Time for Lakers to trust Steve Nash to get offense working

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That wasn’t pretty.

The Lakers offense in their opening night loss really wasn’t much of anything. It wasn’t very Princeton with its reads and spacing (only in flashes). It wasn’t up-tempo. It wasn’t much pick-and-roll despite some deadly combos on the floor. It really just wasn’t much of anything except making a point to get the ball inside a lot. Which didn’t really work that well.

What it’s going to take most to fix this is time on the court together for the Lakers stars — Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. They looked like a bunch of guys who haven’t played much together. Because that’s exactly what they are. They looked like they were thinking and not just reacting in the offense, that takes time to fix.

But there is one other thing the Lakers could start doing as soon as Wednesday in Portland — start trusting Steve Nash. Fully trust him. And he needs to start trusting himself and not deferring.

Watch the first game and you didn’t see a Lakers offense doing what it was designed to do — figure out the opponent’s weakness then exploit it with superior talent. They went inside, which was supposed to be their advantage, but when it wasn’t working there was no Plan B. Nash is the guy who is supposed to make that determination on the court and get the ball where it needs to go.

Instead, he deferred t0o much, just getting the ball to someone in a Princeton set and then seeming to float around the perimeter. Don’t take my word for it, here is what he told Sports Illustrated.

“I’m caught trying to get the ball moving and get us into different sets,” Nash said. “Tonight I didn’t get a lot of pick-and-roll. There are growing pains and there will probably be more.”

The Lakers need Nash to be aggressive and attack on pick-and-rolls, especially if Howard is his roll man. He needs to push the tempo, get up the floor and get the team some buckets in transition (which needs to start with better defense). He needs to attack more quickly against pressure up the court like the Mavs used. If they do run a Princeton set, the Lakers bigs need to remember that Nash is the best three point shooter on the team and a kick-out to him is a good thing. There were flashes of what could be, like some nice passing from Gasol to Howard. But it was not enough.

The Lakers need Steve Nash to be Steve Nash. To take charge of the offense. The other Lakers need to trust him to be that guy and to space the floor, to know if they do that they will get the ball back and open looks.

It’s too early to blame the Princeton offense right now (you can start to discuss if it was wise to put in a complex new offense this year). Or the players — Kobe wasn’t attacking in quite the same way, Howard was not finishing dunks he normally crushes, the Lakers were not healthy. And of course, there were the free throws.

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?