DA's Morning Tip
Morning Tip: Your questions on Russell Westbrook, the Toronto Raptors and more
That’s a lot on your plate, Brodie. From Ishaiq Hussein:
Do you believe that Russell Westbrook was trying to do too much in Game 2?
Yes: but I understood why. Going into the fourth quarter, he’d been reasonably efficient — 13 of 25 from the floor. The Thunder had lost most of what had been a 14-point third quarter lead when he went to the bench for just a few minutes late in the quarter. The game was there to be won, and few of his teammates had shown any ability to make shots. In the circumstances of that game, I got Westbrook firing it up again and again — most of the shots were similar to ones he’d made earlier. To the larger question of whether Westbrook should do more to nurture his teammates’ confidence? I think he does try. Maybe he needs to try harder. But that’s a judgment from 10,000 feet.
They can’t have Jurassic Park without the velociraptor display, can they? From Rafael Gutierrez:
If the Raptors can’t knuck the buck, is it time to let Kyle Lowry walk and begin a small rebuild in Toronto? I can’t imagine Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker wanting to stay, unless we overpay them.
There have been rumblings for weeks around the league that the Raps are reluctant to give the 31-year-old Lowry a max deal. Not because they’re unhappy with his play, but because they’re not sure he will be able to perform up to the contract at the end of five years. It’s a tough call strategically if not financially (the Raptors’ parent company continues to print money in the 416). The franchise’s best success has come with Lowry running the show. As for Ibaka/Tucker, I think the Raps will be able to keep them both; I can’t imagine they would have pulled the trigger on either deal without a plan to retain them. The deals really solidified them when the team was floundering.
Decisions, decisions. From Jarrell Pulliam:
What do the Timberwolves do if they get a top 3 pick in the Lottery? Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz and Malik Monk among others will be on tap. Ricky Rubio ended the season playing the best basketball of his career. Do the Wolves try to trade him and that pick for a star PF? Karl-Anthony Towns is planted. Andrew Wiggins is planted. Hopefully Zach LaVine recovers well and is planted. Then what about Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones. Do you let Dunn runn the show at PG or go for Lonzo if you have the chance? Or keep Rubio and trade Dunn and the pick?
All of your inquiries depend on what Tom Thibodeau really thinks of Dunn, who obviously struggled as a rookie. If the Wolves still believe Dunn is their point guard of the future, they can go for shooting (Minnesota was 20th in 3-point percentage last season and middling in both True Shooting Percentage and Effective Field Goal Percentage) and take Malik Monk. But if they have long-term concerns about Dunn, I’d go for either Fultz, Ball or De’Aaron Fox.
Send your questions, comments and lists of other animals crazy enough to attack a pack of elephants in the wild to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!
(Last week’s averages in parenthesis)
1) Russell Westbrook (39.3 ppg, 9 rpg, 12.7 apg, .400 FG, .822 FT): Third straight postseason triple double Sunday; only Wilt Chamberlain has had more consecutive playoff triple doubles.
2) James Harden (31.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 7.3 apg, .426 FG, .933 FT): Under duress throughout the series with OKC, but still creates so many open looks for teammates just by his presence on the court.
3) LeBron James (33 ppg, 11 rpg, 7.7 apg, .528 FG, .552 FT): Passed Kobe Bryant for third place on the NBA’s all-time postseason scoring list, and passed Wes Unseld for seventh on the league’s all-time postseason rebounding list. Another fairly impressive week.
4) Kawhi Leonard (32.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, .527 FG, 1.000 FT): Simply amazing against the Grizzlies down the stretch and in overtime of Game 4.
5) Kevin Durant (DNP-calf strain).
BY THE NUMBERS
22,985 — Career minutes played by the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley, who has yet to pick up a technical foul during his 10-year career. As the Wall Street Journal noted last week, per Stats LLC, that minutes total is 43 percent greater than the next player who has never received a technical. (Technically — see what I did there? — Conley did once get a T, in 2014, but it was immediately rescinded by the league the next day.)
217 — Career playoff games for the Spurs’ Tony Parker, who passed Shaquille O’Neal on Saturday for sixth place on the NBA’s all-time postseason games played list. With three more playoff apperances, Parker will tie Kobe Bryant (220) for fifth.
52 — Per ABC/ESPN, consecutive playoff games that LeBron James’s teams have won when they had a lead of 10 or more points entering the fourth quarter, including Sunday’s first-round series clinching win over the Pacers.
I’M FEELIN’ …
1) The Kings, who have often followed a haltingly good move with three bad ones in a row for a while now, made a very, very smart hire by bringing former Sonics, Pistons and Magic executive Scott Perry in to be Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations. The first thing Sacramento desperately needs to do is stabilize its organization, provide stability and professionalism for team president Vlade Divac to play off of and make more informed decisions. They hired ex-Pistons assistant GM Ken Catanella last year; bringing in Perry, who is well-respected by everyone around the league and by the agent community, is another huge step forward in changing the franchise’s culture and reputation.
2) Andrew Harrison, meet Tayshaun Prince. Tay, meet Andrew. And are you two fellows familiar with a guy named LeBron?
3) Jerry Stackhouse has a bright, bright future, as evidenced by his taking Raptors 905 to the NBA D-League Finals, and getting D-League Coach of the Year honors.
4) New Wolves logo? Thumbs up.
1) Been a year since Prince died. I still can’t believe it. And I’m still not over it. Suspect I never will be.
2) RIP, Jess Kersey. A great ref for decades, with 19 Finals games on his watch, and more than 2,220 NBA games total. One of the best of his generation of officials, a group that reffed games with an iron fist and an insider’s knowledge of the players and coaches. And, a good, good man to boot, who passed the ref gene down to his son Bryan, who officiated the 2015 NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis.
3) Hearing increasing chatter that teams are pushing for a rules change from the Competition Committee this summer on James Harden’s “lock and shoot” move that has led to many of the fouls he’s drawn this season while shooting threes. The issue isn’t whether or not Harden is drawing fouls — he is, and no one wants to punish him for being clever and quick enough to do so. The issue is whether he should get free throws for it. Harden was by far the most proficient player in the league this season at drawing fouls while attempting 3-pointers, but other teams argue that if an offensive player using the “rip through” move perfected by Kevin Durant to draw fouls no longer gets free throws for that move — it’s a side-out foul now — then Harden shouldn’t get three free throws when he draws contact by locking the opponent’s arm with his off hand and then going into his shooting motion, especially when he frequently begins the action coming off of screens and not even looking toward the basket.
4) Hoping for the best for Steve Kerr, who’s had to deal with almost ceaseless physical pain for almost two years now.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Grit & Grind pic.twitter.com/rrQKb0YI6Q
— Mike Conley (@MCONLEY10) April 23, 2017
— Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (@mconley11), Sunday, 12:02 pm, saying and showing all that needs to be said about Memphis’s great overtime win Saturday over San Antonio to tie its first-round series with the Spurs at two games apiece.
THEY SAID IT
“Prince is too powerful a human being to be on a team for that long. The last team he was on was the Revolution, but they broke up because he needed to not be on a team anymore. So there’s no way he could have sustained an NBA career.”
— Guitarist Wendy Melvoin, of “Wendy and Lisa” fame as part of the Revolution, one of Prince’s many bands, in an interview with the New York Post. Melvoin said Prince was the greatest athlete she’s ever seen and that the diminutive legend, who played high school ball in Minneapolis before embarking on his incredible music career, “was just as good as Spud Webb.”
“He was standing next to me the other night, and he wasn’t breathing. He wasn’t breathing, so I’m gonna check the rule book and find out if robots are allowed to play in the NBA because somehow Pop and them have figured out, they know something I don’t know. I think he bleeds like antifreeze or something.”
— Memphis Coach David Fizdale, on the Spurs’ seemingly indestructible Kawhi Leonard.
“I know I’m not as bad as people think, but when you go through something, you’ve got to realize you’re the common denominator. I came to the realization I’ve got to change myself, the way I think, the way I act, who I talk to because no matter what the situation is, I was always the common denominator. I just had to change my approach to life.”
— Bucks forward Michael Beasley, to the Boston Globe, on how he’s come to grips with some of the setbacks that have occurred to him during his career.
Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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