Toughest guys to guard on pick-and-roll? Sanders says Nash, Rose, Conley

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Larry Sanders got a big four-year, $44 million extension from the Milwaukee Bucks this summer because he can defend — he can protect the rim and block shots, but he also is quite good showing out and shutting of drives on the pick-and-roll.

Talking with him after the Bucks season-opening loss to the Knicks, Zach Lowe of Grantland talked defending the pick-and-roll with Sanders, specifically who is the hardest to stop when they come around the top of that pick.

OK, well, anytime [Steve] Nash is coming off the pick-and-roll, it’s bad.

Still, huh?

Yep, still. It’s because of his pace. He’s not rushing. He’s just surveying, looking for gaps, passing through those gaps. He’s such a good passer. And D-Rose.

He’s back.

Oh, yeah. And, man, coming off those pick-and-rolls at full speed. He’s one of those guys, when he comes around that pick, you have to be totally locked in on him. He’s so quick, if he gets his shoulder past you, it’s over.

Rose isn’t a shock. He’s struggling to get his touch back and finish (28 percent shooting through two games) but physically he is back. Nash however, is interesting on this list, he is slower than he was a few years ago but his ability to keep his dribble alive and pick you apart with precision passing.

Then Sanders makes another interesting choice — Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies. Why

His decision-making. Guards that make good decisions out of the pick-and-roll are just deadly. Options open up. He’s really good at keeping the big man in front of him.

Sort of stringing you out, you mean — keeping his dribble alive so you have to keep guarding him?

Yeah, yeah. And he’s got two guys on him now. Guys who can do that, and make good decisions are deadly.

Conley is an underrated point guard — how he stepped up in the wake of the Rudy Gay trade made the Grizzlies far more efficient and much more dangerous offensively after that trade.

Sanders also said he expects the James Harden/Dwight Howard pick and roll will be dangerous.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.