Kwame Brown continues to drift into irrelevancy

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kwame brown.jpgKwame Brown, former #1 overall pick and legitimate candidate for the unenviable ‘Biggest Bust of All-Time’ distinction, is a shining example of the power of the Los Angeles Lakers. Not two seasons ago, Brown was an occasional starter on an upstart Lakers team that had taken the West by storm, and he averaged over 22 minutes per game for Los Angeles.

Brown may have received more ridicule than praise, but under the bright lights at Staples Center, it was impossible to deny his existence. He played for the most visible basketball team on the planet, and as such, he was among the most visible players on the planet. 

Then a funny thing happened. The Lakers snagged Pau Gasol away from the Memphis Grizzlies for a few first round picks, Javaris Crittenton (a good move in retrospect), and one giant expiring contract. That expiring contract was named Kwame Brown, and without the glitz and glam of the L.A. making him more or less a mainstay on national television, he’s slowly drifted from public consciousness.

It doesn’t help that Brown simply refuses to improve. Some players employ an exponential style of improvement over their formative years, where they’ll lay low temporarily before making big leap after big leap. Others are slightly more linear, showing steady, incremental improvement year after year. And then there are those like Brown, who quite honestly, may have plateaued before he even began. His body is more NBA-ready than his frail high school frame ever was during his early years in Washington, but from a technique standpoint has Brown ever really added anything to his game?

It doesn’t help that Brown plays for the pretty terrible Detroit Pistons, a mistmatched squad of talent that has Joe Dumars playing mad scientist. I’m honestly not sure what anyone expected would happen when the team dropped some major dough on signing Ben Gordon (a streaky shooter and decent, if undersized, defender) and Charlie Villanueva (a streaky shooter and a poor, if underwhelming, defender) as franchise cornerstones, but it’s not especially a recipe for success. Especially when considering the larger holes and problems on the roster. Namely, the center position, where Brown drifts through for about 14 minutes a night.

And it doesn’t help that Brown has a self-image that is increasingly dissonant with reality. Confidence (or really, disillusionment) has never been Kwame’s problem, as evidenced by a feature piece by Terry Foster of the Detroit News:

Pistons reserve center Kwame Brown rolled his head back in laughter inside the Pistons dressing room. Between beats of DMX on the loudspeaker there was the cackle of a giant man who didn’t agree with the latest lyrics from his coach.

“Our biggest concern and I have discussed it with him is defense,” Kuester said. “We have to make sure he continually plays the consistent defense that I want to in the scheme. That is pick-and-roll, high pick-and-roll. Just making sure he knows.”

If Brown didn’t know, he knows now. That is why he laughed when Kuester’s words were relayed to him.

“Listen, man, I don’t want something to be flared up on what I say,” Brown said. “I will do what the coach says in order to get better, although that is a first because there is one thing I do bring to the table and that is defense. That’s the first time I heard that. It’s the first time a coach said I don’t play defense. But like I said, I will learn to play the defense he wants me to play.”

…Brown remains confident. He started for the Lakers in 2006 when Chris Mihm was injured. Brown said he’s one of the top three defensive players in the NBA. That’s why Kuester’s words make him laugh.

One of the top three defensive players in the NBA. Kwame Brown. I’ll let that sink in.

It’s hard to be a Laker and not get noticed, one way or another. But as a Piston? A Piston who’s logging floor time behind Ben Wallace, Jason Maxiell, and Chris Wilcox at center? A Piston who honestly believes he’s one of the league’s top defenders, despite incredible evidence to the contrary? Well, to get noticed in that situation, Kwame needs to let his game do the talking.  

Steve Kerr has “regrets” over time as Suns GM with Mike D’Antoni as coach

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Saturday night, Steve Kerr and Mike D’Antoni will square off as the coaches of the two best teams in the NBA this season (the Warriors and Rockets), teams loaded with offensive talent that play fast — Kerr and D’Antoni have some of the same basic philosophies about the game. Right now they have a mutual admiration society going.

But remember when Kerr took over as the general manager of the “seven seconds or less” Suns? Then traded for Shaq, which was the first step in D’Antono going out the door to New York.

Kerr opened up about his regrets from that era to Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News.

“I have some regrets,” Kerr said. “I think we had a few differences that I probably didn’t handle very well as a GM that I could’ve probably handled better, especially given that we really like each other and have a lot of similar viewpoints on the game.”

The Suns were a contender, but not one that could get over the hump of the peak San Antonio Spurs of the mid-2000s (it was more than just the year Robert Horry hip-checked Steve Nash into the boards and A’mare Stoudemire got nailed for leaving the bench). Kerr felt the need to do something, so he traded Shawn Marion for an over-the-hill Shaquille O’Neal who did not at all fit the Suns’ style. That move ended an era, and the next summer D’Antoni signed in New York (with a front office that never gave him the pieces for his style of play).

“I should have let Mike know, ‘It’s okay, keep kicking [butt] and keep going, and we’ll make some moves that aren’t so radical that fit more with who we are as an organization,” Kerr said. “We swung for the fences, and it was not the right move to make as an organization. I didn’t envision that as GM. I didn’t have the macro view of what we needed to do….

“I needed to tell Mike, ‘It’s okay if we don’t win the championship,’” Kerr said. “We were so desperate to win. But not everybody can win. But what you can do is keep putting yourself in a position to get there. Then maybe the breaks fall your way.”

Kerr said he’s matured in the way he views the game and team building since then. That is evident in the way the Warriors have been built, with a big-picture view of everything that gets done — they win not only because they are loaded with talent but how that talent fits together. However, they are really an extension of the changes D’Antoni brought to the NBA in Phoenix, just with better defense and some ridiculous shooters.

After stints in New York and Los Angeles with rosters that were ill-suited for his style, D’Antoni is winning big again in Houston because James Harden was really a point guard and GM Daryl Morey has put the right pieces around him to play D’Antoni’s style.

But once again D’Antoni seems just short of a ring because a legendary team — and Steve Kerr — is in the way.

Reports: Jazz might trade Rodney Hood before deadline

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Rodney Hood has been a solid shooter for the Jazz this season, averaging 16.7 points per game and shooting 41.3 percent from three. Of course, you remember him better for this.

Hood is in the final year of his rookie contract, and with the rise of Donovan Mitchell it’s not exactly clear what Hood’s role would be for the Jazz going forward.

Which means Utah might trade Hood, according to multiple reports.

Hood isn’t going to net much in return because he’s in the final year of a contract and because he misses time with nagging injuries (he was out the end of Friday’s game against the Knicks with a lower leg contusion), but considering the number of teams who could use another shooter in the mix there will be interest. More than the big name deals — Kemba Walker, DeAndre Jordan — this is the kind of trade likely to get done at the deadline.

Lowry scores 24 points as Raptors beat Spurs 86-83

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TORONTO (AP) — Kyle Lowry scored nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan added 21 and the Toronto Raptors beat San Antonio 86-83 on Friday night to snap a four-game losing streak against the Spurs.

Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 11 rebounds as the Raptors improved to 17-3 at home, the second-best home record in the NBA behind San Antonio’s mark of 19-2.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 14 rebounds, Pau Gasol scored 15 points and Patty Mills had 13 as San Antonio lost for the fourth time in six road games. The Spurs are 11-15 away from home.

It had been more than two years since Toronto last beat San Antonio. The Raptors won 97-94 at home on Dec. 9, 2015.

San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili missed his second straight game because of a sore right thigh. Ginobili returned to Texas after the Spurs won at Brooklyn on Wednesday.

The Spurs trailed 70-69 after a 3-pointer by Bryn Forbes at 6:52 of the fourth, but DeRozan and Lowry connected on back-to-back possessions, giving Toronto a 74-69 lead with 5:11 remaining.

After a jump shot by Mills, Toronto reeled off a 6-0 run including baskets by Lowry, Valanciunas and DeRozan to lead 80-71 with 2:40 left.

Another 3-pointer by Forbes made it 86-83 with six seconds left. DeRozan was fouled but missed both free throws, giving San Antonio a chance to tie, but the Spurs couldn’t get a shot off in time.

After making seven of 23 shots in the first quarter, the Raptors hit 11 of 20 attempts in the second, including a buzzer-beating jumper from DeRozan that gave Toronto a 44-37 lead at halftime.

Toronto led 55-41 on DeRozan’s three-point play at 7:33 of the third but Aldridge did all the scoring in an 8-0 Spurs run that cut the gap to 63-60 heading to the fourth.

 

Memphis pays tribute to Zach Randolph as he returns to FedEx Forum

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Zach Randolph found his career around in Memphis.

He had fantastic on-the-court years in Portland, then bounced to New York and Los Angeles, but it was in Memphis that he became a beloved figure in the community who embraced it, plus on the court played a big role in the best years in the Grizzlies franchise.

He took the bigger check in Sacramento last summer, and when he returned to FedEx Forum in a Kings uniform Friday he was greeted with nothing but love.

🙌🏽 The @memgrizz pay tribute to @macbo50! #ThisIsWhyWePlay

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Randolph has earned this. Hope he savored it.