Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets

Pau Gasol expresses frustration with D’Antoni offense. Lakers have to think trade.

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Pau Gasol just does not fit in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. And it shows.

In years past I’ve defended Gasol because one segment of Lakers fans were unnecessarily harsh on him because he didn’t play like Shaq — but how Gasol played was perfect for the triangle. The Lakers won back-to-back rings because of him, not in spite of him.

But he is a fish out of water in D’Antoni’s offense — he wants the ball in the post and that doesn’t fit. The result is Gasol shooting just 41.7 percent on the season, a career low by a wide margin. He’s playing passively. Look at what Gasol told Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times.

“The fact that I’m not getting the ball in the post affects directly my aggressiveness,” he said. “When I’m not getting the ball where I want to, where I’m most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity….

“This year hasn’t been ideal, certain things are not ideal for me, but that’s not going to change any time soon,” he said.

So what did D’Antoni say?

“I can’t lie to him… Our numbers tell us the worst thing we do is post up,” he said.

D’Antoni’s right. When the Los Angeles Lakers have thrown the ball in the post this season, they have shot just 34.6 percent on their shot attempts, scoring a paltry 0.67 points per possession. (Numbers via Synergy Sports.)

(What the Lakers do well is spot up shots — one in five Lakers attempts is a catch-and-shoot this season and they are hitting 40.1 percent from three and scoring 1.06 points per possession when they do it. Next most shot attempts are in transition, 11.7 percent of the team’s attempts, and the Lakers are shooting 56.8 percent on the break.)

So how is Gasol responding to this criticism?

“I don’t pay attention. Mike is sometimes all over the place, I don’t give much credit to things like that,” he said.

All of this has led to a listless run of play from Gasol, who is not playing with the energy he has in past years.

The Lakers simply need to look at moving Gasol — and Gasol said he would be open to that.

Los Angeles is not going to get back what Lakers’ fans hope — Gasol’s value is down right now and while he is an expiring deal only a limited number of teams want to touch his $19.3 million salary (or have something that size they can send back to the Lakers). All-Stars like Zach Randolph are not coming back to L.A. in a deal.

There is a market for Gasol if he is willing to take a pay cut next season — he is a very skilled big who can get $10 million plus a season for multiple years. He might fit well in Chicago if they amnesty Carlos Boozer. He has said he can picture himself next to his brother in Memphis and that slowed-down, post system could work well for him. There are plenty of other teams.

He sounds like a guy ready to move on, and if he is the Lakers have to see if they can get anything of value for him before it happens. It’s not like moving him is going to keep them from a title run this season.

Damian Lillard added to Team USA Olympic roster pool

Damian Lillard
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If you’re looking for a point guard who can flat-out score the rock, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many better than Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers’ guard is averaging 24.2 points and 7.3 assists per game, with an above-average true shooting percentage of 54.6 percent, and a very high usage rate of 30.9.

He’s the kind of guy who might have a place on the Team USA Roster.

Which is why USA Basketball has added him to the pool to be considered for the Rio Olympics summer. The reason for the change is both Lillard’s level of play this season, and the fact he called USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo to ask for a spot, as reported by Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

Lillard deserves consideration, but there are two key reasons he likely doesn’t make the team:

1) He is still a terrible defender.

2) The list of guards for the USA Roster is ridiculous: Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Klay Thompson, John Wall, and Russell Westbrook. And now Lillard. That’s 10 guys for likely five spots. It’s hard to see Lillard making that cut.

But he deserves consideration.

Kings co-owner Shaq: Vivek Ranadivé told me George Karl would coach rest of season

Shaquille O'Neal
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Kings general manager Vlade Divac said keeping George Karl as coach was right move “for now.”

How long is “for now”?

Shaquille O’Neal, a Kings minority owner, shares insight.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

This would mean a little more if Vivek Ranadivé weren’t prone to wild swings. Remember, the Kings said Tyrone Corbin would finish last season as coach before firing him for Karl.

Divac also said in November that Karl would coach the rest of the season, and that came up for debate fewer than three months later.

Shaq’s revelation is as likely to embarrass the Kings in a few weeks as it is to signal Karl’s job security.

Chauncey Billups explains why not every player wants to go home

Dallas Mavericks v Denver Nuggets
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LeBron James did it and shook up the NBA — he returned home to Cleveland. That has led to fantasies other players want to do the same thing: Kevin Durant back to Washington D.C.; DeMar DeRozan or Russell Westbrook back to Los Angeles; Blake Griffin back to Oklahoma. And the list goes on.

Not every player wants to do it.

Chauncey Billups did. Billups is a Denver guy who returned to play for the Nuggets — he gets his number retired Wednesday night in Detroit, a much-deserved honor — but in a letter to his young self at the Players’ Tribune Wednesday he explained that going home is fraught with peril.

“But in reality, playing at home as a 23-year-old professional is going to be less blessing and more curse. (There’s perception, again, for you.) It’s as simple as this: you’re just not going to be ready for Denver to be Your City. You’re going to think you’re ready — and they are too — but, trust me, you won’t be. You’re still going to be so young. You’re still going to be hanging out with your boys, doing your old thing. There are going to be those … hometown distractions. And those distractions will add up.”

“And you have to understand, Chaunce: It’s not just that you made it. It’s that your whole neighborhoodis going to feel like they made it. All of Park Hill is going to feel like they made it. And don’t get me wrong — that’s special. But at the wrong age, it can also be tough. It can be a lot to handle. And you’re going to be at that wrong age. You’re not going to be mature enough yet, or developed enough yet, to take on that mix of environments, those responsibilities, that role.

“You’re not going to be ready to lead.”

There are plenty of guys around the NBA who understand those distractions and how those can get in the way of off-season workouts, of time spent shoring up a weakness or developing a new shot, and how during the season they can be another thing that wears the body down.

Some guys can handle it. Some can’t.

Go read the entire letter from Billups. He talks about getting traded from the Celtics his rookie season, about playing for Mike D’Antoni, about how very rarely do veterans want to mentor younger players because they are fighting for the same piece of the pie.  Billups is honest.

And it’s great that Detroit is rewarding him as they should.

Did Marcus Thornton steal free throws from Rockets teammate Clint Capela?

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Leandro Barbosa – guarding Marcus Thornton and fighting through a Clint Capela screen – was called for a foul in the first quarter of last night’s Warriors-Rockets game.

Thornton went to the line.

Should he have? Or should Capela have?

Perhaps, Thornton and Barbosa tangled, but it certainly appeared the contact primarily occurred between Barbosa and Capela. It looks like Barbosa tries to ram through Capela.

It also appears Capela thought he drew the foul. Watch him step toward the line before seeing Thornton there and taking his spot along the paint.

So, why would Thornton step in? He’s making 89% of his free throws to Capela’s 40%.

I’m honestly surprised players don’t try this maneuver more often. Refs have so much to keep track of. The worst consequence would be the refs shooing away Thornton and bringing Capela to the line.

Thornton made both free throws, but it didn’t matter. Houston was playing Golden State, which rolled to a victory.