Jason Terry on player rest: “You had all summer to rest”

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There is no refuting the science: The 82-game NBA schedule wears players down physically, and when they are worn down they both do not play as well and are more susceptible to injury. This applies especially to back-to-backs and four games in five nights.

But we live in an age where proof doesn’t matter if you don’t want to believe it.

Enter Jason Terry. The old-school NBA veteran and current Milwaukee Buck was on his weekly SiriusXM Radio show, “The Runway” with co-host Justin Termine, and he railed against players getting rested this early in the season.

“Rest?  Who wants to rest?  Who wants to sit out of games?  Practice, maybe yes, ok I get it.  But the games?  No, no, no, no.  What did A.I. say?  Not the game, not the game I love.  No, we’re not going to rest.  I can see maybe in April, it’s the last week, last two weeks, you already clinched your playoff positioning, there’s nothing really to play for, yeah, we may rest a little bit. … This is the second month of the season, there’s no reason to rest.  You had all summer to rest….

And guys rest in practice anyway.  If you’re a high minute volume guy, you’re playing 35-plus a night, you’re not really doing much practicing.  Not if you’re on a winning team, so to speak.  So I don’t get it, and I really don’t think this is coming from the players.  This is more of management, coaching staff, training staff.  I mean, they’ve got all this new technology, I mean, we’re wearing pagers in our tank tops and we’re out there running around and then after practice they take your meter out and we look at your load.  I don’t know, maybe that has something to do with it.  But, hey, if you’re any kind of competitive and your competitive juices are flowing, this is the second month of the season, of course the dog days are ahead of you, but this is what it’s about.  This is what the grind is about.  Can you play at your best when your body or your mind is not really feeling up to it?  That’s what all the greats did.  That’s why we watched Michael Jordan.  That’s why we watched Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Isaiah Thomas, all the greats.  These guys never rested.  They never took a day off.  And so, for me, it’s just a new era that we play in and, yeah, it may give some guys longevity but you said it earlier, I played in both eras and I never rested, I never needed it.”

Terry shoots his own argument in the foot — the best players already barely practice. There are walk throughs, shootarounds, and some time in the weight room, but few “practices” like we picture in an NBA season. This isn’t high school ball. Still, players are fatigued and get injured because of the grind. They always have, it just wasn’t tracked before. Would Larry Bird’s back have allowed him to play longer if he got more rest?

Would LeBron James have willingly taken the court in Memphis this week — or Kevin Love, or Kyrie Irving — and played, and played well? Yes. Without a doubt. If you doubt the competitive fire of today’s top NBA players, you’re deluded.

But there also is no doubting the facts that all those “pagers” and science shows — fatigued players are far more likely to get injured. If you’re Tyronn Lue, you know you’re going to be the top seed in the East and probably on to the Finals (sorry Toronto). What matters to you more than a December game in Memphis is the health of your players. Keeping them rested and fresh. Keeping them on the court. So you make the big picture decisions even if that hurts the team for a night in the short term.

Even if that rest looks bad for the league. And no doubt it does.

The NBA is taking a step with the new CBA to start the season a week or so early to allow more space in the schedule, thereby reducing the number of back-to-backs. That will help. But as the only real solution is cutting the season back by 20 or so games, and we know that is happening, rest is going to be part of the NBA going forward.

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.

Tyreke Evans: Giannis Antetokounmpo is like a taller me

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Giannis Antetokounmpo torched the Kings for 32 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and two steals in the Bucks’ 18-point win Wednesday.

Afterward, Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans paid the Greek Freak the ultimate compliment.

Sean Cunningham of ABC 10:

Do you see many players like Antetokounmpo? Evans:

Nah. He like me, but 6-7 – I mean like almost 6-8, 6-7, whatever height he is. He just long, athletic. He get to where he want to go. He got good handle for his size, and he athletic. Once he get around the rim, he can finish.

If only you were an inch taller? Evans:

That’d be a problem. I mean, it’s still a problem, I think, for me to get where I want. But just the athleticism he have and the way he get up off the ground – he got quick bounce. He pretty good at it.

Antetokounmpo is listed at 6-foot-11, Evans 6-foot-6.

This isn’t totally unreasonable. Make Evans five inches taller and add none of the dexterity awkwardness that tends to accompany growth, and he might look a lot like Antetokounmpo. Both are usually slotted at forward while possessing point-guard skills.

But Evans isn’t 6-foot-11, and most 6-foot-11 players can’t move like Antetokounmpo. That fluidity for his size is a big part of what makes Antetokounmpo special. If Evans grew up to be 6-foot-11, he likely would have developed a different skill set than he has now.

Antetokounmpo is the rare player with both the height of a big man and skills of a guard. Evans didn’t miss out on that just because his genes kept him from growing another five inches.

This discussion is also silly for another reason. Somewhere, there’s someone who’s 6-foot-1 and certain he’d be as good as Evans if only he were five inches taller.

Rumor: Blake Griffin increasingly believed to be open to leaving Clippers in free agency

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The Clippers were rumored to have already verbally agreed to terms with pending unrestricted free agents Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

But with formal contract extensions unviable, L.A. was always going to have to play out the season and hope those players remained committed into July.

There might be a hitch in that plan.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

That Griffin would also stay and reap the biggest payday he can seems likely, too—in theory. But more and more people around the league believe he would be open to a fresh start—perhaps with the Lakers or the Boston Celtics, who have coveted Griffin for years and would offer a new chance to win.

Does Ding have credible information to suggest Griffin could join the Lakers or Celtics, or is that just speculation on the writer’s part about potential fits? It’s unclear. This is already fairly loosely sourced.

But we should gather more information quickly once free agency begins. Griffin reportedly planned to re-sign quickly. If he shows the faintest hint of exploring the market, that could open the floodgates.

Griffin had been frequently linked to his home-state Thunder, but Oklahoma City would interfere with his burgeoning Hollywood connections.* The same issue would exist with Boston, though obviously not the Lakers. That said, the Celtics are WAY better than the Lakers – and maybe soon the Clippers and Thunder, considering those Nets picks headed to Boston.

*Oklahoma City also since nuked its cap space with contract extensions for Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo, though trades could always clear room if Griffin wants to come home.

The Clippers are in a bad place right now. One one hand, that forebodes another disappointing end to the season. On the other hand, there’s still time to overcome and send Griffin into free agency on a more positive note.

These are dangerous times for the Clippers, who wouldn’t have cap space to adequately replace Griffin, Paul or Redick if one leaves. So, if one bolts, the others seems more likely to follow. Interpersonal relationships matter, but the Clippers’ primary selling points were always going to be money and winning (with Hollywood proximity a bonus). Winning gets harder if talent walks.

They can still offer the most money, and they’re not leaving L.A. But the Clippers better win more to help avoid what could be a tenser-than-expected summer.

Suns use youngest starting lineup in NBA history

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The Suns have shut down their veterans or been shut down by their veterans with two goals in mind – developing young talent and tanking.

Incidentally, Phoenix also made history.

Against the Nets last night, the Suns started:

ESPN:

Elias on ESPN:

The previous youngest was the Clippers’ starting five consisting of guards Eric Bledsoe and Eric Gordon, forwards Al-Farouq Aminu and Blake Griffin, and center DeAndre Jordan, who averaged 21 years and 143 days old in a matchup with the Nets on November 15, 2010.

The young Suns gained quality experience – and helped their team to an important loss, 126-98 to Brooklyn.

Phoenix is still 1.5 games “behind” the Lakers for the No. 2 seed in the lottery, but the Suns are within striking distance in case the Lakers screw up and win too much down the stretch.