NBA@2: Devin Harris Wary of Trade Rumors
It’s never easy to be traded mid-season, especially if you’re a team’s starting point guard. In the case of Utah’s Devin Harris, he was also brought in as the replacement for a popular All-Star point guard in Deron Williams, meaning the expectations were even higher right from the start. He was solid to finish the season, averaging 15.7 points and 7.1 assists per game, but this season he’s off to such a rough start that the Jazz are actively looking to trade him. Harris is well aware of the trade talks, and is working to live up to Utah’s expectations.
“It’s taking some time,” Harris admits to HOOPSWORLD. “But I’m starting to understand what’s expected of me, what I’m supposed to do. I’m trying to do it the best I can. I’m used to running a lot of pick-and-rolls and having the ball in my hands a lot; now with Al (Jefferson) and Paul (Millsap) we’re working more on the inside game. I’m having to learn without the ball a little bit more and try to create shots that way.”
“Devin has been doing a great job,” says Jefferson. “Everybody has had to adjust to this offense. When I first got here it was tough for me, but Devin came in the middle of the season last year. Unfortunately, we had an abbreviated training camp this year and I think for the time we’ve had and what he had to work with he’s been doing a great job. He’s adjusting really well.”
“I haven’t really played with great low post guys before,” Harris points out. “Dirk (Nowitzki) doesn’t spend much time in the paint. Brook (Lopez) in New Jersey was the closest thing I’ve had to a true low post player, a true center that I’ve played with. It’s an adjustment playing with Al and getting him the ball in the right spots for him to score, but still being aggressive myself.”
That’s exactly the balance Jazz head coach Ty Corbin is looking for from his floor leader.
“I’m looking for him to run the offense better,” says Corbin. “I want him to be aggressive in the open court early. He’s such a fast guy and even when there isn’t an open guy initially, if he pushes it early he can see if someone’s there. If you walk it down you’ll never see it because you didn’t get there quick enough. It also gives us more time in our offense once you get in the half court. You can push it up or pull it back and then run the offense from there. Defensively, I think he can take it one more gear and get into his guys early. He can man up against them better. He’s a strong guy and he’s smart about being on a guy and being able to get off a guy and get under a screen or wherever they’re trying to play it. I think he’s picking certain times when he wants to do it and I think as we go forward he’ll get better about doing it for longer periods of time.”
Harris may be having to learn some new tricks to adapt to Corbin’s game plan, but he does feel he will be the better for having made them.
“It’s a great adjustment to have to make, because shots at the basket get closer every night,” says Harris. “As opposed to relying on jump shots every night to get you over the hump you’re getting jump hooks and points in the paint, and that’s what we have with Al and Paul.”
Harris never played for Jerry Sloan, who left the Jazz just before Williams was traded, but he does feel the big difference between what the Jazz were doing last season and what they’re doing this season is found particularly on the defensive end.
“I think there are a lot of similarities between the system we ran last year, with more of what was probably the Jerry Sloan system, and what we’re running this year. We’re running the same kind of offense and we’re expected to do a lot of the same things that they were doing last year. Defensively, though, I think we’re looking to pick it up a little bit and turn the team around from a defensive standpoint.”
Ultimately, when the Jazz acquired Harris from the New Jersey Nets they were hoping he could return to the All-Star form he showed during his NBA Finals run with the Dallas Mavericks. Harris believes that is still possible, despite his rough start.
“I just need to continue to do what I’m doing. Obviously, it’s a new system and I’m still getting used to it. Once I get into the new system and figure out how to play the way that I play within that system, I just have to continue to get better as the season goes along.”
If he doesn’t, he just might find himself somewhere else when the 2011-12 season comes to a close.
Carlisle Fine Unwarranted?
Any time NBA personnel kicks a basketball into the stands the consequence is an automatic technical foul. That’s the rule, hard and fast. It makes sense, too; the league doesn’t want its fans dodging balls any more than they have to. In the case of Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, however, the technical foul should have been enough.
Instead, the NBA opted to add an additional fine for Carlisle, issuing the following statement:
Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has been fined $35,000 for kicking a ball into the spectator stands with 9:34 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Mavericks’ 95-86 loss to Oklahoma City on Feb. 1 at American Airlines Center, it was announced today by Stu Jackson, NBA Executive Vice President Basketball Operations.
The fine is surprising, given that Carlisle was clearly trying to tap the ball back to the baseline referee when it sailed into the stands behind him. He immediately walked over to apologize to the fans where the ball entered the stands and even went out of his way to publicly apologize after the game, saying:
“Before we start, I want to apologize to our franchise, Mark, our fans. The incident where the ball got kicked into the stands—that can’t happen. My intent was not to kick it into the stands, I was trying to kick it to the referee, but I’m not a very good kick. But that can’t happen; the officials made the right call on that one. That’s a regrettable situation.”
Perhaps, upon review, the league decided Carlisle should have been protesting horribly bad officiating with the kick, though that was not his intent. He had just watched a series of ridiculously bad calls, in particular a play in which Mavs guard Delonte West was mauled by Serge Ibaka with no call, after which James Harden caught the ball with one entire leg over the out-of-bounds line and was still allowed to throw an outlet pass that resulted in a Thunder fast break score. Mark Cuban has been noticeably quiet about officiating of late, but he let his feelings be known after the game.
“Look, I haven’t said a whole lot about the officiating in a long, long time, but I haven’t seen it this bad in a long, long time,” Cuban said after the game. “Guys miss calls and that’s part of the game. You’re not always going to have a great crew. Officials have got to learn that’s part of the game. But these were officials that have been part of the league for years, and it was just off-the-charts bad. If no one ever says anything, nothing ever happens.”
Cuban was fined $75,000 for those comments, which is completely justified. He no doubt made them with a check already made out to the NBA.
Fining Carlisle $35,000 for accidentally kicking a ball into the stands . . .that seems a little much.
Gasol Missing All-Star 2012?
It’s always a tough call to look at a field of so many amazing NBA players and name just a comparative handful to the league’s annual All-Star gala. The fans take care of the starters in what amounts to a popularity contest, leaving the coaches to decide which players are deserving of the All-Star label based upon their contributions to the respective teams.
In the Western Conference, no position is more difficult to call than the power forward spot. Blake Griffin won the fan vote (see final results here), but coaches have their work cut out for them in choosing his backups.
Logistically, coaches can’t name more than two additional power forwards, as they also have to name at least one point guard, shooting guard, small forward and center. So which two will it be?
Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge is almost a sure thing, first and foremost because he was so deserving last year and didn’t get chosen. Aldridge has emerged as Portland’s franchise player in the wake of Brandon Roy’s premature retirement, and is averaging 22.8 points and 8.7 rebounds for the Blazers this season.
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love may have been a little ahead of his time last season, as he was playing in just his third NBA season, but this year he is averaging 25.3 points and 13.6 rebounds in leading the Timberwolves to a very serious playoff push.
If Love and Aldridge are the ultimate choices, some notable names will be left off the team, starting with Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol.
“It’s tough, but I have a lot of competition at my position,”