Archive for April, 2009

The Boston Celtics are in Chicago tonight to play the Bulls in Game 3 of the NBA playoffs first round. The Boston Globe (Marc J. Spears) reports (via blog): There is extra NBA security in place near the Celtics bench tonight to keep an eye on guard Tony Allen, who has received death threats in his hometown, according to several sources. NBA sources said the Celtics and Bulls made sure there was extra security by their bench during Game 3 of a first round playoff series tonight to keep a protective eye on Allen. Sources also said Allen has been receiving the threats in Chicago for some time now.

After the real hawk used by the Atlanta Hawks got loose during player introductions the other day, the team came to a decision and issued the following statement:

“Spirit the Hawk will no longer fly during player intros, but he will be back for Wednesday’s Game 5 and be involved in our game night activities.”

The Washington Wizards recently named Flip Saunders their new head coach. Here’s what Saunders said to the media about the team and his new job:

Saunders on if he studied the Wizards throughout the season: “I studied them a lot, but it’s tough to judge this team without a premier player like Gilbert (Arenas).  Then of course Brendan (Haywood) was hurt and he’s an anchor on defense, and (DeShawn) Stevenson was hurt.  You had so many injuries so it’s tough to really judge the team, but what you can do is evaluate the talent of the young players.”

Saunders on the young players: “I think the young players have a lot of potential.  I have a saying that potential is what you’re capable of doing, motivation determines what you do, and your character and attitude determines how well you do it.  With our young players it’s important for the coaching staff and the veteran players to help those players understand what time of character and attitude they need to be professional and be successful in this league.”

Saunders on Gilbert Arenas: “The thing I love about him more than anything else is his competitiveness.  I look forward to the opportunity to work with him.  I’m sure that I’m going to learn from Gilbert and he’s going to learn from me.  I know Gilbert wants to win more than anything.  In the texts and conversations that we had, that’s the main thing that we’ve talked about.  I think that he’s ready to take the step in order to do that and have people follow him.”

Saunders on what it takes to get a team to the conference finals: “I think the biggest thing is that when I say ‘team’ the word ‘sacrifice’ goes along with it.  You have to be willing as individuals to sacrifice any individual role you have for the team to have success.  I believe in teams with high assists and low turnovers.  I believe in what I call the hockey assist; sometimes it’s the assist that leads to the assist that’s the most important play.  Those are the things that as a coach you keep on driving into your team.  As you work with them and see the success of it, it keeps on growing.”

Saunders on defense: “From a technical standpoint, you have to be able to defend.  A lot is talked about the huge playbook that I have.  It’s about 60 percent defense and 40 percent offense.  People don’t talk much about what I do defensively, because offense is more creative at times, but when the players walk into that gym defense is going to be a priority.  If you talk to the coaches that have coached against teams that I’ve had, no one has ever said that our teams didn’t defend.”


Grunfeld on hiring Flip Saunders to be the 22nd head coach in franchise history: “This is a very exciting day for us.  This is a new beginning.  Flip was our top priority in this coaching search.  What we were looking for was someone with credibility, an NBA background, and experience in the regular season and in the playoffs.  Flip coached in the conference finals four out of the last five years that he coached in the NBA.  That’s what we want to get to and even higher than that.  He’s a well respected person and I think he’s a great fit for our team right now with the type of players we have.  He’s an X’s and O’s man.  He pays attention to detail and I think he’s extremely underrated on the defensive end.  We all know that we want to improve in that area.  He plays a fun brand of basketball.  He likes to get up and down the floor, which I think the players enjoy and the fans enjoy watching.  We’re looking to get back to where we feel we belong, and that’s the playoffs.  Once we get to the playoffs, we want to make some noise.  I think this is the man to lead us there.”

Grunfeld on hiring a new head coach: “This was a very wanted job.  A lot of people called who were interested.  Doing our due diligence we were able to make contact sometime around the All-Star break (in February).  There were a lot of people who called that had a lot of interest, but when we went through everything and did our due diligence, I felt like he was the top candidate.”

More on Saunders: “He brings the whole package to the table.  He brings credibility and a lot of knowledge, and with knowledge you get respect.  My biggest concern is to win basketball games.  You hire a coach and you let him coach.  Everybody has a little bit of a different system and everybody does things their own way, but the bottom line is to win games. He’s a veteran guy and I like the fact that he came up the hard way.  He coached in college and he coached in the CBA.  He was Coach of the Year in the CBA, and it takes a lot to coach in the CBA.  He paid his dues and when he came to the NBA he had a lot of success.  He’s had seven 50-win seasons.  We were looking for someone who is a winner both in the regular season and in the playoffs, someone who understands X’s and O’s, and someone who has coached elite players before.”

Grunfeld on the focus during the offseason: “The next order of business is the draft.  We have the lottery on May 19th and then we find out exactly where we pick, and then of course in June we have the draft.  As Flip mentioned, we have six players on this team that are 23 years old or younger, so player development is crucial for us in the offseason.  It’s a difficult offseason and I think Flip is very much in favor of helping the players.  We have some very solid veteran players but we also have players that need that development, so we’re going to be focusing on that.  The thing you can control is player development, so we’re going to be focusing on that. After the draft, we’ll have summer league and we’ll continue to work and grow.  If the right opportunity comes along that we think will help us improve, then that’s something we’ll look at.”

Sacramento Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie announced today that the team has decided not to pick up the option on Kenny Natt’s contract for next season, thus relieving him of his coaching duties. In a related move, assistant coaches Rex Kalamian, Jason Hamm, Randy Brown and Bubba Burrage were also relieved of their existing coaching responsibilities.

There are rumors that Sacramento may have interest in former Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan.

The Kings are in rebuilding mode. They have a big-time scorer (Kevin Martin), a few decent young big-men (Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson) and a well-paid point guard who underperformed this season (Beno Udrih), and not a lot else.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Sekou Smith) reports: Spirit the Hawk, a bird from Zoo Atlanta, ignored his usual pre-game flight path in favor of a leisurely stroll around the arena that included stops in the stands, a trip to the top of the Jumbotron high over the center of court and finally a perch atop the camera on the shot clock above the basket in front of the Hawks’ bench. Spirit made a couple of trips back and forth to that final perch before the game officials stopped play with 8:48 to play in the first quarter to allow its handler, John Elmore, to retrieve the bird.

Playoffs: Jazz and Hornets in trouble

Detroit, New Orleans and Utah are in the unenviable position of trailing their best-of-seven series 2-0.

Not including this postseason, there have been 217 best-of-seven series in which a team has gone up 2-0. Only 14 times has the team trailing 2-0 came back to win the series. The last time this occurred was last year in the Western Conference semifinals when the San Antonio Spurs dropped the first two games against the New Orleans Hornets but recovered to win the series in seven games.

The Jazz’s attempt at joining that select comeback club begins tonight in Los Angeles (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT). Making the Jazz’s task that much more difficult is its opponent, the Lakers. When winning the first two games of a best-of-seven series, the Lakers are 37-1 all time; in franchise history, they are 56-37 in Game 3 of a best-of-seven series. And since moving to STAPLES Center in 1999, the Lakers have won 83 percent of their postseason games at home (55-11).

- NBA News

Game 3 is often must-win

Memo to San Antonio and Dallas, Portland and Houston, Boston and Chicago, Orlando and Philadelphia, and Atlanta and Miami: If you plan on advancing to the semifinals, winning Game 3 of your tied series is No. 1 on your to-do list.

All time in NBA postseason play, a best-of-seven series has been tied after the first two games 161 times. The winner of Game 3 has gone on to win the series 76 percent of the time (122-39). The home team’s record in Game 3 with series tied 1-1 is 89-72 (.553).

There are two Game 3s tonight that fall into this category. The Bulls host the Celtics (8 p.m. ET, TNT) and the Spurs visit the Mavericks (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT). At home, the Bulls hold an all-time postseason record of 105-34 (.755) - first among existing NBA franchises. Dallas is 41-26 (.612) at home in the playoffs. San Antonio (59-81, .421) and Boston (100-144, .410) have the second and third, respectively, best road winning percentages in the playoffs.

- NBA News

Jason Terry to win Sixth Man of Year

The Dallas Morning News (Eddie Sefko) reports: Jason Terry, who accepted a strange new role this season, will be rewarded Friday when he receives the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year honor, several sources said Wednesday.  The Mavericks have scheduled a news conference for Friday and Terry’s award will be commemorated Saturday before Game 4. The 6-2 Terry, 31, averaged 19.6 points and came off of the bench in 63 of 74 games that he played, missing eight with a broken bone in his left hand.

The AP reports: Chauncey Billups led the Nuggets to another blowout of the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night, scoring 31 points in Denver’s 108-93 win. The best-of-seven series shifts to New Orleans for Game 3 on Saturday night with the Nuggets holding just the third 2-0 edge in their 33-year NBA history… Carmelo Anthony, quiet in Game 1 with just 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting, scored 22 points and dished out nine assists. J.R. Smith added 15 points. David West scored 21 points to lead the Hornets, but he needed 20 shots to do it. Peja Stojakovic added 17 points and Chris Paul had 14 points and 13 assists. Once again, the Hornets were hounded relentlessly by Denver’s defense, finding few answers to Kenyon Martin, Chris Andersen, Nene and Dahntay Jones.

The AP reports: With 13 straight points to close the first half and an unlikely 3-pointer off the backboard in the waning minutes, Dwyane Wade showed it’s hard to keep him down two games in a row. He scored 33 points in all, leading the Miami Heat to a 108-93 victory over the Atlanta Hawks that evened their playoff series at one game apiece Wednesday night… This was vintage D-Wade—6-of-10 from 3-point range, 11-of-20 overall, five rebounds, seven assists, two blocked shots and a steal… Unlike the loss in Game 1, when only one other Miami player scored in double figures, Wade had plenty of help this time. Daequan Cook scored 20 points, going 6-of-9 from 3-point range to make up for an 0-for-5 showing beyond the arc on Sunday night. Jermaine O’Neal scored 19 points, giving the Heat a presence on the inside. Michael Beasley added 12 and Udonis Haslem 10… Mike Bibby led the Hawks with 18 points, but the home team shot only 44 percent from the field and struggled at the foul line, making 19-of-30. notes: The Hawks had nice offensive balance here, but needed better defense. They allowed the Heat to shoot 55.6% from the field. And Miami nailed 15-of-26 from three-point range. The Hawks shot 44.2% but just 6-of-20 three-points… Atlanta got to the free throw line more than Miami, but shot badly from there… All five Hawks starters scored double-digits, plus Filp Murray (just 4-of-15) had 15 off the bench… Al Horford and Josh Smith had double-digit boards for Atlanta… Both Dwyane Wade and Miami point guard Mario Chalmers dished seven assists. Wade did have five turnovers, though, but the ball is in his hands a lot, to say the least.

The AP reports: Rookie Courtney Lee had a career-high 24 points, Hedo Turkoglu added 16 and the Magic nearly blew another 18-point lead before beating Philadelphia 96-87 on Wednesday night to even the series at a game apiece. Dwight Howard had 11 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out, and Rashard Lewis made a pair of big jumpers in the final minutes to help Orlando get its fourth win in five chances against Philadelphia this season… Andre Miller had 30 points, and Andre Iguodala scored 20 of his 21 points in the second half for the Sixers, who closed the gap to five points and almost erased the same deficit they faced in the series opener. Game 3 is Friday in Philadelphia. notes: Both teams shot OK from the field, but fairly badly from three-point range… Orlando got 30 free throws, hitting 22, while the Sixers were 12-of-18… The Magic controlled the boards, but dished just 14 assists in the game… The Magic blocked 7 shots (Dwight Howard 4), the Sixers only two… All five Magic starters scored in double-figures, plus Anthony Johnson had 11 off the bench… The Sixers got 30 points from Andre Miller, 21 from Andre Iguodala and 20 from Thaddeus Young, but the next highest scorer was Marreese Speights with five.

Lakers 2009-10 preseason schedule

The Los Angeles Lakers have announced the preseason schedule for the 2009-10 season along with ticket purchase information. The preseason line-up includes games against the Denver Nuggets, the Golden State Warriors, the Sacramento Kings and the Charlotte Bobcats.

The Lakers will kick off the 2009 preseason on October 7 when they take on the Warriors at the Honda Center in Anaheim. The Pacific Division opponents will face each other again on October 20 at the Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario.  Los Angeles will travel to Las Vegas on October 15 where they will play the Sacramento Kings at the Thomas and Mack Center.

The Lakers will host their annual shoot-out at STAPLES Center on October 17 and 18.  In addition to Los Angeles, teams scheduled to participate in the shoot-out are the Charlotte Bobcats, the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Lakers will wrap up their preseason when they face the Northwest Division champion Denver Nuggets in back-to-back games on October 22 at the Honda Center in Anaheim and October 23 at the San Diego Sports Arena in San Diego.

Below is the complete 2009 Los Angeles Lakers preseason schedule:

Oct. 7  Golden State Warriors  Anaheim, CA (Honda Center)  7:00 pm
Oct. 15  Sacramento Kings  Las Vegas, NV (Thomas and Mack) 7:00 pm
Oct. 17  Charlotte Bobcats   Los Angeles, CA (STAPLES Center) 7:30pm
Oct. 18  LAC or Utah   Los Angeles, CA (STAPLES Center) 7:30pm
Oct. 20  Golden State Warriors  Ontario, CA (Citizens Bank Arena) 7:00 pm
Oct. 22  Denver  Nuggets  Anaheim, CA (Honda Center)  7:00 pm
Oct. 23  Denver Nuggets  San Diego, CA (Sports Arena)  7:00 pm

The New York Times (Pete Thamel) reports: Jeremy Tyler, a 6-foot-11 high school junior whom some consider the best American big man since Greg Oden, says he will be taking a new path to the N.B.A. He has left San Diego High School and said this week that he would skip his senior year to play professionally in Europe. Tyler, 17, would become the first United States-born player to leave high school early to play professionally overseas. He is expected to return in two years, when he is projected to be a top pick, if not the No. 1 pick, in the 2011 N.B.A. draft. Tyler, who had orally committed to play for Rick Pitino at Louisville, has yet to sign with an agent or a professional team. His likely destination is Spain, though teams from other European leagues have shown interest. A spokesman for Louisville said the university could not comment about Tyler.

Read fan reaction and discuss your own opinion in this forum topic.

Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld announced today that the team has named Flip Saunders as head coach.  Per team policy, terms of the contract were not released.

The Associated Press reports that the deal was for four years and $18 million.

“We’re very proud to bring a proven winner like Flip Saunders on board as our head coach,” said Wizards Chairman Abe Pollin.  “After going through what was a very difficult season, I know our fans share in my anticipation of what we can accomplish with new leadership, a healthy roster and a renewed commitment to excellence.”

Saunders, who becomes the 22nd head coach in franchise history, owns a 587-396 (.597) record over 12-and-a-half seasons with Minnesota and Detroit.

“We clearly identified Flip as the top candidate for the job and were happy to find that our situation proved to be a good fit for him as well,” said Grunfeld.  “We were able to move quickly as a result and we’re confident that this is a major step towards putting this team back among the Eastern Conference contenders.”

Saunders achieved seven 50-win seasons, led his teams to the playoffs 11 times and reached the Conference Finals on four occasions during his tenures with the Timberwolves and Pistons.  He is one of only six coaches to be named head coach of the All-Star team in both the Eastern and Western Conferences and currently ranks seventh among active coaches in winning percentage (12th all-time) and eighth among active coaches in total wins (21st  all-time).

“There were many factors that led to this being the right situation for me, but the most intriguing was the commitment of Mr. Pollin and Ernie to win a championship,” said Saunders.  “I look forward to enjoying the great support and homecourt advantage from Wizards fans that I’ve always seen from the opposing sidelines and to making each game at Verizon Center an exciting event.”

Saunders comes to the Wizards after leading the Pistons to three straight 50-win seasons, three straight division titles and three straight appearances in the Conference Finals from 2005-06 to 2007-08.  He finished with an overall record of 176-70 (.715), the highest winning percentage for any coach in franchise history.  Saunders began his NBA coaching career with the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he compiled a 411-326 (.558) record from 1995-2005 and became the winningest coach in franchise history.  He guided the Timberwolves to eight consecutive playoff appearances from 1997-2004, culminating in a trip to the 2004 Western Conference Finals.

Saunders began his professional coaching career in the Continental Basketball Association, where he won two CBA championships (1990 & 1992) and was twice named CBA Coach of the Year (1990 & 1992).  He ranks third all-time in the CBA with 253 career victories (253-137, .649) during stops with the Rapid City Thrillers (1988-89), La Crosse Catbirds (1989-94) and Sioux Falls Skyforce (1994-95).

Derrick Rose wins Rookie of Year

Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls is the recipient of the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy as the 2008-09 NBA Rookie of the Year, the NBA announced today.

Rose received 111 first-place votes (574 points) from a panel of 120 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. Memphis’ O.J. Mayo finished second with 246 points and New Jersey’s Brook Lopez finished third with 127 points. Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.

Finishing fourth was Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City), fifth was Eric Gordon (L.A. Clippers), sixth was Kevin Love (Minnesota), and seventh was Michael Beasley (Miami).

Selected with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft 2008, Rose led first-year players in assists (6.3 apg) and was second among rookies in scoring (16.8 ppg), to go along with 3.9 rebounds in 37.0 minutes. Rose shot .475 from the field and .788 from the free throw line. He started 80 of 81 games (missed one game due to injury on March 24), and finished the season in the top three in several categories all-time among Bulls rookies, including total points (3rd, 1,361), scoring (3rd, 16.8 ppg) and assists (3rd, 6.3 apg).

A three-time Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month selection (Nov., Dec., March), Rose scored in double digits 71 times including 32 games of at least 20 points. Rose represented Chicago at All-Star Saturday Night in Phoenix, becoming the first rookie to win the PlayStation® Skills Challenge with a time of 35.3 seconds. A participant in the 2009 Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam, Rose finished with four points and a team-high seven assists. Rose is the third Bulls rookie to win the award and the first since Elton Brand in 1999-00 (co-winner with Houston’s Steve Francis).

The Eddie Gottlieb Trophy is named in honor of Eddie Gottlieb, one of the NBA’s founders who coached the Philadelphia Warriors to the NBA championship in 1946-47.

Read fan reaction and discuss your own opinion in this forum topic.

Dikembe Mutombo, 42, was carried away on a stretcher in the first quarter of the Rockets’ 107-103 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 2 with what he said was a career-ending left knee injury. “It’s over for me for my career,” said Mutombo, who will be examined by team doctors when the Rockets return to Houston today. An eight-time NBA All-Star and four-time Defensive Player of the Year, Mutombo is one of the game’s great humanitarians and had a distinguished 18-year career with Denver, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Houston.

More Dikembe quotes from the Chronicle: “It’s not something that I planned,” Mutombo said. “All I can say right now is I had a wonderful run of 18 years and stayed injury-free. I thank God a lot for all this blessing and putting such great people around me for all of my career in the NBA. I’m just happy. “I have to go out with my head high and not be disappointed and have no regrets. I have so many things I can be so thankful for over my 18 years.” note: Mutombo was banging for position against Blazers center Greg Oden, who has had several early-career knee injuries himself, when he suffered the injury.

Read fan discussion of Mutombo’s career in this forum topic

Rockets players imitate Mutombo’s voice:

The AP reports: The Utah Jazz played better and it still didn’t matter. Kobe Bryant scored 26 points, Pau Gasol added 22 and Lamar Odom had 19 off the bench in the Lakers’ 119-109 victory over the Jazz on Tuesday night, giving Los Angeles a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 first-round Western Conference playoff series… Deron Williams scored a career playoff-high 35 points and Carlos Boozer had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz, who head home for Game 3 on Thursday. They again played without injured center Mehmet Okur… The Lakers stretched their lead to 96-81 early in the fourth. The Jazz relied mostly on Williams, and he scored six in a row to get his team to 105-99 with 5:22 remaining.

The AP reports: After winning their first playoff game in six years, the Portland Trail Blazers couldn’t help but be a little amazed with their victory over the Houston Rockets. “We kind of laughed about it, `Man, it’s hard winning games in the playoffs. It takes a lot of work,”’ said Brandon Roy, who had 42 points in Portland’s 107-103 victory Tuesday night. The playoff series, now even at a game apiece, moves to Houston for Game 3 on Friday. Aaron Brooks led a late charge and finished with 23 points for Houston, which has not made it out of the first round since 1997. Von Wafer came off the bench to add 21. LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points and 12 rebounds for Trail Blazers, who had never dropped the first two games of a playoff series at home and played one of their most physical games of the season… Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo injured his left leg in the first quarter and left the court on a stretcher.

The AP reports: Up by 29 points in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers blew most of their big lead against Detroit’s reserves and LeBron James had to go back in and restore order as Cleveland held on for a 94-82 win on Tuesday night to take a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series. For three quarters, the Cavs were at their basketball best… James, showing no regard for a defensive plan Detroit spent three days preparing for him, scored 29 and Williams added 21 as the Cavaliers withstood a stirring comeback by the Pistons, who used a 27-5 run to close within seven on Antonio McDyess’ jumper with 3:51 left… Delonte West scored 20 and Zydrunas Ilgauskas 12 for the top-seeded Cavs, who led 79-50 in the first minute of the fourth and were embarrassing the Pistons. But Detroit dug down and gave Cleveland and its raucous crowd a scare the Cavs may never forget… Richard Hamilton scored 17 and Rodney Stuckey 14 for the Pistons, who are going home down 0-2 with their starters searching for positives.

Hawks more than a one-man team

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Sekou Smith) reports: “I know we’ve been cast as a one-man team in the past,” Hawks forward Josh Smith said, referring to captain and All-Star Joe Johnson. “But the truth is, that’s never really been the case. Never. “And that’s really the beauty of our team, when you think about it. We’ve got six or seven guys that can get going at any time and change the game for us. You never know who it’s going to be.” In Sunday’s Game 1 romp over Miami, it was Smith serving as the catalyst on both ends of the floor. He finished with a game-high 23 points, 10 rebounds and three steals in the Hawks’ 90-64 win. “The beauty behind that is Joe Johnson doesn’t care. Mike Bibby doesn’t and Flip Murray doesn’t and Mo Evans doesn’t and Zaza Pachulia doesn’t,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “That’s how you build a team. When guys could care less about who’s going to get the glory and just pass the baton around, it makes winning the top priority.”

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