– Monty Williams’ Future in New Orleans (from Mason Ginsburg, bourbonstreetshots,com):
“ It is no secret that little has gone as planned this season for the new-look New Orleans Pelicans. Armed with the most offensive weapons since the Paul/West/Peja/Chandler days and positioned as one of the youngest rosters in the league, the plan was for this team to at least make a push for a playoff berth while growing together as a unit that may stick together for a while. Unfortunately, injuries to many key pieces have derailed that plan at least temporarily, as the Pelicans head for their third consecutive losing season. As the season progressed, the 2014 playoffs appeared like less and less of a realistic goal, and attention therefore began to turn towards how well the team is positioned to succeed as its franchise player, Anthony Davis, continues to climb towards superstar status. One of the most polarizing topics in this conversation has been the fate of the Pelicans’ head coach, Monty Williams.
Before proceeding, it must be noted that the purpose of this column is not to suggest that Monty Williams should be fired, nor that he should be extended. Both sides of the debate must be addressed, and then a decision must be made based on all available information. Depending on who you are or what you deem most important, that decision may very well differ. That being said, it is important to respect the positions of those who disagree as long as said position is based on either hard, cold facts or realistic assumptions based on historical data.”
Read Mason’s take on the “good and the bad” factors here: http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/04/07/monty-williams-future-in-new-orleans/
– Dirk Nowitzki’s legendary journey (from Tim MacMahon, ESPN):
“As he enters the top 10 in scoring, Nowitzki and others reflect on his career”
Read it here: http://espn.go.com/dallas/nba/story/_/id/10738416/dirk-nowitzki-cements-status-nba-legend-move-top-10-points
– Suns Look Back on How Team Came Together (from Matt Peterson, Suns.com):
” Goran Dragic still remembers the first time he met his teammates from the 2013-14 season. His impression?
“It was a lot of new faces.”
All but three (P.J. Tucker, Marcus and Markieff Morris) were new, to be exact.
Yet even after just a handful of informal workouts and a week of training camp, it was apparent to several of the players that the special, almost accidental unity every team strives for was already taking place.”
Read it here: http://www.nba.com/suns/news/suns-look-back-how-team-came-together-1
– Bulls’ Joakim Noah: ‘I’m an emotional roller-coaster’ (from Jeff Zillgitt, USAToday):
” Joakim Noah long has been one of the NBA’s most fiery players. Now the Chicago Bulls center has emerged as one of the best. What motivates him? Winning, family, teammates and more.”
Read it here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/bulls/2014/04/08/joakim-noah-chicago-mother-cecilia-rhode-father-yannick-derrick-rose-mvp/7176935/
– The Manimal Evolves (from Zach Lowe, Grantland.com):
” Kenneth Faried has always tried to focus on the good qualities the term “energy guy” denotes, but as he entered his third NBA season, he increasingly found the descriptor a limiting backhanded compliment.
“They all used to say, ‘All he is, is an energy guy,’” Faried says. “That I was a guy who was gonna run and jump, and that I could only get you nine or 10 points, max.” Faried wanted to bust that stereotype. He’s an undersize power forward who has struggled on defense and relied mostly on cuts, offensive rebounds, and other forms of scavenging for his points. That was enough to give him a clear long-term place in the league. But scoring is fun, and scorers get paid. A Faried who could get buckets, and perhaps even draw help defenders on the block, is a different species of Manimal.
Faried had been agitating for an increased role in Denver’s offense since Brian Shaw took over as coach, but his chance didn’t really come until Ty Lawson went down with ankle and foot issues just before the All-Star break. Shaw told the team it would need to find other sources of scoring, and Faried volunteered that this might be the perfect time to lean on his post-up game.
The results have been, frankly, kind of stunning, and present the Nuggets with a dilemma they likely didn’t expect six months ago, when they asked a targeted handful of teams whether they might be interested in acquiring Faried in exchange for a 2014 first-round pick or quality wing player on a rookie deal, per sources around the league.”
Read it here: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/kenneth-faried-manimal-evolution-denver-nuggets/
– How Brooklyn Turned Its Season Around (from Brook Koremenos, Grantland.com):
” The Brooklyn Nets are 33-13 since January 1 — the third-best record in the league during that time. It’s quite a turnaround for a team that was left for dead after Brook Lopez’s season-ending injury. Ironically, it’s been that bit of medical misfortune that opened the door for a broken Brooklyn team to become the biggest wild card in the upcoming playoffs.”
Read it here: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/beat-the-heat-how-brooklyn-turned-its-season-around-and-how-it-could-win-the-east/
– Kevin Durant Credits UConn Coach Kevin Ollie for Helping OKC Thunder Be Winners (from Zach Buckley, Bleacher Report):
” Current coach of the Connecticut Huskies—and, as of Monday night, a national champion—Kevin Ollie played 25 games of his 13-year NBA career with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
According to MVP front-runner Kevin Durant, that was all the time the veteran journeyman needed to leave an indelible mark on the franchise.
“Kevin Ollie, he was a game-changer for us,” Durant told Grantland’s Bill Simmons during All-Star weekend. “He changed the whole culture, I think. He might not say it, but I think he changed the whole culture in Oklahoma City.””
Read it here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2021558-kevin-durant-credits-uconn-coach-kevin-ollie-for-helping-okc-thunder-be-winners
– Is Rockets’ Dwight Howard Now an Underrated Superstar (from Howard Beck, Bleacher Report):
” Dwight Howard is still a very tall man, just shy of 7 feet, with a wingspan and personality to match. He still dominates the painted area of a basketball court. If you are an opposing player or coach, he is still difficult to ignore.
And yet something odd has happened in this, his 10thNBA season. Howard, this towering personality with the Superman complex, has become nearly invisible. Obscured. An afterthought.
Check the MVP leaderboards. Dwight Howard is not there.
Listen to the pundits gush about the league’s great young bigs. Joakim Noah and Roy Hibbert have commandeered the discussion. Anthony Davis generates the most excitement. DeMarcus Cousins, the most angst.
And Howard? What does he generate? Polite applause? Quiet appreciation?
Not long ago, Howard stood alongside LeBron James and Kevin Durant as the NBA’s most venerated young stars—the players every GM named when asked to pick one star to start a franchise.
Then Howard injured his back, forced his way out of Orlando, forced his way out of Los Angeles and alienated half the nation. By the time he arrived in Houston last summer, he was a broken player and a reviled figure.
And now? Now Dwight Howard has quietly turned the Rockets into a darkhorse contender in the rugged Western Conference. And generating indifference. He seems fine with this.”
Read it here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2018608-outside-the-spotlight-is-rockets-dwight-howard-now-an-underrated-superstar
– Amid all the losses, Young’s been winner (from Fran Blinebury, NBA.com):
” Thaddeus Young won’t get a trophy, but he should be given a lifetime achievement award for having lived through several of them with the 76ers this season.
Doggedly, determined, decisive.
It was the night when his 76ers had tied the NBA single season record with their 26th consecutive loss and the 6-foot-8 forward sat at his locker in Houston’s Toyota Center and answered every question the same way he has answered every challenge in the most difficult season of his basketball career. Head on.
“You just try to win the next game,” Young said.
Roughly 48 hours later, the crowd at Philly’s Wells Fargo Center would celebrate loudly when the Sixers beat the Pistons for their first victory since Jan. 29.
But there have been too few of those happy nights in a 17-win season when the organizational goals and the instincts of a competitor have churned in opposite directions.
The Sixers’ front office and coaching staff have been up front that it’s only the future that matters. Yet here is Young, 25, seeing the precious present of what should be the prime of his career tick away and refusing to simply mark time.
While the losses have piled up, Young’s energy and commitment to his job and team haven’t wavered.”
Read it here: http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2014/04/09/amid-all-the-losses-youngs-been-winner/
– Nerlens Noel: ‘Tough’ sitting (from ESPN.com):
” Calling his rookie season “a great learning experience,” Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel said Tuesday he still hopes to make his NBA debut in one of the team’s final five regular-season games but realizes the team’s cautious approach with him has been for the best.
“Obviously I do want to play,” Noel told reporters in Philadelphia. “I’m a 19-year-old who’s been sitting down on the sideline really wanting to get out there and show my abilities and to be able to play ball.
“It’s been tough, but it’s something we had to do.”
On Tuesday, Noel deemed his knee “100 percent,” saying he’s gained over 3 inches on his vertical leap since before the surgery and overall is “stronger and moving around well.” He’s also overhauled his shot with the help of 76ers coach Brett Brown
“I am very encouraged,” Noel said. “Through the past year since I had my injury, I have pushed myself through thick and thin and I’ve had some struggles and I’ve just stayed with it.
“I definitely worked my butt off to get where I am at now.”
Read it here: http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/10750257/nerlens-noel-philadelphia-76ers-says-knee-100-percent-hopes-return