Kurt Helin

Commissioner of the NBA Adam Silver speaks to the media ahead of a regular season basketball game between Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors at the O2 arena in London, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
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Adam Silver: NBA to “take a fresh look at” fan All-Star voting on social media

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Dallas Mavericks’ center Zaza Pachulia came within 14,000 votes of becoming an All-Star starter.

Pachulia is having a renaissance season for him, meaning 10.4 points and 10.7 rebounds a game. He’s one of the reasons Dallas is a surprise playoff team in the West. But he is not an All-Star. He is not a guy who should have gotten more votes than Draymond Green, or DeMarcus Cousins, or Anthony Davis, or Tim Duncan, or Dirk Nowitzki, or Blake Griffin, or… you get the idea. Pachulia got a boost from his native Georgia, received constant plugs from Hayes Grier, plus he got a Wyclef Jean bump.

Pachulia’s case, plus the case of the NHL’s John Scott, has given the NBA pause. Particularly with fan voting in Twitter or social media — on Twitter all someone had to do was retweet an existing vote with #NBAVOTE in the tweet and it counted. So when Justin Bieber sends out a tweet asking fans to retweet for Chris Paul to get a vote, the player will quickly pick up 48,000 votes (which happened this year).

At a Total Health Forum this week, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver talked about All-Star voting, as reported by Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“On (fan) balloting, it’s something we’ll continue to look at,” Silver said. ”We love the fact that fans have input into who the All-Stars are. As social media changes the world and is disruptive, it’s been mildly disruptive to our balloting systems as well. I know that’s something we’ll take a fresh look at.”

It’s a tough line to walk. The NBA wants the fans to pick the starters, and they want to make it easy to vote. But they want people to take voting seriously and not vote for joke candidates. (Insert your own Donald Trump joke here.)

Consider it something to watch heading into next season, the NBA may tweak the system (no more just retweeting to get a vote?).

 

After ugly loss to Denver, Wizards conduct players-only meeting

Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman watches during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, in Washington. The Nuggets won 117-113. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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The Washington Wizards are a team in search of an identity. As J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com and I discussed in the latest PBT Podcast, this was a team that started the season talking small ball (like they did in the playoffs), but the defense has been pedestrian and in recent games they have gone back to more of the big lineup with Nene and Marcin Gortat up front. John Wall has played like a deserving All-Star, but nothing else on the team has worked out as planned, including Bradley Beal staying healthy.

Thursday may have been the season low point, a loss at home to struggling Denver team that was on the second night of a back-to-back. Mike Malone has the Nuggets playing hard, that’s the difference.

After the game, there was a players-only meeting, reports the Washington Post (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“It’s kind of similar to the past years. We’ve been through the same thing,” Beal said. “It always takes a team meeting or two to figure it out, but we’re at the point now where we know what we need to do. We’re still in a great position to make the playoffs with 40 or however many games we have left. We have a great opportunity to make a run so it’s up to us to be able to put it together and get out here and get some wins.”

Jared Dudley made this assessment.

“For us, let’s be honest … except for this game none of the games have been close. It’s not a positive. But we have to be positive. We’re close to the halfway point but we got to get some wins and we got get some good flow and we got to get back to our style. This team can’t score 80 points. This team is in the 100s. We have to be able to defend the three and stop turning the ball over.”

The Wizards need to figure out who they are. Players-only meetings rarely solve that problem.

The team needs to get back to defending again, it was a top-five defense a season ago that has been middle of the pack this season — and that’s not just because of the small-ball lineups. They tried to streamline and simplify pick-and-roll coverages, but none of it has worked. And without stops, they can’t get out and run to take advantage of Wall’s ridiculous speed.

Maybe this team can get it together and make the postseason (they are only three games out), maybe they can start to play with a sense of urgency every night. In the playoffs, they have pulled upsets in recent seasons.

But teams rarely make that kind of change mid-season. If the Wizards don’t, changes will come this offseason, likely starting with the coaching chair.

Jordan Mickey, Jimmer Fredette headline D-League All-Star Game in Toronto

Celtics' Jordan Mickey dunks the ball during a friendly basketball match between Real Madrid and Boston Celtics at the Barclaycard Centre sport arena in Madrid, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. Celtics won 111-96. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
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Ask scouts who the best player in the D-League is this season, and quickly you hear about Celtics’ rookie Jordan Mickey. He was one of the most impressive players at Summer League, which is why Boston inked him to a four-year deal (the first two years guaranteed). With a crowded frontcourt Boston sent Mickey to the D-League, where he has averaged 17.1 points and 10.4 rebounds a game while playing strong defense.

Which is why he’s going to be in Toronto as an All-Star.

The NBA started a D-League All-Star Game the afternoon of All-Star Saturday, and Mickey is one of the headliners. So is Jimmer Fredette, who has played most of this season for the Westchester Knicks. The D-League’s leading scorers — Elliott Williams  (29.7 PPG), Sean Kilpatrick 27.1 ppg, and Erick Green (26.7 ppg) — will be there as well.

In total, 16 players currently under an NBA contract or who have played in the NBA will take part. The game tips off tips off at 2 p.m. Eastern Saturday, Feb. 13, will air live on NBA TV.

Here are the rosters for the game.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Keith Appling (Erie)
Lorenzo Brown (Grand Rapids)
Rakeem Christmas (Fort Wayne)
Jimmer Fredette (Westchester)
Tre Kelley (Sioux Falls)
Sean Kilpatrick (Delaware)
DeAndre Liggins (Sioux Falls)
Jordan McRae (Delaware)
Jordan Mickey (Maine)
Ronald Roberts Jr. (Raptors)
Alex Stepheson (Iowa)
Jarnell Stokes (Sioux Falls)

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Brandon Ashley (Texas)
Jeff Ayres (Idaho)
Vander Blue (Los Angeles)
Will Cummings (Rio Grande Valley)
Micheal Eric (Texas)
Erick Green (Reno)
Justin Harper (Los Angeles)
Vincent Hunter (Reno)
Orlando Johnson (Austin)
Xavier Munford (Bakersfield)
Raphiael Putney (Rio Grande Valley)
Elliot Williams (Santa Cruz)

Charlotte’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist cleared to play Friday vs. Portland

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Solomon Hill
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Charlotte just got a lot more dangerous.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — a key starting wing who has been out all season with a torn right labrum that required surgery — has been cleared to play by team doctors. He will make his season debut Friday night against Portland, coming off the bench, the team announced.

MKG averaged 10.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last season, and, more importantly, was the team’s best defender — the Hornets were 7.8 points per 100 possessions better defensively when he was on the court.

This season Marvin Williams has started all 46 Hornets games in his place, averaging 9.6 points per game, adding a little punch shooting 35.7 percent from three, and the Hornets are +1.8 per 100 possessions when he is on the court. But Kidd-Gilchrist is an upgrade.

After a stumbling earlier this month and falling out of the playoffs in the East, Charlotte has won four of six and are now the nine seed, two games back of Indiana for the final playoff spot in the East. With Nicolas Batum and MKG together on the wing, maybe the Hornets can sustain that run and get back into the postseason.

Are Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler figuring out how to play together?

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 28: Derrick Rose #1 and Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls chat during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on January 28, 2016 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES — For at least one night, they looked like one of the more formidable backcourt combinations in the NBA.

Thursday night in Los Angeles Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler looked comfortable together — they played 19 minutes together and the Bulls were +18. Early in the game Butler pushed the pace in transition and found Rose for a bucket, in the third quarter Rose returned the favor.

After years of rumored tension (which they deny), are Rose and Butler starting to figure out how to play together?

“We were talking about that before the game, actually,” Butler said. “We were laughing about it, saying the more games we got under our belt, the more comfortable each other’s going to be. It’s crazy because I love playing with him. He’s super aggressive. He’s taking some great shots, and that’s what we need. So, as long as I follow his lead on that style of play, we’re going to be really good.”

“You can tell by the way they’re talking to each other, they’re communicating when they’re on the bench together,” Bulls’ coach Fred Holberg said, agreeing with the idea they are figuring things out. “They got a couple lobs in transition tonight. I thought they screened for each other well and played off each other beautifully. When those guys are out there playing with that attack mentality, we’re a pretty good team.”

The tandem did look good running a 1-2 pick-and-roll Thursday. Of course, doing it against the Lakers is one thing, the numbers suggest that Rose and Butler still have a long way to go to find that kind of success against better defenses.

In the Bulls last 10 games, Butler and Rose were on the court together 216 minutes, and the Bulls were outscored 12.8 points per 100 possessions in that time. That’s a step back from December, when over the course of 14 games together the Bulls were +3.1 per 100 possessions when they were paired. They are still not consistent together.

They are still not consistent together. Things just look better against the Lakers “defense.” How will they look in their next game against the Clippers in the same building?

The challenge is balance — Rose is used to having the ball in his hands, but Butler needs more time as a playmaker.

“He did everything for us tonight,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said of Butler as a playmaker. “In that first quarter he got three steals in a row, which led to three baskets, that was huge for us. We’re putting the ball in his hands a lot, not just in isolation situations, but we’re also putting him in a lot of ball screens, he’s just making the right play and the right read, and he’s continuing to get better in that role.”

The Bulls still have time to figure out how these two fit within Hoiberg’s system. If so, they become far more dangerous. If not, at the end of the day Butler is the guy with the just-signed max contract and the guy who is the future of the franchise. Rose may need to prove he can work with Butler, or the Bulls may have decisions to make.