Kurt Helin

Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, GM Vlade Divac distance team from Rondo’s use of slur

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The Sacramento Kings can’t back away from this fast enough.

Moments after Rajon Rondo took to Twitter to “apologize” — that wasn’t an apology — the team’s owner and general manager released statements trying to distance the organization from the controversy.

First up, Kings’ owner and chairman Vivek Ranadivé.

“Rajon’s comment is not reflective of the culture of the Sacramento Kings organization or the world we want to live in,” Ranadivé said. “He’s apologized, and has been suspended by the NBA. On behalf of the team, I apologize to Bill Kennedy for any harm this may have caused.”

If Rondo apologized to Kennedy, it was done privately. Again, read what he tweeted, that is not an apology but a defense.

GM Vlade Divac — who has to be tired of putting out fires — said this.

“Rajon’s comment was disrespectful and offensive, and we wholeheartedly disapprove of any language that discriminates or disparages others based on sexual orientation or anything else,” Divac said. “Rajon has apologized, and this is not the sort of behavior we condone nor is it representative of the Sacramento Kings organization.”

I have no doubt the Kings will do some charity/awareness events and functions with the LGBT community in Sacramento in the coming months.

Rajon Rondo tweets: “I did not mean to offend or disrespect anyone”

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Rajon Rondo has taken to social media in the wake of news he used a homophobic slur toward referee Bill Kennedy during the game in Mexico City earlier this month. He had to when on Monday Kennedy came out as gay — the optics for the league and Rondo are terrible. Rondo is very conscious of his image, even as he pretends not to care what people say.

Rondo tweeted this out Monday after the Kings’ practice.

What else did you expect him to say? That said, it’s not enough.

First, you do not use the word in question unless you are trying to offend.

Second, to parse the words, that is not an apology to Kennedy or anyone else. Kings GM Vlade Divac did come out and say Rondo apologized, reports James Ham of CSNBayArea.com.

That last statement from Vlade sums up an issue where sports has lagged national trends and changes — sport is behind society in general in acceptance of gays and lesbians (and bi and transgendered). The word used in question should not ever be used — not in the heat of the moment, not under any circumstance. It doesn’t matter if Rondo knew Kennedy was gay or not (my guess is that he did although there is no way to prove it, however it does make things look worse). There are certain words we as a society have deemed offensive and not to be used; this word has become one of them. As it should be. Yet to this day it is casually thrown around locker rooms from high school on up, which speaks to the level change that needs to occur within much of sport. (If you’re about to post a comment about free speech, note that Rondo is free to say what he wants but not the consequence of those actions. That is true on any controversial topic.)

That Rondo would use that word draws into question his feelings about the LGBT community.

This is not going to go away quickly for Rondo or the Kings, and that Twitter “apology” likely will not be enough.

PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Warriors on top, Charlotte up to fifth

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The NBA has a clear top four teams (although I would argue that the Thunder at four are sort of on their own tier a notch below the top three), but after that the next seven (you could argue 8-9) teams are in a bunch. They could be in almost any order and it would be reasonable.

source: 1. Warriors (24-1, last week No. 1). Now that we’ve been reminded the Warriors are human, we can ask: Do they take their foot off the gas a little — maybe rest guys — before Christmas and drop another game or two? They need to focus on the work of the regular season now such as staying healthy, tightening up their defensive rotations, and finding lineups that work outside starters and the small ball ones.

source: 2. Spurs (20-5, LW 2). I’m a big believer in point differential being the most telling stat about a team. Well, so far this season the Warriors are +14.8 and the Spurs +12.7, a close second, and if you look at just the last 10 games the Spurs are +3.5 per 100 better than the Warriors (stats via NBA.com). Which is to say, this team is a real threat to Golden State’s repeat chances.

source: 3. Cavaliers (15-7, LW 5). Iman Shumpert is back in the rotation (5-of-7 in his debut), and Kyrie Irving likely returns in the next week, which makes the Christmas Day Finals rematch more interesting. Before that interesting game next week the

source: 4. Thunder (16-8 LW 6). For all the questions about this team, when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are on the court together they outscore opponents by 17.6 points per 100 possessions.

source: 5. Hornets (14-9, LW 9). Now we are into the part of the rankings where the next seven teams could be in almost any order, they are so tightly clumped. Charlotte gets this spot because it has won of seven of 10. At +5.8 per 100 possessions, Charlotte has the best net rating in the Eastern Conference this season. Better than Cleveland, Chicago, Boston and everyone else. Al Jefferson being out won’t hurt too much, their defense is elite and 10 points per 100 possessions better when he is out.

source: 6. Raptors (16-9, LW 11). They have won four in a row (including beating the Spurs) in part due to fantastic play from DeMar DeRozan, picking up the offense while DeMarre Carroll remains out. Real tests this week on the road with Indiana, Charlotte and Miami.

source: 7. Bulls (13-8, LW 7). They are winning despite having the third worst offense in the NBA this season, scoring just 97.2 points per 100 possessions (only the Sixers and Lakers are worse). Maybe Derrick Rose ditching the mask and getting a haircut will help with that, although probably not.

source: 8. Celtics (14-10, LW 12). That loss to the Warriors showed a couple very positive things for Boston. First, it showed off how great a defender Avery Bradley can be, he denied Stephen Curry getting the ball better than anyone so far this season. Second, it shows how valuable Kelly Olynyk can be on offense in the right situation.

source: 9. Clippers (14-10, LW 13). They are 7-3 in their last 10, but it’s hard to read too much into that as they have done it against a soft part of the schedule. The big question is this: Their defense is sixth in the NBA in the last 10 games, can they sustain the play on that end against better teams? Pistons and Spurs on the docket this week.

source: 10. Pacers (13-9, LW 3). For a couple games leading up to facing the Warriors the Pacers’ defense had struggled a little, of course Golden State tore that wide open. The defense is an issue. Candace Buckner told us in the PBT Podcast that Myles Turner is at least a few weeks, maybe longer, away from returning.

source: 11. Heat (13-9, LW 4). Losers of three in a row until they ran into the struggling Grizzlies Sunday. Miami has struggled against the other teams in that middle tier (and even a little below it) in the East, which is something to watch with Atlanta and Toronto on the schedule this week.

source: 12. Hawks (14-11, LW 8). There is no silver bullet as to why this team isn’t off to the fast start we saw last season, the Hawks are just a little bit worse across the board on both ends of the floor. Their bench has struggled in recent weeks, which has been part of the reason they are 5-5 in their last 10 and are tied for the eighth spot in the West as of Monday AM.

source: 13. Pistons (14-11, LW 16). Reggie Jackson had a strong game — 21 points and 9 assists — against the Pacers and the Pistons got the win. Not a shock, he’s key to their offense. Good tests for them this week against the Clippers, Celtics, and Bulls.

source: 14. Mavericks (13-11, LW 15). This team is a gambler’s nightmare, one capable of beating or losing to anyone on any given night, and it all feels random. They lost to the Hawks and Wizards at home last week, this week it’s an interesting set of games against the Suns, Pacers, and Grizzlies.

source: 15. Magic (12-11, LW 14). They have lost three of four to quality teams (Cavs, Clippers, Suns) and the reason is their defense, which had been stout but seemed exposed last week. Orlando gets some home cooking starting the middle of this week with eight games in a row at the Amway Center.

source: 16. Rockets (12-12, LW 29). Fattening up on the soft part of the schedule the Rockets have finally climbed back to .500. We need to see it against better teams before we fully buy in, but both the bench and defense have looked improved of late.

source: 17. Grizzlies (13-12, LW 10). This record is an illusion, they have the point differential of an 8-17 team. They tried bringing Tony Allen (whose offense is dragging them down) and Zach Randolph off the bench, and starting Matt Barnes and Courtney Lee (it didn’t work, they lost to the Heat, but that lineup was +2 on the night). All this has rumors of coach Dave Joerger’s job being in real jeopardy.

source: 18. Jazz (10-12, LW 17). Despite some strong play from Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward for stretches, the Jazz are 2-6 without Rudy Gobert. They are not the same without him. The schedule softens a little with the Pelicans and Nuggets this week, but right now the Jazz can’t look past anyone.

source: 19. Wizards (10-12, LW 21). As noted on twitter by Mike Prada, back on Dec. 1 John Wall said he needed to play better for the Wizards to have a chance. Since then he’s averaged 27.3 points per game on 54.6% shooting and dished out 10.9 a night. However, the Wizards are 3-4 during that stretch and now no Bradley Beal for a couple weeks due to a leg injury.

<source: 20. Suns (11-14, LW 23). This team seems to just hang around in every game, and that led to some close losses in recent weeks but last week led to some close wins (led by Mirza Teletovic‘s game winner against the Bulls). Why does it already feel like they will finish ninth or 10th in the West again?

source: 21. Knicks (11-14, LW 18). The young Knicks are looking tired. For example, Langston Galloway is in a serious shooting slump (24.2 percent in his last 10 games), and the Knicks had looked flat losing four straight until a nice win at Portland Saturday. Kristaps Porzingis has looked tired as well, but he has both Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns on the schedule this week.

source: 22. Trail Blazers (10-15, LW 20). Nobody can give up a lead and a potential win like the young Trail Blazers, who did it three times last week. We’ll see if they can get and hold on to a lead on a road trip this week that includes stops in Oklahoma City, Orlando, and Miami.

source: 23. Kings (9-15, LW 26). They picked up a couple wins last week (vs. Knicks and Jazz) thanks to strong nights from DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo, but Rondo is out Tuesday for what he said to referee Bill Kennedy in the game in Mexico City, and now that we know what was said he’s lucky it was just one game.

source: 24. Timberwolves (9-14,LW 22). This s a young team trying to figure out how to win, and losing six-of-seven shows how far they have to go in that regard — they led Denver by 15 points and couldn’t hang on last week. Looking forward to the Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Kristaps Porzingis showdown Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

source: 25. Bucks (10-15, LW 24). They got the win of the week knocking the Warriors from the perch of the unbeaten and it showed off how the Bucks are again playing the kind of defense that got them to the playoffs last season. Can they sustain that defense on a West Coast road swing this week is the question.

source: 26. Nets (7-16, LW 28). They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and they are playing much better of late (which is killing Celtics’ fans, Boston has the Nets first round pick this June). Thaddeus Young has looked good, it will be interesting to see how many teams make a run at getting him before the trade deadline.

source: 27. Pelicans (6-17, LW 25). New Orleans has played better of late in the Big Easy, but on the road New Orleans remains 1-11 on the season. Which is bad news when you look see that seven of their next 10 games are on the road.

source: 28. Nuggets (9-14, LW 27). Emmanuel Mudiay continues to struggle but also continues to get minutes and show signs of improvement, which is all you can ask of a rookie. The Nuggets have the third worst point differential in the NBA over the last 10 games.

source: 29. 76ers (1-24, LW 29). They did the right thing giving Brett Brown an extension, but it will be interesting to see if they hire Mike D’Antoni and what role they might give him. Of course, to run his offense you need a strong point guard and that remains an issue in Philly.

source: 30. Lakers (3-21, LW 30). Byron Scott finally let the kids finish out a game, but says it may be a month or more before he starts doing that regularly. Ugh. Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell have not thrived coming off the bench.

Dwyane Wade to Goran Dragic: “Shoot the %$&#@!* ball”

Goran Dragic
Associated Press
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Goran Dragic has not looked comfortable in Miami all season, rather he has looked hesitant and passive. He is scoring 10.9 points per game on 43.1 percent shooting, which would be his worst marksmanship since his rookie season. He’s dishing out just five assists a game. The Miami Heat offense is basically the same whether he is on the court or not, which is not what you want for a guy you just signed to an $85 million contract last summer.

Dwyane Wade gave Dragic some not-so-subtle advice during the Heat’s eventual win over the Grizzlies Sunday, as reported by Jason Lieser at the Palm Beach Post.

“Shoot the (expletive) ball,” Wade recalled telling Dragic in the third quarter of the Heat‘s 100-97 win over Memphis.

He continued, “It’s simple. We want him to be aggressive. I know what he was seeing. You get out of rhythm sometimes, but I still want him to be aggressive. When I’m penetrating and I kick to him, be ready to shoot. He needs to hear that we want him to be aggressive and shoot the ball at the right times. When he’s off the ball, he becomes a scorer. It’s my job. We’ve got a great relationship, and I can talk to him that way.”

The play that set Wade off came with 6:50 left in the third. Wade drove and passed to an open Dragic in the right corner, but Dragic declined the 3-pointer and gave it to Luol Deng on the wing.

“He turned it down and threw it to Lu and we got a bad shot,” Wade said. “I felt like he needed to shoot. Shoot the (expletive) ball. I told him that because we need him to do that. He’s a very good shooter. He needs to have that mentality.”

The problem with Dragic shooting more is he was 3-of-14 from the floor overall and 0-of-3 on corner threes in the contest. Call it confidence, call it a family issue, call it not feeling comfortable next to another ball dominant guard (Wade) and a center who clogs the paint (Hassan Whiteside), call it whatever you want, Dragic is not getting shots he likes and not hitting the ones he takes. Here is his shot chart for the season.

Dragic shot chart

Whatever is going on with Dragic, if the Heat are to become the team that rises out of the crowded second tier of the East – with Chicago, Toronto, Charlotte, Indiana, Atlanta, maybe Boston — they are going to need the $85 million Dragic. Not the one that has spent most of the season looking uncomfortable. And it may be more than just shooting the %$&#@!* ball.

Three Takeaways from NBA Sunday: New starters, same problems in Memphis

Memphis Grizzlies
Getty Images
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It was a quiet Sunday in the NBA, just four games — all with the start times spread out for our friends in Europe. If you decided to spend your day watching the NFL wild car chase — or were just fighting off people attacking you with Snickers bars — here are three things you need to know from a Sunday around the NBA.

1) Grizzlies move Zach Randolph to the bench, still can’t find a win. The Memphis Grizzlies don’t look like a bad team when you see they are 13-12 on the season, but that record overinflates how bad this team has been. Memphis is bottom 10 in both offense and defense, and it has the point differential of an 8-17 team according to Basketball-Reference.com. They recently suffered 20+-point blowouts by the Thunder, Spurs, and Hornets. It’s clear Memphis is not the same team — Marc Gasol has looked a step slow all season, and everyone around him (save for Mario Chalmers after the trade) has seemed to regress. This team needed a change.

Sunday coach Dave Joerger tried to find that jolt by sending Zach Randolph and the struggling Tony Allen to the bench and starting Matt Barnes and Courtney Lee — going small around Marc Gasol. It looked like the lineup might work, Memphis led most of the way and shot 58 percent through three quarters — until an 11-0 run by the Heat to close out the game gave the W to Miami. Despite that result expect to see that starting lineup again — it was +2 for the night and had a net rating of +8.7, and that’s despite the group being out for most of that 11-0 run late. The group shot 40 percent from three, and while the offense wasn’t great it defended well. The lineup deserves more time to see if it can work.

As for Miami, Dwyane Wade helped steal you a win, just take it and run.

2) Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are magnificent, that is all Thunder fans need know. We’ve covered this before, but the OKC dynamic duo were at it again Sunday. In a game where the Thunder had to go to overtime to beat the Jazz 104-98, Oklahoma City was +17 when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook shared the floor. The duo combined for 56 points, which is 53.9 percent of all the points OKC scored. Just a reminder that having two guys playing well enough both should get in the MVP discussion can erase a lot of mistakes.

3) Westbrook with the inbounds play of the year. We’ve all seen the rare “off the back of the defender” inbounds pass resulting in a layup before, but never anything quite like this — Westbrook goes off the defender for the quick turnaround jumper and nails it.