Kurt Helin

Chandler Parsons

51 Q: Can Parsons, Matthews get healthy, lift Dallas to the playoffs?

2 Comments

PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Can Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons get healthy enough to lift Dallas into the playoffs?

There was a time, just a few years ago, when the answer to this question was “it doesn’t matter, they have Dirk Nowitzki.”

It’s not anymore. Nowitzki is still good — he averaged 17.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists a game last season — but he has slipped from the ranks of “top-5, can carry a team all by himself” status. If you watched him last season, you saw him miss more open looks than anyone remembers. According to the shot tracking stats at NBA.com, Nowitzki hit 47 percent of his open looks on two-pointers last season — when the defender was 4-6 feet away — which is well down from 52 percent the season before. He hit just 42 percent of his open jumpers inside 10 feet. He missed more of his isolation jumpers. The shots just were not falling at the same rate as they did with the Mavs title team in 2011 or the next couple seasons, and at age 37 the slide is likely to continue.

Nowitzki needs help. And that’s where the health of Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons will decide the potential playoff fate of Dallas. (The health and play of Deron Williams will be the other key part of any playoff push.)

If healthy and playing near their peaks, Parsons and Matthews provide quality wing scoring and defensive options that Rick Carlisle would deploy brilliantly to space the floor and exploit mismatches. If D-Will and Nowitzki run a pick-and-pop, Matthews is spacing the floor at the arc and Parsons makes a smart cut to the basket, it’s not going to be easy to defend.

But will Parsons and Matthews be healthy enough to make that a reality?

Dallas went the full Bill Belichick on Parson’s injury, trying to keep secret what was actually done for reasons only they and the Illuminati know. It turns out to have been a hybrid microfracture surgery on a non-weight-bearing part of his knee, which is a good thing for Mavs fans. Parsons still is not cutting and jumping at full speed, but he should be able to play at the start of the season, if not very soon after.

Matthews is recovering from a torn Achilles and his timetable stretches out further. What Rick Carlisle said the other day seemed slightly misconstrued, he said Matthews will be back on the court by Christmas, but that is likely sooner. Matthews has tried to push for the start of the season, but Thanksgiving may be more realistic.

The bigger question is can these guys return to peak form quickly following their return?

History says no. Guys coming off microfracture tend to take some time to fully trust that knee again (as with other knee injuries) and they can be somewhat limited for a while. That timeline stretches out even further with guys coming back from a torn Achilles —most players are never quite as explosive or quick again, and even the few that have gotten the full measure of their athleticism back have taken a while to reach that point.

Dallas does not have much depth behind these two guys — Justin Anderson and John Jenkins are your primary backups. Williams can play some at the two if J.J. Barea is at the point (and I expect we will see a lot of guard-heavy lineups early in the season from Dallas), but none of these options are particularly threatening to opponents.

The other problem for Dallas is they are in the West — if they get off to a slow start without their two best wing players, it may be hard to dig out of the hole in the second half and get back into playoff contention.

Dallas likely will battle Utah and Phoenix for the eight seed in the West (this assumes that the Warriors, Clippers, Spurs, Rockets, Thunder, Grizzlies, and Pelicans will make it and fill in the top seven seeds in some order). It’s likely going to take 46 or more wins to make the cut.

If Dallas is going to get to that number, they need a lot of things to go right. Nowitzki can’t decline much, D-Will needs to bounce back, someone has to step up as a defensive stopper in the paint, and they are going to need big seasons out of Parsons and Matthews. I think those two will play well together and lift this team, particularly after the All-Star break when they are healthy and recovered. That should have Dallas in the mix for the playoffs in the West.

But I’ve got a feeling it will be too little, too late to earn an invite to the postseason dance by beating out younger, healthier teams.

Blazers’ owner Paul Allen not bitter about Aldridge, embraces rebuild

Paul Allen
1 Comment

Paul Allen has been through this before, watching his GM have to rebuild a team he thought was going to take steps into the elite of the NBA. It’s happened a few times.

But he’s not bitter about it, he told the media on Tuesday as Trail Blazers training camp opened. He took a very “it is what it is” attitude. Starting with not being bitter about LaMarcus Aldridge choosing to leave for the Spurs as a free agent, as reported by the Oregonian.

“I think LaMarcus had a lot of options. We went down to Dallas, Neil and I pitched him, and he chose to go a different direction. We made it to his last few choices and he was good enough to call me up and explain his decision and all that. It’s tough for a franchise, because we were all thinking that we had a real shot at getting him back. But in the end, he chose to go a different direction and now it’s a new day. We’ve moved on and I think you can feel the excitement and the energy in the gym now.”

So it’s fair to call it a rebuild?

“Rebuild. Retool. We’re bringing, I think, six players back from last year’s playoff roster, so that’s a big transition. That’s nine new players. So, yeah, it’s definitely a transition. But once you embrace that and see what these new players do — and I hope you get a sense of that as the games start here Monday — that’s exciting. And it’s going to be an exciting season for the fans.”

 

Allen has had success rebuilding with young stars on that other team he owns, the Seattle Seahawks. Things worked out pretty well for them. This is a different sport, and the NBA is a different animal, but Allen sees a model for success there.

It also helps when your rebuild starts around Damian Lillard.

That said, it’s going to be a big step back for the Blazers this season. GM Neil Olshey has some work to do to bring more talent in on the roster, but when Aldridge left he made the right call going for another rebuild (letting Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and others go, plus trading Nicolas Batum). It’s all just going to take some time, and there are going to be bumps on the road trying to get there.

Kings have wide open race for who starts at four next to Cousins

2015 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot
1 Comment

It could be the athletic but raw Willie Cauley-Stein.

Or if George Karl wants to go big Kosta Koufos.

Or he can go small and start Rudy Gay.

George Karl has options as Kings training camp opens in San Diego, but who ends up starting at the four next to DeMarcus Cousins remains up in the air. Karl said after the first day of camp he was just going to let things play out. Here is what Karl said, via James Ham of CSNBayArea.com.

“We have different looks, we have different types of big men,” Cousins said. “Willie’s a young athletic big man.  We’ve go Kosta who’s a banger and I’m my specific kind of big man. I think we have different looks. I think it’s going to be good in the end…

“Kosta played pretty well,” Karl added. “He’s a better player than he was when I had him in Denver. My gut says I thought he played well with Cuz….

“I think everybody is going to get their opportunity,” Karl said. “I think everybody knows that I would like to play Rudy some at four. What’s our best team? I don’t know.”

I think there has been an expectation among fans that Cauley-Stein would get the starting spot, and he ultimately may, but talking to scouts at Summer League in Las Vegas they universally said he had a long way to go in understanding rotations and where to be in the NBA game. He has the athleticism to help cover some of those mental mistakes, but he’s going to learn some harsh lessons. Karl may not be willing to let him learn on the job.

That said, Koufos is more of a center who makes Cousins the four and moves him outside a little because the floor spacing would be poor (84 percent of Koufos’ shots last season came inside 10 feet). Meanwhile Gay fits the running style Karl prefers but in the West — where Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, Zach Randolph, Dirk Nowitzki, and other athletic bigs play the four — Gay could be a serious defensive liability.

Karl is going to run a lot of different looks out there in training camp and to start the season, and we’ll see who earns the spot.

Derrick Rose denies rape charge in lawsuit, says everything consensual

Chicago Bulls V Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Three
12 Comments

Derrick Rose has denied everything alleged in a lawsuit filed against him by a former girlfriend, one that says Rose drugged her and gang-raped her with some of his friends. He reiterated that at Bulls media day (then went off on a tangent the Bulls wish he wouldn’t have).

Tuesday it was Rose’s lawyers turn to deny everything, in papers filed in the case. From the CNN story on the response:

NBA star Derrick Rose said in court documents filed last week that he had consensual sex with a former girlfriend who has accused him of rape….

In Rose’s legal response, the Chicago star’s attorney says the woman consented to sex with more than one of the three defendants on several occasions. Rose also says the woman invited them to her apartment, buzzed them into the complex, opened her front door and consented to “additional group activities later that evening.”

The response goes on to say she became upset over money.

Rose has other issues on his mind as well, Wednesday he undergoes surgery for the fractured left orbital bone.

As I have said before, from where you and I sit there is no way to judge truth from fiction in this case. If Rose did the things alleged, he deserves far more than financial losses in a civil case. If this turns out to be spurious, this woman has made it that much harder for the far too many women trying to find justice in actual sexual assault cases. I’m not going to pretend to know what actually happened.

All I do know is regardless of the outcome this case makes me sad.

 

Sefolosha returns to Hawks, hoping to move on after arrest

Thabo Sefolosha
Leave a comment

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Thabo Sefolosha stood along the baseline, a basketball under his right arm as he watched a drill on the first day of training camp for the Atlanta Hawks.

Just routine stuff.

But Sefolosha is relishing every moment of his return to the court, anything to help him move on from a disputed arrest by New York City police that he said led to a broken right leg and knocked him out of the playoffs.

“It’s been a long road,” he said. “It was definitely tough watching from the sideline in the playoffs, not being able to help the team.”

Sefolosha was a key contributor off the bench, a defensive stopper who helped the Hawks to a franchise-record 60 wins and the top seed in the East. Without him, Atlanta still managed to reach the conference final for the first time, but his absence on the perimeter became apparent as LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers romped to a four-game sweep.

“Sometimes you look out there, and you feel like his arms and legs are everywhere,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Solid seems like a boring word, but he’s really a good, solid defender who does a lot of things within whatever scheme you’re doing.”

During the final week of the regular season, Sefolosha and then-teammate Pero Antic made a late-night stop at a Manhattan nightclub popular with athletes and celebrities. Police arrived after another NBA player, Chris Copeland, was stabbed during an altercation.

There was no indication the Atlanta players were with Copeland or had anything to do with the stabbing, but officers say they interfered with the crime scene. They were both arrested and, at some point, Sefolosha wound up with a broken fibula and torn ligaments.

The charges against Antic have since been dropped, but Sefolosha turned down a lenient plea-bargain that would have required him to do a single day of community service. His trial is scheduled for Monday in New York.

“I’m very confident,” Sefolosha said. “But at the same time it’s not something I’m used to. I really don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t want to talk too much about it, but I’m confident and I know in my heart that I (did not do) anything wrong.”

The burden of the case – and the possibility of a civil lawsuit against police – is a distraction Sefolosha would prefer not to have as he prepares for a new season and the chance to move into the Hawks’ starting lineup.

“It’s definitely on my mind,” he said. “It’s not the best time to be dealing with all this. But it’s got to be done. I’m trying to be strong for my family and my teammates and my team, and trying to do what’s right.”

Sefolosha seems the most logical candidate to take over at small forward for DeMarre Carroll, who left the Hawks for a $60 million contract with Toronto.

Yet there are questions about Sefolosha’s offensive skills.

“I think offensively he’s a little bit underrated as far as his decision-making and passing, his slashing and understanding timing,” Budenholzer said. “We’ve just got to continue to work with his shooting and get him to where he’s making shots and he’s comfortable there.”

While Sefolosha has been cleared to take part in all activities, he acknowledged that he’s not yet at 100 percent. His minutes will be limited in camp and during preseason games.

“It’s been only 5 1-2 months,” Sefolosha said,. “I’m still building strength and building confidence.”

The Hawks have other candidates. Kent Bazemore is a bit undersized for the position, but he played well in the playoffs after Carroll was slowed by an ankle injury. The Hawks also have newcomer Tim Hardaway Jr., acquired from the New York Knicks.

Kyle Korver, another Atlanta player coming back from an injury, has been getting a lot of one-on-one time with Sefolosha during the rehab process.

“I want Thabo to be on my team again,” Korver said. “He looks great. He’s shooting the ball really good. … I think he’s going to have a great year.”

Sefolosha is certainly ready to move on.

He wants to be known for what he does on the court, not for an incident that has been linked to other racially charged incidents involving police.

However, Sefolosha, a native of Switzerland who is black, did say it has opened his eyes “to some degree.”

“I’m the same person. I will continue to be the same person,” he said. “Unfortunately, I’m still in the middle of it. But hopefully it will be a thing of the past soon.”

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963