distant memory, the Wizards are lost, and Coach Randy Wittman appears to be asleep at the wheel. When a team that was on a fast track to joining the Eastern Conference’s elite can’t get anything right for months, the person in charge should come under the microscope. The debate about Wittman’s job performance figures only to intensify after the Wizards flopped again in Wednesday’s 97-77 road loss to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves. ... For the Wizards to get it back together, Wittman must consider a lineup shakeup. Roles need to be redefined. The return of Beal, who is expected back soon, will give Wittman more lineup flexibility. And although tinkering always can be done with X’s and O’s, getting the Wizards’ heads right will be Wittman’s biggest challenge. He has to persuade them to recommit to what worked: playing sound defense, sharing the ball and being tough. He’ll have to rely on his motivational skills. Of course, the players have to expect more from themselves, too. Washington is a veteran team with a roster full of self-starters, though recent weeks have offered little evidence of that.

Jump shots win championships

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
2:07
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
The opposite is the conventional wisdom, but teams like the Spurs and the Hawks are part of an evolving NBA where good shooting wins.

video

First Cup: Thursday

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
5:01
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: George Karl has a certain level of empathy for the Kings after more than a week on the job. The Kings are playing for their third coach this season, and they’re adjusting to different strategies for the second time this season. ... Karl knows he must be patient. But patience shouldn’t be confused with acceptance of how things have been. The Kings need to break habits such as taking contested shots, not passing enough and committing turnovers. They are far from being what Karl wants them to be, but they were good enough to beat one the NBA’s best teams, the Memphis Grizzlies, 102-90 Wednesday night at Sleep Train Arena. Sacramento is 2-1 under Karl, with both victories coming at home. The Kings pleased Karl when they didn’t cave in after the Grizzlies roughed them up with their physical style while taking the lead at the end of the third quarter.
  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: On Wednesday, in a game that was bigger than any Trail Blazers player let on, Matthews was the tipping point in an 111-95 win over San Antonio that cauterized some festering anxiety in Rip City. With 31 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals - and a handful of court burns - Matthews helped stop a two-game losing streak and provided what could turn out to be a game we circle at the end of the season as an important date. Every once in a while during the long and winding NBA season, there comes a game, or a moment, that goes a long way to changing a team's season. Last season, the benchmark date came at the end of March, in Orlando after a loss to the lowly Magic. It was the eighth loss in 11 games for the Blazers and suddenly their cozy playoff standing was not only slipping, it was in jeopardy. In the locker room after that game Matthews stood before the team and gave a spirited and to-the-point speech that it was time to wake up. The Blazers closed the season winning nine of their final 10 games. After the season, LaMarcus Aldridge said of the team's turnaround: "Wes did it. Give all the credit to Wes. His speech." Fast forward to this season, and Wednesday at the Moda Center. In a different way, Matthews once again provided an important wake-up call.
  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: Jordan Hill sat on the bench staring at his cell phone and looking fairly downtrodden. Nick Young showed as much stoicism as he sat by his locker. Their demeanor prior to when the Lakers visited the Utah Jazz on Wednesday at EnergySolutions Arena starkly contrasted to how they acted following the Lakers’ overtime win on Sunday over Boston. Then Hill, Nick Young and Carlos Boozer crashed Jeremy Lin’s postgame interview and expressed elation over a rare victory. The footage soon aired on Jimmy Kimmel Live, where Kobe Bryant offered an annoyed and silent reaction. Lakers coach Byron Scott then reported scolding his team about the incident. “Kobe, in particular, made everybody look at it differently,” Young said. “If ESPN said something about it the night it happened or the next day, I understand. To me, they waited until they saw Kobe react to it.” ... "We’ve been doing this the whole season, but I guess it’s a problem now,” Hill said. “It is what it is.” Yet, Young and Hill walked the tight rope between respecting Scott’s criticism and defending their behavior. “He’s right about it,” Hill said about Scott. “But we’re just trying to finish this season out with our heads high.” Young acknowledged he defended himself “a little bit” to Scott.
  • Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com: The Timberwolves and nearly 20,000 fans partied like it was 1995 on Wednesday night. The Target Center walls were donned with fresh murals, the crowd exceeded seating capacity, Montell Jordan was the halftime act and 20 years later, a fairy tale story came full circle for a sports city in need of energy. Flashes from the past hovered over Kevin Garnett as a video tribute began: "With the fifth pick in the 1995 draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select..." And for the first time in 588 games, "Wolves" draped across Garnett's chest once again. "It actually felt like my rookie year," Garnett said. "With the energy and anticipation, looking in the crowd, saw my friends and family. Glad my daughters were here to see that. It was a really special time, I can't even put it into words. I thank everybody that came out to show love for the city. I'm happy to be here. I'm hoping we can get some more wins, give the city and everybody something to be excited about." In the 7.5 years without Garnett, the franchise has been starved of success and currently holds the NBA's longest drought without a playoff berth. There won't be a postseason in Minnesota again this year, but fans and moving tributes created a playoff atmosphere for the Timberwolves' 13th win of the season and first with Garnett since 2007.
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The Rockets had lost their previous six and 11 of 12 games against the Clippers when finally, they took a one-point game and played their own greatest hits. The Rockets took off with waves of 3-pointers, a run from their suddenly high-flying bench and enough of James Harden down the stretch to knock off the Clippers, 110-105, their way. “We just wanted to … be able to create our own identity,” Josh Smith said. “That’s playing up and down and playing the way we know how to play.” That meant moving the ball to open 3-pointers. With the Clippers putting two defenders on Harden outside and swarming to him inside, the Rockets matched their season-high with 17 3-pointers, putting up 44 attempts from beyond the arc. They had made at least 15 3s in an NBA record 14 games (going 12-2), already four more than the previous record. It meant turned to their high-speed second unit led by Corey Brewer and Smith to start the fourth quarter, scoring nine fast break points – including a no-look pass Pablo Prigioni bounced through his legs to Brewer – in a 15-1 run that changed the game. “They played well,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.
  • Matt Winkeljohn of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Yeah, I think Dennis likes playing Dallas for a couple reasons,” teammate Kyle Korver said after Schroder led Atlanta in scoring in a 104-87 win. “It’s the German thing.” Indeed, leading Atlanta’s bounce-back from a dreadful 34-22 first-quarter hole, Schroder was special. He scored eight points in the second while draining 2-of-3 3-pointers and adding two of his four assists.Yep, there’s something about the big D – Dirk Nowitzki. Schroder’s countryman, easily the most famous German basketball player, was in the house with the Mavs. So, Dennis did what he does with amplitude in helping the Hawks pull within 53-47 by halftime. On a a 7-of-15 shooting night that included a career-high three 3-pointers made in five attempts, he brought attitude. “With Dirk, another German player, yeah, I’m competitive, too,” Schroder said. “You want to show other German players that you can play the game at a high level.
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: The perception in July: Lance Stephenson’s versatility will lift this team and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is some dude who can’t shoot. The reality in February: Kidd-Gilchrist’s versatility lifts this team and Stephenson looks like a dude who can’t shoot. Mo Williams had a horrible start to this game, committing two shooting fouls outside the 3-point line in the first seven minutes. But his third quarter – 13 points and three assists – might have been the biggest factor in the Hornets breaking that five-game losing streak. You won’t see the Hornets score 17 fast-break points on a regular basis. It’s not because they don’t choose to run, they’re just not particularly built to be that team.
  • Jay King of MassLive.com: Calling a stress fracture in his left foot "God's plan," Boston Celtics big man Jared Sullinger said the light switched has finally flipped in regards to changing his body. The 22-year-old said he will not undergo surgery, but has been ruled out for the rest of the season. Discussing his approach to recovery, Sullinger said, "Change the physique, change the way I look. That's the biggest thing, I think, is just change the way I look. I'm tired of looking on camera and just seeing how I look and seeing how I play during extended minutes. Conditioning's going to be a big factor." Including a back surgery that ended his rookie season, this will be the second season-ending injury of Sullinger's career. The third-year pro has long called shedding weight a focus. He stated a goal of losing more than 20 pounds last offseason. He openly acknowledges his lack of conditioning and has always suggested he could reach another level with improvement in that area. ... Despite his goals, Sullinger said he has no plans to hire a personal nutritionist, adding that he has lost weight and changed his body before.
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: The Bill Walker Game! (I mean the Henry Walker Game!) Heck, it could have been the Henry Winkler Game. This was one the Heat could not lose. Somehow they found a way. Barely. Not that that matters in the standings. What matter is a victory gained when not all was going as scripted. So while Goran Dragic was off with his shot, he did keep the ball moving. And he did make the most important free throws of the game.Elfrid Payton's defense against Dragic also was a factor. But the Heat also recognize that this has to be about more than Dragic. And there was a lot more Wednesday. When no one else could, Dwyane Wade stepped up with a 3-pointer when needed in the fourth quarter, when the Heat were 3 of 20 from beyond the arc to that stage. A wayward hero-ball attempt followed. And another. Then Walker turned into the game's true hero. Bang. Bang.
  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: John Henson played a big role off the bench in Milwaukee's 104-88 rout of the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night. Henson finished with a season-high 21 points and added nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals while playing 29 minutes. "Left hook, that's my thing," Henson said. "Whenever I can get that off, there's a good chance it can go in." Henson hit 9 of 12 shots and fell just two points shy of his career-high point total established last season against Toronto. Henson had been starting at center for the previous 11 games, but Bucks coach Jason Kidd went back to veteran Zaza Pachulia as the starter on Wednesday. "I thought John was great for us coming off the bench," Kidd said. "He gave us a big spark. We even played through him in the post to give him some opportunities. "He's doing a lot of work for us defensively, rebounding and blocking shots and helping the little guys on the pick-and-roll." The Bucks bench had slipped a bit recently but it was back in form with 50 points against the 76ers, including 13 by Jerryd Bayless, nine by newcomer Tyler Ennis and seven by Jared Dudley.
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: On trade day a week ago, Suns executives put a selfish label on some of the Suns players who were traded and implored the team to recapture last season's unselfishness. In the first three games after the break, the Suns averaged 24.3 assists after averaging 20.6 on the season. "Everybody gets involved," Jeff Hornacek said. "Everybody's moving the ball. When you hesitate with the ball and don't move it, then it ends up being a one-on-one. Things are designed to move the ball and make quick decisions. Hopefully, we'll do a better job of that and continue that. It also doesn't allow the defense for the other team to set. When you go one-on-one, they're in the help spots."

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