Exploring the Nuggets' need for another big man

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There isn’t a roster in the league that you could look up and down and say “Ehh, they couldn’t use another big man.” That’s the very reason that the Big Z-Cleveland release-and-catch is so offensive to so many teams; the move doesn’t seem like it should be legal, sure, but those who have been the most vocal about it are those threatened by Cleveland’s competition or those that would be vying for Ilgauskas’ services.

Productive centers with decent size go a long way in the NBA, and true depth at the 5 is something of a Holy Grail for many championship and playoff contenders.

In that light, the Nuggets’ rumored flirtations with just about every free agent big man on the NBA radar makes perfect sense. They could very well find themselves matched up against the Lakers in the playoffs, and that frontcourt? Not exactly small. L.A.’s size is one of the reasons they’re so difficult to match and match-up with.

To further complicate things, Chris Andersen, a vital component of Denver’s bench and their most effective center behind Nene, isn’t well. He hasn’t been for some time, and won’t be for a long while. From Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post:

On the orders of the training staff, [Andersen] sat out the second half of the Nuggets’ 101-85 loss at Phoenix on Monday. Then there was a day off before the Oklahoma City game. “With four games in five nights, it’s really not enough time for you to do as much treatment as I needed, and to get in the weight room. So it was tough,” Andersen said. “But I got a little bit of rest, even though I didn’t want to. I tried to give it a go against Phoenix, and they said just (to) sit out the rest of the half due to the fact that my knee was strained. But it’s a matter of bouncing back, because we definitely needed that game (on Wednesday). We definitely have to take care of our home court.”

Andersen will likely not be 100 percent during the rest of the regular season or into the playoffs. Asked if he knows what he’ll feel like from one day to the next, Andersen said “No.”

“Usually when I get up, I’m in some big pain, but that’s just the way it goes,” he said. “It’s been a tough year so far with all of the back-to-backs we’ve had. It’s just a matter of fighting through it.”

Andersen’s injury is even more damaging to the Nuggets because Andersen’s real value comes in his activity level; he’s more mobile than most centers, which makes him an incredibly effective weak-side shot blocker. But when he’s enduring constant soreness and pain in a bum knee? Well, it doesn’t exactly improve his abilities as a rotating defender, that’s for sure.

But these are hardly developments with Andersen’s injured knee so much as they are lingering storylines. It’s something that will chase Denver through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs, and the only plausible solution at this point is to grab a free agent and hope they’re able to provide Chris some rest.

The Nuggets just need few minutes out of a capable third center. That man is not Malik Allen , nor Johan Petro. But considering how late it is in the season and Denver’s circumstances, there may not be many other options. So they’ll chase Z, they’ll probably chase Mark Blount, or Jake Voskuhl, or some unsigned “gem.” And though expectations will likely be pretty low for a guy of Blount or Voskuhl’s caliber, they’re not needed for much: just a simple role and a simple job that could be all the difference come April, maybe May, and hopefully for the Nuggets, June.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.