Clippers Meet the New Boss…

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The Clippers have made a seamless transition to the Kim Hughes era.

At least that’s how it looked to Clippers fans Saturday. Just like Mike Dunleavy before him (and Dennis Johnson before him and Alvin Gentry before him), Hughes’ Clipper squad got routed by the Spurs 98-81. The fans booed the team off the court at halftime. Not the ideal in his coaching debut. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…

Except it’s not. Things are different for the Clippers with Hughes at the helm. Better remains to be seen, but they are different.
There is a sense of optimism in the locker room. Players like that Hughes wants to get out and run and not have so many set plays. Despite the results after one game of trying to improvise some offense looking ugly (21 turnovers will do that, so will all the missed chip shots).

As any comedian who knows their craft can tell you (so, don’t bother ask Dane Cook), improvisation is a practiced skill. The Clippers looked like a team that hadn’t improvised in a long time. They had eight turnovers to just four baskets in the first quarter. On one possession, Marcus Camby came out and set the drag screen (high pick and roll early in transition) and Eric Gordon went behind it, left his feet, changed his mind mid-air and tried to hand the ball off to a shocked Camby. Turnover. Baron Davis had seven turnovers in the first half alone.

“It’s going to require a lot of instincts out there, it’s just going to take us a little time,” Davis said afterwards, adding that after half a season of walk-it-up with Dunleavy the team was not in condition right now to run for 48.

Hughes is actually the kind of guy you want to root for — an NBA lifer getting his first chance. Hughes comes off as a players coach — he started in pro player career in the ABA, a rookie on Julius Erving’s championship New York Nets team. In his first pregame press conference as head coach he called Chris Kaman “retarded.” But in an affectionate way.

He’s also honest. Like when asked if he really had the ballhandlers to have a running offense.

“Perhaps not,” Hughes said. “That was somewhat exposed tonight.”

He doesn’t. This team was built by Dunleavy for Dunleavy’s slow offense. Still, There were flashes. Midway through the third quarter when Eric Gordon made the steal, hit Davis on the runout, who drew the defense then left a drop bounce pass to Rasual Butler for the dunk.

But there was much more horrific decision making (like Mardy Collins going isolation at the end of the first half rather than feeding Davis or Kaman). If nothing else, Clippers fans should be optimistic because there is plenty of room to improve after game one of the Hughes era.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”

Knicks’ Rookie Jerian Grant gets up, throws it down (VIDEO)

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The Knicks did well trading for Jerian Grant on date night — he’s going to be able to walk in this year and play quality minutes off the bench.

And, he can get up and throw it down.

Carmelo Anthony had 18 points to lead the Knicks to a 94-88 win over the Sixers.