Knicks guard Lin smiles during player introductions before the start of the Knicks' NBA basketball game against the Timberwolves in Minneapolis

Warriors front office takes heat because Jeremy Lin got away

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At the time, Golden State was letting go a little-used guard who spent time in the D-League to clear the way for a $10 million a year offer to DeAndre Jordan, the big-time center the Warriors needed (and still need).

Now, they are the team that had Jeremy Lin and didn’t realize what they had.

That has left Warriors fans asking why team management didn’t recognize what they had and why they didn’t give him an opportunity to have this kind of magical run in the Bay Area.

Here is what Warriors consultant Jerry West said on the Dan Patrick Show (as relayed by Matt Steinmetz at CSNBayArea.com).

“He was a very good friend of the owner Joe Lacob and his son, and they played together. And they signed him. And they saw something there in him, and during the process of trying to sign DeAndre Jordan, there were certain players that had to be moved off the roster….

“To me, don’t place blame (for Lin being let go). You give credit. The credit goes to Jeremy. A lot of things in sports are about blame. There’s no blame here. It’s just maybe some people didn’t see what he had inside.”

Mark Jackson never even coached Lin — he couldn’t contact him over the summer and Lin was cut the first day of training camp — is getting the questions, too, even though he had almost nothing to do with it. Here is what he said to 97.5 The Game in San Francisco (via Sports Radio Interviews).

“(Lin is) playing with great confidence and is not afraid of the moment. That’s one thing I knew coming in. He was a guy that would compete and get after it. I’m happy for him because at the end of the day we have a point guard in Steph Curry. I was at Starbucks yesterday and a guy asked me about Jeremy Lin and Steph Curry and I asked him who was a better player. He paused and because he took the pause I just told him thank you, have a great day. Enjoy your cup of coffee.”

Lin simply did not play this well last year for Golden State. It’s why he was sent to the D-League — he shot 38 percent, he had a league-average PER of 14.8 while using just about 15 percent of the possessions while he was on the floor. He worked hard at his game in the off-season, clearly, but they didn’t take a look because they have Stephen Curry at the point. The Rockets picked him up but they have Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic at the point and he wasn’t getting chances.

The Knicks had no PG to speak of and Lin’s skill set fits exactly with what they needed. Success for players not named Kobe or LeBron — who can succeed anywhere because of their skill — is about opportunity and fit. Lin improved his game, landed in a spot that was a good fit and great opportunity and took advantage. In the process he proved a lot of people — myself included — wrong about what his ceiling would be. That’s what makes this such a good story.

We Americans love the idea that if given the chance, we all could have that kind of success. And right now, in this economy, we need that story more than ever.

Damian Lillard added to Team USA Olympic roster pool

Damian Lillard
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If you’re looking for a point guard who can flat-out score the rock, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many better than Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers’ guard is averaging 24.2 points and 7.3 assists per game, with an above-average true shooting percentage of 54.6 percent, and a very high usage rate of 30.9.

He’s the kind of guy who might have a place on the Team USA Roster.

Which is why USA Basketball has added him to the pool to be considered for the Rio Olympics summer. The reason for the change is both Lillard’s level of play this season, and the fact he called USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo to ask for a spot, as reported by Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

Lillard deserves consideration, but there are two key reasons he likely doesn’t make the team:

1) He is still a terrible defender.

2) The list of guards for the USA Roster is ridiculous: Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Klay Thompson, John Wall, and Russell Westbrook. And now Lillard. That’s 10 guys for likely five spots. It’s hard to see Lillard making that cut.

But he deserves consideration.

Kings co-owner Shaq: Vivek Ranadivé told me George Karl would coach rest of season

Shaquille O'Neal
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Kings general manager Vlade Divac said keeping George Karl as coach was right move “for now.”

How long is “for now”?

Shaquille O’Neal, a Kings minority owner, shares insight.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

This would mean a little more if Vivek Ranadivé weren’t prone to wild swings. Remember, the Kings said Tyrone Corbin would finish last season as coach before firing him for Karl.

Divac also said in November that Karl would coach the rest of the season, and that came up for debate fewer than three months later.

Shaq’s revelation is as likely to embarrass the Kings in a few weeks as it is to signal Karl’s job security.

Chauncey Billups explains why not every player wants to go home

Dallas Mavericks v Denver Nuggets
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LeBron James did it and shook up the NBA — he returned home to Cleveland. That has led to fantasies other players want to do the same thing: Kevin Durant back to Washington D.C.; DeMar DeRozan or Russell Westbrook back to Los Angeles; Blake Griffin back to Oklahoma. And the list goes on.

Not every player wants to do it.

Chauncey Billups did. Billups is a Denver guy who returned to play for the Nuggets — he gets his number retired Wednesday night in Detroit, a much-deserved honor — but in a letter to his young self at the Players’ Tribune Wednesday he explained that going home is fraught with peril.

“But in reality, playing at home as a 23-year-old professional is going to be less blessing and more curse. (There’s perception, again, for you.) It’s as simple as this: you’re just not going to be ready for Denver to be Your City. You’re going to think you’re ready — and they are too — but, trust me, you won’t be. You’re still going to be so young. You’re still going to be hanging out with your boys, doing your old thing. There are going to be those … hometown distractions. And those distractions will add up.”

“And you have to understand, Chaunce: It’s not just that you made it. It’s that your whole neighborhoodis going to feel like they made it. All of Park Hill is going to feel like they made it. And don’t get me wrong — that’s special. But at the wrong age, it can also be tough. It can be a lot to handle. And you’re going to be at that wrong age. You’re not going to be mature enough yet, or developed enough yet, to take on that mix of environments, those responsibilities, that role.

“You’re not going to be ready to lead.”

There are plenty of guys around the NBA who understand those distractions and how those can get in the way of off-season workouts, of time spent shoring up a weakness or developing a new shot, and how during the season they can be another thing that wears the body down.

Some guys can handle it. Some can’t.

Go read the entire letter from Billups. He talks about getting traded from the Celtics his rookie season, about playing for Mike D’Antoni, about how very rarely do veterans want to mentor younger players because they are fighting for the same piece of the pie.  Billups is honest.

And it’s great that Detroit is rewarding him as they should.

Did Marcus Thornton steal free throws from Rockets teammate Clint Capela?

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Leandro Barbosa – guarding Marcus Thornton and fighting through a Clint Capela screen – was called for a foul in the first quarter of last night’s Warriors-Rockets game.

Thornton went to the line.

Should he have? Or should Capela have?

Perhaps, Thornton and Barbosa tangled, but it certainly appeared the contact primarily occurred between Barbosa and Capela. It looks like Barbosa tries to ram through Capela.

It also appears Capela thought he drew the foul. Watch him step toward the line before seeing Thornton there and taking his spot along the paint.

So, why would Thornton step in? He’s making 89% of his free throws to Capela’s 40%.

I’m honestly surprised players don’t try this maneuver more often. Refs have so much to keep track of. The worst consequence would be the refs shooing away Thornton and bringing Capela to the line.

Thornton made both free throws, but it didn’t matter. Houston was playing Golden State, which rolled to a victory.