Suns,Blazers,Clippers, Grizzlies,Pelicans, Real +/-, 6ers,D-League

- Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek says each player has improved in 2013-14 (from Paul Coro, azcentral.com):

“When you are arguably the NBA’s most improved team, singling out which player has improved the most is like choosing a favorite child.

Suns coach Jeff Hornacek can’t do it.

“They’ve all done something more than they’ve done last year,” Hornacek said.

Seven veterans are averaging career highs. Three rookies are growing up. The road from last place in the Western Conference to the upper-third tier of the NBA is filled with improvement but each Suns player’s advancement probably takes away the chance of any one of them becoming the league’s Most Improved Player winner.”

Read it here: http://www.azcentral.com/sports/suns/articles/20140306phoenix-suns-coach-jeff-hornacek-says-each-player-has-improved.html

- What looked like a sleepy Trail Blazers’ summer has turned into the resume for Executive of the Year (from Jason Quick, Oregonlive.com):

” The Trail Blazers received a well-earned ovation Sunday after clinching a playoff spot with a 100-94 victory over New Orleans, the team’s 50th win this season with four more games left to play.

But nowhere to be seen, nowhere to be found, was the man who perhaps deserves the biggest ovation: general manager Neil Olshey.

They should start bubble wrapping the Executive of the Year trophy and addressing the box to One Center Court, because nobody in the NBA did more with less last summer than Olshey.

Robin Lopez. Mo Williams. Dorell Wright. Thomas Robinson.”

Read it here: http://www.oregonlive.com/blazers/index.ssf/2014/04/quick_as_trail_blazers_clinch_playoffs_and_50-win.html

-Dragic and Tucker lead, but youth defines Suns’ character (from Kevin Zimmerman, Valleyofthesuns.com):

” Dragic and Tucker are the faces and the outright leaders, but the character of the Suns as a team isn’t exactly that of either.

Phoenix thrives on Dragic speaking with his play and Tucker literally speaking loudly and often, but it goes deeper. Last Wednesday, Jeff Hornacek’s team was running football sets during pregame warmups, and huddles took on the energy of a confident and cocky high school team.

“This team hasn’t exactly taken Tucker’s borderline moody, aggressive personality, or Dragic’s more reserved but just as passionate approach. Instead, Phoenix plays with a playful exuberance that’s almost ignorant to the situation. Tucker suggests it’s a positive thing.
- Clippers keep drawing successful combos (from J.A. Adande, ESPN):
” The Clippers have proved their adaptability over the course of the season. They have played at least nine games with four versions of their starting lineup, and have winning records with all four of them. They’re 11-5 with Chris Paul, Redick, DeAndre Jordan, Griffin and Jared Dudley. They’re 8-3 with Paul, Crawford, Jordan, Griffin and Dudley. They’re 6-3 with Darren Collison, Redick, Jordan, Griffin and Matt Barnes. They’re 12-2 with Paul, Collison, Jordan, Griffin and Barnes.Sunday was the first time they used the lineup of Paul, Redick, Jordan, Griffin and Barnes, and they’re 1-0 with that combo after beating the Lakers 120-97.
“Our mindset as a team — and you can just feel it before every game, no matter who’s playing or who’s not playing — we’ve just got to go execute our stuff and we’ve got a chance to win, every single night,” Griffin said. “I think that was really evident, especially when CP went down [13-6 without Paul in the starting lineup]. Because everybody kind of wrote us off a little bit. And then when he came back, J.J.’s out. Guys don’t really make excuses. ‘Oh, he’s not playing tonight? It’s my turn, it’s his turn, it’s somebody’s turn.’“That’s encouraging going into the playoffs, just to know that whoever we have on the court, we’re going to compete.”
- Where the Grizzlies’ Defense Has Gone Missing (from Joe Mullinax, Frizzlybearblues.com):
” All of the X’s and O’s in the world cannot save this Grizzlies team if they refuse to get back to playing sound, fundamental basketball. Getting back in transition, protecting the ball, recognizing where you are on the court and what sets are being run, moving your feet. There are all basic defensive skills that have gone missing during this 6 game stretch. If Memphis hopes to get in to the playoffs for a small shot at a title run, they will have to find a way to fix these issues.”
- New Orleans Pelicans point guard Brian Roberts getting steady diet of NBA’s best from Jimmy Smith, NOLA.com):
” It was Damian Lillard in the Moda Center on Sunday, following future All-Star Trey Burke on Friday night in Utah. And in the weeks before that, it was Chris Paul of the Clippers, Tony Parker of the Spurs, Deron Williams of the Nets, Kyle Lowry of the Raptors, Rajon Rondo of the Celtics, John Wall of the Wizards, Kyrie Irving of the Cavaliers, Ricky Rubio of the Timberwolves, Goran Dragic of the Suns, Mike Conley of the Grizzlies . . . .”That’s a big-time position and a marquee player on each team,” said Roberts, who became the starter for the New Orleans Pelicans at the outset of calendar 2014 when Jrue Holiday went down for the rest of the year with a tibial stress fracture. “Night in and night out, I just try to go out and try to meet the challenge and play my game.”Roberts has done just that.”

Read it here: http://www.nola.com/pelicans/index.ssf/2014/04/new_orleans_pelicans_point_gua_5.html

- The next big thing: Real Plus-Minus (from Steve Ilardi, ESPN):

” As the name suggests, real plus-minus shares a family resemblance with the +/- stat in the box score, which merely registers the net change in score (plus or minus) while each player is on the court.

RPM is inspired by the same underlying +/- logic: If a team outscores its opponents when a player is on the court, he’s probably doing something to help his team, whether or not he’s putting up big numbers.

But the familiar +/- stat has a serious flaw: Each player’s rating is heavily influenced by the play of his on-court teammates.

” Drawing on advanced statistical modeling techniques (and the analytical wizardry of RPM developer Jeremias Engelmann, formerly of the Phoenix Suns), the metric isolates the unique plus-minus impact of each NBA player by adjusting for the effects of each teammate, opposing player and coach.

The RPM model sifts through more than 230,000 possessions each NBA season to tease apart the “real” plus-minus effects attributable to each player, employing techniques similar to those used by scientific researchers when they need to model the effects of numerous variables at the same time.

RPM estimates how many points each player adds or subtracts, on average, to his team’s net scoring margin for each 100 possessions played. The RPM model also yields separate ratings for the player’s impact on both ends of the court: offensive RPM (ORPM) and defensive RPM (DRPM).”

Read it here: http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/10740818/introducing-real-plus-minus

-  Sixers’ future success could be more than just a dream (from Ed Rendell, Philly.com)   – yes, that Ed Rendell, former PA Governor):

” As an eternal optimist, I believe that the Sixers’ strategy is brilliant and that, by next season, we will have an exciting, competitive team. So let’s dream a little. Assume the lottery odds stay where they are and the Sixers get the second pick in the draft.”

” …between the draft and free agency, my dream team sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? And remember, the front office is a lot better judge of talent than Ed Rendell, and they might just do even better!”

Read it here: http://articles.philly.com/2014-04-06/sports/48912097_1_draft-pick-first-pick-milwaukee-bucks

- Michael Carter-Williams playing with confidence as rookie season ends (from Jake Fischer, Libertyballers.com):

“I think he’s the Rookie of the Year, I’ve seen a growth in him on and off the floor,” Brett Brown said before Friday night’s win. “I’m so proud of what he’s done in that regard. He lets me coach him, we have candid conversations. I think that’s the holy grail for him: grabbing a city, grabbing a program and being our point guard now and for the future.”

Clearly he’s got a long way to go in terms of being an efficient scorer at the NBA level, but it’s also clear Michael Carter-Williams has the right mindset and physical tools to be a dynamic player on both sides of the ball. And like combining analytics with the eye test, sometimes confidence is all a player needs before he can start using his skill set to be effective on the court.”

Read and view it here: http://www.libertyballers.com/2014/4/7/5586310/michael-carter-williams-rookie-of-the-year-sixers

- The Pleasantly Surprising Flourishing of Henry Sims (from Jake Fischer, Libertyballers.com):

” After working under Greg Foster’s watchful eye upon arriving in Philadelphia, Henry Sims has unleashed his offensive capabilities with the 76ers.”

Read and view it here: http://www.libertyballers.com/features/2014/4/6/5585814/henry-sims-sixers-greg-foster-al-jefferson

- NBA Behind The Scenes: I was a D-League coach (from Lang Whitaker,NBA.com):

” “Did you bring a suit?”

Iowa Energy coach Nate Bjorkgren looked me in the eye, ready to pass judgment on my ability to make the unprecedented leap from journalist to NBA Development League assistant coach. The room was dark except for a projector shining stats against a wall. It was almost as if I was in an interrogation room in a spy movie.

In four hours, the Energy would host the Tulsa 66ers in a game with playoff ramifications. At 25-17, the Energy had a shot at winning their division. The last thing Bjorkgren and his team needed was a distraction on their bench.

The thing was, I honestly felt like I could handle being an assistant coach, at least for a night. I’ve spent almost 15 years covering the NBA, and a lifetime playing and observing basketball at all levels. I coached a church league team for a few years and won a few titles by employing an aggressive zone defense and an offense best described as “let the best player take all the shots.”

The chance to be part of a real, professional game as a bona fide assistant, though? It was something I’d never considered. But it seemed like a great opportunity to pull back a curtain to a larger audience.”

Read about Lang’s one-off D-League coaching experience here: http://allball.blogs.nba.com/2014/04/07/nba-behind-the-scenes-i-was-a-d-league-coach/

And it seems like everyone has something to say about what is ailing the Pacers.  We will sort through the hundreds of takes and link to some of the best one later today.

 

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