Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 12/14/16

–  Footwork Can Be The Difference Between Good And Great  (from Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer):

Read and watch it here:  https://theringer.com/nba-footwork-demar-derozan-giannis-antetokounmpo-jj-redick-c7819c1289b9#.sgsnlcw3g

–  Week 7 In Review: Giannis And Much More  (from Justin Willard, Nylon Calculus):

Read it here:  https://fansided.com/2016/12/13/nylon-calculus-shooting-fouls-60-points-giannis-mvp/

Is Kawhi’s Defense So Great That It Hurts The Spurs? (from Matt Moore, CBS Sports):

Read and watch it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/kawhi-leonard-is-so-great-at-defense-hes-actually-hurting-the-spurs/

Hornacek’s ATOs  (from Zach Diluzio, Poasting And Toasting):

Read and watch it here:  http://www.postingandtoasting.com/2016/12/13/13930510/jeff-hornacek-s-after-timeout-plays-have-been-wonderful

Fizdale:  LBJ Values Perfection Too Much To Be A Coach  (from Dave McMenamin, ESPN):

Read it here:  http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/18273241/david-fizdale-memphis-grizzlies-see-cleveland-cavaliers-star-lebron-james-future-coach

Steven Adams: On Track To Becoming OKC’s Next Star (from Susan Bible, Basketball Insiders):

Read it here:  http://www.basketballinsiders.com/steven-adams-on-track-to-become-thunders-next-star/

Jamal Murray: Steal Of The Draft?  (from Jake Fischer, Sports Illustrated):

Read it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2016/12/14/jamal-murray-denver-nuggets-rookie-kentucky-mike-malone/

–  Durant And Curry Torch Teams Without Even Touching The Ball (from Scott Rafferty, FanSided):

Read and watch it here:  http://fansided.com/2016/12/14/durant-curry-screens-off-ball-warriors/

–  The Raptors’ Points Per Possession: Off The Charts  (from James Herbert, CBS Sports):

Read it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/if-you-hadnt-noticed-the-raptors-currently-have-the-best-offense-in-nba-history/

From Mike Ganter, Postmedia Network):  http://www.theprovince.com/sports/basketball/toronto+raptors+having+remarkable+success+shooting/12522797/story.html

From Blake Murphy, Raptors Republic:  http://www.raptorsrepublic.com/2016/12/14/raptors-scoring-well-warriors/

–  5 Reasons Why Rockets Could Be Western Conf. Dark Horse  (from Gerald Bourguet, Hoops Habit):

Read it here; http://hoopshabit.com/2016/12/14/houston-rockets-5-reasons-western-dark-horses/

–  Tuesday Recap  (from Tim Cato, SBNation):

Read it here:  http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2016/12/14/13948352/2016-nba-scores-atlanta-hawks-losing-streak

From Kurt Helin, NBC Sports:  http://nba.nbcsports.com/2016/12/14/three-things-we-learned-tuesday-in-chicago-thibodeaus-minnesota-team-shows-tenacity-finally/

Players Of The Night: Kevin Love/Eric Bledsoe  (from Chris Ryan, The Ringer):

Read and watch it here:  https://theringer.com/kevin-love-grizzlies-cavs-all-star-king-court-808c86649b23#.49wy1meh6

–  The Warriors Are Passing Their Way To History  (from Positive Residual, Nylon Calculus):

Read it here:  https://fansided.com/2016/12/13/nylon-calculus-warriors-passing-history/

Exploring Why The Bulls Beat Good Teams And Then Lose To Bad Ones  (from Chris Herring, fivethirtyeight.com):

Read it here: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-the-bulls-beat-the-best-teams-and-then-lose-to-the-worst-ones/

–  The Battered Grizzlies Are As Close To Perfection As They’ve Ever Been (from Colin McGowan, RealGM):

Read it here: http://basketball.realgm.com/article/244271/The-Battered-Grizzlies-Are-As-Close-To-Perfection-As-Theyve-Ever-Been

–  Most Telling Stats From Lakers’ Losing Streak  (from Eric Yee, Lake Show Life):

Read it here:  http://lakeshowlife.com/2016/12/14/lakers-7-game-losing-stream-most-telling-stats-injury-turnovers-defense/

–  Turning The Timberwolves Around  (from Andy Grimsrud, A Wolf Among Wolves):

Read it here;  http://www.awolfamongwolves.com/2016/12/inbox-wolves-transition-d-struggles-rethinking-this-stage-of-development/

George Hill:  Unlocking The Jazz’ Ceiling As Contender  (from Brad Rowland, Dime Magazine);

Read it here;  http://uproxx.com/dimemag/george-hill-utah-jazz/

–  The Effectiveness Of The Different Spurs’ Lineups So Far This Season  (from Dimitrije Curcic, airalamo.com)

Read it here:  http://airalamo.com/2016/12/13/searching-perfect-spurs-lineup/

–  Rodney McGruder: Heat Bright Spot  (from Joshua Saunders,  The Hardwood Nation):

Read it here: https://thehardwoodnation.net/2016/12/13/rodney-mcgruder-the-one-bright-spot-for-the-miami-heat/

–  James Johnson Hopes He’s Found An NBA Home  (from Anthony Chicang, Palm Beach Post):

Read it here:  http://heatzone.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2016/12/13/james-johnson-hopes-hes-found-an-nba-home-with-the-miami-heat/

How The Rockets’ Survive The Moments Without James Harden  (from Rob Mahoney, Sports Illustrated):

Read it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2016/12/14/rockets-james-harden-mike-dantoni-patrick-beverley-eric-gordon

 Porzingis’ Pick-And-Pops Are Unguardable  (from Jeff Siegel, FanSided):

Read and watch it here:  http://fansided.com/2016/12/14/kristaps-porzingis-pick-and-pop/

–  Jae Crowder’s Defense  (from Peter Stringer, celtics.com):

Read it here:  http://www.nba.com/celtics/news/sidebar/prac-121316-jae-crowder-kawhi-leonard-defense

–  Tristan Thompson, Rim Protector  (from Kevin Nye, Hashtag Basketball):

Read it here:  http://www.hashtagbasketball.com/cleveland-cavaliers/content/tristan-thompson-rim-protector

–  How Boston Changed Its Mind And Lost Out On Tony Parker  (from Chris Forsberg, ESPN):

Read it here:  http://www.espn.in/nba/story/_/id/18273391/lamenting-another-super-spur-boston-never-got

 Steve Kerr Wants Extra Ref Focused Solely On Travel Calls (from Connor Letourneau, SFGate):

Read it here:  http://www.sfgate.com/warriors/article/Steve-Kerr-wants-extra-ref-focused-solely-on-10793776.php

 The Night Billy Kennedy Went Back To Work  (from Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN):

Read it here:  http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/page/12dayschristmas9/the-night-billy-kennedy-went-back-work-nba

–  Zubac Gains Experience In The D-League (from Joey Ramirez, lakers.com):

Read it here:  http://www.nba.com/lakers/news/161213-ivica-zubac-d-fenders

 

Today’s Top NBA Preseason Stories

– The state of coaching in the NBA: Who’s safe, who’s on the hot seat? (from Ben Golliver, Sports Illustrated):

” The comically tumultuous nature of NBA coaching is easily summed up: 30 percent of the league’s teams enter the 2014-15 season with a new coach, and that figure amounts to a dramatic improvement compared to the instability seen last year.

Indeed, only nine of the league’s 30 teams hired new coaches this offseason, a sharp dip from the 14 teams that completed coaching changes prior to the 2013-14 season. Five of those nine teams were actually repeat offenders, as the BucksCavaliersLakersNets and Pistons all found themselves looking for new coaches after their 2013 hires didn’t work out for one reason (losing) or another (egos).”

Read it here: http://www.si.com/nba/2014/10/17/state-of-coaching-in-nba-hot-seat

– Warriors Hope Steve Kerr Is the Final Ingredient in Creating an NBA Juggernaut (from Howard Beck, Bleacher Report):

” Kerr’s challenge now is to harness that talent more effectively—and take it further—than his predecessor, Mark Jackson, could. Though the Warriors won 47 and 51 games the last two seasons, making the playoffs both years, there was always a sense they had underachieved.

The Warriors tapped Kerr to unlock their full offensive potential.

The Curry-Thompson backcourt might be the NBA‘s best (a “beautiful combination,” Kerr says). Lee is a skilled scorer. Iguodala and Bogut are deft passers. The Warriors should be one of the most potent teams in the NBA. Yet they ranked 12th last season in points per 100 possessions—solid, but not elite.

The offense too often stalled and stagnated, resulting in muddled isolation plays and contested jumpers. There was little movement or dynamism, and little sense of cohesion.”

Read it here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2232010-warriors-hope-steve-kerr-may-be-final-ingredient-in-creating-nba-juggernaut

– Nuggets rookie Jusuf Nurkic gobbling up rebounds (from Nate Timmons, denverstiffs.com):

” Make no bones about it, Nurkic is still very much a work in progress, but the promise he has shown already is encouraging. He has shown various post moves (various touch on those shots, too), shot blocking ability, a pretty decent looking jumper, a willing passer, and perhaps most importantly: he uses his body well.

Nurkic likes to mix it up to gain or deny post position, and can often be found jockeying for rebounding position under the hoop. Jusuf has a knack for tracking down the ball, and that’s not just him being a space eater. One of the first things I noticed about Nurkic, with the Nuggets, is how he moves when a shot is about to go up. Nurkic begins the rebounding process as the shooter is getting ready to launch and that puts him in optimal position, quite often. He understands boxing out, but more than that, he understands how to use his body to his advantage.”

Read and view it here: http://www.denverstiffs.com/2014/10/20/7009603/denver-nuggets-rookie-jusuf-nurkic-gobbling-up-rebounds

– For Trail Blazers to take next step, defense must improve (from Jeff Caplan, nba.com):

Read it here: http://www.nba.com/preview/2014/POR/index.html?ls=iref:nbahpt13a

– Magic’s Willie Green and assistant GM Scott Perry share a mutual respect (from Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel):

” About four months ago, the Los Angeles Clippers released veteran guard Willie Green, and when it happened, Green intended to sign with an NBA title contender. Green, who was on the cusp of his 3rd birthday, wasn’t interested in joining a rebuilding team.

So Green understandably felt concerned when he learned the Orlando Magic, one of the league’s worst teams, claimed him off waivers.

“I’m not going to kid you, I was surprised,” Green remembers.

But Magic assistant general manager Scott Perry helped mitigate Green’s apprehension. Perry and Green have known each other since the 1990s, going back to Green’s days as a high-school player in Detroit. Perry and Green built a friendship over the years, and their mutual respect played a key role in easing Green’s worries about joining the Magic”

Read it here: http://www.kansas.com/sports/nba/article3081846.html

– Memphis Grizzlies X-Factors: 3 Key Role Players in 2014-2015 (from Joe Mullinax, grizzlybearblues):

” On a team as deep as the Memphis Grizzlies, there are some potentially forgotten stories. Players who maybe don’t command the attention of a Zach Randolph or the questions of potential like a Jordan Adams, but that does not lessen the potential impact that their presence (or lack thereof) will make on the upcoming season. Who among these lesser contemplated Grizzlies will make the most impact?”

Read about and view Jon Leuer, Courtney Lee and Kosta Koufas here: http://www.grizzlybearblues.com/2014/10/20/7000139/memphis-grizzlies-x-factors-jon-leuer-courtney-lee-kosta-koufos

– LaMarcus Aldridge – Defense by the numbers (from David MacKay, ripcityproject.com):

LaMarcus Aldridge gets a fair bit of flack for being a “soft defender.” I believe this misconception actually stems from a pretty interesting phenomenon. Sometimes when a player dominates one side of the ball without doing so outright on the other, they are deemed insufficient in their area of lesser proficiency. Aldridge is a spectacular offensive player and a more than adequate defensive one, despite the large gap between so-called specialties.”

Read it here: http://ripcityproject.com/2014/10/20/lamarcus-aldridge-defense-numbers/

– In the zone: Coach Rick Carlisle has ambitious goals for Mavericks defense (from Eddie Sefko, dallasnews.com):

” On a quick trip that took the Dallas Mavericks to one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams, and another one in a state of flux, coach Rick Carlisle unveiled this year’s version of the zone defense.

It didn’t look all that much different from the zones the Mavericks have employed in past seasons.

What was different, at least against Cleveland on Friday night when the Mavericks treated the game like a dress rehearsal for the regular season, was that the Mavericks used the zone for virtually the entire game. It was met with good reviews from none other than LeBron James.

It also was what Dirk Nowitzki wanted to see out of the Mavericks.”

Read it here: http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/dallas-mavericks/headlines/20141019-in-the-zone-coach-rick-carlisle-has-ambitious-goals-for-mavericks-defense.ece

– Timberwolves using zone defense (from Jerry Zgoda, startribune.com):

” Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders repeatedly has said thus far he wants a team that played almost no zone defense last season to at least dabble in it this season.

If the concepts work like they did during Sunday’s 112-94 preseason victory over injury-strapped Oklahoma City, they might do more than that.

“If we have the success we had tonight, we’ll probably use it a lot,” he said.

Read it here: http://www.startribune.com/sports/wolves/279734352.html

– Pau Gasol shows off improved chemistry with Bulls in win  (from Mark

Strotman,csnchicago.com):

” Pau Gasol has been around long enough to understand that this is a process. And Monday he took another step toward completing it.

Still understanding the tendencies of his new teammates and learning the intricacies of Tom Thibodeau’s system, the 14-year veteran had his best performance in a Bulls uniform, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a 101-96 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday.

It was another achievement for Gasol, who continued to show more consistent flashes of being the player who can push the Bulls’ offense — which finished last in scoring a year ago — over the top in the Eastern Conference. And Gasol said after the game that he’s seeing it, too, albeit still inconsistently.

“I think we have really good spurts, where we show a high level of play on both ends of the floor,” he said. “Now it’s just a matter of being able to prolong those moments, a little longer, because we had in this last three games, too many ups and downs.””

Read it here: http://www.csnchicago.com/bulls/pau-gasol-shows-improved-chemistry-bulls-win

– Sixers have a lot to learn (from Bob Cooney, philly.com):

” THE DEPTHS to which the teaching lessons have to go with this young 76ers team sometimes even catch the coaching staff off guard.

Think of putting a finger in a leaking dike. And then another leak pops. And then another and another and another . . . There just aren’t fingers and toes to plug the holes.

Coach Brett Brown and his coaching staff have keyed on one very important area to his group this preseason: transition defense. When there is a missed Sixers shot, he wants his team to thwart the opposition from getting out in a full run, trying to hinder the first three steps anyone makes toward the other end of the court.”

Read it here: http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sixers

/20141020_Sixers_have_a_lot_to_learn.html
– Three isn’t a magic number: On the Wizards’ struggles from downtown (from Nick Bilka,
bulletsforever.com):
” The Wizards’ offense has been among the lowest scoring in the preseason thanks mostly to
awful three-point shooting. Is there any hope things get turned around before the team’s shooters
get healthy?”
Read it here: http://www.bulletsforever.com/2014/10/20/6999913/washington-wizards-three-point-
shooting-preseason-nba
– Derek Fisher’s day: In at 6:30 a.m., out at 6:30 p.m. (from Ian Begley, ESPNNewYork):
” There are outliers, but NBA players generally start their day in the mid-morning practice for no
more than three hours. Some players show up early, some stay late. But the hours required on a
run-of-the-mill practice day aren’t all that taxing. “
Read it here: http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/knicks/post/_/id/59223/fishers-day-in-at-6-a-
m-out-at-6-p-m
” Rambis was a key offseason hire to ensure Fisher’s smooth transition from player to head
coach. His presence relating to Fisher can be seen as vital as president Phil Jackson, who has
been surprisingly hands-off and hasn’t traveled to any of the three road preseason games.”
Read it here: http://nypost.com/2014/10/19/kurt-rambis-looks-to-ease-pressure-on-derek-fisher/
– Are rising Raptors here to stay? (from Seerat Sohi, ESPN):
Read it here: http://proxy.espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/70718/toronto-raptors-here-to-stay
– NBA preseason rookie report (from Kevin Zimmerman, SBNation):
” From Jabari Parker to Jusuf Nurkic, here’s a look at which NBA rookies have stood out so far in
the preseason.”
Read it here: http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2014/10/19/7003327/nba-preseason-rookie-report-
jabari-parker-shabazz-napier

( For those with access to ESPN Insider:

– DeMar DeRozan Q & A (from Kevin Pelton):

Read it here: http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/11717637 )

– Remembering Dennis Johnson (from Professor Parquet, Celticsblog.com):

Read it here: http://www.celticsblog.com/2014/10/20/7012785/celtic-great-dennis-johnson-clutch-underrated

And some additional player updates:

– Nick Stauskas: http://cowbellkingdom.com/nik-stauskas-and-his-greatest-skill/

– Alex Kirk: http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2014/10/alex_kirk_continues_to_improve.html

– Darrell Arthur: http://www.dailycamera.com/nuggets-nba/ci_26759782/denver-nuggets-darrell-arthur-back-playing-pain-free

– Andre Iguodala: http://bluemanhoop.com/2014/10/19/on-andre-iguodala-and-the-point-forward-role/

– Marcin Gortat: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/wizards/marcin-gortat-continues-to-bring-big-game-personality-to-wizards/2014/10/19/586051c0-57de-11e4-8264-deed989ae9a2_story.html

– Derrick Rose: http://www.csnchicago.com/bulls/bulls-derrick-rose-blossoms-fourth-quarter-debut

– Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/celtics/post/_/id/4715192/gamebook-all-about-that-bass

– Jamal Crawford: http://www.clipsnation.com/2014/10/20/6971567/clippers-player-profile-jamal-crawford-2014-2015

– Renaldo Balkman: http://www.ridiculousupside.com/2014/10/20/7009277/why-renaldo-balkman-could-turn-up-in-2014-nba-d-league-draft

– Spencer Dinwiddie: http://www.nba.com/pistons/features/bynum-trade-dinwiddie-inching-closer-pistons-role

– James Jones: http://www.fearthesword.com/2014/10/18/6967257/2014-player-preview-james-jones

BOS,MIN,DET,PHX,NYK,LAC,Comebacks

– Players On The Rebound (from Lang Greene, Basketball Insiders):

” Every season there are a group of players who, without warning, fall from the top level and experience disappointing campaigns. Some of these players will put it back into focus and bounce back, while others will continue their descent into realm of faded skills.

Last season was no different and produced a new batch of players looking to get their careers back on track. Was there performance in 2014 a sign of things to come or simply just an unfortunate outlier? Time will ultimately tell, but let’s took a look at some of the players in need of redemption heading into training camp.”

Read it here:  http://www.basketballinsiders.com/nba-am-players-on-the-rebound/

Jamal Crawford’s Pro-Am Helps a City Heal (from Jamie Cooper, dimemag.com):
Read it here: http://dimemag.com/2014/08/fear-loathing-seattle-jamal-crawfords-pro-helps-city-heal/
– What Should the Celtics Do With Keith Bogans? (from boston.cbslocal.com):
Read it here: http://boston.cbslocal.com/2014/08/29/what-should-the-celtics-do-with-keith-bogans/
– A conversation with Tommy Heinsohn   (from Rich Levine csnne.com):
Read it here: http://www.csnne.com/boston-celtics/conversation-tommy-heinsohn
– How will Stan Van Gundy handle trio of Detroit Pistons bigs in 2014-15? (from Perry Farrell,
Detroit Free Press):
” Now that it appears the front line of Greg Monroe, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond will
return for at least another season, it is time for Detroit Pistons president of basketball
operations and coach Stan Van Gundy to figure out ways to use them separately.”
Read it here: http://www.freep.com/article/20140830/SPORTS03/308300014
– Flip Saunders says ‘high-flying’ offense will start on defensive end (from Andy Greder, Twin
Cities.com):
” Sensational alley-oop baskets by Andrew Wiggins. Up-and-under reverse layups from
Thaddeus Young or Anthony Bennett. Circus dunks from Zach LaVine. All orchestrated by
Ricky Rubio.

 

These are the dream images associated with the buzz words the Timberwolves are using to promote the team’s future — “athletic,” “high-flying” and “up tempo” — after an extensive retool that included a three-team trade that sent three-time all-star Kevin Love to Cleveland last weekend.

The man in charge of making it happen, president of basketball operations and interim head coach Flip Saunders, has a somewhat less exciting buzz word for the 2014 Timberwolves: Defense.”

Read it here:  http://www.twincities.com/sports/ci_26431878/timberwolves-flip-saunders-says-high-flying-offense-will

– Alex Len’s Summer of Frustration 2.0 (from Dave King, brightsideofthesun.com):

” Alex Len’s short NBA career has been marred by one injury after another. But Len, who will be just 21 this season, has the potential to become a force in this league if he can stay on the court.”

Read it here: http://www.brightsideofthesun.com/2014/8/29/5919471/phoenix-suns-alex-lens-frustration

– Will the Knicks defend the arc? (from Joe Flynn, postingandtoasting.com):

” Derek Fisher knows a thing or two about three-pointers. Might that actually help the Knicks focus on guarding the arc this season?”

Read it here:  http://www.postingandtoasting.com/2014/8/29/6062461/2015-questions-1033-will-the-knicks-defend-the-arc

76ers, JKidd, Blake Griffin, Ainge, Kemba, Best Playoffs?, JCrawford, Beverley, Dynasties, Raptors

Today’s Top Stories – Part I

Sixers’ streak goes on and so does plan (from Fran Blinebury, NBA.com):

Sam Hinkie ducked into the media dining room to grab a small plate of fajitas and headed quickly toward the door.

A friend asked him if he was hiding out.

“People want to see me either gnashing my teeth or beating my chest,” he said. “I’m not gnashing my teeth.”

Not even after 26 losses in a row.

The Sixers’ march toward both ignominious history and hopeful resurrection continued as the Rockets punched their ticket 120-98 on Thursday night.

As general manager, president of basketball operations, Hinkie is the Dr. Frankenstein who reverse-engineered this monster that is now tied with the 2010-11 Cavaliers for the longest single season losing streak in NBA history. For that, some of the town folk would like to storm his door with torches and pitchforks, because, well, they weren’t paying attention. Not to Hinkie’s clearly-drawn blueprint from the moment he was hired last May and not to the long history of the league.”

Read it here: http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2014/03/28/sixers-streak-goes-on-and-so-does-plan/

– More on the 6ers from Tom Sunnergren, ESPN):

http://espn.go.com/nba/dailydime/_/page/dime-140327/daily-dime

Kidd has come a long way in a few months (from John Schuhmann, NBA.com):

Jason Kidd‘s coaching career began a little like his playing career ended.

As a player, he missed his last 18 shots. As a coach, he lost 21 of his first 31 games with the most expensive roster in NBA history. He was fined $50,000 for purposely spilling a drink so that his assistant coach could draw up a play. Through December, the Brooklyn Nets were below-average on both ends of the floor and were particularly brutal defensively.

Early in November, ESPN.com’s David Thorpe called Kidd “the worst coach in the NBA.”

Things have changed quite a bit. The Nets are 27-12 (best in the Eastern Conference) since the new year began, with a top-10 defense, despite a two-game slide this week.”

Read it here: http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2014/03/27/kidd-has-come-a-long-way-in-a-few-months/

– Why is Blake Griffin so much better now (from David Nurse, Hoopshype.com):

Read and view it here: http://hoopshype.com/columns/david-nurse/why-is-blake-griffin-so-much-better-now

– Danny Ainge drafts NCAA plan (from Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald):

” Danny Ainge will be watching when the NCAA tournament resumes tonight, but he won’t be watching the same way you or I will.

The numbers matter little to the Celtics president of basketball operations.

“I’m looking at the ‘why’ of what’s happening,” Ainge said. “I’m not looking at the box score to determine whether a player is playing well or looking at what people’s expectations might be. I’m looking (at) why is he playing well? Or, why is he not playing well? How is he defending? How is he interacting with his teammates? How does he respond to adversity?

“I’m looking at a whole gamut of things, trying to get the full picture of the player, because so much of it is trying to predict who that player can become, not just who he is right now.”

Read it here: http://bostonherald.com/sports/celtics_nba/boston_celtics/2014/03/danny_ainge_drafts_ncaa_plan

– Improving Walker has Bobcats primed for playoffs (from Associated Press):

” Kemba Walker is relishing the idea of playing meaningful games in March again.

 The Charlotte Bobcats point guard hasn’t had that opportunity since leading Connecticut to the national championship three years ago.

The Bobcats were a combined 28-120 in Walker’s first two NBA seasons, but things have changed for the better this year. Charlotte has the seventh-best record in the Eastern Conference and appears destined for the postseason. They’re five games ahead of the ninth-place New York Knicks with 10 games remaining.

“It’s exciting. It’s different,” Walker said after Thursday’s practice. “This is what I have been dreaming of my whole life. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity.”

Charlotte’s turnaround is in no small part due to the arrival of free agent center Al Jefferson and the improved play of Walker, who is blossoming into an above-average NBA point guard in his third season. Walker said he’s beginning to realize how valuable he can be on the court even if he’s not the team’s leading scorer.”

Read it here: http://www.nba.com/2014/news/03/27/walker-leading-bobcats-charge.ap/

– The NBA is two months away from what could be its best playoff bracket ever (from Kelly Dwyer, YahooSports):

” The NBA will enjoy a day off three weeks from Thursday, as the league’s regular season ends the night before. Fourteen teams will take to the offseason, some of them happily, while some clubs will rue the fact that they’ll miss out on the postseason because of either disappointing play (New York) or stellar competition (whichever 48-win team is on the outside looking in on the Western bracket). Two days later, 16 teams will begin what could be a two-month playoff run, as the NBA sets to deciding its champion.

And though the East looks comparatively weak, and though in an instant a poorly timed injury could lay waste to 5 1/2 months of regular season work, this still factors to be a fascinating, evocative playoff turn. It doesn’t just take yet another heart-stopping Indiana Pacers-Miami Heat game to remind you of this, though that doesn’t hurt, because this could wrap up to be the Greatest Playoffs Ever.

Don’t believe me? Need a little Magic and Larry in your bracket? Prefer a 72-game winner tossed in there? Still yelling at fluffy clouds and innocent schoolchildren? Do you watch cable TV news?

Consider the talent, and consider the storylines.”

Read it here: http://sg.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/the-nba-is-two-months-away-from-what-could-be-its-best-playoff-bracket-ever-192608700.html

– What Makes Jamal Crawford the NBA’s Top 6th Man, and How He Keeps Getting Better (from Jared Zwerling, BleacherReport):

” On the heels of his offensive hiccup in 2011-12 with the Portland Trail Blazers—his worst scoring output since 2002-03—Jamal Crawford was still very sure of his abilities the day he signed a four-year, $25 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers in July 2012. In fact, he made a promise to the team.

“I was like, ‘Don’t worry, you guys won’t regret this. I’m getting better. Trust me,'” the 14-year veteran recalled to Bleacher Report recently. “I just knew; I understood I’m still learning the game.”

Read and view it here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1984101-what-makes-jamal-crawford-the-nbas-top-6th-man-and-how-he-keeps-getting-better

– Patrick Beverley Breaks Down What Makes Him the Peskiest Defender in the NBA (from Jared Zwerling, BleacherReport):

Read and view it here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2003558-patrick-beverley-breaks-down-what-makes-him-the-peskiest-defender-in-the-nba

– Brilliant Leaders Are Key to the NBA’s Dynasties (from John Wilmes, BleacherReport):

Since 1960, only 15 teams have won a collective 53 NBA championships. Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach and Pat Riley have been party to 36 of them. Throw in Gregg Popovich, and the number climbs to 40, or just over 75 percent of all Larry O’Brien Trophies dispersed.

The history of prized glory in the NBA is the history of brilliant management—from ownership, to the front office, to the clipboard in the head coach’s hand and the level heads he shows it to, titles are earned through top-down organizational cohesion far more than they are on the basketball court.

Talent is essential, of course, but it’s ultimately more replaceable than a gestalt, slowly built culture that knows how to aim each of its pieces correctly and maximize the skills of all members.

And some individual men…are the seed for such a structure unto themselves.

Read it here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2008253-brilliant-leaders-are-key-to-the-nbas-dynasties

Kyle Lowry-Greivis Vasquez backcourt sparking Raptors (from Dan Feldman, NBCSports):

” The Memphis Grizzlies chose Kyle Lowry in the first-round of the 2006 draft, and then they traded him just two-and-a-half years later. Memphis picked another point guard in the first round of the 2010 draft: Greivis Vasquez, who made it only one season with the Grizzlies before they traded him.

Now, Lowry and Vasquez are united with the Toronto Raptors, bonded by the shared experience being drafted then quickly traded by Memphis.

“It’s kind of like we knew we knew each other from that,” Vasquez said.

On the court, they certainly play like they’ve known each other for years”

Read it here: http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/03/28/extra-pass-kyle-lowry-greivis-vasquez-backcourt-sparking-raptors/

Stay tuned:  Part II of today’s best is coming later

 

James Harden, Pacers/Heat, Larry Bird, Kawhi Leonard, 76ers

Today’s Top Stories – Part II

– Harden expands game (from Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle):

” Harden’s recent play elevates status, but drive to improve remains strong

The Rockets’ late surge to the victory in Charlotte had been just completed. James Harden had again carried the Rockets past the rough spots before any real trouble could hit. Bobcats coach Steve Clifford called him the toughest cover this side of LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Charlotte center Al Jefferson went further, saying Harden was “the best one-on-one player in the game.”

Harden wanted much more.

 On the charter flight back to Houston on Monday night, Harden dropped into the seat next to Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson and talked about goals considerably bigger than beating the Bobcats or winning a few Player of the Week honors. He wanted to talk about the playoffs, about matchups, about improvements needed in the final 12 regular-season games.

To Sampson, the mindset was telling, as revealing of the transition Harden has made in the past two months as anything he has done on the floor.

“James is all about the name on the front of a jersey,” Sampson said, knowing he would not have said that a year ago. “There’s nothing better than having your best player embracing winning and not embracing statistics.”

Read it here: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/rockets/article/Harden-expands-game-in-bid-to-join-NBA-s-upper-5352610.php?t=d5e07ac8e8f992f472

– Pacers win a game they had to have vs. Heat (from Bob Kravitz, Muncie Star Press):

” They overcame LeBron James, who was what he always is — the best player in the world. They overcame a monumentally foolish, utterly immature technical on Lance Stephenson, who got ejected and missed the last five minutes of the game. They overcame 37 percent shooting, and the fact they made Roy Hibbert, so dominant in the first quarter, disappear by ignoring him in the second half.

On a night when they absolutely, positively had to beat the Miami Heat, the Pacers earned the most important victory of the season, winning 84-83. (And oh, by the way, they won the Central Division for the second year in a row).

Don’t believe people when they say there are no must-wins in the regular season. This was a must-win for the Pacers, who were looking at having their Eastern Conference lead trimmed to one game, with Miami enjoying a much softer remaining schedule than the Pacers. This was, quite simply, the most important game of the regular season, the Pacers most important regular-season game in many years.”

Read it here: http://www.thestarpress.com/article/20140327/SPORTS/140327002/KRAVITZ-Pacers-win-game-they-had-vs-Heat

– Larry Bird: Red’s apprentice (from Shaun Powell, Sportsonearth.com):

Larry Bird’s first lesson on how to be a general manager in the NBA came well before his first lesson on how to be an NBA player. The education of the Pacers’ boss was taught early and delivered thoroughly by the Celtics all-time master planner.

Read it here: http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/70191862/larry-bird-indiana-pacers-red-auerbach-front-office-paul-george

– Spurs’ real MVP may not be Tim Duncan or Tony Parker (from Sam Amick, USAToday):

” Kawhi Leonard doesn’t cast an intimidating shadow.

The San Antonio Spurs small forward doesn’t fly like the Miami Heat’s LeBron James, grazing his chin on the rim en route to a hammer dunk on the break or controlling a game at will with his versatile skill set. He doesn’t dominate like the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant, burying shots from the farthest reaches or demanding the opposing defense’s attention throughout. By season’s end, he won’t be on anyone’s short list of MVP candidates.

Yet with three weeks left until the playoffs and with the Spurs holding off all comers with the best record in the NBA, make no mistake: Leonard, 22, is one of the most valuable guys around. And for all the well-deserved focus on the Spurs’ ageless Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, there’s an argument to be made that Leonard is the MVP of the league’s top team.

If only we hadn’t learned so many times before that attaching too much value to an individual in this all-for-one, one-for-all system is a fool’s errand.”

Read it here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/spurs/2014/03/26/kawhi-leonard-san-antonio-lebron-james-kevin-durant-tim-duncan-tony-parker/6929105/

– A 25-Game Skid, but All Is Not Lost for the Sixers (from Jere Longman, NYTimes):

” “We ain’t rolling over,” (Coach Brett) Brown said. “I’m at a stage where I’m immune to whatever. I feel so strongly that what we’re doing is the correct path. We came out transparent. It’s going to take time, but we’re building something exciting and it’s ours.”

Read it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/27/sports/a-25-game-skid-but-all-is-not-lost-for-the-sixers.html?_r=0