It all came together for one night.
At home, against a tired Toronto team on the second night of a back-to-back. Flip Saunders put in a new starting lineup of guys playing with some grit — Chris Singleton and Trevor Booker start, and Andray Blatche comes off the bench.
It worked — the Washington Wizards picked up their first win of the season, and quite easily at that, 93-78.
This was by far Washington’s best game of the season, particularly on offense. For eight games their offense had been simplistic, with pick-and-rolls or isolations on the strong side and a lot of standing around. But against the Raptors there were weakside cuts occupying defenders, slowing help, all the things you see in a good offense. It gave them room to attack the basket and they did, it was not a jump shot fest. It wasn’t consistent, it certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was a vast improvement over past games.
Meanwhile the Wizards defense was more aggressive, although it was certainly helped by a hesitant Raptors offense that did not attack aggressively. DeMar DeRozan has not found his groove for a couple games now. Jose Calderon has been aggressive off the pick and roll the last few games but tonight was pausing, then forcing some ugly passes that led to turnovers (the Raps had 22 on the night). Toronto only had 52 points through three quarters, the Wizards deserve credit for some of that but the Raptors do as well.
The Raptors are not a good team — they start Rasual Butler (1-of-6 shooting). They need Andrea Bargnani to generate the offense, and while he finished with 22 he was not as sharp as he has been in previous games. They are a team that is going to have nights like this.
The Wizards are not a good team either, but they were better for a night. John Wall had more assists than point (9 to 8). Rashard Lewis and Nick Young had 15 points each as the Wizards showed some balance. They had good bench play.
It’s a start. The Wizards have a long way to go, but for a night things were better. That is worth celebrating.
The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.
First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.
The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.
The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.
Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.
David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).
Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.
This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style. Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.
Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.
Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.
Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.
The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.
The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.
What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.
While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.
Kawhi Leonard just won again.
He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.
Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.
Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.
Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.
Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.