Off Day wrap up from San Antonio: Erik Spoelstra frustrated with Mario Chalmers

24 Comments

SAN ANTONIO — Emptying out the notebook from an off day near the Alamo….

• Erik Spoelstra is generally positive about players to the press and in public. He’s never really Popovich harsh on guys.

But in his Friday press conference Spoeltra was clearly frustrated with Mario Chalmers, who played just 17 minutes in Game 1 due to foul trouble. “Rio” has had more and more fouls through the playoffs, but due to the heat and humidity in the AT&T Center during Game 1 his foul trouble presented a much bigger problem.

“That hurt last night, 17 minutes,” Spoelstra said, talking about the minutes Chalmers played in Game 1. “We were managing the minutes the best that we could and getting guys in and out, played nine guys and nobody played deep minutes, but those extra 15 or 16 minutes from Rio probably would have helped. And he needs to be more attentive to technique and earlier in his thought process. Things are happening very quickly obviously at this level of competition and your preparation before the play happens is paramount.

“Now, Rio is very important to our success, he understands that, and I believe he will be better with the next game.”

If not, that could be the first line-up change Eric Spoelstra makes.

• Chalmers admitted he has to be smarter on defense.

“Just gotta be careful with my touch fouls,” Chalmers said. “I get a lot of touch fouls and I got to figure out a way to adjust.”

• At one point during Game 1 Chris Bosh kind of grabbed Chalmers by the head to get his attention and, according to Bosh, told Chalmers to get his head in the game and make the simple pass. Chalmers pretty much backed that up.

“I was frustrated with it being the first game, Game 1 of the Finals and being in foul trouble and not be able to help my team,” Chalmers said. “I was getting a little frustrated. He was just trying to keep me in the game.”

At least they weren’t yelling at Chalmers.

Yet.

• Dwyane Wade wisely would not take the bait and talk about Gatorade. That is one of Wade’s sponsors (and the league’s) but their official twitter account criticized LeBron James for cramping up (the company later apologized). Wade said he has not spoken to anyone at Gatorade and he is too smart a pitchman to get in the middle of that one.

• Wade summing up what the heat did to the Heat: “I think part of our problem was mental and physical fatigue.”

• How did Manu Ginobili cool down after that game? “I got home, turned the AC to 64 and lay down on my couch there for a few minutes.”

• San Antonio switched up how they defended the Heat in Game 1 compared to last year’s Finals, they were more aggressive taking away space for LeBron and Wade to work, they were going over picks not under. We’ll get more into that as we get closer to Sunday, but we’re not going to break it down as well as Couper Moorhead for Heat.com, if you love the chess game of the Finals go read that.

• Gregg Popovich on “toughness”: “It depends what you mean by ‘toughness.’
Mental toughness is often confused with a blatant, physical sort of aggression, which isn’t really true. I think you have to be careful when you talk about whether this person is tough or that person it tough.”

• Popovich also had the best line of the day, talking about the air conditioning being out for Game 1: “ll I know is that I saw all the air conditioning people in the hallways on my way out last night and I sent them home.”

(He was joking, it’s fixed.)

Hawks trade Harkless, second-round pick to Thunder for Vit Krejci

0 Comments

The Atlanta Hawks just saved some money, getting under the luxury tax line. The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up a second-round pick for their trouble of taking on a contract.

The Hawks have traded Moe Harkless and a second-round pick to the Thunder for Vit Krejci the teams announced (Shams Charania of The Athletic was first).

This saves Atlanta a little over $3 million, which moves them from above the luxury tax line to $1.3 million below it. While the almighty dollar was the primary motivation in the ATL, the Hawks also pick up a development project. Krejci showed a little promise in his rookie season, appearing in 30 games and averaging 6.2 points plus 3.4 rebounds a night, before having his knee scoped in April.

Krejci was on the bubble of making the team in Oklahoma City, now the Thunder pick up a second-round pick for a guy they might have waived anyway.

Harkless, 29, is on an expiring $4.6 million contract, which fits nicely into the Disabled Player Exception the Thunder were granted for Chet Holmgren’s season-ending foot injury.

The Thunder are expected to waive Harkless and buy him out, making him a free agent. However, they could keep him and see if another trade could net them another second-round pick.

Lonzo Ball says ‘I can’t run’ or jump; Bulls’ Donovan has to plan for extended absence

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
0 Comments

Officially, Lonzo Ball will be out 4-6 weeks after getting his knee scoped this week.

However, this is his second surgery on his left knee this year — he had meniscus surgery in January, after which he was never able to return to the court — and there are concerns Ball could miss significant time again. And coach Billy Donovan has no choice but to plan for an extended absence.

Ball did a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday and it’s hard to come away from what he said overly optimistic. Rob Schaefer reported on the call for NBC Sports Chicago:

“Literally, I really can’t run. I can’t run or jump. There’s a range from, like, 30 to 60 degrees when my knee is bent that I have, like, no force and I can’t, like, catch myself. Until I can do those things I can’t play,” Ball said. “I did rehab, it was getting better, but it was not to a point where I could get out there and run full speed or jump. So surgery is the next step.”

The symptoms are something Ball said he has never dealt with and have left doctors, in his words, “a little surprised.”

It’s never good when doctors are surprised. Ball said the doctors don’t see anything on the MRI, but there is clearly something wrong, so they are going in and looking to find the issue and fix it.

Ball has been diligent in his recovery work from the start, the problem was pain in his knee. Something was still not right after the first surgery. Whatever it is.

The 4-6 week timeline would have Ball back in early November, but you know they will be overly cautious with him after the past year. Coach Billy Donovan was honest — he has to plan for a season without Ball.

The Bulls need Ball in a deep and challenging East. He brings defense, pushes the pace in transition, and takes care of the rock. Chicago has other players who can do those things individually — Alex Caruso can defend, Coby White pushes in transition, Goran Dragic takes care of the ball — but the Bulls lack one player who can do all those things. At least they lack one until Ball returns.

Whenever that may be.

Deandre Ayton says he hasn’t spoken to coach Williams since Game 7

Phoenix Suns v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Four
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
0 Comments

In a Game 7 against the Mavericks last May, Suns coach Monty Williams benched center Deandre Ayton, who ended up playing just 17 minutes in an ugly, blowout loss for Phoenix. When asked about it after the game Williams said, “It’s internal.”

Ayton and Williams have not spoken since then, according to Ayton.

Yikes. Remember that includes a summer where the Suns would not offer Ayton a max contract extension so he went out and got one from the Pacers, then the Suns instantly matched it. Ayton did not sound thrilled to be back in Phoenix on Media Day, and he was rather matter-of-fact about dealing with his coach.

It’s what every fan wants to hear — “this is just my job.”

Reporters asked Williams about this and he played it off, saying he hasn’t spoken with a lot of players yet.

It’s just day one of training camp, but there are a lot of red flags around the Suns: owner Robert Sarver being suspended and selling the team, Jae Crowder not in camp waiting to be traded, and now not a lot of communication between the team’s star center and its coach.

Maybe it all amounts to nothing. Maybe the Suns get on the court, Chris Paul looks rejuvenated, Devin Booker looks like Devin Booker, and none of this matters. But what had looked like a stable situation not that long ago now has a lot of red flags flying heading into the season, and that has to concern Suns fans.

 

Report: Lakers would have traded both first-round picks for Irving, Mitchell

Utah Jazz v Brooklyn Nets
Matteo Marchi/Getty Images
0 Comments

“If you make that trade, it has to be the right one, you have one shot to do it,” Lakers GM Rob Pelinka said at media day, pulling back the curtain a little on his thinking of trading two first-round picks. “So we’re being very thoughtful around the decisions on when and how to use draft capital in a way that will improve our roster.”

That tracks with the consistent messaging out of Los Angeles all summer: The Lakers would only trade the only two first-round picks they fully control for the rest of this decade (2027 and 2029) for a deal that made them a contender.

That meant landing Kyrie Irving or Donovan Mitchell, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin said on The Hoop Collective Podcast.

“I’ve been told that had the Lakers been able to acquire, Kyrie Irving, or the Lakers been able to acquire Donovan Mitchell, either of those players, the Lakers were willing and able to move both those [first-round] picks to do it.”

The problem for the Lakers is the market price for elite talent has moved beyond two first-round picks. The Jazz got three unprotected first-round picks (2025, 2027 and 2029) plus the rights to two pick swaps (2026 and 2028) in the Mitchell trade, not to mention three players: Lauri Markkanen (who they will try to trade for another pick), Collin Sexton, and Ochair Agbaji. The price for Kyrie Irving would have been at least as high, if the Nets really wanted to trade him.

The Lakers traded all of their young players and most of their picks to land Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, except for the ones they let walk away (Alex Caruso). Before he was judicious in making trades like he was this offseason, Pelinka made deals that backed him into this corner.

The Lakers likely could use both picks to acquire Buddy Hield and Myles Turner out of Indiana (sending Westbrook back), but that doesn’t make Los Angeles a contender (a playoff team, but not a title threat) and it messes with the plan to have around $30 million in cap space next summer to chase a big name.

The Lakers you see in training camp are the Lakers you get. At least for now.