December 2016 Basketball Wiretap

John Paxson Acknowledges Bulls Need To Improve Athleticism, Three-Point Shooting

Dec 25, 2016 11:28 AM

John Paxson addressed the state of the Chicago Bulls publicly for the first time since media day.

“The area we really do need to improve is with our athleticism,” Paxson said. “That’s been evident this year. We’ve got some vets who know how to play and can score. But when you look around the league and the way the game is now, that’s an area we have to address. That is a part of the plan. We’ll try to do that obviously through the draft and free agency if we can. You always have the trade option. Right now, our roster is what it is.”

In general, Paxson acknowledged the inconsistent bench play and lack of 3-point shooting have hurt the Bulls.

“One of the things I see and Fred (Hoiberg) has talked about is we get in fourth quarters and we really stop pushing the pace and the ball stops moving. That’s been one thing that has really hurt us. It’s been a point of emphasis. We need to get on the practice floor and keep finding ways to do it. You have to find a way to move the ball and make defenses shift. And the other thing is we’ve just really gotten inconsistent play from the guys coming off our bench. Losing Doug for that period of time with a concussion really did hurt us. It messed with our rotations a bit.

“(The lack of 3-point shooting) has hurt us. There’s no question about it. We’re last in the league in 3-point shooting in a league that needs it. We acknowledged that going in that that would be an issue. We did think---and still think---that Niko and Doug have the capability of being 40 percent 3-point shooters. That’s what they need to be.”

David Schuster/WSCR (via Chicago Tribune)

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

Luke Walton: You Control Your Own Destiny Growing From Within

Dec 22, 2016 10:47 AM

The Los Angeles Lakers are rebuilding around a young core of D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle.

The path came into fruition after being near the top of the draft for several seasons and striking out in free agency.

"If you grow from within, you control your own destiny," Luke Walton said. "That's the game plan. We want to see what this group can do. We don't want to rely on anything else -- on free agency, or trades."

Walton was an assistant coach previously with the Warriors, who built their core through the draft before signing Kevin Durant in free agency.

Zach Lowe/ESPN

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

Draymond Green: We've Finally Adjusted To Not Having Andrew Bogut On Defense

Dec 21, 2016 4:24 PM

The Golden State Warriors now rank second in the NBA in defensive efficiency after starting the season slowly on that end of the floor.

Draymond Green acknowledged the transition the defense had to make in losing Andrew Bogut, who was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in the offseason to create cap space to sign Kevin Durant.

"You lose a guy like Bogut who, you almost can funnel stuff to Bogut," said Green. "You funnel someone to him, you know he's there and he can kind of erase any mistake that someone makes, and then you lose that, you have to get used to not having that there. When you had it there for the last four years, it takes a little while to adjust to that. However, I think we adjusted to it."

While Green has continued to play at a high level on defense, the Warriors have received a better than anticipated contribution on that end of the floor from Durant as well.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss/ESPN

Tags: Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Lakers Tapping Into Brandon Ingram's Experience At Point Guard

Dec 20, 2016 11:20 AM

The Los Angeles Lakers first gave Brandon Ingram a look at point guard in Summer League when D'Angelo Russell sat out their final game.

“The passes that he saw, the plays that he saw, and the way he was able to get his teammates the ball was the way that you see point guards do it,” Luke Walton said of Ingram. “They can still attack the rim while they’re surveying what’s happening and find whether it’s a simple pass or a more challenging pass. You don’t see a lot of non-point guards being able to do that type of stuff.”

Ingram has started three games at point guard and also plays the role on the Lakers' second unit.

“I played [point guard in] youth basketball, AAU basketball,” Ingram said. “When I was in high school I played point guard. Since high school I didn’t play point guard until I got here. When I started growing I still used my guard skills a lot. . . . My college coaches [at Duke], they always put me at the right position to continue to use my guard skills as I grew taller, and it helped me in the long run.”

Tania Ganguli/Los Angeles Times

Tags: Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Dario Saric Accepts Need To Play Small Forward

Dec 16, 2016 11:37 AM

Dario Saric knows his best position in the NBA is power forward but he's accepting of the fact that he'll have to play small forward in certain situations to receive playing time.

Nerlens Noel is returning this week and he's expected to pair with Joel Embiid or Jahlil Okafor in the frontcourt, while they also need to find minutes for Ersan Ilyasova and Richaun Holmes.

"I feel OK," Saric said of the position switch after Wednesday's shootaround. "Of course, I will need some time, you know, to adjust to the new position, to guard different types of players, players who play more with the ball. [They are] players who are downhill, attack-minded."

The 76ers' frontcourt will become even more crowded when Ben Simmons debuts though he will play point guard on offense.

Keith Pompey/Philadelphia Inquirer

Tags: Dario Saric, Philadelphia Sixers, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

Nerlens Noel 'Curious' To See How Three 76ers' Centers Can Coexist

Dec 13, 2016 8:53 PM

Nerlens Noel is eager to see how the Philadelphia 76ers handle having three highly regarded young centers healthy at the same time. Brett Brown believes Noel, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor can coexist.

"I wasn't curious before," Noel said, "but now that we are actually here, I guess that I am curious, whatever that means. But we will let that play out as long as it needs to."

Noel gets the impression that two big men will be on the floor together.

"I think a new offense is something good," Noel said. "It's something that can really somewhat work with the big trailing, the big at the free-throw line. So I think it's more compact, and spacing will definitely be a key factor."

Keith Pompey/Philadelphia Inquirer

Tags: Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia Sixers, NBA, NBA B-Ball IQ

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

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

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

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

Jason Kidd: Giannis Could Become Combination Of LeBron, Dirk

Brian Windhorst/ESPN

76ers To Use Ben Simmons As Point Guard

Keith Pompey/Philadelphia Daily News