Pelicans will play faster, lean on Anthony Davis more under Alvin Gentry

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It was one of the most perplexing things about the Pelicans the last couple seasons. When the game would get tight late, one of their guards would walk the ball up the court (allowing the defense to fully get set), then usually pound the ball into the ground with his dribble before trying to create a shot for himself in the final seconds of the clock.

The Pelicans played slow (27th in the league in pace) and went away from Anthony Davis in the fourth quarters of games.

No more.

New head coach Alvin Gentry will change that.

Gentry was the best offensive mind available on the coaching market. The past two seasons he was the lead assistant for Doc Rivers with the Clippers then for Steve Kerr with the Warriors — the two best offenses in the NBA. Gentry had a heavy hand in both.

Gentry’s philosophy is to keep attacking and keep the defense on its heels — which means playing far more up tempo. The Pelicans should have been doing that already. Davis is their best player and runs the floor like a gazelle, the young big will beat his man down the court almost every time and either score or create matchup nightmares to be exploited.

Gentry told Pelicans’ GM Dell Demps and the rest of the New Orleans front office they simply were not using Davis enough, something reported by Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.

Gentry believes the Pelicans have underutilized Davis’ offensive skills. Not only did he express this during his initial interview with (head of basketball operations Micky) Loomis and Demps, but Gentry also came into that session equipped with charts and graphs to illustrate his point.

By underutilize, he doesn’t just mean more touches, he also means better ones. Davis was too often the safety net for the offense, with his chance coming late in the clock after the guards exhausted options for themselves. Then in the fourth quarter the Pelicans would just stop feeding him the ball at all.

Change that dynamic and combine it with a point guard like Jrue Holiday and a sharpshooter like Ryan Anderson running to the arc and there is great potential. (It should be noted here both of those guys were injured much of last season, just having them back healthy improves this roster.)

My guess is we will see a lot more of Davis as the center, with Anderson at the four, and less of Davis paired with Omer Asik (who will come off the bench). Davis and Holiday can run a devastating pick-and-roll, especially if the floor is spread with shooters. Also, expect Davis to get the ball at the elbow and the offense to run through him more.

The offense is tantalizing, but it is the defensive end where Gentry needs to make the biggest impact. The Pelicans were bottom 10 in defensive rating last season.

He’s not known as a defensive coach, but the last two teams where he was an assistant — Golden State and the L.A. Clippers — were very good on that end. The Pelicans have the personnel to be better, but it will be interesting to see what schemes Gentry puts in place. Don’t be surprised if his lead assistant is a defensive specialist.

For the next couple weeks, Gentry can “relax” and not worry about the challenges of the Pelicans, all he needs to deal with is LeBron James. Gentry will stay with the Warriors through the NBA Finals before jumping on a plane to the land of gumbo.

Gentry was a good hire by the Pelicans, a guy who has both knows the league and is learning new things from elite franchises. Did you really want to see how Tom Thibodeau would grind down Anthony Davis after a few seasons? Gentry landed the best job that will open up this summer in the NBA — with Davis this team has incredible potential for growth.

Now he just has to get them to play faster and get the ball to Davis in the fourth quarter.

 

Tilman Ferttita: Rockets don’t fear Lakers, Clippers like they did Warriors

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta
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Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta likes to talk.

Volume 48.

Fertitta, via Kirk Bohls of Statesman:

“I think Milwaukee is head over heels above everybody else,” said Fertitta

“We just need to get home court for the first and second rounds and see what happens.”

“None of us fear L.A. or the Clippers or Denver like we feared Golden State,” he said. “It’s not like how we were scared of them. We could easily win the West this year or get knocked out in the first round. Both L.A. teams, Denver, Houston, we’re all excellent teams. Just comes down to somebody gets hot and makes a shot. Our chances are as good as they’ve ever been.”

The Rockets stood up to the Warriors far more than any other team. But that was most true before Fertitta put his imprint on the franchise. He’s somewhat culpable for Houston cowering to Golden State.

As far as this season, Fertitta is right all around: The Bucks are great, combining last year’s success with important playoff lessons. Houston could easily win the West or lose in the first round. The Lakers, Clippers and Nuggets shouldn’t be feared. (Nobody fears the Nuggets, though they are a real championship contender.)

But the Lakers and Clippers also look like darned good playoff teams. Even if not predicting victory, Fertitta’s comments could become bulletin-board material in Los Angeles.

Rumor: Warriors acquired first-rounder, Andrew Wiggins for Giannis Antetokounmpo trade

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Andrew Wiggins, who's now with Warriors
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The Warriors have the NBA shook.

Even in last place.

It was more understandablenot necessarily right, but understandable – when Golden State was dominating. The Warriors won a title, won 73 games, signed Kevin Durant then won two more titles. In the midst of the run, they were treated as invincible. A team that great had never signed an outside free agent that great. Golden State really did seem “light years ahead.”

So, when the Warriors traded D'Angelo Russell for Andrew Wiggins and picks, some people cowered about what Golden State had up its sleeve next. Speculation even turned to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who faces a super-max decision this offseason and looked quite chummy with Stephen Curry (similar to how Kevin Durant once did while still with the Thunder).

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:

Some around the league believe the Golden State Warriors acquired a first-round pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves, along with Andrew Wiggins, with the notion of a potential future trade with the Bucks.

This is so silly.

Minnesota’s first-rounder (top-three-protected in 2021, unprotected in 2022) is a nice asset. The Warriors’ 2020 first-rounder will also land high in the draft. But Wiggins didn’t suddenly turn into a valuable player in Golden State. Owed $94,738,170 over the next three years, Wiggins still carries negative value. The Warriors aren’t now deftly positioned to land Antetokounmpo.

Golden State showed incredible vision by building an excellent team that appealed to Durant and clearing cap space to acquire him. But the Warriors got multiple fortunate breaks – Stephen Curry taking a smaller contract extension while injured in 2012, Golden State blowing a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals, the salary cap spiking in 2016.

The Warriors can’t duplicate everything, swoop in and land Antetokounmpo.

Sure, it’s possible Wiggins improves in Golden State. Maybe Antetokounmpo will decline to sign a super-max extension, which should force Milwaukee to at least strongly consider trading him. It’s also conceivable Antetokounmpo threatens not to re-sign with anyone besides the Warriors, scaring off other teams and leaving Golden State’s offer the best that the Bucks’ get.

But it’s such a remote possibility of all that happening, it’s not worth worrying about.

This is paranoia about the Warriors at its worst.

Chris Paul on 2020 Olympics: My wife wants to go to Tokyo

Chris Paul
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Chris Paul feels great starring for the Thunder.

So great, he might even take on extra workload.

Paul – who helped Team USA win gold medals in 2008 and 2012 but didn’t compete in 2016 – said he’s “very serious” about playing the 2020 Olympics. Paul:

I’m excited about the opportunity. My wife is sort of calling the shots on this one. She said she wants to go to Tokyo.

I’ve been blessed and fortunate to play in 2008. I had no kids then. In 2012, my wife couldn’t come, because, four days after the gold medal game, she had my daughter.

We often hear about players missing international tournaments due to personal reasons. But that can go both ways. Paul might compete due to personal reasons.

Paul faces steep and deep competition for making the team at point guard: Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Russell Westbrook, Kemba Walker, Mike Conley, Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White. Trae Young didn’t even make the list of finalists.

USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said players who’ve previously represented the U.S. will get favorable consideration. So, that’ll help Paul.

If he plays, Paul – who turns 35 in May – would be Team USA’s third-oldest Olympian:

Chris Paul

Age for Team USA’s first game or, in 2020, first game of the tournament

Did John Beilein’s methods lead to Dylan Windler’s season-ending injury?

Former Cavaliers coach John Beilein and Dylan Windler
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John Beilein gave the Cavaliers problems mentally.

Did he also give them problems physically – especially Dylan Windler, who’s missing his entire rookie year?

Shams Charania, Jason Lloyd and Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

Warning signs for Beilein could be traced to the Cavs’ Summer League schedule, when the rookie coach ran a collection of (mostly) G Leaguers and non-roster invites through extended practices, multiple times a day. This is precisely what Beilein would have done at Michigan, especially with an entirely new batch of players, this early in a season calendar. But players not only complained about the work, they also were drilled in games by opponents who were clearly well-rested. And this was in Summer League.

There was at least one player, though, involved in those early summer workouts under Beilein who was expecting to make a major contribution to the Cavs this season. Rookie Dylan Windler, a late first rounder, was supposed to compete with Cedi Osman for minutes on the wing. But he never played a game this season because of a stress injury in his left leg — which could be traced back at least in part to being overworked during the summer.

Would Windler have missed the season under a different coach? It’s impossible to say. Counterfactuals are complex.

But there was legitimate reason to be concerned with Beilein’s approach. Teams have learned the importance of rest. Fatigued players are more susceptible to injury.

Beilein’s longest college season was 41 games. He coached 54 games in Cleveland – and left with much of the season remaining.

Handling the grind of the NBA season was always going to be an adjustment for the long-time college coach. It probably got understated amid concern about him relating interpersonally to his players.

The Cavaliers needed practice time. They needed work to develop. That’s clearly what Beilein prioritized.

But they also needed to limit the physical toll, and it’s reasonable to question whether Beilein did enough there. Even if he was learning that the NBA is more marathon than sprint, the several months Beilein coaches the Cavs were enough to cause issues.