Kurt Helin

DeMarcus Cousins,

Rumor: Celtics, Bulls calling about DeMarcus Cousins, Kings hanging up

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Are there a lot of issues in Sacramento? Yes. Rajon Rondo just added to them off the court. But frankly, all their issues tie back to the steep learning curve of owner Vivek Ranadive.

Here’s the other thing to know about Ranadive: He’s DeMarcus Cousins‘ biggest backer in the organization. You’re not trading the star player if the owner doesn’t sign off on the deal. Besides, you’re not trading your biggest star the season before you open a new building, that’s just bad business.

That doesn’t mean teams are not calling, something Michael Scotto wrote at SheridanHoops.com.

Sacramento Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins has drawn significant trade interest from the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls, league sources tell SheridanHoops. Sacramento is listening, but the Kings are in a holding pattern and currently have no plans to make a deal despite sitting in 13th place in the 15-team Western Conference, the sources said.

The Heat are not that interested, reports Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

Right now, all trade rumors are speculation. The Kings are 9-8 this season when Cousins plays (1-7 when he sits), there’s not a lot of motivation to move him. Because of all the turmoil with the Kings, you can bet other GMs are going to keep calling Vlade Divac and trying to see if Cousins’ status has changed.

But until the guy in the big chair changes his mind nothing happens — and if you think he’s going to trade his biggest star the season before the Kings open a new building in Sacramento, well, what exactly are you putting in those Christmas brownies you just baked?

Steve Kerr says he expects to return to bench this season. Eventually.

Steve Kerr
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After that ugly loss last Saturday night in Milwaukee, it is clear the Golden State Warriors are struggling without head coach Steve Kerr. It might even be time to bring in Jerry Colangelo for a course correction.

Or not. Luke Walton is on pace to be the Western Conference All-Star Game coach as an interim — but of course the league says he shouldn’t get credit for the wins — and the Warriors are off to the fastest start in NBA history. Stephen Curry is trying to run away with the MVP by the quarter pole. Draymond Green should be an All-Star. The Warriors are clicking at 24-1.

Still, Kerr wants to return to the bench. He’s recovering from multiple back surgeries during the off-season but told Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News he planned to return to the Warriors’ sideline. Eventually.

Kerr would not have messed with the streak and returned during it; he understands what Bull Durham reminded us all — don’t mess with a streak. If you think you’re winning because of Luke Walton, you’re winning because of Luke Walton.

Much like they do with their players, the Warriors will take their time and not rush Kerr back. They don’t need to. Eventually, when this teams stumbles a little, and as it heads to the playoffs, they will need him to push the right buttons.

For now, he can get his back right and know that the team is holding its own in the West fairly well.

Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis says he hasn’t hit “rookie wall”

Kristaps Porzingis
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For all the hype, Kristaps Porzingis is still a rookie, he’s going to be up and down. Such as 28 points against Dallas, then four points against the Jazz last Wednesday, followed by 13 points against the Kings, followed by going scoreless against the Trail Blazers.

It’s normal — unless you are the anointed savior of the New York Knicks. Which has led to talk of Porzingis hitting the rookie wall.

Except Porzingis doesn’t know what you’re talking about, he told the New York Post.

“I don’t think so,” Porzingis said Monday after Knicks practice in Tarrytown. “I don’t really know what a rookie wall is…

“A couple of bad games, it happens to all of us. Not only rookies. I’m just looking forward to the next game,” Porzingis said. “So ups and downs, obviously this is my rookie season.”

That’s rational. It will confuse some Knicks fans.

In his last five games, Porzingis’ usage rate and eFG% are right at his season averages. His defense hasn’t been as sharp, but then the Knicks team defense is tied to those issues. This is still a team with a lot of holes, and it’s going to be a challenge for Porzingis this season as defenses focus more attention on him. Plus he may be feeling the grind.

He’s still right at the top of the Rookie of the Year early rankings (I’d have him second behind Karl-Anthony Towns) and he looks like a guy who can be a cornerstone piece for the Knicks going forward. There will be some interesting tests for him this week when he goes up against Towns and Minnesota, then later Jahlil Okafor and the Sixers. But it’s not about this season with him anyway.

Rajon Rondo releases new statement apologizing to referee Bill Kennedy

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Rajon Rondo will not play tonight when the Kings face the Rockets, his one-game suspension for having used a homophobic slur to referee Bill Kennedy during a game in Mexico City where Rondo was ejected. Kennedy has since come out as gay.

Monday, Rondo took to Twitter to “apologize” but it did not come off that way. Tuesday he got it right in a second statement.

“Yesterday, I said that my words toward Bill Kennedy were unacceptable and did not reflect my feelings toward the LGBT community. Some have interpreted my comments as a non-apology. I want to be clear, from the bottom of my heart that I am truly sorry for what I said to Bill. There is no place on or off the court for language that disrespects anyone’s sexual orientation. That is not who I am or what I believe and I will strive every day to be a better person.”

This is not going to make everything go away for Rondo, who has worked hard to rehab his reputation )and he’s played fairly well on the court this season). This is a significant setback for Rondo on that front.

Kings fans living in Sacramento who are Comcast Sportsnet subscribers, you can watch a live stream of the Rondo-less Kings taking on the Rockets Tuesday, just follow this link.

This is also a big black eye for the NBA, the one-game suspension coming off as soft. Adam Silver has a lot of work to do, also.

Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Blake Griffin can pass the ball, too

Blake Griffin, Jason Smith
Associated Press
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Monday night saw a busy slate around the NBA, and you probably didn’t have time to take it all in because you were decorating your Christmas tree. Or watching the Dolphins. Or re-reading Brave New World. Or discussing how Rajon Rondo got off light. Whatever the reason, we’ve got you covered, so here are five things to know from an NBA Monday, starting with a note from Dan Feldman, who was at the Clippers’ win over the Pistons in Detroit.

1) Blake Griffin’s passing — not just the 34 points — gets Clippers win. Stan Van Gundy called Blake Griffin “easily” the best-passing true big* in the NBA before last night’s Clippers-Pistons game.

Detroit learned the hard way Van Gundy was right.

Griffin had 34 points and seven assists, including on Clippers’ two biggest baskets, in their 105-103 overtime win.

Down three late in regulation, Griffin drove and kicked to J.J. Redick for the game-tying 3-pointer:

Then — when Andre Drummond made what he called an “instinct” play to double Griffin in the high post, even though Van Gundy emphasized Griffin’s willingness to pass out of double-teams — Griffin found an open Jamal Crawford for the game-winner:

“People look at the power and the speed and the dunks, and they miss the best part of his game,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Griffin. “And that’s his passing.”

*The “true big” designation, to Van Gundy, eliminates Warriors power forward Draymond Green from the discussion. Green spends more time on the perimeter and less time with his back to the basket.
—Dan Feldman

2) Just when you think maybe Houston is turning it around… Houston had won 7-of-10 coming into Monday night, but those came against a soft part of the schedule, so one had to wonder if the turnaround was for real. This loss to Denver on the road 114-108 was the kind of sloppy, effortless loss that makes you think the problems are all still there. Houston made runs (they led by 10 at one point) thanks to nailing 18 threes, but their disinterested defense all night led to bigger Denver runs. Ty Lawson pretty much should just have a red cape in his hands to waive like a Matador as ball handlers blow by him. Another sign of Houston’s effort issue is Denver won the rebounding battle 52-26. Dwight Howard wants the ball in the post but can’t do much with it anymore. I could go on but you get the point, Houston still has a lot of questions to answer.

3) Will Barton threw down a big dunk, then later threw a shoe. Denver’s Will Barton has had a big season — he has a PER of 19 while nobody was looking — and he had a big Monday against the Rockets. First, there was this dunk.

Then Barton got a technical foul for throwing Trevor Ariza‘s shoe (I didn’t know this was a technical foul now, Dwyane Wade and Jarrett Jack have done it before without punishment).

4) The Spurs are quietly putting up a Warriors-like point differential. The Spurs crushed the Rudy Gobert-less Jazz 118-81 Monday night, lifting their season point differential to +13.2 per game (how much they outscore opponents by). The Warriors are just 13.1. Tom Haberstroh of ESPN had a great stat about it.

If you use net rating — how much a team outscores opponents by on a points per 100 possessions basis — the Warriors are at 14.8 on the season and the Spurs at 13.9 (stats via NBA.com). Either way, while everyone is rightfully marveling at the Warriors start, the Spurs are quietly just about as good. These are clear and away the two best teams in the NBA right now.

5) Goran Dragic gets elbowed in the face, loses a tooth, gets called for the foul. How exactly is this on Dragic? Al Horford is near the top of the key with the ball, swings his elbows through to create a space and start so he can start his move, and catches Dragic in the face as the guard is just in good defensive position. Dragic dropped to the ground quickly, and later they picked up part of his tooth off the court.

The foul call was on Dragic.