Morning Shootaround (Dec. 17) -- Feeling unappreciated, Wall asks for understanding
Glen Taylor asks for patience | John Wall asks for understanding | Klay Thompson is happy with his year | A healthy Eric Gordon is relieved
No. 1: Glen Taylor asks for patience — The Wolves underwent a coaching change last summer and for the last few years collected enough lottery picks to position themselves as a team on the rise. But that hasn’t manifested itself just yet; on the contrary, the Wolves were tied for last place in the league a few days ago. How is this going over in Minnesota? Well, the fans appear to be patient, to a degree, and Wolves owner Glen Taylor is as surprised as anyone. He spoke recently with Twin Cities legend Sid Hartman about the Wolves:
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor was asked if he expected this kind of start after some of the big offseason changes.
“Well, let’s say that I was hopeful they would get off to a better start,” said Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune. “Even in all the games they have played, you can see the exceptional talent that we have, and the ability to win. But for some reason or another, which I don’t have an answer for, we just have a terrible quarter in each game and get ourselves so far behind that it’s hard to pull it out. I’m hopeful that we’re getting it figured out.”
What has been difficult to understand is how a team that finished last season 7-5, including an impressive overtime victory over record-setting Golden State, and then added a world-renowned coach could look like it has taken a step backward.
Taylor said the bigger picture of changing head coaches and front-office officials challenged players to learn new systems and ways to develop, which sometimes is a slow process that doesn’t immediately translate into victories.
“I agree with you,” Taylor said. “It appeared that last year we were making progress throughout the year with these young guys, and I guess it was maybe my expectations and others that we could just pick up on that and go forward.
Taylor said Thibodeau shares his frustration.
“He’s frustrated that we don’t win. I think he’s being patient, probably more patient than I thought his personality would let him do,” Taylor said. “I know that he’s working hard with these players, to show them what they’re doing wrong and how they might improve. He likes the guys, he likes their work ethic, he sees a lot of potential in them. But he, too, wants to see some wins to show that we’re improving.”
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2. John Wall asks for understanding — It’s always risky when highly-paid professional athletes claim to suffer from a level of underpaid-ness, yet John Wall has done that, and may have a point. He’s No. 3 on the Wizards’ payroll yet clearly the best player on the roster. Will the new labor agreement, which favors star players, help him out? Wall would like to know, and Candace Buckner of the Washington Post explored the issue:
As Wall has emerged as the face of the franchise, he has felt underappreciated by the rest of the league, and the new CBA, which was tentatively agreed to by the league and its players’ union on Wednesday night, could unwittingly buttress his perception. On Thursday, Wall addressed the proposed designated veteran rule and how it might affect his contract status.
“I feel like it’s amazing and crazy because I had my best year, like, two years ago, my second year [as an] all-star, I averaged 20 and 10 and was a starter but couldn’t make all-NBA team,” Wall said. “So I mean, you want those individual accolades but it’s to the point that [if] you get your recognition, then you get it. You only get those [individual honors] by winning. When I did and had an opportunity to win, I still didn’t make it.”
Those accolades could end up affecting Wall’s eligibility for the designated veteran exception, a new measure in the CBA, which must still be ratified. Players who qualify for the exception — up to two per team — will be able to sign longer contract extensions than under the previous CBA. This gives superstars more financial motivation to re-sign with their original teams, and gives franchises — whether a small-market organization or one that cannot draw big-name free agents — a greater chance of keeping homegrown talent.
Here’s where Wall’s trophy shelf comes into play. According to a person with knowledge of the CBA discussions between the league and the National Basketball Players Association, the designated veteran rule extends to those who have achieved all-NBA status or won high individual honors such as league MVP or defensive player of the year. Wall, in his seventh season, is a three-time all-star but has not made the all-NBA team nor contended for MVP or defensive player of the year.
Hypothetically, if Wall makes the 2016-17 all-NBA team, next summer he would be eligible for a four-year contract extension at 35 percent of the Wizards’ total salary cap amount, the maximum allowed under the salary cap. Without any of those honors, Wall, 26, would still be in line for a three-year extension at 30 percent of the cap. A hefty raise, for sure, but one that would leave Wall behind many of his superstar peers.
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3. Klay Thompson is happy with his year — As long as he’s on a team with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson will be the third-biggest worry of any opposing team. But that doesn’t necessarily make him a third banana, as anyone who has watched the Warriors and Thompson knows. Not even Durant or Curry matched Thompson’s efficient 60-point blast a few weeks ago; Thompson constantly proves that he can go ballistic along with the rest. Here’s Marc Stein of ESPN with a question-and-answer with the Warriors’ guard:
Klay on how hard it is to score 60 points in a game in which you take only 11 dribbles:
“I know … that’s efficiency for you. That’s actually funny, because when I go on my social media and I see some people on there like, ‘God, guy can’t even dribble and he took 11 dribbles.’ I’m like, ‘That’s all I needed to take.’ But you know what, it’s all fun.
“That was a big moment in my career, and hopefully I’ll be able to eclipse it one day. I know it’s tough, but I never thought I’d be able to outdo 37 points in a quarter, and this is kind of special in its own right. I surprised myself again, and hopefully it won’t be the last time.”
Klay on whether he’s gone back to rewatch the game on video:
“I watch it … just to see what I did well. I was in such a good groove and, like you said, I only took 11 dribbles, and I was efficient in all of my movement. So, yeah, I watch it to see what I did well.
“A few [more] shots I could have made, but mainly to remind myself I can do great things in this league if I just play as hard as I can and bring great focus every game, and that’s the biggest challenge for a lot of athletes in this league. The 82-game schedule, it’s hard to focus every night. But the best ones do this — they bring it — so I just remind myself of what I could do by watching that film.”
Klay on how the Warriors are meshing as of the 25-game mark:
“I gotta give us an A-. I think we’re playing at a really high level right now. We have the best record in the NBA. [But] we expected to, just with the talent we have, and the system we run, and the amount of great players you have.
“We knew it was going to take time. Obviously, out the gate, personally I didn’t play that well. But I knew it was early in the season, so I wasn’t really worried. I knew if I went to the gym, put the time in, I was going to get back on track.
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4. A healthy Eric Gordon is relieved — Ever since he signed a massive restricted free agent contract with the Suns that was matched by New Orleans four years ago, Eric Gordon couldn’t catch a break. He developed one injury after another and never realized his full potential with the Pelicans, certainly not to the consistent level he previously had with the Clippers. But not only is he healthy, his confidence is back and he’s in a useful role playing alongside James Harden in Houston. Here’s Calvin Watkins on ESPN Houston on Gordon:
When the 27-year-old Gordon became an unrestricted free agent this past summer, he sought a new challenge in a place where he could fit in and contribute.
When his teammate in New Orleans, Ryan Anderson, decided to sign a free-agent contract with the Houston Rockets, Gordon saw the potential. Playing with James Harden in a wide-open offensive system run by Mike D’Antoni — for a franchise with a much better tradition than New Orleans — appealed to him.
After starting for the majority of his time in New Orleans, Gordon signed a four-year, $53 million deal to come off the bench for the Rockets.
In 18 of 26 games off the bench, Gordon has emerged as a leading early-season candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. He’s second in bench scoring at 17.6 points per game, shooting 45.2 percent from the field and making 46.4 percent of his 3-point shots (higher marks than he’d posted as a starter in Houston). Gordon has made at least three 3-pointers in the past 11 games, tied for the fifth-longest streak in league history.
When Gordon is on the floor, the Rockets’ offensive rating is 112.3 with an effective field-goal percentage of 54.4 percent.
Those close to Gordon say he is more relaxed and confident.
“He’s happy, he’s playing at a super-high level and really being used to the best of his ability,” Anderson said. “He’s such a great, talented guy — he’s an All-star, in my opinion. It’s really good to see him in his element playing at the peak of his game. I know that he’s happy.”
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: President Obama paid his respects to Craig Sager … Dave Joerger made his first visit Friday to Memphis since leaving last summer and had mixed feelings … J.J. Redick is a free agent this summer, and because the Clippers can’t pay and keep everyone, he’s open to options. Orlando is one … The disappointing Blazers could use a shakeup but will see roadblocks in potential trade options … David West says his hip hurts … Not only are the Raptors thriving on the court, they’re in unison off the court as well .. Stanley Johnson, who was suspended earlier by Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, is back in the coach’s good graces and the rotation as well.