Sam Smith’s NBA news and notes | 10.14.2013
It’s difficult to follow the NBA in preseason since the league with all its advanced statistics doesn’t provide league statistics for preseason. But if there were a preseason MVP, it could be Chicago native Anthony Davis, last year’s No. 1 pick, who has scored at least 20 points every game. He’s playing fewer than 30 minutes, but averaging 24.5 points and seven rebounds, two blocks and almost two steals. If the Pelicans can ever get Eric Gordon healthy and interested in playing, a sturdier Davis could turn into one of the elite players in the game after a rookie season marred by injuries. Like with Derrick Rose, who said why can’t he be an MVP. Said coach Monty Williams to the New Orleans Times-Picayune: "I don't want to take credit for it, but I've been talking to him all summer about how, 'I'm not going to hold you back anymore.' Last year I spent a lot of time trying to teach him the game and teaching him about situations. He has worked so much on his game. We're going to go, he's our guy, he's got to go out there and get it done. And he understands that. I'm not going to get in his way." And when they trade Ryan Anderson for Omer Asik.
The Bulls see the Detroit Pistons Wednesday in Derrick Rose’s first home game since his knee injury 18 months ago in the playoffs against the 76ers. While all eyes will be on Rose, who is expected to play despite sitting out the team’s game in South America Saturday with knee soreness, perhaps more in the NBA will be watching the continued development of second year big man Andre Drummond, who is coming fast. With Josh Smith and Greg Monroe, some are saying the Pistons’ front court could be the best in the league. Drummond in the preseason in about 24 minutes per game is averaging 17.7 points and 8.7 rebounds with at least a steal and a block. This also will be the test for Brandon Jennings, who as former teammate Larry Sanders noted a few weeks back doesn’t much notice tall teammates when he plays. Rodney Stuckey won’t play after fracturing his finger closing his car door on it in one of the more intriguing preseason injuries. Though Miami’s Beasley did apparently bruise his eye punching himself there in frustration. Many previous coaches certainly wished they had. Though Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he didn’t and was elbowed. Spoelstra also said up is down and down is up. ... It was quite the shootout for preseason last week when the Magic’s Victor Oladipo, the No. 2 pick, scored 18 points and was praised as a future star by Kyrie Irving as No. 1 pick and Irving teammate Anthony Bennett scored 16 fourth quarter points while showing an impressive shooting touch for a big (well, wide) man with a pair of threes. Oladipo is making the move to point guard and is the early rookie of the year favorite. He plays more with pace than explosion, like a Dennis Johnson or Jo Jo White. So his defensive reputation will be vital against the quick point guards he’ll have to defend. The Magic, though, have a problem. His name is Jameer Nelson, a point guard making $8.6 million this season (partial guarantee next season).
The Rockets have a mini controversy with Chicago native Patrick Beverley starting before Jeremy Lin took over on their Asia trip. Lin has been regularly questioned about coming off the bench given his big salary of about $8 million annually. But good for him. It’s nice to see an underdog get paid. But Lin probably is a backup, that unique period in New York more an aberration in his career. He’s still valuable and can help a really good team. He just may not be a starter. ... Pleasant surprise of the preseason for the Rockets has been Omri Casspi, averaging 16.7 points and shooting almost 80 percent. With no one playing 30 minutes, the Rockets have seven players averaging in double figures in the preseason. They’re going to score a lot. Lin, by the way, was terrific in a trip to Taiwan. ... Rick Carlisle already has called out Sam Dalembert for coming into camp out of shape. Yes, that’s why he basically changes teams every year. ... Youngsters Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones aren’t coming through as hoped in Oklahoma City. Coach Scott Brooks in just two games has Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Lamb averaging more than 30 minutes per game.
Chicago native Othyus Jeffers from Illinois/Chicago is making an impact in Timberwolves camp with his defense. ... John Lucas is going at it with the Jazz, averaging 10 points in 17 minutes and 71 percent on threes and now figures for considerably more time with rookie Trey Burke hurt. Said coach Tyrone Corbin of Lucas: “He’s a fire bug. He can make shots and he plays the game the right way. We need his energy and leadership." ... Mike D’Antoni has a big fan in Chris Kaman, who told ESPN: "This is the best training camp I've ever had. He's an awesome guy. He's a player's coach. I don't know how he ever gets fired anywhere.” ... Suit him up. Kings team advisor Chris Mullin dominated the team in a three-point shooting contest making 14 of 15.
In one of the first initiatives of commissioner-to-be Adam Silver, NBA owners certainly will approve the change back to the 2-2-1-1-1 Finals format soon. You have to let the new guy feel like he’s in charge. This seems to be viewed as a positive. But how many Finals since the change in 1984 have gone to the wrong team? The Finals isn’t broken. Why fix it? The change was made in the 1980’s with Boston and the Lakers facing off seemingly every season and the coast to coast travel. But, really, who in the almost 30 years since then has been an undeserving champion because of the format? The only real upsets were perhaps the Magic in 1995, though they collapsed of their own mental weakness at home, the Pistons in 2004 as the Lakers imploded and maybe Miami in 2011 as LeBron withered. There’s all sorts of whining about three straight games in one location. But to be a champion you should overcome every obstacle. If you can’t win on the road you aren’t the best team. The Bulls record in those three-game road sets in their title years was 7-5. There have been some middle of the country teams in recent years, like Dallas, the Thunder and the Spurs. But travel is tiring even with charter flights. Changing cities three consecutive games likely will result in poorer quality basketball. This just does not seem to be necessary.
ESPN is speculating on a trade of the Bulls’ Marquis Teague to the Jazz with Trey Burke having been injured. I haven’t heard anything and ESPN did label it speculation. But you can understand the theory with John Lucas now Utah’s top point guard, which basically means it’s tough throwing the ball to their two developing young big men, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Teague hasn’t played much for the Bulls even in preseason, 11th on the team in minutes. Being in the luxury tax, the Bulls supposedly could want to cut salary and they do have veteran point guard Mike James in camp. Of course, you also have Derrick Rose coming off surgery and Kirk Hinrich with a history of injuries. Could you risk giving up your youngest point guard? You’d assume the Bulls would want at least a protected first. Could the rebuilding Jazz do that? Seems unlikely. And, after all, Burke hardly will be out all season with a fractured finger and the Jazz has committed to Burke being their starting point guard.
There’s little history for a player transitioning to a coaching role as quickly as Brooklyn’s Jason Kidd. Kidd without mentioning Knicks coach Mike Woodson has said his experience last season of probably playing too much is affecting his view regarding Kevin Garnett and playing Garnett less, probably not in back to back games often, which Garnett early in camp rejected. Kidd admitted their talk about this didn’t go well. And now Kidd admitted Deron Williams could start the season late with ankle problems as Kidd begins it a few games in as well, suspended two games by the NBA for an impaired driving conviction. Though it was interesting to read comments in the New York Times Sunday in a happy feature about Andrei Kirilenko and Williams noting how versatile and valuable Kirilenko is and how fortunate the Nets were to nab him for about $3 million after he walked away from $10 million with Minnesota. The NBA investigated — not because a player actually took less money — but because a Russian player took so much less to go to a team owned by a Russian billionaire from a place the NBA is in no position to track down paper trails. The NBA said it found no problems. Anyway, what’s been not mentioned was it was Williams who openly blamed Kirilenko after the Jazz’ 2007 conference finals loss to the Spurs. Kirilenko had been feuding with coach Jerry Sloan about his role, and after the series Williams pointed to Kirilenko for the benefit of media members and was quoted saying some players basically quit and named Kirilenko as always first out of the gym and a player who wouldn’t work. Welcome to coaching, Jason. You’ve got quite a crew there.
It’s been another positive return from a heart issue as Jeff Green had last season with Channing Frye in Phoenix averaging nine points in just 14 minutes in the Suns’ preseason games. Though the Suns roster remains a rebuilding mess. ... We really haven’t seen much of it yet, but that Carmelo Anthony/Andrea Bargnani starting forward line is going to have Tyson Chandler wondering if there’s an IPASS lane. Until Amar’e Stoudemire returns, eh? ... Another of those rosters like the Suns’ which is scoring challenged is Boston’s. And they’ve been disappointed seeing Jeff Green struggle through 23 percent preseason shooting with a team he needs to lead, especially with Rajon Rondo out. But the issue with the versatile Green has been that of a player who looks great and the next game you look for and cannot find. With this Boston roster, he has a chance to change that reputation. ... It’s been an interesting perspective, sort of like Dennis Rodman coming to the Bulls, for former Bulls assistant Ron Adams now working closely with Rajon Rondo. Said Adams to the Boston Herald: “As with some of the other Celtics, you learned to dislike them over time because you were competing against them. You go to a new setting and here’s someone you’ve competed against for a long time at your station, and that’s really delightful. You don’t know anything about that person until you get next to them. I’ve always had great respect for him as a player. I’ve always liked his ability to see things on the court and that sort of thing. His intellect is different than some. He’s much more engaged with what’s going on around him. I’m not talking about sport. I’m talking about life in general. He’s very respectful of people when they have something to say. I’m not talking from a coaching standpoint. It’s just from my social interactions with him. He’s so bright that he understands that the small things lead to the bigger successes. From that standpoint he’s just a delight to work with.”
Who says it’s a waste going to the motor vehicles department? It turns out Rudy Gay, who’s shot about 42 percent the last three seasons and was the league’s poorest mid range shooter last season, learned his eyesight was poor only when he went to renew his driver’s license and was told he needed gasses. He had offseason laser surgery, which one Toronto writer said seemed to work as “among the less important benefits of this process is that Gay no longer seems to recognize the people in the Toronto media he hated last year (for criticizing his shooting).” Making $19.3 million this season in his final contract season also hasn’t endeared Gay to the local populace given his production. ... The Cavs’ Tristan Thompson, making the believed-to-be unprecedented switch from shooting left handed to right handed, is at 61.1 percent in preseason and 64 percent on free throws. Andrew Bynum is now confused which side of him hurts. ... In three preseason games, former Bull James Johnson is averaging 1.3 points on 25 percent shooting trying out for the Hawks. A surprise in Hawks camp is Mike Scott, a second round pick forward from the Univeristy of Virginia second in scoring to Al Horford and shooting 65 percent. ... Ben Gordon’s decline continues as he’s averaging 6.7 points in three Charlotte preseason games and shooting 29 percent. Jannero Pargo leads the Bobcats in preseason scoring. Yes, that potential unprotected 2016 draft pick still looks good to the Bulls. As camp opened, Gordon told the Charlotte Observer: “A lot of people think I can’t play (anymore) the way I did in Chicago, but I think I got better than I was in Chicago. I’m a lot smarter than I was in Chicago, in great shape and I can still shoot the cover off the ball.”