Kurt Helin

Marc Gasol

Marc Gasol drains game winner to beat Rockets (VIDEO)


It was tied and tight at the end, with the feel of a playoff game between Memphis and Houston. Both teams went to their stars at the end to get the win.

Houston isolated James Harden, who drove around his defender into the trees of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol but didn’t the call he was hunting (Randolph got away with a reach).

Marc Gasol didn’t go hunting. Through the key stretches of the game, Kevin McHale had Terrence Jones on Gasol, and while Jones had a fantastic game (again) that is a tough matchup for him. The play was Gasol isolated (it was supposed to be at the elbow, but he was almost out to the wing), he drove and Jones couldn’t stop him.

Game winner.

If you’re wondering “how do the Grizzlies win close games in the playoffs without a superstar” go watch that video again. They have the guys.

(Sorry that this video has the homer Rockets announcers on it. They certainly can make a case Harden deserved that late call, that’s how fans should react, but that’s also far from the only reason the Rockets lost the game.)

Anthony Davis returns to Pelicans’ lineup after five game absence

Anthony Davis
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The New Orleans Pelicans are just one game out of the playoffs in the West, although catching and passing the Oklahoma City Thunder will be a tall task. One that would be nearly impossible without Anthony Davis in the lineup.

He’s back.

After missing five games due to a shoulder strain the Pelicans’ franchise player and All-Star big will play Wednesday night against the Pistons, coach Monty Williams confirmed pregame.

“His workouts have gone well,” Williams said of Davis. “He had a really good workout yesterday. A semi-workout this morning. He passed everything with flying colors, so we’re happy to have him back in the lineup.”

The Pelicans went an impressive 4-1 without Davis, doing it with an amazing offense scoring 109.1 points per 100 possessions (the best in the league over that stretch). Tyreke Evans should take a lot of credit for that with his play during the run.

But the Pelicans need Davis back. He has averaged 23.9 points on 54 percent shooting, plus pulled down 10.3 rebounds a game. While he’s an offensive force it’s the other end of the court where he may be more needed, he brings 2.7 blocks and a lot of intimidation in the paint to New Orleans.

Report: Mark Rachesky jumps into bidding for Hawks; price tag north of $900 million

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When news leaked out recently that the highest bid for the Atlanta Hawks was $800 million, we noted that the only reason to leak that number this early in the process — those were the early, non-binding bids — was to drive up the price. Try to create a bidding war.

Well, there is at least one new player and the price to be in the hand is indeed going up.

Mark Rachesky, a guy known for snapping up businesses at a bargain after their rough times, has entered the bidding, reports Marc Stein at ESPN. And the bid mentioned a week ago is already old news.

Mark Rachesky, chairman of Lionsgate Entertainment and a noted distressed-asset investor, has emerged as the most recent bidder for the Atlanta Hawks, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that Rachesky, ‎who heads the investment firm MHR Fund Management, is a close associate of Atlanta Braves controlling owner John Malone, which is said to have sparked Rachesky’s interest in the Hawks.

That’s interesting because the Braves are building a new stadium out in the Cobb County suburbs and getting out of downtown, urban Atlanta — the area the Hawks have embraced this season. The Hawks are seeing sellouts in part because of that shift (that and the winning team).

The Atlanta price tag will not be a bargain. Soon, after some background checks, the interested parties will be asked to put their real, final bids on the table.

Binding offers would then follow, with one source telling ESPN.com this week that at least one of the interested groups has made its willingness known to pay in excess of $900 million for the team.

There are multiple groups in on the bidding, some with local faces in front of foreign money. There is the group Atlanta legend Hank Aaron is fronting (they have both domestic and foreign investors). There is the group Grant Hill is in on, along with Junior Bridgeman ‎and Jerry Colangelo. There are some other groups, at least one working to court Dominique Wilkins and other NBA legends to front their groups (heavy on international money). Rachesky is in that mix.

This process has not been quick, although it has lacked the public drama of the Clippers sale (and the potential Nets sale). But by the time they are done the Hawks could fetch $1 billion — and that new owner would be buying a contender.

George Karl: Knicks could use a strong point guard next to Carmelo Anthony

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George Karl apparently forgot for a second he’s not an ESPN analyst anymore and not the coach of the Sacramento Kings — he didn’t have to offer advice on Carmelo Anthony and fitting in with the Knicks.

Then again, Karl has coached Anthony for most of seven seasons in Denver, and he knows the superstar’s game as well as anyone. So when he was asked what he would do to help get Anthony going in New York next year, he gave an interesting answer.

“I would go get a great point guard and then find some good big guys. I think you have a stud scorer [in Anthony] — get me a brain, get me a quarterback and then fill in the pieces with maybe second-tier big guys,” Karl said in an interview with ESPN New York on Tuesday morning. “The efficiency of big men in this league, there’s only about five or six of them….

“We had the most success when we had Andre [Miller] and/or Chauncey [Billups] — when we had a point guard that kind of orchestrated the rhythm of the offense,” Karl said.

There’s some real logic to this: ‘Melo is a ball stopper of the first degree on offense. His natural tendency is to hold the ball and look for a way to attack, usually in isolation. Which plays right into the hands of the Tom Thibodeau-inspired defenses that the majority of NBA teams use. It leads to inefficient ball. However, get in a real quarterback and he can keep the ball moving, push it in transition more, get other guys touches and make sure Anthony gets his as well.

The problem? That’s not how the triangle works (at least as Phil Jackson runs it). It’s not an offense for a traditional, old-school one. Go ask Gary Payton about being a triangle point guard.

You can make a very good argument — one I would say will bring quicker results — that this summer the Knicks should slide away from the triangle, because ‘Melo is not a natural fit for it. Instead, bring in a quality point guard. They will be out there and available, either through free agency or trade (this is a golden age for quality point guards in the league). Then populate the roster with shooters (and a few guys who can defend) and go to work.

But Jackson and the Knicks seem wed to the triangle and proving it can still work. If so, ‘Melo has to adjust, something Karl also noted.

“Carmelo is a very bright basketball IQ guy, so the triangle is going to be different for him. I think it can enhance some of his skills and I think he’s going to have sacrifice some of his commitment to playing the way maybe he’s played in the past,” Karl said.

Can he do that? Should the Knicks ask him to?

It’s going to be another hot and interesting summer in New York.

P.J. Hairston has had a rough rookie season

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“He should be a rotational player in this league, his future is predicated on how much he wants it and how much he wants to put in the work to get it.”

P.J. Hairston has not put the work in.

The statement above was what Hornets assistant coach Patrick Ewing told ProBasketballTalk about their first-round pick Hairston way back at Summer League.

He hasn’t come close to fulfilling that promise, getting in 35 games this season and averaging 5.6 per when he does, but shooting 32 percent. Hornets coach Steve Clifford benched Hairston on Sunday due to a missing a weight training session, and when asked about it Clifford did not pull any punches speaking with Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

“Potentially he could be a starter. He can shoot with range and rebounds for his position,” Clifford said. “But he hasn’t developed any way to play to make his teammates better….

“P.J., to me, has the chance to be a very good player,” Clifford said. “His approach has to be where he is constantly learning what the NBA game is about. He’s hasn’t done that well….

Clifford said Hairston has gotten this far on talent and competitiveness and now “if you want to be a good player, you’ve got to learn this league.”

The list of missteps for Hairston is long:

• Getting into an altercation with high schooler at a pick-up game this summer (charges were dropped).

• Signing with an “agent” who was not certified to do business with the league (the players’ union does the certification).

• The missed workout was just the culmination of whispers about his work ethic and focus.

• Plus he had the worst flop of the year (he was fined for his one).

Some guys turn things around; but Hairston has a lot of work to do.