The Extra Pass: Klay Thompson’s interesting statistical season; plus Sunday’s recaps

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Stephen Curry gets most of the headlines, and he earns them. Just remove Andre Iguodala from the rotation and the Warriors become pedestrian (as we have seen). Andrew Bogut anchors it all down.

However we shouldn’t leave Klay Thompson off the list.

When you start to look at the Sports VU camera data from the NBA — the cameras in every arena that track every movement a player makes, then the six cameras provide that data to a computer, which details everything that happens on the court — the numbers paint an interesting picture of Thompson.

• Thompson gets 9 catch-and-shoot points per game, tied with Ryan Anderson for the most in the NBA. He gets 7.3 catch-and-shoot opportunities a game, 5.5 of those are from three, and Thompson has an impressive eFG% of 61.8 percent on those chances. That percentage puts him ahead of some very good catch-and-shoot guys such as Joe Johnson, Kevin Martin, Bradley Beal and a host of others (the highest eFG% on catch-and-shoots of guys getting more than four a game is, not surprisingly, Kyle Korver at 73.6%).

• Thompson is averaging 0.46 points per time he touches the ball, the fourth best in the NBA. For the record, he touches the ball about 41.7 times per game.

• Thompson has covered more ground running than any NBA player, 100.8 miles this season. Thompson covers an average of 2.7 miles per game, again most in the NBA.

• By the way, he moves at an average of 4.2 miles per hour while running around, which is pretty average (Patty Mills of the Spurs moves the fastest at 4.8).

Those number pretty much confirm what we already knew about Thompson — that he moves off the ball, works hard to get open, and when you feed him the rock he’s likely to shoot it and likely to make it.

Combine that with Stephen Curry and you have one interesting — and dangerous — backcourt. They may be jump shooters but that’s fine if they go in, and for this team they go in a lot.

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Kings 124, Cavaliers 80: Here’s the real story out of this game — Isaiah Thomas completely outplayed Kyrie Irving. Thomas finished with 26 points while Irving had 7 on 3-of-14 shooting (with Thomas and Ben McLemore primarily on him. Well, that’s the story plus Sacramento won this going away. Cleveland did have an early 7-0 lead, and C.J. Miles hit an amazing three at the end of the first quarter, but that’s about when things fall apart. With Jimmer Fredette off the bench scoring 8 to spark it, the Kings went on a 19-4 run early in the second and that’s pretty much it, Sacramento ran away with it. Rudy Gay had 20 points on 12 shots, and DeMarcus Cousins was too much for anyone on the Cavs in the paint.

Grizzlies 108, Hawks 101: Atlanta had gone on a 16-0 run from the end of the third into the early fourth and had taken a three point lead, then Mike Conley happened. He either scored assisted on 23 of the next Grizzlies 25 points to get Memphis the win. Atlanta had played pretty good defense the past week or so, but the Memphis Grizzlies knocked down shots — 51.8 percent overall and 6-of-15 from three — and make the Hawks pay. Mike Miller came in and hit 6-of-8 on his way to 15 points, and Conley was crossing up Shelvin Mack on his way to 21.

Spurs 104, Timberwolves 86: And still the Timberwolves cannot get over .500. The Spurs execution is just relentless and while this game was even for the first half Tim Duncan put up 11 of his 15 in the third quarter as the Spurs pulled away for the win. Tony Parker added 14 points and 10 dimes. Nikola Pekovic led the Timberwolves on the night (he was covered by Duncan much of the night, the Spurs do miss Tiago Splitter).

Report: Kevin Love called out in emotional Cavaliers team meeting

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Having lost 8-of-11, a Cavaliers team meeting where the players got to vent seemed inevitable. There isn’t one person in that Cavaliers locker room that doesn’t deserve some blame for how things have turned.

However, Kevin Love apparently became the whipping boy.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Cleveland Cavaliers held a fiery team meeting in the practice facility locker room prior to Monday’s practice, during which several players challenged the legitimacy of Kevin Love’s illness that led him to leave Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma City early and miss Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

Several players were pushing for the Cavaliers’ management and coaching staff to hold Love accountable for leaving the arena before the end of Saturday’s game, and then missing Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

The meeting was loud and intense, only calming down once Love spoke to those gathered in the room and explained himself, league sources said.

The more things change, the more things are always Kevin Love’s fault.

According to the report, the majority of the team seemed to accept Love’s explanation. Love left the Cavaliers ugly, nationally televised blowout at the hands of the Thunder in the first half and did not return due to what was described only as an illness. He did not stay around for the end of the game. I’m not about to speculate on how ill he was or was not, what matters is that his teammates were not buying it. When a team is losing finger-pointing is almost inevitable, and Love has gotten more than his fair share of it in Cleveland. At least he stood up for himself.

Team meetings may allow a pressure release in a locker room, but they almost never result in any kind of meaningful change. We’ll see what if anything changes in Cleveland.

Bucks GM on Jason Kidd firing: “This is a performance-based thing”

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Last season the Bucks went 42-40 in the regular season and were up 2-1 in their first-round playoff series against Toronto before ultimately losing in six.

This season, expectations were high. Before the season there was talk from the team of a 50-win team (Las Vegas oddsmakers set the under/over at 47.5) that would finish in the top four in the Eastern Conference, hosting a playoff round. There was hope that the defense would improve, and with that the Bucks would look like a young team figuring it out.

They haven’t looked like that at all — they are 23-22 (with the point differential of a 20-25 team), and their defense is 25th in the NBA. Currently, they have just a one-game cushion for the final playoff slot in the East.

That cost coach Jason Kidd his job, first-year Bucks GM Jon Horst said Monday night at a press conference, as reported by Matt Velazquez at the Journal-Sentinel.

“At the end, this is a performance-based thing,” Horst said. “We believe in this team, we believe in our players and in the talents that they have. We’re looking forward at making playoff appearances in consecutive years for the first time in over a decade and hopefully winning a first-round series for the first time in over a decade. So we felt like at this time, this is the right decision to help this team get there.”

Around the league the move was not a total surprise, but the timing caught people off guard. Horst said it happened “relatively quickly” and explained:

“A general manager in the NHL had a statement once: ‘If something is inevitable, why wait?’ I think we came to the conclusion that this was the best thing for the future of the franchise and this was the time.”

Come this summer this will be the hottest coaching job available because of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the potential of this roster. Names such as Jeff Van Gundy and former Pelicans coach Monty Williams have been mentioned, but the ultimate list will be longer. Honestly, a few coaches with jobs might rather have the Bucks job (although the challenges between the two owners there can make things uncomfortable at times).

“We have another game on Friday and between that time we have a plan that we’ll put in place that we’ll kind of layout for the rest of the season,” Horst said. “We’ll go into the summer and have an extensive coaching search with an opportunity to hopefully find a great coach for this organization of which (interim coach) Joe Prunty has every opportunity to be a part of based on what happens going forward.”

This is going to a rough adjustment for Antetokounmpo and some of the players, who respected and trusted Kidd. There’s a lot of pressure on Horst with this hire.

That doesn’t make it the wrong move — Horst did the right thing here. The Bucks were going to be moving on, they just did it sooner rather than later.

 

Kevin Durant fires back, says Clint Capela’s job is “easy”

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“We’re confident because we know if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to beat them… We are better than them.”

That was young Rockets center Clint Capela after the Rockets beat the Warriors last Saturday night, feeling confident.

Asked about it, Kevin Durant shot Capela down, saying he’s not the guy that should be commenting.

There are no easy jobs in the NBA. It takes a lot of work physically, a good mental feel for the game, and the right opportunity just to get a chance. That said, some NBA jobs are simpler and more straightforward than others. On offense, Capela is not the ball handler and creator making a lot of decisions, things are simple for him — and he executes them. He’s shooting 66.6 percent this season — he does what he does well.

Houston took two of three from Golden State this season, and while that is far from doing it in a playoff series it should be a confidence boost for Houston if/when they go up against Golden State.

Jason Kidd says Giannis Antetokounmpo offered to save his job minutes before firing

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The stagnant Milwaukee Bucks shook things up by firing head coach Jason Kidd  Monday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was not happy with the news. So much he called up Kidd and offered to help save his job, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Antetokounmpo is understandably close to Kidd — he’s been the coach who helped transform the Greek Freak into an NBA superstar. Kidd is on his way to the Hall of Fame as a player, and as a coach had the vision to put the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands as a point guard. Antetokounmpo trusted Kidd.

However, the Bucks’ growth has been stagnant — this is a team where the players talked about being a 50-win, top-four team in the East with a strong defense, instead they are a team on the way to around .500, barely hanging onto a playoff spot, with the point differential of a team that wins 36 games. They are not taking a step forward, and the Bucks — with the approval of ownership, which was very close to Kidd at one time — approving the move.

There was nothing Antetokounmpo could have done. It’s life in the NBA. That doesn’t mean he has to like it.