Tag: Blake Griffin

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard making “slow but steady” progress in knee rehab


The Rockets’ title hopes hinge fully on Dwight Howard’s knees. If he’s healthy after undergoing a knee procedure last month, then between him and MVP candidate James Harden, they might have enough talent to compete in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, it seems like Howard might not be back for a while.

From the Houston Chronicle‘s Jonathan Feigen:

With Friday’s game marking four weeks since Dwight Howard went out with right knee edema, Howard has been running on a weight-controlled treadmill (along with the weight lifting and swimming he has been doing all month), but is not yet scheduled to increase his rehabilitation to on-court drills.

Howard has been able to steadily increase the percentage of his body weight on the treadmill without any setbacks, according to a person with knowledge of the process.

Howard has an MRI scheduled for several days next week, starting on Wednesday, with his and his doctor’s schedule to determine when he will undergo the examination that could clear him for the next step in his rehab. Wednesday would mark four weeks since his bone marrow aspirate injection.

Since Howard underwent the procedure, the Rockets have gone 10-4 and currently sit at third place in the Western Conference with a 40-18 record. But if the season ended today, they’d face the Clippers in the first round, and the prospect of stopping Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan without Howard is a scary one. With so many injuries, the Western Conference playoffs could come down to which team has its most important players healthy, and the Rockets need Howard back if they want to be a serious threat.

Rumor: Baron Davis planning an NBA comeback. Stop laughing, he’s serious.

Jordan Brand Melo M9 Shoe Launch

There is about as much chance of me getting a date with Emily Ratajkowski this weekend as there is of this actually happening. But…

TMZ is reporting Baron Davis wants to make an NBA comeback for the playoffs.

Baron Davis is in talks to return to the NBA … TMZ Sports has learned … with sources telling us the 35-year-old has been in communication with multiple “playoff contenders.”…

We’re told the Clippers and the Cavs are among the playoff contenders interested in Davis … with the Lakers also in the conversation.

I don’t know who TMZ’s source is for this, although I would guess his initials are BD. It’s not anybody on the NBA side.

The last time Davis was in the NBA was 2012 with the Knicks; he’s missed two and three-quarters seasons. Even back when he on a roster Davis was not known as a player who worked hard to stay in shape or was focused on the day-to-day details of his craft. That’s why he’s not in the league as a mentor now (when Mike Dunleavy was with the Clippers he wanted Davis out of the locker room and away from the hard-working Blake Griffin because he wanted to change that locker room culture). You think a contender wants to bring that into the locker room now?

Davis, when he was on, is one of my all time favorite players to watch, going all the way back to his UCLA days. He could be dynamic, both as a passer and scorer. But that Davis is a memory. The rumor of his return may be out there, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Doc Rivers’ buyout market plan falls short, leaving Clippers with short bench

Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers are a very dangerous team with their top six players — Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Jamal Crawford — are healthy and some combination of them is on the court. But go much past that and things start to fall apart. The Clippers lack depth.

Doc Rivers, the team’s coach and GM, planned to help remedy that the same way he did last season — on the buyout market. That’s where they picked up Glen Davis and Danny Granger back then. This time around Doc cleared roster space — that was part of what was behind the Austin Rivers’ trade — and was ready to pounce.

But this year Josh Smith chose Houston. Kendrick Perkins — who played for Rivers in Boston — chose Cleveland. Tayshaun Prince and Kevin Garnett were traded and not bought out.

That left the Clippers with nothing. It left Los Angeles flat-footed in a Western Conference where Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Memphis and others made moves to upgrade their rosters. Rivers tried to put a spin on it, speaking to Arash Markazi of ESPN.

“We like our team,” Rivers said Wednesday. “We actually like our basketball team, and if we could add something that can help that, we will. What people don’t understand is chemistry is so freaking important. Unless it’s somebody you think is going to really change your team, this team was a couple bad plays in Game 6 away from the Western Conference finals last year. We lost some guys and added some guys, but we like our team.”

The real problem was that Rivers’ tied his own hands this summer. He wanted Spencer Hawes and gave him the full mid-level exception to land the reserve big man. In doing so he triggered a hard cap on the Clippers of $4 million more than the luxury tax line, and the Clippers have been within a couple million of that all season. Meaning all they could ever do was offer minimum salary contracts to anyone who came available. It also made it hard to make a trade (not that the Clippers had assets people wanted, aside Crawford) because the Clippers couldn’t take on salary.

That said, I agree with Rivers, I like this team. But I don’t love it. And they don’t seem a team likely to come out of the loaded West.

The Clippers, at 37-21, are currently the six seed in the West. They are just 2.5 games out of the three seed, but they are also just four games up on the hard-charging eight seed Thunder.

This Clipper team has not been as good as the one that made the second round last season. That’s mostly because their defense hasn’t been as tight — they are giving up 104.2 points per 100 possessions, which is 2.1 more than last season. If you don’t think that’s much, it’s the difference between seventh best in the NBA last season and 18th this season. That defense has been better the last few games, but they need to sustain that — and do it with Griffin back in the lineup — before I’m a believer.

They’re just going to have to do it in-house, because there is no help coming.

Hawks see their offense as evolution to defeat modern defenses

Portland Trail Blazers v Atlanta Hawks

The story of the Atlanta Hawks’ free-flowing, ball-movement/player-movement offense starts with the 2008 Celtics.

That was the year Tom Thibodeau’s defense took the league by storm and propelled Boston to the title. With Kevin Garnett as the quarterback and help defender, Kendrick Perkins snarling in the paint, and Rajon Rondo’s length on the perimeter, the Celtics unleashed a defense the NBA had not seen. That defense was designed to overload the strong side, take away options for penetration, and keep the ball on one side of the court. The defense targeted players who dominated the ball in isolation sets on the wing — say, Kobe Bryant during the 2008 NBA Finals — and it clogged their path to the basket. The defense also makes old-school, standard post up play from a big man far more difficult.

Over the years, as more teams adopted that style, the result has been declining percentages of isolation plays in the league. Now when you see players get the ball in isolation out on the wing it is more with the goal of starting the offensive set — drive the ball not to score but to quickly swing the ball to the other side and get the defense scrambling. Kick the ball to the opposite corner for a three. Make the extra pass. Break the defense down, and then get the open shot.

Which brings us to the Hawks… well, actually to the Spurs. They won a title last season with a motion offense made up of a handful of plays like the “loop” that are designed to tear apart a Thibodeau-style defense with player and ball movement. If executed properly.

This season’s Hawks — ranked sixth in the NBA at 106.6 points per 100 possessions — are executing it properly and it’s a thing of beauty.

“Coach Thibs’ defense, it was built for isolation basketball,” Hawks’ sharpshooter Kyle Korver told ProBasketballTalk, in an interview discussing the End It movement. “We’re going to keep the ball on one side of the floor, we’re not going to let the guys on the other side of the floor be a part of the game, and we’re really going to load up to that one guy. The way to beat that kind of a defense — even though it’s very difficult to do — is to get the ball to the other side of the court. So for us, I really think we try to get the ball to the middle and kind of read the defense.”

It’s part of the evolution of the game if you ask Hawks head coach (and former long-time Spurs assistant) Mike Budenholzer.

“I think the defenses have gotten better, the attention to detail on how to work defensively…” Budenholzer told ProBasketballTalk during All-Star weekend. “I think sometimes the defense is ahead of the offense and you have to adjust to score. I think the defense just gets better and better in our league. The effort, the commitment, the size of the players, so offenses have to figure out, what can we get?”

Every team has had to adapt on some level to what the Thibodeau defense took away. For example, look at the Golden State Warriors — last season Mark Jackson ran a lot of isolation-style sets and despite all the offensive firepower on that team they were 14th in the NBA in points per possession. Steve Kerr added motion and ball movement to get the defense scrambling, and now the Warriors are second in the NBA in offensive rating.

Not every team can do what the Spurs and Hawks do. It takes a certain mindset of player. Plus if you have talent you can get away with some old-school offense — the Clippers run a predictable pick-and-roll heavy offense, but they get away with it because Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are great talents. The issue for them is their margins of error are small — they need to execute brilliantly to win.

Meanwhile, the Hawks and Spurs are having fun and success playing this selfless, motion system — but putting together the right chemistry in the locker room to make it work is not easy.

“A lot of that is just because of how unselfish we are,” Korver said. “You’re going to touch the ball. Every quarter. You matter every single time down the court. Even if you don’t take the shot, you’re going to effect the shot in some way — you’re going to set the screen, you’re going to make the pass, you’re going to make the cut that opens it up. Every single time down the court everybody who plays matters and I think when you play that style of ball it’s just more fun.

“It’s just like anything in life, when you feel like you matter you do it with a little more energy, you invest a little more, you take ownership. And I think everyone on our team has done that, and it’s showing.”

So are other teams going to start running the loop, doing the same things?

“Is it going to catch on?” Korver asked. “Are more teams going to do it? I don’t know, but I think probably. I think everybody was trying to do the defense that Coach Thibs kind of created, everyone was trying to go to that the last few years. Because it is really hard to play against. maybe you will see more of this type offense, too.”

For the basketball purist in me, I would love to see that.

But the reality is that it takes a veteran team with the right players willing to do it. Teams have been trying to copy what the Spurs do as an organization for years, with limited success (at best). That’s not going to change now.

However, the Hawks may be the exception to the rule.

Five Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday: The basketball injury gods are heartless and cruel

Chicago Bulls v New Orleans Pelicans

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 wishing the Starbucks near you served beer

1) The basketball injury gods are heartless and cruel.  Paul George. Kevin Durant. Russell Westbrook. Kobe Bryant. Kemba Walker. Steve Nash. Blake Griffin. Dwight Howard. Carmelo Anthony. Jabari Parker. Chris Bosh. Now Derrick Rose. Every one of those stars has missed significant time this season due to injury. Enough already. We are setting up for a what should be a brilliant playoffs, I’m sick of injuries potentially ruining that. Yes, all the injuries should lead to a discussion of the wear and tear the NBA regular season puts on players’ bodies — Adam Silver is already trying to do something about that — but some of this is just bad luck. A statistical anomaly, if you will. But I’m weary of it and sickened by it. Enough is enough.  Just let the guys play the game.

2) Stephen Curry is back and doing ridiculous Stephen Curry things. At least one star is healthy and showing it — Curry missed one game with a sore foot, but returned to the lineup Tuesday to drop 32 points (including five three-pointers) plus dish out eight assists against the Wizards. On top of all that he did a good job defensively on John Wall when assigned to him. If you had any questions Curry was fine, check out this ridiculous tear-drop floater.

3) LeBron James passed Scottie Pippen for most assists ever by a forward — and did it in style. Playing in the social media era has opened LeBron to more — and more public — criticism than any of the game’s all-time greats. And make no mistake, LeBron is going down as one of the game’s all-time greats (exactly where on that list is yet to be determined). He is arguably the most gifted player ever to play the game, but don’t let that distract you from the long hours he’s put in to grow his game. One thing he has always done well — pass. Midway through the third quarter LeBron hit Kevin Love with a behind-the-back dish setting up a three that gave LeBron five assists on the night and 6,136 dimes for his career, passing Scottie Pippen on the list. (LeBron had 11 dimes on the night.) LeBron will set more records before he walks away, but this one will have meaning for him.

4) Kevin Love can still drain the three, in case you forgot. You just saw one of Love’s threes on the night, but he found his groove from three on Tuesday night and drained eight threes, tying his career best. Not sure this means he’s comfortable in the offense yet, but he was feeling it Tuesday.

5) Russell Westbrook’s triple-double reminder he is in the MVP race now. Oklahoma City didn’t have too much trouble with Indiana, despite Kevin Durant being out, and that is thanks to Russell Westbrook, who notched 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. Westbrook is simply putting himself in the MVP race with his play since returning from injury — 26.1 points, 8 rebounds and 6.7 assists a game. Nobody else in the NBA is putting up better across-the-board numbers. Maybe he missed too many games to win the MVP, but he needs to be in the discussion.