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.

Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett Hall of Fame induction pushed back to May

Kobe Hall of Fame
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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Kobe Bryant and the rest of this year’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class won’t be inducted in 2020 – or at the birthplace of basketball.

The Hall announced Friday that the enshrinement ceremony will be held May 13-15, 2021, and the entire festivities will be moved to Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.

This year was to be a highlight for the Hall of Fame, located in Springfield, Massachusetts. Bryant, killed in January in a helicopter crash, headlined a decorated class featuring Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett that would have been enshrined in the recently renovated museum.

But the coronavirus pandemic scuttled those plans and hit the Hall so hard that it eliminated several full-time positions and cut senior management pay in the 25-40% range.

“These are people who have been a big part of the Hall’s success in recent years; it hurts deeply,” said John Doleva, President and CEO of the Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “The decision to reschedule Enshrinement into May of next year, along with diminished museum guest visitation and a very uncertain future regarding our multiple collegiate and high school basketball events this fall, has forced us to make these very difficult decisions. Our goal now is to conserve resources so that we may stabilize in 2021 and return to our growth trajectory in 2022 and beyond.”

“For this single event, and only because of the pandemic, we will relocate the entire event one time to Mohegan Sun which has been a long-time marketing partner of the Hall. Mohegan Sun has shown they can effectively operate a ‘near-bubble’ for our event which provides a more secure environment for our guests,” Doleva explained. “In making this announcement today, our goal is to provide this date and location change with ample notice for our network broadcast partners, nationally and internationally traveling guests and the many basketball constituents the Hall serves.”

Mohegan Sun is a long-time partner of the Hall. Doleva says it can operate a “near-bubble” to provide a secure environment for guests.

 

Vlade Divac steps down as Kings GM; Joe Dumars takes over in interim

Vlade Divac out
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Days after the Kings’ playoff drought reached 14 seasons — second-longest in league history and only one year behind the Donald Sterling Clippers — the repercussions hit GM Vlade Divac and he is out.

Divac has stepped down as the Kings’ general manager, the team announced Friday. Joe Dumars, the former Pistons GM who had been working as a consultant with the team, will step in during the interim while the search for a new GM takes place.

“This was a difficult decision, but we believe it is the best path ahead as we work to build a winning team that our loyal fans deserve,” Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé said in a statement. “We are thankful for Vlade’s leadership, commitment and hard work both on and off the court. He will always be a part of our Kings’ family.”

While there are legitimate questions about the job Luke Walton did in his first season in Sacramento, his job is safe, something first reported by Sam Amick of The Athletic and since confirmed by James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. The Kings also said there will be no other major roster moves made until a new GM is in place.

“Joe has become a trusted and valued advisor since joining the team last year, and I am grateful to have him take on this role at an important time for the franchise,” said Ranadivé.

Divac was a member of the best Kings’ teams ever (during the Chris Webber era) and is in the Hall of Fame as a player. Playing and being a GM, however, are two very different skill sets. Divac did sign a contract extension with the Kings a year-and-a-half ago.

The NBA restart bubble was not kind to the Kings, and that ultimately doomed Divac.

After a promising finish as the ninth seed a season ago, playing a fast-paced style that suited young star De'Aaron Fox, Divac made a move to switch coaches last off-season and fired Dave Joerger to hire Walton. However, under Walton the Kings played slower and were much easier to defend. The Kings did get healthy and start to find a groove right before the league was shut down, going 7-3 in those last 10, but once in the bubble Sacramento was a mess again with a bottom-10 defense in Orlando, and they finished 3-5 in the seeding games.

The salt in the wound in Orlando — and what really eats at Kings’ fans — was the elite play of Luka Doncic in Orlando, and all season long.

Divac — who had scouted in Europe and has deep connections there — chose to use the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft on Marvin Bagley out of Duke instead of Doncic. While the Kings had scouted Doncic extensively (Ranadive even went to Europe to watch him play and backed taking Doncic), Divac and the front office staff thought the athleticism of Bagley gave him a higher upside than Doncic. (Scouts were often divided on Doncic: Nobody thought he would be bad, but some questioned his ceiling because he already had so much polish to his game and he’s not an explosive athlete by NBA standards. Divac and the rest of the Kings’ front office fell into this camp.) Plus, Divac liked the idea of a big man to pair with their point guard Fox, rather than bringing in another ball handler in Doncic.

Doncic almost certainly will make an All-Seeding Games team out of the bubble in Orlando, and in his second NBA season is an MVP candidate (he will get bottom of the ballot votes). Bagley did not play in any seeding games due to another injury, this one to his foot.

Moving on from Divac may be the right move for the Kings, but it begs the question: Who are they going to hire to replace him? What is the new GM’s basketball philosophy and what kind of team does he want to build? And, will he have the power to do it, or will Ranadive keep his reputation as an owner who likes to meddle in basketball operations?

The Kings need a change — but they need the right change. That will be the tricky part.

Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr. taken off court on stretcher after collision

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It was the kind of play that happens countless times a game: Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr. was trying to chase Doug McDermott over an off-ball (and moving) screen when collided with pick-setting 6’11” center Goga Bitadze.

This ended up being no standard collision — Jones’ head and neck whipped back, and he instantly went to the ground.

Jones was grabbing his neck at first and was on the ground for about 10 minutes — in the eerie silence of a fanless bubble arena in Orlando — before being taken off the court on a stretcher.

The good news is Jones has just suffered a neck strain, the team announced. There is no timeline for his return, but this could have been much worse.

The Heat and the Pacers, who already have tension between them thanks to a beef between Jimmy Butler and T.J. Warren, will face each other in the first round of the playoffs starting Monday.

Jones, who tested positive for the coronavirus before coming to Orlando (and was quarantined), will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He has been making the NBA minimum since coming into the league and was in line for a life-changing payday this summer after playing strong defense while averaging 8.6 points per game — and some spectacular dunks — in nearly 23 minutes a night for Miami. Our thoughts are with him after this incident.

The time Shaq peed in Suns teammate Lou Amundson’s shoes – and worse!

Suns players Lou Amundson and Shaquille O'Neal (Shaq)
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Gilbert Arenas has earned a reputation as the NBA player who relieved himself in a teammate’s shoe (Wizards forward Andray Blatche’s).

But Arenas’ tactic wasn’t unique.

Shaquille O’Neal got into a prank war with Suns teammate Lou Amundson during the 2008-09 season. It got intense as Phoenix, coached by Alvin Gentry, reached the final game of its season.

ESPN’s Amin Elhassan on “The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz” local hour, hosted by Mike Ryan:

Shaq is the big prankster, the big joker. But if you do something against him, there’s no tit for tat. There’s tit for nuclear war.

He goes to Lou’s locker, grabs his sneakers, pees in them.

That’s the start, right? He then goes and let’s just say “messes with” some of Lou’s haircare devices, like his brush and his comb and stuff. Messes with them. Let me put it this way: Messes with them in a way that – I was comfortable telling you he peed in the shoes. I’m not comfortable telling you what he did to the hair stuff. And then this part, I will tell you: He tampers with Lou’s mouth guard.

He tampers with it.

He tampers with it.

Lou shows up at like 8 or whenever he usually shows up. And he’s skittish and nervous. And Suns.com is there like, “What do you think Shaq is going to do?” “I don’t know. I think he’s going to do something, though.”

So, I’ll never forget this. He’s sitting at the locker, and he opens – he starts to reach for the sneakers and then looks at them and says, “Nah, something doesn’t feel right.” Opens the door up, pulls out a fresh pair of sneakers for the last game of the year, right? Again, this is irregular behavior. Usually, you have a couple of sneakers. You break them in for the year, and you switch between two or three or three or four, whatever. So to break out a whole brand new pair … was weird.

Most of the time when you’re an NBA player, you don’t put on the mouth guard immediately. You have it in a case, and you give the case to the trainer. Then, you go out to the bench. Then, when you’re about to come into the game, that’s when you grab your mouthpiece.

There’s no funnier image than Alvin drawing up a play, kneeling down, coaches standing around him. Lou is sitting there, because now he’s in the game. The guys who are in the game are usually seated. Sitting there just staring at the clipboard, like, “OK, coach. I got you.” And everyone else is just staring at Lou. No one’s paying attention.

Puts the mouth guard in. One, two [sounds of disgust], takes the mouth guard out and flings it with tremendous accuracy at the bench. Everyone starts dying. I remember going back and watching the broadcast, “Oh, Suns bench seems to be getting a lot of fun.” They had no idea what’s happening.

What did Shaq do to Amundson’s mouth guard? My imagination is running WILD.

Elhassan also explains why Grant Hill took 25 shots – his most in four years – in that game. Hill needed to score 26 points to average 12 points per game for the season, which would trigger a large bonus in his shoe contract. Hill’s gunning got him 27 points.

It’s a good podcast with other fun anecdotes and worth a listen.