Wednesday And-1 Links: Is Serge Ibaka the NBA’s most improved?

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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.

• Kevin Durant for NBA Most Improved Player? Over at Sports Illustrated, Rob Mahoney looks at guys who made big strides this season and says the already impressive Durant should be on the list. A more likely MIP candidate is Serge Ibaka.

• J.R. Smith talks about how many tattoos he has… he lost count.

• Dwight Howard has tried to fix his free throw issues by stepping about six inches behind the line, notes Kelly Dwyer at Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie blog. Sure, that’s going to work.

• Russell Westbrook’s shot 45.7 percent last season, this season that has fallen off a cliff down to 40.4 percent. Why? Royce Young at Daily Thunder does a great job looking at why Westbrook’s jumper has gone askew.

• Speaking of shooting woes, here is a look at Deron Williams’ issues by Howard Beck of the New York Times.

• In what is a fitting and easy analogy, the Nets new home the Barclay’s Center had a number of bad bolts in it that could have led to serious structural issues.

Ranking teams on how well and often they shoot the corner three, which is one of the most important shots in basketball. Teams that are really good at it this season include the Heat, Spurs and Knicks, not so coincidentally.

• I’ve never believed that they do, but here is some statistical evidence that those players-only meetings do help teams.

• Gregg Popovich, praising what Tiago Splitter brings to the table.

• Pretty soon you’re going to start seeing more and more D-League call ups to the NBA. Here’s a fantastic primer from Mark Deeks on guys to watch for.

• Boston just called Fab Melo back up from the D-League but only did so to better treat a concussion he suffered.

• Denver’s Ty Lawson is questionable for Thursday.

• The Hawks’ Larry Drew and the Clippers’ Vinny Del Negro today were named the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Coaches of the Month for December. Del Negro was pretty much a no brainer as his team went 16-0 and didn’t lose a game all month (should Vinny have to share the award with Chris Paul?). The Hawks are playing well this season for Drew and were 10-5 in the month.

• Along those same lines, the Heat’s LeBron James and the Clippers’ Chris Paul have been named Players of the Month by the league. Again this is about as shocking as Democrats and Republicans fighting about anything and everything.

Dwyane Wade gave Kevin Hart a toddler-sized Heat jersey (VIDEO)

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Kevin Hart and Dwyane Wade are friends, although the two have hammed it up for cameras over the years as purported enemies from time-to-time. The relationship between the two has always been jocular, and the recent joke Wade played on Hart was no different.

As Hart saw his way to Miami this past week to play a show in American Airlines Arena, Wade showed up to his team’s home building to give Hart a special gift.

Via Twitter:

Hart tried to play it off like the jersey was a gift for his son, Kenzo, who will turn 1 in November.

Looks like Kevin is the comedian but Dwyane’s the one who got jokes.

Ben Wallace says he battled depression in years following retirement

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Ben Wallace was a four-time All-Star, four-time Defensive Player of the Year, and NBA champion with the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons. Wallace’s final season in the NBA was in 2011-12 during his second stint with Detroit, and since then he’s not been in the eye of the general public.

Wallace made nearly $90 million during his time in the NBA, and his retirement at age 37 should have set him up to find new challenges and enjoy the rest of his life. But according to Wallace, life without basketball was extremely difficult in the two years following his final NBA game.

In a recent article in The Undefeated, Wallace detailed his trip into depression in the years following his retirement. Wallace said that he lost weight, and felt as though he had no purpose.

Via The Undefeated:

“Basketball is sort of mind-controlling,” said Wallace. “It takes you on a journey of extreme highs and extreme lows. It almost makes you need it. One day I can go out and get 20 rebounds and tomorrow I can come out and get seven or eight. Now, you’re sort of waiting for the next time to prove yourself. When you retire, you start feeling left out, no one’s really checking on you, you ain’t getting no phone calls that you used to get. Then you start to get low, but there’s no game tomorrow to lift you up, so you just keep sinking and sinking.”

Wallace has since rebounded from his darkest days, seeking out help through friends and re-involving himself with basketball. Wallace reached out to the likes of Rick Carlisle, Mike Woodson, and Doc Rivers, all of whom helped him dip his toes back into organized basketball.
Wallace is now part-owner and chairman of a G-League team, the Grand Rapids Drive, and stays busy as the owner of an RC car company.

The stigma around mental health discussions in the NBA has slowly started to fade with the help of several current stars. It’s great to see Wallace speak about his problems openly, and that he’s been able to find new purpose in his life.

Report: Stephen Curry won’t face suspension after stepping off bench during Lakers dust-up

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Lance Stephenson is already mixing things up in Los Angeles. The Lakers wing got into an altercation with Golden State Warriors backup Quinn Cook during a preseason game this week, and was ejected after throwing a punch at Cook’s head.

Meanwhile, the NBA reviewed the tape and determined that no other discipline would be necessary, including any toward Stephen Curry or DeMarcus Cousins.

Ever vigilant, a league is particularly sensitive to players leaving the bench area during an altercation ever since Game 4 of the 2007 playoff series between the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs in which Robert Horry hip check Steve Nash into the scores table.

The league review the tape and found that both Curry and Cousins took steps off their bench. However, neither will be suspended thanks to how the league views the actual dust-up between Stephenson and Cook.

Via Yahoo!:

The two stars will not be reprimanded because the league did not deem the activity of Lakers guard Lance Stephenson and Warriors guard Quinn Cook as being an “altercation,” sources said.

Had Curry been disciplined, he would have been forced to sit out Tuesday’s anticipated season-opener at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Cousins would have served his suspension once he returned from an Achilles injury.

What this appears to mean is that the league saw the ejection as a one-sided swing from Stephenson and nothing more.

Plus, it would be hard to imagine the season starting without Curry on the floor for the Warriors.

Charles Barkley says he thought he was going to be Orlando Magic GM in 2017

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There’s no doubt that you have watched countless hours of former NBA player Charles Barkley on “Inside the NBA”. Often bombastic and always opinionated, Barkley stands as one of the more controversial talking heads on that show.

There’s no doubt that Barkley is very good at his job and the role that he plays. But would he make a competent NBA general manager?

That’s the question many have after Barkley revealed that he thought he was going to take over the top management spot for the Orlando Magic in 2017.

Speaking on the radio in Chicago this week, Barkley said that he interviewed for the position and was sure he was going to be the man for the job.

Via Twitter:

Barkley would have certainly been an interesting choice. One can only imagine the roster construction and theory behind any squad he would cook up.

Meanwhile, that teams get close to hiring former players to do anything at a top level — coach or GM — remains incredible. His co-host Kenny Smith had interviewed for the Detroit Pistons job this summer, but didn’t get plucked. These are all corporations valued at more than a billion dollars, and yet they give more weight that’s due to guys who have played in the league.

Elton Brand for the Philadelphia 76ers makes sense, having worked in player development and been the GM of a G-League team before his hiring. Hell, Vlade Divac worked in basketball administration for a full decade before becoming the Sacramento Kings GM, and that’s not working out so hot.

But Chuck and Kenny? Entertaining as all get out on TV, but shaky choices for top GM spots.

NBA teams stay doing NBA team stuff.