Chris Copeland

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Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Too much fourth quarter Splash Brothers for Miami to handle

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If you missed the NBA’s Wednesday night slate because you got sucked into the last season of American Idol, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know from a Wednesday around the Association.

1) Miami played well, but in the fourth quarter there was too much Splash Brothers for anyone to contain.
In the NBA, talent wins out. Poor coaching can limit that talent and hold it back a little. Bad locker room chemistry can hurt a team for a season or two. But in the end, the most talented team wins the most games.

Golden State has most talented backcourt in the NBA. In Miami Wednesday that got Golden State another win — Stephen Curry had 42 points, and Klay Thompson had 33 — that’s 75 of Golden State’s 118 points (64 percent of them). In the fourth quarter of a close game, Thompson scored 15 points in a row at one stretch, and then Curry hit a couple of late threes that helped the Warriors come from behind in the final minute. When those two are going like they were, beating the Warriors becomes even that much harder.

Their scoring exploits overshadowed the fact that less than two minutes into the game Curry hit a three, giving him one in 127 consecutive games, tying Kyle Korver‘s all-time mark. Curry will set the record Thursday in Orlando.

2) No Derrick Rose, no Jimmy Butler, scrappy Bulls still beat Warriors and get tighter grip on playoffs. This was one the Wizards needed. They entered the game three back of Chicago for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, win here and not only are they just two games back but the Wizards would also own the tiebreaker. Washington was on a back-to-back, but the Bulls rested Rose and Nikola Mirotic (plus Jimmy Butler is still out) and had to start a lineup of E'Twaun Moore, Tony Snell, Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy, and Pau Gasol. In the second quarter, the Bulls actually had a Justin Holiday and Christiano Felicio pick-and-roll going.

That was enough. Taj Gibson had 17 first half points, the Bulls guards waltzed into the paint at will, and then started the third quarter hitting their first eight shots. Combine that with a flat effort from the Wizards (again!) the Wizards suffer a setback in any playoff dreams. Then again, if Doug McDermott is doing this, maybe it’s just the Bulls’ night.

3) Lance Stephenson being Lance Stephenson. The Grizzlies were able to beat the defenseless Lakers, but the game also gave us a vintage Lance Stephenson moment.

4) Kawhi Leonard returned to Spurs lineup. The Spurs out-executed the Kings down the stretch and easily picked up the road win 108-92. That’s about as surprising as finding a good microbrew in Portland. What mattered on Wednesday is that Kawhi Leonard returned to the Spurs lineup, scored 18 points, and as a team they are close to whole again. They remain just 3.5 games back of Golden State, which is ridiculous.

5) Chris Copeland waived, claimed off waivers, instantly waived again. It’s all about the Benjamins. Earlier this week, the Milwaukee Bucks waived veteran forward Chris Copeland to make way for the addition of Steve Novak to the roster. A respected veteran on a minimum contract, would someone snap Copeland up?

Yes, Orlando. Then they turned around and instantly waived him again.

Why? Money. The Magic are below the salary floor by more than $600,000, meaning at the end of the season the Magic would have to cut a check for that amount, and it would be divided amongst all the players on the team. By grabbing Copeland, his $325,000 goes on their books, but by instantly waiving him again they don’t have to pay Copeland a dime. This is just a financial move to save them money. Bobby Marks of the Vertical explained it here.

Chris Copeland, John Jenkins claimed off waiver wire (Copeland waived again already)

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Waiver wire claims are not common in the NBA, but we had two of them on Wednesday afternoon.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports broke the news.

Chris Copeland had been waived by Milwaukee Bucks to make way for the addition of Steve Novak. Jenkins had been with the Dallas Mavericks but was waived to free up a roster for the addition of David Lee. Both of those teams used a trade exception it had from a previous deal to land the new additions. Also, this means is that the salaries of Copeland and Jenkins will count against the cap of their new teams, not their former ones.

Orlando turned around and instantly waived Copeland again. Why? Because they are below the salary floor and this saves them money. From Bobby Marks of the Vertical.

Jenkins had a decent rookie season a maybe the Suns think they can recapture some of that magic.

Greg Monroe swinging fortunes for Bucks, Pistons and himself

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy is unequivocal in his praise of Greg Monroe.

“He’s certainly worth the max,” Van Gundy said. “There’s not a question with that.”

But that wasn’t the only question, because Detroit wasn’t among the teams – Bucks, Knicks, Lakers and Trail Blazers – Monroe’s agent said offered a max contract in free agency last summer.

Monroe signed a three-year max deal with Milwaukee, switching sides in the Eastern Conference’s saddest race. The Pistons (seven years) and Bucks (five years) have gone longest in the conference without a winning record. As both teams try to transition from cellar dweller to upstart, a few questions about Monroe highlight the roads to redemption in Milwaukee and Detroit – and the NBA’s changing financial landscape:

How much is he worth to the Bucks?

How much would he have been worth to the Pistons?

And how much will he be worth in two or three years?

Monroe’s value in Milwaukee

Milwaukee appeared on the verge of breakthrough last season, going a shocking 41-41 and winning two of its final three playoff games against the Bulls.

The Bucks signed Monroe to add interior scoring and help on the glass, and he’s doing that. His 15.8 points on 51.2% shooting and 9.9 rebounds per game are in line with his career averages.

But Milwaukee’s defense has slipped from 2nd to 26th.

That’s certainly not all Monroe’s fault. The Bucks have allowed fewer points per possession with Monroe on the court. Still, they don’t defend well when he plays. The slow-footed center has struggled in their aggressive trapping scheme. He just can’t cover that much ground quickly enough.

The problem is wider than Monroe, though. Milwaukee is struggling to integrate all its newcomers – including Greivis Vasquez, Chris Copeland and Damien Inglis (who missed all of last season due to injury). Here are the Bucks’ defensive ratings, per NBAwowy!:

  • Last season: 102.8
  • This season: 108.0
  • This season with only returning players on court: 99.1

Milwaukee has sacrificed too much defense for a little more offensive punch. Maybe without Vasquez and Copeland, Monroe’s defense would be more tolerable. But Vasquez and Copeland space the floor with outside shooting, a key issue for the Bucks.

They need better defense and 3-point shooting, and Monroe provides too little of the former and none of the latter. At this point, his inside scoring seems like a luxury.

Milwaukee has defended better lately, including with Monroe on the court. But the effects have been multiplied with John Henson playing instead.

Until power forward Jabari Parker adds more 3 and D to his game, both of which should come, Jason Kidd faces a challenge maximizing Monroe’s value. At least it’s headed in the right direction.

That wasn’t necessarily the case with the Pistons.

Monroe’s value in Detroit

Monroe once asked the Pistons to scout Andre Drummond, then a promising freshman at Connecticut.

That might have eventually contributed to Monroe’s exit from Detroit.

When the Pistons drafted Drummond just three years ago, power forwards and centers were mostly interchangeable. It seemed the more-polished Monroe and more-athletic Drummond would complement each other well. Bigger, Drummond was clearly a center. Monroe could play power forward.

But the NBA has gone smaller, and Drummond developed more quickly than nearly anyone projected. Next summer, the Pistons will certainly offer him a max contract.

That created a problem with Monroe.

“His best position is at center. He knew that. We knew that,” Van Gundy said. “So, what of your resources are you going to tie up at basically one position? Or were you willing to play with two centers in a league that’s going the other way?”

Kidd was similarly direct in declaring Monroe’s position.

“Greg is one of the top centers in the game,” Kidd said.

Van Gundy credited Monroe with making the most of a difficult situation, playing with Drummond (not to mention the times Josh Smith, a power forward, shared the court with the two). Monroe, steady as always, shrugged off any concern.

“We all did the best we could,” Monroe said.

That’s much easier for the Pistons now.

They traded for Ersan Ilyasova – a stretch four – by absorbing his salary into space vacated by Monroe. Now, Reggie Jackson (19.3 points and 6.3 assists per game) and Drummond (18.0 points and 16.7 rebounds per game) have plenty of room to run pick-and-rolls, and Drummond can even post up a bit more. Plus, the Pistons are less likely to compete with each other for rebounds, allowing non-Drummond players to handle other responsibilities.

There are diminishing returns with pairing two centers. Drummond is no longer feeling them.

But the Pistons’ scoring is down. While their offense may look smoother, it’s less effective. This floor-spreading style has a higher ceiling, but Drummond and Monroe crashing the paint and offensive glass – while more brutal on the eyes – worked a little better.

Essentially, the Pistons exchanged talent for fit and flexibility.

“There was never a time that we didn’t think that Greg was worth the money based on his performance,” Van Gundy said. “…The issue that wouldn’t go away is, in the long run – Greg’s an outstanding player, and he’s a great person – the issue in the long run for our organization is, were were going to pay huge money for two centers?”

Van Gundy said the Pistons considered trying to re-sign Monroe in part as a trade asset. But after studying similar situations, Van Gundy determined that route was too unlikely to pay off. Instead of flipping a player for a quality asset, Van Gundy found teams typically sold low in those situations.

He specifically cited Dwight Howard and Omer Asik. The Rockets kept Asik, their incumbent starting center, for a season after signing Howard.

But that case is an outlier. In limited minutes, Howard and Asik were dreadful together, producing offensive/defensive/net ratings of 88.6/104.9/-16.3. Monroe and Drummond had already proven themselves a better fit together. Plus, Houston eventually traded Asik to the Pelicans for a protected first-round pick that became Sam Dekker, not an insignificant return.

All the Pistons got for losing Monroe was the cap space to acquire Ilyasova and the knowledge they won’t be hamstrung with two highly paid centers if one – almost certainly Monroe – couldn’t be traded.

In many ways, it was the safe route.

Monroe took all the risk.

Monroe’s value in two or three years

Thirteen players – LeBron James, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Brook Lopez, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Wesley Matthews, Enes Kanter, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard and Monroe – signed a max contract or extension last summer. Additionally, seven other players – Tobias Harris, Khris Middleton, Tristan Thompson, Draymond Green, Reggie Jackson, Brandon Knight and Iman Shumpert – signed their second NBA contract (typically the first opportunity to earn major money) with a starting salary of at least $8 million.

Only LeBron and Monroe can re-enter free-agency before 2018.

For all the talk of players seeking shorter contracts in anticipation of a rapidly rising salary cap, few took advantage.

Monroe got that opportunity by accepting the qualifying offer – a one-year, $5,479,934 contract – rather than taking a much bigger long-term deal with Detroit. That allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent last summer, which made signing his max deal with Milwaukee feasible.

Now, he’s again banking on less guaranteed money. Instead of securing a four-year contract, he took just a three-year deal with a player option.

When did Monroe become such a risk taker?

“I can understand why you say it’s a risk,” Monroe said. “But to me, I put in the work every day. I’m showing up. So, I believe in myself and I understand what I can do and my capabilities. So, to me, it’s not taking a risk. It’s just a business decision.”

It’s certainly one that could pay off.

Monroe will make$33,553,338 the next two seasons, and he’ll have a $17,884,176 player option for 2016-17. If he opts out and signs a new max deal in 2017, it could start at more than $30 million and pay about $175 million over five years.

Monroe might not be a max player in 2017 as a larger cap increases variance in player salary, and the NBA and union are discussing changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement that could alter any present-day projections. But whatever the exact machinations, a ton of national TV money is flowing into the system.

As long he continues to produce like he has – defensive questions included – he’s going to get paid.

But Monroe didn’t accept the qualifying offer just for a big salary. It also allowed him to leave Detroit, where he spent a lot of time losing.

Yet, his Bucks (9-14) are looking up at the Pistons (12-11) in the standings.

Milwaukee is feeling the loss of dependable veterans like Zaza Pachulia, Jared Dudley and Ilyasova. A Monroe-led younger core could carry the Bucks to great heights, but they’ve first taken a step back.

Detroit is feeling itself out, still transitioning to Van Gundy’s system. Additional spacing hasn’t immediately created higher scoring.

And Monroe is feeling growing pains on a new team. Kidd isn’t bending his defense just for Monroe.

But, it seems with Monroe on the Bucks, everyone is in the right spot.

“He’s a perfect fit for them, absolutely,” Van Gundy said. “And he would be for most people.

“I don’t think there’s been any doubt about that, that it’s been good for him.

“And we hope in the long run, it’s going to be good for us.”

Thabo Sefolosha makes it official, will sue NYPD over injuries

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Last April, Hawks’ swingman Thabo Sefolosha had a late-night run-in with the New York Police Department outside a Chelsea Club on the night Chris Copeland was stabbed outside said club. Sefolosha was arrested for misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest — but in the process of the arrest suffered a broken leg that kept him out of the playoffs last season.

Rather than accept a “let’s just make this go away” plea deal Sefolosha fought the charges in court and won.

As expected, Sefolosha confirmed will now sue the City of New York and the NYPD over the injuries, something he confirmed to ESPN Monday.

In an interview Monday with ESPN’s Hannah Storm, Sefolosha said he hasn’t fully healed from the injuries, which also included severe ligament damage.

“There’s a lot of unknown about how this will affect me two years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now,” Sefolosha said. “Also because I think it’s the right approach to put lights in a situation like this and to … fight back in a legal way and in a way that can empower, hopefully, more people.”

In his previously filed “notice of claim” (a precursor to a lawsuit against a municipality) he said he would ask for $50 million. What makes Sefolosha a dangerous defendant is that he is not just going to settle for some quick cash, he’s already wealthy, he’s doing this on principle.

However, to receive a large award he will need to show some permanent damage, and plays like this from the preseason are not going to help his cause.

In case you’re curious, Sefolosha and the Hawks will be back in New York to take on the Knicks this Thursday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo with ridiculous putback jam (VIDEO)

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It’s been too long since we ran a Greek Freak highlight, so it was handy of him to provide one Tuesday night.

The Bucks are taking on the Timberwolves and nobody put a body on Giannis Antetokounmpo as he slid baseline after Chris Copeland took a three, allowing him to go up and slam down the putback jam.

Antetokounmpo has turned a lot of heads his first couple seasons in the league, but his game has been a bit raw and all about his freakish athleticism. I think he makes a leap this season and maybe even picks up the Most Improved Player award.