Deron Williams

Deron Williams thinks the Jazz have a lot of work to do

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There was a lot of frustration in the Jazz locker room Thursday night after Utah lost to Portland for the second time in a week. They feel like things are slipping away.

The Jazz are not bad (22-11, four seed in the West), but they are clearly not elite in the way the Spurs, Lakers and Mavericks are — the record may be close but it doesn’t feel that way.

And it doesn’t look that way to Deron Williams, who spoke with the Salt Lake Tribune about his frustration.

Well, I’ve only felt we’ve played good in a couple stretches. Really the first road trip, we got lucky. We could easily have a lot worse record than we do right now. We got lucky. Everything might look good because of our record but — it’s not time to panic, but we have to play better.

I think (execution is) a big problem. I think you look at all the games where we’ve had success, we play well offensively. The defense has been pretty solid all year. We’ve had some bad games and we’ve had some games where we didn’t play well enough defensively, but we’ve let our offense dictate a lapse on defense. I’ve said it all season: When we come out and have under 22 assists, we’re not successful. It’s not Jazz basketball. That’s execution. We’re not screening, we’re not running the floor, we’re not gelling.

It’s something that’s going to take longer than we thought, you know? Everything wasn’t great my first year here, when we had some new guys, and it took us a while. That second year we came out and we just [played]. It’s something that’s going to take a little more time than we thought. Hopefully we can get it going sooner than later.

The Spurs are executing as well as anyone in the league, the Mavs are right there with them. The Lakers show flashes and it’s hard to doubt that when the playoffs roll around they will again be clicking.

But the Jazz, for them to have a chance they need to be playing nearly flawless basketball in the playoffs. And even that might not be enough, but they are a ways from there right now.

And quite frustrated about it.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry
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The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.