Shortly after Steve Blake was dealt to the Warriors in February, we noted that the veteran point guard wouldn’t rule out a return to the Lakers this summer. Though Blake declined to follow up on those comments earlier today, there’s no denying that he still misses Los Angeles: “It’s one of the best places to live in the country,” he said. “Of course you miss that. Mostly I miss just being with my wife and kids. I’m a family man who wants to be home with them (Mike Bresnahan and Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times).
Here are a few more noteworthy links to pass along tonight:
- The Pacers have reached an agreement worth $160MM to extend their stay at the Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indiana for another 10 years, writes Tony Cook of USA Today (first reported by the Associated Press). The city’s Capital Improvement Board is expected to vote on the deal this upcoming Monday.
- Andrea Bargnani‘s lackluster and injury-filled year has been a big reason for the Knicks’ struggles in 2013/14, says Marc Berman of the New York Post. Berman says that it’ll now be up to team president Phil Jackson to either arrange a buyout for the former number one pick or trade his $10MM expiring contract for next season.
- Dexter Pittman, who played high school and college basketball in Texas, tells Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston about how delighted he is to be part of the Rockets: “I always dreamed about playing back home. I’m in shock right now…”I played with LeBron James…I played with Kevin Durant. I (won) an an NBA Championship, but there’s nothing better than coming to Houston and playing with the best center in the game and playing with one of the best all-time great big men to ever play the game, Kevin McHale. and being in the shadow of Hakeem Olajuwon…Everybody’s dream that played basketball in Houston was to be a Rocket.”
- Kevin Pelton, Amin Elhassan, and Chad Ford of ESPN take an in-depth look at NBA prospect Nik Stauskas (Insiders only). Though ESPN initially reported that Stauskas had already decided to declare for the draft, the Michigan guard recently took to Twitter to deny the report himself.
There’s a chance, albeit a small one, that Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird takes over the coaching duties from Frank Vogel before the playoffs begin, as Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star tells Bleacher Report’s Adam Lefkoe in a video interview. Kravitz pegs it as a 5% chance, and cautions that the notion doesn’t come from Bird himself.
Bird told Kravitz nearly a month ago that he thought Vogel wasn’t pushing his players hard enough, and the Pacers have continued their surprising downturn. Indiana was 42-10 before the All-Star break, but the team has gone just 13-13 since and fallen behind the Heat for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The decline has been mystifying, and Bird’s midseason acquisitions of Evan Turner and Andrew Bynum haven’t panned out.
Vogel has turned the Pacers around after taking over the team for the final 38 games of the 2010/11 season, guiding them to the playoffs that season and every year since. Indiana was a game short of the NBA Finals last season, when Bird took a one-year hiatus from his job in the front office. Bird also coached the franchise within a game of the Finals in 1998, the first of his three-year tenure on the bench. His final season as coach ended with a trip to the 2000 Finals, which Indiana lost to the Lakers.
It would be surprising if the Pacers were to bring Bird back to the sidelines for the postseason, as Kravitz suggests. Even if such a move doesn’t happen, it looks as though Vogel’s job security will be in doubt unless Indiana makes a deep run in the playoffs.
The Pacers started the season 41-13, but since the trade that brought Evan Turner to Indiana, the team has gone 12-11, and not looked at all like a championship contender, writes Michael Kaskey-Blomain of Philly.com. It’s not all Turner’s fault, opines Kaskey-Blomain, and in the article he breaks down what has gone wrong for the team.
More from the east:
- Tommy Beer of Basketball Insiders breaks down the true cost of guaranteed contracts in the NBA.
- The news that the Raptors plan to re-sign Kyle Lowry doesn’t surprise Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun (Twitter link). Wolstat mentions that there aren’t many eastern teams that have cap space and are in need of a point guard, which would limit Lowry’s options should he want to depart after the season.
- Wolstat also tweeted that while it’s always possible Lowry could depart, the player just built a home, which would make the Lakers a long shot because of the distance. Another team that has expressed interest in Lowry, the Knicks, don’t have the cap space to sign him, notes Wolstat.
- Jazz player development coach Alex Jensen has a bright coaching future in the NBA, writes Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News.
- It wasn’t that long ago when the Magic were a contender in the Eastern Conference, writes Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders. Taylor lays out the steps the team needs to take in order for the organization to rebuild quickly.
The Pacers are no longer a title contender, Grantland’s Zach Lowe concludes. The trade for Evan Turner hasn’t worked out, Lowe believes, pointing to a postgame tiff between Paul George and Roy Hibbert three weeks ago as indicative of the team’s struggles. The second half of the season hasn’t been kind to Indiana, but the Pacers are still just percentage points behind the Heat for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Here’s more from the Central Division:
As a guest on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich show, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge revealed that he’s had discussions with forward Kris Humphries about the possibility of returning next season:
“I have had a few conversations with Kris…(he) knows where we are as an organization and he knows we like him. And he knows there is a lot of uncertainty, depending on which direction we choose to go this summer. None of us know…he knows we like him, his coaches and teammates like him, (but) we just can’t make any promises” (interview transcribed by Gary Dzen of Boston.com).
Here’s more out of the Eastern Conference tonight:
- Dzen points out that Ainge was also asked about Jerryd Bayless and Phil Pressey but only offered comment on Humphries.
- Having gone from a team with the NBA’s second-worst record to playing for the second seed in the Eastern Conference, Evan Turner has conceivably endured his share of challenges in trying to fit in. The fact that the Pacers have compiled a 12-10 record since the deal while Turner continues to struggle offensively hasn’t helped the situation, but the 6’7 guard tells NBA.com’s Manny Randhawa that he’s confident about being able to contribute sooner rather than later.
- Once considered a possible candidate to be traded, Thaddeus Young is looking more and more like a keeper in Philadelphia, writes Dei Lynam of CSN Philly. The 25-year-old forward spoke glowingly about playing for 76ers head coach Brett Brown: “Coach (Doug Collins) didn’t want me to shoot a lot of threes…I didn’t like that at all. And this year Brett tells me, ‘I want you to shoot threes, get to the basket, I want you to do everything.’ I am back to playing the way I was before Coach Collins and Eddie Jordan, just a more free flowing offense…I think I have transitioned and turned things around where (as a player) I can just focus on my job.”
- Based on the numbers this season, Brandon Knight‘s production may not have unequivocally surpassed what Brandon Jennings brought to the table during his four-year tenure in Milwaukee; However, Knight being two years younger and more affordable than his predecessor is proof of why the Bucks are better off with him now, opines Steve Aschburner of NBA.com.
Shaun Powell of SportsOnEarth.com says that it’s a given Pistons GM Joe Dumars will be let go after the season, but Powell thinks it will take a lot of luck and skill in the draft, free agency, and coaching hunt for Detroit to turn around years of Dumars’ poor decision-making. Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:
- Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko has hired Bill Duffy of the BDA Sports agency to represent him, according to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal (Twitter link). Jerebko is weighing whether to pick up his $4.5MM player option for next season.
- With Kyle Lowry dealing with a sore left knee, the Raptors‘ deadline trade for Nando De Colo is looking far more meaningful, given the team’s dearth of experienced point guards behind Lowry and Greivis Vasquez, writes Doug Smith of the Toronto Star.
- Michael Carter-Williams has turned a lot of heads this season, and Sixers coach Brett Brown told reporters including Tom Moore of Calkins Media that his first-year point guard has played well enough to earn the Rookie of the Year Award. “You can talk about he’s playing on a bad team and getting lots of minutes — and that is all true,” Brown said. “But I see him getting better because he’s understanding the NBA better. He’s starting to get greedy and understand the opportunity and responsibility he has to help grow this program. I think he deserves those awards.”
- Brown also told reporters, including Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, that he’s now “ambivalent” about whether Sixers rookie Nerlens Noel plays this year (Twitter link).
- Pacers power forward Luis Scola will play for Argentina in the FIBA World Cup this summer, he tells El Universal (translation via Emiliano Carchia of Sportando).
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
Danny Granger thinks some of the Pacers’ recent struggles could be due to a team hangover following the trade that sent him to the Sixers, he tells Jeff Caplan of NBA.com. “You mess up the … it’s not messing, you change the chemistry of the team. It can have different effects that are unforeseen. I think that may have had something to do with it,” said Granger. “The fact they added two new players, it’s hard to come in in the middle of the season with a new team regardless of how good you are, that’s very difficult to do.” Here’s more from the Central Division:
- In a mailbag answer, Sam Smith of Bulls.com says that the Bulls likely won’t want to keep all of their draft picks this summer, and guesses that GM Gar Forman will see if the picks will help pry away a star level player from another team. The Bulls will almost surely have the Bobcats’ first rounder to go with their own first round pick, and are also expected to try and bring Nikola Mirotic over from Europe.
- Despite playing only four minutes per game in five appearances with the Bulls, Jimmer Fredette tells K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune he doesn’t regret signing with Chicago. “It’s a great culture here,” Fredette said. “Everyone plays as hard as they can and for the team and for each other. Hopefully, I can be a big part of what we do here moving into the playoffs.”
- With Kyrie Irving out, Cavs rookie point guard Matthew Dellavedova has come through with improved offense to add to his defensive strengths, and he tells Bob Finnan of The News-Herald it’s not come by accident. “We put a lot of time in shooting the ball,” Dellavedova said. “I started well this season and then had a drop-off. It picked up lately. You have to keep refining it and keep taking good shots. I work on my 3-point shot and watch a lot of game tape. I stuck with it. It feels pretty good right now.”
Andre Drummond tells Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press that the many Pistons losses this season have taken their toll on the young big man. “That’s how it goes sometimes. Nothing good comes easy, and nothing starts off easy, either. Tough starts will help us build this team and this organization,” said Drummond. Ellis points out that if the Pistons finish low enough to keep their lottery pick, it would be little consolation if continued losing sours Drummond on the organization. Here’s more from around the Central:
- Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times thinks speculation on Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau moving to the Knicks, or Carmelo Anthony signing with the Bulls, is a thing of the past, implying that Phil Jackson‘s tenure in New York will put an end to those possibilities.
- Cowley adds that Gary Harris, Doug McDermott, K.J. McDaniels, and Zach LaVine could be good options for the Bulls in the draft. Barring a Bobcats late-season meltdown, Chicago will have Charlotte’s first round pick to go with their own in the 2014 draft, both of which are currently projected in the teens.
- Carlos Delfino, lost for the year due to injury, won’t be joining the Bucks for the remainder of the year, per Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times (Twitter link). The guard is opting to rehab in his home country of Argentina, and is still under contract with Milwaukee beyond this season.
- Pacers backup center Andrew Bynum is sidelined indefinitely while he receives treatment for swelling and soreness to his knee, per a team release. Bynum has only played two games with Indiana since signing there in early February, and it’s no shock that his chronic knee issues are limiting his time.
Amar’e Stoudemire envisions remaining with the Knicks organization beyond his playing career, as we noted last night. Still, the 31-year-old hopes he doesn’t leave the court anytime soon, telling Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling that he wants to “play until I can’t walk any more.” Stoudemire says he wants to stay on the Knicks roster, which is indication that he intends to opt in for next season. That wouldn’t be at all surprising, but it sounds he’d also like to re-sign with the club in the summer of 2015. Whether the Knicks will have mutual interest remains to be seen, of course. Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- A source tells Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com that new Knicks president Phil Jackson is high on Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Cole Aldrich, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Toure’ Murry. Carmelo Anthony is on that list as well, and Jackson has already publicly expressed his regard for the star.
- The Pistons have denied that Isiah Thomas is a candidate to run their basketball operations, but MLive’s David Mayo wouldn’t be “thoroughly and completely shocked” if Thomas ends up in that role, as Mayo writes in his latest mailbag column.
- The Sixers and Pacers had nearly identical records over a seven-year span from 2005/06 through 2011/12, but the teams have taken drastically different paths since, notes Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News. The Pacers have distinguished themselves primarily because of their success uncovering gems in the draft, Cooney argues, suggesting much is at stake for the Sixers come June.
The Sixers are performing a tank job the likes of which the league has never seen before, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. While some have said the team is “making a mockery” of the game, Pompey says the team wouldn’t have been in contention this season even if they had held onto Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, and Spencer Hawes. Instead the team has set itself up to snag a quality player or two in the upcoming draft, as well as getting the opportunity to take a look at a number of young players to see if they fit into the team’s future, opines Pompey. He also believes that fans will change their tune this offseason when they see what the team can do with their abundance of draft picks and cap space.
More from where the sun rises:
- Recently signed to a 10-day contract, Darius Johnson-Odom sees an opportunity for himself with the Sixers, writes Max Rappaport of NBA.com. Because of the team being out of the playoff hunt, Johnson-Odom believes he’ll get his share of playing time in order to showcase his abilities.
- Jimmer Fredette is another player who thinks his new team will give him an opportunity. After years of playing inconsistent minutes and not having a defined role, he hopes to revitalize his career and the perception of his abilities around the league, writes Jason Jones of The Deseret News. He hasn’t seen many minutes for the Bulls yet, but Fredette believes he can thrive in Tom Thibodeau‘s system, according to Jones.
- Tom Moore of Calkins Media assesses Evan Turner‘s career with the Sixers and looks at where it might be heading now that he is with the Pacers.