Kurt Helin

Gordon Hayward, Andre Roberson

Jazz not worried about slow start for Gordon Hayward

2 Comments

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gordon Hayward entered the season ready to raise his profile in the league. Things are off to a slower start than expected through three games.

Hayward has averaged 12 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists going into Wednesday’s home opener against the Trail Blazers. Those aren’t the numbers those around the organization – or Hayward – hoped for, but there’s certainly no panic from such a small sample size.

“Just a little bit of a slow start for me personally, but the team is playing well and that’s what I’m focused on,” Hayward said. “I’ll find a way to get it going and get back in the groove of things. Hopefully I can find it in this next game. But feeling good about where we’re at as a team.”

Hayward returned from the summer visibly stronger and said he worked on finishing during the offseason. He showed that late in a season-opening loss to Detroit after struggling much of the night. Shots just haven’t fallen, as Hayward is shooting what would be a career-low 35.3 percent from the field. The points, rebounds and assist averages would all be the lowest since 2011-12 for the sixth-year player.

Hayward finished last season with an average of 19.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists.

Coach Quin Snyder wasn’t interested in dissecting Hayward.

“I’m not in the evaluate Gordon business,” Snyder said. “At least not after every game. Gordon’s established himself as one of the best players in the league. Every game’s going to present different challenges.

“I thought he played really well against Indiana. He’s gotten some offensive fouls that, to me, are baskets. I like what he’s doing and where he’s going.”

There will be some developmental time for this Jazz (2-1) team. There’s a different dynamic with Dante Exum injured and rookie Raul Neto starting at point guard. Alec Burks is back from a shoulder injury that ended his 2014-15 season. He plays the same position as Hayward and is a creative player with the ball in his hands. Derrick Favors has been extremely aggressive with the new range on his jump shot and leads the team with 21.3 points per game. Second-year wing Rodney Hood has blossomed himself and has averaged 15.3 points.

“From the first week of practice (Hayward had) been really aggressive. That’s what we want,” Snyder said. “There’s different ways for him to be aggressive. Whether it’s shooting the ball, making plays defensively. I think we’ve seen a little bit of everything. At certain times too he’s going to put all that together.

“It’s an adjustment for him, too, with Rodney and Alec back and Dante not here. Everyone’s kind of finding where their shots come, what their role is. I think those roles will be dynamic. I think they’ll change as the season progresses. Not in a major ways, but we’ll see them evolve.”

Hayward explained that he’s not going out looking to get his offense. He’s just as involved in spacing the floor and making the extra pass, not to mention his defensive effort.

And that’s most important for an organization that led the league in defense after the All-Star game last year. The team just isn’t built to win shootouts.

“We’re a young team,” Hayward said. “We’re going to struggle sometimes offensively, but as long as we can maintain our defensive principles, I think we’ll be all right.”

The Jazz are currently No. 23 in the league in scoring (94.3 points) after an Eastern Conference swing that included the Pistons, 76ers and Pacers. Utah leads the league in defense after giving up just 79.7 points per game. The Spurs are No. 2 with an opponent’s average of 89.5 points.

The defensive effort is off to a fast start. Things are still developing on the other end of the floor, but there are few concerns about Hayward.

“Gordon’s one of the most unselfish superstars in the league,” Jazz forward Joe Ingles said. “He’ll take the shots that he gets. He doesn’t force much, either. … I think we’ll have a lot, this year, of different guys having big games each week.

“He’ll break out soon and you guys will leave him alone. He’s fine.”

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope dunks, Jordan Hill isn’t going to stop him

Leave a comment

If you haven’t been watching the Pistons this season, you’ve missed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope playing very well. He’s been making plays and was one of the key reasons Detroit started off 3-0.

Also, he can dunk. Just ask the Pacers’ Jordan Hill, who tried to get in the way and it didn’t work out for him.

Two things you should note out of this game. The first is Andre Drummond had 25 points and 29 rebounds, and he is a complete beast.

Second, the Pacers won and looked the best they have this season.

Hot-shooting Hornets hammer Bulls 130-105 for 1st victory

Jeremy Lamb, Bobby Portis
3 Comments

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jeremy Lamb scored 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting, Nicolas Batum added 18 and the Charlotte Hornets cruised to their first victory of the season, 130-105 over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night.

Jeremy Lin had 15 points, Al Jefferson had 14 and Spencer Hawes chipped in with 13 on three 3-pointers as the hot-shooting Hornets shot 14 of 22 from beyond the arc and made 22 of 23 free throws.

The Hornets (1-3) led by as many as 27 in the second quarter after starting the game by hitting 13 of 18 shots from the field and all 11 foul shots in the first quarter. The Bulls never mounted a serious challenge.

Jimmy Butler led the Bulls (3-2) with a season-high 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting, while Doug McDermott added 17 points.

The Hornets were coming off back-to-back losses to the Atlanta Hawks, games in which Kemba Walker failed to make the tying shot at the end of regulation.

They didn’t need a last-second shot on Tuesday night. Everything seemed to be falling for the Hornets.

Even the team mascot, wearing a thick Hornets costume, made an over-the-shoulder shot from midcourt during a break in the action in the fourth quarter to the delight of the home crowd.

With team owner Michael Jordan sitting on the end of the team bench, the Hornets tailed 100 points in the first three quarters, the most points allowed during that span by the Bulls since 1990.

Charlotte did it with good ball movement and quality shooting from everyone, including 7-footers Hawes and Frank Kaminsky, who were a combined 4 of 4 from beyond the arc. The Hornets played near flawless ball on offense and the Bulls were slow to get a hand up on open shooters. Charlotte made them pay, knocking down shot after shot from long distance.

TIP-INS

Bulls: The Bulls committed 13 turnovers that led to Charlotte 20 points. … Pau Gasol had 13 points and eight rebounds.

Hornets: Cody Zeller needed eight stitches on his forehead after catching an elbow from Joakim Noah on a rebound, but did return. … Walker moved into a tie for fourth place on 3-point field goals made in Hornets history.

 

Raptors admit Terrence Ross extension is “betting on the person”

Evan Turner, Terrence Ross
2 Comments

A lot of heads were shaking when it was announced Raptors backup wing Terrence Ross — they guy the team went out and got DeMarre Carroll to replace in the starting lineup — had reached a three-year, $33 million contract extension with the Raptors.

If there was one word that sums up Ross’ career, it’s inconsistent. The talent is there — remember this guy dropped a 51 point game a couple of years ago — but who just doesn’t bring it night in and night out. So why so much money?

While part of it is a function of the new NBA economics, part of it was they are betting on him taking steps forward, reports Mike Ganter the Toronto Sun.

“What we’re doing is betting on the person,” Raptors vice-president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said Tuesday in Dallas following the team’s morning shootaround. “We’re saying all the ingredients are there, the development curve is heading in the right direction and we’re betting that he’s going to continue along that path…

“Any time you have a rookie contract the guys, just by definition, are at a stage in their career where they’re probably yet to realize their potential so you’ve got to find that middle ground between where you think the player will go and where he is now,” Weltman said. “That’s why a lot of extensions don’t get done.

“But, yeah, we like to feel we’ve found some middle ground with Terrence where we’re paying him in the hope that he becomes a great player and we think he has that in him.”

That’s a big bet.

But it’s the economics of the NBA right now, $11 million will be about the going rate for a sixth man in a couple of seasons (when the salary cap will be at $108 million or higher). If the Raptors believe he can be that guy, it’s a fair contract. Plus, they have to spend up to 90 percent of the cap anyway, they have money to throw around.

I’m more in the doubter camp he gets there, but he’s just 24 and improving. Through three games this season, Ross is averaging 12.3 points a game and shooting 46 percent from three. With Carroll taking his starting spot, they are hoping Ross embraces and thrives the role of sixth man. They want someone willing to come in and score. We’ll see. While he’s had a good start to this season he’s been so inconsistent over his career you just wait for the other shoe to drop.

But the Raptors have made their bet.

Emmanuel Mudiay using Lakers’ “snub,” Scott’s words as motivation

Emmanuel Mudiay, Karl-Anthony Towns
7 Comments

With the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers selected point guard D'Angelo Russell of Ohio State.

Another point guard who had at one point been higher on most draft boards, Emmanuel Mudiay (who played that season before in China), was worked out by the Lakers, but they liked what they saw in Russell better. Mudiay fell to the Denver Nuggets at No. 7. Tuesday night the Nuggets take on the Lakers in L.A.

Lakers coach Byron Scott was asked Tuesday why the Lakers passed on Mudiay, and while he said he thought Mudiay would be “pretty good,” here is the heart of his response, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

“I didn’t think he was a true point guard,” Scott said of Mudiay. “I didn’t think he was a guy who made great decisions when we saw him and had him here. I thought that was something he would have to learn to do to run that position.”

He was just answering a question, but you have to wonder why Scott would actually say that and provide motivation for an opponent. You know the comments would be passed along to Mudiay, who just added it to the fuel for his fire.

“They passed up on me; that’s definitely a motivation,” Mudiay told Los Angeles News Group after morning shootaround at Westchester High School. “They took another point guard ahead of me. I’m a point guard. So I guess they saw something in [Russell] that they didn’t see in me…

“That’s another human’s opinion,” Mudiay said. “I’m not worried about him. I just have to worry about what I do and worry about the Denver Nuggets.”

Right now, Mudiay is ahead of Russell on the learning curve. Mudiay has a more NBA ready body, plus he played for a season against professionals and men over in China, while Russell is still adapting from the college game to the NBA. Neither player is shooting well (both are under 37 percent) and both are turning the ball over way more than you would like. That’s to be expected. Mudiay has been given the keys to the Nuggets offense and has his hand on the flow of the offense much more than Russell now (who has to share the ball with Jordan Clarkson and Kobe Bryant), but both are trying to pick up the game.

Mudiay impressed me at Summer League, I think he can develop into a special player. With Russell, it’s far too early to say, he needs more time as he tries to catch up with the speed of the game. It’s impossible to say right now with any real certainty which of these two point guards will be the better player in three years.

But the Lakers have bet more heavily as an organization on Russell — he was their highest draft pick since James Worthy. They need him to be a franchise cornerstone player, they passed on Jahlil Okafor, Stanley Johnson, Mudiay, and others to take him, they need him and Julius Randle (who has impressed) to be the real deal.

If in three years if Mudiay has everyone saying “how did they pass on him?” it will be a big setback for the Lakers.