In his rookie season, Roy Hibbert averaged 7.7 personal fouls per 36 minutes. You can’t stay on the court that way. Pacers coaches worked hard on teaching him how to play vertically — jump straight up and down and referees are less likely to make a call, even if there is contact. Don’t swing at the ball and try to block it, just be vertical when you go up. The past three seasons Hibbert has not averaged more than 4.4 fouls per 36 minutes, which is good considering how much the Pacers rely on him to protect the paint.
That brings us to Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas, who is on everybody’s breakout players list — we’ve been telling you since Summer League. However, one of one of the issues he needs to get over to fulfill that promise is picking up fouls (4.6 per 36 minutes). He got sent to the bench too often after picking up early fouls last season.
Raptors coaches are working with Valanciunas on playing vertical, reports David Aldridge at NBA.com.
“He’s still learning,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said Saturday. “The main thing with him is he had such a long way to go to learn the NBA, just the nuances of the NBA, the timing, the quickness … he came in blind. We had to tell him who the players were, what their strengths were. And he missed all of training camp last year. That start [last season] was a lot of him not knowing what was going on, and getting his timing back. As the year got better, he got better….”
The Raptors have worked with him extensively on the “Hibbert” (named after Roy, of course) defense — jumping vertically to challenge shooters instead of reaching and hacking.
“He’s far more comfortable in the NBA games,” Casey said. “More confident, moving with more confidence, understanding where to go, what to do…. And defensively, understanding the nuances of the NBA, the speed of the NBA. We need a rim protector and he needs to be a rim protector for us.”
Valanciunas has looked good in Summer League and in preseason, which counts for zip when the games get real in a couple weeks. Valanciunas still has to prove he can do this when it matters.
But he’s a guy to watch for a breakout year (and could be a good fantasy sleeper grab).
There are Lakers fans that balked at the idea the franchise would trade their best three young players — Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball — for Anthony Davis. Those fans thought that (plus first round picks and salary filler) was too steep a price.
Kobe Bryant disagrees.
Kobe is on a global tour (he was just in China to help with the draw for the FIBA World Cup) and there spoke with the Spanish language sports powerhouse AS.com, and when asked about the possible trade for Davis and the impact on the team, Kobe said this (hat tip Reddit user hoodiefern for posting and translating):
“Kuzma, Lonzo, Ingram… are the three of them better than Anthony Davis? No! Ciao! Bye! Anthony Davis is one of the best players in the world. Not currently, in history. What are we talking about? If you can trade for Anthony Davis, you do it. If not, alright. We have three players who are very young and work hard. They’re smart and they have to develop. But if you can trade for Anthony Davis… yes!”
In the NBA, talent wins and Davis is as talented a player as the league has when unleashed (he has been reined in with the Pelicans since the trade deadline). Put Davis next to LeBron James and the Lakers can quickly become a genuine threat in the West. Whether New Orleans is willing to play along is another question, which is why the Lakers also are focused on free agency.
Elite talent alone is not enough — a lesson the Lakers brass did not take to heart this season. Stars such as LeBron and Davis (or Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, etc.) can thrive in any system because of their talent, but around them needs to be a system and role players picked to fit said system. Want to run a lot of pick-and-roll and/or isolations? Better get shooters who can knock down kick-out passes. Want to play uptempo? Better get athletes who thrive in that system, and shooters. Back in Kobe’s era, the Lakers were a triangle team but the non-stars fit the system and were good shooters of the era (think Derek Fisher, a guard who fit the triangle well but did not thrive in other systems).
Kobe gets that, but he knows the hardest part of the equation to get is the elite talent because there simply isn’t much of it.
The Lakers should be willing to trade their young players for a talent upgrade, but beyond that they still need an identity and players who fit whatever that identity/system is. Oh, and they need shooters.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Memphis Grizzlies guard/forward C.J. Miles is expected to miss the remainder of the season after injuring his left foot over the weekend.
Miles left a 135-128 loss to the Washington Wizards on Saturday due to left foot soreness. The Grizzlies announced Tuesday that an MRI revealed a stress reaction.
The 6-foot-6 Miles appeared in 53 games this season for the Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors. The Grizzlies acquired him from Toronto in the Marc Gasol trade Feb. 7.
Miles came off the bench in 13 games with the Grizzlies and averaged 9.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 22.6 minutes.
With his recent outburst at hecklers in Utah, Russell Westbrook ignited a long-overdue discussion of how fans interact with players during games. The Jazz even recently banned a fan who repeatedly called Westbrook “boy” last year.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t an isolated case of that racist language being used toward a player.
Pistons Blake Griffin confronted a fan in Minnesota in December.
Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
The fan was seemingly ejected. The Timberwolves didn’t respond to questions whether he faced additional punishment.
I’m all for good-natured heckling. Racist taunts are completely unacceptable – and maybe still more common than we realized. Because Griffin didn’t get as enraged as Westbrook on video, this got swept under the rug.
It shouldn’t be Griffin’s responsibility to fix this. Teams must do a better job holding accountable fans who cross the line.
Jim Boylen is making friends within the Bulls.
Outside the organization? Not so much.
Boylen and Doc Rivers got ejected for yelling at each other during the Clippers’ win over Chicago on Friday. Rivers blamed Boylen for instigating.
Then, Boylen called timeout with the Bulls up 14 and 40 seconds left against the Suns last night. Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov appeared to take exception.
The Suns intentionally fouled, stopping Chicago from running its after-timeout play. As the game ended, Boylen gave the customary wave to the opposing coach – and was clearly rebuffed.
Kellan Olson of 98.7 Arizona Sports:
Was Boylen trying to rub in the victory? He pulled his starters during the timeout, giving him plausible deniability. It’d also be reasonable to use the timeout as a teaching opportunity for running an after-timeout play.
But the Suns don’t have to like being used for practice. They’re in the midst of a trying season, especially Kokoskov. His bitterness is understandable.
I don’t think either coach was wrong here. Both were doing what was best for their teams. The Bulls should get experience running situational plays. The Suns should find motivation to no longer get treated like a pushover.
Boylen strayed further from the accepted norms, but I rarely support unwritten rules. If the Suns didn’t like it, they should have done something about it – which they did by fouling to stop Chicago’s play. It was petty, but it was well within their rights. Just like the Bulls were calling timeout.