Atlanta’s point guard conundrum

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At Summer League, the Atlanta Hawks coaching staff was trying to pump Jeff Teague full of confidence — he could be the starting point guard for the Hawks if he would just take the job away from Mike Bibby. He needed to find his dog.

The job is available because the Hawks have a problem when Bibby is on the floor, as coach Larry Drew explained to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

“He is at the stage of his career where it is tough for him to defend pick-and-rolls and teams know that. We try to do some things to disguise it, try to manipulate it. He is not the only one. We have just got guys with the initial impact of the ball, they have a hard time with it. We just try to manipulate it a little bit to make it a little bit easier for him. It’s something we will continue to work at.”

Teams are exposing Bibby defensively, an issue Mike Woodson had to deal with last year. An issue that will cost the Hawks in the playoffs. Again. Teague is the better defender but Bibby takes charge of the offense in a way Teague does not — Bibby has always had his dog. Also Bibby shoots better — he is shooting 49 percent from three — and turns the ball over a little less. Because of that it seems Drew just does not trust the young Teague the way he does the veteran Bibby.

“I’m trying to find that balance. You give up certain things with certain guys. Teague has the speed, the quickness, the footspeed to defend the pick-and-roll. But you give up things in other areas with him on the floor. He vs. Mike on the floor, obviously Mike is a shotmaker and you give that up. It’s tic for tac. You try to get both guys better in areas where they are deficient. You try to get Mike better at defending the pick-and-rolls. We have got to manipulate it a little bit and help him out as much as you can with that. Teague, because he does a pretty good job with it, we constantly try to improve his shot and keep him in an attack mode offensively and get to the basket and finishing. You give up something on one end, you give up something else at the other.”

There is no easy answer. Look at the best five-man lineups for the Hawks and Bibby is in almost every unit, not Teague. But is Teague getting enough of a chance with the front line players — he sets teammates up better (higher assist percentage) and isn’t a bad shooter. He is just not as aggressive as Bibby.

And that’s what the Hawks coaches were telling Teague at Summer League — be aggressive and take the job away from Bibby. This year’s Teague is better than the rookie version across the board — shooting better, higher percentage of assists, generally looking more comfortable. But it has not been enough to earn the trust of Larry Drew. Yet.

League’s Last Two Minute Report backs referees (mostly) in Raptors/Thunder game

Associated Press
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Anyone who watched the Thunder’s win over the Raptors Sunday afternoon in Toronto — especially the final few minutes — thought it was not referee Marc Davis and crew’s finest hour. There were missed calls and three-straight ejections of Raptors players, which all seemed rather hair-trigger (especially coach Dwane Casey, who was tossed for something a fan behind him said).

The NBA’s Last Two Minute report doesn’t see it that way — it says the referees nailed it.

According to the report, there was only one missed call in the final two minutes: Carmelo Anthony held Pascal Siakam as a pass came to him with 11.7 seconds left, and that should have been called.

What about the play that set DeMar DeRozan off and ultimately got him ejected, the drive to the basket with 33 seconds left (and the Raptors down two) where DeRozan thought Corey Brewer fouled him? The report said that was a good no call:

DeRozan (TOR) starts his drive and Brewer (OKC) moves laterally in his path and there is contact. The contact is incidental as both players attempt to perform normal basketball moves….

RHH shows Brewer (OKC) make contact with the ball and the part of DeRozan’s (TOR) hand that is on the ball. The hand is considered “part of the ball” when it is in contact with the ball and therefore, contact on that part of the hand by a defender while it is in contact with the ball is not illegal.

(I didn’t see it that way, I think the contact was more than incidental, and to me looking at the replay Brewer catches some wrist and impedes the shot in a way that was not legal. Just my two cents.)

The report does not cover the ejections, which are reviewed by league operations but not part of this report.

Three thoughts out of all this:

1) Raptors fans/management/players have every right to feel the calls went against them in this game. As for calls always going against them — as DeRozan complained about after the game — 29 other teams and fan bases are convinced the officials have it out for them, too. I never bought that.

2) The Raptors didn’t lose this game solely because of the officiating. Russell Westbrook was clutch down the stretch, the Thunder were part of it, and the Raptors had other issues, too (Serge Ibaka had a rough game, for example).

3) This loss also does not say a thing about the Raptors in the postseason (even if they went a little too much isolation at the end) — this was their third game in four days, they looked tired and flat at the end. That will not be the case in the playoffs.

Rumor: Injured Jimmy Butler wore his jersey under shirt and jacket on Timberwolves bench

AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King
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Jimmy Butler‘s competitive fire burns hot.

How hot?

Butler is chomping at the bit to return from his knee injury. He sat on the Timberwolves’ bench during their loss to the Rockets last night wearing what appeared to be typical attire for a sidelined player. But dig deeper, and…

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This story is too good to check out.

Kevin Love returns to Cavaliers lineup Monday vs. Bucks

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The last time Kevin Love suited up for the Cavaliers, it was still January and Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, and Jae Crowder were still on the team.

That is about to change tonight — Love will return from a fractured hand and play for the Cavaliers, but on a minutes restriction to start, interim coach Larry Drew confirmed.

Cleveland needs Love back. The Cavaliers went 11-9 without him in this stretch (and 6-7 since the All-Star break) with an offense that has still been top 10 in the NBA but a defense that is holding them back. The Cavaliers’ defense is just not on the same page right now, and the more time the regular rotations guys get to play together, the better they should be before the playoffs start.

As Love rounds into form, the Cavaliers have to figure out their rotations. Does Love start Love next to Larry Nance Jr., or does Nance come off the bench again? Probably the latter, but the Cavaliers will toy with the rotations (and do that more when Tristan Thompson returns).

Former NBA All-Star Steve Francis cited for public intoxication

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What happened to Steve Francis [after his playing days]? I was drinking heavily, is what happened. And that can be just as bad (as drug use). In the span of a few years I lost basketball, I lost my whole identity, and I lost my stepfather, who committed suicide.”
—Steve Francis, writing in the Players’ Tribune earlier this month, about his journey from selling crack to the NBA, and what happened after.

Addiction, once it’s got you, never goes away. The fight to stay sober/clean is a new one every day.

Steve Francis was cited for public intoxication in Burbank, Calif., after an incident at a hotel bar, according to TMZ (since confirmed by other reports).

Francis, 41, was arrested around 11:40 PM after police were called for a disturbance between two men at a hotel in Burbank.

Law enforcement sources tell us when cops arrived, Francis was intoxicated. He was arrested for being drunk in public.

Francis was transported to jail … before being given a citation and released around 7 AM Monday morning.

Francis denied in the Players’ Tribune article rumors he had a drug problem, but he owned up to drinking.