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.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.