Miami Heat v Dallas Mavericks

Weekend Observations: 25 things from the week that was

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Each weekend we bring you 25 random observations from the NBA week that was. 

1. Ramon Sessions is not shooting well, but he’s drawing a lot of contact and his assists are up this year. He’s got a 19.5 PER and can’t get over 25 minutes per game on the Cavaliers. He’s much more of a playmaker this year. It’s hard to understand why no one will make a move for him.

2. Derrick Williams has that tweener offensive game, but that’s becoming less of an issue in this league. Coaches have started to understand how to use athleticism from bigs effectively on the perimeter. Williams has great scorer’s touch and that doesn’t always translate from college to the NBA. He’s drawing fouls and converting a high percentage from the field. Rubio gets all the attention but there are two good rooks in Minny.

3. If Ricky Rubio can shoot like this, if this isn’t an aberration, he’s going to be a perennial All-Star. As in, next year. As in, he’d be one this year if it weren’t for the shortened schedule keeping him from nabbing the starting job in time.

4. Efficiency is a big key word in the NBA. The Bulls aren’t particularly efficient, in terms of style of play (they are 6th in offensive efficiency, 2nd in defensive efficiency, so overall pretty efficient), but they are hyper-effective. The things they do are proven to work (defend, draw fouls, have a guard that blows by everyone), and they do them insanely well. They create open jumpers for Deng who can hit them, and create space. They grind you into oblivion. It’s not a lot of fun to watch. Not that defense isnt’ fun to watch, but that they make the opponent so bad and their offense is so grinding there’s not much spectacular play outside of Rose.

5. Paul George has been phenomenal on teh catch and shoot this year. It’s such an underused element in the NBA and he’s killing it. With his range and size, it’s a near-impossible matchup for opponents. The guy has a 67 TrueShooting percentage this year. That’s insane.

6. Danilo Gallinari is going to find his long-range shot and when he does he’s going to be terrifying offensively. His awareness this season of when to pump fake and drive and when to shoot has been really impressive, as has his ball-hawking (2 steals per 36 minutes).

7. I don’t have a specific name or description of the award that Gerald Wallace needs to win for his performance through the first two weeks of the season, but he deserves it. No one has made more of a positive impact for his team than Crash so far. Both ends. His work on Kobe Bryant this week was the stuff of legend, wrist or no.

8. James Harden still has a hand full of plays per game where he tries to do too much. But it’s mostly on account of the fact that the rest of the time, you’re pretty sure there isn’t anything he can’t do.

9. The Hawks really aren’t as bad as they looked against Miami. They have played really well top to bottom this season outside of that game. The Hawks have a greater penchant for playing down to the lowest level they can on national television of any team in the league.

10. Gerald Henderson has improved in just about every phase of the game. 47 percent from the field, 38 percent from the arc. He needs to learn to draw more fouls and finish at the rim in traffic, but there’s a lot to like about him for Charlotte.

11. Greivis Vasquez is a fine NBA player who has worked exceptionally hard to get where he is. He also should not be playing as many minutes as he is.

12. You want to blame everything for Memphis on injuries. But so much had to go right and did last year for what the Grizzlies accomplished, you feel like this is some sort of karmic payback. Crushing to see a team with that much effort struggle so much with execution.

13. Can we talk about Bosh? 21 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block per game, and he’s been a go-to for them on offense. This is the best I’ve seen him play, maybe ever. His defense has been rock solid, too, though he’s struggles in the post. As scary as the Heat have been overall, Bosh has been an important element in it.

14. Both the Knicks and Clippers have shown the true power of star power this week. In close games, they simply gave the ball to their best player and let him do damage to close out a game. The Clippers used it to give the Blazers, the best team in the West, their first loss. The Knicks used it to beat the Wizards, the worst team in the East. Same result, though, with Melo doing Melo things.

15. Greg Monroe has been a much more complete player offensively this year. He’s passing out of the post well, and is getting better on weakside defensive rotations. 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists (!) per 36 for the second-year big. He and Jerebko are the best players on the Pistons right now. Which says a lot about the Pistons, but still.

16. Utah’s starting to get it together, and Al Jefferson has been part of it. It continues to boggle my mind that no one is making a sronger push for Paul Millsap on the trade market.

17. Double-small-guard lineups are a rage right now and they’re being deployed really effectively. Denver with Ty Lawson and Andre Miller and Indiana with Darren Collison and George Hill (Hill’s a pretty legit two, but still) are some examples.

18. The schedule is slamming down on teams right now. It’s not really conditioning, which has been good, but the initial rush of the season is over and teams are struggling with these back-to-back sets. It’s not pronounced on the back-to-backs or even the back-to-back-to-backs. It’s just the overall play as we see scoring drop and injuries piling up.

19. The Blazers play really balanced, well-executed ball for about 44 minutes. Jamal Crawford takes care of the rest. That’s been a huge pickup this season.

20. Andrew Bynum is an All-Star and for once the hype is deserved. He’s finally put it all together.

21. Some teams lose because they’re just terrible at multiple aspects of the game. The Rockets, instead, are good in multiple aspects of the game. They’re just immensely solvable. Their schedule has been brutal, though.

22. If the Wizards could just learn to close a game… they’d still be pretty terrible. But you have to think this team will look better at season’s end than they do now. Some pieces you started to see coming along this week.

23. Chris Singleton keeps winding up having to defend players who are offended he’s guarding him. Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony. Gotta feel for the kid.

24. Dallas. Bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. Bad bad. Bad bad bad.

25. And in conclusion, Iman Shumpert.

NBA to teams: No Hack-a-Shaq on inbounds passer

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NEW YORK (AP) — NBA teams need to keep Hack-a-Shaq on the court, not the sideline.

The league sent a memo to teams and referees Tuesday clarifying that intentionally fouling a player inbounding the ball will be a delay of game violation – and possibly a technical foul.

The memo, sent from league executives Kiki Vandeweghe and Mike Bantom and obtained by The Associated Press, comes in response to questions after San Antonio’s Danny Green fouled Houston’s Clint Capela as Capela was attempting to inbound the ball in a Jan. 28 game.

Citing a specific rule in the rulebook, the memo says that if a defender crosses the sideline before the ball has been thrown, a delay of game will be assessed. If it comes in the last 2 minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, a technical foul will be called.

A technical will also be called if referees determine there was “unsportsmanlike contact” on the inbounder, and officials could also rule it a flagrant foul.

Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol breaks foot, out indefinitely

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Just when the Grizzlies are making a move – they’re fifth the West despite dropping two straight games in overtime after winning 9-of-10 – they lose their best player, Marc Gasol.

Grizzlies release:

The Memphis Grizzlies released today the following statement on behalf of Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace regarding Marc Gasol:

“This morning at Campbell Clinic, Marc underwent a thorough evaluation by team physicians. During the course of this evaluation, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed a fracture in his right foot.

“Marc is a cornerstone of our franchise, and we are focused on getting him healthy. Marc will be out indefinitely and a further update will be provided after the All-Star Break.”

Gasol (7-1, 255) is averaging 16.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.35 blocks in 34.4 minutes in 52 games (all starts) this season.

Not only is Gasol the Grizzlies’ best player, he also plays their thinnest position.

Backup center Brandan Wright is injured, and Memphis has played parts of the season without a third center. The Grizzlies have been so desperate, they’ve signed Ryan Hollins multiple times – and that was with Gasol healthy.

Now, Memphis is in dire straights.

Here’s how the Grizzlies’ ratings change when Gasol is on the court to off:

  • Offensive: 102.8 to 99.5
  • Defensive: 102.9 to 103.3
  • Net: -0.1 to -3.8

And that undersells his impact. Gasol is the only Memphis player to start every game this season, so he has played with a variety of teammates – not just the team’s other top players. The Grizzlies’ dozen most-used lineups all include Gasol.

In other words, Gasol’s positive boost has also come with floormates who are typically backups. He’s not just along for the ride as his best teammates do the heavy lifting.

This injury obviously hurt Gasol, but it will also put several Memphis players in uncomfortable positions. The team’s next eight most-used players have all played a majority of their minutes with Gasol:

Gasol is an active and communicative defender and a good passer and screener. He’s easy to play with.

That’s a luxury his teammates will lose for a while.

Randolph will likely play more center and could even return to the starting lineup. He’s a nice individual defender, but needing him move quickly through rotations as the last line of defense is asking a lot. At least his low-post offense could work a little better with increased spacing if Memphis starts three wings between Conley and Randolph.

Another silver lining: This injury occurred before the trade deadline.

The Grizzlies could consider selling, but they owe the Nuggets a protected first-round pick. It’s protected top-five and 15-30 this year, top-five in 2017 and 2018 and unprotected in 2019. Memphis surely doesn’t want to convey the pick this year, which would guarantee a lottery selection. The ideal outcome is making the playoffs, guaranteeing the Grizzlies keep the pick this year, then remaining good next season and conveying a pick in the 20s.

It’s also unlikely they’d fall from they playoffs, though hardly impossible. They have a 4.5-game cushion over the ninth-place Trail Blazers

Plus, with Mike Conley entering unrestricted free agency this summer, Memphis surely doesn’t want to end the season with a poor taste in his mouth. It’ll be that much harder to secure a decent playoff seed and avoid the Warriors or Spurs – or even Thunder – in the first round. Heck, there’s no guarantee the Grizzlies have Gasol for the postseason.

Making a small trade for a serviceable probably makes most sense. Memphis will still rely on Gasol, once he gets healthy, for quite a while. He’s in the first season of a five-year max contract.

But the Grizzlies sure could use a little help as they enter this very difficult stretch.

Report: Khloe Kardashian dumped James Harden

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 07:  Khloe Kardashian Odom attends the MDA Show of Strength held at CBS Television City on August 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The show airs on Sunday, September 2, 2012 at 8PM ET/PT, 7PM CT/MT  (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)
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Just a few months ago, Khloe Kardashian was praising her boyfriend, James Harden, for his support while her not-yet-ex husband Lamar Odom was hospitalized following a drug overdose.

Now?

US Weekly:

Khloé Kardashian is back on the market. The Strong Looks Better Naked author, 31, has split from boyfriend James Harden, a source confirms exclusively to Us Weekly.

“She dumped him weeks ago,” the source tells US

It’s definitely not common to post on a player and his girlfriend breaking up, but Harden had to know dating a Kardashian would make his personal life public. For better or worse, that’s part of the deal.

I’d be shocked if Harden didn’t knowingly accept – and probably embrace – that aspect of dating Khloe. So, here’s some publicity.

Congratulations, James.

Blake Griffin suspended four games, docked five games pay

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Clippers president/coach Doc Rivers said the NBA would lead any punishment for Blake Griffin, who broke his hand punching a team equipment manager at a dinner. The league investigated, and…

A suspension was announced by the Clippers.

Clippers release:

The following is a joint statement from L.A. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Doc Rivers:

The L.A. Clippers announced today that forward Blake Griffin has been suspended without pay for four games for striking a team employee on Jan. 23 and his wages will be withheld for one additional game for injuries he sustained. The NBA has assisted us in this process.

The Clippers will donate the salary from the five games to charities focused on disadvantaged youth in Los Angeles. At his request, Blake will support this activity with his time.

We have made it clear that this conduct has no place in the Clippers organization. Blake is remorseful and has apologized for his actions. He is a valued member of our Clippers family and we support him as he rejoins the team. He understands his actions have consequences, and is eager to get back to work with his teammates, the organization and Clipper Nation which starts immediately with rehab, appearances and attendance at games.

For our team and organization, it is time to move forward which begins today and ultimately concludes when we have Blake back on the court.

If you want to parse the statement, it doesn’t say the Clippers suspended Griffin. It’s in passive voice — “has been suspended without pay” — and leaves open the possibility the NBA suspended him. We just know the Clippers announced it, which would be strange for an NBA suspension. So, I believe the Clippers suspended him. I’m just not absolutely certain.

NBA suspensions typically begin only once a player is healthy enough to play. It’s unclear how that applies to this situation, but I’d guess – no matter who levied the suspension – the same rule will apply. Again, that’s not a given – especially given the hard-to-follow use of “which starts immediately with rehab, appearances and attendance at games.”

The Clippers announced on Jan. 26 Griffin would miss 4-6 weeks, a timeline unaffected by a second surgery on his swollen, scarred hand. But Rivers called a 4-6 recovery period “unrealistic.” So, if he can’t serve his suspension until healthy, good luck figuring out when that is. Probably just have to trust the Clippers.

For each game a player is suspended by the NBA, he loses 1/110th of his salary. If that applies to this suspension, it’d cost Griffin $859,442.

Teams also have their team salary as it applies to the luxury tax – which the Clippers are in line to pay – reduced by that amount. Again, more conclusion. It’s unclear whether the Clippers will get their tax bill trimmed. If they suspended him and don’t receive the savings, that’s a significant difference – $2,148,605 in tax payments (or $1,718,884 if you count only the four games actually suspended).

Four games and a fifth game of pay is probably a break for Griffin. This could’ve been much worse for him, including legal action. But Matt Barnes received just a two-game suspension for a similar situation – one NBA employee attacking another while away from official team business. What’s the difference here?

The Clippers want to move on, but this result provides more confusion than clarity.