“Everybody on the team was just trying to tell me to get 20,” Wall said. “That’s one of my goals, trying to get 20. I keep falling short.” …
“I always try to be a pass-first guy except in certain situations when I have to be aggressive and start scoring for the team,” Wall said. “But that’s my mindset going into it – to get everybody into a rhythm pretty early. It makes the game a lot easier closer to the end of the game when guys start double-teaming and I’m missing shots. Those guys can help close out games with me.”
Wall and the rest of the starters weren’t needed to close out Friday, which meant he didn’t have a chance to reach 20 assists. He was fine with it.
“I didn’t care,” Wall said. “I wanted to get some rest.”
Wall has really elevated his game this year, and he may not be getting the attention he deserves with so many players (James Harden, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, and even LeBron James) having truly ridiculous seasons.
The Clippers have won 10 of their last 13 games, yet they haven’t gotten the respect from all quarters they believe they deserve as contenders. Part of it is that their defense hasn’t been very consistent — they picked up a dramatic win over Portland this week because Chris Paul dropped 41 and they just outscored the Blazers, not because they could get stops.
The other issue is depth. As in they don’t have any.
But they could pick up a little help soon, as Jamal Crawford — last season’s Sixth Man of the Year — has returned to practice following his calf injury. From Arash Markazi of ESPN.
Jamal Crawford looked good in practice today. No official return date set but sources said Tuesday is still the tentative plan.
Robinson isn’t a playoff answer, but he’s better than their other options (Austin Rivers, for one).
The real challenge for the Clippers lack of depth in the playoffs isn’t minutes as much — you can play Chris Paul and Blake Griffin more — but the lack of versatility. All the weapons that Golden State or San Antonio have is it means they can attack you in a variety of ways, the Clippers are more predictable. That can be trouble in a seven-game series.
In the West, the little things will matter, and getting Crawford back is more than a little thing for the Clippers.
George Hill, after unhappy season, leading depleted Pacers in playoff push
BOSTON – George Hill doesn’t shy form describing how last season went for him.
“I wasn’t happy,” the Pacers point guard said. “I felt like, to play the way I want to play, I’ve got to be happy. The way things finished off last year and me not feeling like I was that involved on the offensive end and things like that, I wasn’t happy.”
He also didn’t shy away from doing something about it – and the results have been a quietly spectacular season that has the Pacers still in the playoff race despite losing Paul George (to injury) and Lance Stephenson (to the Hornets).
Hill began his offseason regimen the day after Indiana eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals, according to Pacers coach Frank Vogel. Hill said he was often in the gym three times per day.
“We had to ask him to back off several times,” Vogel said.
Said Hill: “I didn’t ease up. I kept going. He can say that all he wants, but I’m the player. I wanted to get better. So, there was no easing up for me.
“I’m a person that, once I’ve got my mind made up, there’s no knocking me off that course.”
Hill said he was intent on “just getting back to who I was in college… get back to being myself.”
In college, Hill was a big fish in a small pond.
He starred at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) from nearly the moment he arrived as the reigning Indiana high school scoring leader. Unlike Damian Lillard, who went to Weber State because bigger programs overlooked him, Hill held scholarship offers from Indiana and Temple and was courted by Florida.
But Hill, stating the loyalty Edison taught him, refused to transfer. Besides, Hill believed the NBA would find talent anywhere – and he believed he had plenty of talent.
So does Vogel, even when there were limits on Hill’s ability to show it.
Hill, whose usage percentage had never cracked 20, saw it plummet to 14.8 last season – tied for lowest among starting point guards:
“I knew that when he was getting criticism last year for not being the point guard that everyone thought that this team needed, I thought it was unfair, that he was capable of carrying a much bigger load,” Vogel said. “And he’s proven that this year.”
Hill’s usage rate has soared to 24.7.
All along, he planned to carry a bigger load, but without George and Stephenson, Indiana really needs it.
Hill is averaging career highs in points (16.4) and rebounds (3.9) per game, and his 4.7 assists per game are within a hundredth of his career high. Yet, he’s playing just 28.4 minutes per game, his fewest since becoming Indiana’s starter.
As a result, Hill is posting career highs in points (blue), assists (gold) and rebounds (gray) per 36 minutes:
Unfortunately for the Pacers, despite Hill’s breakout season, they still might miss the playoffs. They’re two games out and 11th in the Eastern Conference entering tonight’s pivotal contest with the 10th-place Hornets.
Don’t blame Hill for Indiana’s perilous position, though.
Hill missed the first 28 and 39 of the first 44 games of the season due to injury. Before he got healthy, the Pacers looked cooked. But he – along with David West, who also began the season injured – has rejuvenated them.
They’re 20-16 with Hill and 12-27 without him. They outscore opponents by 4.6 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court (equivalent of fifth in the league) and get outscored by 3.4 per 100 when he’s not (24th).
The biggest gains have come offensively, where Indiana had really fizzled.
Hill runs more pick-and-rolls than before, serving as the defined playmaker he wasn’t last season. And he has hit severalhugeshots:
At this point, it’s probably worth taking a step back and remembering Hill was hardly a bad player before this season – even in a limited role. He defended well, hit spot-up shots, kept the ball moving and, perhaps most importantly, kept turnovers down. He started for a team that won 105 games and four playoff series the previous two years.
LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin and Mike Conley were the only players to post more win shares both of the last two seasons.
He has taken that challenge head on, and he’s succeeding. Not only has Hill increased his load, his efficiency has remained in tact. He’s shooting a career-high 48.3 percent from the field, and his 3-point percentage is a solid 36.5. Despite having he ball in his hands more, his turnover rate remains low.
Hill, because he fit his role so well, posted All-Star-caliber numbers in certain advanced stats prior. Now, his numbers are up and he looks like an All-Star.
Beyond lifting Indiana into the postseason, other challenges loom.
By all accounts, these finalists do outstanding work in their community. But it’s difficult – maybe impossible – for writers to assess who did the most this year, because so much of the work happens behind the scenes.
There are a lot of NBA players doing good in the world, and that’s important. It’s nice to honor one for going above and beyond. Good luck to everyone voting in determining whom that should be.
Chris Kaman tweets photo of Chris Paul hitting him in the ‘groin’
Near the end of the third quarter of Wednesday night’s contest between the Blazers and the Clippers, Chris Kaman received a flagrant foul for shoving Chris Paul to the floor, after which a brief altercation ensued.
As the league weighs its options in terms of additional punishment for Kaman in the form of a fine or possible suspension, Kaman took to Twitter to post a picture of exactly what prompted him to take matters into his own hands.