The Extra Pass: Gay, Wallace and D-Will on notice, plus Tuesday’s recaps

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It’s early. Early, early, early. I don’t want to condemn anyone based on ten games, but it’s time to wonder what’s going on with Rudy Gay, Gerald Wallace and Deron Williams.

Rudy Gay – He’s been chucking, but his chucking has now reached historic levels.

Through 11 games, Gay has shot under 40 percent from the field on 20 attempts per game while averaging less than two assists a night. In the shot clock era, he’s the only player to ever do that.

There have been a lot of inefficient, high volume scorers in the history of the league, but Gay is on pace to make those guys look unselfish in comparison. Pass the ball, Rudy.

Gerald Wallace – Wallace has the yips. Much like a player who suddenly can’t throw to first base, he’s completely in his own head. You can hide a little better on the court than on the diamond, but it’s still pretty apparent that something is up.

Wallace’s struggles shooting the ball began when he was traded to the Nets, and he’s deteriorated offensively ever since. Wallace has flat out stopped shooting altogether this year, as he’s averaging just 5.2 shots per 36 minutes. That’s less than half the attempts he’s averaged on his career.

In 309 minutes this year, Wallace hasn’t attempted a single shot that wasn’t at the rim or a three-pointer. Not a one. From the free throw line, he’s a dreadful 5-for-17.

Wallace has been incredibly outspoken about Boston’s poor play this year, citing selfish play as the root of the problem. Is Wallace making a point with his decision not to shoot, or is he searching for a way to justify his fear of shooting?

Deron Williams – While I’m playing armchair psychologist, I may as well try to tackle Williams’ early season struggles. Injuries have taken their toll once again, but doesn’t this feel like a familiar song at this point?

Here are Williams’ averages in the first month of each season over the last four years:

2013-14: 8 games, 25.4 minutes, 10 points, 41.9 field goal percentage, 50.5 true shooting percentage.

2012-13: 15 games, 35.6 minutes, 15.7 points, .38.8 field goal percentage, 51 true shooting percentage.

2011-12: 4 games, 32.7 minutes, 16.5 points, 34.9 field goal percentage, 46.8 true shooting percentage.

2010-11: 3 games, 34.7 minutes, 15.3 points, 35.3 field goal percentage, 53.7 true shooting percentage.

Point being, Williams is a notorious slow starter. It’s hard to find reasons to be optimistic about Brooklyn’s chances right now, but if history is any indicator, Williams should be heating up soon.

Help is on the way for Brooklyn, even if Williams’ habit of using the first ten games of the year as his own personal preseason is more than a little troubling.

The Nets need Williams and the rest of their roster for the playoffs more than anything else, but you’d like to think that the nagging injuries and slow starts every year could be avoided.

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Is Jalen right?

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Wizards 104, Timberwolves 100: Minnesota led by a dozen at the half and seemed to be in control. Then the Timberwolves took the second half off while the Wizards finally got out and ran (as they should do more of). Minnesota’s transition defense was terrible. Bradley Beal had 17 of his 25 in the second half to help spark the comeback. Nene added 20 points, John Wall had 16 assists including one to Martell Webster for what was the game winner. Washington just executed better down the stretch. After his play most of the game Ricky Rubio was benched in favor of J.J. Barea down the stretch.

Pistons 92, Knicks 86: New York was without Raymond Felton but that doesn’t begin to fully explain how the Knicks could not take advantage of what up to this point has been the worst defense in the NBA this season. Carmelo Anthony was 8-of-20 with seven turnovers and spent much of the night hunting for fouls rather than just playing ball. The Knicks play without any identity. Rodney Stuckey had 21 points for Detroit — not because of his good shot selection but because the contested jumpers just fell for a night. Doesn’t matter, the Pistons will take it. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond combined to be 12-of-15 shooting for 29 points, Josh Smith had 19 points and played good defense on Anthony.

Heat 104, Hawks 88: Atlanta came in only turning ball over on 13.9 percent of possessions this season. Against Miami they turned it over on 26.2 percent of their possessions (24 times) — better than one-in-four trips down the court resulted in a turnover. And that is the cardinal sin against the Heat who then get out and run. Mario Chalmers had 12 points in the third quarter to help the Heat pull away, Ray Allen had 12 in the fourth to keep it that way. No Dwyane Wade so it was Chris Bosh who stepped up with 19 points on 9 shots.

Rockets 109, Celtics 85: Houston opened the game on an 18-1 run, went on to lead by 35 at one point, and this was a complete and total blowout. Terrence Jones is making the case that he is the starting four next to Dwight Howard on this team, putting up 24 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. Even in a blowout, Omer Asik only got seven minutes, but that’s seven more than the last couple games. Boston just had no fight in them, as Gerald Wallace said after the game: “I don’t know what the (expletive) tonight was.”

Kings 107, Suns 104: Phoenix was without Eric Bledsoe but took the lead in the second quarter behind 12 points from Archie Goodwin (who saw that coming? Goodwin finished with 16). The Suns led by 14 in the third and seemed in control until a 10-2 Kings’ run to close out the third made it close. In the fourth Isaiah Thomas (9 points in the fourth) and DeMarcus Cousins (27 points on the night) closed the door and got Sacramento the win as the Kings shot 50 percent in the final frame and Phoenix 32 percent. The Suns have led in the fourth quarter of all 10 games they have played this year but are 5-5.

Kings’ De’Aaron Fox: ‘I don’t crave to be in a big market’

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De'Aaron Fox was the breakout star of the Kings’ breakthrough season. The future looks bright in Sacramento.

But we’ve seen this story play out so many times. A young player excels in a small market then eventually moves to a more desirable destination. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George.

Will Fox be different?

Fox, via Corban Goble of ONE37pm:

“I don’t crave to be in a big market,” he says. “After last season, there was a buzz in Sacramento. Everyone in Sacramento is a Kings fan. If we start making the playoffs, or if we become a championship contender, the entire city is going to go nuts. That’s the difference between a big market and a small one.”

I’m glad Fox is happy in Sacramento. He had minimal say in getting there. The Kings picked him in a draft that gives teams massive control over top young prospects. That he landed somewhere he likes so much was largely coincidental. He could’ve easily wound up with Boston, Phoenix, Orlando, Minnesota or any other team picking in that range.

Some of this is Fox’s attitude. I suspect he would’ve found joy nearly anywhere. Now, he’s with the Kings and feeling positively about them.

They’ll have to continue to keep him happy as he approaches free agency. Unrestricted free agency is still several years away. A lot can change between now and then.

But Sacramento ought to feel good about Fox’s outlook now.

Damian Lillard on leaving Trail Blazers for super team: ‘We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?’

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Kevin Durant left for the Warriors for many reasons. LeBron James left for the Heat for many reasons. Anthony Davis and Paul George forced their way to Los Angeles for many reasons.

Those are life-altering moves. Nobody does something so consequential for a single purpose.

But whether or not it intended, each of those stars took an easier route to a championship. That’s just the reality.

Damian Lillard, on the other hand, has done so much to elevate himself then pull up the Trail Blazers with him. Lillard has often touted his loyalty to Portland. He showed it by signing a super-max extension that locks him in through 2025.

Lillard, via Adam Caparell of Complex:

“To leave, what did I invest all this time for just to leave, you know?” he says. “If I go play with three other stars, I don’t think that many people would doubt that I could win it. We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?”

I disagree with Lillard’s certainty about winning a title if he teamed with other stars. Not every perceived super team has won. A championship still must be earned. It’s not easy.

But it would be easier.

It also probably wouldn’t be as rewarding.

Durant has admitted winning a championship with Golden State didn’t fill the void he thought it would. Maybe for other reasons, but it’s easy to see the Warriors’ talent advantage as a reason. He joined a title contender and made it even better. He didn’t build that team. Perhaps, a championship with the Nets would mean more to him.

Lillard is less likely to win a title by staying Portland. I think he knows that. He enjoys the city, and the $196 million he projects to earn on his four-year extension doesn’t hurt, either.

But if Lillard ever wins a championship with the Trail Blazers, it would be so gratifying. That’s what he’s chasing.

Lillard made clear he’s not criticizing stars who chose an alternate path. He’s doing what’s right for him, just as they did what was right for them.

His quest should earn him plenty of fans. For everyone who disliked Durant joining Golden State because it offended their sensibilities of how a title pursuit should work, Lillard is a great foil.

Andre Iguodala recalls Draymond Green doubling Kevin Durant in practice: ‘he was mad … We was tryna win’

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Devin Booker complained to his opponents for double-teaming him during a pick-up game.

That has sparked a Great National Debate: Is it right or wrong to double-team during pick-up games?

Kevin Durant:

That’s a reasonable conclusion. The primary defender is missing an opportunity to work on his defense by getting help. But I also think it fails to address the main point. Booker wasn’t complaining to help the defender. Booker wanted the ideal training environment for himself, the offensive player.

How should the offensive player feel about it?

It’s a reasonably interesting question that’s getting taken far too seriously because the NBA is in a dead period. But to give it more juice, let’s add the Kevin Durant-Draymond Green relationship to the equation.

Andre Iguodala:

Durant:

It seems Durant can laugh it off now, but this story feeds into what so many people think they know about these players – that Green is a relentless competitor (accurate) and that Durant is soft (inaccurate).

NBA players spend so much time playing basketball. Sometimes, it’s helpful to face game-like conditions, where double-teams can happen at any point. Other times, it’s helpful to have more-relaxed conditions.

I don’t know enough about Booker’s pick-up game or the Warriors’ practice to say what was appropriate in each.

Report: Executives expect Thunder to say they are not trading Chris Paul (but they are)

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It’s all about leverage.

Right now the vultures are circling the Oklahoma City Thunder, hoping to get a free meal. Everyone knows the Thunder are moving into a rebuilding mode and want to trade Chris Paul for picks/young players, so other general managers — the vultures — are throwing out lowball offers hoping to get a steal of a trade. And by steal we mean making the Thunder throw in a first-round pick as a sweetener to get CP3 and the three-years, $124 million left on his contract off their books.

Oklahoma City’s response? Say “we’re not trying to trade him” and be patient. Here is how Brian Windhorst phrased it on ESPN’s The Jump (hat tip Real GM):

“Here’s what executives expect to happen: they expect the Thunder to put out a message that we’re not looking to trade Chris Paul…We want him to work with our young guys. Because they don’t want anybody to think they’re panic-trying to trade him, and they want to hope that somebody has something happen where they need Chris Paul,” said Windhorst.

Royce Young, who covers the Thunder for ESPN, added that he believed the Thunder would hold on to Chris Paul rather than surrender a draft pick.

This is the smart play. CP3 is still a top-flight point guard in the NBA, even if he has taken half a step back, and there are at least eight NBA teams going into this season thinking they have a shot at a title, and a few more looking at deep playoff runs. Some team is either going to realize they are not as good as they thought they were, or are going to suffer an injury, and be looking for an All-Star level player and replacement. Enter the Thunder and Chris Paul.

What this ultimately means is expect this to drag out. Not just through the summer and through training camp, but maybe all the way to the trade deadline.