Paul George made a leap this season and people noticed.
With Danny Granger basically lost for the year due to knee issues, George took on a larger scoring role with the Pacers — he used 23.5 percent of their possessions when on the court — averaging 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
That won the third-year player the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.
“He left the season last year saying ‘Coach, I’m going to work harder than I ever have this summer and come back a completely different player. Just wait and see you’ll be so impressed.” And I have been impressed,” coach Frank Vogel said. “But what impresses me the most about Paul is his commitment to playing team basketball. Winning basketball.”
George is a force at both ends — the Pacers had the best defense in the NBA this season not because of the scheme (they run pretty standard stuff) but because they have strong defenders on the wings and Roy Hibbert in the paint as a backstop. George can be a lockdown guy on one end and run the offense on the other end.
This is a deserved award.
George got 52 of the 120 first place votes and finished well ahead in the voting. Second place went to the Hornets Greivis Vasquez, third place was Larry Sanders of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Among the more interesting votes was Jeff Teague in Atlanta, Joakim Noah of the Bulls and even Earl Clark of the Lakers.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Ed Pinckney has arrived in Minnesota and is serving as a guest coach at Timberwolves training camp, with the expectation that he will soon join coach Tom Thibodeau’s staff.
Pinckney was at the team’s two-a-day practices Wednesday. He was most recently an assistant with the Denver Nuggets. Thibodeau coached with Pinckney in Chicago and immediately targeted him for his staff when he took the Timberwolves job this summer.
It has taken some time to complete the process of Pinckney leaving the Nuggets, but Wolves officials were hoping to finalize Pinckney’s addition to the staff by the end of this week.
Pinckney is a well-regarded assistant with a long history of coaching and playing in the league. He will join Andy Greer, Ryan Saunders, Rick Brunson and Vince Legarza as assistants in Minnesota.
Shortly after the Kings chose center Georgios Papagiannis with the No. 13 pick in the draft, DeMarcus Cousins tweeted, “Lord give me the strength.” Sacramento already had an abundance of centers with Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos. If Cousins wasn’t talking about yoga, Sacramento adding center Skal Labissiere with the No. 28 pick would’ve driven Cousins batty.
At least Kings coach Dave Joerger is accustomed to using two bigs, as he did with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in Memphis.
Joerger, via Cowbell Kingdom:
I anticipate us playing a lot more small ball this year.
I’m not playing big.
This is going to lead to some unhappy campers in Sacramento. It won’t be Cousins (not for getting his role reduced, at least). But this will make it hard for Cauley-Stein and Koufos to get satisfactory playing time. It’ll also make it harder for Papagiannis and Labissiere to get minutes to develop.
Like with most things, winning is the best way to quash griping. The Kings have enough wings – Rudy Gay, Matt Barnes, Arron Afflalo, Omri Casspi, Ben McLemore, Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson – to theoretically play small effectively. If Joerger goes that route, he better find success with it. Otherwise, he could get plenty of heat – including from general manager Vlade Divac, who spoke incredibly highly of his first-round picks, the players most likely to get squeezed out of a small-ball rotation.
Last year, Patrick Patterson declared the Raptors’ starting power-forward job his to lose.
Well, he lost it.
Luis Scola started most of the regular season before Toronto tinkered in the playoffs. Patterson claimed the job. Then, the Raptors turned to DeMarre Carroll with Norman Powel in a small-ball lineup. Finally, Toronto reverted back to Scola.
A year later, there’s still no clear, great option at the position. Scola went to the Nets. Patterson returns. Pascal Siakam and Jarrod Uthoff are rookies. First man up: Newly signed Jared Sullinger.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey, via Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:
“I would say Sullinger is the guy now that it would be his to lose, but I reserve the right to change my mind,” Casey said, citing the need to see how that group reacts defensively.
If Sullinger’s bar is defensive, he’ll have a tough time clearing it. He neither protects the rim nor moves well on the perimeter – making him similar to Scola. But Scola got the job last year with similar contributions.
Sullinger rebounds well, and he has some shooting range, though he hasn’t been selective enough with it.
Patterson’s ability to defend the pick-and-roll might make him a better fit next to Jonas Valanciunas, especially if Patterson has confidence in his 3-point shot.
There should be a place for Sullinger in the rotation, but if he’s starting at power forward, that speaks to a lack of quality options.
The Cavaliers will reportedly give David Blatt a championship ring, and Anderson Varejao also has one available.
They aren’t the only two unexpected ring recipients.
Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
Majority owner Dan Gilbert and his partners decided to present rings to more than 1,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena organization, employees who’ve been fitted for rings told cleveland.com.
A conservative cost for distributing rings to employees is more than $1 million.
This is very cool by Gilbert. Obviously, lower-level team employees won’t receive the same blinged-out rings the players get. But this is a nice way to reward their hard work.
Not to go all Jerry Krause, but organizations win championships. Some pieces – LeBron James – matter much more than others, but everyone plays a part. Security guards keep players safe, preventing a dreadful incident that could derail a playoff run. Public-relations staffers ease the burden on players. Ushers improve the fan experience, which increases revenue and helps Gilbert afford a massive luxury-tax bill.
It all adds up, as Gilbert clearly recognizes.