Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets

Pau Gasol says he won’t ask to be traded from Lakers

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Pau Gasol was essentially non-existent in the Lakers loss to the Clippers on Friday, finishing with just two points on 1-of-6 shooting in his 27 minutes of action. Defensively, he wasn’t much better, and seemed to be playing in slow motion at times against the likes of the super-athletic Blake Griffin.

To make matters worse, two of Gasol’s field goal attempts came from three-point distance. It’s clear that for the second straight season, the Lakers head coach hasn’t found a way to properly use Gasol’s All-Star skill set, and both team and player are worse off because of it.

As has been the case multiple times since Mike D’Antoni took the reins, Gasol once again found himself riding the pine in the fourth quarter Friday — at least until Dwight Howard fouled out with 1:07 remaining.

All of this can’t be easy on Gasol, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to give up on the Lakers altogether by requesting to be traded out of town just yet.

From Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles:

“No, oh, that’s radical,” Gasol said when asked whether he would request a trade following the Lakers’ 107-102 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. “I still believe. I still have faith in what we have. I still have faith that I can be a big part in helping this team succeed. Right now, I’m not being able to do that very often.”

“It’s difficult sometimes because it’s not up to me to get involved,” Gasol said. “I’m trying, but the times that I am at the elbows are the times that I get more involved and can make more plays from there, but it’s not consistent.”

Following the last time Gasol was benched in the fourth, a narrow Lakers win over the Charlotte Bobcats, Gasol met with D’Antoni for dinner to discuss how best to integrate him with the team. More than two weeks later, Gasol was not so sure things had changed since then.

“I don’t like watching from the bench,” Gasol said.

As Gasol correctly points out, this isn’t all on him — at least offensively.

If you want to see exactly how Gasol was used against the Clippers, there’s an excellent breakdown over at Silver Screen and Roll. Essentially, we have mostly outside jumpshots, with just one opportunity in the post.

Gasol can hit the open jumper, but honestly, that’s a fraction of what he’s capable of, and using him exclusively as a spot-up shooter is a complete waste. D’Antoni’s offense calls for bigs to hit their outside shots following dribble penetration off of pick and roll sets, but that should only be part of what Gasol is asked to do, not the entirety of it.

Gasol is still capable of being the aggressive big man whose skill set has consistently been recognized for being one of the best in the league for a player his size; look no further than the way he finished the Lakers’ Christmas Day win over the Knicks. But the team will need to get him more touches and involve him from different spots on the floor to re-engage him in the game plan, otherwise the player and team will part ways eventually, no matter which side initiates the conversation.

J.B. Bickerstaff calls Rockets ‘broken team,’ ‘fragmented bunch’

Houston Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff rubs his head in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Houston. The Wizards won 123-122. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been unafraid to sharply assess his team.

But after last night’s loss to the Trail Blazers – Houston’s third straight defeat and sixth in eight games – Bickerstaff kicked up the rhetoric even further.

Bickerstaff, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

“We’re broken,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s that simple. We’re a broken team, and we all need to use this break to figure out how we’re going to impact change. If we don’t want to impact change, then we need to be made aware of that, too, and we’ll go in a different direction.

“We can’t continue to go out and play this way. It’s easy to see it’s a fragmented bunch. You can’t win that way.”

This is why Dwight Howard is on the trade block. The Rockets are so incohesive, there’s no simple solution in sight. This increasingly looks like a lost season for Houston, which should emphasize future planning – like dealing Howard, who can become an unrestricted free agent at age 30 this summer.

Yet, the Rockets are just a half game from playoff position. They obviously dreamed much bigger when the season began, but at this point, merely making the postseason should qualify as a success.

It’s Bickerstaff’s job to get them there, no matter how unlikely. He has certainly shown little fear in trying, whether it’s giving these quotes or pulling all five starters simultaneously shortly into a game. He’s trying to put his mark on this team.

The players just aren’t responding, not more than periodically, at least. From James Harden down, nobody plays with the requisite focus and energy.

Nothing in Bickerstaff’s assessment is surprising. It’s just surprising he said it so bluntly publicly.

Then again, that’s nothing compared to what veteran Houston guard Jason Terry said. Eric Ringering of 750 The Game:

https://twitter.com/ringering45/status/697664478993756164

Devin Booker to replace Nerlens Noel in Rising Stars at All-Star Weeekend

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker reacts after hitting a 3-point shot against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Sixers big man Nerlens Noel — who has looked much improved this season once Ish Smith was feeding him the rock on offense — sat out the Sixers game Wednesday night due to tendonitis in his right knee. After he missed his rookie season with knee issues, you can understand why the Sixers want him to be cautious.

Noel is going to sit out All-Star Weekend as well — he had been scheduled to play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, but he is going to sit that out and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns will take his place, the league has announced (Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic broke that story).

Booker has been one of the few bright spots for the Suns this season, averaging 10.6 points a game and shooting 40.3 percent from three.

He will play for the USA in the World vs. USA format of the Rising Stars Challenge (the former rookie/sophomore game, featuring first and second year players).

With Emmanuel Mudiay replacing Patrick Beverley, NBA reveals Skills Challenge bracket

Houston Rockets' Patrick Beverley (2) knocks the ball away from Denver Nuggets' Emmanuel Mudiay (0) in the first half of a NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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Out: Defending champion Patrick Beverley.

In: Emmanuel Mudiay Emmanuel Mudiay.

The NBA confirmed the Rockets guard would miss the Skills Challenge and that Mudiay would replace him. The league also release the bracket:

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My picks:

Quarterfinals

Semifinals

  • Isaiah Thomas over C.J. McCollum
  • Anthony Davis over Draymond Green

Final

  • Isaiah Thomas over Anthony Davis

NBA suspends Hassan Whiteside for elbowing Boban Marjanovic’s head

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Hassan Whiteside lost his cool and elbowed Boban Marjanovic in the head Tuesday.

The Heat center received a flagrant 2 and an ejection, and now he’s getting the rest of his punishment.

NBA release:

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has been suspended one game without pay for throwing an elbow and making contact with the head of San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanovic, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Whiteside was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected, occurred with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 119-101 win over the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Feb. 9.

Whiteside will serve his suspension when Miami plays the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 19 at Philips Arena.

The suspension will cost Whiteside $8,921. As a result, the Heat – in line to become the first team in NBA history to pay the repeater luxury-tax rate – trim their impending tax bill by $24,534.

More importantly for Whiteside, this will be a strike against him for teams considering offering him a big contract in free agency this summer.