JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried, Daniel Orton

George Karl wary of playing Faried and McGee together down the stretch

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The Nuggets struggled offensively in Thursday night’s loss to the Heat, but one player who didn’t seem to have trouble scoring for Denver was JaVale McGee. Yet he was curiously absent from the floor in crunch time, where his team needed offensive production the most.

McGee was 9-of-12 from the field on the night, and finished with 18 points in just over 21 minutes of action. He also grabbed six rebounds and blocked four shots in his limited chance, so it would seem logical that when a player has it going on both ends of the floor like that, you find a way to get him into the lineup.

But McGee sat the final 7:39 of the fourth quarter, a decision that George Karl said it was fair to second-guess afterward.

From Ben Hochman of the Denver Post:

“That’s fair to second-guess,” Karl said after the game, “I just don’t feel comfortable playing JaVale and Kenneth Faried in defensive schemes (down the stretch), I think we make too many mistakes. I thought JaVale played great and when I took him out (with 7:39 left), I was initially thinking about putting him back in the game. But the matchups for me, I was choosing between Kenneth and JaVale, and I went with Kenneth.”

On the surface, this would appear to make some sense. Faried and McGee have similar skill sets, though Faried is a better high-energy rebounder, and McGee (as weird as this sounds) is more polished offensively. So having one spell the other isn’t completely crazy.

Faried and McGee were together for just nine total minutes on the court in this one, but their lineups were a combined +11 during that time. So why not give them some more run, especially with Danilo Gallinari struggling with his shot, and with the team so desperately in need of some reliable scoring options?

The answer isn’t so simple, and Karl said in Phoenix earlier this week that he’s still experimenting with lineups, and that it’ll be 20-30 games into the season before he has an idea of which combinations will work best in specific situations. But if he can get to where he feels he needs to be defensively with McGee and Faried playing at the same time, it would seem that any lineup featuring the two of them together would be a pretty good option.

[All lineup data gleaned from NBA.com/stats]

Gregg Popovich pins Spurs’ effort problems on players: ‘I don’t remember playing tonight’ (video)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gives instructions against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:

Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Popovich:

I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.

Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.

But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.

His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.

Donatas Motiejunas signing four-year, $35 million contract with Rockets

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets is helped to his feet by teammates James Harden #13 and Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.

So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return – a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 – which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.

The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.

Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.

After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).

But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?

Report: Rockets return Donatas Motiejunas to restricted free agency, working on new contract with him

Donatas Motiejunas, Kenneth Faried
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.

He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.

But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.

I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts – unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.

John Wall pushes down Jusuf Nurkic from behind in retaliation (video)

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John Wall didn’t like how Jusuf Nurkic bumped him, so Wall shoved the Nuggets center from behind and sent him to the floor.

An overreaction to the bump? Probably. Wall got hit with a technical foul.

But I’m mostly just impressed Wall was strong enough to push over Nurkic.