Weekend Observations 1.21.12: Dead legs and the dirty ground

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

1. The Lakers use the pick and roll a lot but what winds up happening is it just resets the offense on the weak side. It doesn’t result in shots or quick passes. It’s like spending 10 hours cooking a hamburger. Just cook the thing.

2. Apparently the European baskets Rubio was shooting on were much smaller.

3. Kyrie Irving’s game is incredibly balanced in ways you rarely see for rookie point guards. The numbers really are a reflection of how well he’s playing.

4. Oh, hey, John Wall’s alive. Good to know.

5. The Kings’ win over Sacramento was a great example of what the Kings are trying to do. Both Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans were involved in scoring and producing.

6. The worst thing for Boston and L.A. right now is that teams simply aren’t afraid of them anymore.

7. The Sixers can have a terrible start and still annihilate you with their depth. You have to limit their first and second units and if you can’t do that, they’re going to be at your throat.

8. Ty Corbin has turned Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Derrick Favors from a cluster, into a well-defined frontcourt that just hammers teams offensively.

9. Turns out the key in a compacted, lockout-shortened season isn’t just depth or talent or youth, but coaching.

10. Of course, coaching doesn’t always help. Sorry, Doc Rivers.

11. Well, the Lakers were barely winning over lottery squads and not winning versus playoff teams with Kobe chucking, and are getting blown out with him playing restrained and efficiently. So… yeah, I got nothin’ for you, L.A..

12. Mike D’Antoni needs to title his eventual book: “Why Didn’t Anyone Ask Me First?.” Between Steve Kerr trading for Shaq and the Melo trade he’s had his whole program undone in two spots by unnecessary and premature tinkering.

13. Kawhi Leonard works harder than you, and probably harder than anyone you’ve ever met.

14. I told Memphis radio a week ago that the Grizzlies need Rudy Gay to score 25 points a game in order to win with Zach Randolph out. I was wrong. Turns out he only needs 22. 21.8 during the win streak, actually. His ability to create perimeter scoring is unique to Memphis.

15. The Nuggets keep adding new skills, like “winning tough games where they don’t play well.” Tough to find teams with better resumes.

16. Don’t look at the Thunder’s defense. It’ll spoil all the wondrous positive feelings everyone has about them.

17. Toronto misses Andrea Bargnani. So. So badly.

18. The Bulls would win the Western Conference. They could win the East. They would win the West.

19. It’s weird for a team that supposedly had trouble with cohesive offense. The Thunder have a ridiculous amount of playmakers right now. And Russell Westbrook re-signing with the Thunder shows a tremendous amount of maturity. How he handles it going forward will also be important, but anyone who underrates the weapons the Thunder have offensively is a fool.

20. Player I feel the worst for this season, non-injury award: Greg Monroe. He’s been versatile, well-coached, efficient, working in the flow of the offense, and he’s stuck on a team trying to go two directions at once.

21. Some team is going to wander into a dark first-round alley against Philadelphia and there will have be officers called to the scene.

22. The Suns are very much a wounded animal. They can get overrun easily, claw up their opponent, anything right now.

23. Tony Parker’s teardrop is still a weapon that should be outlawed in most states.

24. LeBron James is nothing if not great for the headlines. He gives both sides what they want. Fails in huge moments, takes over in big games, plays terribly to start then plays amazing. Dominates a game then fades away. Really, he gives everyone what they’re looking for.

25. And in conclusion, I suppose, for better or worse, Iman Shumpert.

Nets hire Pablo Prigioni as assistant coach, Tiago Splitter as scout

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired former NBA player and Argentine guard Pablo Prigioni as an assistant coach.

The Nets also announced Tuesday that former Spurs center Tiago Splitter was hired as a pro scout.

Prigioni spent most of his professional career in Spain and won a bronze medal with Argentina in the 2008 Olympics before coming to the New York Knicks in 2012 as a 35-year-old rookie. He spent four years in the NBA with the Knicks, Rockets and Clippers.

Splitter helped San Antonio win the 2014 NBA championship before spending the final two seasons of his seven-year career with Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Nets said Splitter, who also played for Brazil’s national team, will have added duties related to player on-court development.

 

Celtics to get Marcus Smart back for Game 5 Tuesday

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It’s a series that has hinged on defense — Boston has played it well for the majority of five games, bottling up Milwaukee in the halfcourt. The Bucks only played it with real energy at home (and only for about six of the eight quarters the last two games) but when they do they have overwhelmed the Celtics, then converted turnovers and missed shots into transition and early clock opportunities the other way.

For Game 5 Tuesday night, Boston gets its best perimeter defender back — Marcus Smart. He has been out since before the playoffs following thumb surgery last March.

Stevens, via NBC Sports Boston:

“He hasn’t played in six weeks, so it’s hard to say how much (time he will get) but will certainly play,” Stevens said. Stevens said there would not be a minutes restriction on him, but added that the fourth-year guard wasn’t going to play 35 minutes.

Smart is a very good perimeter defender who is very physical and usually assigned to the other team’s best guard (or wing, depending upon the matchup). When Smart was on the court this season, the Celtics allowed less than a point per possession and were 3.6 points per 100 better defensively than when he sat.

Smart likely will get time against Eric Bledsoe and Kris Middleton of the Bucks. Just his presence brings needed depth to the Celtics in what is a critical Game 5 in a series tied 2-2.

Report: Pelicans have discussed offering DeMarcus Cousins less than max over two to three years

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Last month, Anthony Davis said he heard DeMarcus Cousins planned to re-sign with the Pelicans. Cousins was out a torn Achilles, and New Orleans was rolling with Davis playing more center. But New Orleans’ ceiling looked higher with Cousins, and Davis made clear he wanted to keep Cousins – in itself a big deal. More important than keeping Cousins is keeping Davis, which requires keeping Davis happy.

Then, the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers, becoming the lowest seed to sweep a first-round series.

Is everyone still sure Cousins warrants a max contract, which projects to be worth about $176 million over five years?

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The Pelicans have broached internally the idea of offering Cousins a two- or three-year deal at less than the max, per sources familiar with the discussions. I would not expect that to go over well with Cousins’ camp. But the Pelicans have the dual leverage of winning without Cousins and a tepid market for him.

Only a half-dozen or so teams have max-level space this season, and most won’t pursue Cousins at that level, sources say.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pelicans leaked this to test the waters. Word will get back to Cousins, and they can gauge how strenuously he objects. If they want, they can deny ever considering this and try to avoid offending Cousins.

But New Orleans has leverage.

It will be a tight market. Many of the teams with significant cap space are young and rebuilding, and they won’t want Cousins’ attitude. Even teams ready to win might not bring him into the locker room. Returning from a torn Achilles – hard for any player – will be especially difficult for the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins.

That said, Cousins has leverage on the Pelicans, too. He’s extremely talented, and players that talented are hard to come by. New Orleans would still essentially be capped out if he walked, left with only the mid-level exception to replace him. Cousins and Davis play well together, and Davis – who can become an unrestricted free agent in 2020 – wants Cousins around.

Confronted with a similar situation with Jrue Holiday last summer – capped out and no mechanism to adequately replace him – the Pelicans spent big. But Holiday wasn’t hurt and didn’t have any fit concerns with Davis.

For New Orleans, it’s clearly worth securing the 27-year-old Cousins for the next couple years. The upside is too high. But, especially given the injury, guaranteeing him money into his 30s is undesirable.

On the flip side, Cousins should want long-term security. This might be his last chance to get it.

So, maybe both the Pelicans and Cousins can meet in the middle. But finding that point is never simple.

Judge grills Suge Knight – facing murder charge – on NBA-champion pick (Rockets)

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Suge Knight is facing a murder, threat and robbery charges in three separate cases.

The former rap mogul was in court yesterday to set a trial date for the murder charge.

Marisa Gerber of the Los Angeles Times:

A few minutes later, during a separate hearing in the criminal threats proceeding, another judge asked Knight to return to his courtroom in May. The judge then turned to Knight, asking who he thought would win the NBA playoffs.

“At this time…” Knight said, before the judge cut him off, saying he wanted a once-and-for-all answer.

“Houston,” Knight responded.

“Alright, Houston. Good pick,” the judge said.

Knight smiled.

What?