SH Blog: Josh Smith takes offense at being benched; Cheeks says he and Smith are “fine”

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Derrick Rose Bulls sleevesWatching the NBA games on Christmas, my brother turned to me and asked why the teams were all dressed like that. I told him that the NBA does special uniforms on Christmas, and the sleeves are so people can buy them as shirts and the NBA makes more money.

He responded: “okay, but why the big logos?”

I didn’t have an answer. I still don’t. All I can think is they were trying to copy the Warriors’ design.

That got me thinking: are the Warriors’ default (non-sleeved) uniforms the best in the NBA? They’re simple yet unique, not dull and yet not garish, and they’re also deeply rooted in tradition. That’s about as good a look as you’re going to find in sports, in my opinion. The Celtics have a great one as well, as long as they stick to green and white. Whoever decided that uniform needed black letters and numbers should think about a change of profession.

Speaking of uniforms, the return of the Hornets is excellent for two major reasons. One, teal returns to the NBA palette, which a true 90s NBA kid like me appreciates, and two, the Bobcats’ current uninspired design will be retired. While I’d probably take the current one over the old orange ones, this one just screams “cut-rate Mavericks,” and while there are certainly worse designs to rip off, I’ll always prefer some originality in a uniform.

Maybe someday I’ll rank the NBA uniforms. I do probably have enough thoughts on them all. Until then, I’ll stick to giving you the latest news from around the NBA. And I’ve got that right here:

  • CheeksDoes the East have room for one more team with locker room issues? This time it might be the Pistons. David Mayo of mlive.com has more: “Whatever happened in that locker room Saturday night, the Detroit Pistons left here with their first tangible turmoil of the season. Josh Smith didn’t play the second half of a 106-82 blowout against the Washington Wizards, the second time head coach Maurice Cheeks has made that decision this season. This time, Smith suggested Cheeks called him out for not playing hard, and that he took “real offense” to the accusation. Smith also was benched the second half of a Nov. 12 game at Golden State. “Like I told y’all before when we had this conversation, when you hit adverse times, characters are gonna be tested,” Smith said.  ”It’s either that we’re gonna come closer together and make it all one team, or are you gonna use a scapegoat to get away from what’s really at hand?” What’s really at hand is the Pistons (14-18) have lost four of five, bombed in a two-game road trip against sub-.500 teams this weekend, and now have their first hint of internal upheaval. How long it lasts remains to be seen.”
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  • Finally, here’s Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press with another take on this story: “Detroit Pistons forward Josh Smith said his second-half benching Saturday night in a blowout loss at the Washington Wizards was “unfair.” Coach Maurice Cheeks said today that Smith is “entitled to his opinion.” But it appears the two men will agree to disagree and move on. “Y’all the only one who got a problem with it,” Cheeks said. “Me and Josh are fine. Josh and I are fine.” Cheeks made the unusual move of conducting a practice following games on consecutive nights and considering the Pistons are coming off two losses by an average of 20.5 points per game, Smith endorsed the move. So it was all calm at the Pistons’ practice facility the day after the lack of second-half activity from Smith on Saturday night. But his decision to bench Josh Smith for the third time this season and Smith’s subsequent reaction will test that rep.”
  • Andrew_Bynum_CavsThe Cavs dumped Andrew Bynum to protect their locker room culture, writes Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal. Here’s a snippet of Lloyd’s excellent piece on the subject: “While Byron Scott was coach of the Cavaliers, various figures within the organization didn’t think he did a good enough job of holding players accountable. When the team looked terrible in a late-season loss at Philadelphia, Scott yanked all of his starters except Kyrie Irving. That was a defining moment that infuriated the upper levels of the organization, which believed it sent the wrong message to Irving and ultimately the rest of the team. Scott was fired the day after the season ended and Brown was rehired, in large part with the belief he would do a better job of holding all players accountable to the same standard. Brown has ripped Irving on the bench during games, he has been harder on him privately than Scott was, according to team sources, and he has indeed set a standard the players are expected to meet. That brings us to Saturday’s suspension of Bynum. Something happened during practice Friday, which one source referred to as the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” but wouldn’t divulge what exactly happened because it was simply a continuation of a behavioral pattern that had been ongoing for weeks. Had it been an isolated incident, no one would’ve said or done anything.”
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  • Chris_Bosh_cropConsidering the Heat have made a big deal out of how little the regular season means to them, they’ve sure had a lot of great games this season. Last night against the Blazers was one of the best. Here’s Sam Amick of USA Today on how it all went down: “Did you see LeBron James celebrating on the Moda Center floor after the Heat downed the Portland Trailblazers 108-107 without him on Saturday night? Replay that video for a studio audience that somehow missed the 2013 NBA Finals and you’d have them convinced the Heat had just won it all. James, whose strained right groin forced him to sit out for the first time this season, was the first to greet Chris Bosh at midcourt after his rainbow three-pointer from well beyond the arc fell through with 0.5 seconds left and the Blazers couldn’t counter. He put his beige sportcoat on Bosh’s shoulders because he was the Heat’s Superman for the night, the underappreciated big man who had vetoed his own coach’s final play call in such a healthy, fascinating way that it spoke volumes about who the Heat are and who they still want to become. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had already drawn up his play, the one where Bosh would do his best Karl Malone impression down low and force overtime against this fully-healthy Blazers team that entered tied with the Pacers for the best record in the league. But Bosh was a big enough man to admit that wasn’t the way to go, that the Blazers had stopped him in similar instances earlier in the game and that swinging for the fences was the way to go. “I just told him, ‘I’m going for the jugular,’” Bosh recounted.”
  • On the subject of the Heat, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman isn’t too sure the Heat need to add Andrew Bynum: “First, let’s not get too greedy, with too much of a big-men rehabilitation project. Beyond that, it certainly would raise questions about the Heat’s commitment to Oden if they were also to bring in Bynum. While it certainly is within the realm, as speculated, that Bynum would want to play for the Heat if released (who wouldn’t?), and while the Heat are known for taken chances on reclamation projects, you have to wonder about the elements that made things sour in Cleveland. While the spirit in the Heat locker room is robust, I’m just not sure that, amid the reclamation of Michael Beasley and Oden, you want to take on another project. Of course, doubt Pat Riley and his home for wayward big men at your own risk.”
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  • CJ McCollum BRH_Card1_0001CJ McCollum, the #10 pick in this summer’s draft, is getting closer to seeing the court, writes Michael LoRe of the Lehigh Valley Express-Times: “McCollum, who missed the final 18 games of his senior season at Lehigh with a similar injury and subsequent surgery, was cleared for 5-on-5 play and participated in his first full practice on Dec. 20. “I was really excited when I was cleared to practice and get back out there with the team, go through sets with them, guard guys and get away from drills and the rehab phase of recovering from the injury,” McCollum said. “I’m definitely looking forward to actually playing in a game, but I’m taking advantage of every practice every day. They have a schedule in place for me and we’re progressing close to that date in mind. We haven’t put an exact date on it yet.” McCollum said despite being sidelined from actually playing in a game and fully practicing, he rarely sat around. “I use the term ‘sitting around’ very loosely,” he said. “I was definitely working hard, working on my body, off-the-court stuff, lifting and how a game plan unfolds before the team plays in a game.”"
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Dan Malone is in his fourth year as a journalism student at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and spent this summer as a features intern at the Cape Cod Times. He blogs, edits and learns things on the fly for Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on Twitter.

SH Blog: Trey Burke breaks index finger; Adelman frustrated with Wolves

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Up here in Canada, it’s Thanksgiving weekend. So to all the Canadians reading Sheridan Hoops, happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your turkey and stuffing and whatever else. I know I will, but that’s tomorrow.

Today, I’ve got a whole bunch of injury news for you guys. Tops on that list is Trey Burke’s hand injury. Burke was tipped as a strong ROY contender starting on draft day, but now he looks in danger of missing significant time. This looked like a transitional year for the Jazz anyway, but now they’ll be without one of the pieces who could be particularly important in the transition for a little while. The Jazz have to be hoping he’s back before too long and their core starts to gel so they can start making a run at the postseason next year.

We’ve got some news on what the Jazz will be doing to replace Burke in today’s blog, so let’s get to that:

  • DEN_Miller_AndreAndre Miller survived the Great Denver Exodus of 2013. Here’s his take on what went wrong with the Nuggets last season, via Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post: “Coaches may love Miller’s game, but there probably isn’t a Nugget who is more of a target of fans’ ire. There probably isn’t a Nugget with his ears closed more tightly to that white noise. He hit a game-winning shot in the Nuggets’ first playoff game last spring, but sports-talk radio and social media soon moved on to criticism of his defense, and by the end of the series, the conclusion was he had to go. Those fans didn’t get their way, despite chatter during the summer that Miller was on the trading block. He claims not to have heard any of the criticism and flat-out ignored any trade talk. “It was a tough season last year,” Miller said. “In the regular season, we kind of burned ourselves out. Going into the playoffs, we just didn’t have the legs to play like we played for 82 games. That’s tough to do. I can’t worry about the trade rumors. I do my job every day. Regardless, I show up to work, practice. I’ve never missed a game as a Nugget. I couldn’t care less what people say as far as my preparation and what I do on the court.” “
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  • IbakaThe Thunder will need Serge Ibaka to step up this year if they hope to keep up in the vicious West, writes Jeff Caplan of NBA.com: “The backbone of the Thunder’s top-four defense must also step up as its third scorer, a task made even more essential early on as Westbrook’s recovery from two right knee surgeries is expected to drag four to six weeks into the season. Three weeks, Ibaka said, is all the time he allowed to step away after last season’s playoff disappointment. Three weeks and he was back in the gym with an agenda to expand an offensive arsenal that last season introduced a dangerous mid-range, pick-and-pop jumper. It worked to increase his usage from 15.5 percent in 2011-12 to a career-high 18.0 percent last season, and raised his scoring average from 9.1 ppg to a career-best 13.2 ppg. His usage should rise even higher and the Thunder will need his points to as well. “I’m working on my game and creating my own shot,” Ibaka said. “That is something I’ve been doing all summer, so I hope it will pay off. … I’ve been working on putting the ball on the floor and post moves.” To suggest an offense that has been nothing short of a juggernaut the past few seasons could struggle to score beyond its big two might seem odd. But those past teams included the dynamic Harden and last year featured Kevin Martin as the sixth man. As streaky as Martin was, he delivered 14 ppg and better than 42 percent shooting from beyond the arc, on top of Ibaka’s production.”
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  • MIN_Adelman_RickThings are not going well in Minnesota. Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports on Rick Adelman’s frustration with his starters: “Upset all week with a starting unit that has started games meekly, Adelman included everybody in Saturday’s postgame, locker-room scolding, even though the starters began the night by falling behind 11-4 early before all five again sat for the entire fourth quarter. He criticized their lack of concentration and preparedness and lamented a second consecutive game when his team had as many turnovers as assists. On Saturday, it was an even 16 in each category, a sure sign his players are not moving and sharing the ball. “I don’t understand,” he said. “Like I told them afterward, we’ve played two games here at home and we’re acting like we’re just going through the motions. We aren’t the San Antonio Spurs and we aren’t Miami. We act like we have plenty of time.” The Wolves have played the last three of these first four games without starting shooting guard Kevin Martin, who again didn’t play Saturday because of a sore Achilles tendon. Alexey Shved started in his place and Adelman took good looks in both halves at a small backcourt that included starter Ricky Rubio and reserve J.J. Barea. The rest: Rubio and Barea combined to shoot 2-for-17. Add Shved’s 0-for-4 night and the three made two of 21 shots.”
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  • Chris KamanChris Kaman might win the most bizarre injury of the preseason now that we know Michael Beasley didn’t actually punch himself in the face. Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times reports: “The Lakers have experienced Kobe Bryant’s torn Achilles’ tendon, Pau Gasol’s knee problems and Steve Nash’s broken leg over the last year. Now there’s the tobogganing injury sustained by Chris Kaman at the Great Wall of China. One of his fingers was squashed while he was sledding down a slippery concrete track after trekking along the wall for two hours Sunday with Lakers teammates and staffers. His sled, essentially a wheeled cart with a brake, was rammed from behind by teammate Shawne Williams. Kaman instinctively put out his hand as he saw Williams careening toward him and, well, ouch. Visitors to the Mutianyu portion of the wall take a gondola or cable car to the top of a hill where the wall is located. They can return the same way or take the toboggan down. “I didn’t hit the brake the whole time. Guys on the edge were yelling ‘Slow down’ and I just kept going,” Kaman said. “All of a sudden I catch up to this guy close to the bottom, so now I have to brake. Shawne Williams comes behind me without hitting his brake at all and just smashed right into me.”"

Tweet of the Night: Jeremy Lin

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Crazyyyy energy from the fans tonight!! Bittersweet night...gonna really miss my bros @ @ @ and TD
@JLin7
Jeremy Lin

75 combined points from Jeremy Lin and James Harden against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

122-119 victory for the Houston Rockets.

Something would be terribly wrong if the fans weren’t amped up from a performance of that magnitude, against opponents of that caliber, from two of their brightest stars. Check out one of Harden’s impressive buckets below:

Bernucca: At $100 million, Deron Williams may be damaged goods

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Let’s, for a moment, put aside some of the perceptions about Deron Williams. 

Let’s forget that he eats coaches like they are M&M’s.

Let’s dismiss that he complains about everything from set offenses to background lighting in arenas.

Let’s overlook that he took a little too much enjoyment in swinging the sledgehammer of free agency.

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SH Blog: Time will tell who won the Harden-Martin trade

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The big trade between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets shook the basketball world on Saturday evening. Ever-so-close to the pinnacle last season, the Thunder were supposed to bring back third musketeer James Harden to compete for the Western Conference championship and NBA Finals this season and for many more to come.

And then… Poof! Voila! Vamoose!

Harden is 445 miles south in Houston with his ex-Thunder teammates Lazar Hayward, Daequan Cook and Cole Aldrich.

Kevin Martin, his expiring $12 million contract and rookie Jeremy Lamb are headed north to OKC for the 2012-13 season, along with two 2013 first-round draft picks (Toronto’s top-3 protected pick, as well as Dallas’ selection). The Thunder also received the Bobcats’  2013 second-rounder.

People have been quick to judge this deal — perhaps none more so than our own Chris Bernucca, who hates it from OKC’s standpoint. And we are using the word “hate” loosely. And while everyone is entitled to their opinion, mine is that the end results of this trade won’t be realized until years down the road.

Along with factoring in how Martin and Lamb develop as members of the Thunder, we need to analyze the utilization of the draft picks Oklahoma City acquired to make sense of this deal.

For the Rockets, the trade will be primarily judged by the ability of Harden to become a true maximum salary player. If Aldrich, Hayward and Cook (who is a one-year rental) can become adequate role players, they’ve done their job.

For the Thunder, and their fans, it is more emotional — and with good reason.

With a chance to compete for multiple championships, how could management let Harden get away when the sides were a mere $6 million apart?

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