Kurt Helin

Tony Parker could miss Olympics because of wife’s pregnancy

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PARIS (AP) — San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker could miss the Olympics because of the expected birth of his second son.

Parker told French radio station RMC that his wife is due at the end of July, shortly after France’s Olympic qualifying tournament from July 4-10. The Olympic basketball tournament in Rio de Janeiro will be held from Aug. 6-21.

Parker says he has yet to decide whether his wife’s pregnancy will force him to cancel his commitments with the national team.

Parker says “this is big news. I will need to talk with the France team. And negotiate with my wife, too. The schedule is very, very difficult.”

French federation president Jean-Pierre Siutat and technical director Patrick Beesley both say they were unaware of Parker’s situation.

Dwight Howard suspended one game for contacting official; Bickerstaff fined


In the fourth quarter of the Rockets/Wizards game Saturday, Dwight Howard shoved Nene after the two squared up. The referees stepped between them (as is their job) and in moment Howard swiped away the arm of a referee, contacting the official. That earned him a technical, his second of the night, and Howard was ejected. (Nene also got tossed from the game.)

Players can’t push/shove/touch an official like that, so Dwight Howard has been suspended one game because of it, something first reported by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle and since confirmed by the NBA.

This may seem like a relatively minor infraction, but the NBA (and all sports leagues) draw a hard line when it comes to touching an official.

The Rockets host the Heat on Tuesday. Clint Capella will get the start in Howard’s place.

After that Saturday game (a Wizards’ win), Rockets’ coach J.B. Bickerstaff said:

“We don’t like to blame referees. Tonight, there were too many calls that were critical missed and they went the other way,” Bickerstaff said. “There was a phantom Pat Beverley foul. There were our plays getting to the rim. Tonight, the referees had a lot to do with the outcome and it shouldn’t be that way. Referees should be invisible. These weren’t.”

That’s going to cost him $10,000.

Bickerstaff has been around, he knew the price when he said it. But he stuck up for all the “dirty” play against Howard, which is what a coach is supposed to do.

Paul George adjusting to new role

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 30: Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers looks on against the Denver Nuggets in the second half of the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on January 30, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Pacers defeated the Nuggets 109-105 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Back in November, when the NBA world was marveling at his comeback, Paul George was scoring 29.5 points a game with a usage rate of 33.1 percent — he was the Pacers’ offense.

In January, those numbers were down to 21.4 points and 29.8 usage rate, and on Monday he had just 11 points (on 15 shots), but he had a team-high eight assists. As defenses have focused more on stopping George from scoring, his role in the offense has shifted to facilitator and occasional decoy.

He admitted after the game his role has changed, but how comfortable is he with it? Here is what George said, via Candace Buckner of the Indy Star.

“Before it was, I had the confidence just being out there. I knew what I could do and I was comfortable in doing that. Then it was like slowly ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that, too much of this, too much of that,’ so I had to change it up a little bit. Kind of opened it up for our other guys to be aggressive and have opportunities. So I’m not sure what to call it….

“It’s changed, it’s definitely changed (since the) start of the year,” George said. “Just kinda felt like I had the confidence and coach was giving me the confidence with the green light. I’m still confident, guys are still making the right plays. Just seems like a transition a little bit.”

George has come back and resumed his place near the top of the NBA pecking order, which considering his leg injury and where he came from is incredibly impressive.

But if the Pacers are going to take the next step it will be about George trusting and helping the other talent on the team find their places, too. It’s what LeBron James has learned to do, it’s what Jordan and Kobe Bryant eventually learned to do, it’s what Tim Duncan seemed to instinctively knew how to do. Saying he needs to “make the players around him better” is a cliche, but it’s accurate, too.

We know Monta Ellis can score, Myles Turner is emerging, George Hill can have a role, and the Pacers need to add to that depth. But it only all fits together if George continues down this path.



Report: Calipari fading, Ferry out in Nets GM search


It appears the Brooklyn Nets are not going to have a new GM to set the team’s direction in place before the trade deadline Feb. 18, and even if they do it will be so close to the date that Nets’ fans shouldn’t expect any meaningful moves.

But the search for the GM is moving along and some of the biggest names have been swept aside, according to the New York Post.

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and his Russian brain trust are being deliberate. Sources have said no GM hiring is imminent, with contenders being vetted and eliminated, but none close to being hired….

Sources say Calipari is fading despite in-house support from Nets CEO Brett Yormark, and ex-Hawks GM Danny Ferry is no longer a viable candidate despite support from the reassigned Billy King. Bryan Colangelo is still in the picture, as are Nuggets assistant GM Arturas Karnisovas and Rockets executive vice president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas.

The Nets are doing it right in picking a GM then letting him pick a new coach. And they are right to be patient, do their due diligence, and make a good call rather than a quick one.

Whoever gets the job, it’s going to be a rough haul (especially if owner Mikhail Prokhorov expects a quick turnaround).

Byron Scott defends his development of D’Angelo Russell

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 1:  Head coach Byron Scott of the Los Angeles Lakers and D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers talk during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 1, 2016 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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A few summers back, during a Team USA training session in Las Vegas in July, I was part of a discussion with USA/Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski about how players today are different from past eras. Remember, Coach K has as old school a background as you can get — West Point and Bob Knight. Krzyzewski said he’d learned he had to approach modern players differently; the “I say jump and you say how high” mentality didn’t work. However, if you took the time to explain why you wanted certain things done, if you mixed in positive with the negative, if you treated them as an individual and really taught them, the modern player would run through walls for you just like the old-school players did.

Consider that context for the discussion about the development of D'Angelo Russell with the Lakers.

Bashing Scott for his jerking of Russell’s role around and the apparent lack of communication between Scott and his young players has been a favorite pastime of Lakers fans this season. Lakers fans have turned on Scott as much or more than they ever did Mike Brown or Mike D’Antoni — the fact Scott is a Showtime Lakers icon doesn’t slow that tide anymore.

That criticism reached a peak last Friday when the Lakers lost to the Los Angeles Clippers. Former NBA player and UCLA star Don McLean is an analyst for the Clippers, but more than that he works out a lot of young players helping them prepare for the draft (or even college, I’ve spoken to him at Adidas Nations events before). McLean is active in player development, and like all guys in that field he’s protective of his own.

McLean worked with Russell before the draft last season, and he didn’t hold back going after Scott on the broadcast, as reported by Bill Oram of the Orange County Register.

“I really wish Byron Scott would just give D’Angelo Russell the keys and say, ‘Go for it, man,’” said MacLean…

“If Byron Scott would say, ‘You know what, D’Angelo? I don’t care if you turn it over 15 times tonight, you’re going to play 35 minutes, go for it,” he will figure it out,” MacLean said. “He really will.”

That’s the system that Denver and coach Mike Malone have used with Emmanuel Mudiay, and while that rookie has a ways to go (especially with his shot), you still have seen him start to turn a corner, to begin to develop real chemistry with Nikola Jokic.

Byron Scott doesn’t see it that way at all. And he fired back.

Scott sees it this way: If you just let Russell (or any rookie) have minutes in spite of mistakes you are rewarding bad behaviors and they will never learn. They will feel entitled. It’s an old-school method. He’s doing with Russell (and Julius Randle) what he did with Jordan Clarkson last season, holding back the minutes then eventually unleashing them. Scott said the other day he plans to put Russell back in the starting lineup, likely after the All-Star break.

McLean fired back at Scott on a radio interview Monday, but that starts to distract from my point, and my questions.

It should be noted, Scott was drafted by the Lakers onto a 54-win team that reached the NBA Finals, was stacked with Hall of Famers and veterans, and Pat Riley still got Scott in 49 games as a rookie. Scott was much better for it and much improved his second season.

What we don’t know — because we’re not at practices, not in the film sessions — is what Scott and his staff are doing to teach Russell to do things the right way. Other than to slap him on the nose and say “bad dog” by limiting his minutes. Scott is old school, has he figured out how to adapt and reach younger players, or does he only know one way?

Based on Russell’s comments to NBA.com’s David Aldridge, Russell is a guy in need of being shown the right way, a guy thirsty for that knowledge but not being given the water.

Russell: At this day and age, you kind of have a feel for what you did wrong. It might sound weird, but you don’t know what to ask. So like, I turned the ball over. I know I turned the ball over and I’m coming out of the game. I’m not sure if that’s why you’re pulling me out, but I’m not sure what to ask. ‘Cause I know I turned it over. There’s nothing that you can possibly say that’s going to bring that turnover back, or anything that I can possibly do. But it’s like, I don’t know what to ask. It’s like, he wouldn’t, I don’t know, tell me if I don’t ask. So that’s where it’s kind of a blur.

Aldridge: Is that just part of being a young guy — not knowing? You don’t know what you don’t know?

Russell: That’s the best way to put it. I don’t know what I don’t know.

That’s a mature statement from Russell.

More mature than we have seen from a coach comfortable with criticizing his rookies to the media.

Scott also has a tough balancing act this season — making sure the fans get the Kobe Bryant farewell tour experience while developing young players for the future.

Russell is showing signs of improvement this season, and while Lakers fans will tell you that’s in spite of Scott, the coach and his staff clearly have some role in it. Could Russell be handled better? From the outside looking in it’s not fair to draw hard and fast conclusions, but it appears there is a generational gap that his hampering things.

Scott is not going anywhere the rest of this season — he will coach the Lakers through April, reports Mike Bresnahan at the Los Angeles Times. That shouldn’t be a surprise; he was brought in to guide the final years of the Kobe experience, and to help the Lakers sell some history while setting up a new generation. He reportedly is on an audition for his job the rest of the season.

I’d be surprised if Scott is back next season, he’ll get more time on the golf course and the Lakers will pick a new direction.

But until he goes, don’t expect Scott to change.