Author: Dan Feldman

Nene, Furkan Aldemir

Report: Nene will come off bench for Wizards

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The Wizards reportedly tried trading Nene this summer.

Unable to find a taker, they’re keeping him – but apparently demoting him.

Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post:

Barring injury or a sudden strategy revision, Nene, a 13-year NBA veteran who has been a starter his entire career, will regularly come off the bench and play center — an assignment he has not exactly enjoyed in the past — behind Marcin Gortat. The expected change comes as the Wizards switch to a new read-and-react, pace-and-space offense that will utilize lineups with four three-point shooters and one big man more often.

“I have no clue,” a blunt Nene, 33, said Saturday. “That’s the coach’s decision.”

It had been clear the Wizards would use Nene and Gortat together less often this season, but it seemed the duo would still start.

Apparently, the preseason changes will be permanent. Gortat started Washington’s first two preseason games at center, and Nene got the nod against Bauru last night. Kris Humphries started at power forward in all three.

The Wizards mostly went big during the regular season last year, but they went small in last year’s playoffs – playing Otto Porter over Nene and sliding Paul Pierce to power forward – to great success. Here’s Washington’s offensive/defensive/net ratings in the postseason:

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Pierce and Gortat:

  • With Nene: 91.5/103.6/-12.1 in 92 minutes
  • With Porter: 125.2/103.9/+21.3 in 51 minutes

Even after Wall got hurt and Ramon Sessions become the Wizards primary point guard, the big/small splits remained similar.

Sessions, Beal, Pierce and Gortat:

  • With Nene: 99.0/109.8/-10.8 in 36 minutes
  • With Porter: 123.9/116.6/+7.3 in 27 minutes

But who becomes the stretch four now that Pierce is with the Clippers?

Humphries has more range than Nene, but not all the way to the 3-point arc. Drew Gooden has shown improved shooting as he has aged.

Those are both somewhat traditional big men, though.

If the Wizards really want to duplicate their success with Pierce, they have a few wings who could slide down – Jared Dudley (once healthy), Martell Webster and Porter. Their ability to play power forward will depend on the production of Washington’s other wings – Alan Anderson, Gary Neal and Kelly Oubre. The rookie Oubre is a particular wildcard.

Good for Randy Wittman working outside his comfort zone. He has often preferred to play big, even when statistics indicated it was a mistake. He’ll surely use Nene and Gortat together when matchups dictate, but there’s clearly a new normal in Washington.

Pierce, who has excelled at power forward the last couple years, set the stage for this transition. The Wizards aren’t quite as equipped to play this way without him, but their ceiling rises as a small, running team. It’s on Wittman to mix and match player combinations to find the right fit.

James Harden says injury not serious, according to Ty Lawson

James Harden, Jeff Green
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James Harden left the Rockets’ preseason game last night with a knee injury that – from the outside – could have been anything.

It’s probably nothing.

Ty Lawson, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

“He said it’s not really that serious,” Rockets guard Ty Lawson said.

Corey Brewer, via Feigen:

“You kind of know if it’s serious,” said Corey Brewer, who was waiting to check in for Harden before Harden even reached mid-court. “I think he just bumped it a bit. Preseason lasts a long time. He has time to heal.”


This is obviously great news for the Rockets, who rely heavily on Harden.

They have another couple weeks until the regular-season opener. From the sound of it, that should be more than enough time to get Harden healthy.

Even if his knee swelled overnight, it’s hard to see this being too long-term of an issue – especially given that Houston’s goals are for late spring/summer, not October/November.

Aaron Brooks bounces pass over Pau Gasol to Jimmy Butler for layup (video)

Aaron Brooks, Pau Gasol
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Occam’s Razor says this was probably just an entry pass for Pau Gasol that came in too hot.

But I choose to believe Aaron Brooks intended this pass for Jimmy Butler, because that would be much cooler.

(hat tip: Zachary Bennett of Hardwood Paroxysm)

Doc Rivers: Warriors weren’t lucky to win title

Chris Paul, Doc Rivers

Clippers coach Doc Rivers said:

“You need luck in the West,” he says. “Look at Golden State. They didn’t have to play us or the Spurs. But that’s also a lesson for us: When you have a chance to close, you have to do it.”

That set off a minor firestorm, with multiple Warriors taking offense.

Rivers clarified his comments.

Rivers, via VL Sports:

No, I don’t think the Warriors were lucky to win. I think they deserved to win. I wish we could have played them – or the Spurs – but they still were the best team. They earned it.

Rivers’ initial remarks have been misinterpreted.

1. The Warriors were the NBA’s best team last season.

2. They were lucky not to face the Clippers or Spurs in the playoffs.

Those are hardly mutually exclusive statements.

The best team doesn’t always win the title. The better opponents it faces in the playoffs, the more likely it is to stumble.

I think the Warriors would have beaten the Clippers or Spurs, but I also think those two teams would have presented a bigger challenge in the Western Conference finals than the Rockets did. That’s a lucky break for Golden State – which benefited from a seeding system the NBA has since abolished and the Clippers not taking Houston seriously enough.

The Warriors’ championship was not predestined once they entered the playoffs as the clear best team in the league. They avoided injury, got favorable matchups throughout the Western Conference playoffs and saw the Cavaliers lose Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. With the partial exception of avoiding injury, those things are luck. Golden State had no control over them.

That good fortune coupled with the Warriors’ outstanding ability made them champions. Acknowledging their luck doesn’t minimize their accomplishments.