Washington Wizards players want to make the playoffs this year. John Wall and others have talked openly about that as a goal. They think the team — with the additions of Nene, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza — can make the leap.
But in speaking to the media, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis seemed to tamp down expectations about this season.
At the lottery last June he said that another season in the lottery would be “unacceptable.” Now, he is redefining unacceptable. From CSNWashington.com.
“We would all find it unacceptable if we finished with the second- or third-worst record in the NBA this year. That would be a failure and the failure would start with me. I think we’re in a much better position. I think we will get better because our young players have now been seasoned.”
Leonsis spent a lot of time talking about a process, about how they want to draft well and retain guys like Bradley Beal. That is how to build a winner that lasts. But that means incremental growth not huge leaps.
Yet even Leonsis wouldn’t totally rain on the playoffs parade.
“It’s a combination of all those little things and those investments that we’re making that we think will incrementally improve the team so that this year it’s very respectful, very competitive and why not try to make the playoffs? Just a couple games over .500 seems to get you there and that’s how the guys are looking at it. So who am I to argue to with the players and the coaches? They feel upbeat, so that’s why I feel upbeat.”
Upbeat may not mean playoffs. Not with Wall out for the first month of the season (and Nene still battling the foot issue that slowed him last season). But the Wizards should be better. They are improving. But it’s a process.
Report: Hornets not trading for Marc Gasol soured Kemba Walker on Hornets
The Hornets nearly paired Walker with a former All-Star, though. Shortly before the trade deadline, they reportedly nearly dealt for Marc Gasol. But talks stalled, and the Grizzlies instead sent Gasol to the Raptors.
Unsurprisingly, that didn’t go over well with Walker, who was trying to lead a playoff push before entering free agency this summer.
I got the sense in talking to people, that trade deadline really deflated him. When they were pretty close on a Marc Gasol deal, and it fell apart. It didn’t happen. He goes to Toronto. And he looks around and goes, “Come on, what are we trying to do here?”
The reported outline of the Gasol deal: Gasol for Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a protected first-round pick. The hang-up was reportedly on the specifics of the protection.
Which is important!
The Hornets shouldn’t have relinquished too high of a pick for a 34-year-old center just for a likely first-round loss.
Making the playoffs matters. Keeping Walker happy matters. But so does keeping draft picks to build the team going forward. Without knowing the exact line of the protection being haggled, I can’t say whether Charlotte erred by not making the trade. But there’s plenty of room to make passing the right call.
Shortly after the deadline, a rumor emerged Walker would likely leave the Hornets in free agency. This probably explains why.
Simmons responded: “It’s coming from Jared Dudley. C’mon.”
In the 76ers’ Game 3 win over the Nets last night, Simmons did what he frequently does – create high-efficiency transition and semi-transition opportunities for himself and teammates. He was also good in the halfcourt, though one game doesn’t establish Simmons in that facet.
“I don’t really have energy for it,” Simmons said. “It’s done. People are going to say what they want to say. Just gotta play.”
As I wrote earlier, this beef will be only as big as Simmons makes it. Dudley’s scouting report was largely accurate. He didn’t really say anything inflammatory, except to people in Philadelphia looking for a slight.
Apparently, after one dismissive comment and one excellent game, that’s no longer Simmons.
Playoff Edition Three Things to Know: Ben Simmons drives right into Nets, earns 76ers win
The NBA playoffs are underway and there can be a lot to unpack in a series of intense games, to help out we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Ben Simmons drives right to basket, into the heart of Brooklyn, leads Sixers to a road win.Jared Dudley has become enemy No. 1 in Philadelphia for saying out loud what has been in every scouting report on the 76ers all season:
Jared Dudley dropping gems at media availability: "Ben Simmons is a great player in transition. And once you get him into halfcourt, he's average."
Ben Simmons answered that with his best game of the playoffs Thursday night, driving to get to his right hand at the rim all night long, and the Nets could do nothing to stop him. Simmons was 9-of-10 from inside eight feet of the rim, took just one shot outside the paint all night (an 11-foot hook shot he banked in), scored 31 points and led Philadelphia to a 131-115 win in a game Joel Embiid sat out to rest his knee.
Simmons made his statement and won the argument with Dudley…
Whatever it took to get this aggressive Simmons, this is the guy Philadelphia needed. He did have help — Tobias Harris was 6-of-6 from three and had 29 points, while J.J. Redick added 26 — but with Embiid out Simmons has to be the catalyst.
D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert each had 26 to lead Brooklyn.
With the win the Sixers are now up 2-1 and in control of the series, making Saturday’s Game 4 basically must-win for the Nets.
Brooklyn could use to be a little more efficient on offense — 8-of-39 from three, as they did Thursday, is not good enough — but the more significant issue is defensive. Brooklyn has to find a way to slow the Sixers, and that starts with keeping Simmons from getting the shots he wants going to his right hand. If Simmons is still attacking and getting his shots, this series will be over soon.
2) Kevin Durant reminds everyone exactly who he is, scores 38 in Warriors blowout win. Doc Rivers was prophetic before his Clippers took on the Warriors in Game 3 Thursday night. Just not in a way he wanted.
“If we get down 31 again, it’s not going to turn out well,” Rivers said.
They did and it didn’t.
Golden State went up by 31 with 7:10 in the third quarter Thursday night. That score and game time was very similar to when the Clippers came back from that record deficit to even the series on Tuesday. However, this time the Warriors did not lose focus, they did not take their foot off the gas and let the Clippers back in the game. Golden State held on to win 132-105, and it wasn’t that close.
The Warriors now lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 on Easter in Los Angeles.
Through 12 quarters of play, the Warriors have completely dominated 10 of them so far. They have been much the better side in this series.
Thursday was Kevin Durant’s turn to dominate as he finished with 38 points. The Warriors made some adjustments on how they attacked the Clippers’ “top lock” defense, leading to a lot of shots at the rim. Durant got more touches where he could isolate and shoot over the smaller Patrick Beverley, although though when Clippers switched up to a taller defender Durant torched them, too. It was just his night.
The Clippers also need to find some offensive outlets. The Warriors did a good job making life hard for Lou Williams (4-of-11 shooting) and Los Angeles struggled to get consistent buckets, shooting 37.2 percent as a team for the game, including going 7-of-32 from three.
The Warriors are in control of this series, they have been all along when they didn’t get bored. These Clippers do not quit, they will be feisty again on Sunday, but that alone will not be enough. Los Angeles needs to find some offense and a way to slow down Kevin Durant. Good luck with that.
3) Derrick White puts Spurs in control of series with Nuggets. Derrick White is a vintage Spurs story. What received zero Division I scholarship offers out of high school, so he played three years of Division II ball, but impressed enough that he transferred to Colorado for his senior season. After impressing there, the Spurs picked him 27th in the 2017 NBA draft in one of those “that could be a good fit,” picks San Antonio always seems to make.
Two years later, White “came out of nowhere” to score 36 points, be +30, outplay Kentucky product Jamal Murray, and lead the Spurs to a Game 3 win. Even Denver coach Mike Malone was impressed.
Denver’s defensive strategy the first couple of games this series was, basically, to not cover White — he was the guy they helped off of, and they dared him to shoot from the outside. On Thursday the Spurs and White attacked that strategy having him cut to the basket or, when the ball swung to him, drive into that space and get buckets. The Spurs also used White as a pick-and-roll ball handler to get the switch because Nikola Jokic isn’t quick enough to stop White in space. It all worked brilliantly.
Now the adjustments fall to Malone and the Denver staff, who already have to scheme for LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan and their midrange games. What it also means is Murray is going to have to step up his game and start winning the battles with White. Denver’s starters need to do better, they cannot get outplayed like they did in Game 3.
If they do, or if White goes off again, the Nuggets will be in too big a hole to climb out of it. A first round exit for the No. 2 seed would be a disappointment.
Mavericks guard Hardaway has surgery for stress fracture
DALLAS (AP) Dallas Mavericks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. has undergone surgery for a stress fracture in his lower left leg and is expected to resume basketball activities before the start of training camp in September.
The procedure announced Thursday came after Hardaway missed the last 11 games of the regular season. The sixth-year player averaged 15.5 points in 19 games after the Mavericks acquired in him a blockbuster seven-player deal with the New York Knicks headlined by Dallas getting Kristaps Porzingis.
The 27-year-old Hardaway could start alongside 20-year-old star Luka Doncic in the backcourt next season depending on what happens in free agency, and possibly the draft. Hardaway has career averages of 15.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
The Mavericks missed the playoffs for the third straight season, finishing 33-49 for the second time in those three years.