Davis Bertans
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Davis Bertans, after 3-point contest snub, torching NBA from beyond arc

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Davis Bertans was making 47.2% of his 3-pointers on 4.4 attempts per game when the NBA announced the 3-point-contest field last season. The selections included

  • Seth Curry (48.5%, 2.9)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (42.9%, 4.0)

Not Bertans.

Bertans, who was then on the Spurs, said he was told he got omitted because he didn’t shoot enough. But he doesn’t believe that. He has two other theories:

“I was playing in San Antonio. It was a small market. People outside of San Antonio rarely follow the team.”

“They try to bring in guys who are more popular to bring the show, and it’s more fun for the fans. I think that’s the direction they went. They bring in Dirk and the Curry brothers.”

Bertans said he understands why the NBA chose the players it did. He also appreciated spending more time with his wife and baby daughter. “When the All-Star game was going on, I wasn’t upset for a second that I wasn’t there,” Bertans said. But he wanted to compete. He cheered for unheralded Nets guard Joe Harris, who campaigned his way into the contest and won it over Stephen Curry.

This season, Bertans wants his own turn in the event in Chicago.

“I don’t think they can use the same excuse if they don’t take me again,” Bertans said.

They sure can’t.

Now with the Wizards, Bertans is attempting 8.6 3-pointers per game and making 46.2% of them. The 6-foot-10 power forward is on track for one of the best outside-shooting seasons in NBA history.

Nobody has ever matched his combination of volume and efficiency. Here are the highest 3-point percentages among players attempting even six 3-pointers per game:

Davis Bertans 3-point shooting

Bertans is making nearly four 3-pointers per game. That puts him on pace to make 325 3s over 82 games. Only Stephen Curry (four times) and James Harden (once) have ever made 300 3-pointers in a season.

Not bad for someone who has repeatedly been afterthought.

Drafted No. 42 by the Pacers in 2011, Bertans was traded to San Antonio on draft night. You know the deal by two other players involved: No. 15 pick Kawhi Leonard and George Hill.

Bertans remained in Europe several more seasons. He tore his ACL in 2013, rehabbed and returned stronger. Then, he tore the same ACL again in 2015. One of his main responsibilities at the time was calming his family, which was concerned the injury could derail his career.

“Everybody else was more worried about me than I was,” Bertans said.

Bertans did what he did during his first rehab. He kept his head down and focused on the day-to-day.

Finally, he signed with the Spurs in 2016. Bertans played well, but his role remained limited on a team resistant to 3-point shooting. He mostly just spotted up beyond the arc to space the floor and shoot when open.

Last summer, San Antonio practically gave away Bertans and his $7 million salary to create flexibility for signing Marcus Morris. Morris reneged on his deal with the Spurs to sign with the Knicks. But Bertans was already gone.

That worked out great for Bertans. In Washington, he has the ultimate green light.

“Any shot is a good shot,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of Bertans, who’s averaging 15.8 points per game. “I mean, really.”

There’s seemingly no limit on how Bertans creates and knocks down 3-pointers. His height and quick release allow him to shoot over defenders, and his mobility and ability to square up on the move get him open. Everything works.

He makes catch-and-shoot 3-pointers (minimum: 60 attempts):

Davis Bertans 3-point shooting

He launches off-the-dribble 3-pointers (minimum: 30 attempts):

Davis Bertans 3-point shooting

He cashes in when left open or wide open, per NBA.com, on 3-pointers (minimum: 60 attempts):

Davis Bertans 3-point shooting

He hits 3-pointers when the defense is tight or very tight, per NBA.com (minimum: 40 attempts):

Davis Bertans 3-point shooting

He bombs from deep (26 to 40 feet, so to filter out end-of-quarter heaves, per Basketball-Reference) (minimum: 40 attempts):

Davis Bertans 3-point shooting

The versatility of Bertans’ shooting is just incredible.

“He’s J.J. Redick at 6-9, 6-10,” Washington guard Ish Smith said.

Bertans will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said he wants to re-sign Bertans, who’ll be up for a big raise. The 27-year-old could help many teams on his next contract.

But Bertans isn’t looking too far ahead. Eying a spot in the 3-point contest is about as far as he’ll go. He has more pressing issues, like opposing defenses increasingly keying on him.

“You’ve got to be on high alert if he’s standing over in the corner looking like he’s doing nothing. That tells you he’s trying to trick you to get off,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s coming.”

Report: DeMar DeRozan unhappy with Spurs

Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan
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Facing the Kawhi Leonard trade saga, the Spurs had a clear objective: Remain competitive. That’s why they traded Leonard to the Raptors for veteran star DeMar DeRozan rather than accepting a pick-heavy offer. That wasn’t optimal for the franchise’s long-term health, but it at least paid short-term dividends. San Antonio made the playoffs last year, qualifying for a record 22nd straight season.

Now, the bottom has fallen out.

The Spurs are just 27-36 and will almost certainly miss the playoffs. DeRozan has a $27,739,975 player option that he’ll reportedly decline if the Spurs don’t sign him to a contract extension.

Jabari Young of CNBC on ESPN San Antonio:

Listen, I don’t have to sugarcoat anything. DeMar DeRozan is not happy in San Antonio, OK? The offense is not running as smoothly as one should think with a guy like him in the lineup, and there are problems are there, right? And so you have to decide if you’re going to take that money of if you’re going to come back to a situation that’s just not suitable. I mean, it didn’t work. They got the deal done. It’s over. I mean, the experiment is not working.

This report came before the NBA’s coronavirus shutdown, which could significantly decrease next season’s salary cap. That makes DeRozan (and everyone else with a player option) more likely to opt in. Base on the prior report, DeRozan is willing to stay in San Antonio for the right price. It’s increasingly likely that option-year salary is the right price.

DeRozan is a good player whose scoring – and, at times, passing – can be central in building decent offense. But he has a tandem of deficiencies that make it difficult to fit him onto a good team:

1. He doesn’t shoot 3-pointers to space the floor.

2. He doesn’t defend adequately.

That means his team must surround him offensively with other outside shooters. That’s doable.

His team must also surround defensively with other sound defenders. Again, that’s doable.

But it’s difficult to do both. Players who both shoot 3s well enough to attract attention AND defend well are obviously scarce.

Though DeRozan definitely has fans around the league, it’s another thing for him to expect an offer next offseason that justifies declining his player option. He and the Spurs could be stuck in this imperfect arrangement another year.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri worried about coronavirus in Africa

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Raptors president Masai Ujiri
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Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri is worried about the places currently hardest-hit by the pandemic, and especially worried about the places that haven’t been hit yet.

Ujiri told reporters on a conference call Wednesday that he’s been in contact with some leaders in Africa, plus has spoken with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about his talks with other African heads of state about their level of preparation for the new coronavirus .

“I think a lot of leaders are ahead of it, and the ones that aren’t are starting to pay attention because this is an unknown, this is an unseen enemy, and we have to really, really pay attention,” Ujiri said.

Ujiri is of Nigerian descent and founded Giants of Africa, a group that organizes camps and other events to use basketball as a way to promote education and growth for children on the continent. He says he’s unsure yet if his programs will go on this summer as planned.

“We’re just concerned about people, about health, about listening to what the directions are going to be moving forward,” Ujiri said.

When it comes to the NBA season, Ujiri said he’s hopeful play can resume. The Raptors won their first NBA title last season.

Report: Knicks interested in hiring 76ers’ Elton Brand as GM

76ers general manager Elton Brand
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The 76ers’ eventful offseason has fallen flat so far.

Al Horford (four years, $109 million with $97 million guaranteed) has generally underwhelmed and especially struggled to fit with franchise player Joel Embiid. At 33, Horford faces even more issues as he ages.

Though Tobias Harris has been fine, it’s hard to feel good about his five-year, $180 million deal. That contract makes it difficult to build a quality bench, even if ownership is willing to pay the luxury tax. Every team has spending limits, and Philadelphia has tied significant capital to a merely solid forward.

Josh Richardson isn’t shooting as well as he did while looking like a burgeoning star with the Heat. It’s also hard not to notice Jimmy Butler thriving in Miami.

The cumulative results are also concerning. Creating enough spacing around Embiid and Simmons was always challenging. This group isn’t coming close to answering that call. That has produced some strain throughout the season.

Will 76ers general manager Elton Brand take the fall for Philadelphia’s problems?

If so, he could have a fallback job under new Knicks president Leon Rose.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

According to a league source, Elton Brand has been targeted by Rose as a candidate for Knicks GM. Brand, 41, is currently the Sixers GM and is under contract next season, complicating any designs of bringing him to New York. The source said Rose wanted to see if Brand was dismissed after the playoffs.

It’s nearly impossible to see Brand going to New York unless the 76ers fire him. Though the titles in each franchise would be the same, they’re very different roles. He holds the top position in Philadelphia’s front office. With the Knicks, Brand would work under Rose.

Would the 76ers fire Brand? Maybe. It could depend how they do in the playoffs, and this team still has a championship upside this season.

Even with an early-round loss, Philadelphia seems more likely to fire coach Brett Brown than make a larger change. But it’s not as if Brand – who held minimal front-office experience when hired in 2018 – has done much to instill confidence. There’s not a great affirmative case for keeping him.

The Knicks have Scott Perry as general manager, but he’s a holdover from the Steve Mills regime. After all the handwringing about Steve Stoute saying the Knicks will hire a new coach while they still had Mike Miller as interim coach, this more reflects reality. Professional sports are a cutthroat business. It’s perfectly fine for the Knicks to seek a new general manager while still having someone in that position running out the clock.

Could that be Brand? He’s smart and connects well with people. His long playing career provides invaluable experience. He’d fit well as No. 2 in an NBA front office.

But, right now, he has an even better job.

Carmelo Anthony: Nuggets should have won 2009 championship

Carmelo Anthony in 2009 Lakers-Nuggets Western Conference finals
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Carmelo Anthony said he would’ve won multiple championships if the Pistons drafted him in 2003.

Of course, Detroit picked Darko Milicic No. 2. Anthony went to the Nuggets No. 3.

But Anthony still had a big opportunity to win a title.

Denver – led by Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Nene, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin – reached the 2009 Western Conference finals. Facing the Lakers, the Nuggets lost Game 1 by two points then won Game 2 by three points in Los Angeles. The Lakers then won Games 3, 5 and 6 to take the series.

Anthony on Instagram with Dwyane Wade:

I was sick, because we were supposed to beat them that year. I don’t like saying “We should have.” I don’t like saying all that. But when you re-evaluate everything. We really wanted Orlando in that Finals that year. We was like, “If we get Game 1 in L.A. or Game 2, we’re going back to Denver, we’re sweeping them.” We was going to beat them. We was going to beat them that year if we would’ve won in L.A. If we would’ve won both games, we would’ve beat them. And we would’ve swept Orlando that year.

Wade:

Orlando was alright, but they weren’t –

Anthony:

No, would’ve swept them. We would’ve swept them that year.

Yes, Denver would have likely won the series if taking the first two games in Los Angeles. The Nuggets also would’ve had a strong chance against the Magic, whom the Lakers beat in five in the Finals.

But it’s a major leap just to give Denver another win in Los Angeles. The Lakers were better than the Nuggets throughout the season. The Lakers were better than the Nuggets in that series. The Lakers were better than everyone. They had just reached the NBA Finals the prior season and were on their way to winning consecutive titles. This wasn’t some unfortunate break for Denver.

And even if the Nuggets won Game 2, the series wouldn’t have been over as Anthony says. The Lakers were led by Kobe Bryant and had savvy veterans like Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher. They wouldn’t have just folded with a 2-0 deficit.

Sometimes, lesser teams beat better teams. The Nuggets COULD have beaten the Lakers.

But SHOULD have? Nah. Not even close.