Flip Saunders seat not hot at all in Washington

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If you were trying to names coaches on the hot seat early this season, Flip Saunders name would come to mind. Because his Wizards squad is the lone winless team in the NBA, for one. Because even with John Wall and JaVale McGee in the lineup the Wizards have the very worst offense in the NBA so far (just 92.4 points per 100 possessions). Because the defense isn’t very good either. Because filling out the lineup card right escaped him.

But no, Saunders seat is pretty tepid.

Saunders was given the mandate to play the youngsters and take the lumps by management, so they are not going to fire him over the lumps.

Here is what owner Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog Wednesday in a post titled “Going as I expected.”

We are now 0 and 5 – but we are starting to play more as a team; and with more intensity and confidence. We have now started to get contributions from many players and I believe the team will now settle in and start to become more productive….

As I have noted many times before – the process we are undergoing will be quite difficult – it is messy; it is painful; but we have no other course of action to pursue; we have chosen to build through the draft – manage our cap space wisely and build a team for the long term around young players. We will make trades at the right time; we will keep our players that form our core long term; we will add free agents when we believe it is the right time. That is the plan.

It’s a good plan.

But the team has to show some growth and pick up wins at some point. I’m not suggesting Saunders should be on the hot seat, but if this team and it’s young core do not start to show some of that growth over the course of this season, the temperature of the chair should rise.

And please let this team run. Please. Wall is best in the open court, McGee and Andray Blatche can finish, and when Nick Young is healthy he is a great fit at that pace. But the Wizards are mired at 13th in the league in pace. Average. Pedestrian. Part of it is the defense but this team just needs to run like the wind every chance it gets.

Of course, what is going on in Washington is more than that. There are a lot of issues. Even the rookie from Europe recognizes things are not good. Here is what Jan Vesely told the Washington Post.

“It’s tough to sit on the bench and see the players, they are playing and they are playing bad,” Vesely said. “Of course, I want to try to help the team.”

It’s all just something to watch going forward.

Lakers coach Luke Walton rips officiating: ‘I wasn’t going to say anything. I was going to save my money, but I just can’t anymore’

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The Lakers are 0-3 with LeBron James, and pressure is mounting.

One way to release it: Venting about officiating.

Lakers coach Walton via Kurt Helin:

“Let me start here. … I wasn’t going to say anything, because I was going to save my money. But I just can’t anymore.”

“It’s 70-something points in the paint to 50-something (74 to 50), again they outshoot us from the free throw line, 38 free throws (the Lakers had 26),” Walton ranted after the game. “Watch the play — watch the play where I got a technical, watch what happens to LeBron James’ arm. It’s the same thing that James Harden and Chris Paul shot 30 free throws on us the night before. Then LeBron pulls up on a screen and somebody’s trying to fight over it, same thing they shot free throws on. Same thing.

“We are scoring 70 points a night in the paint. We’re putting pressure on. Josh Hart, watch how plays the game, played 40 minutes tonight, all he does is attack the rim — zero free throws tonight. Zero. I know they’re young, but if we’re going to play a certain way then let’s not reward people for flopping 30 feet from the hole on plays that have nothing to do with that possession. They’re just flopping to see if they can get a foul call. And then not reward players who are physically going to the basket and getting hit. That’s not right.”

I’m not certain Walton will get fined. These comments are borderline. But he asked for it, and the league might abide.

The numbers Walton cites are not convincing. Sometimes, one team deserves more free throws than the other. Maybe the Lakers outscored the Spurs by so much in the paint because the Spurs kept ceding baskets inside rather than fouling and the Lakers kept sending San Antonio to the line for free throws, which don’t count as points in the paint. Also keep in mind: Los Angeles outscored the Spurs 41-7 in transition. Many of the Lakers’ paint points came against a defense not positioned to contest shots, with or without contact.

But Walton is fighting bigger battles – taking heat off his team for losing, showing his players he has their back, making referees think twice on foul calls. If Walton achieves those objectives, a fine will be well worth it.

LeBron James appears to call for timeout with Lakers out of them (video)

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David Blatt infamously tried to call a timeout while the Cavaliers were out of them. Though he was stopped before receiving a technical foul, that was seen as evidence Blatt didn’t have the basketball intelligence to coach LeBron James.

Somewhere, Blatt is quietly smiling. (Or let’s be real, loudly telling everyone how smart he is.)

LeBron had his biggest moment as a Laker, making a game-tying 3-pointer to force overtime in Los Angeles’ eventual loss to the Spurs last night. But LeBron probably shouldn’t have had the opportunity to take the shot.

Once the Lakers secured possession, LeBron appeared to call for a timeout despite the Lakers having none remaining. If referees granted the timeout, it also would have come with a technical foul that gave the Spurs a chance to put the game out of reach in regulation.

Instead, Josh Hart incidentally made a big play by passing to LeBron. LeBron had to drop his T-signaling hands to catch the pass. Then, he brought the ball up court and drilled a 3-pointer.

LeBron said he wasn’t trying to call timeout, but his smiling denial isn’t exactly convincing.

This isn’t the first time LeBron lost track of timeouts at the end of a game, anyway.

Ostensibly on bench, Markieff Morris steps onto court and tugs Seth Curry’s shorts during play (video)

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Markieff Morris (28 points and nine rebounds) came up big in the Wizards’ overtime win over the Trail Blazers last night.

He didn’t even need to be in the game to help Washington stop Portland on the final possession of regulation.

CJ Fogler:

There should be no place for that. None. Games should be decided by the 10 players on the court. Anyone not in the game should do nothing to encroach on the space of players in the game. Stepping over the sideline is an egregious violation. Touching a player or his uniform is beyond outrageous.

The NBA has occasionally fined coaches (including former Wizards assistant Sidney Lowe) and players, but the league hasn’t gone far enough. This type of conduct, though usually not this flagrant, occurs far too often. It’s past time to crack down. Fines, suspensions, whatever it takes to ensure this stops.

After years of neglecting to deter these antics, the NBA shouldn’t put all the weight of the problem on Morris. Fine him what has been the standard amount, but make clear to everyone this was the last straw before more severe penalties.

Morris’ shorts tug might have decided the game. We’ll never know whether that would have been the difference between the Trail Blazers scoring on the possession or not. Probably not. Damian Lillard missed on a drive, but maybe he would kicked to Seth Curry if Curry weren’t flailing his arms, exasperated by Morris contact. Or maybe Otto Porter would have stuck just a little closer to Curry without “help” defense from Morris, leaving more room for Lillard.

But it’s only a matter of time until the NBA has a more controversial ending involving someone on the bench getting involved in the play.

Check out Maurice Harkless’ Tyrone Biggums of the “Chapelle’s Show” Halloween costume

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The Trail Blazers were celebrating Halloween a little early this year, wearing their costumes to the arena Monday night.

Damian Lillard went with Stone Cold.

But nobody topped Maurice Harkless’ Tyrone Biggums costume. Brilliant.

 

There were other creative players, too.

Portland has set the bar high this year.