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John Wall, Bradley Beal thank Wizards fans for support

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Monday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers it felt like a playoff game inside the Verizon Center. In part because the Washington Wizards were pushing the Cavaliers to overtime in a chippy, hard-fought game. And in part because the crowd was loud and into it. It sounded like a playoff game.

That hasn’t always been the case in Washington D.C., and this season Wizards are 24th in league attendance (also, according to ESPN, fourth-lowest in percentage of the available tickets sold).

So John Wall and Bradley Beal wanted to thank the fans.

Back to work!! #dcfamily

A post shared by Bradley Beal (@bradbeal3) on

The Wizards are 22-7 at home this season, and there is a good chance they will have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs (they would qualify as of today, but seeds 2-5 in the East are separated by 2.5 games, so a lot of things could still shake out). They will need those fans then.

A little positive reinforcement now doesn’t hurt. Plus with the team winning, they are feeling the love in the city.

Report: Bulls’ front office execs Gar Forman, John Paxson’s jobs safe

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A month ago, speaking with Sean Highkin of The Athletic about the Bulls on the PBT Podcast, this topic came up: With the lack of direction this Bulls franchise is showing, are the jobs of vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman in any danger? No was the answer. For the Reinsdorf family that owns the Bulls, loyalty matters and that will win the day.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune talked to people inside the Bulls and got the same answer — the Gar/Pax front office is going nowhere.

Despite some outside perception to the contrary, the jobs of executive vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman are safe, sources familiar with ownership’s thinking told the Tribune. In fact, ownership’s trust in Paxson and Forman remains so intact that they would be retained even if the Bulls miss the postseason for a second straight season, one source said.

It’s well-documented that Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and son Michael, who runs the business side as president and chief operating officer, are loyal and long have favored front-office continuity. But there’s also inherent trust in the roster-building process that Paxson, Forman and their staff have in place.

One internal belief is that this represents the first season in the attempt to open a new championship window after the franchise had ridden out Derrick Rose‘s maximum contract — and myriad injuries — until finally trading Rose with one season left on the deal. There’s also an internal feeling that Forman’s publicly stated goal to remain competitive while overhauling the roster over several seasons to get younger and more athletic is working.

Some Bulls fans are not going to like this, but first off it’s the Reinsdorf’s team and their call, and second they are not wrong about a need for front office continuity. There is no surprise in this report.

If I were a Bulls fan, what would worry me from this story is the idea that ownership believes the process to overhaul the roster and get younger while not tearing down to rebuild is working.

This .500 team is being carried by at-his-peak 27-year-old Jimmy Butler, and 35-year-old Dwyane Wade. After that, which young players do you see on this roster drafted/assembled by Forman and Paxson that you would want to keep as part of this great future? Nikola Mirotic? Bobby Portis? Jerian Grant? Denzel Valentine? They drafted Tony Snell, but moved him for Michael Carter-Williams, who is not a significant part of the future either. Doug McDermott isn’t long-term answer, and Gar/Pax traded two first round picks to get him, picks that both became better players in Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris.

Maybe there is something with big man Cristiano Felicio as a part of a future rotation, same with Paul Zipser. But neither of those picks are game changers.

And that’s not even bringing up the Rajon Rondo signing.

Bottom line here, the Bulls are one of the least athletic rosters in the NBA and the last pick they nailed was Butler back in 2011.

The Bulls are a .500 team, and while we’ve heard their “rebuild on the fly around Butler” plans, it’s difficult to see that being executed.

Hornets’ Marvin Williams got up and threw it down on Nets Tuesday night

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Charlotte needed a win, having lost seven in a row. Brooklyn is not exactly a defensive powerhouse, to put it kindly.

That led to a 111-107 Charlotte win Tuesday night, which included one powerful Marvin Williams dunk.

That Brooklyn defense showed its colors when Rondae Hollis-Jefferson watched the ball not his man opening the door for a Williams baseline cut to the rim, and credit Charlotte’s Frank Kaminsky for recognizing it and making the good pass. Randy Foye tried to rotate over but this isn’t on him, he had no chance.

Kevin Durant says says “feud” between him, Russell Westbrook a media creation

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When Russell Westbrook was asked if he and Kevin Durant were on speaking terms, the response was “Nah.” Westbrook showed up to the first meeting between the Thunder and Warriors wearing a photographer’s vest to troll Durant. The two didn’t talk for a long time — and may not really have yet — after Durant decided to head to Golden State, leaving Oklahoma City last summer.

But any report of a feud between them is a media creation if you ask Durant. That’s what KD told ESPN’s Marc Stein in an interview for SportsCenter in advance of the Warriors heading to Oklahoma City for the first time this season Saturday night.

“Early on in the season, I was doing an interview with someone and I used the word ‘unselfish’ describing my teammates here with the Warriors. And someone asked Russell a question, asked if he heard what I said about being unselfish and he phrased the question as if I was saying that the Thunder and their organization and the team was selfish. Once I heard that, I was like, ‘They are trying to get in between this thing and make it bigger than what it is.’ Obviously Russell wasn’t going to hear that interview I had about me just talking about my teammates I have now, and, you know, someone in Oklahoma City phrased it to him as if I was calling them selfish. So it’s that easy. It’s that easy for the media to twist something up and for the media to, you know, make a feud between us.”

To be fair, Durant has never said anything negative about the Thunder, and Westbrook has said he’s not mad about Durant’s decision. If you think the word “feud” to describe where they are at in their relationship is too strong, okay, but certainly Westbrook has been chilly when the topic comes up. There certainly seems to be something there.

Saturday night, Thunder fans are going to be a lot more than chilly every time KD touches the ball. They feel betrayed, and they are going to let Durant know about it.

Three things we learned Tuesday: Trail Blazers win one thanks to C.J. McCollum, but lose one Evan Turner

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It was a light night in the NBA with just three games on the schedule, if you missed them while you meditated on the zen of being a Buddhist monk meth dealer, here are the big takeaways from the Tuesday.

1) C.J McCollum gives Portland big win, but Blazers also lose Evan Turner to a broken hand. This became a brilliant Dirk Nowitzki vs. C.J. McCollum showdown with the game on the line — a game both teams could use as both are trying to chase down Denver for the final playoff slot in the West. While it was no study in defense, it was dramatic — there were six lead changes in the final 38 seconds of the game.

With everything on the line, first Nowitzki did this:

Then C.J. McCollum answered with the game winner.

McCollum finished with 32 and owned the final stretch of the game, while Damian Lillard had 29. The win was crucial as it left Portland just one game back of Denver for the final playoff slot in the West, while Dallas has 3.5 games to make up.

But Portland’s win came at a cost — Evan Turner fractured the third metacarpal in his right hand on this play.

No report yet on how long Turner will be out, the timeline will depend upon if he needs surgery and other factors. That said he’s going to be out a while.

This is a blow — in their last 10 games the Trail Blazers are nine points per 100 possessions better when Turner is on the court. Portland had started to play better defense since Turner and Noah Vonleh were inserted into the starting lineup, now Moe Harkless is going to be asked to step up. It’s not what a team chasing a playoff slot needs to hear.

2) Hornets will take win, even if it’s against Nets.
The Charlotte Hornets had lost seven in a row and fallen out of the playoff picture in the East. Teams on a losing streak need a slump buster — a win, regardless of how pretty it looks.

Enter the Brooklyn Nets. The NBA’s worst team came to Charlotte and the Hornets took advantage, leading most of the way but winning just 111-107 (Brooklyn had a late 8-2 run to make it more interesting than it should have been). Kemba Walker had 17 points but on 4-of-20 shooting, fortunately for the Hornets they got a boost from Jeremy Lamb and Marco Belinelli off the bench. It was a fairly balanced Charlotte attack, and while it wasn’t a thing of beauty it was good enough and it was a win. One the Hornets needed. However, they are going to have to play better on Thursday when James Harden and the Rockets come to town.

The play of the game went to Marvin Williams.

3) Phil Jackson takes another dig at Carmelo Anthony. If you read one thing out of Tuesday, it should be Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report’s analysis of the dynamic between Knicks president Phil Jackson and the star he wants to trade in Carmelo Anthony. The core idea of the piece: Jackson misjudged Anthony’s will to win, and Jackson overestimated his ability to transform ‘Melo’s game as he had done with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Phil Jackson read the piece and came back with a dig at Anthony.

Whether Jackson really believed he could mold Anthony is up for debate, and if Jackson did know that why give the star five years and a no-trade clause in that last deal? Was this order from James Dolan on high that Jackson had to accept?

Consider the tweet another step in the mind games of Jackson trying to trade Anthony — Jackson needs to get ‘Melo to waive that no-trade clause, hence the effort to undercut the star and make him unhappy and want out. The problems for Jackson in trying to make an Anthony trade are threefold: 1) Anthony likes it in New York and is only going to waive that trade clause for a destination he really likes, meaning a contender where he can play with a good friend such as LeBron James or Chris Paul; 2) Anthony has a 15 percent trade kicker, so he makes even more money if he gets dealt (Anthony could waive that kicker, but again is only likely do that for a place he wants to go); 3) The teams where Anthony would be interested in going have little interest in giving up much to get him, certainly not the kind of star power Jackson wants in return.

I’d still be shocked if Jackson finds a deal that meets all the criteria by the Feb. 23 trade deadline. Which means we get to relive all this again in June and July.