SH Blog: Kobe and Nash show great promise against Warriors, Howard wants to be “Iron Man”

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In Sunday night’s preseason game between the Lakers and the Warriors, we witnessed something that may take a while to get used to: Steve Nash was running the floor alongside Kobe Bryant in a Lakers uniform. If you’re not a Lakers fan, what we saw was bad news because Nash – as he always does – made the game look so darned easy for everyone else. The Warriors actually blew the game open for a 110-83 victory and showed promising signs of their own, but the glimpse of what the Lakers could do, even without their prized center Dwight Howard, was the intrigue of the night. See what Bryant had to say about his new backcourt mate, along with your daily news from Monday below:

  • Bryant feels joy from playing with Nash. The bond between the two is already obvious, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports: “Yes, it was just a preseason game for these new-look Los Angeles Lakers. But the first Nash-to-Bryant assist also showed all the promise that could await them this season. ”He just makes the game easy,” Bryant said later of his new point guard. “It’s a joy for me. I’ve had to facilitate and score my entire career. I don’t have to do that now and I’m pretty happy about it.” In Nash’s first game with the Lakers, he and Bryant looked comfortable from the opening tip. The Lakers hope their relationship only continues to improve. In previous seasons, the Lakers too often watched as Bryant dribbled out the shot clock before taking a tough, contested shot. Nash also should be able to keep L.A.’s big men happy – or at least happier than they were when the offense ran only through Bryant’s hands. Bryant can now spend his energy trying to get open, knowing that if he does, Nash will find him.”
  • How did the Lakers look in Sunday’s preseason game against the Warriors? Mark Medina of Los Angeles Times noticed fluidity on offense: “The Lakers also ran the revamped offense that includes elements of the Princeton system with fluidity. Rarely did they ever go into isolation sets. Each player appeared intent on following Nash’s lead and finding the open player for a shot. Bryant, who posted 10 points on two-of-seven shooting and three assists, appeared intent on facilitating. The Lakers set strong screens and actually played off them. They routinely covered for one another on defense. The floor spacing gave plenty of room for Metta World Peace to operate outside and score 10 points on three-of-six shooting. It’s fair to say that this reflects how much calmer and easier it’s been for the Lakers to absorb Brown’s teaching concepts with more time and a solidified roster. As a result, the Lakers look a lot more exciting and fluid on offense than last year.”
  • Klay Thompson displayed his full arsenal against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, from Matt Steinmetz of CSN Bay Area: “It didn’t take long for Klay Thompson to unveil a little more of his game. Thompson, primarily an outside shooter in his rookie season, went to the bucket three straight times early in the game on Bryant, and finished on two of them. Thompson was the Warriors’ best offensive player on Sunday night, finishing with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting. “I was taking what the defense was giving me,” Thompson said. “If they were playing up on my shot, drive. Kobe can’t move his feet as much as he used to so I got into the paint and made some plays.” Would Thompson have done that a year ago? “Not as effectively, no,” he answered. “But I’ve gotten stronger, worked on my quickness. I would have tried but I wouldn’t have gotten those results.”
  • Here are some highlights from the Lakers-Warriors game. Fast forward to 0:45 for Jarrett Jack’s forgettable moment:

Everybody chill I tripped on pau foot
@Jarrettjack03
JARRETT JACK
Even tho I tripped only thing I was thinking was please don't fall or @ will never let me hear the end of this hahahaha
@Jarrettjack03
JARRETT JACK
  • Dwight Howard apparently wants to be known as Iron Man now, according to Mike Prada of SB Nation: “Dwight Howard gave a mid-game interview with the Los Angeles Lakers’ broadcasters during the team’s preseason game against the Golden State Warriors. During the interview, Howard declared that he is now “Iron Man,” not “Superman.” Which is funny, because: 1. Superman would probably kick Iron Man’s ass. 2. Howard was not playing because he’s still recovering from a back injury.”
  • Deron Williams is impressed with Barclays Center, according to Howard Beck of The New York Times: “It’s built for basketball,” point guard Deron Williams said, drawing a sharp contrast with the Newark arena, which he disdained. “It’s not built for hockey; it’s not built for soccer. It’s built for basketball. Like I said, when they thought about it, they thought about everything. They thought about the crowd reacting, and it’s just got a great feel. It’s almost like there’s no bad seats in the arena.” The Nets will use stage lighting — just as the Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers do — enhancing the feel of intimacy and putting the focus squarely on the court. Johnson described it as “that Broadway feel.”
Deron Williams elaborated on choice of Nets over Mavs. Says Mark Cuban's absence at meeting helped cinch decision.
@HowardBeckNYT
Howard Beck
  • Nikola Pekovic has become leaner and stronger in the offseason, which had Rick Adelman gushing about the big man’s many talents. Jerry Zgoda of Star Tribune has the story: “He’s slimmed down, but he’s stronger,” Adelman said. “You just watch him. Guys in the scrimmages just want out of there. They don’t want to go against him. He’s going to be crucial for us. If we have a guy who has to be our Iron Man, it’s Pek. When we have him out there, he’s such a force around the basket. It makes everybody else better.”… Adelman praised Pekovic’s passing, of all things, after Thursday’s practice, saying the big guy is seeing plays unfold and making passes that he didn’t see from Pekovic all last season. Adelman also wants Pekovic to expand his offensive game, which apparently means shooting the ball from beyond 2 feet. ”He can really shoot the ball from 15, 16 feet, he just never looks for it,” Adelman said. “I offer him the three-pointer every time I talk to him about it, and he has not accepted that yet.”
  • Tyreke Evans will rely on his jump shot- something he has tirelessly worked on – this season. DeMarcus Cousins and Keith Smart have noticed the difference in Evans, according to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: “Evans has a key to the Kings’ practice facility and got in a lot of late-night shooting sessions, earning him the nickname “Cat Burglar.” He focused on his form. That meant not leaning back and kicking out his leg on jump shots. ”I just try to go straight up and down,” Evans said. “Every time I’d go and lean back, I’d just think to myself to go straight up.” Evans’ dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed. ”He’s way more focused,” said DeMarcus Cousins. “He’s in good shape, and he’s ready to turn things around. He wants to get this thing turned around as well.” A more mature Evans is a good thing for the Kings…”(Evans has) always been a guy who wanted to (improve), but you had to give him a plan and a staff that won’t leave until the last person leaves the building,” Smart said.
  • Allen Iverson played in an exhibition game in China and showed he still has the deadly crossover in his arsenal:

  • Amare Stoudemire is excited about displaying his new abilities in the post and blamed Mike D’Antoni’s system for never having developed a post game, from Marc Berman of New York Post: “I’m ready to step into a new era of my career,’’ Stoudemire vowed. “It’s going to benefit my career and I’ll become more of a complete player, having an all-around game.’’… Stoudemire didn’t know a single move before the summer. He blames it on being attached to former Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni’s speedball game. “I’m a player who adapted to the system I played in,’’ Stoudemire said. “I’ve been under D’Antoni for seven, eight years. Post-up wasn’t a factor for us. We were such a high-octane, up-tempo team where speed and quickness was to our advantage. I’m now allowed to develop a post game where my speed and quickness will still be used to my advantage but add a lot of [post] skill.’’
  • Dwyane Wade will ignore the questioning of his age from reporters moving forward. It’s safe to say that the question ticks him off, according to Shandel Richardson Sun Sentinel: “The whispers will turn into yells if he has any sort of problems recovering from offseason knee surgery that is expected to keep him out most of the preseason games, which begin Sunday at the Atlanta Hawks. So, will Wade struggle early? It’s unlikely, considering Wade kept a log of the “old man” articles from last season. He actually viewed it as an energy drink, an extra boost heading into his 10th season. Did the premature retirement party tick him off? You bet. ”Any time someone questions you, it’s going to bother you if you have any kind of competitive nature,” Wade said. “It fuels you. You want to see what you’re made of in a sense. You want to come back and not only answer the bell, but do a little bit more than expected.”
  • Kevin Durant wants you to stop blowing his workouts with LeBron James out of proportion, from Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: “Kevin Durant wants to clear up something about his offseason workouts with LeBron James. “A lot of people blew (it) out of proportion,” the reigning three time scoring champion said. “It was just one day.” Still, some had a problem with Durant recently traveling to Ohio for the second consecutive summer to train with James. Durant, though, doesn’t see the big deal. “I’m a competitive guy,” Durant said. “I’m sure you guys have seen that in me. I just wanted to work out. That’s what it was all about. I’ll work out with anybody. I would have worked out with Kobe Bryant. I would have worked out with Carmelo (Anthony). I just wanted to work out and get better.”
  • Although David Stern likes NBA jerseys the way they are now, he won’t interfere with advertisements if that is the preference, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE: “And while he recognizes the upside of such a decision – increased revenue – Stern likes the league’s jerseys as they are now. ”As a personal matter, I am not in favor of it, but I’m not standing in the way of it,” Stern said. “If my board wants to do it, we’ll do it.” It is clear that Stern’s opposition to having ads on jerseys has more to do with tradition than anything else. ”Of all the leagues in the world, the NBA is the only one that has its own logo on it,” Stern said. “No information of the manufacturer and no sponsor, and that is something that I have worked hard to preserve for many decades. But I understand that the team may have to come to consider it. So we’re going to let the Board of Governors decide what to do.”
  • Stern hopes to see a new team in Seattle within the next five years, according to Gary Washburn of Boston Globe: “Commissioner David Stern offered this little nugget on the future of basketball in Seattle, which is just approved a new arena plan when talking to reporters in Milan, Italy. “It would be my hope that within the timeframe that you mentioned, five years, that if everything works out perfectly, there would be a new arena and new team in Seattle. That’s always, for the board of governors, but I know that many governohrs are favorably inclined.”
  • Andrew Bynum’s teammates firmly believe in the abilities of the center, according to John Mitchell of The Inquirer: “The Sixers I’ve talked to are firmly in their teammate’s camp. This includes Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Dorell Wright and Jason Richardson (who has played with Howard). One of them even went as far to say that Bynum, who will be their first option rather than the third, as he was in Los Angeles, could average 25 points this season. The good thing about this is that, as far as the Sixers are concerned, what’s being said by others outside of their locker room hasn’t altered their opinion about their teammate, which should help them this season… Speaking of Bynum, he looks to be in great condition. He’s trim. He’s engaging his teammates and coaches. And if they were playing games right now, Bynum would be out there.
  • Anthony Randolph will look to renew his career with the Denver Nuggets this season, and his first preseason game was encouraging, according to Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: “So there’s this player. He’s only 23 years old, a lanky, leaping 6-foot-11 pogo stick who can seemingly touch this high ceiling everyone talks about him having the potential to reach. Then there’s this player who has been on four NBA teams since 2008, arguably a vagabond bust, cursed by his potential. Well, it’s the same dude. Anthony Randolph is a Nugget now. The team took a gamble on the big man this summer, hoping he’s more potential than unfulfilled potential. And in the Nuggets’ preseason opener Saturday night in Las Vegas, Randolph had the team’s best plus-minus rating (plus-11) against the Clippers and finished with eight points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots in 18 minutes.”
  • Doc Rivers hopes to change the fragile mind of Darko Milicic, from Washburn: “You can see that he gets frustrated easy,” Rivers said. “So we’re trying to eliminate those episodes. Our thing right now with Darko is to play forward. From being around for a short time, as a coach I can probably feel he’s played his career backwards. He lives in the past a lot and we’re trying to get him to live in the future. I told him (Friday), the only time I’ll take you out is if you make a mistake and make another mistake because you’re thinking about the last mistake. I won’t take you out for making a mistake. So hopefully that works.”
  • Why did the Bucks struggle with their defense last season? The small backcourt was part of the issue, according to Dan Sinclair of Brew Hoop: “The Bucks’ other big problem was an inability to keep opponents away from the basket. They allowed the 5th-most attempts at the rim per game last season at over 26 per. The only thing that saved Milwaukee from disaster in that regard was their ability to contest close shots; the Bucks were 6th-best in opponent FG% at the rim, likely a testament to their many shot blockers. The obvious targets for blame here are Milwaukee’s perimeter players. Jennings has left his early reputation as a plus defender behind, becoming more gambler than stopper. Adding Monta Ellis hardly helped, and Beno Udrih has a poor defensive reputation as well.”
  • Rodrigue Beaubois will miss Tuesday’s preseason game, according to Dwain Price of Star-Telegram: “Dallas Mavericks guard Rodrigue Beaubois will not play in Tuesday’s game in Barcelona, Spain, against FC Barcelona Regal. Beaubois sprained his left ankle in the third quarter of this past Saturday’s 89-84 preseason-opening victory over Alba Berlin in Berlin, Germany. After the game, Beaubois wore a protective boot. However, he is no longer wearing the boot, which is a sign of progress. ”Twisted ankles are just part of the game,” general manager Donnie Nelson said. “No major setback at all.”
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar thinks Shaquille O’Neal is delusional:

SH Blog: Brandon Roy to return, Elton Brand to be amnestied, Louis Williams to find new team

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Before Ray Allen agreed to join the Miami Heat, nothing of major significance happened in free agency today, with the exception of the return of one Brandon Roy and the Philadelphia 76ers making some major roster adjustments. Aside from that, today’s news is filled with teams and players’ options, desires, possibilities and opinions.

  • First reported by Jason Quick of the Oregonian, Brandon Roy has agreed to deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves: “Brandon Roy has agreed to a two-year, $10 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves, according to sources close to the situation. Roy can officially sign with the Timberwolves on July 11, when the league’s moratorium ends. The 27-year-old met with Timberwolves brass earlier this week and the two sides reached an agreement on Thursday afternoon, according to sources. Prior to agreeing to terms with Minnesota, Roy received interest from the Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks and Cleveland Cavaliers, according to sources.”
  • Here is the news of Roy’s signing from the Warriors point of view, from Matt Steinmetz: “Roy’s contract is reported to be for $10 million over two years. The Warriors could have offered Roy that same contract — using their mid-level exception — and even offered more years and more money. But earlier this week, (GM Rob) Myers made it clear that the Warriors were not prepared to use the team’s entire mid-level exception because it would put the Warriors in the luxury tax area. The Warriors’ pursuit of Roy made sense from a basketball standpoint. Roy was a three-time all-star before injuries cut short his career. If he can approach his former level of play, Roy will no doubt help the team he’s playing for.”
  • Jeff Green is closing in on a deal with the Celtics, according to Sam Amick of SI.com: On the Celtics front, agent David Falk continues to say he thinks a deal gets done with Boston for free agent forward Jeff Green. One source with knowledge of the talks says it may be in the four years, $40 million neighborhood, but it is not done. ”I’m confident it’ll get done,” Falk told SI.com. “I guess they got (Brandon) Bass’ (contract) done, which is great. Jeff is trying to get a sense of what the team looks like first before he makes a commitment, but I expect he’ll be there and I expect it’ll be done by the 11th (when the free agency moratorium ends). We’ve gotten a lot of interest from other teams. But as far as Boston, we’re very confident we’ll get it done.
  • The New York Knicks, as expected, will match the Rockets’ offer sheet for Jeremy Lin, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post: “It wasn’t so poisonous. Jeremy Lin yesterday accepted the Rockets’ back-loaded “poison pill,” four-year, $28.8 million offer sheet, and it hardly created a ripple with the Knicks, who are expected to match it. The final year even has a team option. Ignited by having Jason Kidd agree to join their roster and become Lin’s mentor, the Knicks can’t wait to get Lin back. “He’s their guy,’’ one NBA official debriefed on the Knicks’ strategy said. “They’ll match.’’
  • Elton Brand will be cut from the Philadelphia 76ers via amnesty clause, which will help allow the signing of Nick Young, reports Adrian Wojnarowski: “The Philadelphia 76ers will use the NBA’s amnesty clause to cut Elton Brand and the $18.2 million left on his contract, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. In part, this move clears the way for the Sixers to sign Los Angeles Clippers free agent Nick Young to a one-year, $6 million deal. The 76ers can’t use the amnesty clause until the league’s moratorium on signings ends July 11. Teams under the salary cap can place bids on Brand through the amnesty wire with the highest bid claiming him. Teams currently under the cap include the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets.
  • According to Ken Berger of CBSSports, the Mavericks are favorites to land Brand: “League executives believe Dallas, a rare big-market team with cap room, is the odds-on favorite to pluck Elton Brand off the amnesty wire.”
  • Deron Williams explains why he chose the Nets over the Mavericks, from our Jan Hubbard: “People close to me know how hard it was to not pick Dallas . . . I think Mark is a great owner.  But I just felt like Brooklyn the way they were going and willing to spend under this new CBA was a better situation. DWill on getting $98M over five years rather than $75M over four in Dallas. “Money never really factored into my decision. Honestly. The extra year in NY because of the cost of living and taxes and I live in the city so there’s city tax on top of that. It doesn’t end up becoming that much more money. It was just more of a basketball decision. I love Dallas, I was looking forward to going home and living there. It fits more of my lifestyle with four kids. But as far as basketball and the direction [the Nets are] going and they’re willing to spend money. … Swayed me the other way.”
  • Still, he feels sympathy for Dirk Nowitzki and the coaching staff and knew bad things could happen, from Hubbard: “TChandler:”If they weren’t able to land Deron Williams or Dwight [Howard] I knew there would be trouble down the road. If they weren’t able to land Deron Williams or Dwight [Howard] I knew there would be trouble down the road.”
  • Tony Parker will play in the Olympics and got himself some goggles for eye protection: “The two ophthalmologists (from the Spurs) confirmed the opinion of the French doctor who operated on Tony Parker, and the two Swiss specialists who also examined the player last Thursday, and indicated that he can resume playing,” the French Basketball Federation said on Friday, adding that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich also gave his blessing. Parker is joining the French squad in Orleans and he could play in a tuneup against England on Saturday.”
  • The Indiana Pacers are eyeing one of the following two players, from Mike Wells: “OJ Mayo or Courtney Lee? Pick one. Not both. Only one. Those are the two shooting guards the Pacers have their eyes on as they try to plug their hole at sixth man and also give Paul George a good wakeup call that he’ll have to continue to work to keep his starting spot. They’ve reached out to Mayo and Lee. Mayo is the top choice for the Pacers. He’s been their top choice for a few years now.”
  • Anthony Randolph will meet with a couple of teams over the next week or so, from Marc. J. Spears:  ”Wolves free agent forward Anthony Randolph meeting with Atlanta Hawks this weekend, source tells Y! Dallas native meeting with Mavs Tuesday.”
  • Eric Gordon really wants to leave the Hornets, from Jimmy Smith: “New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon said if the team matches the four-year, $58 million offer sheet he signed this week with the Phoenix Suns, he’ll play in the Crescent City, but he won’t be happy about it. Gordon made his comments speaking with reporters for the first time since issuing a statement through his agent that his “heart” was in Phoenix. ”If (the Hornets) were interested, there wouldn’t have been no tour, there wouldn’t have been nothing,” Gordon said. “There’s been no negotiations. I was right there in Indiana. I haven’t received no calls, to me personally. They’ve contacted my agent. ”As for now, I don’t know what’s going on. (If the Hornets match) as of right now, I’d be disappointed.” Is there anything the Hornets could do to change his mind? ”I don’t think there is,” Gordon said.”
  • Jason Kidd was supposed to stay with the Mavericks, but a golf session changed his mind, from Dwain Price: “When he went to bed Wednesday night, Kidd was sure he was going to re-sign with the Mavs. Then, he had a major change of heart. ”It was very close,” Kidd said. “In the morning I felt like I was going to be a Mav, then I went and played golf, and I just didn’t feel right. ”I talked to my wife about it and my agent, and we all kind of agreed that if you feel like you want to go to New York and try to help them, then you should. So that’s the decision we made.”
  • While Kidd is willing to come off the bench, he expects to play in crunch time, from Ian Begley: “Kidd on @ESPNNY98_7FM says he doesn’t care about starting or coming off bench but wants to play the final 6 minutes of the game.‬”
  • Hakeem Olajuwon will be very busy tutoring more notable NBA players this summer, according to Chris Tomasson: “Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon, who tutored (LeBron) James last summer before his regular season and Finals MVP season with Miami, said Saturday that New York big men Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler will work out with him in August in the Houston area and he’s optimistic of Clippers forward Blake Griffin also enlisting his services. Olajuwon also said he’ll try to get Oklahoma City forward Serge Ibaka in for a summer session and that Denver will be sending three or four big men to work with him, two he anticipates being JaVale McGee and Timofey Mozgov. McGee is a restricted free agent but the Nuggets expect to re-sign him.”
  • Marcus Camby could become a Knick or a Heat, according to Spears: “NYK and MIA leaders in comp to land HOU C Marcus Camby with either $3m mini mid or Sign-N-Trade, source tells Y! SA,DAL, HOU also interested”
  • Doug Collins and LeBron James share a special relationship, from Chris Tomasson: “James, then with Cleveland and now with Miami, had been moved by Collins’ speech about the pride he felt in being an Olympian despite the pain he went through. So he headed directly for Collins, who was an NBC analyst at the 2008 Games and is now Philadelphia’s coach, after the 118-107 win over Spain for the gold. ”When we were able to win that gold-medal game against Spain, he was the first person I looked for,” James said. “He was sitting across from our bench, and I went over and gave him a big hug to say, it was basically, ‘This was for you as well.”‘ Collins was touched, and shed some tears. He has a keepsake of the moment in his 76ers office.

Houston Rockets trade Kyle Lowry to the Toronto Raptors

Steve Nash stars in Dark Knight Rises parody


Phoenix, Utah and Milwaukee all have playoff hopes dampened

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Usually, the winners make the headlines.

In today’s roundup, however, the losers were the story of Saturday night as a handful of teams fighting to make the playoffs came up short.

With three different teams — Milwaukee, Utah and Phoenix — still within reach of the eighth and final playoff seed in their respective Conferences, how many of them came out with a victory?

None.

Starting with the most inexplicable blowout of the night – the only game on national television – the Spurs got out to a 17-point lead to begin the game, and the Suns mailed it in from there.

The Suns’ starters scored 20 total points.

To add insult to injury, the team lost Steve Nash due to a pre-existing injury he tried to play through, to no avail. He hopes to play Monday night to begin a critical four-game homestand.

From Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: “A 21-4 Spurs start to their 105-91 victory at AT&T Center revealed more than San Antonio’s home prowess (25-5) and Phoenix’s tired legs (eighth game in 12 days in eight cities). It disclosed a Nash right-hip strain that he suffered in Wednesday’s loss at Memphis and “struggled” through in Friday night’s win at Houston… ”It was going downhill every step I took,” Nash said. “It was a situation where, one, I wasn’t going to be effective and, two, I didn’t want to miss the last six games. I was lucky to get out when I did. ”I got in bed in Houston that night after the (Memphis) game and, all of a sudden, my hip is killing me. We worked at it for two days to get ready to play in Houston. (Head athletic trainer Aaron Nelson and strength and conditioning coach Mike Elliott) did a great job just to get me on the court, but it took a lot out of me. (It is an) irritated and inflamed hip socket.” Nash said he hopes treatment and medicine will allow him to move freely Monday night at home against Portland. He was unable to stop, twist or turn to react like he wanted Saturday night.”

The Suns will play five of their remaining six games against teams over .500. They trail eighth-seeded Denver and Houston by 1 1/2 games.

San Antonio, on the other hand, continues to click on all cylinders, winning 16 of its last 19 games.

Tim Duncan once again led the way with 19 points and 11 rebounds, and the fast start gave  the team a chance to rest its starters without having to completely sit them out.

It also gave the “Red Rocket” a chance to shine as the team clinched the Southwest Division and stayed within one game of the Thunder for the best record in the Western Conference, not that they care.

From Jeff McDonald of San Antonio Express-News: “The Red Sea opened up for the Red Rocket in the second quarter Saturday against Phoenix, and Matt Bonner suddenly found himself contemplating options he should never be permitted to contemplate. “I couldn’t decide between the windmill or the 360,” Bonner said after the Spurs’ easy-does-it 105-91 victory over the erstwhile surging Suns. “I ended up going with the one-handed power slam.” As a dunker, it turns out, Bonner remains a pretty good 3-point shooter. Despite Bonner’s postgame protests to the contrary — “I bruised my elbow on the rim!” — certain KIA-hopping All-Stars needn’t lose sleep. Bonner’s jam won’t be soon showing up on best-selling NBA posters, or a national car commercial, any time soon. “There’s Blake Griffin,” Tim Duncan deapanned. “And then there’s Matt Bonner.” The Spurs’ chase for the top seed in the Western Conference rolled on Saturday, with a resounding victory over a Suns team scrapping for its playoff life that was rarely as close as the final score showed.”

Unfortunately for Al Jefferson and Utah, the Jazz could not take advantage of Phoenix’s loss despite playing a much closer game against Memphis, and stayed 1/2 game behind the Suns.

Jefferson, who has yet to make it back to the playoffs since his rookie season in 2004-2005 with Boston, was distraught over the team’s recent woes.

From Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: “Al Jefferson has been near-silent after the Jazz’s last two losses. He dresses slowly, speaks softly and limits his answers to a few words before quietly exiting Utah’s locker room. Jefferson doesn’t need to talk. He knows exactly what’s happening. The Jazz’s season is becoming harder to save at the same time Utah’s running out of games. Utah fell 103-98 to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday at FedEx Forum. The Jazz have only five contests left to keep Jefferson’s vision alive. Since training camp for the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign started, all Utah’s starting center has wanted to do is make the playoffs. “Of course it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating losing, regardless,” said Jefferson, who scored a co-team-high 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds. He added: “We’re playing well; we’ve just got to finish games off. It doesn’t matter how well we play if we don’t win.”

Utah will play four of its remaining five games at home. They may also catch a break along the way, playing Orlando without Dwight Howard and Portland twice without LaMarcus Aldridge.

Memphis remained 1 1/2 games behind the Clippers thanks to O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay’s performances.

From Nikki Boertman of The Commercial Appeal: “Mayo scored 17 of his 20 points in the fourth. Gay grabbed clutch rebounds and made key stops in an all-around performance that led to 26 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks. The Griz extended their home winning streak to seven games and won for the 10th time in 13 outings overall. “We made stops,” Gay said. “That’s all it is. We limited them to tough shots.”… The defensive stance was critical given the Jazz shot 53 percent and played even with the Griz on the boards through three quarters. Then, Mayo provided much needed firepower late. He scored 10 straight points early in the fourth, including back-to-back 3-pointers that gave the Griz an 82-80 lead. Mayo’s fourth 3-pointer of the quarter all but sealed the win as the Griz took a 98-94 advantage with 45 seconds left. There was no doubt about who would shoot, either. The Griz kept feeding Mayo the ball.”

Back in the East, Milwaukee blew yet another chance to move closer to the eighth seed despite playing at home, falling 2 1/2 games behind Philadelphia and New York in the standings.

The team had no answers for the size of Roy Hibbert and the Pacers, who built a 2 1/2 game lead over the Hawks for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

From Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: “Size and strength helped the Indiana Pacers build a lead, and they held off the Milwaukee Bucks in a tense finish Saturday night at the Bradley Center. The Bucks came up empty on six possessions late in the game, missing five shots and a pair of free throws as they suffered a costly 105-99 loss that dampened their playoff hopes… The Bucks have just six games remaining, three at home and three on the road. Pacers center Roy Hibbert proved tough for the smaller Bucks to handle as the 7-foot-2 all-star finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds. He sank six free throws in the final 1:14 to help Indiana (38-22) secure the victory. ”We had our opportunities to really get it close,” said Bucks coach Scott Skiles. “But we’ve been missing our free throws in the fourth quarter lately, and that hurt us again tonight.” The Bucks were just 16-of -26 at the foul line (0-for-5 in the fourth quarter) while the Pacers went 24-of-26 on their free throw attempts. And Indiana had a 54-43 rebounding advantage… Seven Indiana players scored in double figures, including all five starters.”

And finally, the non-contending Minnesota played another excitable game against the Thunder despite playing without Kevin Love, who scored 51 points the last time these teams met.

Ultimately, the Timberwolves lost once again, for the ninth consecutive game. Somehow, the team has lost 24 consecutive games in April, dating back to April 8, 2009 against the Warriors.

From John Rohde of The Oklahoman: “The Thunder hung on for a 110-105 victory before a sellout crowd of 19,552 at the Target Center, which kept alive yet another negative for Minnesota. The Timberwolves have now lost 12 straight against OKC. It took heroic performances from All-Stars Kevin Durant (43 points; seven rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (35 points; eight assists; two steals) for the Thunder to avoid what would have been an unacceptable loss to a team without three of its top five scorers because of injuries… ”They played well,” OKC coach Scott Brooks said. “They shot the ball well (50 percent). They moved the ball and they really did a good job offensively. We didn’t play well, but you give them credit. … They didn’t back down with all their injuries.” The biggest thorn in the Thunder’s side on Saturday was the smallest guy on the court in point guard J.J. Barea, who is generously listed at 6-foot and is no stranger to OKC… Reserves Michael Beasley (26 points; six rebounds) and Anthony Tolliver Randolph (22 points; 11 rebounds) kept the Wolves in the game, as did starting center Nikola Pekovic (14 points; 13 rebounds). Barea hit a late 3-pointer to finish with 24 points and was 9-for-16 from the field.

Elsewhere…

  • The L.A. Clippers defeated the Warriors 112-104 to move within one game of the idle L.A. Lakers. Chris Paul dominated with 28 points – including 12 points in the final period – and 13 assists, while Blake Griffin added 20 points and nine rebounds. The team has now won 11 of its last 13 games. The Warriors lost for the fourth straight time despite having four players score 20 points or more, led by Nate Robinson’s 28 points and eight assists.
  • The Celtics built further cushion for the Atlantic Division lead as they bested the Nets 94-82. Kevin Garnett led all scorers with 21 points while grabbing 12 rebounds, Brandon Bass had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Avery Bradley added 18 points. Despite suffering some embarrassment, Rajon Rondo had 15 assists to run his streak of double-digit assist games to 21. Deron Williams had 12 points and 14 assists in the losing cause in what seemed like a road game.
  • Behind Luke Harangody’s 16 points and 10 rebounds, the Cavaliers beat the Wizards 98-89. Harangody was called up from the D-League in order to rest Antawn Jamison in the midst of three games in three nights, and will return to the D-League despite the stellar performance. Anthony Parker led five other scorers in double figures with 15 points. John Wall had 19 points and nine assists in the loss, but he did not play with the smartest of guys.

James Park is a regular contributor to Sheridanhoops.com. Follow him on twitter @nbatupark.

Fantasy Spin: Thursday April 12

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Who needs Kobe Bryant? Not the Lakers, if last night’s impressive road win means anything. You have to start with Andrew Bynum grabbing 30 rebounds, which has happened exactly twice in 12 years. He added 16 points but was unhappy with his 7-20 shooting. Metta World Peace had 26 points, easily a season high, and Pau Gasol (21 & 11) played well. It was a rare off-night for the Spurs: Danny Green scored 22, but Tony Parker went just 2-12 for four points.

Wednesday Wrapup

PHI @ TOR: Two road wins in 24 hours have slowed the panic in Philadelphia. That Sixers bench is even better since Spencer Hawes (10 PTS, 4 REB, 4 BLK) was demoted, and while starter Nikola Vucevic (12 PTS, 5 REB) played less than 20 minutes, he was effective. Thaddeus Young led all scorers with 17. Toronto lost Jose Calderon in the third quarter with another cut over his injured eye. We liked Ed Davis (13 PTS, 13 REB, 5 AST) to benefit from the Andrea Bargnani calf injury but Amir Johnson, our other pick, didn’t fare so well.

IND @ CLE: It required overtime, but the Pacers got the W they needed. George Hill (17 PTS, 5 AST, 2 BLK) started again for Darren Collison (groin) and Roy Hibbert (11 PTS, 11 REB, 5 AST, 2 STL, 4 BLK) had a great line for someone with a sore ankle. Antawn Jamison led the Cavs with 21 and the Lester Hudson Show continued with 19 points, but he missed 8 of 9 three-point attempts and had 6 turnovers.

ATL @ BOS: The Celtics are playing great. Tired from beating Miami the night before, they pulled out an OT squeaker against the well-rested Hawks. Rajon Rondo had another triple-double: 10 points, 10 boards and 20 assists. Both Kevin Garnett (22 & 12) and Brandon Bass (21 & 10) double-doubled. Mikael Pietrus (concussion) returned from missing 10 games with 8 points in 29 bench minutes. The Atlanta bench didn’t do much; Josh Smith (20) and Jeff Teague (21) led the starters.

LAC @ OKC: Chris Paul scored 31 points to lead this mild upset, with Blake Griffin (16 PTS, 12 REB, 7 AST) making a big contribution in his home town, but it was a poor shooting night (40.8%) for the Thunder. Kevin Durant had “only” 22 while missing 14 shots, and Russell Westbrook went 3-14 from the floor; the bulk of his 20 points came on free throws.

NYK @ MIL: A very impressive road win for the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony (32 PTS, 10 REB) was stellar and Tyson Chandler (19 PTS, 11 REB) didn’t miss a shot all night. Drew Gooden (back) lasted just five minutes for the Bucks, who had to play small. Monta Ellis went off for 35 and Brandon Jennings had 22, but Ersan Ilyasova disappeared, with just 3 points in 14 minutes. There is no report that he’s hurt.

UTA @ HOU: Led by 29 from Gordon Hayward, the Jazz shut down the Rockets, who were doing better on the road. DeMarre Carroll (10 PTS, 7 REB in 26 minutes) got another start at SF for Utah and is a very inexpensive “filler” on DraftStreet teams. Kyle Lowry had 15 PTS, 5 AST and 4 REB in his 20 minutes; Goran Dragic played 41:21 but went just 3-13 from the field. They may be used more together, with SG Courtney Lee seeing reduced opportunities.

SAC @ NOH: Jason Smith (22) was the unlikely hero for the Hornets and Marco Belinelli added 21, as Eric Gordon rested his sore back again. Kings center DeMarcus Cousins got in early foul trouble and was never a factor. Marcus Thornton had 25 in the losing cause.

PHO @ MEM: It was too much Rudy Gay (32) for the Suns to handle. Memphis also got 42 points from its bench, led by Zach Randolph (17 & 9) and O.J. Mayo (15, including a trio of 3-pointers.) Jared Dudley is fading — 11 total points in his last three games — and Markieff Morris (17 PTS & 6 REB) is coming on; the latter is a sleeper in next year’s drafts.

MIN @ DEN: Losing Kevin Love with a mild concussion after just eight minutes should have caused the Wolves to throw in the towel. Instead, Anthony Randolph threw in 28 points and blocked five shots to keep it close. Derrick Williams added 27 off the bench, but the Nuggets prevailed. Ty Lawson (24 PTS, 8 AST) led the way, Danilo Gallinari had 18 in his second game back and Kenneth Faried (16 & 12) had another strong game.

GSW @ POR: It sounds a lot like LaMarcus Aldridge (hip) will be shut down, so. J.J. Hickson could finish the season as the starter. He had 23 PTS and 13 REB in 40 minutes last night to complement Jamal Crawford’s 34-point outburst off the bench. Nicolas Batum (quad) was a surprise starter but he’s also a shutdown candidate. David Lee (21 PTS, 14 REB, 6 AST) and Nate Robinson (19 PTS, 8 AST) kept the Warriors in the game.

Thursday Thoughts

DET @ CHA: Absolutely meaningless, unless you need emergency help in your fantasy playoffs. D.J. Augustin is the starting PG again, with Kemba Walker as the sixth man; both could have good nights with Rodney Stuckey (knee) questionable for Detroit. Gerald Henderson is another Bobcats scoring option. Byron Mullens has cooled off but this is a good matchup for him to bounce back. The Pistons lost the first three games of this road trip, against tough opponents. If they can get up for this one, look for Tayshaun Prince and Greg Monroe to lead the way.

MIA @ CHI: Game of the night for NBA fans, a puzzle for fantasy owners. Will either team get anything going offensively? Will Derrick Rose play? You have to like LeBron James to get his numbers, and Dwyane Wade could have a big night if D-Rose can’t go. The advantage for the Bulls, as with most Heat opponents, is up front, as long as Joakim Noah plays aggressively.

LAC @ MIN: Both teams will be tired, though the Clippers will be in a better mood after a huge win last night. Meanwhile, the Timberwolves will probably be Love-less. J.J. Barea may have to take on a scoring role, but CP3 is a good defender. You might think Nikola Pekovic would step up in Love’s absence; I think Pek needs surgery on both ankles and while his pain tolerance is admirable, his game is gone for this year.

MEM @ SAS: Both teams played last night; the Spurs didn’t have to travel and have about a dozen interchangeable parts, so they may be fresher in the second half. However, Memphis is on a roll, winning six of seven this month. Tony Allen is day-to-day as that facial cut heals; he had the stitches out yesterday and would make the Grizzlies better if he can play.

DAL @ GSW: The Mavs need the win and the Warriors, who ought to be tanking, played last night. Jason Kidd is back at the point, with Delonte West starting at SG and Vince Carter coming off the bench. Now that Lamar Odom has been shut down, Brandan Wright is a bigger part of the rotation, playing C behind starter Brendan Haywood and also backing up Dirk Nowitzki.

The Spin is here every day before 8:00 EDT except for Sunday, when we post by noon. Follow me on Twitter in between.

DraftStreet Parade

Sure Things Over $14,000
L. James $20,913
C. Paul $18,726
B. Griffin $17,592
D. Nowitzki $14,870
Bargains Under $9,000
D. Williams $6,900
A. Randolph $8,400
D. Green $8,237
B. Rush $7,353
Hunches $9,000 to $14,000
J. Noah $13,230
G. Monroe $13,545
J. Barea $9,200
R. Gay $12,190

Well, it worked again. I played three teams in the $2 GPP Salary Cap league, and the only one that used Andrew Bynum (53 FTPS) finished 11th of 220 to earn $10. That same lineup in another $2 league got a $5 consolation prize for finishing 22nd of 330 teams. But it was in the $5 league, where I played three teams for the first time, that it worked best.

Quite similar in other ways, my team with DeMarcus Cousins (just in case) finished 186th and the one with Marc Gasol 76th. But again, Mr. Bynum helped my third lineup to finish sixth, collecting $55 from the $1,000 guaranteed prize pool. We’re now up $54 for Week 6 and ahead overall since beginning this experiment.

With only five NBA games tonight, options are limited, but I’m sticking with the three-team plan in both $2 and $5 leagues. You don’t really “know” which version of the lineup is best, and the one that cashes in may surprise you. There’s also the possibility of winning multiple prizes when all your variations perform well.

The center position is especially thin this evening, so while Noah and Monroe are listed as “Hunches,” Marc Gasol ($15,686) will be a popular choice. Though he was quiet last night, DeAndre Jordan ($10,091) is another possibility. Good luck!

If you still haven’t tried Draft Street, it’s free to join and you can get started by playing in free leagues. One free league, the Sheridan Hoops Freeroll, features $350 in cash prizes. It goes tomorrow night and every Friday; the salaries won’t be the same as in today’s chart and more players will be available, but if you want to register in advance, here’s the link.

The Bernucca List – Edition IV

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We may have to start making these a bit tougher.

Three readers nailed the right answer to last week’s edition of The Bernucca List, which was Team USA’s 2002 World Championships roster, a squad that finished a resounding sixth despite owning home-court advantage. Reader Little Al gets extra credit for adding Nick Collison as an alternate.

Edition IV is below. Know the answer? Tweet it to me or post a comment.

The Bernucca List

Earl Barron
Derrick Brown
Jonathan Bender
Joe Crawford
J.R. Giddens
Eddie House
Larry Hughes
Marcus Landry
Tracy McGrady
Darko Milicic
Demetris Nichols
Anthony Randolph
Anthony Roberson
Sergio Rodriguez
Cheikh Samb
Mohammed Sene
Courtney Sims