NBA PM: Jerryd Bayless Finds Freedom with Raptors
Before he suffered a hip pointer and prior to Jose Calderon’s return from injury, Toronto Raptors point guard Jerryd Bayless was finally showing the flashes of his great potential. He scored 52 points over two games in mid March while still distributing 15 assists.
But those games weren’t statistical anomalies. The fact is, Bayless has been playing better all season, but it wasn’t until Calderon was out of the lineup that he had a chance to really show what he can do in extended minutes.
“It’s more of an opportunity,” Bayless told HOOPSWORLD. “When you get more of an opportunity, you can do more things. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Specifically, it gave Bayless a chance to shoot more, which is something he’s been encouraged to do under coach Dwane Casey.
You see, in Bayless’ previous stops in Portland and New Orleans under coaches Nate McMillan and Monty Williams, he wasn’t asked to score at all. In fact, playing behind a litany of guards on both teams, Bayless wasn’t asked to do much of anything.
And when he did have the courage to shoot, Bayless said, he wasn’t rewarded for his aggressiveness.
“When you know that you’re not going to get pulled when you miss one, that’s the biggest thing,” Bayless said when explaining why he’s shooting a career-high 42% from behind the arc this season. “Being able to play free with your mind at ease is a big thing.”
Bayless didn’t specify if it was McMillan or Williams who was stifling him, but just said that it was the case “100 percent” of the time before he was traded from New Orleans to Toronto in November of 2010 (the third time he’d been traded since being drafted by Indiana with the 11th pick in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft).
“It is what it is,” Bayless said. “Some coaches have more trust in other people. Luckily I’ve been blessed to be able to come here and this opportunity’s been great. I love it here in Toronto and I hope I’m here for a long time.”
Casey would probably be okay with that.
Bayless has averaged a career high 11.6 PPG this season while adding 3.8 APG, but it’s his decision making that’s grown the most. 15.2% of Bayless’ possessions ended in a turnover as a rookie. Now only 11.1% of his possessions end that way while 24% of his possessions end with an assist. That’s not a remarkable number for a point guard, but for a playmaker who is also in charge of finding his own shot, it’s a healthy rate.
“Continue to be aggressive and make plays for others and yourself,” Bayless said, explaining what Casey has asked of him. “Just try to do what you do. We know what you’re capable of. Just be you. Everything else will take care of itself.”
It’s not clear when Bayless will return to uniform for Toronto or what exactly his role be when he gets back. (Bayless confessed he didn’t know either, but said he’s “trying to do the best” he can while helping the Raptors win).
For the first time in his career he’s playing for a team that clearly wants him around. Bayless is only 23 years old and should be tendered a qualifying offer this summer, which would make him a restricted free agent. Team president Bryan Colangelo obviously wants a long-term solution at the position, and with Calderon’s deal expiring after next season, the time is right to give Bayless a home.
Larry Bird: I Haven’t Made My Decision
The Pacers are refuting reports claiming president Larry Bird is about to step down. The 55-year-old NBA legend has been considering leaving the team for some time, but told owner Herb Simon he would wait to make a decision until after the lockout-shortened season.
“I talk to Larry every day,” Simon told Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star. “He has not said anything to me about leaving. He can stay here as long as he wants.”
Peter Vecsey of the New York Post quoted an unnamed source as saying that Bird has, “definitely decided not to return.”
In either case, Bird should be commended for what he’s done for this franchise in recent years. After the Brawl at the Palace, Bird put an emphasis on drafting players with three and four years of college experience. The result is a young, talented, intelligent roster that remains flexible and could become a legitimate contender in the near future. He was also smart to retain Frank Vogel, who has turned the Pacers into a fierce defensive team.
Austin Rivers Headed for the NBA?
The son of a world-famous basketball player and coach doesn’t have to rush to the NBA. Austin Rivers, Doc’s son, should be so financially secure that NBA millions wouldn’t affect his decision on whether or not to leave Duke after only one season. Although, would anyone really blame him if there was a financial incentive?
Whatever the reasons are, ESPN’s Andy Katz and CBSSports.com are reporting that Rivers will declare for the 2012 NBA Draft in the near future. Katz specifically wrote that the coaching staff knew this decision was imminent in recent weeks.
Rivers averaged 15.5 PPG on 43.3% field goal shooting for the Blue Devils this season. At 6-4, he’s likely to play shooting guard in the NBA, although there is a chance he could develop into a point guard. DraftExpress.com has Rivers as the 18th-best prospect in this year’s draft, which is interesting because that means the Boston Celtics—the team his dad currently coaches—could potentially select him.
Boston has the Clippers’ first-round pick (via Oklahoma City) and their own, which should be the 18th or 19th pick in the first round. As interesting as it would be to see Doc coaching Austin, remember that the former has been considering retirement lately and might just prefer to be out of the league by the time his son arrives.
Spurs Sign Diaw
After being waived by the Charlotte Bobcats, Bo Diaw has signed with the San Antonio Spurs, the team announced. Diaw is averaging just 7.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game this year, but he can still shoot from distance and continues to be a great passer. Diaw provides a lot of the same things that Matt Bonner gives the Spurs, so it’s safe to assume he’ll Diaw will serve as Bonner’s backup.
More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to inn sure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @jfleminghoops, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.
NBA Chats: If you are looking for the next NBA Chat, you can find them here: Upcoming NBA Chats.