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.

LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant make top 10 of Forbes highest-paid athletes list

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LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant make more money off the court in endorsements than they do in salary from their teams. Which is not a surprise.

It’s enough money to vault them into the top 10 of FORBES Magazine’s list of highest-paid athletes for the last year.

LeBron is fifth at $88.2 million, of which $37.4 million is salary (although Forbes lists it as much less). Stephen Curry is sixth at $74.4 million, and Durant is seventh at $69.3 million.

Rounding out basketball players in the top 20 are Russell Westbrook at 12th ($56 million), James Harden at 17th $47.8 million, and Giannis Antetokounmpo at $47.6 million. Overall, 34 NBA players are in the top 100, including rookie Zion Williamson at 57th ($27.3 million).

Tennis legend Roger Federer topped the list at $106.3 million, and he was followed by soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar, before we got to LeBron.

Despite all the work that goes into them, these Forbes estimates have a reputation for being off the mark. That said, it makes for a fun debate and ranking, and we could all use that right now.

Stephen Jackson speaks passionately at a rally in remembrance of his “twin” George Floyd

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Stephen Jackson, the former NBA player and current ESPN analyst, knew George Floyd from when he pair grew up near each other in Texas.

Friday, Jackson spoke about the man he called his “twin” at a rally Minneapolis City Hall Rotunda (an event with Timberwolves players Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie in attendance. (Video via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, there is NSFW language involved.)

“I’m here because they’re not gonna demean the character of George Floyd, my twin. A lot of times, when police do things they know that’s wrong, the first thing they try to do is cover it up, and bring up their background, to make it seem like the bulls*** that they did was worthy. When was murder ever worthy? But if it’s a black man, it’s approved.

“You can’t tell me, when that man has his knee on my brother’s neck — taking his life away, with his hand in his pocket — that that smirk on his face didn’t say, ‘I’m protected.’ You can’t tell me that he didn’t feel that it was his duty to murder my brother, and that he knew he was gonna get away with it. You can’t tell me that wasn’t the look on his face.”

There has been a powerful reaction across the NBA world — and across the nation — in the wake of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery (a 25-year-old black man killed while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood) and Floyd. In a sport with many black players, the murders of these men were reminders of the systemic race issues still part of American culture. LeBron James captured the feelings of many players and others when he took to Instagram.

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STILL!!!! 🤬😢😤

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Derek Chauvin, the man pictured kneeling on Floyd’s neck — which he did for more than eight-and-a-half minutes — was fired from his job in the Minneapolis Police Department and was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder.

Vote on NBA restart format expected next Thursday, here are four plans on the table

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
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The NBA is almost guaranteed to return to action in July, with the games taking place in Orlando.

What format the return takes is undecided, but the owners are expected to vote on that next Thursday, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

On Friday’s conference call with owners, Adam Silver reportedly laid out four options for them, something Shams Charania of The Athletic reported.

There was no consensus behind any one option, teams are all lobbying for what they want to see. Come next Thursday, Adam Silver is going to have to make a recommendation and get everyone to line up behind it, something the owners and players will do. This is Silver’s call.

Let’s break those options down.

• 16 teams going directly into playoffs. This is the cleanest, most straightforward option, and it has support from a number of owners. This keeps the number of people in the bubble relatively small, making it easier to maintain the safety of players, coaches, staff, and everyone involved. The league likely would keep the conference format rather than go to 1-16 seeding (many owners from the Eastern Conference and coastal cities reportedly are not fans of 1-16 and fear if they do it once, even in this unique season, it would become a regular thing).

One downside is players have asked for some regular season games — or games with meaning — before the playoffs to get their legs under them, this does not provide any (increasing the risk of injury). The other downside is this takes almost half the NBA’s markets and tells them “you’re done, no games from March until Christmas (the expected date for the tip-off of next season, or maybe a week or two earlier). That’s a long time without games and can hurt momentum for those franchises.

• 20 teams, group play for the first round. This is the World Cup soccer idea, with four groups of five teams each and the top two teams in each group advancing to the playoffs. Some fans and teams backed this idea because it provided a bit of randomness to the mix — soccer sees a lot of upsets in this format. On the flip side, the top teams were not fans of this plan for the same reason.

The buzz around the league is this format is basically dead to the owners.

• 22 teams with regular season games to determine seeding, followed by a play-in tournament to the 16-team playoffs. This idea, in a couple of different forms (one with just 20 teams, some with 24) has some momentum. The idea is the 22 teams — all teams within six games off the last playoff spot in each conference, which is the Wizards in the East and the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, and Suns in the West — would play eight regular season games, then standings at the end of those games would set up the play-in tournament for the eighth seed. After that, the playoffs would start. This gets more markets involved, gets some regular season games (helping some regional sports networks), and still has a full playoffs.

There are downsides. It brings more people into the bubble and is that risk worth the reward? There are going to be some meaningless regular season games here, both by teams eliminated and teams locked into their playoff spots (the Lakers and Bucks will treat these games like exhibitions). It also adds a couple of weeks to the season and pushes the end-date back deeper into September and maybe October.

• 30 teams, a regular season to get to 72 games, then a play-in tournament followed by the playoffs. This is the idea to “finish” the regular season. We’re not going to waste time on it because my sources, and those of other reporters, have called this one dead on arrival.

Silver is going to get lobbied all week by different factions backing different plans, but by next Thursday he has to pick a one he can sell to owners and to players. There are no good options, he has to choose the least bad one.

From there, players will get called back to market for workouts and the clock will start.

So long as the league can keep everyone safe.

Bradley Beal: Contract extension gives Wizards opportunity, me flexibility

Wizards guard Bradley Beal
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Bradley Beal, through word and action, has shown an incredibly strong commitment to the Wizards.

But is there an opening to pry him from Washington?

Beal on his contract extension, via “All The Smoke“:

It was definitely tough. I came down to damn near the deadline on my decision, because I kind of play devil’s advocate. The whole year, I’m weighing pros and cons of staying or leaving, signing and not signing. Do I wait and try to sign this summer? Or do I wait and try to get traded? Or do I wait and play my contract out? So, I had a bunch of options.

I secured two more years. I have two more years here. Well, three. And, so for me, it was like that puts me – to me, I don’t think I’m going to hit my prime until I’m – what? – 29, 28, 29, 30? And so I feel like – at the end of this extension, it puts me right there. And it so kind of puts me in the prime time of my basketball. And so it still gives me the flexibility with also giving my respects and loyalty to the organization that drafted me. So, I’m still giving you all an opportunity here to make it with work with John, to make it work with everybody. So, here we go. We’ve got a couple more years. And granted, I think my extension is the length of John’s contract, as well. So, this is the time we’ve got. We’re going to see what we can do, and we’re going to make it work.

Beal on the Nets being interested in trading for him, via Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

“It’s not the first time I’ve heard this kind of talk,” Beal told ESPN. “It’s interesting. To me, I look at it as a sign of respect, that I’ve been doing good things and guys want to play with me.

“That’s an unbelievable feeling. When you hear that Kyrie [Irving] and KD [Kevin Durant] want you, s—, that’s amazing. At the same time, you don’t know how much there is to it, or how easy it would be to do. And I’ve put down roots in D.C. I’ve dedicated myself to this town, this community. I love it here, and it would feel great to know I could grind out winning here instead of jumping to another team.

“But I’d be naive to say that I don’t think about it when these stories come up.”

Beal, 26, is locked up two more seasons. Both he and John Wall have player options for 2022-23. Beal’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, declared: “There are no Beal Sweepstakes.”

Everything Beal has said and done about staying in Washington is far more concrete than anything he has indicated about leaving.

But…

It’s interesting how close he came to not signing his extension. It’s interesting he publicly admitted to thinking about trade interest from other teams.

To me, Beal sounds like Anthony Davis – after years of stating loyalty to the Pelicans – subtly hinting he was dissatisfied in New Orleans. The key: Davis requested a trade only after the Pelicans kept struggling to build around him.

Beal is giving the Wizards an opportunity. Maybe they can assemble a winner around him. But even if Wall gets healthy, that’s a tough job.

If Washington becomes successful in the next couple years, great. That’s easy. Beal seems to be looking for reasons to stay.

But if the Wizards keep losing the next couple years, other teams will definitely line up to acquire the star shooting guard. Many players in that situation have greased the wheels of their exit by saying they won’t re-sign or even outright requesting a trade.

We’ll see how Washington does. We’ll see what Beal does at that point.

Considering Beal previously said he’d finish his career with the Wizards if he can control it, these recent interviews leave the door cracked slightly – only slightly – more ajar for Beal to depart.