Off day wrap up from San Antonio: Tim Duncan wants to be a point guard

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SAN ANTONIO — Emptying out my notebook like people are emptying out kegs at River Walk bars….

• Tim Duncan has joked before he wants to be a point guard, and he was asked again by a reporter on Saturday if Gregg Popovich should let him.

“I’ve been arguing that point for years now and I’m going to get your name and card, and I’ll get you in a room with him,” Duncan joked.

Popovich played along.

“You see him bring it up once in a while.  He brings it up with three more dribbles than he needs to, he should throw it ahead to anybody in the same color uniform.  But he’ll get three more dribbles in, just to practice in case I do it, which I’m really going to do.”

Tony Parker does not exactly worry about his job security, and probably doesn’t have to after Duncan’s five turnovers in Game 1.

“Are we still talking about that?  I can’t believe they brought it up in the NBA Finals (laughter),” Parker joked. “It’s been a joke that Timmy thinks he’s a great quarterback, that he can be a good passer.  I disagree with that.  I want to keep my spot.”

• Popovich was asked about the three-point shot and how it has changed the game, and as you can expect with Pop he was honest and blunt:

“I hate it. To me it’s not basketball but you gotta use it. If you don’t use it, you’re in big trouble. But you sort of feel like it’s cheating. You know, like two points, that’s what you get when you make a basket. Now you get three, so you gotta deal with it. I don’t think I don’t think there’s anybody who is not dealing with it.”

• There’s been a lot of talk online and on sports talk radio about LeBron James’ comment to ESPN Friday that he’s the easiest target in sports. You can debate amongst yourselves whether that is true or not, but Shane Battier had interesting thoughts about what’s different about LeBron James’ celebrity.

“He is the first (basketball) mega-star of the twitter generation. So the world was introduced to LeBron when he was in high school as a 14-year-old, there isn’t a fact or a wrinkle or a blemish about him that the general populace doesn’t know about already. Everybody feels they know him and so everyone feels they can critique him because they’ve known him for so long. That’s not something Jordan ever had to go through, or Bird or Magic. I blame it on the information age, and it’s a sign of the times….

“LeBron is complicit in it. You accept everything that goes along with being King James, then you are complicit. Blood is on his hands, too. But he understands that and he deals with it.”

• If you’re still trying to make a conspiracy theory out of the air conditioning situation in Game 1 — and if so you need to take the tin foil hat off and seek help — I will throw you tis bone.

• We’ve written at PBT a couple of times about Boris Diaw has been a game-changer for the Spurs in this series. Here is what Chris Bosh said about the problems Diaw presents:

“He’s a crafty player, man, he’s difficult. You never know what he’s going to do. You don’t know if he’s going to shoot it, you don’t know if he is going to drive it, pass it, shoot it again, you don’t know what he’s going to do. I think his ability to do everything in that point forward position makes it difficult. He’s another one of those guys, we’re really going to have to lock in on him, and really do a number on him individually to slow him down. Because when he’s driving and kicking to guys and getting you confused, then you don’t rotate, now he’s hitting threes — he’s one of those players that confuses the hell out of you.”

• Eric Spoelstra also addressed the Boris Diaw problem.

“He’s multi dimensional, puts the ball on the floor, great vision,” the Heat coach said. “You could see with the passes that he made the other night. So we have to do what we do, but do it better, do it with a little bit more thought tendencies, and so forth.”

• Shane Battier talked about how the scouting reports he gets on players he will guard: “I get basic splits — right/left, drives, dribble jumpers vs. spot jumpers, left shoulder vs. right shoulder in the post, basic tendencies.”

So how is that different from what he got when he first entered the league?

“When I first started scouting reports consisted of ‘ya, that guy likes to go left’ and that’s it. ‘Great driver’ and it was like come on, give me a little bit more than that. Now you can tell how good a guy is driving vs. shooting, how good a guy is going left vs. going right, how often he goes left vs. right. You understand what a guy is and what he’s not.”

• Battier was asked to give something off a scouting report of a current player (not in the Finals) and chose Carmelo Anthony.

“You make Carmelo Anthony go right. When he’s on the left block make him go right. He does not want to go right. His percentages go down, his foul drawing goes down, if he goes left it is not good for the defender.”

• Spoelstra gave a shout out to Greg Oden:

“Greg Oden is one of the biggest success stories in this league, and unfortunately people are only judging him by the fact of how many minutes he plays. Two years ago people were saying he would never play the game again and he’s available every night.”

Spoelstra is right. Where most guys would have quit and lived comfortably the rest of their lives off their first contract. He worked hard to get back, to get on the Heat. Maybe he wasn’t everything Miami hoped, but that Oden is here, in the Finals, is a massive accomplishment.

James Harden working on one-legged step-back three for next season

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As if James Harden wasn’t unstoppable enough.

Harden’s step-back three has become probably the most unstoppable shot in the NBA. Now video has gone viral in NBA circles of Harden working on a one-legged, step-back three. Think Dirk Nowitzki’s one-legged jumper, but from three and with a little more side-to-side to it. (You can see the video above.) Harden talked to Tim MacMahon of ESPN about it.

“I’m not sure; it’s something that I work on,” Harden said when asked if he’ll use the one-legged, step-back 3 this season. “But you know how Mike [Jordan] has his fadeaway and Dirk [Nowitzki] has his one-leg and [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] had the sky hook, I want my step-back to be one of those moves that last forever. So when I travel around the world and I see little kids that [say], ‘Hey James, I got a step-back!’ — I love to see that.

“It’s me being a creator and me being an innovator and paving the way in basketball in my own way, doing it how I want to do it, and that’s what it’s all about. As a little kid playing in these parks, that’s what I imagined, that’s what I dreamed of. Now it’s coming to reality, so it’s pretty cool.”

Harden is going to score a lot of points… or, maybe the better way to say that is he’s going to score even more points if he gets to a point he unleashes that in a game.

The challenge this season for Harden will be balance — he’s got to share the court and the ball with Russell Westbrook. Both of them are at their best with the ball in their hands, creating in isolation, but they need to be more than that. While coach Mike D’Antoni can do some things to help with that balance (staggering their minutes as much as possible) for the Rockets to become the contenders they want to be Harden and Westbrook have to be more than “your turn, now it’s my turn” on offense.

But when it’s Harden’s turn, that one-legged step back will be fun to watch.

Derrick White didn’t lose teeth, passes concussion test after nasty fall in USA loss

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There were plenty of ugly things for Team USA in its loss to Australia on Saturday — most of them on the defensive end — but later in the day on Saturday there was some good news.

It sounds like point guard Derrick White will be fine after his nasty fall and face plant during the game, reports Tom Osborne of the San Antonio Express-News.

In the middle of the fourth quarter, White was pushing the ball upcourt after an Australia miss and either got clipped from behind — there was a foul called — or stumbled over his own feet. I lean clipped, but the video is not conclusive.

White fell and faceplanted, with his head bouncing off the court. If he got away with just stitches, that’s good news for Team USA. If White had a concussion it is possible he would have missed the start of the World Cup, and the USA is not deep at the point guard spot on this roster (Kemba Walker and White are the only true point guards, a couple of players such as Marcus Smart can play a few minutes there but aren’t really suited to the position).

Team USA has one more exhibition game against Canada, then opens World Cup play on Sept. 1 in China against the Czech Republic.

Grizzlies officially waive Dwight Howard, first step on his path to Lakers

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Lakers fans are uncomfortable with it, but the Lakers did a good job hedging their bet with a non-guaranteed contract: Dwight Howard is coming to the Lakers.

That process started on Saturday with the Grizzlies officially waiving Howard.

In theory, any team could claim Howard off waivers. In practice, no team is picking up his full $5.6 million salary.

Howard gave back $2.6 million in his buyout with the Grizzlies, which is exactly how much his veteran minimum contract with the Lakers will pay him.

Howard and JaVale McGee will have to tag team to play all the minutes at the five the Lakers need. Anthony Davis is their best center (and it’s not close, he’s arguably the best center in the NBA) but he wants to play the four most of the game, so for 30 minutes a night the Lakers need another big body at the five.

Howard has the potential to fill that role. For three seasons, from 2015-16 to 2017-18, Howard averaged 13+ points and 12 rebounds a night, was a big body on defense, and played at least 71 games in averaging 30 minutes a night. Exactly the kind of player the Lakers could use. The problem was Howard was never happy those years just playing that defense/set-a-pick-and-roll/rebound role. He wanted more touches and particularly in the post, which led to disruptions as he pushed for a larger role. It’s why he bounced around. Then last season he played just nine games due to more back and hamstring issues.

Howard is saying all the right things about accepting that role, and he convinced the Lakers to a degree, but that non-guaranteed contract shows the Lakers go into this eyes wide open. If Howard is up to his old antics, the Lakers can cut bait and move on.

It’s among the many things to watch in what should be an entertaining Lakers’ training camp this year.

On Mamba Day (8/24), former Lakers’ trainer Gary Vitti talks about what made Kobe great

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Kobe Bryant’s work ethic is legend.

It takes talent to become an MVP, 15-time All-NBA, 18-time All-Star, and lock future Hall of Famer. However, it was how Kobe got the most out of his talent that separated him from his peers. Long-time Lakers trainer Gary Vitti retired a couple of years ago and will soon publish an autobiography, “32 Years of Titles and Tears from the Best Seat in the House: What I Learned about Happiness, Greatness, Leadership and the Evolution of Sports Science.”

Vitti joined Hall of Fame photographer Andrew D. Bernstein this week on an episode of Legends of Sport to discuss his upcoming book, and he talked about Kobe (hat tip to CNBC).

“He was talented, but what if I told you he wasn’t the most talented guy out there? I’m telling you, and I’ve had them all, there’s nothing really special about Kobe. I mean he’s a big guy, but he’s not that big. He was quick, but he’s not that quick. He’s fast, he wasn’t that fast. He was powerful, but he wasn’t that powerful. I mean, there were other players that had more talent than he did, so what was there about him that more talented players had zero rings and he ended up with five?…

“He was tough in the sense that he took ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’ out of his lexicon and he just believed that he could do it. Kobe taught me that talent is the most overrated thing in life; it’s what you do with your talent.”

Nobody in NBA history did as much with the talent they had as Kobe.

On Mamba Day, enjoy his ultimate mixtape highlights above and remember what it took for Kobe to get there.