Coach K is willing to cut Team USA's stars a little slack this summer

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Krzyzewski.jpgAs it turns out, some NBA players aren’t quite as gung-ho about the possibility of playing in this summer’s FIBA World Championships as they were about representing their country in the Olympics. I’m not sure if that’s because the novelty wore off when America’s basketballing name was restored in ’08 or just because the circumstances for each individual player has changed, but the members of Team USA seem to be dropping like flies. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh, in particular, have all indicated that their presence with the team this summer is anything but certain.

Jerry Colangelo, the man behind the Redeem Team magic, was obviously not pleased. Mike Krzyzewski, on the other hand, appears to be more understanding than anything. Coach K may be all fire and brimstone in Durham, but he’s showing that he has the flexibility needed to handle not only NBA-level talent, but NBA-level personalities. From Adam Zagoria of SNY (via Eric Freeman of The Baseline):

Krzyzewski said he would understand if a
player such as Miami guard Dwyane Wade missed the world championship
this summer because of “personal” reasons.

“We should be sensitive to their needs,” Krzyzewski said.
Referring to Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant, he added, “They’re giving
up of their time, so if LeBron or Kobe or Carmelo’s getting married
this summer. Dwyane, these guys, Chris Bosh, if they’re not able to
play, we understand that.

“There’s a part of me that says don’t worry about it, worry
about your personal thing. Now if your personal stuff gets done and you
want to play, then play, but you don’t have to play.”

K’s response is notable for a number of reasons. For starters, if Colangelo imagined a united front in his and his head coach’s response to the possible absences this summer, this is anything but. Jerry has let up a bit after initially pounding his iron fist on the table, but this stance still seems quite different than the message from USA Basketball’s summit.

Second, reactions like this could be evidence that Krzyzewski is more ready to be an NBA coach than most people anticipated. The problem with NCAA coaches transitioning to the pros is that the nature of interpersonal relations on each level is completely different; the dynamics between coaches and “student-athletes” and coaches and professional athletes are quite dissimilar.

Athletes at the top are looking to play, win, and make a buck, and though they need leadership, they don’t necessarily need or want a notorious patriarch running the show. That’s the persona that Krzyzewski embodies at Duke. This compromise, however, could show that he’s capable of being more accommodating at the pro level. This doesn’t necessarily show that K would be a good NBA coach, but maybe that he has a better shot than he once did.

Then again, he’s dealing with the cream of the NBA crop. It’s one thing for him to cut Dwyane Wade some slack, and another for him to take that same approach with Ricky Davis. 

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.