Pistons on 11-game losing streak

Here’s Michigan Live reporting on the Detroit Pistons, who lately have mastered the art of losing basketball games and at 3-17 through Saturday have the second worst winning percentage in the league:

The Detroit Pistons have run plumb out of explanations.

They will win again eventually. The nature of the NBA dictates as much.

But they have to get out of their own way first, and after 11 consecutive losses — the most recent a stunning late collapse in a 108-101 overtime loss Saturday to the Philadelphia 76ers — that could prove their biggest challenge.

The Pistons scored seven points on their last 23 possessions. They scored one overtime point, when they had 10 possessions and shot 0 of 11 from the field with a turnover.

They are within three losses of the franchise-record losing streak, 14, and they stand alone with the worst 20-game record in Pistons history, 3-17.

Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, who through Friday’s games is averaging 22.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game this season.

Pistons plan to run fewer plays

The Detroit Pistons plan to get more creative in their offense. Here’s Michigan Live reporting:

Spoiler alert: The Detroit Pistons will free-wheel it a little bit more offensively the next few games, with fewer play calls from the sidelines, to see if that gets them into sets more briskly.

How it works remains to be seen because Stan Van Gundy already allows his team to run off set principles, not a set play call, after defensive stops, but Pistons forward Kyle Singler hinted Friday that the coach plans to cede some play-calling in favor of increased tempo.

“So the next few games, you’ll see us hopefully not call as many plays, and just coming down the court, unpredictable sets, kind of movement and screens, which I think will help us out,” Singler said. “Just us coming down with us having the idea of just playing the game, just coming down, setting pin-downs, or setting early drags for our point guards, and then just playing out from there, instead of just coming over, looking at the bench, looking for a play call.

“I think it will help our tempo and hopefully free our minds a little bit and just open up our offense.”

Pelicans sign Gal Mekel

Pelicans sign Gal Mekel

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that the team has signed free agent guard Gal Mekel. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Mekel, 6-3, 191, appeared in 31 games (one start) last season with the Dallas Mavericks, posting averages of 2.4 points and 2.0 assists. Mekel appeared in all eight of Dallas’ 2014 preseason games (two starts), averaging 7.6 points, 1.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists.

Prior to joining the Mavericks, Mekel spent five years playing professionally in Israel, winning two Israeli Super League championships with Hapoel Gilboa Galil in 2010 and Maccabi Haifa in 2013, as well as being named the 2009 Israeli Super League Rising Star and winning the league MVP award twice (2011, 2013). Before starting his professional career, the Israeli native played two seasons at Wichita State University from 2006-08.

Mekel will wear #24 and will be available for New Orleans’ game tomorrow night in Los Angeles against the Clippers.

New Orleans’ roster now stands at 15.

The Philadelphia 76ers announced today the team has signed free agent guard Malcolm Lee from its NBA Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers. He is the ninth D-League to NBA “Call-Up” of the 2014-15 NBA Development League season.

Lee has appeared in four games with three starts for the Sevens this season. He also saw action in three games for the Sixers this preseason.

Lee was originally the 43rd overall pick by Chicago in the 2011 NBA Draft following his junior season at UCLA. He spent both of his NBA seasons (2011-12 and 2012-13) with Minnesota.

In a related move, the Sixers waived Drew Gordon.

Here’s the Orange County Register reporting on Los Angeles Lakers point guard Jeremy Lin, who like most of his teammates is still adjusting to what should be a tough run all season long:

What label to use for Lin from night to night has pinballed: efficient, inefficient, spotty, reliable, aggressive, facilitator. In Wednesday’s loss to Washington, he was just bad, missing all 10 of his shots, including six 3-pointers, which Coach Byron Scott chalked up to an off night. It was the second time he has been held scoreless this season.

But there are issues, bigger issues. Namely, Lin still isn’t particularly comfortable in the Lakers’ offense.

However, it was not entirely unexpected that this marriage between the offensively minded Lin and the Lakers, whose new offense features a two-guard front, would take some work.

“Houston was the ideal system for me,” Lin said earlier this week, “personally as a player in terms of spreading the floor, running and making plays and having guys with a lot of space, stretch fours. That’s the ideal system, but that’s not what we have here.”

Brandon Jennings says Pistons lack energy

The Detroit Pistons are a miserable 3-16 this season. There’s much work to be done, and while roster changes are needed, there are some talented pieces on this squad. Flawed pieces, that don’t fit too well together. Still, the Pistons as they stand now should be better than this. Here’s Michigan Live reporting:

“It starts with our energy,” Jennings said. “We’ve got to start running up and down the court. If we don’t have no energy, we’re not going to be able to get in our sets and run our sets hard.”

Jennings cited three major problems with the Pistons’ offense: Slow tempo, late screeners, and lack of movement away from pick-and-roll action.

“There’s a lot of times when I’m coming off (a screen) and I just have to throw the pass back to Josh and then we’ll just play like a two-man game or something,” Jennings said. “Nobody’s really cutting. I think we need to be a better cutting team.”

The Pistons (3-16) average 91.9 possessions per 48 minutes, sixth-fewest in the league. They have played six of the seven fastest-paced teams in the league, lost all of those games, and will play the other such team Saturday when they host the Philadelphia 76ers (1-17), who play the league’s second-fastest pace, 97.7 possessions per 48 minutes.

A win is a win, right? That’s what they say. Some wins are pretty, others not so much. And the opponent? Can’t fault the winning team for beating the opponent they were required to face. Here’s the Oregonian reporting on Portland’s win Thursday:

The Portland Trail Blazers set season lows in a handful of offensive categories, but still managed to grind out an 88-82 win over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night at the Moda Center.

The Blazers set new seasons lows for points scored (88), field goal percentage (.398) and three point field goal percentage (.190) in an ugly win over the defensive minded Pacers.

Damian Lillard led Portland with 23 points and eight rebounds and LaMarcus Aldridge chipped in a double-double with 18 points and 13 boards on a night where the Blazers never settled into an offensive rhythm.

The Blazers shooting woes never allowed them to pull away. The Portland defense held the Pacers to 39 percent shooting from the floor and forced Indiana into 17 turnovers, but never Portland largest lead was just 11 points.

Knicks fall to 4-16 for season

The New York Knicks are now 4-16 this season, one of the worst winning percentages in the league. They came close to beating the Cleveland Cavaliers at home in MSG Thursday night on national television, but fell just short. The struggle is real. Here’s the New York Post with more:

Carmelo Anthony had one of his worst nights with the Knicks, and now they are off to their worst start in franchise history.

Despite getting plenty of help from his teammates, Anthony couldn’t close the deal as his miserable evening ended with a missed 3-pointer that rimmed out over LeBron James in the final seconds to seal the Cavaliers 90-87 victory at the Garden.

The Knicks fell to 4-16 — the worst record any Knicks team has had after 20 games. Anthony finished shooting 4-of-19 for nine points, scoring just two points in the second half, shut out in the fourth quarter. He also didn’t take one free throw. Incredibly, the Knicks are just two games ahead of the 1-17 Sixers in the standings.

Jersey City native Kyrie Irving starred over James (19 points, 12 assists) and Anthony. Irving finished with 37 points and hit the game-sealing bucket.

Hornets still aim to make playoffs

Despite their very disappointing start, it’s far too early for the Charlotte Hornets to give up on making the playoffs. Here’s the Charlotte Observer reporting:

Hornets still aim to make playoffs

In seven of the the past 10 NBA seasons, the eighth and final seed in the East finished the regular season with a losing record. On average in that span, 39 victories got a team in the East into the playoffs.

Certainly it’s plausible the Hornets win 35 of their remaining 63 games. But they have to start closing out victories and Friday’s game, against the similarly struggling New York Knicks would be a good start.

“It’s a very long season. We still have a chance to win a lot of games,” point guard Kemba Walker said. “Things haven’t been going our way, but that happens. Last season we came back and won a lot of games. It’s going to click.

“It’s not insurmountable at all. People might not see it, but we’re getting a lot better as a team. Our chemistry is coming together.”

Kevin Durant shows respect for Sixers

Here’s the Philadelphia Inquirer blog reporting some positive words about the 76ers from none other than Kevin Durant:

So how does Kevin Durant, the reigning NBA MVP, feel about the 1-17 Sixers?

They avoided the worst start in NBA history by posting their victory of the season, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves, 85-77, Wednesday night at the Target Center.

“They’ve been playing hard,” said Durant, whose Oklahoma City Thunder face the Sixers Friday night at Wells Fargo Center. “They’re a young team. We’ve been through it where it kind of tough to finish out game.

“But they’ve been in a lot of games. It’s just a matter of them finishing.”

Luol Deng dealing with hand injury

Here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel reporting on Miami Heat small forward Luol Deng:

Luol Deng dealing with hand injury

Luol Deng stressed Thursday that frustration over the Miami Heat’s injury situation should not be mistaken for panic, but the team’s starting small forward indicated his hand injury likely will cause him to miss time.

The team is listing Deng as questionable with a bruised right hand. Deng said he has bone bruises on the thumb and index finger.

X-rays came back negative Wednesday, but because of ongoing swelling, a possible MRI has been delayed, leaving Deng uncertain of his timetable.

“I wish I could tell you,” he said after Thursday’s light practice at AmericanAirlines Arena, before departing with the team for a five-game trip that opens Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Orlando Magic forward Kyle O’Quinn has been fined $15,000 for making excessive contact above the shoulders with Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, it was announced today by Rod Thorn, President, Basketball Operations.

The foul on O’Quinn, for which he was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected, occurred with 5:54 remaining in the second quarter of the Clippers’ 114-86 win over the Magic on Dec. 3, at Staples Center.

Video: LeBron, Kevin Love shooting around

LeBron James and Kevin Love shooting around pregame in Madison Square Garden:

Thunder assign Mitch McGary to D-League

The Oklahoma City Thunder has assigned forward Mitch McGary to the Oklahoma City Blue of the NBA Development League, it was announced today by Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti.

McGary, the 21st overall selection of the 2014 NBA Draft, has yet to appear in a regular season game for the Thunder.

Pelicans sign Dante Cunningham

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that the team has signed free agent forward Dante Cunningham.

Cunningham, 6-8, 230, was the 33rd overall pick out of Villanova in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. A five-year veteran, Cunningham has appeared in 366 career NBA games (41 starts) with Portland, Charlotte, Memphis and Minnesota, holding career averages of 6.2 points and 3.9 rebounds.

Cunningham will be available for the Pelicans’ game tonight at Golden State. He will wear #44.

New Orleans’ roster stands at 14.

The Boston Celtics announced today that they have assigned forward Dwight Powell, guard Marcus Smart and guard/forward James Young to the Maine Red Claws.

Powell has appeared in one game for the Red Claws this season, an 81-80 win over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants on November 17, and recorded 21 points on 9-16 (.563) shooting and a game-high 17 rebounds in 38 minutes of action. He scored six points in four minutes for the Celtics against the San Antonio Spurs on November 30 and is averaging 2.7 points in 2.3 minutes per game in three appearances with the team this season.

Smart has appeared in six games for the Celtics this season averaging 5.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steals in 17.7 minutes per game. Smart returned to the court against the Detroit Pistons on December 3 after missing the previous 10 games with a left ankle sprain and recorded two assists in just under five minutes of action. He netted a season-high of 12 points against Toronto on November 5.

Young has appeared in two contests for the Red Claws this season and is averaging 21.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 block in 34.9 minutes per game. He recorded six points, one rebound and one block in six minutes for the Celtics against the Houston Rockets on November 1 and is averaging 2.8 points in 4.0 minutes per game with the team this season.

Heat assign Andre Dawkins to D-League

The Miami HEAT announced tonight that they have assigned guard Andre Dawkins to their NBA Development League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

Dawkins has appeared in three games with the HEAT this season totaling three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of action. He previously appeared in three preseason games with Miami and averaged 10.3 points, 1.0 rebounds and 16.7 minutes while shooting 52.9 percent (9-of-17) from the field and 58.3 percent (7-of-12) from three-point range.

OKC Thunder are finally healthy

Here’s the Oklahoman reporting some good news about the OKC Thunder. That their players are healthy enough to stand up, jump, move around and many other things that are useful when playing pro basketball:

OKC Thunder are finally healthy

For the first time this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder has its entire roster healthy.

Each of the team’s 15 players participated in Wednesday’s practice, resulting in a packed set of adjacent courts inside the team’s training center, a scene that hasn’t been seen all season.

“It’s great that we have our entire roster able to participate in practice and have the chance to play in games,” said coach Scott Brooks.

Perry Jones, who has been sidelined since Nov. 4 with a knee contusion, became the last player to rejoin the team. His right knee will continue to be monitored but he is now available to play in games. Jones has appeared in only five games this season but was showing promise before sustaining his injury. He scored a career-high 32 points in a three-point road loss to the Clippers on Oct. 30 and had a 20-point performance two nights later at Denver.

Here’s the Orlando Sentinel reporting on talented young Magic guard Victor Oladipo, who is still on the rise as he develops, and as his team learns how best to utilize him:

Young Magic guard Victor Oladipo still improving

During Tuesday night’s 98-97 heartbreaking loss to the same Warriors who decimated the Magic a week earlier, Oladipo markedly improved his decision-making. In one of the most efficient performances of his brief pro career, Oladipo sank 10 of his 14 shot attempts and scored 27 points.

“He’ll continue to work on his game and continue to play with these guys,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “He’ll continue to learn how to play with that mask on, and things will become more comfortable with him.”

Oladipo has struggled at times to adapt to the point guard spot since the Magic selected him second overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. A natural shooting guard, he had never played the point before, and his first regular season felt like on-the-job training.

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