Michael Beasley adjusting to the green light in Phoenix

9 Comments

Michael Beasley showed a flash of brilliance during the Suns preseason finale on Friday, giving the team a glimpse of the potential that lies within the talented but historically troubled individual. Beasley put up 29 points on 13-of-21 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds, and seemed to do so relatively effortlessly in his 34 minutes of action.

If Beasley could put up similar performances on a consistent basis throughout the season, this Suns team could exceed most expectations, which are somewhat realistic in currently projecting them to finish out of the playoff picture, and mired somewhere near the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

For that to have a chance of happening, however, Beasley will need to embrace an unfamiliar position in Phoenix — one where he’s the primary option offensively most nights, and where he’s actually encouraged, if not berated into taking as many good shots that come his way.

This is how the Suns have been doing it since Mike D’Antoni was the head coach, and Alvin Gentry isn’t about to make any changes to a system he’s been running a variation of since he took over, and one that he believes in. He understands, though, that it can be a bit of a change for the players coming in to adopt the shoot first, ask questions later mentality.

“We’re going through that phase right now with Michael Beasley,” Gentry said. “He’s been on a team with Dwyane Wade, or he’s been on a team where he hadn’t had the opportunity to shoot the basketball.

“The only thing I tell guys is that I don’t want them thinking about a shot, if it’s a good shot or if it’s not. The only thing I want them to concentrate on if they’re going to shoot it is, can I make this shot. And as long as they do that, I’m fine with it. I told him that afterwards we may talk about how this may have been a questionable shot, or something like that. But I don’t want him thinking about that during the game.”

The way it’s been explained is that Gentry wants his players taking the first good shot on a given possession. The Suns like to push the tempo, so running plays exhaustively through all of their options as the shot clock winds down to get the best possible look isn’t the plan. The team is happy with simply a good, open shot — good and open being the operative words, as simply chucking early and often obviously isn’t going to produce the desired results.

“Now, I also don’t want him taking bad shots,” Gentry emphasized. “There’s a difference between shooting a shot when you’re open and forcing a shot. Sometimes it takes a few games for guys to understand that.”

A few preseason games have gone by for Beasley, and he seemed to get it during Friday’s performance.

“Coach has been telling me all preseason to be aggressive,” Beasley said afterward. “And to be selfish, kind of selfish in taking my shots. I was really going out there with the mindset of a playmaker, but I was just taking what the defense was giving me.”

The shooting freedom is the main thing that Beasley sees as the difference between his time with his previous teams in Minnesota and Miami, and his first month with the Suns.

“The fact that they’re telling me to shoot,” he said, when asked what was different in Phoenix. “And getting mad when I don’t shoot. There’s still a little adjusting to do.”

Consistency is what the Suns will be looking for out of Beasley, especially from a shot-taking standpoint. The talent is there, so at this early stage, the team is going above and beyond to make it clear to its newest offensive threat that he has the full green light at all times.

“He always looks at me like I’m crazy when I say if we play you 30 minutes, you should take 20 shots, and they all should be pretty good shots,” Gentry said. “It’s just an adjustment that guys have to make, and it’s probably a little different than anybody’s really anticipated as an individual player, that coaches are getting on you for passing up shots.”

Beasley is starting to get the message. And if he continues to translate what he’s hearing into what he’s doing on the court, we may see plenty of performances similar to the one we saw to finish the preseason.

“I thought I was shooting, but every game they tell me I’ve got to shoot more, got to shoot more, got to shoot more,” he said. “They’re not telling me to shoot every time I touch the ball, but if I’ve got a shot every time I touch the ball, they definitely don’t want me to pass it up.”

Damian Lillard defends Blazers’ coach Terry Stotts on Instagram

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s far too early for panic in Portland. This is a team most outside Portland thought would finish a little above .500 and maybe grab one of the back-end playoff spots in the West, and at 9-7 they are on that pace.

But after an ugly Portland loss to Sacramento (just a few games after a loss to Brooklyn where coach Terry Stotts benched center Jusuf Nurkick for most of the fourth), Trail Blazers fans were restless and started to slam coach Stotts on the Trail Blazers’ Instagram page.

I doubt Stotts noticed, but Damian Lillard did and jumped in to defend his coach.

Lillard added this (hat tip Mike Richman at the Oregonian).

“Because people think they know more about what it takes to get things done at this level … For our team than they actually do,” he said. “We’re in this position for a reason. And coach Stotts had two 50-win seasons here and four straight years in the playoffs for a reason –because he knows what he’s doing. They mention … our record is 8-7 and we’re having breakdowns late in games. Well those breakdowns are a missed shot here, a turnover there, a defensive breakdown here, giving up extra possessions, missed free throws. It’s things that players control. If we were down 30 every game, that’s different. But we’re in position to win games. And when it’s time to win games, that’s the players’ job. “

Lillard is loyal to those around him and has had the back of teammates and his coach before.

Lillard and his teammates went out Saturday night and got some revenge on the Kings, winning 102-90.

Portland’s defense has been surprisingly good this season, second best in the NBA. It should have been better with Nurkic in the paint, but this has been a radical turnaround for a team where that end of the floor held them back in recent years. While that lofty ranking may not stick all season, the Blazers are defending.

Now the Blazers are just having trouble scoring efficiently (18th in the NBA), which is a little about a less-efficient Lillard and a rough start on that end for Nurkic.  That end of the court should come around, Lillard and C.J. McCollum are too good for it not to.

 

Teammate spoke to Lonzo Ball about walking away from “fight”

Getty Images
4 Comments

We see these posturing/shoving matches all the time in the NBA, and they’re pointless. Late in Friday night’s Phoenix win in Los Angeles the Suns called a timeout, then Tyler Ulis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got in one a shoving match. As happens, players from both teams raced into the fray to protect their teammate/break it up… except for Lonzo Ball, who looked at it and kept moving along.

I have defended Ball’s actions as mature (he’s right, nothing was going to happen), while others (fans and media) have questioned his leadership for not rushing to stand by teammates, pull guys out of the pile, and having a “band of brothers” attitude.

None of that matters, the only opinions that carry any weight are the ones in the Lakers’ locker room. What did his teammates think? Lakers coach Luke Walton said a teammate did talk to Ball, quote via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Someone on our team talked with him,” Walton said after the Lakers’ practice Saturday, without disclosing who it was. “It’s all part of the learning process.”

If his teammates were bothered, then there’s an issue. It’s more about perception than anything, again nothing was happening in that “fight,” but perception matters. It’s a small issue, but an issue. With young players this gets discussed, and everyone moves on.

Ball’s passing and energy on the court are things teammates love. As his game matures — and he eventually finishes better around the rim and, hopefully for him, finds his jumper — and he grows as a bigger threat on the court, his teammates will forget this ever happened. As will fans. But when you play for the rabid (and not always rational) fan base of the Lakers, and when your father invites publicity and with it scrutiny, things get blown out of proportion. Welcome to Lonzo’s world.

Marc Gasol kicks away Clint Capela’s shoe, earns technical

1 Comment

Midway through the first quarter, Clint Capela literally came out of his shoe trying to move up to set a pick for James Harden. Just stepped right out of it. J.R. Smith wasn’t there to untie the laces or anything.

Capela turned around to go get his shoe, and Memphis’ Marc Gasol showed his soccer skills kicking the shoe away. That earned him a technical foul. Gasol could argue he just wanted to get something he could trip over off the court, but Capela was clearly coming back for it at that point. Gasol earned this one.

Capela retied his shoes and went on to have 17 points and 13 boards in Houston’s 105-83 win over shorthanded Memphis.

Stephen Curry scores 35, Warriors rally to beat 76ers 124-116

8 Comments

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 35 points, Kevin Durant had 27 and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors overcame a 22-point halftime deficit in a 124-116 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

Joel Embiid scored 21 points and Ben Simmons had 23 points and 12 assists for Philadelphia, which led 47-28 after one quarter and 74-52 at the half.

But the Warriors erased that large deficit with a furious rally in the third quarter. Curry’s 3-pointer got them within one point. He then made a pair of free throws to give Golden State a 90-89 lead.

The two-time NBA MVP hit another 3 and Draymond Green blew past a defender for a dunk to make it 99-89 going into the fourth.

A raucous, sellout crowd that chanted “Trust the Process” most of the night went silent while the Warriors put on a shooting clinic in the second half.

Even veteran David West came off the bench and made big shots in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors distance. He finished with 14 points. Klay Thompson had 16.

Embiid was coming off a career-best performance – 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks, seven assists – in a 115-109 win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

He seemed on his way to another monster game in the first quarter. Embiid embraced the frenzied fans and slapped hands with a guy sitting courtside after a dunk.

But the Warriors showed why they’re the best by stifling Philadelphia in the second half to improve to 12-4.

The Sixers, who lost 135-114 at Golden State one week ago, fell to 8-7.

Playing his first game since receiving a lucrative contract extension, Robert Covington had 20 points for Philly.

Back home for the first time following a five-game road trip to the West Coast, the Sixers showed no jet lag in the first half.

They jumped ahead 15-4 following a 3-pointer by Embiid. Covington stripped Durant and hit a 3 to make it 37-18, electrifying the crowd.

Durant’s dunk off Green’s alley-oop pass got the Warriors within 70-51 late in the second. But Embiid finished off the half with a dunk that sent the Sixers into the locker room up 74-52.