By Ben Golliver
• Sixers center Spencer Hawes, a native of the Pacific Northwest and a former member of the Kings, was booed in his return to Sacramento because of his outspoken support for the return of professional basketball to Seattle. Remember, Hawes is such a proud Seattleite he shaved the Space Needle into his hair in 2011. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee with the details.
"I won't make any qualms about where I stand," Hawes said. "I want to see my hometown get a franchise. There is some confliction, but I'm not going to beat around the bush about what my stance is."
Predictably, that stance earned Hawes scorn in his return to Sacramento as a Philadelphia 76er for Sunday's game at Sleep Train Arena. Hawes' celebratory tweets about the possible return of the NBA to Seattle in January drew the ire of Kings fans. They began an online campaign to boo the center anytime he touched the ball or his name was mentioned by the public-address announcer, and he got an earful Sunday.
"There's a sale agreement that's in place. There was a pretty big check that was cashed to secure that it goes through," Hawes said, referring to the $30 million payment made to the Maloofs. "This is a business, and when you agree to sell a business, I don't think it's necessarily written in any bylaws that you necessarily have the right to match any offer. I don't know all the intricacies of this, but I wish the first time around the city of Seattle would have acted like Sacramento did with all the efforts."
• In case you missed it, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced that his city had reached a deal with investors on the terms to construct a new arena for the Kings over the weekend.
Marshall and Henson, like most rookies, see their playing time fluctuate from game to game. Marshall's been in the rotation for the last seven weeks but played only 34 NBA minutes in November, 11 in a December mostly spent in the D-League and 21 in January. Henson scored 17 points and grabbed 18 rebounds against the Heat in November, then played just one minute in his next game.
"I text him and I'll be like, ‘This is crazy, I only played eight minutes tonight, no idea why,'" Marshall said. "He'll be like, ‘Well, I played five.'"
Both are affected by constraints they can't control. A pure point guard playing on the worst team in the Western Conference, it isn't easy for Marshall to accumulate assists. A power forward on a Bucks team loaded at his position, it's hard for Henson just to get on the floor.
"I probably talk to John more than any of the guys," Marshall said. "We always joke around, I tell him that his per-48 is probably the craziest in the league. [Per 48 minutes, Henson is averaging 22.4 points, 16.4 rebounds and two blocks.] As a rookie, if you're not one of those marquee guys you're going to go through it."
"If Burke was 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, we wouldn't be having this conversation," a Southeast Division executive said. "These are the same questions as when Chris Paul was coming out. [Burke]'s a very clever basketball player. You watch him play, and you've got to go back to when Chris was coming out of college ... Burke already knows how to play screen and roll better than most college kids. And he must have been watching film on Chris. When [Burke] gets around the first guy, he immediately gets in front of that guy and keeps that guy on his back. He keeps his dribble alive and surveys what he sees. Those little things, those are hard to teach. He does it time and time again."
But size still matters.
"You question what is he going to be able to defend -- starting guys or backup guys?" the Central Division personnel man says. "There aren't that many 5-foot-11 starting point guards. I think that will be the toughest thing will be the workouts. The guys in his range are Marcus Smart and Michael Carter-Williams, and one of them is 6-foot-6 and the other is 6-foot-3. Don't get me wrong; I do think Burke is talented enough that teams are going to want to figure out a way for him to be their starter."
From a player standpoint, Kobe needs to defer more to Nash and Nash needs to be more assertive in getting the ball and initiating the team’s offense. Nash will always have value as a shooter who can spread the floor, but he’s also one of his generation’s best decision makers (especially in close games) and can be relied upon more to make plays for himself and his teammates. As for Dwight Howard, making his FT’s down the stretch would likely encourage his teammates to pass him the ball more, but he can also work the offensive glass harder and find ways to fight for position so he’s harder to ignore when he’s under the basket.
Now would be a good time to note that the Lakers haven’t been an awful crunch time team this season and, in fact, one of the main reasons their season has turned around is because they’re performing better down the stretch of close games. It’s also worth noting that in their current roles, Kobe, Nash, and Dwight have all been playing pretty well in crunch time by shooting well and making some timely plays (Dwight’s work on defense during this part of the game, while not a big part of this discussion, simply cannot be ignored) that have helped win games. Nash’s shooting numbers, for example, are off the charts excellent (76.2% effective field goal percentage, 74.1% true shooting) and part of that is because he’s getting so many open spot up chances off plays where Kobe draws extra attention and then makes the right read.
Larry Sanders has racked up nearly $100,000 of fines in a span of ten days. With three ejections, six technical fouls, and an added $50,000 penalty for a derogatory comment, Sanders’ total fines for March now add up to a hefty $95,000.
• Tom Ziller of SB Nation with his first mock draft of the season.
2. Orlando Magic: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
As my pal Kevin McCauley has pointed out, drafting Noel is like winning a double lottery: because he's injured, you're almost guaranteed a second high lottery pick in 2014. This is how you build through the draft: you pick high-profile prospects who totally don't help you win as rookies! It's like Kevin Durant scoring 20 points per game on like 25 percent shooting, winning R.O.Y. and setting up the Russell Westbrook pick. (Note to self: check that field goal percentage number.)
• Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference documents for ESPN.com how success in college basketball is becoming "less and less relevant in terms of producing NBA stars."
Between 2000 and 2012, nearly half of all First- or Second-Team All-NBA slots were filled by players who bypassed the NCAA entirely (thanks to the preps-to-pros phenomenon, which produced a startling number of the post-Jordan generation's signature stars). At the same time, college standouts -- as measured by All-America team nods -- have gone on to NBA All-Star careers just 13.3 percent of the time since 2000, down from 42 percent in the early-to-mid-1980s.
However, that larger trend isn't manifesting itself in such a glaring way when it comes to the stars of each individual NCAA tournament. While it's hard to argue that the college game hasn't suffered from talent erosion and a lack of superstar power ever since the initial wave of high schoolers made their exodus to the NBA in the mid-1990s (not even the league's controversial 2006 age-limit rule has completely stemmed the tide), the simple truth is that, with a few major exceptions, the most memorable performers of a given NCAA tournament were never actually very great players, even during college basketball's golden age.
• Matt Moore of CBSSports.com writes that the 2013 draft looks pretty weak based on the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament.
Ben McLemore, Kansas: The projected No. 1 overall pick had a very disappointing opening weekend. McLemore hit just two shots against Western Kentucky, scoring 11 points. His pull-up game wasn't working and he wasn't able to get to the rim. Then against North Carolina, coach Bill Self pulled him for Naadir Tharpe. The No. 1 overall pick got yanked after going 0 for 9. If that doesn't tell you how bad this draft class is, nothing will.
Cody Zeller, Indiana: I was never really sure why Zeller was No. 1 on several mocks, and his opening weekend performance validated a lot of that. Look, there's a model for lanky, undersized centers who rely on touch, and it's not good. Zeller was blocked routinely by tougher defenders and looked overmatched. The numbers are good, 8 of 15 from the field, 26 points in two games. But Zeller just isn't the force you want to see. That he's going to remain a top-five prospect is another sign of how this draft is shaping up.
1) Money: Because he still is one of the best scorers in basketball, Martin might command a lucrative contract that will be out of the Thunder’s price range. The Thunder proved with a contract offer to James Harden that it is willing to spend big to compete. But every team has a limit.
2) Only so many shots: There are times the Thunder succeeds despite off nights from Martin. Those are the nights when it seems OKC could be fine without him. Martin is averaging just 10 shots this season, the third fewest of his career. It remains to be seen whether the Thunder is willing to pay big for the possibility of periods of low production.
3) Promising youth: Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb are chomping at the bit to get more playing time. Jackson in particular is blossoming before our eyes. Both, however, are cheaper versions who can combine to give the Thunder a similar impact as Martin without breaking the bank.
• Pro Basketball Talk documents coach Randy Wittman flipping out on a reporter who made the mistake of comparing the Wizards to a circus. • Take one guess which NBA player was dunked in green slime at Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Awards.