Author: Kurt Helin

Cleveland Cavaliers v Detroit Pistons

J.R. Smith says he’s playing better in Cleveland because there’s less partying


J.R. Smith is putting up numbers with the Cavaliers — he’s averaging 14.2 points a game, taking the majority of his shots from beyond the arc and hitting 39.7 percent of them in his last 10 games. Smith is still far from efficient (shooting 39.9 percent with the Cavaliers) but he’s fitting in and playing a little better than he did in New York.

Why? Well, playing with LeBron James helps (he’s a superstar who is a more willing passer than the last superstar Smith played with). Plus guys like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love draw defenders to give him open looks from three, plus there is more depth in Cleveland.

Or, maybe it’s that he parties less because this is Cleveland and not Manhattan.

That’s basically what he told David Aldridge of (hat tip to Deadspin).

“I think this is the best situation for me, ’cause there’s nothing but basketball. There’s nothing you expect but basketball. There’s nothing, there’s no going out, there’s no late nights. There’s video games, basketball and basketball. So it’s a great thing, ’cause I go back to where I came from. When I grew up, I never, I wasn’t allowed to go out. I missed my prom because I went to an AAU tournament, and all that stuff. For me, it was basketball, basketball, basketball. And then when I got in the situation where I was at an early age, it was more, alright, let me see what this life is about, as opposed to just keep going. So now, I get the chance to get back to my roots….

I always made myself better by staying in the gym. When you replace that with stuff off the court, then you’re taking away from what made you who you are, or what got you to a certain point. It was kind of pulling me down in a sense, of not getting enough rest, not doing things you’re supposed to be doing, things you’re used to doing. So when you start missing those shots you’re supposed to make, especially wide-open shots, it was like, alright, what’s going on, what’s going on? Instead of looking at what it is, you’re reverting to that even more, instead of going back to the basics. So I think that’s the greatest part about being here.”

NBA players are fully capable of getting in trouble in any market, and is Smith wants it there is trouble to be found in Cleveland. That said, Smith was a notoriously bad player on those Sunday afternoon games the Knicks often host at Madison Square Garden, and one may have to work a little harder to find the late night spots and trouble in Cleveland.

Or, maybe the jolt of reality going from the lowly Knicks to a Cavaliers team that is starting to resemble what was envisioned for it before the season — the team is on a seven-game winning streak and playing improved defense — could have him focusing on the game. That and the leadership of LeBron James, an old friend, could keep Smith in line.

We’ll let this one play out before saying any new leafs have been turned over, or any other such cliché. At this point in his career Smith is what Smith is, an unrepentant gunner, just one that the Cavs may be able to use to their advantage.

Tayshaun Prince: “Obviously I want to be in a winning situation”

Boston Celtics v Denver Nuggets

It’s not just the snow.

Tayshaun Prince has basketball reasons for wanting out of Boston — he wants to win. And while you can make a case that the Celtics could make the playoffs in the East — they are just two games out of the eight seed and have played the toughest part of their schedule — actually winning in a serious way is not in the plan for a few years.

The former Grizzlies’ wing would love to be back playing for a contender again, he told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, and one way or another that is likely to happen. In the short term he’s just trying to be professional.

Acquired as a moveable asset in the Jeff Green trade, the Celts have been trying to roll Prince over into another draft pick for their satchel. Failing that by the Feb. 19 NBA dealing deadline, the club will resume talks with Prince’s side regarding a buyout….

“Obviously I want to be in a winning situation,” Prince said. “Everybody wants to be in a winning situation, make no mistake about it, especially toward the end of your career.

“But at the end of the day, it’s about doing what’s right and going out there and having fun. If you get to the point where I am in my career after all these years, you just want to go out there and have a chance to win and do the right things.”

I don’t how moveable this asset is because he makes $7.7 million this season, which means team have to send something of actual value back to Boston for him. Why do that if you think after the trade deadline you can pick him up as a bought-out free agent.

Prince is a shadow of what he once was but still would have value on a contender. His length and hoops IQ means he’s still a decent defender. On offense he lives in the midrange — 52 percent of his shots with the Celtics have come from 10 feet out to the arc — but he hits enough of them to keep the defense honest.

For a team needing wing depth that could play him 15-20 minutes a night he could help. And by the end of February expect him to be in a place like that. One way or another.

Kevin Martin expected to return to Timberwolves Wednesday after 34-game absence

Chicago Bulls v Minnesota Timberwolves
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When we last saw Kevin Martin he was playing against the Knicks when he fractured the wrist on his shooting hand. That was Nov. 19.

Wednesday night he should be back in the Timberwolves’ rotation as they take on the Boston Celtics, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Tribune. (They will wait until after pre-game warmups to make it official.)

He had hoped to make his return last Wednesday against Dallas, but awoke that morning with it significantly swollen. He had fluid drained from it on Thursday and has had a compression brace on it since then….

He shot before the game in Oklahoma City, apparently very, very well. “Great,” he said when asked how it went. “That’s one thing I can do, shoot.”

Minnesota wants him to shoot — not so much to win more games, the Timberwolves are lottery bound, but to increase Martin’s trade value as the deadline approaches. Before the injury Martin was off to a hot start, averaging 24 points a game and shooting 48 percent from three.

Martin’s shooting could interest contenders looking to space the floor and you can bet the Timberwolves will be showing off his skill set. The challenge will be moving his salary — $7 million next season with a player option of $7.3 million for 2016-17 (and there’s a solid chance he picks up that option).

But if a team needs shooting that price may seem fair.

Report: Terrence Ross riding bench in Toronto but will not be traded

Philadelphia 76ers V Toronto Raptors

Terrence Ross is in a slump. Maybe it’s more than just that, but whatever it is it saw him moved to the bench so Greivis Vasquez could start because it was better for the team (despite Vasquez’s defensive issues). Maybe the bench will suit Ross better, he had a decent game Tuesday (5-of-10 shooting, moving well off the ball) but he’s got a long way to go to earn coach Dwane Casey’s trust again.

The benching has led to a lot of trade speculation about Ross, particularly up in Toronto. The idea is to pair him with a future first rounder to get some improved interior defense for a playoff run this year.

But that’s all just speculation, teams called to check and it’s not happening, reports Sean Deveney of The Sporting News.

But according to league sources, Ross is going nowhere. “Absolutely not,” one rival executive told Sporting News. “They still have a lot of belief in him and there is not much you could do to get him from them.”

The Raptors have been eager to find a way to strengthen their defense, which has been backsliding…. But, according to sources, the Raptors won’t use Ross to make that happen, despite his third-season struggles—which actually date back to last year’s postseason. Casey considered benching Ross then, but did not pull the trigger on the move. Ross averaged just 5.0 points in Toronto’s seven-game, first-round loss to Brooklyn, shooting an abysmal 29.8 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from the 3-point line.

Note that this isn’t Toronto denying they want to move him — of course teams do that — but if other league executives can’t get a foot in the door there is something to it.

A decision day on Ross is coming, but it’s not here yet. While he is eligible for an extension to his rookie contract after this season, it’s hard to imagine the Raptors giving him one unless it is at a very “fair” (read: low) price. It’s unlikely Ross takes that deal. More likely he played next season then becomes a restricted free agent in 2016 and the market sets his value.

That gives the Raptors time to see if they can tap the flashes of potential. It wasn’t just the 51-point game almost exactly a year ago, it was the improved shooting and play after the Rudy Gay trade that gave hope. Then Ross was terrible in the playoff series loss to Brooklyn (he shot 29.8 percent overall, 16 percent from three). His shooting this season regressed from last regular season, he’s still not efficient, and while nobody questions his athleticism his consistency on defense is lacking.

Maybe he can find a role on the bench. The Raptors seem willing to wait and find out.

Stephen Curry had a great passing night (VIDEO)

Chicago Bulls v Golden State Warriors
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We think of Stephen Curry as a shooter, but on Tuesday night against the Bulls his usual reliable jumper deserted him — he shot 4-of-16 outside the paint.

However Curry is an MVP front-runner because his game is more rounded than that — the man can pass, too.

And Tuesday night he was setting up teammates, too. There was the half-court alley-oop to Harrison Barnes, then this sweet dump-off to David Lee.

Unfortunately for the Warriors, it wasn’t enough as they fell to the Bulls in overtime.