Beal tired of talk of chemistry issues with Wall | Report: Magic looking to deal Ibaka | Fisher chimes in on state of Knicks | Van Gundy praises Celtics’ Thomas
No. 1: Beal weary of talk about chemistry issues with Wall — Maybe it started back before the season began, when Washington Wizards guard John Wall said he and Bradley Beal have an on-court ‘dislike’ of each other. Maybe it started before that, with an off-hand comment from former center Nene about his young teammates. However it began, talk of discord between Beal and Wall has been an on-and-off storyline for the Wizards for years, and its one that Beal wants to squash. Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com has more:
With Washington as hot as any team in the NBA, Wizards guard Bradley Beal has grown weary of hearing questions about his relationship with backcourt mate John Wall.
In an appearance on ESPN Radio’s NBA Insiders, Beal was asked about how his relationship with Wall is after entering the season under the microscope.
“I think it’s (going) well,” Beal said in the Sunday interview. “I think it’s (going) really well. It’s kind of getting old, people saying that we don’t agree and that we don’t click. We’re just going out and proving it on the floor.”
After the slow start, Washington has been steadily rising in the standings. The Wizards are 21-8 since Dec. 5 and have won 10 of their last 12 games entering Tuesday’s game against the Knicks in Washington, where they have won 14 straight.
Wall is averaging career highs of 22.9 points, 10.3 assists, 2.2 steals and 46.2 percent shooting. Beal is also having a career season, averaging 21.8 points on 46.0 percent shooting.
While Wall earned his fourth straight All-Star appearance, Beal was left off the Eastern Conference team.
Beal, who has largely remained healthy this season and has credited Brooks with allowing him to handle the ball more, was asked if he was disappointed to not make the All-Star Game with his backcourt mate of the past five seasons.
“It’s a yes-and-no answer,” Beal said. “I can be upset about it and pout about it. But it’s not the end of the world. It is not why I play the game. I play the game because I love it. Do I want to be an All-Star? For sure.”
“I’m happy for John,” Beal continued. “This is his fourth in a row and he continues to support the city as he can and continues to show love. His efforts and his point-guard skills have gotten better ever since I’ve been playing with him. It’s definitely been a joy and a pleasure. As far as me, it’s a yes-and-no answer — I am a little upset (about not being named an All-Star) but it’s not the end of the world. I continue to move on.”
And Beal certainly hopes to erase any lingering doubts about his relationship with Wall via his and the Wizards’ surging play.
“We have fun and compete at a high level,” Beal said of Washington’s star duo. “We consider ourselves the best backcourt in the league, so we just continue to prove ourselves, continue to compete and hold each other accountable and make sure that we continue to lead our team.”
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No. 2: Report: Magic stepping up efforts to trade Ibaka — The Orlando Magic went through a roster make-over in the offseason, trading swingman Victor Oladipo and others to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Serge Ibaka. The thinking was Ibaka could team with Nikola Vucevic and new addition Bismack Biyombo to form a formidable front line and lift Orlando back into the playoffs. Neither has happened as the Magic are 22nd in Defensive Rating (they were 17th last season) and are the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference. Sean Devaney of The Sporting News reports the Magic are now looking to deal Ibaka, who will be a free agent this summer:
It has not taken long for buyers’ remorse to kick in. League sources told Sporting News that the Magic have picked up their attempts to move Ibaka ahead of next month’s trade deadline, eager to ensure that they come away with some return for a player who does not figure to be in Orlando long. Ibaka will be a free agent this summer. There is no chance of a Biyombo trade, not after the Magic paid him $70 million for four years this offseason.
Oladipo is 24 and Sabonis is 20, and both have been starters on a team that is eight games over .500.
Ibaka, 27, has been productive, with 14.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 48.6 percent shooting from the field (38.3 percent from the 3-point arc), but he has not had the level of impact on the team’s defense the Magic had hoped. Ultimately, the team will have to shift third-year forward Aaron Gordon from small forward to power forward, Ibaka’s current spot.
But the big concern for Orlando is that they will have mortgaged two young pieces for Ibaka with no benefit, not even a modest bump in the standings. There is virtually no chance he stays in Orlando beyond this season. Ibaka is likely to search out a team more ready to contend in the summer, and the Magic can’t afford to hand him a big contract, not with Gordon still needing to develop as a power forward.
Problem is, no one quite knows what Ibaka is going to do next July. The Magic want to recoup the loss of Sabonis and Oladipo with some other youngsters or picks in return. Teams are naturally reluctant to give up promising young assets for a few months of Ibaka, however, especially with the way each conference has been dominated by its defending champs, the Cavs in the East (despite recent struggles) and the Warriors in the West. A short-term rental is not likely to bring a championship.
“They’re asking too much,” one front office executive said. “(The Magic) would probably like to make a few moves there, but Ibaka is the one they’re really pushing because he is going to leave. But they have had too high a price. They want a young player and a pick, two young players — you know, a package that can get them back some assets. They’re not going to get that. Not for three, maybe four months of Serge Ibaka.”
And while the Magic want to save face on a deal for Ibaka, sources said the team has been aggressive in testing the trade market, apparently acknowledging that this sometimes-tantalizing team still needs some major alterations. Center Nikola Vucevic is also a potential trade target, and there has been talk that point guard Elfrid Payton —one player Vogel’s predecessor Scott Skiles wanted to trade before he resigned his post — could be had, too.
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No. 3: Fisher says he did more with less-talented Knicks team — Former New York Knicks coach Derek Fisher lasted just over a year-and-a-half at his first NBA coaching gig before he was fired. It was around this time last year, in fact, that Knicks president (and Fisher’s former coach with the Los Angeles Lakers) Phil Jackson dumped Fisher and ultimately hired Jeff Hornacek in the offseason. In an interview with Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, Fisher says that all things considered, the Knicks were doing better under him at this point a season ago. Marc Berman of the New York Post has more:
The one-year anniversary of Derek Fisher’s firing is approaching, and the former Knicks coach has decided his club was better than this year’s Jeff Hornacek edition despite not having as much talent.
In a longform feature on Bleacher Report, Fisher also derided the complexities of working under president Phil Jackson and felt teaching a triangle offense to the players was sending mixed messages on who really is the head coach.
It was the most detailed remarks from Fisher on feeling his dismissal was undeserved after the club sputtered to a 23-31 record on Super Bowl Sunday against the Nuggets. Fisher was fired the next day – Feb. 8.
With 10 new faces, including Derrick Rose, the Knicks sit at 21-28 and could fall eight games under .500 with a loss Tuesday in Washington against the hot Wizards.
“We were able to take a team that wasn’t as talented as the team they have now, and we were much better and much further along than this group is that they have now,” Fisher told Bleacher Report. “Because the foundation was being laid.
“That’s different than just trying to coach basketball — and it takes longer. That’s the part that you can’t measure in wins and losses, either. That’s what we were doing the best at.”
“One of the challenges for all of us was we were in the basketball department under the umbrella of Phil Jackson and who he was and who he is and what he was able to do as coach and leader. Then [when you’re] asking me as a head coach in a sense not to create the same results, but take the same system or way of playing and try and teach these guys how to play it — and utilize it in similar ways as when he taught it — I think at times it was more challenging for our players to really understand, ‘Who am I committing myself to? Who am I selling myself to? Who am I running through the brick wall for?’”
Sources told The Post last February Fisher was fired partly due to his lack of communication with Jackson and his failure to properly answer emails that contained suggestions. Jackson also said Fisher didn’t utilize his experienced coaching staff. Hornacek said last week he gets emails from Jackson after each game with pointers and said he’s inputted some of them. Hornacek said last week triangle sets are just a small portion of the offense.
According to Fisher, it was naïve to think because he and Jackson got along swimmingly in a coach-player relationship, they would have the same cohesion as president-coach. Both were starting up new job descriptions, adding to the awkwardness.
“We both didn’t know exactly what we were doing,” said Fisher, who went 17-65 his first year with the Knicks. “Being the head coach is not like playing. Being president is not like being the head coach. That’s one of the reasons why we didn’t quite complete our meshing and blending of talents and thoughts, because those two positions are not always aligned.”
Fisher also believes he deserves a little credit for the continued progress of Kristaps Porzingis, whom he coached as a rookie for most of the season.
“I know what we deposited into Kristaps Porzingis that is coming out this year,’’ Fisher said. “He isn’t where he is now by himself. He deserves all the credit, but what we were helping him do for himself — that matters.”
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No. 4: Van Gundy has nothing but praise for Thomas — Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas is this season’s leader in fourth-quarter scoring and if you had any doubts about his clutch scoring ability, just watch what he did last night. Thomas put up 24 points in the final stanza en route to a 41-point night that lifted the Celtics to a 113-109 win against the Detroit Pistons. Afterward, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy blamed himself for the outburst and, yet also, couldn’t help but admire Thomas’ game. Adam Himmeslbach of The Boston Globe has more:
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy had just watched Isaiah Thomas shred his team in the fourth quarter, just as Thomas has shredded most teams in the fourth quarter this season, and he was exasperated.
“The only person I’m upset at right now is myself,” Van Gundy said. “The fourth quarter — I’ve coached like 800 games in this league; you’ve got to do a better job than what I did.”
There are only so many ways to stop Thomas, so many schemes to throw at him. And thus far, particularly when a game’s defining moment arrives, most have been futile. But Van Gundy still wondered why he had not done more or tried something different.
“Shoot, triple-team him, run everybody at him,” he said. “Bottom line is, when they hit the fourth quarter — and I don’t mean any disrespect to any of their other players — he’s playing so well right now that he’s just a one-man team. Make somebody else do something, and I didn’t do that, and that’s on me.”
Afterward, Thomas was asked if a unique Van Gundy adjustment would have even mattered. So many coaches have tried the unique adjustments, and they hardly ever matter. The All-Star held back a smile.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t pay attention to it. I just tried to execute what they’re doing to me, figure out if they’re doubling or figure out if they’re switching, and then attack. I really don’t try to pay attention too much to what they’re doing.”
Boston has consistently shown that its depth is substantial enough to overcome bumps and bruises to key parts, as evidenced by a 30-18 record that suddenly has it just 2½ games behind the mighty Cleveland Cavaliers for first in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re not where we want to be,” Thomas said, “but we’re headed in that direction.”
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Could the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics soon be reopening trade talks for Jimmy Butler? … Evan Fournier got back on the court for the Orlando Magic for the first time in nearly two weeks … Luol Deng took a critical stance against the United States’ new travel and immigration ban as did Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy … There may be brighter days ahead for Phoenix as long as star guar Devin Booker is around … How Kevin Love’s absence may affect the Cleveland Cavaliers’ lineup going forward … Memphis’ bench had an awesome reaction to Zach Randolph’s in-game dunk last night …