Stan Van Gundy talks player minutes, criticism of resting guys

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Stan Van Gundy still is speaking his mind.

The former NBA coach and now employee of NBC Sports (doing some college color commentary, among other things) doesn’t get why so many coaches are getting fired, he still is tight with Dwight Howard, he doesn’t really think the media can impact a team (unless the team lets it), and he thinks about some of the bigger-picture issues in coaching.

Among those is the minutes players play, and the criticism coaches get for playing guys too much or too little. Speaking with Ethan Sherwood Strauss for TrueHoop Van Gundy went on a little rant about minutes and the perception of it.

The second thing that’s curious, could be in all sports is supposedly now, if we go back 30 or 40 years, maybe only 20. Supposedly now, our athletes are better, they’re bigger, stronger faster athletes.

We’ve got better training, OK. We’ve got better nutrition. We’ve got all this technology. Our travel is a lot better. They’re not traveling commercial. Everything is set up better, and yet, they’re not capable of playing the minutes or pitching the innings that guys did 30 or 40 years ago! I don’t get that. And it’s not like players are hurt less now than players in those years. Those guys used to play every day. They played 82 games, they played 40 minutes a game. Now, supposedly all these great improvements we made, our athletes aren’t capable of doing that….

One of the knocks when I was working for Pat Riley was, “Oh, his practices were so hard. You go to him, it’s going to shorten your career.” Then I look around and say, well, Patrick Ewing played a damn long time. Charles Oakley played a damn long time. And Derek Harper played in his 30s and played a long time. And Mo Cheeks. And it’s, “C’mon!” Where’s the evidence of this?

Van Gundy points to Gregg Popovich resting guys but having the knowledge that his team and players are going to make the playoffs — he has a luxury to do this that Rick Carlisle in Dallas or Rick Adelman in Minnesota may not.

I think one of the key things not discussed is the level of play and the smaller margin for error.

I’m not saying today’s players are better than the guys 30 years ago, but when the Lakers and Warriors (or Knicks and Sixers or whatever) played back then both teams were tired and if the shooting percentage dipped or the game slowed down a little it was just kind of accepted as part of it. Now, that drop off could and would be exploited by an opponent and leads to a loss. And if the guys are worn down come the playoffs it will show up fast.

So the reduced minutes is less about “can you make Kyrie Irving play 40 minutes a night?” and more “at what point does a fatigued Irving not play at the level he needs to for this team?” If he is tired at the end of the game and the other team’s star is fresh, who wins a close game? I’d be curious what Van Gundy would say about that argument.

But it’s situational and varies player to player, team to team. There are no rules here, which is why fans and media will always second guess coaches. Fair or not.

Rumor: Pistons among teams considering Markelle Fultz trade

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Markelle Fultz remains away from the 76ers, getting treatment for his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome while the rest of his teammates try to adjust to playing with Jimmy Butler (which is going better for some than others).

The sense around the league is the Sixers still plan to trade Fultz, they’re just waiting for better offers to come in, the first round was very lowball.

A few teams are kicking the tires on a trade, and among them are the Pistons, reports Rod Beard of the Detroit News.

Let’s be clear, nothing is close on any Sixers trade of Fultz right now. Teams are just testing the waters.

It’s an interesting idea for Detroit, the chance to add a player who was a high draft pick —  but only if they think he’s healthy and can get over his mental hurdles (his agent said there aren’t any, it’s all physical, and most of the league laughed at that). Also, the sides need to find a trade that works. Fultz, as a No. 1 pick, is not cheap, he makes $8.3 million this season and is guaranteed $9.7 next season, then $12.3 million the season after that (unless whatever team has his rights and just cuts bait on that last season).

The Pistons are flirting with the luxury tax line right now, their $123.3 million payroll is just about $500,000 below the tax line, so Detroit will not be taking on any salary in any potential trade. They also sent out last year’s first-round pick in the Blake Griffin trade, so they can’t trade this year’s, and likely would not include a pick anyway. A deal centered around Ish Smith or Langston Galloway plus Zaza Pachulia works (after Dec. 15 when Pachulia becomes available to trade). Both provide guard depth and Galloway offers Philly some shooting (34.9 percent taking 65 percent of his shots from three this season). Reggie Bullock also could be part of a trade.

There are options. Right now the Pistons are among the teams kicking the tires on a trade, but we are a long way from it actually happening.

Pacers fans epically bad at tic-tac-toe (video)

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Trail Blazers fans are off the hook.

A couple Pacers fans are also terrible at tic-tac-toe.

Pacers:

I can’t rule out this being staged, which is disappointing.

But if genuine – wow.

Spencer Dinwiddie signs three-year, $34 million extension to stay with Nets

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There were a lot of general managers eyeing Spencer Dinwiddie as a quality point guard they could grab on the free agent market this summer at a fair price. The hardworking point guard out of the University of Colorado has averaged 16.9 points and 4.8 assists for the Nets this season, is shooting 36.8 percent from three, knows how to be a good floor general, and while a lot of fans may not know his name smart front offices around the league saw an above-average point guard that would fit their system.

Which is why the Nets decided to lock him up and not let him leave Brooklyn. The team announced the deal, Dinwiddie himself confirmed it, and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN had the details.

That’s an above the league average but low starter money, and it’s a good deal for Dinwiddie, who is making $1.6 million this year and that’s the largest payday of his career.

If you don’t know what Dinwiddie can do on the court, go ask the Sixers — he dropped 39 on them last night.

The Nets are trying to build a culture and have a core of smart, solid players to put stars around, and Dinwiddie fits right into this model. They could have tried to lowball him and save some money, but that came with the risk of losing him this summer. The Nets decided to take care of their own instead, a good sign for the franchise.

Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas undergoes surgery on dislocated thumb, out a month

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It was clear it was bad when it happened. Not because of the violence of the play by Draymond Green — no foul was called, and the hand is part of the ball by rule in these cases — but because of Jonas Valanciunas‘ reaction. The man was in a lot of pain.

With 8 minutes to go in the second quarter of the Raptors win Wednesday night, Valanciunas got the ball with Green on him and decided to back down the smaller player, Green reached in and swiped down knocking the ball away but getting Valanciunas’ hand in the process.

Thursday the Raptors announced that Valanciunas had surgery on his dislocated left thumb and will be out at least a month.

This is a blow to the Raptors’ frontline depth, although they still have plenty of talent up front. Serge Ibaka starts most nights at center, and at times the Raptors go small and put breakout player Pascal Siakam at the five. However, Valanciunas is their matchup for other bigger, more traditional centers, or sometimes coach Nick Nurse tries him to force a mismatch. Valanciunas is averaging 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a night playing nearly 19 minutes a night, the Raptors defense is 3 points per 100 possessions better, and the Raptors outscore opponents by 5.4 per 100 when he is on the court. It will not be easy to fill his minutes.

The Raptors are 23-7 and the team in first place in the East having just knocked off the Clippers and Warriors in back-to-back nights on the road. They look like contenders, but they could use Valanciunas to help them get through the regular season (he’s harder to play in the postseason, but we’re not there yet).