SH Blog: Wittman already frustrated with Wizards’ D; Ricky Davis returns to the D-League

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I’m a diehard Baltimore Orioles fan. Before the last two years, we got about one week of the season to ponder contention before all speculation turned to who would be traded, what for, and when. For several NBA teams, it’s almost that time already.

SH Blog: D’Antoni blasts Lakers’ effort, refers to their play as “Muppet time”

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How concerned should the Los Angeles Lakers be right now?

One day after edging out a win against the Brooklyn Nets, the team went into Arco Arena on Wednesday and lost to the Sacramento Kings – the team with the worst record in the Western Conference.

You can’t blame the loss on Kobe Bryant, who continued his torrid pace on offense – scoring 38 points on 11-of-20 shooting – despite playing on a sore foot.

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SH Blog: Kyrie Irving out four weeks with finger injury, Marcin Gortat blasts everyone on the Suns

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Some days are simply filled with bad news, and Monday turned out to be that day.

A number of players around the league got news about the status of their respective injuries, and it was all bad, starting with the unexpected extent of Kyrie Irving’s finger injury sustained during Saturday’s game against the Mavericks.

See which players will miss an extended period of time, along with some very interesting quotes from Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat below:

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SH Blog: In early stages, remade Celtics emphasize big picture

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BOSTON — From the beginning of the 2007-08 season until the final horn sounded after Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Hea last June, the Boston Celtics were encapsulated by the Big Three +1  of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo.

If anyone needs a refresher course on what was lost when Ray Allen decided to head down to Miami to team up with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, last night’s performance by the Celtics against the Washington Wizards helps to put things in perspective.

Playing the Wizards for the second time in less than a week turned out to be a solid overtime test for a team that is attempting to find its identity. Boston fought through stretches of sloppy play and confusion despite winning by the score of 100-94 in overtime.

“Obviously, there were some parts of the game that you can look at and see that we have to improve,” said Kevin Garnett. “We came out strong but we kind of got calm a little bit and we got it back in the second half, but that’s not up to our standards.”

Clearly a jump-shooting team that has the potential to thrive as the result of floor balance and spacing, along with the the strong and wide screens that can be set by Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox, Jeff Green and even Darko Milicic, the Celtics are working to make forward progress daily as teammates both new and old learn the offensive principles as well as the teammates they are now playing with.

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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: