Monthly Archives: November 2017

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Memphis fired coach David Fizdale on Monday, one day after the Grizzlies dropped to 7-12 on the season, including eight straight losses.

Associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who was 37-34 as an interim coach with the Rockets in 2015-16, has been promoted to interim head coach.

“After a thorough evaluation, I decided a change in course was necessary to move forward and provide the team and organization its best chance at success this season and beyond,” general manager Chris Wallace said in a statement. “Coach Fizdale represented the Grizzlies and City of Memphis proudly, and we wish him well as he continues his career.”

Fizdale’s firing comes after his tepid relationship with All-Star center Marc Gasol reached a low point with Gasol’s fourth-quarter benching in a loss to Brooklyn on Sunday night.

Fizdale is owed $3 million for the 2018-19 season on his contract, league sources said. The Grizzlies possessed a team option for the 2019-20 season, the final of his original four-year contract.

The Grizzlies advanced to the Western Conference playoffs a year ago under Fizdale, going 43-39 in the regular season.

The Grizzlies have scheduled a news conference with Bickerstaff for Tuesday at 10 a.m.

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LaVar Ball told Bleacher Report that the Los Angeles Lakers’ staff should take a specific approach to coaching his son, Lonzo: Be tougher on him.

“They’re soft. They don’t know how to coach my son,” Ball told the website during a recent interview. “I know how to coach him. I tell him to go get the victory. Stop messing around.”

LaVar Ball said he does not take issue with the job Lakers coach Luke Walton has done during the team’s 7-10 start to the season.

“I have a problem with losing,” he said.

Lonzo Ball has struggled with his shot through his first 17 games as a pro — averaging 8.9 points on 31 percent shooting from the field — but his contributions go beyond scoring.

Bleacher Report noted that Lonzo Ball has credited Lakers assistant Brian Shaw with urging him to be proactive on the boards, and it’s one way Ball fills up a stat sheet. The rookie guard is averaging 7.1 rebound and 7.1 assists.

His father pointed out that if the staff was tougher on Lonzo, the Lakers would have more success in the early going of his son’s career.

“Go get the W. Do whatever it takes. That’s why I’m down here saying, ‘Rebound,'” LaVar Ball told Bleacher Report. “He’s been away from me too long. I see tendencies in his game — they’re trying to baby him a little bit.”

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LeBron James may be done talking about Enes Kanter, but Kanter had one more message for the four-time MVP on Tuesday: You’re not the king of New York.

The morning after James engineered a fourth-quarter comeback in a road win over the Knicks, he published a post on Instagram suggesting that he was the king of the Big Apple.

Kanter, who had to be separated from James during a skirmish in Monday night’s loss to the Cavs, said James can’t hold that title.

“We’ve already got a king; it’s Kristaps Porzingis,” Kanter said at practice on Tuesday. “Sorry about that.”

Kanter delivered the line with a smile but quickly added that the Knicks needed to move on from the recent back-and-forth with James.

“I think [we need to] kind of forget about this, play our game because we have one tomorrow, just have to get back on track,” the center said.

James first angered Kanter and the rest of the Knicks over the weekend when he said New York made a mistake in not drafting Mavericks point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

The implication was that the Knicks picked the wrong player in point guard Frank Ntilikina, whom the club selected eighth overall, one spot ahead of Smith Jr.

Kanter and the Knicks took umbrage to James’ draft comments. They defended Ntilikina publicly before the Cavs game.
LeBron James and Enes Kanter got into it during Monday's game.
James, though, said on Monday that he meant no disrespect to Ntilikina. He said that his critique was a shot at then-Knicks president Phil Jackson. He also laughed off the criticism from Kanter, in particular.

“For Enes Kanter, who always got something to say,” James said on Monday morning. “He says … I don’t know what’s wrong with him.”

The back-and-forth between James, Kanter and the Knicks spilled over to the court on Monday night.

Late in the first quarter, James crowded Ntilikina after an alley-oop dunk and prevented him from receiving an inbounds pass. Ntilikina shoved James away and a few Knicks, including Kanter and Courtney Lee, came over to intervene. Kanter and James stood face-to-face for a few moments and were assessed double technical fouls.

“We all got Frank’s back, we all got each other’s back,” Kanter said Tuesday. “That’s what we’re playing for. I’m saying this — it’s us against the world. As soon as you step on that court, we’ve got no friends.”

The brief skirmish between James and Kanter was all a footnote in the end because the Cavs came back from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to win the game.

James engineered the comeback with seven points and eight assists in the fourth quarter — many of which were to Kyle Korver (19 points in the fourth quarter).

After the win, James took another dig at Jackson, who was removed as team president in late June. He said the Knicks (7-6) were playing well, in part, because Jackson didn’t influence how the club ran its offense anymore.

“I think Jeff, the coach, Jeff Hornacek is finally — with the release of the old fella, he’s finally allowed to implement what he wants to do on the team and he’s showing it’s very effective,” James said, smiling as he said “old fella,” a reference to Jackson.

James, though, didn’t want to address the on-court incident with Kanter after the game.

“Nothing,” he said. “We got the win. I’m not going to get, uh, I’m not going to say that guy’s name again, anyway.”

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The Phoenix Suns have traded disgruntled guard Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks for center Greg Monroe, a 2018 protected first-round draft pick and a 2018 protected second-round pick.

The teams reached an agreement in principle late Monday night and finalized the terms Tuesday morning, league sources told ESPN. The Bucks resisted including guard Malcolm Brogdon, the NBA’s reigning Rookie of the Year, in the deal, league sources said.

Bledsoe will pair with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton for what could be an explosive offensive team in the Eastern Conference.

“He’ll be another great player for us, a guy who can create for others and create for himself on offense,” Middleton said. “I’m excited to play with him. We can do a lot of things. We’ll have more ball-handlers on the court at the same time. He’s going to be a great for us.”

In particular, Bledsoe’s arrival will ease the playmaking and ballhandling burden on Antetokounmpo. One Eastern head coach told ESPN that he believes Bledsoe immediately becomes the Bucks’ best pick-and-roll player, but the coach wondered how Bledsoe will assimilate away from the ball when Antetokounmpo is making plays.

Bledsoe will get the opportunity to defend the opponent’s point guard, and he’ll have to prove that he can return to being the higher-level defender he was before having knee procedures in Phoenix. Nevertheless, Bledsoe is long and athletic and could be part of a game-closing unit that would include Antetokounmpo, Brogdon, Middleton and Tony Snell.

“Eric is a dynamic player who brings scoring and toughness to the court while enhancing our young and talented core,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst said in a statement announcing the deal.

Added Bucks coach Jason Kidd: “We’re excited. Eric’s excited,”

Milwaukee has lost three straight — and four of five games — to drop to 4-5 on the season. Bledsoe did not join the Bucks for Tuesday night’s game Cleveland. The plan is for Bledsoe to meet the Bucks in San Antonio on Wednesday, two days before their road game against the Spurs.

The Bledsoe trade has salary-cap implications for the Bucks, who’ll almost assuredly will become a luxury tax-paying team should they re-sign or match an offer sheet on restricted free agent Jabari Parker next summer.

With the move, Milwaukee creates a $3.38 million trade exception that will be available to use for one year. The Bucks also have a $5 million trade exception that will expire in February. They are now $4.4 million below the luxury tax.

The Suns (4-7) potentially could have three first-round picks in 2018: their own, Miami’s (top-seven protected) and Milwaukee’s (lottery protected). Phoenix could have seven first-round picks from 2018 to 2021.

Milwaukee will send its 2018 first-round pick to Phoenix if it lands between Nos. 11 and 16. If the pick carries beyond 2018, the Suns get a loosening of protections in 2019 (Nos. 4 to 16), 2020 (Nos. 8 to 30) and 2021, when the pick would come unprotected. The Suns will get the Bucks’ 2018 second-round pick if it lands between Nos. 48 and 60. Otherwise, the Bucks keep the pick.

Bledsoe has been away from the Suns since general manager Ryan McDonough sent him home on Oct. 23. One day earlier, Bledsoe tweeted, “I don’t wanna be here.”

McDonough announced at the time that Bledsoe “won’t be with us going forward,” and said he didn’t believe Bledsoe’s explanation that he was tweeting about wanting to leave a hair salon.

McDonough reiterated on Oct. 31 that the Suns had no timetable for a potential trade involving Bledsoe.

Bledsoe previously had met with Suns owner Robert Sarver and McDonough during the preseason and requested a trade, sources told ESPN. Bledsoe was told by management, according to sources, that the team had underperformed ever since he was given starting point guard responsibilities.

Bledsoe, 27, averaged career highs in points (21.1), assists (6.3) and rebounds (4.8) last season, but the Suns (24-58) finished with the worst record in the Western Conference. It was the second consecutive season that Phoenix’s winning percentage was less than .300.

“He adds a veteran point guard, a guy who plays with pace and can get into the paint, can make the right play,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “He’s been on the cusp of being an All-Star the last three years. He brings a different dimension to their team. He can shoot the basketball, get in the paint, run pick-and-roll and he’s a good defender also.

Monroe, 27, has played only five games this season and hasn’t played since Oct. 26 because of a left calf strain.

“Moose did everything we asked him to help us win, from being a starter to being asked to go to the bench and help us have a stronger bench,” Kidd said. “I wish him the best because he did everything we asked.”

Monroe averaged 15.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game for Detroit and Milwaukee from 2011-12 through 2015-16. His production dipped last season, when he played 81 games without making a start.

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Back on Cleveland Cavaliers media day in late September, LeBron James came into the new season with a fresh mind and body.

“This is one of the best offseasons I’ve had in my career,” James said. “And I’m extremely excited.”

After spraining his left ankle, however, and only playing in one of the Cavs’ five preseason games, followed by a 3-4 start to the regular season, James admits that all the air from his summer training was let out of his balloon when he got injured.

“This was probably the worst training camp for me in my career because of the injury,” James said at Cavs shootaround Wednesday morning before their game against the Indiana Pacers. “I didn’t get an opportunity to do the things that I like to do and with the summer that I had, I kind of had a setback.”
LeBron James is averaging 24.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 8.6 assist per game.
With the Cavs coming off three straight trips to the NBA Finals, training camp might have been looked at as nothing more than a tune-up had Cleveland returned its core. However, Kyrie Irving’s offseason trade request set off a string of roster moves that resulted in the Cavs bringing in eight new players this season.

The practice time was necessary. And there was no way to substitute learning how to play with James for the roster additions unless James was actually on the court.

“Training camp has always been like my favorite point in the season, it sounds weird, but to be able to get back into it, get the team going, having that camaraderie, getting back on the floor, getting that system back in place,” James said. “For me to be in and out and much more out that in and to be able to implement what I do, especially with [eight] new guys, that kind of hurt.”

The Cavs aren’t the only perennial power off to a slow start, however. The Golden State Warriors are 5-3; they didn’t have their third loss last season until Dec. 1, when they were 16-3. The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder — both picked to finish near the top of the Western Conference — are 4-3. The Cavs, Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls are the only playoff teams from a year ago currently under .500.

Yes, the season started a week earlier and preseason was shortened to accommodate the schedule shift, but the Cavs can’t blame everything on the calendar.

“I was kind of already behind the eight ball, so it didn’t matter if it was a shortened preseason or not with the injury that I had, personally,” James said. “So I’m not sure. I’m not sure. We know that the season kind of started earlier. Everybody was kind of a little bit off rhythm for a little bit. But we’re into now so it’s not much of an excuse.”

The Cavs tried to rid themselves of excuses with an air-it-out full team meeting prior to practice Tuesday. James was “vocal” in the meeting, a source present for it told ESPN, however “most everyone spoke.”

James was encouraged by what was said.

“It was needed and we’re receptive, and the best thing about it is guys got out everything that they wanted to, even with it being early in the season,” James said. “It was good, so, see how it translates on the floor too.”

While most would think a team meeting just seven games into an 82-game schedule would be cause for alarm, James didn’t see it that way.

“Everything happens for a reason, so, excited what the future holds for our team,” he said.