Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points like Texans love barbecue.
• Sarah Mensah, Portland’s COO and a team employee for 19 years, has resigned, tweets Joe Freeman of the Oregonian. She had been an ally of former team president Larry Miller, who left the organization last summer to take a job with Nike. Both Miller and Mensah had been opposed to the hiring of Neil Olshey as the Trail Blazers GM after last season. So, guess who is winning the power struggle? Point is, however, that there are a lot of changes at the top of the organization, we’ll see if this leads to some stability of direction in team building and on the court.
• While we are talking front office changes, the Denver Nuggets announced they have promoted Pete D’Alessandro to Vice President of Basketball Operations and Mike Bratz to Director of Player Personnel.
• Lots of Pau Gasol trade buzz, although you might want to have a seat and relax on that, it’s not happening soon if it does. Complicating matters Gasol has a trade kicker in his contract, but it’s not as big as some have reported — $1.3 million for this season and next total.
• More leaks out of Virginia Beach on how they are moving closer to a getting a new stadium approved, one where they will try to lure the Sacramento Kings to play in. Virginia Beach should totally use tax dollars to get in bed with the Maloofs, they are totally trustworthy — just ask Kings fans.
Raptors GM Colangelo talks about not drafting Andre Drummond
How much does raw talent versus personality and concerns about work ethic when drafting someone?
We all are great at looking back at a draft three or five years later and saying “how did we pass on player X” when at the time it’s not that simple. To use an easy example, any GM that tells you now he would have taken Kevin Durant over Greg Oden is lying — that is not what anyone with the power to make a decision inside basketball was saying or thinking at the time.
Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo was part of a cross-sport conference of GMs this week at the Prime Time Sports conference and talked about what he looks for in a guy to draft, and he used an example from this past draft. From The Toronto Star (hat tip The Big Lead).
There’s a checklist: talent, physical tools, basketball IQ, how they perform, how we anticipate they’ll perform. Character. Emotional make-up. Marketability. Each component is part of the process. The toughest is what’s inside a player. You can’t see the heart, the emotional aspect of things.
Picking eighth, I passed on somebody I consider a top-five talent in the draft because we felt like he didn’t have the right mental makeup. I passed on someone we thought was a top-three physical specimen because we felt he wasn’t the right fit for our team and didn’t have the right mental makeup.
At No. 8 in the 2012 draft, the Raptors took Terrence Ross from Washington, who can’t get off their bench right now but certainly is an athletic shooting guard with potential.
At No. 9, the Pistons took Andre Drummond out of UConn. When you look down the draft board it’s clear Drummond is who Colangelo is talking about — scouts loved his skills and makeup, the question was whether he would stay focused and mature as an NBA player. Because he didn’t show that in college.
So far this season Drummond has looked pretty good in limited minutes — he’s shooting 67.6 percent, has had some good defensive plays and has a PER of 23.7. He has shown highlight moment flashes, but still is a rookie learning his way (and could use more run, frankly). Nine games into his rookie season is no time to judge Drummond, but you can see what GMs were tempted by.
And that’s the risk — if Drummond, who was very young, pulls it together you let the guy with all the talent get away. But if you pick the guy with the million dollar body and the five-cent head, you can get Kwame Brown. Drafting is more art than science at times, with some luck thrown in.
Baseline to Baseline recaps: Spurs, Knicks remain undefeated
Knicks 110, 76ers 88: Second night of a back-to-back, home-and-home but it felt a lot like the first game. The Knicks are still defending well and the 76ers are still willing to take bad shots in the face of it. Carmelo Anthony had a few more minutes where he wanted to go to isolation, but he had 21 points on 16 shots and was again playing defense. Raymond Felton destroyed Kwame Brown on the pick and roll on his way to 16 points.
And Rasheed Wallace had 10. When ‘Sheed is hitting shots like the one below you know it is his night.
Heat 124, Suns 99: This one felt over pretty quickly — Miami was up by 14 less than 10 minutes into the game, moving the ball and getting good looks on offense that the Suns couldn’t stop. Miami hit 15-of-26 from three, and when they do that they are basically unbeatable. Michael Beasley tried to fire up the Suns offense and score the only way he knows how — attacking with his athleticism. But that’s not going to work against the Heat. It doesn’t work most nights in the NBA period, but especially not against the Heat. Beasley went 3-for -13 on the night.
Credit the Suns for fighting to keep it in the teens for a while, but this was never in doubt. LeBron had 25 points and 11 boards, Dwyane Wade had 23, Ray Allen had 15 because the Suns stopped closing out on him on corner threes. Not smart. Shannon Brown had 18, Luis Scola had 15.
Timberwolves 107, Nets 96: The Nets had a 22-point lead in the third quarter and gave it all back — that happens when you shoot 4-of-22 to close out the game — in a painful loss at home. Alexey Shved had all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter to lead the comeback along with Dante Cunningham, who finished with 11 points, 11 boards and was +18 on the night.
Brooklyn still had a chance late, this one was 96-96 with less than four minutes to go. But in those final minutes, Shved was the guy making plays, attacking off the pick-and-roll and getting a floater in the lane and setting up Nikola Pekovic for a bucket in the paint. Then a skip pass from J.J. Barea to Chase Budinger for a three had the Timberwolves up 7 with: 38 seconds left and it was over. Brooklyn did not execute a team offense at all, they went to too much isolation late and Minnesota could defend it.
Grizzlies 103, Jazz 94: Utah looked like the better side early with Memphis struggling to score and Gordon Hayward racking up 11 points in the first quarter. But the Jazz never pulled away and Memphis came storming back. Mike Conley was key with a dozen second half points and disruptive defense that kept Mo Williams off balance. Marc Gasol had 22 points, Zach Randolph 16 points and 17 rebounds.
Mavericks 114, Trail Blazers 91: For three quarters Portland fought and scrapped to stay with a Mavericks team that was hot shooting from the time the doors opened — Dallas put up 31 points in the first quarter. Wesley Mathews and LaMarcus Aldridge each had 20 for Portland. But Dallas got even hotter in the fourth and hit 78 percent of their shots in the final 12 minutes to pull away. O.J. Mayo had 32 on the night and was hot from the start (12 in the first quarter) then it was rookie Jae Crowder with 9 in the fourth quarter to help seal it.
Cavaliers 108, Clippers 101: Cleveland’s three best players just flat out were better than anyone the Clippers had to stop them. Kyrie Irving came out on fire and had 16 first quarter points mostly matched up on Chris Paul. Then Irving had the dagger three late (when the Clips had it at a three-point game) because Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan both laid back and let him take the shot uncontested. Dion Waiters had 28 points, hit 7-of-11 threes (including a couple from north Orange County) and just abused Willie Green. And Anderson Varejao had 15 points, 15 boards and made life hard for Blake Griffin (who still got 20 points on 14 shots). How a team with a front line of Griffin and Jordan gets abused on the boards nightly is beyond me.
Kings 94, Warriors 92: The Kings took control of this game in the third quarter, going up by 16 behind a strong quarter from DeMarcus Cousins (11 of his 23 came in the third). The Kings were still up 11 with just more than 4 minutes left but the Warriors came storming back and had their chances late — Klay Thompson missed a 17-footer and Stephen Curry back ironed a 30-footer for the win as time expired. The Kings get a win at home but their execution isn’t striking fear in anyone’s hearts.
Best part of this game was Keith Smart having to run out and get a black tarp off the court that had been covering an advertisement on the scoreboard but fell off midgame.
Thursday And-1 links: J.R. Smith is among NBA’s injured
Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points like most of the country likes watching the Yankees lose.
• Already without Iman Shumpert, the Knicks J.R. Smith has been seen around the team in a walking boot and told the New York Post that his injury is to his Achilles tendon and not his ankle (as the team has claimed). Now it’s announced he won’t travel on the Knicks upcoming three-game road trip. Not good, Knicks fans.
• Speaking of writing from the heart, NBA referee Greg Willard took part in his last game last week, he is leaving the NBA to fight the cancer he has been diagnosed with. Here is a fantastic look at the man and his last game, including a private moment with Kobe Bryant.
• Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma wants to know why the NFL — and the NBA — are officially listed as non-profit organizations. He thinks they should be getting taxed. The league counters that each team is taxed, as are the players with special taxes.
• In a no brainer move, the Sacramento Kings picked up the options on DeMarcus Cousins and Jimmer Fredette.
• The Raptors also picked up their fourth-year option on Ed Davis.
• Kwame Brown is sitting out the Sixers preseason game Friday with a calf injury. That’s two in a row and there is no certain timetable for his return. It says something about the Sixers depth behind Andrew Bynum that they are really missing Brown and need him back when the game matter in a couple of weeks.
• The Thunder’s Thabo Sefolosha is far enough back from his quad injury he’s considered questionable to play in Friday’s preseason game.
• If you live in Los Angeles and want Shaquille O’Neal to come hang out and referee a 4-on-4 game between you and your friends, you can bid on that prize now. All the money goes to the Children’s Diabetes Foundation.
When it comes to Andrew Bynum’s knees, I’m not sure anything can be considered “routine.”
But that is the word the 76ers are using to describe another procedure Bynum is about to have done to his knee. The one with the bone bruise following his last procedure that has kept him out of training camp and team workouts so far. From Dei Lynam at CSNPhilly.com.
According to a source close to the situation but not authorized to speak for the team, Bynum will undergo a previously scheduled procedure that puts fluid, or as many call it “motor oil” into the knee. That fluid will act as a joint lubricator. It is a common procedure, given by injection that minimizes pain often associated with knee arthritis.
Bynum’s official timetable continues to be late October, in time for him to be there for the Sixers at the start of the season. You read this quote from coach Doug Collins a couple weeks before the first game and see if you think that’s accurate.
“He says he is feeling better,” Doug Collins said after Sunday’s practice session. “Eventually he is going to get running on the treadmill and that will be a huge step. We have a new anti-gravity machine which can take up to 80 percent of your body weight off, so you can get over there and run and only be hitting 20 percent of your body weight. You can move it up little by little. That is going to be the next step for him.”
I have no doubt Bynum will be back before too many regular season games are lost and I hope he gets to play the rest of the season from when he does step on a court. Mostly because more Bynum means less Kwame Brown, and that’s good for all of us.
But if he’s not even on the anti-gravity treadmill yet, you think he’ll be ready for game action in a couple weeks?