Five Fast Facts from NBA Games: 2.9.13

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Too much Nemo in this neck of the woods — let’s just leave it at that. As we do every day, we present five interesting items from the previous evening’s NBA games.

Just five games were on the schedule on the final Saturday before the All-Star break.  Denver extended their winning streak, the Warriors were unable to end their losing streak and the Pistons rallied to win on the road.


The Cars take us to the bump…”Lets go…I LIKE THE NIGHT LIFE, BABY”

SH Blog: Cavaliers guard duo impressive in win over Clippers

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The Cleveland Cavaliers have finished a combined 40-108 the past two seasons. Despite their growing  pains following LeBron James’ departure, Cavaliers fans have an intriguing team moving forward.

Cleveland won its first game of the season against Washington but arrived in Los Angeles after a two-game skid in which they lost to Chicago by 20 and to Milwaukee on Brandon Jennings buzzer-beating triple with 0.7 seconds left.

Such is life for a talented yet youthful team: There will be surreal highs and bottomless lows, and sometimes you really can’t be too sure what you’ll get.

On Monday night, the Cavaliers showed why they are considered to be on the upward tick as they came away from the Staples Center with a 108-101 victory over the loaded Clippers.

The win was sparked by team play and hustle on both ends, and that always begins with Anderson Varejao. The Brazilian center cradled 15 rebounds (he is averaging 15 through four games and 4-plus on the offensive end), scored 15 points and played solid pick-and-roll defense all night, as he ended up switching onto and staying in front of Chris Paul multiple times in these situations.

Rookie Tyler Zeller looked the part of a center who is still grasping the speed of the NBA game but undoubtedly has a future rebounding and knocking down open pick-and-roll jumpers. Alonzo Gee has gone from D-League project in 2011-12 to jack-of-all-trades starter in 2012-13; it was Gee who was matched up with Paul for extended stretches, forcing him to work around a taller, stronger and more athletic defender.

Last but not least, the two-headed monster that Byron Scott has dreamt about since the draft finally came to fruition last night: Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters combined for 52 points on 18-of-40 shooting, including 11-of-19 from distance. Irving was red-hot in the first quarter, scoring 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting and three 3-pointers. When he began to slow down, Waiters steadily contributed difficult 3-pointers, and did so with flair.

At one point in the third quarter, Waiters was knocking home contested, off-the-dribble bombs and running the other way with a competitive smile that Cavaliers fans should begin to relish; the competitive streak of this combo guard along with the ability to hit difficult, clutch shots is what sets him apart from other players, as he showed throughout the course of his two-year career at Syracuse. Despite being maligned by the press for “being out of shape” at NBA Summer League, Waiters has continued to work hard to learn from coach Scott and staff and should continue to emerge alongside the multi-dimensional offensive talent of Irving.

Despite playing well in his 32 minutes as a starter last night, there are some areas that the Cavaliers staff will help Waiters to improve upon over time on the offensive end:

Patience: There are times where players get caught up in the moment and take bad shots. Waiters is human and since he was feeling it, he decided to pull up from deep with about 20 seconds on the shot clock and 1:40 left in a tight game. Scott was disappointed, but these are the growing pains that a coach, team and organization must go through when attempting to turn a rookie into an elite player.

Playmaking: Waiters is such a talented scorer because he is crafty with the ball and has a more consistent outside jumper than his less-than-aesthetically-pleasing form loans itself to. As the game slows down for him and his chemistry with Irving and the rest of his teammates develops, Waiters’ ability to make plays for his should come more naturally within the flow of the game. “They’re still getting better and they’re still getting used to each other,” Scott said. “As much as they want to talk about how they’ve known each other since AAU, they still haven’t played together that much. They’re still getting used to one another, but they’re starting to come along.”

Settling For Deep Shots: Has Waiters begun the season with an excellent shooting touch from deep? Sinking 55 percent isn’t a bad way to start your career, but relying on off-the-dribble triples – the case with many of Waiters’ attempts – could be a risky proposition for a rookie. The coaching staff in Cleveland is probably helping Waiters to craft an in-between, pull-up game so he isn’t so reliant on the 3-pointer.

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SH Blog: Ibaka extends with Thunder; A.Gasol to UCLA

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We’re in the quiet period before the 2012-13 NBA season, but things are still going on. Teams are trying to fill their last roster spots, Eurobasket ’13 qualifying is taking place, many NBA teams still need help at a position or two.

Here’s all the latest news from around the basketball world:

  • First reported by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Thunder will sign center Serge Ibaka to a four-year, $48 million contract extension.  Ibaka, 22, could’ve been a restricted free agent next summer, and his deal now locks into place three of the Thunder’s core of young stars — Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Ibaka. Durant and Westbrook each have the maximum contracts allowed under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement. This deal leaves the future uncertain for guard James Harden, who could command a maximum contract as a restricted free agent next summer. Along with the remainder of Kendrick Perkins’ three years and $27 million, the small-market Thunder will be hard-pressed to invest so much money into their payroll.”
  • Thunder GM Sam Presti got married today and was in a hurry to get off the Ibaka conference call.
  • Presti on Ibaka's deal impacting Harden's negotiations: "They're independent of one another."
    Royce Young
  • Former Wizard Andray Blatche returned to his Syracuse hometown yesterday for an event sponsored by his charitable foundation. Blatche is still looking for work, and, according to Donna Ditota of the Syracuse Post-Standard, “lives these days in Houston, where he is working out with former NBA player, coach and general manager John Lucas to polish his image and improve his body and his game.”
  • Source: Alonzo Gee and #Cavs close to deal. 9.8 mil 3 yrs. @ @ @ @ #nba
    john telich
  • John Denton of wrote a profile of Arron Afflalo, who came to the Magic in the Dwight Howard trade.  It details Afflalo’s upbringing in an unusual section of Los Angeles, his time at UCLA, and the early portion of his NBA career: “Danny and Arron lived in a little-known section of Compton where the lots are large and the area is still zoned for horses and farm animals. The area around the Afflalo’s house resembled a farm you might see miles out in the Eastern California valleys, complete with horses, chickens and other farm animals. Only, this was the heart of Compton and the mean streets were just a block away. Living on “the farm’’ taught Afflalo about responsibility and disciple and it kept him away from Compton’s most dangerous areas.”
  • Montenegro defeated Serbia today on a halfcourt three by Nikola Ivanovic. Montenegro gained independence from Serbia six years ago today, to give this win a little perspective.  Here’s the video:
  • Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe via Sulia: “For those who missed it earlier, David Falk, the agent for Jeff Green, told Boston Globe that his client’s deal with #celtics is close and should be official next week.”
  • Finally, the third Gasol brother has a place to play college ball, writes Raphielle Johnson of NBC Sports: “Adria Gasol, a 6-10 forward who played his first two years of high school basketball at Lausanne High School in Memphis, will join the UCLA program as a walk-on according to multiple reports. His older brothers Pau and Marc were two of the key figures on Spain’s silver medal-winning team at the London Olympics, and are two of the better big men in the NBA. Adria isn’t thought of as highly as Pau and Marc were before they entered the NBA, but the 6-10 Spaniard will give the Bruins some valuable front court depth in practices.”
  • Marcin Gortat needs a razor.
  • Four EuroNets are playing in Eurobasket qualifying. From NetsDaily, Mirza Teletovic scores 33.

The Free Agency Scrapheap


We are down to the bargain bin of free agency.

Reduced for clearance! Everything must go! Up to 90 percent off!

Yes, we know Mickael Pietrus and Derek Fisher aren’t exactly scrap heap material. Both were key players for playoff teams last season, as were Leandro Barbosa and Kenyon Martin.

But most of what is left falls into three categories: Olympians, amnesty victims and veterans too proud to take minimum deals.

There is some variety remaining at both forward spots and shooting guard but little left at center and the point.

Here’s a positional look at the 20 best available free agents.


MICKAEL PIETRUS: Became a victim of a money game in Boston, which is strange given that the Celtics still don’t have a true backup for Paul Pierce. Agent Bill McCandless has said Pietrus won’t play for the minimum, which may mean he is headed overseas.

JOSH HOWARD: Can still have an impact off the bench as a slasher and defender. Once a borderline knucklehead, his experience could help a young team in need of a veteran presence.

MATT BARNES: The irony here is that last season, Barnes was the best of an awful group of Lakers small forwards that included Metta World Peace, Devin Ebanks, Luke Walton and Jason Kapono. Now he is unemployed and apparently being stalked by cops. Hard to imagine his toughness and experience not being valued by any team.

ANTHONY TOLLIVER: Like Pietrus in Boston, one of the odd men out in Minnesota. There is some interest from Washington, Charlotte and Indiana, as there should be for an athletic 27-year-old combo forward with arc range.

MARTELL WEBSTER: Since he was waived by Minnesota, there has been virtually no buzz around him. That’s strange, given that he is still just 25 with good size and athleticism. Maybe it’s his haircut, one of the worst in the NBA in some time.

ALONZO GEE: Did not sign a $2.7 million qualifying offer from Cleveland, looking for a better offer that never came and never will. If he returns to the Cavaliers, he will now have to battle C.J. Miles for minutes.

TERRENCE WILLIAMS: Could be the steal of free agency – or a huge headache. When given minutes, has shown awesome skills for the 3-spot. Has also shown himself to be a clown and doesn’t seem to be in Sacramento’s plans. He needs to land where he can play rather than just deepening a bench.


KENYON MARTIN: Still available because he wanted more than a minimum deal, based on his defense, toughness and 100 career playoff games. But he is 34 and has had two microfracture surgeries. Philadelphia, Phoenix and the LA Lakers all could use his snarl.

ANDRAY BLATCHE: Undoubtedly the most talented player with the biggest upside on this list. Also has the most work to do in rebuilding his wrecked reputation, which has him on the verge of being out of the league at age 25. Amnesty victim has $25 million coming over the next three years, so he should pick a place that will afford him minutes and the right surroundings. San Antonio has been mentioned and would be ideal.

LOUIS AMUNDSON: Always seems to be overmatched but always finds a way to contribute. Still not yet 30 and would be an ideal fourth or fifth big on any roster. He may be holding out for the mini-midlevel exception with a contender.

YI JIANLIAN: Could a 7-foot stretch-4 really be done at age 24? He averaged 15 points and 10 boards in group play in the Olympics, not a bad audition after sinking to the end of the bench in Dallas last season. If he returned to China, he would instantly become the league’s biggest homegrown star. But he wants to play in the NBA.

D.J. WHITE: His 36-minute numbers last season (12.9 points, 6.9 rebounds) were not bad. The question remains can he do it with a team other than Charlotte, which had no interest in bringing him back. Also may be hoping for a mini-midlevel deal somewhere.


DARKO MILICIC: He has $7 million due over the next two years as part of his amnesty release. Given his size and age (27), he can be a little picky regarding minimum deals. Would be a good fit for any team with a defensive-minded starting center because he can put the ball in the hole a little.

JERMAINE O’NEAL: His experience makes him a nice addition who can back up the center and power forward spots. It is hard to believe he is just 33 because he has looked 43 at times over the last couple of years. He claims to be healthy now, but still no one is biting.

CHRIS ANDERSEN: Apparently not looking for more than the veteran’s minimum; with $9 milion due via amnesty over the next two years, that seems like smart way to continue his career. However, he also has some legal issues hanging over his head.


LEANDRO BARBOSA: Led Brazil in scoring at 15 points per game through Olympic group play and probably will have plenty of offers as long as he emerges healthy, which has been an issue in the past. The Lakers and Cavaliers are said to be interested, with LA offering a chance at a title and the Cavs able to offer more money and minutes.

CARLOS DELFINO: Has always had an inflated opinion of himself, so it’s not surprising he is unsigned, especially considering he is still playing in the Olympics. Undersized for small forward and not quick enough for shooting guard but could back up both positions.

MICHAEL REDD: Nowhere near the player he was in his prime but still a dead-eye shooter who bounced back a bit last season in Phoenix. Was that due to the awesome work by the training staff of the Suns? His agent says he is taking his time picking a team, but his name has been quiet this summer.

LESTER HUDSON: Averaged nearly 13 points in 13 games with Cleveland – which let his second 10-day deal expire. Then Memphis signed him – and did not make a qualifying offer. Already 28, he is worth a one-year deal as a fifth or sixth guard.


DEREK FISHER: If he wasn’t so steadfast in wanting more than the veteran’s minimum, he would have been snapped up long ago. Even though he turns 38 this month, his postseason with the Thunder showed he has plenty left in the tank both on and off the court. Might still get an exception from a contender.

JANNERO PARGO: Not really a point guard but can handle the ball for brief stretches. Those who consider him a journeyman should note that he has played 40 playoff games – and averaged double figures in two postseasons. He has no fear of taking a big shot.

Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to During the season, his columns appear Wednesday and Sunday. You can follow him on Twitter.

SH Blog: Monday’s News: Durant’s rituals, value of LeBron James, players’ activities

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Game 5 of the Thunder-Spurs series is set for 9PM ET tonight. In the meantime, check out some of the news around the league on Monday from possible player movements, game evaluations, and off-season activity from players that are in full vacation mode.

  • Is the criticism on Russell Westbrook being selfish warranted? Darnell Mayberry discusses why it is not warranted: The point guard who continues to be a lightening rod for criticism for everything from his shot selection to his body language has undoubtedly made questionable choices throughout the first four years of his career. But the more you listen to Westbrook off the court, and compare what you hear to what you see on it, you soon understand that most of Westbrook’s mistakes are born out of a burning desire to just make his team better.
  • Mayberry also helps us understand the meaning behind Kevin Durant’s pregame rituals. Here is a quote from Durant: I tie my shoes. I point to the sky for all my fallen soldiers. I tap my chest for my grandma and my mom. I tap my back for Maryland. And I point in the crowd to my brother.
  • Heading into Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Spurs looked like the most indestructible team the league has seen in a long, long time. Two games later, they were on the brink of trailing the Thunder, writes Jeff McDonald of San Antonio Express-News: In a blink, a 20-game winning streak became a two-game losing streak. As a result, the Spurs come home to find themselves, for the first time this postseason, in clear and present danger of falling behind in a series.
  • Like it or not, LeBron James is held to a different standard. He may or may not come through in the clutch, but if there is something he never does, it’s fouling out of a playoff game. As Marc J. Spears wrote, Game 4 marked the first time James has ever fouled out of a playoff game in his career: ”I don’t foul out,” James said after scoring a game-high 29 points. “If I’m going to foul out, that sixth foul, I wish I would have earned it [and it] had actually been a foul on me. Whatever.”
  • If you missed how James and Paul Pierce accumulated all of their fouls in Game 4, watch this video.
  • With James out of the picture in overtime, it was up to Dwyane Wade to save the day. How did he do? Sebastian Pruiti of Grantland has the breakdown for you: With LeBron James on the bench after fouling out, Dwyane Wade took the final shot. Make no mistake though: This was not a designed isolation play. Coach Erik Spoelstra drew up a great misdirection play to get an open 3-point shot for Mario Chalmers, but because of Wade’s poor execution, they settled for their second option and Wade missed the 3.
  • Early reports indicated that Chris Bosh would be ready for Game 5, but he has been officially listed as day-to-day, according to Tom Haberstroh: ”It’s premature to say he’ll definitively play,” Spoelstra said. “The reality is that this is not a normal situation. (The situation) is heightened and it is extreme. We have to be judicious in our evaluations.”
  • Last week, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Washington Wizards were on the verge of signing Randy Wittman to a contract. That report came to fruition today, from  In fact, the Washington Wizards didn’t really conduct a search. Randy Wittman was the choice all along for team President Ernie Grunfeld, who announced Monday that the early-season replacement for Flip Saunders has signed a new deal.
  • Michael Jordan used to hire assistants to make sure that no one touched anything in his cooler. Henry Abbott of TrueHoop quoted the book Larry Bird published, detailing the hilarity of the situation Bird witnessed: There was this girl there, and her only job was to make sure everything was just right for Michael Jordan, and she starts yelling at me, “Larry, you can’t go in there!” I said, “What are you talking about? That’s bull. Everyone here is family.” She was getting all nervous and said,”No, no. Those are all the things Michael told me he wanted, and if you take something out of there, Michael won’t be able to have it, and we just can’t let that happen!”
  • Speaking of Bryant, he received a report card today from Dave McMenamin, and he may not like the result: The guy who used to play for the Lower Merion Aces isn’t satisfied with anything less than an A, but it just didn’t all come together this year for Kobe.
  • LeRoy Ellis passed away over the weekend, according to The New York Times: LeRoy Ellis, a star center at St. John’s University who went on to a long N.B.A. career and played for the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakerschampionship team that won a record 33 straight games, died on Saturday in Scappoose, Ore., a suburb of Portland. He was 72.
  • Amare Stoudemire has had a rough year both on and off the basketball court. Things got much brighter for him, though, when he got engaged to Alexis Welch: ”I have been planning my proposal for a while and overlooking the entire Paris skyline seemed like a perfect place.  I am so happy she said ‘yes,’ and now we can continue to build our life together as husband and wife,” Stoudemire told PEOPLE from Paris.
  • John Wall is in full off-season mode, which means he is playing in a Drew League, with Chris Brown as his teammate, as you will see in this video.

For Rajon Rondo calling out the Heat, click here.

For Serge Ibaka’s cuff dunk, click here.

James Park is a regular contributor and blogger for You can follow him on twitter @nbatupark.