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USA Basketball president on Paul George: “The stanchion is not the issue here”; Coach K talks Rose, roster

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USA Basketball had a huge blow Friday night when Paul George went down with a scary, horrific injury that will keep him out next season.

After the game USA Basketball’s president Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski said they wanted to take a step back and gather themselves. But when they spoke with the media on Wednesday they had to deal with was the remnants of that injury. Both how it happened — was the stanchion being too close to the court the problem? — and how they move forward on the court.

Colangelo reiterated that the USA Basketball’s relationship with Las Vegas and the Thomas & Mack arena are fine, and that this was a fluke situation about big players moving fast, not the arena or stanchion. He said USA basketball plans to be back in Vegas.

“The NBA All-Star Game was played on that court with those stanchions. The NBA Summer League is played there…” Colangelo said in a media conference call. “The stanchion is not the issue here. Some people want to make it an issue, but it’s not.”

Coach Krzyzewski said he had planned to play George heavy minutes — which makes sense because of what he would bring defensively — and what you can expect to see now is Team USA get even smaller.

“We have to look at how we will do the perimeter, and it means that some of the guys who play the two will have to play the three. We will be a little smaller without Paul,” Krzyzewski said.

Team USA is down to 16 players now in the pool that will eventually be whittled down to 12: Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans), Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder), James Harden (Houston Rockets), Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls), Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn Nets), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors), Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons), Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets), Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz), Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kyle Korver (Atlanta Hawks), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Chandler Parsons (Dallas Mavericks), and Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors). Bradley Beal, John Wall and Paul Millsap were released from the team. 

• Krzyzewski was effusive with the praise for Derrick Rose: “(Rose) He was sensational all week… fast, strong and decisive… He really created an air of excitement at practices. We were all anxious to see who he was. And who he is is very, very good…

“The first defensive exchange in camp, he was all over the ball-handler. There was a buzz right away. He wasn’t just saying, ‘I’m back.’ He was saying, ‘I’m back at a level that’s elite.’”

• Krzyzewski on whether Gordon Hayward’s chances of making the team just went up with George being out: “We think Gordon is one of the really good young players in the league and is very versatile. With Paul’s injury, losing a guy who is an All-Star who is 6’8”, Gordon is 6’8” also.”

• Krzyzewski on Lillard: “We’re heavy with outstanding talent at the guard spot… Damian had a good week, I think he can play even better. But part of it is growing accustomed to playing with these guys and playing a different role.”

• Krzyzewski on Durant and how he is different than two years before: “I think he’s stronger physically, I think he’s stronger emotionally and wants to assert him in that leadership road.”

• Krzyzewski on DeMarcus Cousins: “Cousins gives us a big that is different than Anthony Davis. We’re looking at the big position, the five, kind of separate from the other four spots. Cousins had a good week…

“His attitude is tremendous in that he wouldn’t come back if this didn’t mean something to him…. He made a huge impact on all of us, during the week but especially at the scrimmage.”

• Krzyzewski on Irving: “Kyrie was one of the better players in the camp, he has one of the unique skill sets at the guard because he can run a team but can also play off the ball because he’s such a good shooter. He’s going to have to do that in Cleveland, too.”

James Harden says playing in every game should matter in MVP voting

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James Harden has played in every Houston Rocket game this season so far. Russell Westbrook has done the same thing for Oklahoma City.

When voters sit down in a few weeks to choose the league’s Most Valuable Player — in one of the most wide-open races in memory, with Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James making legitimate cases as well — Harden says they should take playing every game into account. It’s the latest part of the rest discussion going on around the league. Here’s what Harden told Calvin Watkins of ESPN.

“Yeah, because you’re not leaving your teammates out there to dry, ” Harden said Tuesday morning, before the Rockets’ game against the Warriors. “For me, I worry about always having my teammates’ back and always being out there….

“I’m going to have [my teammates’] back and they know that they have mine as well,” said Harden, who is second in the league in points and first in assists. “For the coaching staff and the fans, especially here in Houston, the front office, I’m here to play.”

Both LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard have had rest nights.

This injects Harden into the rest debate, where recently Harden’s teammate Patrick Beverley came out and said players are “disrespecting the game” when they rest. Gregg Popovich sees more nuance in the debate and certainly backs resting players. On the latest PBT Podcast, former Bull B.J. Armstrong told me that they didn’t have rest days back in his day, but players were kept out of games for things they could play through to get right for the playoffs, it was just listed differently. He added that the rest situation might have been different back in the day if the data about the increased chance of player injuries on the second night of a back-to-back (and it goes up from there with four games in five nights) had been available.

In this case, Harden lobbying for his case in the MVP voting. The thing is, his numbers make the case for him: Harden is averaging 29.4 points per game, leading the league with 11.3 assists a night, and he’s creating the most points per game 27.5 (buckets and direct assists. He has taken on the point guard duties in Mike D’Antoni’s offense and has taken on the largest load on offense he has in his career — and he has continued to do it efficiently.

However, one can make a strong statistical case for Westbrook (who carries a larger load for an OKC team that has less talent around its star than Houston), Leonard (best defender of the group), and LeBron (the Cavs recent struggles may doom his chances).

Little details are going to divide this group, and Harden is trying to get his point out there.

That said, the Rockets are almost certainly locked into the three seed in the West, and once it’s clear they are in that slot team management should discuss giving Harden a night off before the playoffs, to let his body rest. Whether he wants to or not.

Rajon Rondo is hilarious (photo)

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Is Rajon Rondo stubborn? Yes.

Is he petty? Yes.

Is he harsh? Yes.

But the Bulls point guard is also hilarious in his own way.

 

Sean Highkin of The Athletic:

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek: “We can use some more defensive players”

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For all the flipping between the triangle and a more modern offense, despite ball stopping by Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks offense is 17th in the NBA for the season. Not good, but the middle of the pack, right around Oklahoma City, Miami, and Memphis — all playoff teams (or potential ones in Miami’s case).

The reason the Knicks season ends in seven games is their defense — 25th in the NBA. Put the triangle in (and get players who fit the system) or don’t, but that’s not the end of the court where the Knicks need to improve. And while system matters on defense, the fact of the matter the Knicks roster is loaded with poor and/or indifferent individual defenders.

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek emphasized all this speaking to ESPN’s Ian Begley.

“I think if you look at our defense this year, we can use some more defensive players,” Hornacek said. “[Management] will look at that. [General manager] Steve [Mills] and [president] Phil [Jackson] and those guys will look at whatever can help us out. We know we need some help there.”

Admitting you have a problem is the first step. Now comes the time for action.

The Knicks are going to have a Top 10 draft pick (currently sixth) plus max-player money in free agency. Also, they are looking to move Anthony this summer (he has a no-trade clause so he will have to agree to it). All of which is to say they have a chance to reshape this roster into one that will have more of a defensive focus. Or any defensive focus for that matter.

It will be interesting to see if the Knicks target more defensive minded free agents this summer, ones who might fit the triangle offense such as Thabo Sefolosha, or to a lesser extent Tony Allen. It’s going to be a fascinating summer in New York.

Master P says Pelicans should hire him as assistant coach: ‘I’m serious’

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Did you know Master P had two NBA contracts?

Percy Miller was with the Hornets before the 1999 season and the Raptors before the 1999-00 season. But he was cut in the preseason both times.

These were mostly publicity stunts. Still, the rapper could actually play a bit. NBA quality? He long insisted yes, though his music career provided a convenient and lucrative excuse for sidetracking his basketball ambitions.

Yet, now, the New Orleans native says he wants back in the NBA with the Pelicans — in a different role.

Master P, via TMZ:

I think they need me to be an assistant coach.

I’m serious about coaching.

I don’t think he’s actually serious.

But if he is, would it be a good idea? Probably not. The Pelicans have real issues integrating Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, and they need devoted coaches, not passing entertainers, to solve this.

Would it be fun? Heck yeah.

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