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NBA AM: Is Brian Shaw On The Hot Seat?

Despite a solid win versus the Cavs, the Nuggets have some issues brewing that may derail their season… Maintaining the fast start?

Steve Kyler

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The Nuggets And Faried:  A lot is being made about the Denver Nuggets’ start to the season and their decision to extend the contract of big man Kenneth Faried. A lot of the Faried speculation was born from an ESPN article from Kevin Arnovitz. The jist of the article is that the Nuggets felt “pressured” into retaining Faried, despite concerns about how he fit with the team and the culture new head coach Brian Shaw was trying to build.

So let’s start there. If you rewind to just two seasons ago, the Nuggets had the Executive of the Year in Masai Ujiri, and opted to let him leave for Toronto over what most around the situation say was simply his salary. There were no internal beefs with ownership or management; it was simply a case of being offered a substantially bigger paycheck in Toronto and the Nuggets being unwilling to match it.

The same sort of situation happened with then head coach George Karl. His contract was structured to give him several additional years as option years. If the Nuggets picked up his last year they would have locked in those additional years and the Nuggets were unwilling to do that. They tried to negotiate their way out of the option years and retain Karl for just one more season. Karl was unwilling to trade what would have been three more years for a lame duck season.

That gets us to where things are today.

The Nuggets hired Tim Connelly as their General Manager, a decision that was a little surprising. Connelly is a very good guy and a solid executive, but landing the Nuggets job was a bit of a stretch and most around the situation say his hiring was tied to cost, as Connelly is said to be one of the lowest paid executives in the league.

The Nuggets hired Shaw as their head coach, again with many saying it was tied to cost, as Shaw is said to have signed a three-year, $6 million deal with a team option for a fourth year. It’s believed his first year clocked in at just under $2 million, again making him one of the lowest paid head coaches in the league.

The Nuggets have downgraded in many regards, and that didn’t exactly inspire confidence from the Nuggets’ players.

Enter Faried.

There was a reason Faried was available to the Nuggets with the 22nd pick in 2011. Despite having a stellar career at Morehead State and absolutely crushing people in draft workouts, Faried was flagged by many teams as being an elite level athlete with tremendous potential, but a lot of teams were afraid of what Faried’s personality would be like in the NBA. Was he coachable was a common question.

Last season, the Nuggets had reached something of a boiling point with Faried, realizing that his immense talent was often overshadowed by his desire to do what he thought was the right thing, which was a problem with Karl; it was an even bigger problem with Shaw.

That’s where the trade rumors last season originated from. The Nuggets were not trying to sell off Faried as much as gauge his value. After the trade deadline, things sort of settled down a bit and Faried played the role he was asked. Then this summer he took part in Team USA and was a key factor in the US team bringing home the gold.

The Nuggets and Faried agreed to a long-term extension this summer, locking him in for the next four seasons. The problem with that long-term deal is the old Faried, the one that likes to do what he wants, has been validated and is surfacing more and more. That’s a problem.

Factor in that most of the Nuggets’ roster has lost faith in Shaw as their head coach, and that’s the key reason for the Nuggets’ dysfunction and dreadful start.

The Nuggets continue to evaluate the situation, but it seems more likely than not that a change at head coach is coming for the Nuggets and they really only have themselves to blame.

As for Faried and his future, there are still many that believe Faried can be reined in and made into the player the Nuggets want him to be, but there is no doubting that in his own mind he still believes he knows what’s best and that’s problematic, especially for the coaches trying to break him of bad habits.

A lot of the finger pointing in Denver is justified. They are not very functional as a team.

The Nuggets could go the trade route – they have some players like Ty Lawson and Timofey Mozgov that others teams would offer real assets for. They could try trading Faried, although his extension makes moving him problematic.

The way the trade rules work with a player with a pending extension is that Faried’s extension gets averaged in to what is currently owed him. Faried is owed $2.2 million this year, and has four-years and $50 million due him. That’s breaks down to an average of $10.44 million, which is what Faried’s current cap value is in trade. The issue for the Nuggets is all they can take back is his current year salary of $2.2 million; the acquiring teams would have to have the cap space to eat the balance, which severely limits who could obtain Faried now.

The Nuggets are clearly a team in flux. The likely answer is a change at head coach, but that’s not going to happen quickly, mainly because hiring the next coach is easier in the offseason. Top tier candidates may not be interested in taking over midseason, especially given the Nuggets’ state and how tough the West is.

The Nuggets are currently 3-7 on the season and averaging 101.5 points per game. If things don’t turn quickly, there is no doubt that Shaw’s seat will get increasingly warmer, especially if his locker room continues to turn on him. They did manage to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers last night; perhaps that’s the momentum builder they needed to get back on track.

Maintaining The Fast Start?: Which NBA teams that got off to a quick start will come back down to earth? Alex Kennedy, Steve Kyler, Jessica Camerato, Eric Pincus and Yannis Koutroupis weigh in.



More Twitter:  Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA and @YannisNBA.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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NBA Daily: James Harden on the new All-Star Format and Chris Paul Being Snubbed

James Harden shared his thoughts on the new All-Star game format and teammate Chris Paul not being selected as an All-Star

James Blancarte

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made a bold decision to alter the All-Star game format. By allowing the two highest voted players in each conference to be team captains, Silver did away with tradition and the usual West versus East format. While there were a few complaints about the switch, fans were seemingly more vocal about the decision to not televise the selection of players by the team captains.

Well, the results are in and praise for new format has been nearly universal. With players more invested in the new format, and perhaps the $100k per player bonus for the winners, the effort level was up, plays were being drawn up and executed and defense made a surprise appearance in an exciting game that came down to the final possession.

2018 NBA All-Star and Houston Rockets guard James Harden spoke about the All-Star game and the new format.

“I think it is exciting. You get an opportunity, you know, for a mixture of guys to play on the same team together. We’re trying to win though, it’s competitive,” Harden stated. “Obviously, the All-Star game has a lot of highlights but we’re trying to win, we’re going to go out there and prove we’re trying to win.”

Harden, who played for Team Stephen, did not get the win. However, Harden also made it clear that playing in the this year’s All-Star game meant even more having grown up in Los Angeles.

“To be able to play in the big boy game means a lot. I grew up, especially being from LA, you grew up watching Kobe, watching Shaq every single year. You see how fun, you see how exciting it was,” Harden said. “Now to be here, to be in the city is more special.”

While Harden made it a point to talk about what it means to play in Los Angeles, another factor he seemed excited and appreciative about was being the first player picked for Team Stephen.

“Man, that’s a great feeling. Just because in middle school I was the last pick. So, to be the number one pick in the All-Star game, that’s what the swag champ is for,” Harden said.

Harden wasn’t universally positive about All-Star Weekend. Specifically, he was not happy about being the only Rockets All-Star – especially considering Houston’s standing in the Western Conference playoff race.

“I have a lot to say about that. What are we talking about? Everyone knows Chris Paul is with the Rockets and the Rockets have the number one [record]. How does that not happen?” Harden asked rhetorically. “It’s frustrating. I know he’s frustrated. He never brings it up. That’s why I did say what I said. He’s never going to bring it up. But, I’ll defend for him. He should be here with me in LA as an All-Star.”

Harden had some success as he led his team in minutes and logged 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He spoke after the game and confirmed the reconfiguration of the All-Star game produced a competitive game and a fun product for the fans.

“Felt great. I hope all the fans enjoyed [the All-Star game] as well. It was very competitive. Guys got after it from the beginning of the game. Usually All-Star [games] there are a lot of dunks, a lot of freedom. Tonight was intense,” Harden said.

Harden was not wrong with his conclusion that there was less freedom. With less freedom and better defense played, Harden went 5-19 from the field and 2-13 from three-point range while finishing the game without a single free throw attempted. The lack of free throws may have irked Harden, who is renowned for his ability to get to the line (9.9 free throw attempts per game this season). Adding to that frustration, Harden had the opportunity to put his team ahead with a three-pointer late in the game but failed to connect on the shot. Unsurprisingly, Harden expressed his disappointment with the result.

“I was pissed we lost. I’m still mad,” Harden stated.

On the final play of the game, while ignoring Harden, Curry kept the ball with the chance to tie the game. Curry dribbled into a LeBron James/Kevin Durant double team. Curry wasn’t able to get a shot off and Harden was left with his hands up waiting for a pass and a chance to win the game that never came.

Looking toward next year, Harden was asked if as a possible captain he would prefer to have the player selection two weeks before or right before the game. He thought about it and then smiled.

“Probably right before the game,” Harden answered.

Commissioner Silver has spoken on the subject and is sending strong signals that next year’s selection will be televised. That will potentially add another layer of excitement to the new All-Star game format, which is already paying off for the NBA.

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Mitchell Taking Things Day-By-Day, But Loving ‘Whirlwind’ Experience

It’s been a special year for the Utah Jazz rookie sensation.

Spencer Davies

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Four-and-a-half months into the first season of his NBA career, Donovan Mitchell has accomplished some incredible things.

He won back-to-back Rookie of the Month honors between this past December and January. He leads his class with 19.6 points per game and nearly 17 field goal attempts per contest. Due much in part to his contributions, the Utah Jazz are the hottest team in the league, riding an 11-game winning streak after falling far below the .500 mark.

To top all that off, he won the slam-dunk competition just a few days ago in an event for the whole world to see. All of this has been nothing short of amazing for the 21-year-old, and even he didn’t see this coming.

“This whole thing’s just been a whirlwind for me,” Mitchell said at All-Star weekend of his first-year experience. “Just enjoying the process. There are games where I’m just like, ‘Wow this happened’ or ‘Wow that happened’ and it’s a credit to my teammates and the coaching staff and the organization for believing in me.

“Without them, none of this would be possible, so I really thank them for giving me this opportunity.”

Believe it or not, Mitchell wasn’t always so sure about where his life would go. He played for a couple of seasons at Louisville and ended up declaring for the 2017 NBA draft, a night where the Jazz stole him away from every other team by executing a deal with the Denver Nuggets to land the 13th overall pick in Salt Lake City.

“I tell people all the time this wasn’t my plan,” Mitchell said at All-Star weekend. “After two years of college, being here for All-Star and even being in the NBA wasn’t entirely my plan, so I’m just taking it one step at a time, one day at a time, praising God for this opportunity he’s given me.”

So far, Mitchell is picking things up on the go. As he keeps improving and solidifying his game on the court, he’s also bettering himself mentally.

“If I just continue to be humble and continue to learn, that’s the biggest thing is learning and understanding the game,” Mitchell said. “I make the joke that it’s easy to study film and watch all the games when you don’t have five classes to study for throughout the day. So it’s been fun and I’m just taking it day by day.”

It’s pretty awesome that he’s doing what he’s doing with friends by his side. Most of us think of this class of rookies as a special group because of their talents as players, but it’s a tight-knit inner circle of friends who are enjoying every second of life in the NBA together.

Kyle Kuzma, John Collins, De’Aaron Fox, and Dennis Smith Jr. are friends Mitchell mentioned that he’s been close with for a while, and to see all of their hard work culminate so quickly at the Rising Stars game in Los Angeles is something special.

“I’ve known a lot of these guys, pretty much everybody on this team since high school for the most part,” Mitchell said. “Kinda hanging the same way we did in high school just a lot more cameras, a lot more downtime, bigger city.

“It’s fun. Just gotta treat it like it’s fun, go out there and just be kids. Live a dream of ours since we were younger.”

After the weekend he had, Mitchell accomplished that goal.

Whether the next chapter in his career has a Rookie of the Year award written into it or not, we’re seeing spectacular things from the one they call “Spida.”

And it’s about time people are taking notice.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Tobias Harris Thrives at Every Stop

Tobias Harris was traded yet again, but thankfully for the Clippers, he’s gotten better every stop he’s made.

Joel Brigham

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When Tobias Harris was a 19-year-old rookie for the Milwaukee Bucks, he faced a lot of the same issues that other 19-year-old rookies before him had faced, most notably the ones dealing with a lack of playing time.

He only saw the floor in 42 games, playing on 11 minutes per contest when he did get out there.

Despite that, it was somewhat of a surprise that the Bucks gave up on his talent so early in his career, trading him to the Orlando Magic just 28 games into his sophomore season as part of a trade for J.J. Redick.

The Magic immediately tripled his minutes, and he’s never been a 30 minutes-per-game guy ever since. He also has never said a negative thing about any team he’s ever played for. As far as he’s concerned, every opportunity is a blessing and a learning experience.

“I didn’t look at Milwaukee as a team giving up on me. I looked at it as Orlando valuing me and seeing me as a piece of the puzzle,” Harris told Basketball Insiders during All-Star Weekend, where he participated in the three-point contest.

“The NBA is about opportunity, so when you get the opportunity you have to make the most of it. Going from a rookie not playing to where I’m at now, it takes a lot of hard work, focus and determination,” he said. “You have to have the confidence in your own self, to understand you can break through in this league.”

And break through he did, in large part because those first 18 months as a professional were so challenging.

“Adversity helped me to work hard,” he said. “I always envisioned myself as a primetime player in this league. I have a ways to go to get there, but that’s the best part about me. My best basketball is ahead of me, and adversity has helped me get there. It’s motivated me, and I want to be the best player I can be. I’m trying every single day to fight for that.”

This season, most of which came as a member of the Detroit Pistons, was a career-best for Harris.

Between the Pistons and L.A. Clippers, Harris has averaged a career-high 18 points per game, and while he wasn’t voted to the All-Star Team this year, his name popped up in the conversation. He’s never been closer.

It was bittersweet for him, though, leaving a Detroit team he liked so much.

“My favorite part was being around those guys [in Detroit],” he said. “It was a great group of guys and a great coaching staff. Coach Van Gundy is a great coach. At the same time, when I first got there, we had a chance to make the playoffs and we got in the playoffs. That was nice for me, to put that pressure on myself and get it done.”

Now, he’s ready to accept his next challenge in Los Angeles with the Clippers.

“I look at every new opportunity as a new chance,” he said. “My first trade from Milwaukee to Orlando was a situation where I just wanted to prove myself to the league. When I was traded from Orlando to Detroit, it was a situation where I wanted to help the team get to the playoffs, and that’s similar to this one here, too… I really like the group of guys that are on this team. I like our demeanor and our approach, so after the break I look forward to building that chemistry and moving forward.”

Of course, moving forward is all he’s ever done.

After everything he’s proven to date, it seems like a given that he’ll continue to make strides with his new team.

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