Brandon Bass' polite, tasteful frustration

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This past off-season, Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith wanted it all. He wanted a talented, versatile swingman to work the offense in place of Hedo Turkoglu, so he traded for Vince Carter. He wanted another big, sweet-shooting forward to plug in at the 4, so he demanded the inclusion of Ryan Anderson in the Carter deal. He wanted depth, toughness, and shooting on the wing, so he signed Matt Barnes. He wanted to fortify the back-up point guard position, so he signed Jason Williams. And he wanted to match the Dallas’ Mavericks offer sheet to then-restricted free agent Marcin Gortat while simultaneously wooing the Mavs’ Brandon Bass for the mid-level exception, so he did that too.

All a pretty decent plan, and a flurry of activity that most fans could only dream coming from their team’s GM.

Despite the kid-in-the-candy-store look of Smith’s approach, there was calculation there. He picked his targets, went after them strategically, and assembled one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the league. But among all of those moves, Smith made one pretty sizable misstep; how would the newly signed Brandon Bass find minutes in a front court featuring Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard, Gortat, and Anderson? You don’t willingly pay $4 million a year for bench filler, which is essentially what Bass has become. Brandon has played in just 30 of Orlando’s 53 games, with many of those opportunities coming due to injuries in the rotation.

Smith could have picked between Bass and Gortat, and everything would’ve been peachy. But Otis Smith is finding out the hard way that you can’t have your talented, young big man cake and eat it — …okay it’s an imperfect metaphor, but you see what I’m getting at.

To Bass’ credit, he hasn’t made much of a ruckus. There could be some brooding and resentment behind the scenes, but any confrontations have stayed well within the confines of the locker room, despite there being plenty of media interest in Brandon’s growing frustration.

That is, until now. And even then, the message conveyed by Bass through his agent is hardly one of rage or bitterness; this is just a guy looking for a place to play basketball, and if he can’t do that with regularity in Orlando, he’d like to be relocated somewhere else. Please and thank you. From Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel:

Bass, admittedly frustrated and disappointed, was asked if he still wanted to be in Orlando. “Do I want to stay here? If they feel like I can help them, sooner than later, I’d love to stay here. If something changes. … If they say I can’t help the team and they don’t want me here … then maybe I have to do what’s best for myself,” said Bass, who also was courted last summer by Charlotte, Detroit, Chicago and Portland, among others. “I signed here because I wanted to win championships. I took less dollars because I wanted to win. But it eats at me, because I can’t contribute to the team.”

[Brandon Bass’ agent, Tony] Dutt said he plans on speaking with Magic General Manager Otis Smith sometime during the upcoming all-star break to get a feel for Bass’ future in Orlando. Dutt is not actively seeking a trade for Bass, 24. He said it could be “premature” to demand that Bass be moved, considering Bass’ role could change. Dutt said that Smith says that there’s still a place for Bass — and Smith told the Sentinel as much on Thursday. “I like Brandon. He’ll get his opportunity,” Smith said.

But Dutt is still baffled by how little Bass has played. “The consensus is that they see a role for him. Maybe it’s just taken longer for that to happen. But to bring him in and not play him. … It doesn’t make any sense,” Dutt said.

Despite the inconsistent play of the Magic this season, Bass has refused to make demands or give ultimatums. That may not be to his immediate benefit (it’s unlikely he’ll be moved before the trade deadline), but it certainly is to the team as a whole. 2009-’10 may end up being a regrettable season for Bass, but at least he hasn’t taken the Magic down with him.

LeBron James flips elimination-game game on its head

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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His Cavaliers down 3-2 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, how does LeBron James assess his situation?

"I don’t enjoy being in the position where it’s you lose and go home," LeBron said before Game 6 tonight in Cleveland.

He might not enjoy this position, but he’s pretty good in it.

Since he first reached the playoffs in 2006, other teams have won 26% of their elimination games. LeBron’s teams have won 57% of theirs.

Of course, LeBron hasn’t gone 12-9 in elimination games just because he’s lucky. He has willed his team off the mat numerous times.

LeBron has scored 40 points and/or had a triple-double in six straight elimination games, winning five of them. His line in his last elimination game before that streak? Just 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.

A full history of LeBron’s elimination games:

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Rockets played with fire with Chris Paul, got burned

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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Chris Paul played 79 minutes in three days.

Prior to Games 4 and 5 of these Western Conference finals, he hadn’t done that in more than two years. He hadn’t done it without both games going to overtime in more than three years.

The Rockets leaned heavily on the 33-year-old Paul, and they’ll pay the price.

Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow. Given how quickly Houston ruled out Paul with a strained hamstring, he seems unlikely to play in a potential Game 7 Monday.

Injuries are somewhat – but not completely – random. Players are more susceptible when worn down. After missing the close of the 2016 postseason, Paul missed 45 games the last two regular seasons. He has accumulated a lot of mileage in his 13-year career.

Yet, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni drastically shortened his rotation, anyway. Not only did Paul play big minutes in this series, he shouldered a huge load. He took the reins of the offense at times, allowing James Harden to conserve energy for defense, while maintaining his own strong-two way play. That’s never easy, especially in these high-intensity games.

This was the risk.

We can feel bad for Paul and his predicament. We can also acknowledge Houston got this far by gambling on Paul’s health.

That’s not to say it was a bad bet. This is what you save him for, the biggest playoff series of his career and maybe one of the last before he exits his prime. The Rockets would have been far worse off to this point resting Paul extensively and protecting him. Even with such a heavy workload, an injury was never fait accompli. And Houston got plenty from Paul before he went down. He was instrumental to wins in Game 4 and Game 5 that gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Now, they just must hope that’s enough of a head-start into a world of playing without Paul.

Chris Paul out for Rockets-Warriors Game 6

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The Rockets bought themselves margin for error by earning home-court advantage and taking a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

They’ll need it.

Chris Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow with a strained hamstring.

Rockets release:

The Houston Rockets announced today that guard Chris Paul will miss Saturday’s game at Golden State with a right hamstring strain that occurred during the fourth quarter of last night’s game against the Warriors. He will be re-evaluated after the team returns to Houston.

Golden State was already heavily favored at home. This will tilt the odds even further in its favor.

But the Rockets aren’t completely incapable without Paul. They went 15-9 without him this season. James Harden and Eric Gordon can assume extra playmaking duty.

Still, this is a massive loss. When Harden is overburdened offensively, his defense suffers. Gordon is already playing a lot of minutes, so greater responsibility will come in role, not playing time. To fill Paul’s minutes, Mike D’Antoni will have to expand a rotation he had masterfully tightened. Gerald Green could play more. Luc Mbah a Moute could return to the rotation.

A Game 7 looks increasingly likely. Will Paul return for that? The 2018 NBA title might hinge on that question.

Given how quickly the Rockets announced Paul would miss Game 6, there isn’t much reason for optimism about Paul’s availability three days from now, either.

Report: Chris Paul’s hamstring injury ‘not good’

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The question looming over the Western Conference finals: How is Chris Paul?

The Rockets revealed little last night about Paul’s hamstring injury. Time to see how his body responded would provide clarity.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

That stinks. It’s also a fairly expected development. Paul appeared to be in rough shape before leaving the court.

The Rockets have bought themselves margin for error, but a sidelined or even hobbled Paul would sap a lot of it.

If Paul can’t play in Game 6 tomorrow, expect Eric Gordon and James Harden to receive a larger offensive roles (though not necessarily more minutes). Gerald Green could play more, and maybe Luc Mbah a Moute gets back into the rotation.