Brandon Bass' polite, tasteful frustration

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This past off-season, Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith wanted it all. He wanted a talented, versatile swingman to work the offense in place of Hedo Turkoglu, so he traded for Vince Carter. He wanted another big, sweet-shooting forward to plug in at the 4, so he demanded the inclusion of Ryan Anderson in the Carter deal. He wanted depth, toughness, and shooting on the wing, so he signed Matt Barnes. He wanted to fortify the back-up point guard position, so he signed Jason Williams. And he wanted to match the Dallas’ Mavericks offer sheet to then-restricted free agent Marcin Gortat while simultaneously wooing the Mavs’ Brandon Bass for the mid-level exception, so he did that too.

All a pretty decent plan, and a flurry of activity that most fans could only dream coming from their team’s GM.

Despite the kid-in-the-candy-store look of Smith’s approach, there was calculation there. He picked his targets, went after them strategically, and assembled one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the league. But among all of those moves, Smith made one pretty sizable misstep; how would the newly signed Brandon Bass find minutes in a front court featuring Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard, Gortat, and Anderson? You don’t willingly pay $4 million a year for bench filler, which is essentially what Bass has become. Brandon has played in just 30 of Orlando’s 53 games, with many of those opportunities coming due to injuries in the rotation.

Smith could have picked between Bass and Gortat, and everything would’ve been peachy. But Otis Smith is finding out the hard way that you can’t have your talented, young big man cake and eat it — …okay it’s an imperfect metaphor, but you see what I’m getting at.

To Bass’ credit, he hasn’t made much of a ruckus. There could be some brooding and resentment behind the scenes, but any confrontations have stayed well within the confines of the locker room, despite there being plenty of media interest in Brandon’s growing frustration.

That is, until now. And even then, the message conveyed by Bass through his agent is hardly one of rage or bitterness; this is just a guy looking for a place to play basketball, and if he can’t do that with regularity in Orlando, he’d like to be relocated somewhere else. Please and thank you. From Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel:

Bass, admittedly frustrated and disappointed, was asked if he still wanted to be in Orlando. “Do I want to stay here? If they feel like I can help them, sooner than later, I’d love to stay here. If something changes. … If they say I can’t help the team and they don’t want me here … then maybe I have to do what’s best for myself,” said Bass, who also was courted last summer by Charlotte, Detroit, Chicago and Portland, among others. “I signed here because I wanted to win championships. I took less dollars because I wanted to win. But it eats at me, because I can’t contribute to the team.”

[Brandon Bass’ agent, Tony] Dutt said he plans on speaking with Magic General Manager Otis Smith sometime during the upcoming all-star break to get a feel for Bass’ future in Orlando. Dutt is not actively seeking a trade for Bass, 24. He said it could be “premature” to demand that Bass be moved, considering Bass’ role could change. Dutt said that Smith says that there’s still a place for Bass — and Smith told the Sentinel as much on Thursday. “I like Brandon. He’ll get his opportunity,” Smith said.

But Dutt is still baffled by how little Bass has played. “The consensus is that they see a role for him. Maybe it’s just taken longer for that to happen. But to bring him in and not play him. … It doesn’t make any sense,” Dutt said.

Despite the inconsistent play of the Magic this season, Bass has refused to make demands or give ultimatums. That may not be to his immediate benefit (it’s unlikely he’ll be moved before the trade deadline), but it certainly is to the team as a whole. 2009-’10 may end up being a regrettable season for Bass, but at least he hasn’t taken the Magic down with him.

Philadelphia has dropped record 27 in a row dating back to last season

Brett Brown
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We tend to think of record streaks having to be in one season, not broken up across two.

But if you can suspend that, the Philadelphia 76ers are now the owners of the longest losing streak in NBA — and major professional sports — history.

With their tough two-points loss to Houston Friday night, the Sixers have lost 27 in a row. The Sixers dropped their final 10 last season and with the loss to the Rockets are 0-17 to start this one.

That bests the 26-game losing streaks of the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and these same Sixers from 2013-14. Looking across sports, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 1976-1977 also lost 26 in a row, which when you consider the length of the NFL season is pretty embarrassing.

The Sixers struggles are born from a plan by GM Sam Hinkie (and approved by ownership) to get better long-term by being bad now and hoarding draft picks. It’s a strategy that can work if Hinkie nails the draft picks (the book is out on how Hinkie is doing on that front). And they are committed to it through at least this draft.

But don’t think for a second the players and coach are trying to lose.

If you have watched the Sixers play their last few games you know the players are trying hard to get that victory (and almost have a couple of times). The effort is there, they are just outmatched and lack the kind of presence at the end of games to execute under pressure (something a couple of quality, regularly-playing veterans might help, but that’s another discussion). They have the point differential of a team that should have a couple wins; they just haven’t been fortunate. It happens. Go ahead and blame management if you think this plan is an abomination. Just don’t question the desire or effort of the players or coaches, that is not in doubt.

The Sixers play at the Grizzlies Sunday, then have maybe their best shot at a win for a while when they host the Lakers on Tuesday.



Byron Scott, is it time to bench Kobe Bryant? “That’s not an option.”

Kobe Bryant, D'Angelo Russell, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant‘s shooting woes this season have been well documented. Let me explain… no, there is too much. Let me sum up. Kobe is shooting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three, all while jacking up more threes than ever before. He was 1-of-14 shooting against Cleveland, and that’s as many shots as rookies D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle got combined.

If Kobe keeps shooting like this while dominating the ball, is it time to bench Kobe? Coach Byron Scott laughed at the idea, as reported by Baxter Holmes at ESPN.

“I would never, never, never do that,” Scott said after practice at the Lakers’ facility. “That’s not an option whatsoever. No, that’s not an option.”

It’s not an option because this is the guy the fans have paid to see, at home and on the road (the Lakers have still sold out every road game this season, the only team to have done so). Kobe is the draw, he’s going to play.

That doesn’t mean Scott is handling all this well, Kobe has no repercussions for his actions.

Byron Scott is an enabler with Kobe. In his mind Kobe has earned the right to play poorly because of his career, which is just hard to watch.

The real issue I have with Scott enabling Kobe is the double standard — minutes for Russell and the other young players get jerked around when they make mistakes. Scott sounds and acts like a guy with a couple rookies on a veteran team where the objective is to win as many games as possible.

This can’t be emphasized enough: the primary goal for the Lakers this season is to develop Russell, Randle, and Jordan Clarkson (and Larry Nance Jr., who has impressed). But Russell has sat a lot of fourth quarters, and when Scott is asked if playing in those blowout minutes might help develop the young point guard faster, he says, “Nah.” Scott has benched Clarkson at points and called him out in the media.

Reduction of minutes can be a valuable teaching tool with young players — if the conditions of them getting those minutes are precisely laid out. Clear rules with rewards and consequences. That is not the case in Los Angeles, where Russell has said Scott has not spoken to him much about what he’s doing wrong and why he’s spending the ends of games benched. That’s not coaching a guy up; that’s not player development. There need to be clear guidelines and structures for young players to follow.

The only guideline in LA seems to be “Kobe has carte blanche.”

Boston police now probing fight involving 76ers center Okafor

Jahlil Okafor

BOSTON (AP) — Boston police say a man has come forward saying he’s the victim in a fight involving Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor that was recorded and posted online.

Authorities say a man filed a police report Friday saying the fight outside a nightclub left him with stitches over his eye.

Police say the alleged victim reported the fight began after some of his female friends refused the advances of two men, including one believed to be Okafor. The man told police Okafor punched him and knocked him to the ground.

Okafor says he’s embarrassed about the scuffle and is dealing with the team and league on possible discipline.

The confrontation happened early Thursday morning after the 76ers fell to 0-16 on the season. The Sixers rookie said he was being heckled.

Previously, the police had said they were not investigating the incident.

Durant, Westbrook throw shade at Reggie Jackson after Thunder beat Pistons

Reggie Jackson
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Reggie Jackson‘s exit from Oklahoma City a year ago was not smooth or pretty. He wanted a bigger stage, he wanted out, and he let everyone know it. “We felt like everybody wanted to be here except for one guy,” Kevin Durant said after the trade that sent Jackson to Detroit.

The Pistons and Jackson were back in Oklahoma City Friday night. The fans let Jackson know they didn’t appreciate his words with plenty of boos. After the game, when asked about Jackson both Durant and Russell Westbrook threw shade at Jackson, as reported by Royce Young at Daily KD didn’t even mention Jackson among Detroit’s best players.

“Steven (Adams) did a great job on their best player and Andre (Roberson) did a great job on their second best player in (Kentavious Caldwell) Pope and Russ did his job,” Durant said…

“Who?” Westbrook said, after very clearly hearing who he was asked about.

Reggie Jackson.

“What happened?”

Those comments were more aggressive toward Jackson than the Thunder players seemed to be during the game, where he was treated as an afterthought.

Jackson has played well for Detroit this season — averaging 19.1 points and 5.9 assists per game, with a PER of 20.3 and real chemistry with Andre Drummond — but he was held in check against the Thunder. Spending much of the night battling foul trouble, Jackson had 15 points on 16 shots on the night.

Durant was the stud for the Thunder, with 34 points and 13 rebounds, and the Thunder won comfortably 103-87.