The Extra Pass: The Clippers’ “Rosie” Screen; plus Monday’s recaps

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Over the next few days in this space, we’ll break down a play that’s largely unique to one team. To kick off this signature series, we’ll start with the Los Angeles Clippers’ “Ring-Around-The-Rosie” screen.

Innovation in the NBA is often about adding little wrinkles to something very simple.

There are no “Wildcat” offenses that take the league by storm, but rather slight variations of plays that teams have been running for years.

NBA offenses around the league have run “floppy” screens for a long, long time. The basic idea of a floppy screen is to free up a shooter for a perimeter look. As you can see below, the floor is flipped and it’s the wings under the basket waiting to receive screens to free them for perimeter jumpers.

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Doc Rivers ran this for Ray Allen in Boston about, oh, a million times. Although Rivers isn’t often credited for being an offensive-minded coach, he does script some nice plays to get guys open looks.

While Rivers doesn’t have Allen in Los Angeles, he does have a bunch of wings that are comfortable running off of screens. His best weapon and the player that most resembles Allen is J.J. Redick, but Redick is still out with a wrist injury.

That still hasn’t stopped Rivers from running plays for guys not named Chris Paul or Blake Griffin, which is a fairly new concept in Los Angeles.

While the bread and butter of the offense is still CP3 in the pick-and-roll, the Clippers now have a few other ways to attack. LAC is once again fifth in offensive efficiency, but they’re also less prone to bogging down against elite defenses.

The Clippers’ offense didn’t need a drastic overhaul from last year; it just needed a little fine-tuning. There are subtle little differences making the Clippers more difficult to guard and also a little less predictable than in previous years. Just watch the off-ball action under the basket in this clip:

You’ll see many teams run floppy screens or single-double screens to free up shooters, but rarely will you see two players on the same team dance around in circles for a moment and then slingshot each other out to the opposite wing.

There’s been some competing thoughts floating around on what to call this play. Andrew Han of ClipperBlog prefers “Floppy Merry-Go-Around”, which sounds like a terrible carnival ride. I personally prefer the “Rosie screen”, partially because it might be the only play with its own song:

Ring around the rosie

Redick and Dudley are like Ray Allen and James Posey

Jumpers, jumpers

They all fall down!

Call it whatever you want — it’s effective. After a 23-point shellacking of the Spurs, it looks like the little twists are helping the Clippers notch signature wins, too.

-D.J. Foster

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Wizards 102, Knicks 101: Bradley Beal returned after a a nine-game absence and scored 14 fourth quarter points — including the game-winning layup with six seconds left — to send the Wizards home with the win. This one was more than in reach for the Knicks, who overcame a 15-point third quarter deficit, only to fall short on the game’s final two possessions. New York had a foul to give on Beal’s layup but didn’t take it, and had three timeouts left but didn’t call one, instead opting to try to go the length of the floor to rush up an incredibly difficult shot. — Brett Pollakoff

Pistons 101, Pacers 96: Detroit handed Indiana its first home loss of the season, and did it with above average defense on Paul George and Roy Hibbert, along with a crushing effort on the glass. The Pistons ended up with a 55-40 rebound advantage, thanks to Josh Harrelson grabbing 10 off the bench in just 16 minutes of action. George and Hibbert combined to shoot just 6-of-26 from the field, while Josh Smith dropped in 30 for Detroit. This was a brutal back-to-back for the Pistons, facing the two best teams in the league record-wise on consecutive nights. The effort in both games — a win against the Pacers after losing at the overtime buzzer to the Blazers the previous night — suggests that Detroit might be figuring some things out. — BP

Celtics 101, Timberwolves 97: Kevin martin missed this one with a sore left knee, and on a night where Minnesota shot just 37.8 percent from the field, they could have used his offense. The Celtics, meanwhile, got a huge 15 point, six rebound fourth quarter from Jared Sullinger that helped them seal the win. — BP

Nets 130, Sixers 94: And it wasn’t even that close. This was the Joe Johnson show, who caught absolute fire in the third quarter. He poured in 29 points in the period and hit eight of his 10 attempts from three-point distance in 12 third quarter minutes that turned this one into a complete laugher. Johnson finished with 37 points, and Deron Williams added 13 points and 13 assists. —BP

Hawks 114, Lakers 100: Los Angeles led this game into the second half because they played to the mismatch — they pounded the undersized Hawks inside with Pau Gasol (10 points in the first quarter on 5-of-5 shooting), and Jordan Hill who had 13 first half points. You didn’t expect that to last, did you? The Lakers stopped defending the arc (the Hawks were 8-of-16 from three in the second half) and Atlanta hit shots they missed in the first half. Atlanta has fantastic ball movement and it shows, Al Horford had 19 to lead a balanced Hawks attack. Nick Young led the Lakers with 23. Once again Kobe Bryant looked better, but he has a ways to go still. –Kurt Helin

Heat 117, Jazz 94: Give the Jazz credit, they got the ball inside and scrapped for the first half — they had 32 points in the paint and 17 second chance points at the break. But you knew the talent levels would show — Miami opened the third quarter on a 16-3 run and that was basically it. LeBron James just missed a triple-double with 30 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists. —KH

Magic 83, Bulls 82: Orlando seemed to be in control of this game but a couple times a Bulls run would make it interesting — the key one of those was a 10-0 run in the fourth that made it close late. Chicago had a chance to tie but Luol Deng missed a layup and after Glen Davis hit some free throws there was only a Mike Dunleavy three to make the scores look close. Arron Afflalo continued a run of good play with 23 points to lead Orlando. —KH

Clippers 115, Spurs 92: This was the fifth game in seven nights for the Spurs and it showed — they got tired late and gave up a 20-4 run to a Clippers team that found the range and was 11-of-23 from beyond the arc. Blake Griffin had 10 of his 27 points in the second quarter, when the Clippers used a 19-0 run to take control of the game. Of course, the Spurs fought back but they didn’t have the energy to sustain it. Manu Ginobili was the best of the Spurs with 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting. —KH

Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac, probable top-10 pick, declares for NBA draft

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Jonathan Isaac explored bursting through a loophole to declare for the 2016 NBA draft straight out of high school.

Instead, he went to Florida State. Now, he’ll enter the 2017 draft.

Isaac:

If he doesn’t hire an agent, Isaac can maintain college eligibility, but this message seems pretty final. Expect Isaac to remain in the draft, and expect him to go in the top 10.

What I like most about the 6-foot-11 forward: Despite being so lanky, he was an elite defensive rebounder. That shows an underlying technical proficiency and physicality that should serve him well.

And then there are the drool-inducing flashes – his ability to go up and get alley-oops above the rim and a sweet-looking jumper.

He’s still a work in progress, and he deferred a lot at Florida State. But he’s just 19, and he has the tools to do more. I’d love to get him on my team as he learns to assert himself.

Report: Clippers sort of resent Austin Rivers’ favored status

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The Clippers faced a potential crisis this summer.

They had already agreed to re-sign Austin Rivers to a three-year contract worth more than $35 million, and Jamal Crawford was threatening to leave. Losing the then-36-year-old Crawford would’ve been costly, but it wouldn’t have been devastating. The bigger issue would have been the image: keeping the coach’s son over the reigning Sixth Man of the Year.

Clippers president/coach Doc Rivers calmed the brewing storm by giving Crawford a three-year, $42 million deal.

But apparently the underlying tension hasn’t completely dissipated.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

The in-house resentment toward Austin Rivers being favored as Doc’s son, according to team sources, still very much exists, but it isn’t out of control.

Know what the Clippers truly resent? Losing. They’ve gone 8-9 since the All-Star break, and they’re clearly feeling the slump.

That brings lingering issues, like Austin’s place on the team, to the surface.

And other Clippers are reasonable to show suspicion about the dynamic, a complication Doc should have considered when he traded for Austin.

Austin has explained his never-that-warm relationship with Doc, who was busy coaching while Austin was growing up. These two claim this is far more a coach-player than father-son relationship, and I believe they believe that. I also believe it’s mostly true, though their familial ties probably intrude more than they realize.

That said, Austin has worked himself into a legitimate backup guard after a horrendous start to his NBA career. It’s worth a reminder just how bad he was in New Orleans because that shows how even his modest role now is a sign of tremendous growth. Austin has improved his shot, and his 6-foot-4 frame is an asset in some defensive matchups (probably not as many as Doc believes, judging by Austin’s assignments).

Does Austin deserve 28 minutes per game? Probably not, though he also handles garbage-time minutes so older teammates don’t have to. Does Austin deserve his $11 million+ annual salary? Probably not, though the capped-out Clippers had no recourse beyond minimum contracts to replace him, so he had leverage (ditto Crawford). Does he deserve to so often speak for the team? Probably not, though bigger stars Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan might not mind the occasional break.

Austin’s biggest problem is that, despite his improvement, his gaffes are still so blatant. That makes it more difficult to take him seriously, even when the totality of evidence says we should.

And for all the examples of Doc’s Clippers favoring Doc’s son, Austin was still the player who got left in the game with a concussion. That’s just dangerous, not nepotism.

There isn’t out-of-control resentment for Austin, because there’s isn’t out-of-control favoritism for him.

But there is some favoritism, and the more the Clippers struggle, the more they’ll look for a place to point the finger and occasionally land on Austin.

Report: Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, determined to become NBA head coach, offered Florida women’s job

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Spurs assistant Becky Hammon is the NBA’s first female full-time coach.

She could also become the next Florida women’s basketball coach.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon is considering a lucrative offer to leave the NBA and become the University of Florida women’s basketball coach, league sources told The Vertical.

The financial offer would be a considerable raise, especially considering that she’s still a young, behind-the-bench assistant on Gregg Popovich’s staff. Nevertheless, Hammon is grappling with the decision, because she has been determined to stay on course to become the NBA’s first female head coach, league sources said.

Hammon is blazing a trail in the NBA and might eventually become a head coach in the league. She has Gregg Popovich’s endorsement, praise from San Antonio players and success in limited opportunities.

But the path for a woman coach in men’s basketball is extremely narrow. It’s not fair, but Hammon faces hurdles others wouldn’t.

And the glass ceiling becomes exponentially thicker for a woman in women’s basketball who’s trying to jump to men’s basketball. Women’s college basketball is not a pipeline to the NBA, especially not for a woman. If Hammon goes to Florida, the paradigm changes. It would renew questions about her playing experience coming only in women’s basketball and her limited time with the Spurs.

Hammon wouldn’t be blackballed from the NBA, but she’d be setting up more obstacles for herself to clear to become a head coach in the league.

In one respect, I don’t envy her decision. However, she has positioned herself to choose between a promising path and an excellent job. Even if deciding is difficult, she’ll wind up in a good place.

Reports: Phil Jackson attending Shaq statue ceremony, Magic Johnson missing it to scout UCLA-Kentucky

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The Lakers are formally unveiling Shaquille O’Neal’s statue outside their arena tonight. Also tonight: UCLA-Kentucky in the Sweet 16, which features NBA prospects Lonzo Ball, Ike Anigbogu, T.J. Leaf, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo.

That makes an interesting choice for the NBA’s two highest-profile team presidents – the Lakers’ Magic Johnson and Knicks’ Phil Jackson (who coached Shaq in Los Angeles), both of whose teams are headed toward a high picks in the upcoming draft.

And the front-office heads are going different directions.

Arash Markazi of ESPN:

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Watching a single game in person is unlikely to swing anything. Both Johnson and Jackson could send scouts to watch UCLA-Kentucky live and then the presidents could watch video later.

But attending in person is ideal, and there are already questions about Jackson’s work ethic. This will only fuel them.

If nothing else, this is an opportunity for Johnson, new on the job, to establish an image. He can clearly juxtapose himself with the failing Jackson and establish himself as a diligent alternative. The Lakers hired Johnson at least in part due to his high profile, but that needn’t stop him from grinding now that he has the position. Anyone doubting him would respect that.