Three games on Wednesday night, two series where Game 1 followed form and one — Portland beating Houston — that could be shaping up as one of the best first round series in either conference.
Charlotte Bobcats at Miami Heat (Heat lead series 1-0). Al Jefferson says he is going to play, but after two injections in his foot to kill pain and a couple days in a walking boot, how effective he can be remains to be seen. If he is off his game, the Bobcats are in trouble because you know the Heat will continue to attack the rim, and if that goes well and the defense is drawn in they will kick out for good look threes. If Jefferson is off his game, expect to see a whole lot of Chris Bosh featured by the Heat (he was 4-of-13 shooting despite advantages in Game 1). Without peak Jefferson the Bobcats need to find offense from somewhere — that could be a lot of Kemba Walker, but it needs to come from somewhere. It’s going to be a tough series for Charlotte, but expect the Bobcats to put up a fight, They did all season.
Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs (Spurs lead series 1-0). The question for Game 2 is the same key one we had before the series: How can the Mavericks slow down the Spurs offense? In Game 1 the Spurs leaned on its biggest names — Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili accounted for 65 of the team’s’ 90 points, and 25 of the team’s 35 field goals — but in Game 2 you can expect more from Kawhi Leonard and others. Expect less isolation and for Danny Green to have a better game.
On the other side Dallas has to keep Tony Parker out of the paint, he broke down their defense off the pick-and-roll all night — Dallas switched everything and Parker just tore apart the mismatches. Shawn Marion will again get the start on Parker, but expect more Devin Harris in that role as well. With Dirk Nowitzki and an expected better game from Monta Ellis the Mavericks will get points. The question remains can they get stops, or will they go home down 0-2.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets (Blazers lead series 1-0). Is LaMarcus Aldridge ready to put the Portland Trail Blazers on his back and keep them there?
Aldridge returned to early season MVP-ballot-worth form with 46 points and 18 rebounds in Portland’s Game 1 overtime victory, and the Trail Blazers might need another heroic effort from their power forward to win Game 2 tonight. With Dwight Howard and James Harden both pledging to get more aggressive offensively, Aldridge’s defense could be pivotal. He can double team Howard with Robin Lopez and rotate to help cut off Harden’s drives.
If that saps Aldridge’s energy on the other end, Damian Lillard should test the hobbled Patrick Beverley. How healthy Houston’s top stopper is could go a long way in determining Game 2 and the series.
The Los Angeles Clippers still have Paul Pierce under contract. Not many minutes for him, but he has a roster spot.
Pierce probably wants come back but is thinking it all over, according to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times.
Pierce has been debating this with himself for a while now.
Pierce saw a dramatic drop off in production and how much he was used last season by Rivers. Pierce averaged a career-low 6.1 points per game on an also career low 48.9 true shooting percentage. His PER of 8.2 was also a career low. You get the idea. By the end of the season Pierce was mostly an afterthought for Doc Rivers (although he did start one game after Blake Griffin was out and the Clippers’ playoff dreams were toast).
Pierce would be more mentor than a key player on the court, but he would be on probably the third best team in the West, a team that capable of making a deep playoff run. Does he want to do that for one more season? You know Doc would welcome him.
Andrea Bargnani said he would’ve played “for free” to prove himself with the Nets last season.
That would have been about the right price.
Bargnani suffered through a miserable season — full of injury, poor individual play and losing. Brooklyn eventually bought him out.
Now, the entire NBA might be finished with the former No. 1 pick.
Bargnani signed with Spanish team Saski Baskonia.
At age 30, he faces a long road back to world’s top league — if he even wants to try. Bargnani is a one-dimensional jump shooter, and he doesn’t even shoot that well.
It was ridiculous for the Knicks to trade a first-rounder for him, and that was three years ago already. Bargnani is only further from his peak now.
Maybe he carves out a niche in Europe, where his lack of physicality is less likely to be exposed. But Bargnani is no longer an NBA player.
The Heat signed Dion Waiters to a room-exception contract.
Heat president Pat Riley, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:
“Dion is not a Room Exception player. He wanted to play for the Miami Heat and chose to forgo other more lucrative financial opportunities to be a part of our championship organization. We are very honored that he made the commitment to come to South Florida and sign with us. Dion is young, athletic and explosive, which fits in with our roster. He will add a great dimension for us at the off-guard spot. I really like the depth and versatility that we now have in our perimeter positions. Welcome aboard Dion!”
I’m really curious about those “more lucrative financial opportunities.”
The Thunder didn’t think Waiters was worth his one-year, $6,777,589 qualifying offer. They earmarked that money for a Russell Westbrook renegotiation-and-extension and don’t define the market themselves. But every team has other uses for its money than paying Waiters, and none deemed Waiters a priority.
How much could Waiters have gotten next season if he signed a multi-year deal rather than the 1+1 he inked with Miami? The whole “Waiters betting on himself” narrative falls apart if nobody was willing to bet more more on Waiters.
The 24-year-old is talented. But his ball-hogging, drifting focus and me-first attitude can be infuriating.
It behooves Riley to paint Waiters as more than a room-exception player, because that enhances Riley’s reputation as someone who lures free agents for less than market value. A big-time compliment from the influential Riley might have even part of Waiters’ contract negotiation.
But there’s a reason Waiters signed for the room exception. It has something to do with the type of player he is.
The Clippers don’t just play second fiddle to the Lakers in Los Angeles. They play second fiddle to the Lakers in their own arena.
Unless the Clippers want to move from the NBA’s second-biggest market, the former isn’t changing.
Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:
The Clippers want to escape the Lakers’ shadow. Leaving the Staples Center wouldn’t turn the Clippers into L.A.’s team, but it’d give them a new avenue for attention — and revenue.
Of course, if the Clippers stay in the Staples Center, they’ll want the best terms possible. Leaking interest in a new arena only helps their bargaining position.