Stotts’ Blazers are going to run, launch a lot of threes

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There were a lot of shrugs and even some eye rolls when Portland said they were going to hire Terry Stotts as head coach — this is a guy who has had two head coaching jobs before and his career winning percentage is well below .500. Another recycled coach.

But that’s not entirely fair — winning in the NBA is about talent on the roster and his previous teams didn’t have much. Neither does his new team right now. Trail Blazers are rebuilding. They have a couple nice pieces but they are not going to be contenders. If the Blazers had hired Phil Jackson they still wouldn’t have been very good this year.

But with Stotts they might be fun to watch.

At his introductory press conference, Stotts talked about having a team that plays an up-tempo game, moves the ball and launches threes. Here are his quotes, via the fantastic Blazers Edge.

“Three-point shooting, I’m a big believer in three-point shooting, to space the court. Between Nic [Batum], Wes [Matthews] and Luke [Babbitt], the young players improving their three-point shooting, I’m excited about that. I do want to play at a pace.

“I’m a big believer in trusting the pass, I want to push it up — not for crazy shots — but I want to push it up, if we’ve got a good one, take it. If not, move the ball around. Part of my offensive philosophy, and we did this with Dallas when we won the championship, is trusting the players to make good decisions. Giving them a freedom to play within a structure and to make basketball plays.”

It’s a trend in the NBA, something that Mike D’Antoni brought to the forefront — letting players create outside of organized plays. In today’s NBA with detailed video scouting, plenty of advanced scouts, and with a lot of teams running similar sets, team defenses know what is coming. If you let a defense get set, they will make it much harder to score. But push the ball up and start to create before the defense sets, force mismatches, get good ball movement and some shooters to space the floor and you can get good looks earlier in the clock.

Stotts also knows he does have some good players to work with.

LaMarcus Aldridge is a stud. He’s an All-Star performer. Hopefully I’ll be able to use him in a lot of similar ways that we used Dirk Nowitzki. Damian Lillard had a terrific Summer League. He’s going to give the Blazers a pick-and-roll game they haven’t had in recent years.

The Blazers are a couple years and a couple players away from winning a whole lot of games. And we’ll see how Stotts pans out. But it sounds like they could be a fun offensive team to watch play night after night. A young team that is going to have some freedom and get improve as time goes on.

That’s something that can be fun to watch for Blazers fans.

Thunder give P.J. Dozier No. 35, Kevin Durant’s old number

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The Thunder signed P.J. Dozier, who went undrafted out of South Carolina, to a seemingly innocuous two-way contract.

Then, they let him pick No. 35 – previously worn by Kevin Durant.

Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:

Honoring Reggie Lewis seems like a valid reason for Dozier, who probably didn’t want to get swept into what has become a minor controversy.

Personally, I don’t mind a player wearing any unretired number. Even numbers that will clearly be retired can be fair game until the jersey goes into the rafters. This is a non-issue to me.

But people care about this stuff. Many see it as a sign of disrespect to Durant, who left Oklahoma City on bad terms when signing with the Warriors. The Thunder lose deniability about not caring, considering they told Dion Waiters he couldn’t wear No. 13, which was previously worn by James Harden.

Will Oklahoma City eventually retire Durant’s No. 35? He spent a fantastic eight years there (and another season with the Seattle SuperSonics before they moved). Time will ease the bitterness of his exit. It’s certainly possible he’s honored that way.

In the meantime, let Dozier wear No. 35 in peace. It should have nothing to do with Durant.

Cornrowed Joel Embiid calls minute limit f—ing BS

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76ers center Joel Embiid made clear yesterday he disliked the minute restriction placed on him, which Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said would keep Embiid below 20 minutes per game.

Today, sporting a new hairstyle, Embiid upped the rhetoric.

Embiid, via Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“That’s f—ing BS,” he said after practice Tuesday. “I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I’m ready for more than I don’t know whatever number they have.”

“I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated,” Embiid said. “I don’t think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it’s reacting.”

“They know that I’m frustrated, but once again you’ve got to trust the doctors,” Embiid said. “They care about me. It’s all about the long-term view.”

“Like I always say,” he said, “you’ve got to trust the process.”

We’ve been here before – an injury-prone Philadelphia center rocking cornrows (at least Embiid went all the way with them) and Embiid lashing out at his minute limit.

Embiid is incredibly competitive, and he can’t just turn it off. It’s an attribute that contributes to his on-court excellence.

Embiid appears to have just enough trust-the-process perspective here, but Brown will also likely have his hands full keeping Embiid from getting too frustrated throughout the season.

At least Embiid has his contract extension and isn’t restless to get on the court and earn his big payday.

LeBron James game-time decision for Cavaliers-Celtics opener

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James may miss Cleveland’s opener Tuesday night against Boston because of a sprained left ankle.

James injured his ankle in practice on Sept. 27 and played in just one exhibition game. He participated in the team’s morning shootaround, and a team spokesman said it will be a game-time decision whether he faces the Celtics. James is officially listed as questionable.

James took some outside shots but did very little lateral movement when the media was permitted to watch the Cavs work out.

It’s hard to imagine James missing the first opener of his career and a chance to play against former teammate Kyrie Irving, who was traded this summer to Boston after telling Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert that he wanted out. James and Irving had a sometimes rocky relationship during three seasons together, but they made it to three straight NBA Finals and won the title in 2016.

 

Why did Kyrie Irving request trade from Cavaliers? ‘I will never pinpoint anything, because that’s not what real grownups do’

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Kyrie Irving said he requested a trade from the Cavaliers because he wanted to be happy and maximize his potential.

But why did he feel that couldn’t happen in Cleveland?

Irving hasn’t come close to directly answering that question, saying things like, “My intent, like I said, was for my best intentions.” Returning to Cleveland with the Celtics, Irving was again pressed to explain.

Irving, via MassLive:

Going forward, I kind of wanted to put that to rest in terms of everyone figuring out or trying to figure out and dive in and continue to dive into a narrative that they have no idea about and that probably will never, ever be divulged, because it’s not important. This was literally just a decision I wanted to make solely based on my happiness and pushing my career forward. I don’t want to pinpoint anything. I will never pinpoint anything, because that’s not what real grownups do. They continue to move on with their life and and continue to progress, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.

Perhaps, Irving is just following Dwyane Wade‘s advice and taking the high road. But that won’t ease our collective curiosity. Fans will continue to speculate about why Irving wanted out, and reporters will continue to dig into it. Reporting and speculation have both centered on LeBron James.

If Irving eventually wants to set the record straight – and he doesn’t sound interested, lending credence to the theory he wanted to leave LeBron behind – everyone will be all ears.