Game of the Night: John Wall vs. Evan Turner turns out to be about Andray Blatche

1 Comment

We tuned in to see John Wall matched up on Evan Turner — and we got a little of that late in the game.

But it ended up being about a lot more. It ended up being about Andray Blatche finding the guy from the end of last season. It ended up being about whether or not to foul when up three late. It ended up being one of the more entertaining games of the young season — Wizards won 116-115 in overtime.

It even started out entertaining, with Wall doing the dougie out to the other starters before the game. Washington is all about Wall.

Then for the first six minutes of the rookie’s home opener, Jrue Holiday took Wall to school. On one of the first possessions, Holiday just stepped behind a screen and knocked down a two. Two possessions later he was coming off the baseline out to the wing, felt Wall overplaying and denying the pass so Holiday went backdoor and just lost him and got a dunk. On a Wizards possession a couple plays later Wall gets the handoff coming off a wing screen and tries to drive but Holiday catches him and ties him up. At least Wall won the tip. A little bit later, Holiday with a long two over Wall.

Wall is going to be very good, but nerves and another good point guard gave him a wake up call.

Then Wall settled down Lou Williams came in for Holiday. Wall was too quick, too strong for Williams and he started getting in deep, getting good looks or getting fouled. Wall ended up with 29 points and 13 rebounds. Meanwhile Wall just seemed to go off: Half of Wall’s 16 shots came at the rim (dunks and layups) and he was 7-8 at the rim, 2-8 on jump shots (both deep twos). Wall also was fouled a lot and got to the line 14 times. He was aggressive at both ends, getting nine steals.

Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick of the Sixers, doesn’t bring the dynamic play of Wall, but you can see him starting to find his way through and around the NBA game and the Sixers play.

Well, you didn’t see that in the first half. He really just floated through the half, playing but not really impacting the game at all. But in the second half he started to find his spots, he got to play a little point guard late, he seemed able to assert himself more that way. He got all his points in the midrange — he cannot explode to the rim like Wall.

While Wall was a star, tonight saw the return of the Andray Blatche from the end of last season that carried the Wizards — because he stopped settling and started just attacking the rim. Something he said he would do before the game — 7 of his 17 shots came at the rim. More than that he drew contact and got to the line for 14 free throws.

Nowhere was that aggression more evident than the game-winning basket in overtime, where Blatche set a down screen for Al Thornton, then popped to 12 feet, got the pass, jab stepped then went by Elton Brand like he was a statue to get to the rim. Brand had to foul, Blatche drained the free throws. Blatche has so many skills — he’s not always efficient with them but he has the skills — and when he just goes at it and attacks those skills are hard to stop.

The one other interesting thing was something Sebastian Pruiti wrote about at NBA Playbook — the Sixers fouling at the end of regulation up three. Pruiti and I disagree about whether or not to foul in that situation. I think you do it at the six second mark or less. But I agree with Pruiti on this — the first last foul, on Wall was too early and in a bad spot. They fouled Wall while he was dribbling early and not in a dangerous spot on the floor. The second time — Cartier Martin’s tying shot, they did not foul when a quick foul was what they needed.

The Sixers did not execute the late fouling strategy well, extended the game and gave the opposing team a chance. And lost.

NBA looking into Rockets’ owner interacting with referee during game

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Like every Rockets fan — and, let’s be honest, every fan of every team — Leslie Alexander is convinced the referees were screwing over his Rockets.

Except that Alexander is the owner of the Rockets.

And he approached a referee during game play.

The NBA is understandably investigating this, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

The NBA said an investigation “is underway” into Rockets’ owner Leslie Alexander’s getting up from his courtside seat to have a few words with official Bill Kennedy in the first half.

Alexander appeared to say something to Kennedy during a Thunder possession before returning to his seat. Alexander declined to give any detail beyond he was “upset … really upset.” Rockets guard James Harden said he didn’t see his owner get up. “He did that?” a surprised Harden said after the game. “He’s the coolest guy. I would have helped him.”

The NBA doesn’t let players or coaches cross a line when talking to officials, but they are at least allowed to interact and discuss calls with a ref during a game. It’s something else entirely for an owner to get in the ear of an official during game play.

I’d expect Alexander will see a fine for this.

Whatever he thought of the officiating, the Rockets won to advance on to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Steve Kerr to see Stanford specialists about back issues, is optimistic about return to bench

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If he were not coaching a perennial contender and a team where he genuinely has a deep bond with the players, the GM, and his fellow coaches, Steve Kerr might have walked away from basketball for a while. The pain from spinal fluid leakage from a couple of back surgeries he had two summers ago (the ones that led to Luke Walton coaching the first half of the season in Golden State) would have been too much.

But he tolerated and managed the pain as best he could, until a few days ago when it became too much. Kerr did not coach the final two games of the Warriors sweep of the Trail Blazers and said he would not return to the bench until healthy enough to do so.

Kerr’s next step is to talk to specialists at Stanford University’s medical program, and Kerr is optimistic about the long-term prognosis, he told Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

He revealed to NBCSportsBayArea.com that in recent days he has spoken to several people who have experienced the debilitating effects of a cerebrospinal fluid leak and been able to overcome it. He says that because his symptoms have intensified over the past week, in an odd twist, that may make it easier for specialists to trace the precise source.

“That’s what the next few days are all about,” Kerr said, standing down the hallway from the visitor’s locker room. “They’re trying to find it. If they can find it, they can fix it.”

He’ll begin in the coming days by consulting with specialists at Stanford Medical Center, which has some of the more respected surgeons in the world.

Kerr said his spirits have been lifted by other people who went through this, people who told him doctors found the leak and it changed their lives, that they bounced back to 100 percent. He said that the first back surgeries did their job in relieving his lower back pain, but it has led to spinal fluid leakage that is worse than the symptoms the first surgery solved.

Whether a fix can happen to get him back on the bench these playoffs is immaterial, we all hope it happens just so Kerr the person can go back to enjoying his life without chronic pain. He’ll be around the team as much as he can through the playoffs, but there are far more important things going on with him than basketball right now.

 

Thunder’s offseason moves start here: Offer Russell Westbrook $220 million contract

Getty Images
2 Comments

The narrative of Oklahoma City’s first-round playoff loss to Houston — and frankly its entire season — was about how little help Russell Westbrook was given. Game 5 was the perfect example: The Thunder were +12 when Westbrook was on the court, but he rested for 6:07 and OKC was -18 in those minutes. The Thunder’s role players are young and many — for example, Enes Kanter — are very one dimensional, but that’s because their role was supposed to be much more narrow and defined. Then Kevin Durant left and players were asked to do things outside their comfort zones, or grow up fast, and it didn’t go that well.

Thunder GM Sam Presti has some work to do this summer to tweak that roster, make it more versatile, and design it to fit better around Westbrook (not to mention take some of the load off him).

But the first thing Presti has to do is keep Westbrook — and that means offering him a five-year, roughly $220 million extension. Royce Young if ESPN has the details on how that works.

After signing an extension last summer in the wake of Durant’s departure, Westbrook can sign another in the ballpark of $220 million over five years this summer. Westbrook is signed through the 2017-18 season, with a player option on the following year, but the Thunder would obviously like to have a longer commitment from their franchise player.

The expectation is that they will make the offer, but should Westbrook decline, all that talk of stabilizing the franchise would get a little more wobbly, and with only a year guaranteed, talk of trading him could spark again. It will certainly be alarming for the front office, especially after what it went through with Durant.

It’s hard to imagine Westbrook walking away from that money — it’s about $75 million more guaranteed and one more year than any other team can offer. That’s a lot of cash to leave on the table, I don’t care how much you make in endorsements. (If Westbrook left, signed a max deal elsewhere for four years, then signed a max deal for that fifth year later, he still would get roughly $35 million less than signing with the Thunder now.) Once Westbrook is locked into place, Presti can start looking to reshape the Thunder roster.

But if Westbrook pauses and doesn’t sign, the NBA rumor mill will be moving at the speed of Westbrook in transition. The Thunder wouldn’t want to lose Durant and Westbrook for nothing, it would set their rebuilding process way back, so Presti would have to consider trades. However, because Westbrook is a free agent in 2018, he would almost have a no-trade clause — no team is going to give up much to get him without an under-the-table understanding he would re-sign in that city.

Expect Westbrook to agree to the extension in OKC. Because he likes the team — remember, he signed that extension last summer (which got him a healthy pay raise) — and because it would make him the highest-paid player in the NBA, and that would feed his ego (and pocketbook).

Once he does, Presti’s real work begins.

After tough loss, Chris Paul wasn’t having any of reporter’s inane question

Getty Images
2 Comments

LOS ANGELES — The Clippers are feeling a lot of pressure these playoffs, and they have suffered a couple tough losses at home now. That can lead to some interesting postgame press conferences, something we’ve already seen this series from Doc Rivers.

Tuesday it was Chris Paul‘s turn.

The Clippers had just dropped Game 5 at home and are staring a 3-2 deficit series deficit in the face, and they have to win those two games without the injured Blake Griffin. That’s when this exchange happened.

I was in the room with this happened. Yes, there were a lot of eye rolls when the question was asked.

This was not a rookie reporter, it was a guy who gets sound for local radio stations and has been a regular at Staples Center games for years. He knew what he wanted, a fairly standard quote about how the Clippers just need to take it one game at a time but they are confident they will be back, that they can still win the series. We have all heard it before, the kind of generic crap that is all over columns about the game and talk radio. The reporter served up the softball and, frankly, most nights savvy players just give the reporter the quote they want and move on.

Tuesday Paul was having none of it. Which led to a pretty amusing exchange, especially with the follow up that was not going anywhere.

That said, I do not know one reporter worth his or her salt who has not asked a question they regret, and been called out for it. Sometimes we get called out for good questions we do not regret. It is part of the gig.