The Extra Pass: Motown’s meltdown and Sunday’s recaps

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What’s going on with the Detroit Pistons? D.J. Foster breaks down the unexpected issues hampering the team early on this season.

Video courtesy of My Synergy Sports, stats via NBA.com/stats. 

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Trail Blazers 118, Raptors 110 (OT): Portland is now 8-2 on the young season because their offense is lighting up opposing teams — and that got them another win Sunday. They put up 108.5 points per 100 possessions thanks to three players with more than 20 points — LaMarcus Aldridge (25), Damian Lillard (25) and Nicolas Batum (24) — plus they hit 15-of-32 from three. Portland played better defense in the third quarter when they packed the paint and was up 10 entering the fourth quarter when Rudy Gay the gunner (12-of-27 shooting on the night) got hot, put up 11 points in the quarter and with a layup at the buzzer forced OT. Then in the extra period the Blazers kicked up the offense and it was over.

Grizzlies 97, Kings 85: Sacramento coach Mike Malone was so frustrated with the effort and play from his starters in the second half benched every one of them at 4:22 of the third quarter for the rest of the game. Sacramento promptly went on a 22-9 run thanks to the bench. Unfortunately, that was not going to be enough. Memphis won the fourth thanks to their starters and got strong nights from their leaders — Zach Randolph had 22 point and 10 boards; Marc Gasol had 19 and 9; Mike Conley finished with 19 points and 9 assists.

Lakers 114, Pistons 99: Both teams decided to run on the other team’s rather unimpressive transition defense and that led to an occasionally entertaining (with some great dunks, see above) but otherwise sloppy first 30 minutes or so, but one where the Pistons shot 62 percent. Then in the third quarter the Pistons went cold (15 points on 28 percent shooting, Brandon Jennings was 0-of-6) and Nick Young and Jordan Farmar came in and changed the completion – the Lakers closed the third on a 10-0 run and pulled away from there. Jordan Hill had 24 points and 17 boards, simply outplaying the vaunted Pistons frontline; Young had 19 off the bench.

Watch Michael Jordan’s best highlight from each of his playoff runs (video)

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I’ve become a sucker for this highlight format.

Jazz deny rumored promise to draft D.J. Wilson

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Michigan forward D.J. Wilson said he’d stay in the draft only if he’d go in the first round. Yet, despite not doing any on-court work at the combine, the borderline first-rounder remained in the draft beyond the withdrawal deadline.

What gives?

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune:

NBA teams sometimes promise to draft a player. They never reveal that before the draft. So, Utah’s denial doesn’t mean much – even if it’s true.

The Jazz were the last team to give Wilson a full work out before he injured himself in a Spurs workout. So, this rumor could be based on circumstantial evidence rather than leak of a Utah guarantee.

Wilson would make sense for the Jazz, who could see their payroll bloat if they re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill (and maybe even Joe Ingles). They could move Derrick Favors, an interior who doesn’t exactly fit with Rudy Gobert. Wilson would give Utah another option with Trey Lyles as developing stretch fours behind Boris Diaw. (Utah could even move Diaw and count on Lyles/Wilson to emerge sooner than later.)

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

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LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

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NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.