What will Rockets do with the uniquely styled and determined Patrick Beverley?

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BOSTON – Patrick Beverley signed with the Heat in 2010, finally realizing his NBA dream.

Or so it seemed.

Two years earlier, he turned in a paper written by someone else, ending his time at Arkansas. From there, he played in Ukraine’s second division and then spent a season as a little-used reserve with Olympiakos in Greece.

But Miami cut Beverley, and a handful of tryouts with other NBA teams went nowhere.

“I almost wanted to give up, but – I actually did,” Beverley said. “I wanted to focus on my career overseas.”

Beverley hasn’t shown a moment of relenting since.

He returned to Europe and improved. The Rockets gave him a chance, and not only did he become a starter, he has developed into the NBA’s most tenacious point guard.

Soon, Houston must decide how much it values Beverley, who will become a restricted free agent this summer.

Beverley became infamous when he crashed into Russell Westbrook’s knees while going for a steal just before a timeout in the 2013 playoffs, but that wasn’t a cheap attempt to injure a star. As we’ve learned in the years since, that’s just how Beverley plays.

His most notable feud is with Damian Lillard, but Beverley has no shortage of opponents he has irked, including:

DeMarcus Cousins:

Marc Gasol:

Rudy Gay:

 

Yet, Beverley has become more than just a sideshow pest.

He’s a main-attraction pest.

As NBA point guards are more impactful than ever – an extremely talented crop playing when rules and style emphasize their position – Beverley serves as a defensive foil. He guards his man tightly, stomping all over the line of what grates opponents and what makes him effective.

His impact in Houston is undeniable. The Rockets ranked 19th in points allowed per possession when Beverley made his NBA debut in January 2013. The rest of that season, they ranked 14th. Last year, they moved up to 12th. This season, they rank seventh.

Beverley’s biggest contribution to Houston, though, is his low salary. Because they locked up their starting point guard on a minimum contract, the Rockets have freed money to splurge on other parts of the roster.

Only the Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson, a rookie drafted in the second round, makes less among starting point guards than Beverley’s $915,243:

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The Rockets good fortune on that front – created because they wisely signed Beverley to a three-year contract before he proved himself in the NBA – is running out, though.

Beverley is in the final season of his deal. How much would Houston, which holds his Bird Rights, pay to keep him?

Assessing Beverley’s value is difficult, because he’s unlike any other point guard in the league. Among starters, he ranks:

21st in points per game at 10.8:

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28th in assists per game at 3.3:

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27th in usage percentage at 16.7:

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26th in minutes of possession per game at 4.1:

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23rd in touches per game at 64.6:

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The only other players consistently in his range are either rookies (Elfrid Payton), new starters (D.J. Augustin) or both (Marcus Smart, Dante Exum and Clarkson).

But as limited a role as Beverley plays, he deserves credit for not overextending himself. A 3-and-D point guard, he takes 59 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and makes 39 percent of those. Beverley, who met his goal of making the All-Defensive second team last season, is also a standout defender at a position where there are few. Chris Paul, Mike Conley and Rajon Rondo are the only other active point guards who’ve made an All-Defensive team. Paul and Rondo are past their defensive primes, though John Wall is emerging as another strong contender for the honor.

Of course, part of the reason Beverley doesn’t handle the ball as often is because he shares a backcourt with James Harden, one of the NBA’s preeminent shooting guards. However, that’s not entirely coincidental. No matter where Beverley ended up, his team would have seen his limitations and sought to pair him with a high-volume off guard.

Does Houston like this arrangement, keeping the ball in Harden’s hands so often?

“We ask him to do a lot – probably too much,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “I wish we had more guys that could make more plays to help alleviate some pressure from him.”

The NBA’s curious inclusion of him in the skills challenge notwithstanding, that probably won’t ever be Beverley. He can spot-up and slash, but his court vision is only so-so for his position.

And that makes me wonder: How badly do the Rockets want to keep Beverley?

They’ve made no secret about their pursuit of a third star to go with Harden and Dwight Howard. They tried to trade for Rajon Rondo, and they’ve also been linked to Deron Williams and Goran Dragic. It’d be no surprise if that third star is a point guard.

The Rockets already let Chandler Parsons walk to preserve flexibility, and they’ll face a similar conundrum with Beverley.

For now, Beverley will maintain his large defensive and small offensive roles as Houston strives to advance deep in the playoffs. And his actions will show he’s definitely not the word he used to describe himself five years ago:

“Content.”

Soon enough, though, the Rockets must decide whether they’re content with him.

Report: Teams in playoff race bothered by Jazz resting starters vs. Spurs

Spurs forward Rudy Gay vs. Jazz
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The Jazz sat four starters – Mike Conley (right knee soreness), Donovan Mitchell (left peroneal strain), Royce O’Neale (right calf soreness) and Rudy Gobert (rest) – against the Spurs yesterday. Five if you count Bojan Bogdanovic, who underwent season-ending surgery before the bubble.

That cleared the way for San Antonio to get a 119-111 win and boost its chances in the Western Conference playoff race.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Were those teams chasing the Western Conference’s play-in tournament thrilled with the Utah Jazz’s decision to sit four starters with injuries and rest center Rudy Gobert in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs?

Among teams trying to catch the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth seed, they were somewhere between displeased and livid, sources said.

Winning seeding games doesn’t matter much to the Jazz, who are in the tightly packed 4-6 range in the Western Conference. There’s no home-court advantage in the 4-5 series. In fact, Utah might prefer to drop to sixth. That’d likely mean facing the Nuggets – rather than the Rockets or Thunder – in the first round and avoiding the Lakers in the second round. Though Denver could move up and leave the Clippers in the No. 3 seed, and the Clippers are no easy second-round opponent either, it’s at least a viable strategy for Utah.

The Jazz also play the Nuggets today in the second leg of a back-to-back. Whatever its ideal standings, Utah definitely prioritizes having its players healthy and ready for the playoffs.

It also can’t be lost: Jazz lead executive Dennis Lindsey came up in the Spurs organization. That connection surely fueled the strongest paranoia.

Utah isn’t alone in appearing to put its finger on the playoff-race scale.

The Clippers will sit Kawhi Leonard against the Trail Blazers today and play him against the Nets tomorrow.

Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times:

Maybe this is just about timing. Obviously, it’s normal sit Leonard in one leg of a back-to-back.

But the Trail Blazers look like the strongest team among those chasing the No. 8 seed. Think the Clippers might want to give the Lakers the toughest-possible first-round matchup? The possibility is impossible to ignore when considering which weekend game Leonard is playing.

These are all variations of a common problem: Too few NBA regular-season (or seeding) games matter.

To be fair, the situation differs in the bubble. Home-court advantage would solve some of these problems. The play-in offers a new wrinkle. The long layoff before seeding games increases injury risk.

But it also feels especially absurd to go to all the trouble of playing basketball amid the coronavirus pandemic – separating players, coaches and other staff from their loved ones for at least several weeks – just to a play a game a team prefers, or at least doesn’t mind, losing.

Drymond Green praises Devin Booker’s play “but get my man out of Phoenix”

Devin Booker Draymond
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When there are fans again in NBA buildings, Suns fans are going to let Draymond Green have it.

The outspoken Green was on Inside the NBA on TNT this Thursday — he’s got the time, the Warriors weren’t invited to the restart — and the topic of Devin Booker‘s play in the bubble came up. Green had nothing but praise for the All-Star guard who has led the Suns to a 4-0 record at the restart, then he said the thing that is going to get him booed in Phoenix.

“It’s great to see Book playing well and Phoenix playing well, but get my man out of Phoenix It’s not good for him, it’s not good for his career. Sorry Chuck, but they’ve gotta get Book out of Phoenix. I need my man to go somewhere that he can play great basketball all of the time and win, because he’s that kind of player.” r

Is that tampering? Ernie Johnson asked, Green laughed and said, “maybe.”

The league rarely enforces player tampering, and beyond that Green didn’t try to get Booker to come to Golden State directly, he just said Booker needs to be in a better situation.

On a more practical note, Booker has four years left after this one on his max contract extension. The Suns are building around him and Deandre Ayton — and right now it looks like it’s working (coach Monty Williams should get a lot of credit for that). No way the Suns are trading Booker for the foreseeable future.

This is not the first time Green has taken shots at the Suns. When former Sun Marquese Chriss, who went on to have a career year with the Warriors this season, Green said, “He’s been in some pretty tough situations. No one ever blames the situation, though. It’s always the kid. No one ever blames these s**** franchises.”

The Suns deserve some credit for developing Booker — and they are not getting rid of their All-Star anytime soon. Now they have to carry this momentum over to next season.

Report: Heat guard Kendrick Nunn leaves bubble, expected back by playoffs

Heat guard Kendrick Nunn
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Kendrick Nunn joined the Heat late in the bubble after testing positive for coronavirus.

Now, he’s stepping away early.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

Heat guard Kendrick Nunn will miss Saturday’s game against Phoenix for personal reasons and has left the NBA bubble, according to multiple sources.

Nunn – who previously confirmed he tested positive for COVID-19 in June – has left the bubble for reasons unrelated to COVID-19, according to a source.

Nunn is expected to have access to testing while he’s away.

The expectation is Nunn would be back in uniform for the start of the NBA playoffs on Aug. 16 or 17 – or potentially sooner.

Hopefully, everything is alright with Nunn.

He must quarantine in his hotel room upon return. Among the key ways to minimize the quarantine length? Testing negative daily while away. Apparently, Nunn is set to get tested while gone. As someone who already recovered from coronavirus, he likely has resistance to re-contracting the virus. But the outside world presents plenty of potential pitfalls that could increase a player’s quarantine length.

The Heat didn’t publicly disclose this. But the league is pretty selective in mandating transparency.

Miami is shorthanded on the perimeter. Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic are banged up. Now, Nunn – a talented rookie who already starts – is out.

The Heat are fourth in the East, one game up on the Pacers and 76ers. It’s unclear where Miami would prefer to finish in that 4-5-6 race. A first-round matchup with Indiana or even Philadelphia in the 4-5 series would likely be easier than facing the probable-third-seeded Celtics. However, winning the 4-5 series would mean facing the powerful Bucks – rather than the Raptors or Celtics – in the second round.

With four seeding games left – including two against the Pacers – the Heat have plenty of variance in how their season finishes.

Playoffs statement? Boston builds 40-point lead, routs Toronto

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The way the NBA standings look right now, there’s a reasonable chance that the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors could be slotted to see each other in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

And Celtics coach Brad Stevens is already making it clear — if that happens, a blowout win over the Raptors now won’t mean anything then.

Jaylen Brown scored 20 points, Jayson Tatum added 18 and the Celtics never trailed on the way to an emphatic 122-100 win over the Raptors on Friday night. Kemba Walker scored 17 points in 23 minutes for the Celtics, who led by 40 at one point and kept slim hope alive of catching the Raptors for the No. 2 spot in the East race.

“This game will mean nothing if we get that opportunity again,” Stevens said. “They’re a really good team. I thought they missed a lot of open looks and it just wasn’t their night. Our guys played well, but it won’t mean anything in a couple weeks.”

Boston also won the season series against Toronto, taking three of the four meetings. The Celtics also won back-to-back games for the first time in the bubble.

“We’re enjoying each other and building chemistry,” Tatum said.

Fred VanVleet scored 13 for Toronto, which got 11 from Kyle Lowry and 11 more from Pascal Siakam. The Raptors’ starters — VanVleet, Lowry, Siakam, Marc Gasol and OG Anunoby — combined to shoot 16 for 45 (36%) from the field, 3 for 19 (16%) from 3-point range.

“One thing about this team, we always bounce back and we always stick together,” Toronto’s Norman Powell said. “I’m not too worried.”

Toronto’s biggest deficit in its first three games in the bubble was six points against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Raptors trailed Miami by three, then didn’t trail Orlando at any point in their game on Wednesday.

But only five minutes into this one, the Raptors were down eight.

And it would only get worse from there for the reigning champions.

The biggest deficit Toronto had faced this season was a 30-point hole against Dallas on Dec. 22, a game where the Raptors rallied to win. The Celtics didn’t allow anything close to a rally on Friday — after the Raptors closed within 10 early in the third, Boston went on a 36-12 run over the final 9:39 of the quarter.

It was 91-57 entering the fourth, and the Raptors went with subs the rest of the way. Making the night even worse for Toronto: forward Serge Ibaka left early in the fourth after getting hit in the face on a drive by Boston’s Gordon Hayward.

“I hate to say it, but there’s nothing really I learned,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “The only thing I probably did learn is we’ve got to get a couple of our guys playing a little better.”