JaVale McGee

George Karl has a really good reason for not starting JaVale McGee


Word started to surface on Friday that the Nuggets might actually not start JaVale McGee, even after his tremendous playoff performance against the Lakers, and despite what many are calling an unbelievable offseason of workouts. Is Kosta Koufos or Timofey Mozgov really better than McGee at this point? In an interview with the Denver Post, Karl talked about the situation and actually gave a really illuminating answer.

Q: You’ll likely start Ty Lawson at point guard, Iguodala at shooting guard, Gallinari at small forward and Kenneth Faried at power forward. What about center?

A: Training camp is going to tell me who plays. My idea right now is Mozgov would start with Faried and JaVale would stay with (reserve point guard) Andre Miller. But again, I don’t (care) about starting lineups, and you guys are already stirring the pot. It’s all about how many minutes you play, who you play with, how well you play and how we play (when you’re on the court). Kosta Koufos is in the mix, too. Let’s make sure you understand that. In the last 15-20 games of the season, when Timo got hurt, Kosta not only played well but good enough to get us to the playoffs.

Q: Why do Miller and McGee connect so well?

A: I think Andre has such a distinctive ability to see a play before it happens. And JaVale has such a large, athletic space to get the ball to, above the defense. So the lobs and spins and all that stuff, Andre has the courage to throw the ball — and he throws it very well.

via Denver Nuggets coach George Karl discusses JaVale McGee and others – The Denver Post.

It’s actually a really good idea. The Nuggets use a lot of the dual point-guard lineup with Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, so minutes aren’t a problem. Meanwhile, Karl can pair the best lob player with the best lob maker.

It’s not a super-complicated idea but it’s a subtle adjustment. The issue is that by all accounts, no one has worked harder in the offseason than JaVale McGee. How will he react to staying on the bench after all that work? It’s a tricky situation for the Nuggets to deal with, and part of the problem with their abundant depth.

Interesting note, Miller and McGee were -4.6 last year in 270 minutes together, thanks mostly to a 110 points allowed per 100 possessions mark. The defense has to be much better overall this year for the Nuggets, but in particular for that combination.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)


Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that, or Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked


The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.

Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs

Dwight Howard
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The 5-9 Houston Rockets need some wins.

The Houston Rockets have a back-to-back coming up, Sunday against the Knicks then Monday against the Pistons (both on the road). Two teams with quality big men.

Combine those things and you end up with Dwight Howard being re-evaluated by team doctors and getting the training wheels taken off, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

This, plus a mini training camp the past few days, is part of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s effort to turn Houston’s season around.

Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.