Russell Westbrook is going to put up monster numbers this season.
As the season is approaching coach Billy Donovan gave Westbrook a little longer run Sunday night — 30 minutes — and he dropped 26 points (on 21 shots) and 1o assists on the Timberwolves in a 112-94 Thunder win. In the first quarter he was blowing by defenders, getting the and-1, and never looked back. Steven Adams added 20 points and 10 rebounds in the game.
Westbrook is going to put MVP-caliber numbers this season, but will the Thunder be good enough to get him into serious consideration for the award? It’s going to be an interesting season.
It’s long been a criticism of Phil Jackson and the triangle offense: Of course he won, he had Michael Jordan, then Kobe Bryant with Shaquille O’Neal, then eventually peak Pau Gasol took over for Shaq. It’s a rather ridiculous criticism of Jackson — I’d like you to name the coach that won an NBA title without elite talent — but there are people who stick with that criticism of the triangle.
Add Celtics’ All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas to that list. That would be the Thomas that played for Knicks’ coach Jeff Hornacek in a running system back in Phoenix. Via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.
“I just think if you don’t have Kobe or Shaq or Michael Jordan, the triangle doesn’t work,” the Celtics All-Star told the Daily News….
“(Hornacek will) figure it out, even if he does do it a little bit. I see they’re trying to run it every now and then,” said Thomas, who torched the Knicks in four games last season while averaging 26.8 points and 7.5 assists. “I mean, it might work. Just hopefully not against us.”
The Knicks are running some hybrid of the triangle this season, it will be interesting to see how much it evolves over the course of the campaign. Will they run it more? Less? How much will Derrick Rose come to hate it (like many other traditional point guards have)?
The triangle offense still has a role in the NBA — virtually every team runs segments of it. The full triangle offense is a read-and-react offense — when a player gets the ball his action is based on how the defense reacts — and with the right roster, it could still win. It might need tweaks to get more threes, but the goal of the offense is spacing, it can be made to fit the modern NBA with some modification.
But yes, you need elite talent. Any system does.
The Milwaukee Bucks traded two picks to Toronto (one of which has already become Norman Powell, who has shown promise) so they could get Greivis Vasquez. That didn’t exactly work out for Milwaukee. Vasquez missed 58 games with an ankle injury and when he was in his shooting numbers (24.7 percent from three) and PER (7.4) were career lows. When Vasquez became a free agent, the Bucks politely waved as he walked out the door.
Vasquez signed a one-year deal with the Nets, and he doesn’t want to go there as just a mentor for the young team, he told Zach Braziller of the New York Post.
“I’m not done yet. I’m a vet that can produce,” Vasquez said Saturday after practice. “Don’t sleep on me. I work too hard to just be a regular guy that talks in the locker room. I bring leadership, but I’m also going to bring [production], and it’s going to be on the court by playing hard, fouling somebody, hitting a big shot like I did when I was in Toronto….
“I got so much in the tank,” he said. “I feel like I can play in this league three, four more years. I just have to stay healthy.”
Three years? We’ll see. That said, Vasquez should get the chance to prove he has that much left — as the primary backup to Jeremy Lin he should get plenty of run.
Vasquez is not yet 100 percent healthy (and has been limited in preseason), but he is back on the court and making progress. He is a big point guard (6’6″) who is a good shooter traditionally (career 34.9 percent from three) and with that threat can set up others with his passes. He’s also dangerous as a floor-spacing shooter working off the ball. He’s not a great defender, but going up against reserves he should be fine (especially because he can be cross-matched onto less-threatening two guards when appropriate).
At the price they get him (one-year, $5 million), this was a good roll of the dice by the Nets, one that could show some value.
It started when Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadive — in a combination of his recollections of taking over the Kings and a whitewashing of his errors — built up his credentials as the savior of the franchise, and threw then GM Geoff Petrie under the bus.
“I needed somebody to go and actually work out the players. Nobody wanted to be there. There was no coach (Keith Smart), no GM. Geoff (Petrie) didn’t want to be there. There was nobody there.”
Understandably, Petrie took offense.
“The thing about this particular part of the interview, it’s just totally untrue. The idea that everybody wanted to … that there was nobody there to do any work. These are people that spent 10, 15, 20 years working for the Kings, who were part of the most successful period they ever had, and they’re now, it’s like, “because they don’t matter anymore, I can say anything I want about them.”
Rather than go full Trump and double-down on a failing strategy, Ranadive did the smart thing and apologized. Time to put the past in the past and move on. He reached out to Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee and made this statement.
“I wanted to sincerely apologize to Geoff Petrie and his team,” the owner began, speaking softly. “I meant no disrespect. I have the utmost respect for what they have done for the franchise and what they have accomplished. I fully understand that it’s a huge privilege to own a basketball team, and as chairman of the ownership, the buck stops with me. I accept responsibility for everything. All the mistakes are my mistakes.”
That’s the right play.
The Kings are an organization trying to turn things around — new coach, new arena, new attitude. They want to make the playoffs this season for the first time in a decade. We can debate how well that is going or will go, but no doubt that to take a step forward they have to get out of the mire of the past. This was a move in the right direction.
While their GMs were finalizing the details on a Michael Carter-Williams for Tony Snell deal, the two teams were involved in a preseason game Saturday.
Which got interesting when the Bulls went on a 37-7 fourth quarter run to pick up the 107-86 win.
The Bulls did it with balance: Isaiah Canaan had 9, Nicola Mirotic 8, and Spencer Dinwiddie with seven. The Bulls shot 70 percent in the quarter, the Bucks 17.6. It made for an entertaining preseason game.
By the way, the Bucks gave up a 41-6 run in their previous game. It’s just preseason and it was the end of the bench in the game (guys likely not with the team in a couple weeks), but that’s a troubling trend.