Basketball Wiretap

Thibodeau, Towns Cite LaVine As Big Factor In Opening Up Space For Wolves

Oct 20, 2016 11:20 AM

Zach LaVine is widely expected to have a breakout season as the Minnesota Timberwolves take another step forward building around Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

“He's a big piece of what we're doing,” Tom Thibodeau said. “His shooting is critical. He shot the ball very well in the second half of last season. We need that 3-point shooting to open up the floor. His athleticism, the way he can run the floor. And there's no reason he can't be an excellent defensive player.”

Only four eligible guards finished last season with a worse Defensive Real Plus Minus than LaVine, which means Thibodeau will have a long ways to go to make him an excellent defensive player.

While LaVine is a shooting guard, it is difficult to compare him to any other player at the position in the NBA.


"There's so many different styles to it,” LaVine said. “I use my athletic ability to create shots for open people, I run the floor, then also space the floor as well. That’s what I try to do. I try to space the floor and use my athletic ability to get to the rim. … I try to get the best of both worlds.”

“We all love Zach. I think he’s more popular than me and Wigs combined, just for the fact that he’s won two slam dunk contests in a row,” Towns said. “But Zach’s a pivotal piece of the team. The way he shoots the ball and makes highly contested shots, it helps us tremendously, especially with his 3-point range. Zach’s one of the players who we're tremendously lucky to have as an athlete and as a shooter.”

Adi Joseph/Sporting News

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

Blazers Undecided On Starting SF Despite Impressive Preseason By Maurice Harkless

Oct 15, 2016 8:18 PM

The Portland Trail Blazers are unsure who will start at small forward as they have three candidates in Moe Harkless, Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe.

"I will have a decision by Oct. 25," said Terry Stotts. "They're all playing well."

Harkless has played the best and seems to have the best on-court chemistry with the rest of the Blazers' starting five

Harkless' defensive versatility is potentially difference-making.

Bringing Turner off the bench gives the Blazers at least two ball-handlers and playmakers on the court at all times as he can stagger his minutes with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

Lillard praised all three players but essentially lobbied for Harkless.

"Moe ... just makes us versatile," Lillard said. "Being able to rebound the ball and push it, knock down threes, he can guard a bunch of positions, he changes the game in a different way. And I think he's been very good for us, from the end of the season all the way to now. He's kind of gained steam and he looks good. He's fitting in perfect."

Joe Freeman/Oregonian

Tags: Portland Trail Blazers, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Frank Vogel To Use Aaron Gordon At SF In Similar Way As Paul George

Oct 15, 2016 8:13 PM

Aaron Gordon was told by Frank Vogel he would like to use him as he did Paul George when he was head coach of the Indiana Pacers.

While Gordon's best position long-term may be power forward, the Orlando Magic will primarily use him as a small forward.

"It's definitely a compliment," Gordon said.

"I'm going to be myself and I'm going to play my game, and that's ultimately going to be the most beneficial for us if I play how I play, not try and play like anybody else. I love the idea of being more of a playmaker and taking on a bigger scoring role. That's something that I'm going to have to do for us to be successful and I'm ready for that."

Gordon made just 29.6 percent of his three-pointers last season.

The Magic hope Serge Ibaka's shooting at power forward helps with their spacing.

"We're going to ask him to do it all," Vogel said. "We're going to give him a lot of responsibility."

"It's going to be a process with him. He's not used to playing the three, but that's going to come. He's got the skills and the ability to do it, or I wouldn't be putting him in that spot. It's going to be ugly at times. But, hopefully, more times than not it's going to be pretty impressive. And I'm excited about that."

Josh Robbins/Orlando Sentinel

Tags: Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Cavs Working With Tristan Thompson On Expanding Shooting Range

Oct 14, 2016 12:13 PM

Tristan Thompson is attempting to add a jump shot to his offensive game in his sixth NBA season.

"To be able to throw it in the post to him sometimes during the game when he has favorable matchups," Tyronn Lue said. "Also, he has been working on his jump shot, little 15-foot jump shot and he's gotten confidence in that so we're going to let him shoot some of those this year and shoot it with confidence. Each year you want to bring back something to your game where you get better and you develop. He's done that and he's put the work in this summer. We're going to see where he's at."

Thompson works with James Posey on his shot after each practice.

"I'm trying to find it in the game out there," he said of his jumper. "There was no (opportunity). I was trying to do a pick-and-pop, but it's all good. In the flow of the game, if it's there, take it and shoot it. Why not? I'm getting enough reps up, I might as well take some."

Out of Thompson's 420 shots last season, 332 came less than five feet from the basket.

Chris Fedor/Cleveland Plain Dealer

Tags: Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Pacers Counting On Dan Burke To Provide Defensive Continuity

Oct 11, 2016 8:06 PM

The Indiana Pacers ranked third in the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions last season.

In order to maintain their continuity despite firing Frank Vogel, the Pacers kept their defensive coordinator Dan Burke. Burke is entering his 20th season with the Pacers, which makes him the longest tenured assistant with the same team in the NBA. Burke receive interest this offseason from a number of rival teams, including the Orlando Magic when Vogel ended up getting their head coaching job.

The Pacers hope to maintain their excellent defense while playing at a faster pace and also losing George Hill at point guard for Jeff Teague.

“I just go from year to year,” he said. “When people would say, ‘Wow, it’s your 10th year,’ I used to joke, ‘Yeah, I’m tricking them.’ Now, I’m thinking Larry is just trying to wait until I get it right.

"To me, it’s a job I love. It worked out well. It doesn’t seem like 20 because I just love every minute of it.”

“Dick Harter is the best defensive coach I’ve seen in this league,” Larry Bird said in September of Burke's mentor. “Nobody can replace Dick. But (Dan) is very similar and he demands guys to play hard on the defensive end. You’ve got to win with your defense, and Dan’s proven that over the years his defenses get things done. A few years ago, when we were winning and getting to the Eastern Conference finals, we were guarding people and that’s what we've got to do. I’m not saying Frank (Vogel) didn’t have something to do with that neither, but Dan’s always been my guy and I hope he’s here forever.”

Nate Taylor/Indianapolis Star

Tags: Indiana Pacers, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Kevin Durant Admits Warriors' Finals Loss Made Decision Easier

Oct 11, 2016 11:59 AM

Kevin Durant finally expanded on his thoughts about whether he would have still chosen to sign with the Golden State Warriors had they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals instead of blowing a 3-1 lead.

“I was telling one of my friends, Rich (Kleiman, his agent), who’s here, we were watching Game 7. Well, as it started to unfold, it was, ‘No question, no way could you go to this team.’ And I was just like a kid, like, in a candy shop," said Durant.

"I’d get wide open 3s, I could just run up and down the court, get wide open layups. I was basically begging him. I was like, yo, this would be nice. So as I was thinking about my decision and who I was gonna play for, this team came to mind. You know, as they lost, it became more and more real every day. You start to think about it even more. To see if I would fit. Then once I sat down with these guys, everything that I wanted to know about them they kinda showed me. But we don’t have to talk about it though because they didn’t get the job done and they came after me and who knows what would’ve happened. But I guess you could say I’m glad that they lost.”

Durant called the decision an "easy choice."

“It felt like it was a perfect fit. It was something I was searching for when I sat down and talked to these guys. I wanted to see if what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen on the outside is really true. Do these guys really genuinely love each other? They work together. You hear family a lot. That’s just a word sometimes, but this is really a lifestyle here. You can feel it when you walk in the door, in the practice facility, everybody is just together. That’s something that I can appreciate as a basketball player and someone who values relationships. You can tell that that’s what they stand on, that’s what we stand on. I feel really grateful to play for a team like that and play with a bunch of players who are selfless and enjoy the game in its purest form. They make it about the players, they make it about the environment, so it was really an easy choice.”

Anthony Slater/San Jose Mercury News

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

Tony Parker Accepting Evolving Role With Spurs

Oct 10, 2016 1:39 PM

The San Antonio Spurs want Tony Parker to evolve into more of a facilitator this season.

Parker's game has been built on being a scoring point guard but he'll know work to setup LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.

"It's been great," Parker said of his changing role. "I love my role, and I'll try to do the best I can this year to keep winning games. You know, we won 67 games last year. We’ll try to do the same thing and go further in the playoffs. As long as [Gregg Popovich] is happy, that’s my main job here. I don’t care if people don’t understand my role or all this stuff I have to do now.”

“He’s done that more and more,” Popovich said. “He’s done a great job, just like David [Robinson] did for Tim [Duncan] and Tim did for Manu [Ginobili] and Tony. Now they’re realizing the ball needs to go in different places, and Tony is finding out he’s pretty darned skilled at it. He’s been really great in practice at finding open people.”

Michael C. Wright/ESPN

Tags: Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Dwyane Wade Feeling 'Freedom Of Mind' Shooting Three-Pointers With Chicago

Oct 9, 2016 6:46 PM

Dwyane Wade hit 52 percent of his three-pointers in last year's playoffs and is 5-for-7 so far in the preseason with the Chicago Bulls. Wade has typically struggled with his perimeter shot with a 28.4 percent mark for his career.

“Just freedom of mind to shoot them,’’ Wade said of his evolution. “It’s different. You know, obviously, last year if you look at our roster [in Miami], the way it was made up, I was the playmaker. I was put in a position to be the playmaker and I wasn’t the one shooting threes at all, until the playoffs. Then they took some things away and I was shooting them.

“I’m not saying I’m going to shoot 52 percent like I did in the playoffs, but early in training camp coach [Fred Hoiberg] talked to me about being comfortable shooting the three ball and getting my feet ready and stepping up and shooting the three ball. It’s just the freedom of mind. Some days I’m going to shoot terribly and y’all are going to talk about me, some days it all averages out.’’

Joe Cowley/Chicago Sun-Times

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

Russell Westbrook: European Offenses 10X Better Than NBA Due To Movement

Oct 9, 2016 2:56 PM

Russell Westbrook spoke glowingly about the movement on offense of teams in Europe compared to the NBA.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have typically featured little ball movement and passing, relying on the individual talent of Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

"I think one thing people don’t realize is guarding teams in Europe," Westbrook said. "Their offenses are 10 times better than NBA offense just because they move around a lot. A lot of movement and not as much talent so they have to do different things to be able to score the basketball."

The Thunder gave up 142 points to Real Madrid last Monday.

Fred Katz/Norman Transcript

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

Dave Joerger Trying To Instill Culture Of Defense, Toughness For Kings

Oct 8, 2016 5:05 PM

Dave Joerger is attempting to change the culture of the Sacramento Kings with an identity built on defense and toughness. Those were two hallmarks of the Memphis Grizzlies and haven't been seen in the Kings for years.

“I think it’s what we hope to have on a nightly basis,” Joerger said. “A mindset of being physical, being active. Flying around, being a good teammate, each guy up and down the line and helping each other.”

DeMarcus Cousins has long wanted Barnes as a teammate because he has no problem getting physical.

“He’s a true competitor,” Cousins said. “He leaves it all out there on the floor. I think he’s a great role model for the younger guys on how to approach a game on a nightly basis.”

Jason Jones/Sacramento Bee

Tags: Sacramento Kings, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Rockets Prioritizing Defense Under Mike D'Antoni, Jeff Bzdelik
The Rockets' defensive rating per 100 possessions, at 109.1, was the ninth worst in the league last season.

Calvin Watkins/ESPN

Damian Lillard Excited To Play Off The Ball
The Blazers signed Evan Turner in free agency in a move that some questioned but he gives the team another playmaker with the ball in addition to Lillard and CJ McCollum.

Casey Holdahl/

Warriors' Laidback Culture Has Been Biggest Surprise For Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant has been forced to break some built-in offensive habits due to the way Steve Kerr demands movement.

Anthony Slater/San Jose Mercury News

Cavs More Focused On Fit Than 'High Variance Upside Guys'
With the Cavaliers relying so heavily on LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, David Griffin says their roster building is more about finding the right fit than about high upside talent.

RealGM Staff Report

Grizzlies To Move Zach Randolph To Bench Role
The Grizzlies will move Zach Randolph to a bench role this season under David Fizdale.

Ronald Tillery/Commercial Appeal

Suns To Use Brandon Knight As 6th Man
The Suns will bring Brandon Knight off the bench as their sixth man this season with Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker starting at the guard positions.

Paul Coro/Arizona Republic

DeMarcus Cousins 'Loves' Dave Joerger's Offense
Dave Joerger plans on using DeMarcus Cousins in the high post more this season as he implements his offense for the Kings.

Jason Jones/Sacramento Bee

Blake Griffin Spent Offseason Working On Three-Pointer
Blake Griffin has taken only 87 3-point shots in his last 182 games, hitting 32.2 percent of them.

Dan Woike/Orange County Register

Rockets To Make James Harden Their Full-Time Point Guard
Under the new up-tempo offense, Mike D'Antoni has decided to put the ball in James Harden's hands more than last season, like a traditional point guard.

Calvin Watkins/ESPN