Basketball Wiretap

Mike D'Antoni: Rockets Have Same Philosophy, From Owner To GM To Star

Dec 8, 2016 3:14 PM

The Houston Rockets have played well to start the Mike D'Antoni era, rebounding from a disappointing 16-17 season. The Rockets are playing with pace and efficiency on offense with their system built around James Harden.

“The good thing about when I took the job was that James wanted to play in the way that I wanted to coach, and that’s taking a lot of threes, getting to the rim, in the paint and foul shots,” said D’Antoni. “And so (it’s) the same philosophy, from the owner to the general manager to the star player.

“It’s worked out better than I thought.…We were hoping that it would get this good, and I think we can get it even better.”

Harden's assists have jumped from 7.5 per game to 11.6 this season.

“(D’Antoni) just told me he was going to make me the point guard and just continue to make me a better player, and he’s doing that. He isn’t trying to control. He just tries to help. And if I see something, I’ll throw it at him. It’s a real friendship; it’s obviously coach and player. And it works.”

D'Antoni is at his creative best again with the harmony of ownership, the front office and players.

“With the help of Daryl and those guys, they push my limits too,” D’Antoni said. “(Sometimes) I’m backing off (philosophically), like ‘Oooh ….’ I get scared, too, getting out on the ledge. But it’s wide open. Do it. And if we come up with something that we think is effective and different, then they’re not afraid to do it. And that’s what I really like.”

Sam Amick/USA Today

Tags: James Harden, Houston Rockets, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

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Kevin Durant: I Value My Shots A Little More Now

Dec 7, 2016 12:01 PM

Kevin Durant is averaging 27.0 points on just 16.9 shots per game while also averaging career bests in rebounds (8.4), steals (1.48) and blocks (1.76).

"He's even better than he was billed to us," said Warriors assistant coach Bruce Fraser, Durant's frequent workout partner. "He can go out and get 50 easy. He's that good. And in our environment, no one would get upset.

"You can see our guys trying to get KD the ball more at times. But he's chosen to blend in, learn and try to do it the right way."

Said Steve Kerr: "I knew he was good. He's kicked our ass for years. I just felt our style of play would suit him. He was brilliant in OKC, but the way they play, there's a lot more isos. It was sort of take turns: Russell (Westbrook) would go, then KD would go. I think KD understands he's going to have the ball in his hands less [with Golden State], but he'll be in more advantageous positions to score. I think he's really embracing the style. I think he likes making plays for other guys, and vice versa. It's a fun way to play."

Said Kerr: "He's playing more 4 here than he played in OKC, so we're asking him to anchor the paint at times. It doesn't come naturally to him. He's really more of a guard than he is a big. But he's adapting, and he's getting better. When he's locked in, he's an all-league defender. But it's an awful lot to ask a guy to score 27, 28 a game and be locked in for 48 minutes."

"I look at it like, if I shoot 15-16 shots a night, 13 of 'em gotta be solid, and the rest can be some pull-up 3s or fadeaways that I kind of work on that I wouldn't mind if I make or miss those," Durant said. "I look at those other shots like heat checks -- just trying stuff.

"But I know what our offense is. So when I get those shots that I get, I know that I gotta be patient with 'em. And I know I also gotta be ... they're precious. I think, my shots now, I value them a little more than I did before 'cause I might not shoot 30 shots whenever I want. And that's not a bad thing. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. That's just how we play here ... especially when you got two other guys on the perimeter that can go off and score 30 any night as well.

"It's a different situation. When I won MVP in 2014, I was playing differently. I had the ball in my hands a lot more. I was playing the point forward role, more like how LeBron [James] plays in Cleveland. And it was fun, but it was a lot. I had to do a lot out there on the floor. And I got rewarded for that by winning MVP, but it taught me a lot about the game. That was a huge year for me.

"I felt like I made Thabo Sefolosha better. I made Kendrick Perkins better. I made Serge Ibaka better. And it wasn't because I was just scoring. I think my leadership ... we were down. Russell was out most of the year, so I had to step into a different role. I felt like that was one of the better years for me all around. This year, I just feel like I'm trying to fit in but also still be myself. I know that I can't just run and go grab the ball and clear everybody out. Coach wants me to sometimes, but it's not going to be like that most of the time."

Marc Stein/ESPN

Tags: Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

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Kawhi Leonard Still Figuring Out Nuances Of Being Go-To Scorer

Dec 7, 2016 11:10 AM

Kawhi Leonard has scored 30 or more points on six different occasions so far this season compared to just four 30-point games over the first five seasons of his career.

"By this point in his career, he's a confident player," Gregg Popovich said. "He knows he has a green light. We call his number now and then, but he does a lot of this stuff on his own, and he's getting pretty good at pick-and-roll. So he just advances his game every year a little bit in some different fashion, and tonight he did the same thing: pulled up, knocked down a couple 3s. He just has confidence that they're going to go. Special, special young man."

"We're gonna keep going to him, and he knows that, too," Danny Green said. "I guess at the beginning of the game, he kinds of finds a rhythm or kind of finds out what kind of night it's gonna be to adjust to what he needs to do, how the defense is playing. He's done a good job of that, pacing himself, not forcing it, kind of getting others involved at the same time, kind of keeping the defense off balance, keeping them honest; not just looking to score every time, but facilitating as well."

Despite the green light and big role within the San Antonio Spurs' offense, Leonard is still navigating the freedom.

"I'm still trying to get my teammates involved more," Leonard said. "Having a green light doesn't mean you just shoot every possession. You just get the defense drawn to you, two guys, and pass it to the open man. I'm just learning through the double-teams, through people forcing me a certain way and help being there. Just still a process for me."

Michael C. Wright/ESPN

Tags: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

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Phil Jackson: Carmelo Can Play Jordan, Kobe Role In Triangle If He Doesn't Hog Ball

Dec 7, 2016 10:41 AM

Phil Jackson said Carmelo Anthony can play the "role that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant played" in their teams' triangle offenses, but he believes that Anthony sometimes breaks a team rule by holding on to the ball for too long.

"Carmelo a lot of times wants to hold the ball longer than -- we have a rule: If you hold a pass two seconds, you benefit the defense. So he has a little bit of a tendency to hold it for three, four, five seconds, and then everybody comes to a stop," Jackson said in an interview with CBS Sports Network that aired Tuesday. "That is one of the things we work with. But he's adjusted to [the triangle], he knows what he can do and he's willing to see its success."

Jackson's comments were prompted by a question about whether Anthony can fit in the triangle offense. Jackson made it clear he believes Anthony can.

"He can play that role that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant played," Jackson said. "It's a perfect spot for him to be in that isolated position on the weak side, because it's an overload offense and there's a weakside man that always has an advantage if the ball is swung."

Ian Begley/ESPN

Tags: Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

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Jason Kidd: Giannis Could Become Combination Of LeBron, Dirk

Dec 6, 2016 1:29 PM

Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing a mix of point guard, both forward spots and even center on defense in some lineups.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists plus two steals and two blocks per game.

"Having being around some of the best in the world in LeBron (James) and Dirk (Nowitzki)," Jason Kidd said referencing former Team USA and Dallas Mavericks teammates, "wouldn't it be cool to have those two combined as one player? Maybe that could happen."

"I want to make great plays. It can be blocking a shot, it can be passing to an open teammate or dunking. Just great plays," Antetokounmpo said. "That's what makes me excited."

The Bucks signed Antetokounmpo to a four-year, $100 million extension in September.

"We're in the early stages of seeing where he can take us," Kidd said. "What he's done is show that he can handle a lot right now. There's going to be a time where we're going to raise the bar again and see how he does."

Brian Windhorst/ESPN

Tags: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

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76ers To Use Ben Simmons As Point Guard

Dec 2, 2016 10:58 AM

The Philadelphia 76ers plan on making Ben Simmons their point guard when he returns from injury.

“When he’s ready to go to the court, my intention is to give him the ball and let him be the point guard,” Brown said. “That’s the plan. That doesn’t just happen. It takes a little bit of time to introduce him.”

The 76ers will slide Jerryd Bayless off the ball but he would still defend opposing point guards.

Simmons suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot during the final day of training camp in September.

“It wouldn’t surprise me, if you fast-forwarded all this a few years where we may sort of declare him a point guard,”  Brown said last week on NBA.com’s Hang Time Podcast. “Sometimes in my aggressive wishes, dreams, I say why don’t you just give him the ball?"

Keith Pompey/Philadelphia Daily News

Tags: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia Sixers, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

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Anthony Davis Sees Handle, Passing As Next Evolution Of His Game

Nov 29, 2016 12:01 AM

Anthony Davis has been one of the best players in the NBA over the past three seasons but he would like to add to his game by becoming a better ball-handler and passer.

"I watch LeBron [James], Steph [Curry], all those guys make their teammates better," Davis said. "They find them. Even Draymond [Green]. He plays the same position and does the same thing, and he's able to find his teammates in a way that I can't right now. That's definitely what I want to get better at."

Davis' assist rate is at 11.5 percent this season, up from 15-16 when he posted a mark of 9.9.

Justin Verrier/ESPN

Tags: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

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Andrew Wiggins Reminds Tom Thibodeau Of Paul Pierce On Offense

Nov 27, 2016 2:54 PM

Andrew Wiggins has improved his shooting dramatically to begin his third NBA season.

“I’m more confident,” Wiggins said. “I shoot more and take better shots. It comes from preparation.”

Said Tom Thibodeau on Wiggins’s improved shooting: “He’s put a lot of work into it and it’s the unselfishness of his teammates, too. Guys are making plays. They are sharing the ball and making the extra pass. The threes that we are taking, I think for the most part, are very good. There’s ball movement. There’s penetration. As long as they’re rhythm threes, we’ll shoot a high percentage. One of [Wiggins’s] great strengths is his versatility.”

“He can score so many different ways,” Thibodeau said. “In the post, with his cutting. He has the ability to draw fouls. The way he can score different ways reminds me of Paul [Pierce], transition, pick-and-roll, as a screen, as a ballhandler, so many ways he can score.”

Gary Washburn/Boston Globe

Tags: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

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Evan Turner: Some Previous Coaches 'Didn't Comprehend My Game'

Nov 27, 2016 2:43 PM

Evan Turner signed a four-year, $70 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers after finally establishing himself in the NBA with the Boston Celtics.

“I was most definitely comfortable there,” Turner said. “Going through certain situations where there were coaches who didn’t comprehend my game and I wasn’t always in position to be comfortable sometimes. When you finally find that mixture of great basketball and off-the-court [things], you definitely don’t take it for granted.”

The Celtics have missed Turner while he hasn't quite found his place with the Blazers.

“It’s just the comfortability here and I think sometimes I worry too much about stepping on toes,” Turner said. “They have reassured me to play how I play and they will adjust. It’s always going to be a big adjustment getting the plays down. The pace of it [in the Western Conference] is crazy. The last couple of weeks I am fully getting our plays second nature to me, and once again now it’s just building the consistency.”

Gary Washburn/Boston Globe

Tags: Evan Turner, Boston Celtics, Portland Trail Blazers, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

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Dwyane Wade: Relationships Have Become Critical Part Of Free Agency

Nov 23, 2016 1:18 PM

Dwyane Wade talked about how the NBA is "different" than it used to be in how players court one another and it has influenced free agency.

"The league is different today," Wade said. "The league is all about relationships, player relationships. Obviously presidents and GMs have their job to do to put teams together, but when it comes to free agency, that's player relationships more than anything. It's where an individual wants to go, so you have to feel comfortable with where you're going and who you're going with. And it starts in that process. Maybe you have a relationship with a guy, maybe you don't, but it starts in that process when guys are able to reach out to you and you see."

Wade readily admits how important it was that Jimmy Butler reached out to him during the process.

"If the star player on the team doesn't reach out to me then I don't think he's really excited about me coming there," Wade continued. "If Jimmy don't reach out to me then I'm not coming to Chicago because I don't think Jimmy wants me here. But Jimmy reaches out to me and says, 'D, I want you to come,' it's a different -- that's simple right there. It's hard to change my mindset and everything."

Wade's friendship and influence played a key role in Miami's ability to sign both LeBron James and Chris Bosh in free agency in 2010. 

Nick Friedell/ESPN

Tags: Dwyane Wade, Chicago Bulls, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

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'Hawks University' Reputation 'Humbling' To Front Office
Nate Duncan coined the phrase "Hawks University" for the way the Hawks have developed several younger players in recent seasons during the tenure of Mike Budenholzer and Wes Wilcox.

Chris Vivlamore/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Steve Clifford: Marvin Williams Is The NBA's New Prototypical Four Man
Marvin Williams entered the NBA as the second overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft and while he carved a nice spot as a role player, he never seemed to meet expectations as a superstar.

David Aldridge/NBA.com

Hornets Emphasizing Player Development, Keeping Own Guys Long-Term
The Hornets like to put most of their available resources back into their own players.

David Aldridge/NBA.com

Kings Ready To Start Playing Small
The Kings will move DeMarcus Cousins to center with Rudy Gay at power forward.

Jason Jones/Sacramento Bee

D'Angelo Russell Cites Manu Ginobili As Most Influential Upon His Game
D'Angelo Russell grew up idolizing Manu Ginobili.

Baxter Holmes/ESPN

Damian Lillard: We Kind Of Suck Right Now
Portland ranks 29th in defensive efficiency at 111.5 points per 100 possessions overall.

Joe Freeman/Oregonian

Clippers, Bulls, Spurs Rank In Top-10 In Both Offensive, Defensive Efficiency
The Clippers rank first in efficiency differential and are one of just three teams in the top-10 on both sides of the floor.

RealGM Staff Report