Basketball Wiretap

Frank Vogel Believes Mario Hezonja's Best Position Could Be Power Forward

Mar 22, 2017 10:50 PM

The Orlando Magic will play Mario Hezonja as their backup power forward with Jeff Green out.

Hezonja has primarily played on the wings this season but Frank Vogel sees potential in him as a small-ball power forward.

“There’s a chance that this could be his best position or most natural position in today’s NBA: to be 6-9 small-ball four [power forward]," said Vogel. "He’s going to have an opportunity to take a look at that and see what that feels like."

The Magic acquired Serge Ibaka last June while also signing Green and Bismack Biyombo, which further crowded their frontcourt and shifted Aaron Gordon to the 3.

Josh Robbins/Orlando Sentinel

Tags: Mario Hezonja, Orlando Magic, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Jeff Hornacek To Exclusively Run Triangle For Knicks In 17-18

Mar 22, 2017 8:20 PM

Jeff Hornacek expects the New York Knicks to fully run the triangle offense next season.

Hornacek is unsure if the core of Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and Kristaps Porzingis can become a playoff team unless they embrace the triangle fully.

"Obviously if we go into it like we did this year -- no," Hornacek told reporters in Utah when asked if the Rose-Anthony-Porzingis trio can be a playoff team. "If we turn around and have a different way we start, go right at however we're going to run it next year, if it's full triangle, it's possible. You never know how these things will fit. Maybe a second year is helpful for us."

Hornacek said it was a mistake to try to blend systems.

"Do we have the right fit of guys running the system?" Hornacek said. "If we think that we can somehow -- with a fresh start of training camp and go to it right off the bat, if that helps us and Phil [Jackson] and Steve [Mills] -- we think maybe the same guys on this team could have a different outlook on it, then we'll stay the same. If not, they'll look at other guys."


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

Lakers Want D'Angelo Russell To Be More Aggressive

Mar 18, 2017 11:25 AM

D'Angelo Russell was the last player Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson spoke to after practice on Thursday.

The trio talked about Russell's recent struggles and his demotion to the bench.

"It was just more of clearing up a little bit of things," Russell said at shootaround ahead of Friday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks, "as far as what they want to see from these last few games and stuff like that."

Russell was asked what Johnson and Pelinka are looking for.

"Be aggressive," Russell said. "No matter what my role is, just be aggressive."

Luke Walton recently moved Russell to the bench, starting Jordan Clarkson at point guard instead of him.

"Of course I want him to respond better," Walton said at shootaround. "I want him to be aggressive. I want him to be really aggressive, even more so right now while he's coming off the bench. That doesn't mean he's coming in to shoot every time. But aggressive as far as pushing the ball, getting in the lane, and every time he's coming off of picks and playmaking as a way to get himself more into the game quicker.

"It's completely different when you start and naturally fall into the rhythm of the game. So we're looking for him to come out and be ultra-aggressive in that role while he's in it."

Russell disagrees with the notion that he hasn't been aggressive enough lately, but he's open to feedback.

"I think I was, I guess my mentality wasn't in the right place," Russell said. "I wasn't really making shots. I didn't create for others, either.

"It's just new, being in the position I was in, finding the openings. [They] are all in foreign positions for me."

Jova Buha/ESPN

Tags: D'Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Ben Simmons' Participation In 5-On-None Drills Has Helped 76ers Envision His Future

Mar 15, 2017 1:12 AM

Ben Simmons' participation in five-on-none drills has been a benefit for the Philadelphia 76ers' coaching staff.

"It helps," Brett Brown said. "I see different things when I watch him out there. You can see how you can post smaller people. You can see how he might be effective in different ways that you didn't [see] drawing it on paper."

Brown added that the play scripting is the clearest example of Simmons' improvement as a basketball player despite his being sidelined this season with injury. 

Simmons has also improved his shooting form.

Keith Pompey/Philadelphia Inquirer

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

Rob Pelinka: Lakers Still Have Intrinsic Advantage In NBA

Mar 11, 2017 6:00 PM

Rob Pelinka was introduced as general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

Pelinka was hired by Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson to take over for Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss after several seasons of rebuilding.

“We are going to deliver on Jeanie’s challenge to us all to make the Lakers the greatest sports franchise in the world,” Pelinka said. “That will happen.”

Despite working in a CBA that makes team-building more difficult for big market teams due to a punitive luxury tax, Pelinka believes the Lakers still have many advantages over their peers.

“We still have an intrinsic advantage,” Pelinka said. “When Earvin put on the 32 and Kobe put on the 8 and the 24, that can’t be replicated anywhere on the globe with any other team. We are going to make sure that’s how players that come here feel and want to be a part of this. We’re getting back to that place. This L.A. platform and this Lakers brand, the Buss family and legacy of winning cannot be replicated.”

The Lakers have struggled in their free agency endeavors over the past few offseasons, losing Dwight Howard in 2013, not signing Carmelo Anthony in 2014, a rough meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015 and no meeting at all in 2016 with Kevin Durant.

“Every single agent in the NBA knows that this platform is the best platform for their client in terms of marketing and in terms of the relationships in L.A.,” Pelinka said. “We’re in a city that has a powder keg of relationships.”

Johnson wanted to make an unconventional hire, so he picked a man without any front office experience.

“You have to have a guy who’s already formed a lot of relationships whether that’s with players, with agents, general managers, teams,” Johnson said. “Rob has all of that. He’s a great negotiator. Boy, that session we had yesterday … was amazing.”

Tania Ganguli/Los Angeles Times

Tags: Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, NBA Misc Rumor, NBA B-Ball IQ

Mikhail Prokhorov 'Trying To Be Zen About Process'

Mar 10, 2017 1:26 PM

After a brash approach to building a title contender that failed, Mikhail Prokhorov took a step back and hired Sean Marks to replace Billy King as general manager.

Marks outlined a vision for the Nets that included a high end analytics group, a performance staff that touches each player daily with designated individual sessions, regular interactions with mental health experts and revamping the family room to create a more welcoming environment for wives and children and parents,. At the core of Marks' vision, he explained, was a long-term plan of developing consistency and excellence that would require years, not months.

"I was clear in our meeting," Marks said. "I told them, 'If you are looking for a quick fix or similar to what you did before, I'm the wrong guy.'"

"There was a humility to the ownership group when I met them," Kenny Atkinson said. "They put up their hands and said, 'We did it this way, and it didn't work. We're going to do it another way.' That's got to be hard, especially for a billionaire who has been extremely successful."

Prokhorov declined a phone interview with ESPN, saying his English is not good. He instead emailed: "There is no shortcut to a championship." Initially, his approach was to run the Nets "in the same way I've approached my business, which, by the way, has brought considerable success. That is to say, throw everything you've got at a challenge, and you're bound to be the victor."

Yet Prokhorov acknowledges Brooklyn's current situation is different, and that winning "requires the patience to build, step by step."

Prokhorov was asked if he'll continue to be patient.

"I try to be zen about it," Prokhorov writes. "It's a process, as they say."

Jackie MacMullan/ESPN

Tags: Brooklyn Nets, NBA, NBA Misc Rumor, NBA B-Ball IQ

Tom Thibodeau: Wolves Have Made 'Quantum Leap' On Defense

Mar 9, 2017 1:31 PM

After a slow start to the season, the Minnesota Timberwolves are within striking distance of the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Tom Thibodaeu believes the Wolves have made a "quantum leap" on defense. Minnesota has played better pick-and-roll defense and are moving up the rankings in defensive categories. 

“When you look at the past couple years and where we are now, it says we’ve made a big jump,” Thibodeau said. “I think you have to get close to winning first, and then the winning happens. Right now, we’re starting to understand that. To me, it’s taking care of the little things. If we take care of all the little things, the big things take care of themselves. We say it all the time: The magic is in the work.

“There are no shortcuts to this. There’s no easy way out. … There’s a price to be paid for winning.”

Jerry Zgoda/Star Tribune

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

Russell Westbrook In Danger Of Falling Below 10 Assists Per Game

Mar 7, 2017 7:23 PM

Russell Westbrook is in danger of dropping below 10.0 assists per game as he attempts to record the first triple double for the season in over 50 years.

Westbrook's assists per game have dropped from 10.25 to 10.05 over the past week. Westbrook has 633 assists in 63 games, which means he needs to average 9.8 down the stretch.

Westbrook’s assists totals were four, nine and five on the road trip, which is an average of 6.0 per game. 

Of his top 19 assist totals this season, only one has come since February arrived. Westbrook is averaging 9.14 assists in February and March.

Westbrook is averaging 11.3 assists per game at home compared to 8.9 on the road.

Berry Tramel/Oklahoman

Tags: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

76ers To Give Ben Simmons Every Opportunity To Be Their Starting Point Guard

Mar 6, 2017 11:18 AM

Despite a deep draft of point guards, the Philadelphia 76ers are approaching their roster construction as though Ben Simmons will be their starting point guard long-term.

"I feel that the team has to try that immediately," Brett Brown said. "In my eyes, we are going to try that. I feel that it's something that I doubt you say, 'That didn't work,' and you just move on quickly.

"There has to be a body of work that you judge him on."

Simmons will miss this entire season after surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot.

Among those expected to be the top point guards in June's draft are Washington's Markelle Fultz, UCLA's Lonzo Ball, North Carolina State's Dennis Smith Jr., and Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox. Also in the mix is Frank Ntilikina, an 18-year-old French point guard.

There are also a number of free agent point guards with Kyle Lowry in particular linked to the 76ers due to ties to Philadelphia.

Keith Pompey/Philadelphia Daily News

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

Mavs Made Moves At Deadline With Draft Pick In Mind

Feb 27, 2017 10:50 AM

Mark Cuban acknowledged the Dallas Mavericks made a number of moves at the deadline with the future in mind.

The Mavericks traded Andrew Bogut in a package for Nerlens Noel while also releasing Deron Williams.

"The goal always is to get to be a championship contender and get another ring," Cuban said Sunday on ESPN Radio's NBA Insiders show, his first extended public comments on the Mavs' latest personnel decisions. "As well as Deron was playing and even Andrew, defensively ... we had to match up to our criteria of trying to position ourselves to get a lot better. Then you combine that with the fact that I've always said, when a lot of teams are tanking, you don't want to tank. And when there aren't many teams tanking and everybody's trying to compete, that's the best time to consider trying to go for a draft pick. You can try to play as well as you can and still be in competition for a great pick.

"We obviously haven't played well enough to be in the playoffs right now, but we're playing a lot better. One loss here and there, we're all the sudden in the top five for draft contention, but we're also playing to get better and trying to win, which I think is a good thing."

Dallas has a 23-35 record and are 2.5 games out of the eighth seed.

"It's painful, but I'm also realistic," Cuban said. "Look, if I wasn't realistic about the value of a draft pick, we would have kept D-Will, we would have kept Andrew. We would be playing an older lineup, but now we're playing our young guys.

"That supposedly is the definition of tanking: You play your youngest players to give them experience without the expectation you're going to win. In our case, we're playing our youngest players, but we're playing them with the expectation that they're going to win. I think that's the best type of experience. And if that means we get the eighth pick or the 10th pick instead of the fourth pick, I'll live with the consequences."

Tim MacMahon/ESPN

Tags: Dallas Mavericks, NBA, NBA Misc Rumor, NBA B-Ball IQ