Archive for December, 2013

Here’s Michigan Live on the Detroit Pistons using Josh Smith the way everyone knows they should:

Pistons trying to move Josh Smith closer to the basket

The Detroit Pistons might have found the perfect formula for Josh Smith.

Take fewer outside shots and instead look for more opportunities near the basket.

Pistons’ fans have been clamoring for that all season and the new approach has worked so far as Smith topped the 30-point barrier in back-to-back games against the top two teams in the NBA.

He scored 31 in Sunday’s overtime loss to Portland at The Palace before bagging 30 Monday in a 101-96 victory over the Indiana Pacers, who brought the NBA’s best record into the game and were unbeaten in their first 11 games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse running into the Pistons.

Here’s the Houston Chronicle with an update on coach McHale and the Rockets:

Rockets coach Kevin McHale didn’t waste any time getting things back to normal in the practice gym at Toyota Center on Tuesday.

It was business as usual for McHale, who has been away from the team for a week due to the Dec. 10 death of his mother Josephine in Minnesota.

McHale came in with a list of things to practice, went over his thoughts about the last two games, and worked on getting the Rockets prepared to host Chicago on Wednesday night.

“It’s nice to be back,” McHale said.

His players agreed.

Guard Pat Beverley said the team missed having McHale on the sideline.

“It was good to see his face. Definitely missed him,” Beverley said. “I’m glad he is back, and he came right in talking about the game from his point of view, which is good for this team.”

The Houston Rockets and Omer Asik will probably part ways soon. Here’s ESPN.com with a look at some trade scenarios:

omer asik

The Houston Rockets, as they’ve been telling teams all month, remain on course to trade disgruntled big man Omer Asik by Thursday, according to sources close to the process.

Numerous teams consulted by ESPN.com in recent days have said they are convinced the Rockets will indeed go ahead with a trade headlined by Asik before their self-imposed deadline of Dec. 19, with sources saying Tuesday that the Boston Celtics are increasingly active in the Asik talks.

As a result, the Celtics now are widely regarded as the strongest rivals to the Philadelphia 76ers in terms of the likely destination for Asik, with many rival executives expecting the final form of a trade built around the 7-footer from Turkey to feature at least three teams.

Sources have described the Atlanta Hawks as Houston’s preferred trade partner because the Rockets came to the conclusion last month that, despite their attempts to placate Asik, they eventually would have to give in to the unhappy center’s long-running desire to be moved in the wake of Dwight Howard’s arrival in July. Yet it remains unclear, sources say, how interested Atlanta really is in parting with coveted forward Paul Millsap — who’s considered an ideal frontcourt complement to Howard — in exchange for Asik.

Here’s the Associated Press reporting on some upcoming good-will from Kobe Bryant, Bill Clinton and others:

Kobe Bryant, Bill Clinton to lead youth panel

Former President Bill Clinton and NBA star Kobe Bryant will lead a panel on kids and sports at a conference next month.

The roundtable discussion will open the Clinton Health Matters Initiative Conference on Jan. 13 in La Quinta, Calif. Topics will include barriers to access, coaching quality and safety.

“There’s so much to be gained, so much from health and fitness,” Bryant told The Associated Press on Monday in Atlanta, where his Los Angeles Lakers were playing the Hawks. “It’s a really important initiative for kids to understand that you’re not just getting the benefits of being healthy, you’re also understanding how to be great leaders, how to be unselfish, how to work within a group, competitive spirit.”

New York Knicks President and General Manager Steve Mills announced today that the team has recalled guard Chris Smith from the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League.

Smith, 6-0, 200-pounds, was assigned to Erie on Nov. 18 and has averaged 11.3 points, on 50.0-percent shooting, 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists over 24.7 minutes in six games for the BayHawks.

With a 7-17 record, the Knicks are 4th from bottom in the league. Smith is considered strictly backup material, so he isn’t expected to play much, if at all. The bigger story for the team right now is that center Tyson Chandler should soon return.

With an 11-13 win-loss record, the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t a championship contender. Simply making the playoffs would be a solid accomplishment for them this season. But don’t tell that to Kobe Bryant, who continues to work his way back into form in his return from injury. Here’s the Los Angeles Daily News blog with more:

Kobe Bryant still working his way back into form for Lakers

Bryant had showed some slow albeit steady progression in each game that he had played in the past week. He graded himself an F in his debut in the Lakers’ loss last Sunday to Toronto where he posted nine points on 2 of 9 shooting, eight rebounds, four assists and seven turnovers. But Bryant expressed feeling a sense of accomplishment that he had returned to the court. Bryant graded himself a B in the Lakers’ loss last Tuesday to Phoenix after posting 20 points on 6 of 11 shooting. He showed there he could score and set screens for others.

Bryant’s performance dipped in the Lakers’ loss Friday to Oklahoma City where he posted four points on two of six shooting, 13 assists and seven turnovers. But with injuries to Steve Nash (nerve issues in back), Steve Blake (torn ligament in right elbow) and Jordan Farmar (strained left hamstring), Bryant offered some encouragement he could man the point guard position once he sheds enough rustiness to reduce his turnovers. Bryant then showed off his scoring touch and clutch play by posting 21 points on 8 of 15 shooting in 32 minutes and hitting two free throws to seal the Lakers’ win Saturday over Charlotte. Though he still posted seven turnovers, Bryant’s improved lift in his shot and his eight assists suggested the two-man tandem between Bryant and Pau Gasol could become a winning formula in the same way that secured them two NBA championships.

“So far it’s been successful,” Gasol said. “He hasn’t gotten hurt or rehurt. That’s a positive.”

Here’s Reuters reporting on the overseas antics of your favorite former NBA rebounder, Dennis Rodman:

Retired basketball star Dennis Rodman will return to North Korea for a third time on Thursday, despite political tension surrounding the execution of leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle, trip organizers said.

“It’s certainly safe, even when there is a bit of disruption like there is now — a bit of trouble or chaos — there’s even more need for cultural or sporting exchanges,” said Rory Scott, a spokesman for Irish bookmakers Paddy Power, which has arranged the trip.

Rodman has visited Pyongyang on two other occasions, during which he spent time dining as a guest of Kim Jong Un, with whom he says he has a genuine friendship.

In Washington, a State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, sought to distance the U.S. government from Rodman’s visit.

Remember Chris Kaman? He’s on the Los Angeles Lakers, in case you forgot. And the big guy isn’t too happy about barely getting off the bench this season. Here’s ESPN Los Angeles with more:

Chris Kaman getting little run with Lakers

Chris Kaman has stopped trying to figure out how he fell so far out of the Los Angeles Lakers’ rotation.

The veteran center says he joined the team as a free agent this summer because he saw opportunity to play significant minutes and re-establish his value after a couple of up-and-down seasons with New Orleans and Dallas.

Instead he’s found himself at the end of the Lakers’ bench.

“It’s absolutely not what I was looking for,” Kaman told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Monday morning after the Lakers’ shootaround. “It’s not really in my control. I just try to keep working hard and be ready if the time comes. And if it doesn’t, then it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Chicago Bulls waive guard Mike James

mike james

The Chicago Bulls announced today that the team has waived guard Mike James.

James (6-2, 188) appeared in seven games with Chicago, and averaged 0.3 ppg, 0.9 apg in 5.4 mpg. He signed with Chicago on Sept. 27.

Chicago’s roster now stands at 13.

This could be the sign of a trade coming, or more likely, that the Bulls have targeted another guard to sign. The team will be without injured point guard Derrick Rose all season.

Memphis Grizzlies sign forward James Johnson

The Memphis Grizzlies signed forward James Johnson of the NBA Development League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the team announced today.

Johnson (6-9, 245) joins the Grizzlies after averaging 18.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.90 steals and 3.40 blocks on .496 shooting in 29.9 minutes in 10 games (all starts) for Rio Grande Valley this season. The 26-year-old is the only D-League player this season to rank in the top 15 in scoring (14th), rebounding (12th) and assists (14th) by average. He also places third in the D-League in blocks per game and is tied for seventh in steals per game.

Johnson owns NBA career averages of 6.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 0.98 blocks on .443 shooting in 18.3 minutes in 219 games (87 starts) in four seasons with the Chicago Bulls (2009-10 to 2010-11), Toronto Raptors (2010-11 to 2011-12) and Sacramento Kings (2012-13). He played the 2013 preseason with the Atlanta Hawks but was waived on Oct. 21, 2013.

The Cheyenne, Wyo. native’s best season as a pro came in 2011-12 with Toronto when he averaged career highs across the board with 9.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.15 steals and 1.35 blocks in 25.2 minutes. He was one of just seven qualifying NBA players that season to average at least one steal and one block per game, joining Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Josh Smith, DeMarcus Cousins and Kenyon Martin.

He holds career D-League averages of 18.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.50 steals and 3.00 blocks on .513 shooting in 30.9 minutes in 18 games (all starts) for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and Iowa Energy.

Johnson was drafted by Chicago in the first round (16th overall) of the 2009 NBA Draft after two seasons at Wake Forest University. He led the Demon Deacons in rebounding each year and as a sophomore guided the team to a 24-5 record and a No. 1 ranking during the 2008-09 season.

Here’s the Washington Post Blog on Wizards center Marcin Gortat, who hopes to play more to his offensive strengths, which reside close to the basket:

Marcin Gortat hoping for more inside looks

Marcin Gortat watched John Wall’s corner three-pointer bounce high off the rim, curled around Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap and hammered home a furious one-handed jam. As his Wizards teammates hopped from their seats to applaud, Gortat angrily strutted back.

Gortat embraces being big, loves banging inside, and isn’t caught up in following other 6-foot-11 or taller players who would prefer to parade around the perimeter shooting jumpers rather than mixing it up and throwing people around. For that reason, Gortat has grown frustrated with a lack of touches near the basket and said he would speak to Coach Randy Wittman about his role in the offense after a lackluster outing against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“I don’t like the position I play,” Gortat said after scoring just six points on 3-of-10 shooting in the Wizards’ 113-96 loss on Saturday at Verizon Center. “I’m constantly drifting more and more away from the basket. That’s not my game. I’m capable of making one or two plays like that away from the basket, but I feel more comfortable underneath the basket.”

The Brooklyn Nets have put together a few wins lately, losing on Friday in Detroit but winning their three previous games before that. Here’s ESPN New York with an update on the rotation:

Paul Pierce will continue to come off bench for Nets

Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd said that small forward Paul Pierce will continue to come off the bench.

“For right now, yes,” Kidd said Sunday.

Pierce has come off the bench since coming back from a broken bone in his right hand. Over that three-game span, he’s averaging 8.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 25.7 minutes, while shooting 36.8 percent from the field.

“[Paul]’s selfless,” Nets point guard Deron Williams said. “That shows what kind of person he is. He can be a guy that says, ‘I’m Paul Pierce, I’m a starter in this league,’ you know? Like some guys have done. He’s just worried about winning right now, and he’s trying to get back healthy and get back into a rhythm and I think he’s doing whatever the team needs right now.”

Here’s the Orlando Sentinel with a cool item about Magic rookie Victor Oladipo getting some useful career tips from someone who knows things:

Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo admired Kevin Durant from afar for a long time, and now Oladipo is happy and honored to call Durant a friend.

They grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, so Oladipo always was attuned to Durant’s accomplishments. But since Oladipo is four years younger than Durant, they hadn’t met face-to-face until this past summer when Oladipo visited a basketball camp that Durant was running in Washington.

“For him to be able to talk to me and for him to give me advice was kind of crazy,” Oladipo said. “But at the same time, it definitely was humbling and definitely nice for him to do — a credit to him for doing that. He didn’t have to, but he did it anyway.”

Both Oladipo and Durant were selected second overall in the NBA Draft — Durant in 2007 and Oladipo in 2013.

Here is WATE in Knoxville, Tennessee reporting on a known player passing away:

Former Tennessee basketball player Dyron Nix has passed away in Atlanta at the age of 46.

Former Vol and Nix teammate Clarence Swearengen confirmed the death through a member of the Nix family.

Swearengen said Nix had gone to an Atlanta hospital complaining of breathing difficulty and died a short time later.

Nix was a standout player on the Tennessee basketball team from 1985-89. He became a fan favorite for his athletic style of play– and was drafted by the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

Here’s the Los Angeles Times reporting on Clippers scoring guard Jamal Crawford making a rare appearance in the starting lineup:

jamal crawford started an nba game

To his surprise, Jamal Crawford started for the Clippers when they played the Washington Wizards on Saturday night at the Verizon Center.

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said he started Crawford in place of Willie Green because he wanted more spacing for the first unit and to take some of the ball handling pressure off Chris Paul.

It worked out, as Crawford scored 17 points in the Clippers’ victory over the Wizards.

Crawford started his first game since April 9, 2012, when he was with the Portland Trail Blazers.

“You can be a lot more patient when you’re a starter, because you know you’re going to be out there some,” Crawford said. “When you come off the bench, you kind of have to make a positive impact immediately, whether it’s scoring or assisting. But as a starter, you can pick your spots a lot.”

The Utah Jazz announced today that the team has assigned rookie guard Ian Clark and rookie center Rudy Gobert to its NBA Development League (D-League) affiliate, the Bakersfield Jam. Both are expected to be in uniform for the Jam’s game Sunday at the Reno Bighorns in Reno, Nev.

A 6-3, 173-pound guard out of Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., Clark was named 2013 NBA Summer League Championship Game Most Valuable Player and was signed by the Jazz as an undrafted rookie free agent on July 29. The 22-year-old has appeared in eight games as a reserve for the Jazz, averaging 2.8 points in 8.8 minutes.

Gobert, a 7-1, 245-pound center, was a 2013 first-round draft pick (27th overall) whose rights the Jazz acquired in a draft-night trade with Denver that sent the Nuggets the rights to the 46th overall pick and cash considerations. The 21-year-old native of Saint Quentin, France, has made 17 appearances for the Jazz in a reserve role, averaging 2.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 0.82 blocks in 10.7 minutes.

Clark and Gobert become the seventh and eighth different players in Jazz history to be assigned to the D-League. Other players on the current Jazz roster with D-League experience include Jeremy Evans, Diante Garrett, Mike Harris and John Lucas III.

Bucks guard Carlos Delfino out at least eight weeks after foot surgery

Milwaukee Bucks General Manager John Hammond announced that guard Carlos Delfino (6-6, 220) underwent successful surgery this morning on his right foot. The surgery was performed at Sanatorio de la Trinidad in San Isidro, Buenos Aires, by Dr. Donato Villani, Argentinian National Soccer Team physician, who specializes in orthopaedics and traumatology. Dr. Villani was assisted by Dr. Javier Swiatlo and Dr. Pablo Pechervsky, with Bucks team physicians Dr. Michael Gordon and Dr. Samuel Idarraga present.

Delfino, 31, will have his foot immobilized and be placed on non-weight bearing restrictions for a period of eight weeks. Updates on his recovery will be provided as appropriate.

Currently in his ninth NBA season, Delfino has career averages of 8.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He was signed to a free agent contract on July 17 and has not played in a game this season.

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that the team has waived forward Josh Childress.

Childress, who originally signed with New Orleans on Nov. 12, 2013, appeared in four games with the Pelicans this season, tallying a total of three rebounds, two assists and a steal in 24 minutes. The Stanford product has appeared in 391 career games, including 70 starts, and holds career averages of 9.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 26.7 minutes per game.

New Orleans’ roster now stands at 14 players.

Here’s the Houston Chronicle on Israeli forward Omri Casspi, who has been a great fit as a supporting cast member of the Rockets this season:

Omri Casspi loving NBA life with Houston Rockets

A career that had gotten off to a promising start in Sacramento had seemed to hit bottom in Cleveland. He did not know where basketball would take him next but had begun to accept that he could be headed back to Europe, rather than back to Sacramento this weekend as such a vital part of the Rockets rotation.

Then with one voice message that he still won’t delete from his phone, everything changed. With that call, he not only knew where his career was headed, the confidence that had become so fractured, taking much of his game with it, was revived. All that had gone wrong seemed to have been made right again.

“Coach (Kevin) McHale left me a message over the summer when they started recruiting me and we started talking,” Casspi said. “I still have it. He said he wanted me to play the three and the four. He explained I could spread the floor and help the team win and that he liked the way I compete. That was one of the main reasons I came here. I still have that message and I still listen to it once in a while.

“It was the first time I really talked to a coach that really talked to me. This team was obviously was supposed to be good whether I was going to be here or not. But to be a part of the team that can compete and compete for a championship, after what I’d been through, and then he left me this message that said he loves me and wants me to come and play hard and help and do the things I do. That was just an emotional day, you know.”

Brandan Wright back soon for Mavericks

Here’s the Fort Worth Star-Telegram blog on the 13-10 Dallas Mavericks, who are set to enjoy some added depth:

Brandan Wright back soon for Mavericks

Brandan Wright said he likely will see his first action of the season Saturday night when the Dallas Mavericks host the Milwaukee Bucks at 7:30 at American Airlines Center.

The Mavs’ center played in the preseason opener against New Orleans, then suffered a small non-displaced fracture of his left shoulder during an Oct. 8 practice session. Since then, Wright has gone through a litany of treatment sessions in an effort to get his shoulder back up to speed.

“If everything goes well tomorrow I should be able to go (Saturday),” Wright said after today’s practice. “I feel alright.

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