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

Kenneth Faried, Brian Shaw

Nuggets need to decide direction, then hire coach

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Brian Shaw needed to be let go; it had become very clear he had lost the locker room. The team is 20-39 and in a free fall. Frankly, the Nuggets should have done this sooner (or waited until the summer).

Of course, as soon as the vacancy came up a list of potential long-term successors started to float around — Mike D’Antoni, Avery Bradley, Alvin Gentry, Mike Malone, Vinny Del Negro.  But before the Nuggets start interviewing candidates, they need to sit down and answer one question:

What kind of team are they trying to build?

The seeds of Brian Shaw’s disaster of a tenure were sewn as he was hired. Remember that a couple of years ago the Nuggets had just completed a 57-win season and were considered very dangerous for the playoffs until Danilo Gallinari went down just before the postseason started (the shorthanded Nuggets lost in the first round). Then came a tough summer, which started when GM Masai Ujiri left for Toronto. Coach George Karl was in the last year of his contract and rather than extend him and give him more power in the organization, team president Josh Kronkie canned Karl.

The Nuggets hired Shaw, who was one of the top assistant coaches out there at the time, and he seemed ready. Management and Shaw were on the same page about wanting better defense and maybe slowing down the tempo more — not so much running and gunning. The problem was the roster — starting with Ty Lawson at the point and moving through the entire rotation — was built for up-tempo basketball. The Nuggets didn’t go out and reshape the roster to fit Shaw’s style, so he was stuck trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

Then came a perfect storm of problems. Shaw struggled to communicate and get the players to buy into his vision. As David West noted, this was not a mature locker room Shaw was trying to reach. Shaw didn’t adapt his system. Injuries continued to be an issue, with Gallinari never being the same, JaVale McGee and others missing extended time. It all started to spiral downhill, picking up momentum as the slide got worse this season.

Shaw deserves blame here; he deserved to be let go. But the seeds of the friction that was his demise ties back to a real disconnect between the style Shaw wanted to coach — what management said it wanted — and the roster he was given.

Denver needs to figure out what kind of team it wants to be before it hires its next coach.

With much of the current roster under contract for another year, if they want to go up tempo then Alvin Gentry would be an excellent fit. Mike D’Antoni could work well (again, if you give him a roster that fits his very particular tastes).

If the Nuggets want a more defensive-oriented team, Malone would be a great call. But while he can bring discipline, there is a need for a roster overhaul to make that happen. The Nuggets have the flexibility and cap space (especially after the salary cap jumps in 2016) to make roster changes if they so choose.

The Nuggets, known for not spending on coaches and front office people like other franchise, may go with a top assistant coach and give him his first time job (Boston assistant Jay Larranaga is suggested by Ken Berger of CBSSports.com).

Whatever they do they need to think it through and get the entire organization on the same page. It sounds like they are leaning that way.

Sacramento names Vlade Divac Vice President of Basketball Operations

Adidas Eurocamp - Day 2
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The Sacramento Kings are bringing in one of their legendary players to help out in the front office.

Vlade Divac has been named the Vice President of Basketball and Franchise Operations for Sacramento, the team announced Tuesday. What does that mean, exactly? Expect him to be advising the front office, with particular emphasis on European players, said Bill Herenda of CSNBayArea.com. Here is what the press release said.

In this capacity, Divac’s responsibilities will include advising the Kings front office and coaching staff, assisting the organization’s global branding efforts, augmenting fan outreach initiatives and oversight of player development programs. Additionally, he will facilitate talent evaluation and help foster relationships between the team and a growing pipeline of European athletes.

“With an unparalleled philanthropic track record that spans the globe, Vlade Divac is the epitome of our NBA 3.0 philosophy,” said Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé in a statement. “He has a unique perspective and global stature that will only further elevate our organization around the world.”

Ranadive has worked hard to turn the Kings into more of an international brand; this certainly is a step in that direction.

“It’s a great honor returning to the city that has provided a lifetime of unforgettable experiences,” said Divac in the release. “Sacramento and the Kings organization were always in my thoughts and I often dreamed of having a role in helping our amazing fans realize the ultimate NBA prize. I’m thankful to Vivek for the opportunity and look forward to creating more special memories here.”

Divac spent six years with the Kings and was part of the best teams in the organization’s history. The team has retired his No. 21 jersey.

Divac spent 16 years in the NBA where he averaged 11.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists a game, plus helped usher in the era of flopping. He was an All-Star in 2001. After his playing days, he has spent time working with European teams and leagues, trying to build that bridge to the NBA.

This is one serious basketball brawl from Spanish league (VIDEO)

Anadolu Efes Istanbul v Laboral Kutxa Vitoria - Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16
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In the NBA, most “fights” involve guys trying to act tough while waiting for their teammates to jump in and separate them before they actually have to do anything. It’s a lot of posing. The NBA’s fines have had the desired effect.

Not so much in Spain. This is from the Laboral Kutxa vs. Bilbao Basket basket game. Which was a blowout, by the way, it was a 16-point game with 10 seconds left when a Bilbao player went for the bucket, the hard foul came, then things escalated quickly. This is a fight with actual punches thrown.

Followed by the classy move of one player to apologize to a child in the audience

Hat tip The Big lead.

 

 

Chris Paul, Ricky Rubio had fun point guard battle Monday (VIDEO)

Ricky Rubio, Chris Paul
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Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio threw up a triple-double — 18 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists.

It wasn’t enough. Because of Chris Paul. The Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard had 26 points and 14 assists, plus he hit the dagger right over Kevin Garnett to secure the 110-105 LA win.

A good old fashioned point guard battle is fun.

Five Things We Learned in NBA Monday: Goran Dragic got his revenge in concentrated form

Goran Dragic
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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 you were remembering Hank Gathers

1) For Goran Dragic, revenge is a dish best served in concentrated form. Miami’s Goran Dragic played just fewer than 15 minutes against his old team, the Phoenix Suns. You know, the team he kicked on the way out the door (and they have kicked back). Turns out 15 minutes was plenty — Dragic had 21 points on 5-of-9 shooting, got to the free throw line nine times, and helped the Heat to a 115-98 win. Dragic said after the game his back was bothering him so much that he would have sat out against anyone else. But revenge is a great motivator.

2) DeMar DeRozan made sure the Raptors were going to get a win somehow. The Toronto Raptors had lost five in a row and needed a slump buster. A win, no matter how ugly. They got it in the form of Philadelphia, and DeMar DeRozan was going to make sure they got the victory — 35 points and nine rebounds. Even when the Sixers guarded him well — and they didn’t do that consistently — he was making plays, hitting 6-of-9 on contested shots on the night. We’ll see if the Raps can build on this, but for now it’s a win.

3) Stephen Curry is just not fair. Just like it had been in Boston, Golden State started slow in Brooklyn then tried to make a furious late comeback from down double digits — and that comeback was all Stephen Curry. He reminded everyone why he is an MVP frontrunner putting up 18 fourth quarter points. He showed off his handles, he showed off his jumper, he showed off his hesitation move, he was just making plays. When Curry gets going, there is no more entertaining player in the NBA.

4) Yet Curry’s fireworks were not enough — Jarrett Jack got the Nets the win. Brooklyn needed the win; they are one of six Eastern Conference teams that started the day within 2.5 games and all battling for the final two playoff spots. The Nets need wins. They got off to a fast start, shooting 16-of-22 to start the game, they had Brook Lopez put up 26, but they needed Jack to do his thing at the end to secure the win.

5) Blood clots are becoming a real issue in the NBA. Chris Bosh got out of the hospital but is sidelined for the rest of this season with blood clots in his lungs. The thing is, he is not alone in dealing with this condition. As David Aldridge noted in his must-read Monday column at NBA.com, Brooklyn’s Mirza Teletovic was shut down for the season in January for this and Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao missed the second half of the 2012-13 season for this. It’s not just the NBA, the NHL and MLB have had to face this issue. Aldridge laid it out well.

“I think this is something that’s on our radar,” said Gregg Farnam, the Minnesota Timberwolves head athletic trainer and director of medical operations, and the current chair of the National Basketball Athletic Trainers Association, on Saturday.

“It’s something that, in speaking with the league office, we’re in the process of assembling some team athletic trainers, some physicians, some specialists across the country to look deeper into this issue and see if there’s any correlation, and within that correlation see if there’s anything we need to do differently,” said Farnam, who’s in his 18th season with Minnesota and 15th as head athletic trainer.

The extensive travel and time spent on planes by NBA players would, at first glance, be a prime suspect in the causation of clots. Travel of several hours or more at a time — a regular part of the job description for NBA players — is believed to increase the risk of developing embolisms or deep vein thrombosis. Because people sit on planes and leg movement tends to be restricted on flights, even on the charter planes all NBA teams now use, blood can pool in the legs and clots can develop — especially if a player is dehydrated after playing.

It’s something the league needs look into.