Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups

Mike D’Antoni has tweaked offense to fit Anthony, Billups

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Seven seconds or less was the perfect Steve Nash offense. It was Joe Montana in a West Coast formation.

Nash is quick up the court, the best decision maker in the game, can shoot almost as well as he can pass. The offense was designed for him. It’s as close as turning a player loose to do what he wants as can happen in the NBA.

Chauncey Billups is not Steve Nash. Not better or worse, but different. More deliberate. He’s not nearly as quick as Nash. He is not suited for the classic Mike D’Antoni offense.

Nor is Carmelo Anthony, really. ‘Melo likes to work out of isolation sets, which clashes with a system designed on the idea of constant ball movement.

Howard Beck at the New York Times lays all that out and notes D’Antoni is the one that has to adjust his playbook to the talent he has been given.

“Probably,” D’Antoni said Thursday. “Really, there’s all kinds of different ways you can play it, and we’re going to try to maximize just what the players do….”

“We’re always going to be a little bit of an iso, one-on-one kind of a team, which, to be honest with you, is pretty good,” D’Antoni said, a declaration that would have made jaws drop in Phoenix.

He followed with some important qualifiers: that the Knicks cannot “totally fall into” a one-on-one game, that the ball still needs to move, that the floor should be spaced and that the scoring should be shared.

D’Antoni is bending his principles, but he is not about to shatter them.

“I think we’ll meet some place halfway in between,” he said Thursday, “because we don’t want to lose what Melo and those guys do the best. A lot of it is going one-on-one. They’re the best in the league at it.”

Beck breaks out the numbers — the Knicks are averaging 5 more possessions a game that are isolations or post ups now than they did before the trade. But they are actually averaging nearly one more possession a game than pre-trade. So maybe everyone is finding a compromise.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

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

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.