Archive for May 6th, 2013

larry drew

Larry Drew, then just eight games into his tenure as Hawks head coach, chose his words with purpose.

The Hawks had just lost to the Magic, 93-89, on Nov. 8, 2010. The four-point defeat in Orlando came against the team that had swept the Hawks from the playoffs the previous spring by an average margin of victory of 25 points.

Drew’s message was simple: That is the team by which we will be measured.

The Hawks won the remaining three regular-season games with the Magic and then bounced them from the first round of the playoffs in six games. That began a run of three straight postseason appearances under Drew, each with vastly different rosters. His is hardly a loser’s resume.

Now at the end of a three-year contract, Drew anxiously awaits the decision about his future in Atlanta. General manager Danny Ferry said he will take some time following the season-ending playoff series loss to the Pacers to make the first of many offseason moves that lie ahead.

– Reported by Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Beware Stephen Curry, the baby-faced assassin

His skinny frame is dwarfed by the giants of the NBA. His baby face only looks younger because of its perpetual smile. And people who know him swear you’ll never meet a nicer guy.

But Warriors point guard Stephen Curry has become a breakout star and led his team into the second round of the playoffs thanks to another quality: ruthlessness.

The Denver Nuggets most recently found that out the hard way as Curry dominated their first-round playoff series, and the playoff-tested San Antonio Spurs are up next starting Monday night. But it’s not a new phenomenon for those who have watched Curry sneak up on others for years.

“It’s funny to see people finally catch on,” said his brother Seth, a collegiate star at Duke. “I think it’s because he doesn’t pass the eye test. Even now people are shocked that someone who looks like him is doing what he’s doing. He’s dominated pretty much every level he’s played.”

The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder has often been dismissed as too scrawny or lacking for athleticism. Despite an NBA pedigree (father Dell played 16 seasons) and prolific high school career, tiny Davidson College was the only school to woo him.

– Reported by Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group

Andray Blatche wants to stay with Nets

andray blatche

Backup center Andray Blatche, now an unrestricted free agent, would like to stay with the Brooklyn Nets.

“That’s the plan. I’m not sure yet right now,” Blatche said Sunday. “I can’t tell you 100 percent yet. But that’s the plan for me.”

Blatche, 26, whom the Washington Wizards exercised their amnesty rights on his contract after seven tumultuous seasons there, was given a second chance by the Nets, who signed him to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract for the league minimum.

He made the most of it, averaging 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game during the regular season on 51.2 percent shooting.

Because they don’t have his Bird rights, the Nets can’t offer Blatche that much money: either 120 percent of the veteran’s minimum or the taxpayer’s mini mid-level exception.

But what they have going for them is Blatche is still owed $16 million by the Wizards over the next two seasons.

– Reported by Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York

Ray Allen a key member of Miami Heat

Was there any worry about Allen fitting in with a championship team he had battled against?

“I didn’t have apprehension. My whole life I’ve had to travel and had to fit in somewhere,’’ said Allen, who faced off against the Heat in the playoffs three times as a member of the Celtics.

“It wasn’t unusual coming here. This is a pretty good group of veteran guys. We share a common goal, and everyone looks to see where they can help. Sometimes you have to sit back and get out of the way. Knowing when to be passive and when to be aggressive comes from all of us playing all these years of basketball. Being a team requires sacrifice.’’

Allen might not have started a single game for the Heat this season, but there’s no doubt of his importance as Miami gets after another championship.

“There’s no surprise here,” James said. “Ray was brought here to stretch the floor for us, to add another champion to our team, a professional. We know what he’s capable of doing, especially in the postseason. He’s always raised his game.”

– Reported by George Richards of the Miami Herald

Banged-up Bulls prepare to battle Heat

Luol Deng

Luol Deng was in the emergency room undergoing a spinal tap for viral meningitis. Kirk Hinrich, immobilized by a bruised calf, was limited to cheerleader role. Nate Robinson was so queasy he leaned over a garbage pail during his turns on the bench. Feverish Taj Gibson had the shakes. Joakim Noah was limping or grimacing or on edge about when the next flare-up of plantar fasciitis would force him to sit.

The injured, sick and exhausted Chicago Bulls arrive at AmericanAirlines Arena Monday night for Game 1 of their second-round NBA playoff series against a Miami Heat team that has been sleeping like a baby for an entire week.

Now would be the perfect time for Derrick Rose to make his comeback. The Bulls, who almost gagged against the Brooklyn Nets before surviving Game 7 on Saturday, need bodies in uniform. Rose has been wearing a suit.

But don’t count on Rose coming to the rescue. The dynamic point guard — MVP of the league two years ago — has been out since major knee surgery on May 12, 2012. After a grueling rehab, Rose returned to full-court scrimmaging Feb. 18. Doctors cleared him to play. But Rose has not felt right. A strange waiting game has persisted since.

– Reported by Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald

Tyson Chandler

With the Indiana Pacers owning the size advantage in this second-round series, the New York Knicks need to play bigger defensively and on the boards. That especially goes for Tyson Chandler.

But in the Knicks’ Game 1 loss on Sunday, Chandler was a no-show.

Looking ahead, no matter how many points Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith score, it might not matter if Chandler, the Knicks’ defensive anchor, scores only four points, pulls down only three rebounds and plays only 28 minutes because of foul trouble. That will open more doors for Roy Hibbert, David West and Tyler Hansbrough, which was the case in Game 1.

Those three combined for 42 points, and the Pacers outrebounded the Knicks 44 to 30.

In the first quarter, Chandler was effective, blocking two shots — one on West inside, and another on Paul George on a fast-break layup. And Chandler finished an alley-oop dunk from Raymond Felton.

But after that, Hibbert — one of the best defensive centers in the NBA — simply outworked Chandler. That’s how Knicks coach Mike Woodson sized up many of the individual matchups on Sunday.

– Reported by Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York

Pacers get jolt from Lance Stephenson in Game 1

There was little Lance Stephenson couldn’t do as a high school player. Bigger and better than his peers, Stephenson flashed skills and a physicality that was beyond the competition while winning four straight PSAL city titles at Abraham Lincoln in Coney Island.

Now in the NBA, he’s no longer the dominant force he was in high school. He’s a glue guy, a fourth or fifth option with the Indiana Pacers, responsible for doing the little things like playing defense, things he wasn’t always known for as a young star. But Stephenson is still highly effective, just in different ways as he showed on Sunday against the Knicks.

Playing with his trademark scowl and aggressiveness, Stephenson, a 6-5 guard, made five of nine shots for 11 points while grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds and making a game-high three steals.

Loose and chatty before the game, Stephenson spoke easily about his homecoming where he would play before family and friends, “all of them Knicks fans,” he said. And he played like it, palming the ball a la Michael Jordan in the faces of the Knicks after grabbing a rebound.

He also frustrated J.R. Smith into 4-of-15 shooting after the two nearly came to blows in a game in February.

– Reported by Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News

Basketball blog