<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

Memphis Grizzlies v Cleveland Cavaliers

Alonzo Mourning on Kevin Love in Cleveland: “He’s outta there”

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Chris Bosh warned everyone before the season and some fans — particularly some in Cleveland — scoffed at the notion: It was going to be hard for Kevin Love to adjust to playing with LeBron James.

Here we are with a month to go in the NBA season, and Love remains the uncomfortable fit in Cleveland’s big three. Love is averaging 16.8 points a game (down 10 from last season) on just 43 percent shooting, he’s not getting the ball where he is comfortable, and he’s been sat in the fourth quarters of recent games in favor or Tristan Thompson.

Of course, this has led to a ton of speculation that Love — who can be a free agent this summer with a player option — is going to bolt Cleveland for a team more focused around him. Love has denied this, but the NBA rumor mill will not stop churning on the topic.

Add Heat executive Alonzo Mourning to the mix. He said this in a Q&A with SLAM Magazine.

AM: Then you’ve got Kevin Love, who’s not happy at all. He’s outta there.

SLAM: Where do you think Kevin Love is going to go? LA?

AM: I think he’s probably going to go to LA. I could see that.

The Lakers, who have the money for a max salary, will certainly be making the call to Love’s agent. He’s the level of star Kobe Bryant could hand the franchise over to.

I’d be surprised if that happens this summer, however.

For two reasons. One is simply money — Love wants to be a free agent in 2016 when the salary cap will spike to around $90 million and a max contract will go up in value by a third or more as well (max salaries are a percentage of the cap space available). Love will either opt in with Cleveland or sign a deal with them allowing an opt-out in 2016 so he can cash in.

The second reason? He doesn’t want to be seen as a quitter. Fair or not. He had to have seen the backlash from some quarters (read: Lakers fans) for Dwight Howard choosing Houston, and Love knows if he leaves the Cavs LeBron’s fans will be equally passionate and vocal. The “he wasn’t tough/good enough to play with LeBron” line will be used plenty. Fair or not. So Love will give it another season at least to see if things can be worked out on the court.

Now the summer of 2016 — when Love not only can leave but numerous teams will have a sudden surge of cap space allowing them bring in a couple max guys and put players around them — that could be a different story.

Or, maybe Love is so miserable now he just wants out, like Mourning said.

 

Dwight Howard says he’s “really close” to returning to court

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors
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Thanks to an MVP-level run from James Harden, the Houston Rockets have gone 15-8 with Dwight Howard out with his knee surgery. They have held their place in a crowded West.

But if the Rockets are going to make a serious playoff run, they need Howard’s defense and rebounding. Houston is 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when Howard is on the court, and they are going to need every one of those in the bloodbath that will be the Western Conference playoffs.

The Rockets are about to get him back. Howard himself told the media that Wednesday, here are his words via Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle.

Howard also said he would not play in back-to-backs the rest of the way (that would be moot come the playoffs when those disappear).

With Howard are the Rockets contenders? Maybe second tier ones, along with about six other teams in the West. It’s going to come down to health and matchups. But it’s not happening without Howard. For Rockets fans this is good news.

Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan says he’s going to look around in free agency

Los Angeles Clippers v Dallas Mavericks
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Doc Rivers’ Clippers have been good to DeAndre Jordan. Rivers has pumped up Jordan and tried to fill him with confidence since the say he walked in the door, trying to build back up what Vinny Del Negro had spent years tearing down. It’s to the point where Rivers vehemently overstates Jordan’s case for Defensive Player of the Year.

But that is not necessarily buying the Clippers a lot of loyalty when Jordan becomes a free agent this summer. Jordan wants to enjoy the experience and look around a little.

That’s what he told Sam Amick of the USA Today in a podcast.

“I mean I’ve obviously been here seven years, and the past two have been great,” he said. “Doc (Clippers coach Doc Rivers) has been my biggest supporter and the best coach I’ve ever had. The team is great. The guys are great. We have great camaraderie. But the free agency process is definitely going to be a fun one.”

Jordan may flirt with other teams, there will be demand for his services, but expect him to remain a Clipper — and for Los Angeles to overpay a little to keep him.

The reality is the Clippers need his rebounding (14.8 a game this season), his play in the paint (shooting 71.8 percent), and his rim protecting shot blocking. More than that they can’t replace him if he bolts.

Jordan is making $11.4 million this year, and the Clippers will give him a raise off that number. Why? Because if he leaves the Clippers are still right up against the cap (due to the large salaries for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin), so the best the Clippers could do to replace him would be the mid-level exception. I’m not Jordan’s biggest fan, but the Clippers simply could not get someone close to what Jordan brings for the roughly $5.5 million of the mid-level (remember the Clips spent their mid-level last season on Spencer Hawes, he’s the caliber of player you get). The Clippers need to pay whatever it takes to keep Jordan.

Jordan also is close with Griffin. In the end, he’s almost certainly choose the big money and to keep playing for Doc Rivers.

But he’s going to look around a little.

 

 

Reggie Jackson dishes 20 assists (scores 23 too) in Pistons’ win

Reggie Jackson
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Reggie Jackson has not exactly been the model of efficiency and team leadership since being traded to the Pistons. To put it kindly. He’s shooting 38.8 percent, and the Pistons had dropped 10 straight.

But he looked like a leader on Tuesday, scoring 23 points and more importantly dishing 20 assists in the Pistons’ win over the Grizzlies. He looked good doing it.

Veteran Tayshaun Prince had an interesting theory as to why Jackson broke out, and it tied to Greg Monroe being out for the night, replaced by Anthony Tolliver. From the Detroit Free Press:

“When you play in Oklahoma City where there’s four shooters around him, that lane open up like the ocean,” Prince said. “You can wine and dine all night long.

“When you playing with Greg and ‘Dre, it’s going to be tight quarters in there and it’s taken him awhile to read that. As you saw tonight with only one big in there, it was kind of Oklahoma City all over again. He could get in there and make those plays that he usually makes.”

Three Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday: Knicks beat Spurs? Pistons beat Grizzlies? What?

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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while planning your vacation to a new island

1) The Knicks came from behind to beat the Spurs? Yes. What’s next, the Washington Generals beating the Harlem Globetrotters? The Spurs led by 13 in the third quarter and looked like they would run away, but what Gregg Popovich said afterward rang true — the Spurs didn’t respect the game. The Knicks did — starting with Alexy Shved. The Russian point guard made the play that sent the game into overtime by driving the lane, getting Tim Duncan to commit on defense, then  dropping the ball off toLou Amundson, who hit the layup to tie the game and force overtime. Then in what was a sloppy OT Shved made maybe the key play, getting Borris Diaw to leave his feet on a pump-fake and jump forward, so Shved could draw the foul and get to the line. Then he had the key defensive play in overtime tipping away Duncan’s pass to a cutting Kawhi Leonard. You know if Shved is making key defensive plays it’s just the Knicks night. The problem for the Spurs is in the crowded West this is the kind of win they need to have. San Antonio had played well of late, just a rough time for a one-off night.

2) Detroit got a big game from Reggie Jackson and beat the Grizzlies? Yes. Detroit had struggled since bringing in Reggie Jackson at the trade deadline — they had lost 10 games in a row. Jackson had been up and down trying to fit in with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe up front. You had to question if Jackson was right for this team or if the Pistons let him walk this summer when he’s a restricted free agent. But Tuesday night Jackson was brilliant, scoring 23 points and dishing out 20 assists, the second guy to do it this season (the other was Brandon Jennings the game before he got injured). Other Pistons scored 25 buckets when Jackson was on the court, he assisted on 20 of them. Jackson was more comfortable with the stretch four Anthony Tolliver in for the injured Greg Monroe, who prefers to play closer to the rim. This was a game Memphis will feel it should have won (especially if Portland climbs past it in the standings) — the Grizzlies were up 15 at the half. Mike Conley being out shouldn’t have mattered at that point, this was a winnable game. Throw some credit to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had 16 points in the third quarter for Detroit, including some back-to-back threes that helped change the game’s momentum.

3) The Pelicans are the eighth seed in the West again. Remember if the Pelicans and Thunder finish the season tied, it is New Orleans with the tie breaker. That’s where we are again — both teams are 37-30 — after the Pelicans got the one-point win over the Bucks Tuesday. One that seems lucky after Ersan Ilyasova’s wide-open three to win the game (seriously, how did he get that open?) hit the rim, the backboard, the rim again and fell harmlessly to the ground. We really were all watching this one to see Anthony Davis (20 points, 12 rebounds)  vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo (15 points, nine rebounds and five assists). They went head-to-head a few times, which is always entertaining. But Davis is happier with the 18 points from Quincy Pondexter, the 16 from Omer Asik and the win. With Serge Ibaka out for pretty much the regular season, the Pelicans have a real opportunity. Will they take advantage?