Boston’s rebounding woes are nothing new; but are they fixable?



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WALTHAM, Mass. — During one of his pregame radio interviews in early February, Boston Celtics Jerseys coach Brad Stevens was informed that his team was no longer in last place in the NBA in defensive rebound percentage.

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“We’re not? Did a team drop out of the league?” Stevens deadpanned.

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The Celtics entered the 2016-17 season with the smallest roster in the league. Routinely quizzed on how Boston could overcome the rebounding deficiencies inherent from its lack of size, Stevens would joke that it was unlikely his team was going to endure a growth spurt so his players would simply have to put an increased priority on boxing out and hope guards could help clean up the glass.

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The Celtics finished the season ranked 27th in both defensive (75.3) and total rebound (48.5) percentages. For much of the season, 6-foot-2 guard Avery Bradley led Boston in rebounds per game before Al Horford overtook him late in the year. Even still, Horford’s 6.8 rebounds per game ranked 45th overall in the NBA.

All of that says that rebounding has been an issue for Boston throughout the season. And those struggles were back in the spotlight on Sunday night when the Chicago Bulls Jerseys turned 20 offensive rebounds into 23 second-chance points as part of a 106-102 Game 1 triumph at TD Garden.

The Celtics finished the night by grabbing just 54.5 percent of available defensive rebounds cheap jerseys, a jarringly low number considering the league average is more than 20 percent higher. Boston was actually far more competitive in the second half but still had instances where second-chance opportunities negated otherwise strong first-shot defensive stands.

When his team huddled to watch film on Monday afternoon at the team’s practice facility, Stevens implored his players to initiate contact when shots go up.

“You’re not going to get every defensive rebound, but you’ve got to hit first,” Stevens said. “And you can’t wait to make contact when [Robin] Lopez is running into the paint. If he’s at the charge circle, he’s winning that battle. The same thing if somebody’s running from the corner to get an offensive rebound. You can’t wait until they get into the paint to make contact. You’ve got to block out sooner than that.

“That doesn’t guarantee you’re gonna get it every time, but that gives you a better chance.”

The Celtics’ big men acknowledged that the team’s issues were rather obvious on film.

“There’s just stuff that we can clean up,” starting center Amir Johnson said. “Some guys were just caught staring, looking at the ball, instead of just hitting the body and going and getting it. It’s just all-out effort and you just gotta continue doing your job; the play never stops until a person gets the rebound. Once you do your job defensively, you get in your defensive coverages, and then the shot finally goes out wholesale nba jerseys, sometimes you just get caught staring at the shot like, ‘OK, I’ve done my job.’ But the job isn’t over until you actually get in front of your man and get the ball.

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“It’s a team effort. That’s a big key to winning that game. I thought our half-court defense was pretty good besides [the fact that] it seemed like, if they put up a shot and missed, they got the ball and put the ball back in the basket. Our cheap jerseys half-court defense was definitely up to par. We just gotta rebound.”

Not unlike most teams, the Celtics have pronounced splits in how they rebound in wins versus losses. During the regular season, Boston owned a defensive rebound rate of 76.6 percent in its 53 wins. It dipped to 72.8 percent in its 29 losses.

It’s prudent to remember that defensive rebound rate is not the primary indicator of team success. The Golden State Warriors Jerseys ranked 29th in the NBA in grabbing just 74.9 percent of available defensive rebounds and still won 67 games. Likewise, height isn’t necessarily an excuse for rebounding woes, as the Cleveland Cavaliers Jerseys were the second-shortest team to start the season and finished in the top 12 in defensive rebound percentage.

For Boston, rebounding comes down to effort and commitment. It’s a fairly good indicator of how engaged the Celtics are on a game-to-game basis. Maybe Chicago’s Jimmy Butler summed up rebounding best on Monday after gushing about how Lopez impacted Sunday’s Game 1 win.

“If you want to go get the ball, you’re going to go get the ball. Rebounding is 95 percent effort, 5 percent technique,” Butler said. “Same thing with the defensive part. If you want to do it, you’re gonna do it. If you don’t, you won’t.”

The Celtics must come out committed to rebounding on Tuesday night. The Bulls, post-All-Star break (and post-Taj Gibson trade), ranked in the back half of the league in offensive rebound percentage. Boston isn’t going to get to every rebound, but giving up 16 first-half offensive rebounds, like the Celtics did on Sunday, cannot happen again.

Simply being competitive on the glass is clearly important against the Bulls. In Chicago’s three head-to-head wins over Boston this season, including Sunday, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 17, 19 and 20 overall rebounds, respectively.

Boston absolutely has other issues to address moving forward in this series, especially the question of who will step up when Isaiah Thomas is on the bench (the Celtics were outscored 27-11 without Thomas on Sunday). The Celtics must strive to avoid foul trouble, especially at the wing positions, in order to aggressively defend Butler throughout the game.

Rebounding will be the area most eyes are watching, however. The Celtics knew entering the series that they had to be competitive on the glass and were reminded of that on Sunday.

“[Rebounding] was the game. That’s the game. That’s the series,” Crowder said. “If we don’t rebound, we don’t win the series. It’s simple.”

Bulls’ belief in themselves paid dividends in Boston



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BOSTON — Jimmy Butler always believed in the possibilities.

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As the Chicago Bulls Jerseys meandered through one of the most up-and-down seasons in recent memory, Butler quietly held to the belief that all his team cheap jerseys had to do was get to the postseason and they could start anew. He didn’t care that the Bulls continued losing to some of the worst teams in the league during the last week of the regular season, the All-Star swingman was buoyed by the feeling that with him leading the way, and playoff-tested veterans Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade flanking him on each side, the Bulls had a legitimate chance to do some damage in the postseason.

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After watching the Bulls dominate the Boston Celtics Jerseys throughout long stretches of a 111-97 Game 2 Eastern Conference playoff victory on Tuesday night, Butler is proving to be correct in his assessment.

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The Bulls’ Dwyane Wade rebounded from a poor shooting performance in Game 1 with a 22-point effort on Tuesday night. Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

“”I’m not surprised because everybody’s so locked in right now,”” Butler said after scoring 22 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out eight assists. “”Everybody’s putting in extra work right now, watching film, working on their game, and that’s where your confidence always comes from. We’ve got some great field generals out there in these two guys to help out and these younger guys, and to make sure they’re playing hard at both ends of the floor.””

The Bulls have looked nothing like the eighth-best team in the East, a seed they earned after backing into the postseason with a lackluster 41-41 record. They’ve simply outplayed the top-seeded Celtics throughout most of the first two games of this series cheap nba jerseys. Each time a frazzled Boston team tries to make a run, the Bulls have an answer.

“”You play the 82 games to learn a little bit about yourself,”” Wade said. “”And one thing I learned about this team is through adverse situations, this team sticks together. We had adversity as every team has, and that’s the thing that’s made us closer and stronger together. The credit for this team sticking together through injuries, through everything, putting ourselves in a position to make the playoffs, it goes to everyone, from the coaching staff, to the leaders, to the young guys — everyone did it together.””

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To put the Bulls’ performance in some historical context, there’s only been one other No. 8 seed in history that went on the road and won its first two games. That would be the 1992-93 Los Angeles Lakers Jerseys, who went into Phoenix and earned two victories, then proceeded to drop the final three games of the five-game series.

The Bulls don’t look like a team that is ready to fall back into bad habits, though. The reality is that despite what the seedings say, the Bulls simply look like the better team through the first two games. Wade bounced back after a poor Game 1 showing to score 22 points, while Rondo was an assist shy of a triple-double with 11 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds to go along with five steals wholesale jerseys. The Bulls are playing with a level of trust together on the floor that they haven’t shown consistently all season.

“”We had our backs against the wall in the couple weeks leading into the situation we’re in right now where we had to win,”” Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg explained. “”And our guys did a good job of doing what had to be done to get us into the postseason. So, we’ve been playing high-pressure basketball for several weeks. I think that does help you when you come into playoff time.””

It has certainly seemed to help the Bulls’ role players as they get acclimated to the bright lights of the playoff stage. Two days after Bobby Portis played the game of his young career, scoring 19 points in Game 1, rookie Paul Zipser followed suit by coming out of seemingly nowhere to score 16 points. Combine this with the fact that Robin Lopez continued his steady play with 18 points and eight rebounds and the fact that the Bulls are playing some of their best defense of the season, and it’s easier to understand why they are feeling even more confident. If they can keep getting production from their younger players while Rondo, Wade and Lopez stabilize the starting unit, then Butler can do what he loves to do and take over the game late.

Check out the team site for more game coverage

Check out the team site for more game coverage

“”It’s really simple,”” Butler said. “”When I’m open, I normally shoot the ball. Sometimes when I’m not open, I also shoot the ball. But most of the time, I pass it to the open guy. And when they’re making shots, my job’s a lot easier. People can’t load up on me, and then on top of everything else, these two do a lot of that as well. When they’re attacking, they’re aggressive, they’re getting people involved as well. And getting stops. When we’re getting stops, we’re pretty tough.””

Now the Bulls head back to Chicago for what will surely be a raucous atmosphere in the United Center for Game 3 on Friday. In his 14-year career, Wade has never dropped a series in which his team had a 2-0 lead and the Bulls, led by Butler, Wade and Rondo, don’t expect to blemish that record.

“”You can’t be satisfied,”” Hoiberg said. “”You got to go home and keep playing. This is one of the better road teams in the league. We have to continue to go out and fight, continue to learn, continue to make adjustments and hopefully play well.””

Plans in place for Paul Pierce to retire as Celtic if he chooses to step away



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Los Angeles Clippers Jerseys coach Doc Rivers said his team has plans in place to allow Paul Pierce to retire as a member of the Boston Celtics Jerseys if Pierce elects to end his playing days this summer.

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During an appearance on The Vertical podcast, Rivers said he believes Pierce hasn’t made up his mind about his future.

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“If Paul decides to retire, then we’re going to make sure that Boston picks him up for one day and he retires cheap jerseys a Celtic, because that’s what he should retire as,” Rivers said during the podcast released Thursday. “So we have all that in place. We just don’t know what he’s going to do.”

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Added Rivers: “I think Paul’s going back and forth on it, and I want to give him room. I think he deserves it. From a team perspective, you would love that he made his decision eight weeks ago. I think there are certain guys that you just have to give time to, and Paul’s one of them.”

Paul Pierce said last month that he’s “50/50” on whether to continue playing or retire. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Pierce, 38, played for Boston for 15 seasons before spending one season apiece with the Brooklyn Nets Jerseys, Washington Wizards Jerseys and Clippers. He was the NBA Finals MVP in 2008 and is the second-leading scorer in Celtics history, behind John Havlicek.

During an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump last month, Pierce admitted he’s “50/50” on whether to continue playing.

Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan already retired this offseason, and Pierce and Kevin Garnett remain undecided on their futures. On The Vertical podcast wholesale nba jerseys, Rivers said, “It may go down as the greatest retirement summer in NBA history.”

Addressing unsubstantiated rumors that the Celtics and Clippers have talked about a deal involving Blake Griffin, Rivers smothered the suggestion.

“[Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] and I have talked twice this summer. One [call] was about the British Open, and one was about another golf tournament. That’s about it,” Rivers, who handles personnel decisions for the Clippers, told The Vertical podcast.

Added Rivers: “It’s funny, you don’t want to go out and send out a press release every time there’s a rumor about Blake. We are hoping that Blake ends his career playing for the Clippers. Period. So when teams call, we say we have no interest. First of all, no team’s calling right now because teams know we don’t have any interest.

“It just tells you the different times. Things have changed. Everyone believes that they’re media now. … There’s so many good, credible guys. And then there’s some of the guys who are bloggers who have nothing to do with the sport.

“I helped my young son trace where this started — the Blake rumor, the Boston rumor — let’s go there. … My son traced it to, I think, it was a Boston radio talk show. And the guy didn’t say that we had been talking, he said Blake would be one of the guys that the Celtics should go after. That started the next step, to the next step, to the next thing you know it blew up. And that stuff is tough.”

Here’s what the trade market for Dwight Howard looks like

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With the Houston Rockets making calls to gauge interest in former All-Star Dwight Howard, The Vertical takes a look at why it could be hard for them to move the 30-year-old center, some possible trade partners, as well as the specifics of Howard current contract.

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Dwight Howard is averaging 14.6 points and 12 rebounds this season. (Getty Images)The contract
Dwight Howard is in the third year of an $87.5 million contract signed in 2013.

The current cap hit for this season is $22.3 million, plus a trade bonus that is currently $600,000. The Rockets would pay this bonus to Howard if he is traded. For trade purposes, $22.9 million should be the number the Rockets and opposing teams will use.

Although Howard is under contract through 2016-17, he can opt out of his contract by June 29, thus making him an unrestricted free agent.

The Rockets’ trade rules and hard cap situation
Because Houston is a luxury-tax team, the Rockets can only acquire players who are within 125 percent, plus $100,000 of Howard contract.

The Rockets are also hard capped and cannot exceed the $88.74 million threshold the league mandates. Currently the Rockets are $525,000 below the tax apron.

Why it could be hard for Houston to find a partner
Several factors will limit potential trade partners for Howard to a small pool of teams.

Howard has missed over 50 games the past two seasons with a variety of ailments. Although Howard minutes have been high over the past few months, one has to wonder how much longer his body can hold up.

A team acquiring Howard has no assurance he will sign come July. Unless Houston gives permission, teams are not allowed to make contact with Howard.

Factor in that the Rockets also have eyes on All-Star Kevin Durant this summer. Adding additional salary could make it difficult for Houston to create cap space to sign Durant.

It will be hard to make a deal with any Western Conference team above Houston in the playoff race.

The top-five West teams Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs Jerseys, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers do not need a center. Although the Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol recently broke his foot, Memphis does not have the picks or assets to get a deal done.

Would Houston try and make a deal with the three teams they are chasing for a playoff berth?

In Dallas, the Mavericks’ Zaza Pachulia has been one of the most improved players this season. Why trade for a player like Howard when the Mavericks can sign him outright this summer. Utah has Rudy Gobert anchoring down low. Trading for a player like Howard does not fit the rebuild the Jazz have gone through the past few years. The Trail Blazers have been the feel-good story this season with their young core of players. Like the Jazz, adding Howard to the mix goes against how the Trail Blazers have rebuilt their team.

The teams in the lottery either do not have the assets to get a deal done or it would not make sense from a roster standpoint to give away future assets. The Nuggets have the players and draft picks to make a deal, but why do it? Denver is out of the playoffs, has built a nice young core with some veterans and will have ample cap room this summer.

So where does that leave the Rockets?

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David Lee’s contract expires at the end of the season. (Getty Images)The team with the players and picks to get a deal done without touching the core would be the Boston Celtics Jerseys.

The Celtics have a treasure chest of draft picks and expiring contracts, something that would benefit the Rockets in the long run.

Here is a look at a hypothetical trade that could work for both teams:

Houston receives
David Lee
Jonas Jerebko
2016 Boston first-round pick
2016 Dallas first-round pick

Boston receives
Dwight Howard
Montrezl Harrell

Although this trade could knock Houston out of the playoff race, the Rockets would be able to add two first-round picks, as well as their own first if they miss the playoffs. The Rockets currently have the 13th pick in this basketball jerseys wholesale year’s draft and will send it to Denver if they make the playoffs. With Lee expiring contract and Jerebko non-guaranteed salary for 2016-17, the Rockets could have close to $27 million in cap space. Good enough for a max salary in free agency.

For the Celtics, the addition of Howard could move them closer to the level of Cleveland and Toronto. Acquiring a player like Howard without moving any of their core pieces would make the Celtics a dangerous out come the spring. The Celtics also would not have to move the unprotected 2016 and 2018 Brooklyn Nets Jerseys first-round picks or Memphis’ future first-rounder.

This deal would not hurt the Celtics in the summer if Howard does decide to walk. Boston would have the same cap space if it would have kept Lee and Jerebko, just minus two first-round picks in the mid 20s.

Aside from Boston, there is a limited amount of teams in the Eastern Conference with the potential to do a deal.

The one team that has plenty of assets and players to make a deal is Toronto. However, center is not a position of need for the Raptors.

A team like Philadelphia that has plenty of picks and cap space now could just sign Howard as a free agent in July. There is no need to risk assets to chase him at the trade deadline.

Two teams fighting for their playoff lives and missing their starting centers are the Chicago Bulls Jerseys and Charlotte Hornets Jerseys.

The Bulls certainly could offer up a package of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and their own first-round pick for Howard. The tough part with this type of trade is that the Bulls are in the luxury tax and would take on additional salary, thus resulting in more luxury taxes. For Houston, the first-round pick could essentially be better than the ones Boston is offering. Although Gibson has been a high-level sixth man for Chicago, the Rockets would have to take on Gibson’s contract for next season.

Charlotte has played some of its best basketball of late and is currently holding onto the last playoff spot in the East. The Hornets could put a package together of Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams and a 2016 first-round pick, protected Nos. 1-10 for Howard. Of the trades mentioned above, this deal makes the most sense for both parties. Obtaining a player like Howard in Charlotte would likely see the Hornets in the playoffs come April. For Houston, the Rockets would still have a chance of making the playoffs while also obtaining a valuable first-rounder. Although injured, Jefferson could be back on the court in early March.

With a limited market and plenty of questions to answer in the next week, trading Dwight Howard is not as easy as it sounds.

The Vertical Insider Bobby Marks is a former longtime assistant general manager with the Nets.

More NBA coverage from The Vertical:

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Clippers’ Crawford named Kia NBA Sixth Man of Year

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NEW YORK — The Los Angeles Clippers’ Jamal Crawford is the winner of the 2015-16 Kia NBA Sixth Man Award for his contributions in a reserve role, the NBA announced today. He becomes the first player to earn the honor three times. The 36-year-old Crawford also breaks his own record, set two years ago, as the oldest winner.

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Crawford amassed 51 first-place votes and 341 total points from a panel of 130 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. The Golden State Warriors’ Andre Iguodala finished second with 288 points (33 first-place votes), and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Enes Kanter was third with 182 points (19 first-place votes).

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Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote. To be eligible for the award, players had to have come off the bench in more games than they started.

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Crawford came off the bench in 74 of his 79 appearances and averaged 14.2 points and 2.3 assists in 26.9 minutes in all games, helping the Clippers (53-29) post their fourth straight 50-win season. He recorded 33 games with 15 or more points off the bench, third most in the NBA behind the Denver Nuggets’ Will Barton (38) and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Ryan Anderson (36). As a starter, Crawford scored at least 30 points in four of five games. Crawford also ranked second in the NBA in free throw percentage (90.4).

A 16-year veteran, Crawford previously won the Kia NBA Sixth Man Award in 2009-2010 with the Atlanta Hawks Jerseys and in 2013-14 with the Clippers. When Crawford was honored for the first time as a Clipper, he joined Kevin McHale, Ricky Pierce and Detlef Schrempf as the only two-time winners. Crawford is the cheap custom basketball jerseys only player to win the award with multiple teams.

2015-16 KIA NBA SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR RESULTS

Player | Team | 1st place (5 pts) | 2nd place (3 pts) | 3rd place (1 pt) | Total Points

Jamal Crawford | L.A. Clippers | 51 | 23 | 17 | 341

Andre Iguodala | Golden State Warriors | 33 | 35 | 18 | 288

Enes Kanter | Oklahoma City Thunder | 19 | 20 | 27 | 182

Will Barton | Denver Nuggets | 15 | 21 | 20 | 158

Evan Turner | Boston Celtics Jerseys | 3 | 7 | 10 | 46

Ryan Anderson | New Orleans Pelicans | 4 | 6 | 5 | 43

Jeremy Lin | Charlotte Hornets Jerseys | 1 | 6 | 7 | 30

Ed Davis | Portland Trail Blazers | 1 | 5 | 1 | 21

Dennis Schröder | Atlanta Hawks Jerseys | 1 | 2 | 6 | 17

Tristan Thompson | Cleveland Cavaliers Jerseys | 2 | 0 | 6 | 16

Shaun Livingston | Golden State Warriors | 0 | 1 | 4 | 7

J.J. Barea | Dallas Mavericks | 0 | 1 | 2 | 5

Boris Diaw | San Antonio Spurs | 0 | 1 | 2 | 5

cheap custom basketball jerseys Zach LaVine | Minnesota Timberwolves | 0 | 1 | 1 | 4

Darren Collison | Sacramento Kings | 0 | 1 | 0 | 3

Allen Crabbe | Portland Trail Blazers | 0 | 0 | 1 | 1

Jrue Holiday | New Orleans Pelicans | 0 | 0 | 1 | 1

Patrick Patterson | Toronto Raptors Jerseys | 0 | 0 | 1 | 1

Mirza Teletovic | Phoenix Suns | 0 | 0 | 1 | 1 Trending

As usual, Clippers’ Crawford a steady source of reserve power

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It was during a casual conversation last summer after a pro-am game in Seattle, his hometown, when Jamal Crawford listed his goals for the upcoming season. A championship, obviously. He doesn’t have one of those.

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And then, the Kia NBA Sixth Man Award. Obviously. Even though he has a pair of those already.

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“You think I’ll have a chance?” he asked. “Again?”

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Crawford asked the question, not because he didn’t think he could bring the goods to win the award — at age 36 he’s still whip-sharp with the jumper — but whether voters might be biased. After all, they may develop Crawford fatigue and search for a fresh face.

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Jamal Crawford scores 21 points, DeAndre Jordan adds 13 with 19 boards and the Clippers stave off the Hawks, nba jerseys cheap authentic 85-83.

It appears Crawford’s fears might have been unfounded, because once again he’s a strong contender (and at the very least in the conversation) for an award that might need to be named after him someday. That’s because no one who comes to mind when you think of a super sub — Kevin McHale, Manu Ginobili, Vinnie Johnson — has won it three times. This season, though, Crawford is our pick to win the Kia NBA Sixth Man Award.

“I have such great respect for the award, which obviously means a lot for me,” Crawford said. “I don’t take it for granted. I think by being a sixth man, it shows how selfless you are as a player. The first time I was asked to come off the bench, I said `fine, I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team.’ And then I just embraced to role and the pressure that comes with contributing the minute you check into a game.”

Crawford won the award in 2009-10 with the Atlanta Hawks Jerseys and in 2013-14 with the Los Angeles Clippers, and both times his scoring average was higher than it is today. But in terms of importance to his team, maybe 2015-16 rates higher.

Four-Point Play

Jamal Crawford hits the three while getting fouled for the four-point opportunity.

When the Clippers lost Blake Griffin on Dec. 25, Crawford was one of the main reasons they didn’t crumble. Crawford did his part to fill Griffin’s production on offense, upping his scoring average in January (15.6 points) and February (19.5 points) while the Clippers weathered Griffin’s absence. He also leads the team in 4th-quarter points (341).

“I feel comfortable in those situations,” Crawford said. “I’m a sixth man but I can have a starter’s mentality when it comes to taking on a bigger role or an important shot.”

Crawford scored 15 or more points off the bench 26 times since Griffin was lost on Dec. 25, the most of anyone in the NBA during that span. He dropped 32 on OKC on March 31 and became the 30th player in NBA history to score that many at age 36.

Jamal Crawford Drops 32

See highlights from Jamal Crawford’s 32 point performance against the Thunder.

He remains deadly with the crossover dribble, a one-on-one specialist who’s willing and able to get off a shot anywhere on the floor. Crawford can be streaky, but even then he’s dangerous because the defense must show respect at all times. He’s the rare shooter who doesn’t run from the ball after a few misses. He’s shooting 90.4 percent on free throws this season, making him the player you don’t want to foul. And, on occasions, he can perform when pressed into point guard duty.

The value of Crawford was amplified in early April when he took a short-handed team (no Griffin, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan or JJ Redick) and scored 30 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer with :00.2 seconds left in overtime, against a Utah Jazz Jerseys team fighting for its playoff life.

Crawford Game Winner

Jamal Crawford hits the game winning 3-pointer in overtime.

It got the attention of a now-healthy Griffin, who missed that game vs. Utah.

Here are some others who deserve mention, however:

Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder Jerseys — There aren’t many more offensively-blessed big men in basketball than Kanter, who brings soft hands, a feathery touch and a tap dancer’s footwork in the post. He ranks 20th in the NBA in points per 36 minutes (21.8) and proved to be a reliable rebounder as well. Defensive limitations doomed him to a life as a sixth man, although his role could change in the postseason.

Will Barton, Denver Nuggets Jerseys — A breakout season happened because Barton exercised better shot selection, which in turn made him more efficient. But it wasn’t just scoring that put Barton in elite sixth man company. For someone so slender, Barton’s 5.9 rebounds per game was an unexpected bonus.

Evan Turner, Boston Celtics Jerseys — What a strange journey for the former No. 2 pick in the 2010 Draft, to go from disappointment in Philadelphia to flourishing in Boston. Turner isn’t your typical sixth man, because scoring off the bench isn’t always what he brings. Taking advantage of his multiple skill set, Turner has given the Celtics a boost with passing, rebounding and contributions from the swing positions.

Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors — His contributions haven’t been box score friendly this season, and that’s hardly a reflection of the value Iguodala has continued to give the defending champs. Defense, decision making and leadership bailed out Iggy in what was otherwise a mild season in terms of raw stats.

Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks Jerseys — He’s eighth among point guards in assists per 36 minutes and in a season where starter Jeff Teague has struggled, Schroder gave the Hawks a needed lift. His decision making remains a work in progress (he’s third on the team in turnovers), but growth has been apparent. And the Hawks value his fearlessness and desire to take big shots, which is rare among young sixth men.

Darren Collison, Sacramento Kings — He’s the embodiment of a change-of-pace point guard, and after four previous NBA stops as a part-time starter, Collison has perhaps found a home in Sacramento. He has never shot better in his career (48.6 percent), recently went 14 straight games with double-digit points. All season long, he proved to be an effective backup to Rajon Rondo, the league assist leader. With Rondo facing free agency, Collison could return to the starting lineup next season.

***

Editor’s note: As the 2015-16 season winds down, NBA.com’s writers give their picks for the various end-of-season awards.

Below is our schedule of stories:

April 5: Executive of the Year

April 7: Coach of the Year

April 11: Kia Most Improved Player

April 12: Kia Sixth Man of the Year

April 13: Kia Rookie of the Year

April 14: Kia Defensive Player of the Year

April 15: Kia MVP

***

Lang Whitaker has covered the NBA since 1998. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

Even in seemingly lost season, Bucks’ future remains bright

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The Milwaukee Bucks Jerseys look nothing like a playoff team today. Their defense has relaxed, their record (14-22) is trending in the wrong direction and they stand 5 1/2 games out of the No. 8 seed in the improved Eastern Conference.

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And yet theirs is an altogether enviable position.
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Look at the roster: Jabari Parker is 20, Giannis Antetokounmpo is one year his elder, and both look like eventual franchise stars any rival would covet. Their senior starter is Greg Monroe, the 25-year-old center who spurned the larger-market New York Knicks Jerseys and Los Angeles Lakers to sign here last summer.

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“They have some very good, young, talented players here,” said Monroe, who is good, young and talented himself. “I definitely would like to help them grow as much as possible.”

Antetokounmpo Dominates Warriors

Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes the youngest Buck to notch a triple-double, scoring 11 points with 12 boards, and ten assists to stop Golden State’s historic winning streak.

After making the 2015 playoffs and taking the more experienced Chicago Bulls Jerseys to six games — a team they face tonight on NBA TV (8 ET) — there has been little drama during this relatively frustrating season in Milwaukee. Overall, there’s no hint that changes need to be made or that jobs in jeopardy.

The reason that wisdom is prevailing is because the Bucks are not tanking. They already have a deep hierarchy that starts with two A-list talents amid several other high-upside players, along with a young coach in Jason Kidd who proved last year that he knows how to inspire them.

Now the job is to nurture their potential and develop the roster with patience, both of which will be Kidd’s duty once he returns from the right hip surgery he underwent last month. Milwaukee should also benefit from the eventual recovery of backup point guard Greivis Vasquez — their second-oldest player at 28 — as he rehabs from recent ankle surgery.

Along the way the Bucks will continue to both impress and exasperate. The team that ended the Golden State Warriors’ 24-0 start (and threatened to upset the Warriors again in Oakland six days later) will also continue to be the team that has suffered all but one of its losses in bunches of two or three games in a row.

“Everybody would like to make the playoffs, but we’ve got to work through the process, we can’t skip any steps,” Kidd was saying last month. “We’ve got to first make sure that we get better as a team and as individuals. So the carrot is to make the playoffs, but you’re going to have your ups and downs, especially with a young team.”

Milwaukee hoping to take well-worn path

They’re NBA champions now. But back in 2011-12, the Warriors were concluding an ugly four-season run in which they won 29, 26, 36 and 23 games, respectively. Reigning MVP Stephen Curry was there for three of them. He was 25 when he qualified for his first playoff game.

Another helpful example is the Oklahoma City Thunder Jerseys. Going back to their days as the Seattle SuperSonics, they won 35, 31, 20 and 23 games from 2005-09. Yet that enabled them to Draft and develop talents like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden.

The Bucks haven’t been in contention for a long time, and yet they haven’t been consistently poor enough to benefit. In the last seven drafts they’ve had one top 9 pick (spent on Parker at No. 2 in 2014). Milwaukee’s future is reassuring because GM John Hammond discovered Antetokounmpo in 2013 (No. 15 pick), traded for Khris Middleton (a 2012 second-rounder by Detroit) that same summer and picked John Henson (No. 14, 2012).

All-Access: Bucks Draft Parker In 2014

All-access look into the Bucks’ war room as they select Jabari Parker as the number two pick in the Draft14.

A second lesson in perspective to be derived from the Warriors, Thunder and other young teams is that the Bucks are just need time to develop. Of course, the Bucks themselves want to hear nothing of this.

“A lot of times when I struggle, my teammates tell me, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’re going to play so many years in this league,’ ” Antetokounmpo said. “But for me it is all about today. I think about today. I’m not thinking about tomorrow; I’m not thinking about the day before. I’m thinking about today and how can I do something today to help my team or to be better.”

The pressing issue for Antetokounmpo and 24-year-old point guard Michael Carter-Williams — the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year whom Milwaukee acquired last season from Philadelphia — is to develop their shooting range. Antetokounmpo is attempting just 1.4 3-pointers (converting 26.1 percent) and Carter-Williams is down to 0.8 attempts (32 percent). “The Greek Freak” is averaging a career-best 15.3 points and he and Carter-Williams rank in the top 50 in drives to the basket.

“I don’t think I can say it is my safer option,” Antetokounmpo said of his driving. “I think it is my strength. Coach wants us to play to our strength, so that’s what I try to do. I know sometimes I might be open but I don’t feel it — I don’t feel like I’m going to make this jump shot, so I don’t take it. Because if I don’t feel like I’m going to make it, (that’s when) I don’t make it. So I just try to play through my strengths.”

We’ve got to first make sure that we get better as a team and as individuals. So the carrot is to make the playoffs, but you’re going to have your ups and downs, especially with a young team.

– Bucks coach Jason Kidd

“I’ve told them you’re being judged on playing hard,” Kidd said. “It’s about rhythm shots. That’s the one thing we’ll talk about — was that a rhythm shot? And if you can shoot rhythm shots — make or miss — those are the right shots to take.”

It can be hard to convince young players to believe in themselves. Last summer, as Tom Heinsohn was entering the Hall of Fame for his work as coach of the Boston Celtics Jerseys, he recalled forcing his rookie center Dave Cowens to look for his jumper. “I was eager to have him shoot the ball coming up on the break in the trailer spot,” Heinsohn said. “That wasn’t his best game at that point in his career. As a competitor he didn’t want to shoot that shot because he was missing. He said, ‘Tommy, I can’t make that shot. I don’t want to shoot it.’ I said, ‘Dave, don’t worry about missing — the more you take now, the sooner you’re going to be making them.’ ”

The same dynamic may apply to Antetokounmpo and Carter-Williams’ shooting range.

“Sometimes as a young player, you don’t know what that means,” Kidd said of “rhythm” shooting. “That’s just the process of understanding what the rhythm of a good shot is, and also feeling comfortable with yourself when it comes to shooting.”

Bucks add much-needed dimension

“If there’s one thing on the offensive side that we definitely will continue to get better at, it’s shooting,” said Monroe, whose stats — 15.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 52.3 percent shooting — are in line with his numbers from his Detroit days.

“I think he has adjusted to that role of having to be the leader and being held accountable at a higher level than he was in Detroit,” Henson, 25, said.

Monroe’s presence has enabled the Bucks to develop a halfcourt structure where he’s fed the ball in the post, waits for a double-team and then, finds shooters. To date, Monroe ranks 6th in total post-up possessions.

Monroe Delivers vs. Blazers

Greg Monroe records 16 points and 12 rebounds plus the game-winner as the Bucks come back to defeat the Blazers.

“He’s getting double-teamed more than 50 percent of the time he catches the ball in the post, and Greg has been able to open up perimeter shots and driving lanes for other people,” Hammond said. “It has changed us offensively for sure. But every team needs someone who can break down the defense either out of the post or off the dribble.”

The Bucks celebrated a stunning 26-win improvement last season despite the absences of Parker and center Larry Sanders, who negotiated a buyout after playing 27 games. They were able to do more with less by relying on a long, hyperactive defense to create baskets.

While the defense has declined with the additions of Monroe and Parker, the Bucks’ longterm outlook there remains strong.

Henson, the backup big man, is averaging a team-best 1.8 blocks in 16.1 minutes. The 6-foot-6 Carter-Williams has the length and athleticism to be a strong defender.

Henson Gets Two Swats

John Henson rejects Jahlil Okafor back to back.

“Giannis is a good shot-blocker today, and he’s going to be a great shot-blocker,” Hammond said. “He can be an excellent defensive rebounder with his overall length and his ability to stay in front of people.”

The Bucks aren’t finished filling out their roster, either. cheap reversible basketball jerseys Another top 10 pick could be on the way in June. Five of their top six scorers in double-figures are 25 or younger, and it is not inconceivable that the continuing growth of Middleton and Carter-Williams transforms the team-minded Monroe into the Bucks’ No. 4 or No. 5 player — which would make them formidable.

“We can’t look too far ahead,” Middleton said. “We have to focus on doing our jobs right now. But I think definitely we will be one of the top teams in the league in a couple of years.”

Can they balance their longterm promise with the need to succeed right now? The tension of these next two years will be fascinating.

Ian Thomsen has covered the NBA since 2000. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

Playoffs have long line of series-changing injuries

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The NBA playoffs are only a couple of weeks old, and already we’ve seen them radically changed thanks to a couple of key injuries.

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Golden State’s presumptive MVP Stephen Curry, who led the NBA in scoring during the regular season at 31 points per game, sprained his ankle in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Rockets, then returned in Game 4 and suffered a knee injury that could keep him out for two weeks. More recently, during Game 4 of the Clippers’ series against Portland, Los Angeles point guard Chris Paul suffered a fractured hand, which will sideline him indefinitely, and Blake Griffin re-injured his quadriceps, which means he will miss the rest of the playoffs.

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Injuries are an unavoidable part of sports. Over the last few years, we’ve seen teams trying to preserve players by sitting them out of games and limiting their minutes. And along the way, we’ve also learned that nobody seems able to avoid the fickle hand of bad luck, particularly where injuries are concerned.

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This season is not the first time we’ve seen an NBA team in the playoffs have its destiny altered by circumstances beyond its control. Let’s take a look back over the last 15 years at some of the injuries that have had a significant impact on their team’s postseason plans…

Derek Anderson Jerseys, San Antonio Spurs

Playoff series: 2001 Western Conference semifinals vs. Dallas

Injury: Separated shoulder in Game 1

How it affected the series: The Spurs finished the 2000-01 season an NBA-best 58-24, with Anderson the team’s second-leading scorer behind Tim Duncan, averaging 15.5 points in 82 games. Anderson injured his shoulder on a flagrant foul from Juwan Howard, although the Spurs went on to beat the Mavericks in five games. Anderson returned during the Western Conference finals, but the Lakers swept the Spurs in four games.

Peja Stojakovic, Sacramento Kings

Playoff series: 2002 Western Conference semifinals vs. Dallas

Injury: Sprained ankle in Game 3

How it affected the series: Coming off an All-Star season as Sacramento’s second-leading scorer, Stojakovic’s injury kept him out nearly three weeks. He finally returned to help the Kings win Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, although the Lakers bounced back to win Games 6 and 7 and advance to the NBA Finals.

Chris Webber, Sacramento Kings

Playoff series: 2003 Western Conference semifinals vs. Dallas

Injury: ACL injury in Game 2

How it affected the series: Webber was Sacramento’s leading scorer during the regular season, averaging 23 points. The Kings were leading 1-0 when Webber went down, and without Webber, Dallas was able to eliminate the Kings in seven games. Although, as Dallas was about to learn, the injury bug is inescapable.

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks

Playoff series: 2003 Western Conference finals vs. San Antonio

Injury: Knee in Game 3

How it affected the series: The Mavs finished the regular season tied for the NBA’s best record at 60-22. After beating the Spurs in Game 1, Nowitzki strained his knee going for a rebound in Game 3, and missed the rest of the series. The Spurs went on to win the series and, eventually, the NBA championship.

Sam Cassell, Minnesota Timberwolves

Playoff series: 2004 Western Conference finals vs. Lakers

Injury: Hip injury in Game 1

How it affected the series: The Wolves had won a regular season franchise-best 58 games and entered the postseason as the top seed in the Western Conference. Point guard Cassell was injured one minute into Game 1, and wasn’t nearly as effective as he was during the regular season. The Lakers won the series in six games to advance to the NBA Finals.

Joe Johnson, Phoenix Suns

Playoff series: 2005 Western Conference semifinals vs. Dallas

Injury: Broken orbital bone in Game 2

How it affected the series: Johnson had played 287 consecutive games for the Suns before a foul from Jerry Stackhouse caused an eye injury that resulted in a minor concussion and required surgery. Johnson missed the rest of the series, as the Suns were able to defeat the Mavericks in six games. Johnson returned in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, but the Suns lost in five games to the San Antonio Spurs.

Yao Ming, Houston Rockets

Playoff series: 2009 Western Conference semifinals vs. Lakers

Injury: Fractured foot in Game 3

How it affected the series: After the Rockets finished the regular season with 53 wins, they won their first-round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. In Game 3 of the conference semifinals, Yao had to limp off after suffering a stress fracture. The Lakers would go on to win the series and, eventually, the NBA championship.

Kendrick Perkins, Boston Celtics Jerseys

Playoff series: 2010 NBA Finals vs. Lakers

Injury: Knee injury in Game 6

How it affected the series: Perkins wasn’t Boston’s most dynamic player, but his defensive presence and leadership were valued by the Celtics. The Celtics held a 3-2 lead going into Game 6, but an early Perkins injury derailed Boston, as the Lakers went on to win Games 6 and 7 and take the NBA title.

Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls Jerseys

Playoff series: 2012 Eastern Conference first round vs. Philadelphia

Injury: Torn ACL in Game 1

How it affected the series: Rose was the NBA’s reigning MVP, and had led the Bulls to the Eastern Conference finals the previous season. In 2012, Rose led the Bulls to a first-place finish in the Central Division and they were one of the favorites to contend for an NBA title. Rose’s knee injury in Game 1 was catastrophic for Chicago, as they went on to lose the series in six games.

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Playoff series: 2013 Western Conference first round vs. Houston

Injury: Torn meniscus in Game 2

How it affected the series: One season after a trip to the NBA Finals, the Thunder finished the regular season with a 60-22 record, best in the Western Conference. Westbrook had played all 82 regular season games, averaging 23.2 points and 7.4 assists. Westbrook collided with Houston’s Patrick Beverley and came up limping, and ended up needing surgery and missed the rest of the postseason. The Thunder ended up winning the series behind Kevin Durant, but lost the conference semifinals to the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Starters: Beverley vs. Westbrook

The Starters discuss the heated rivalry between the Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook along with their respected teams.

Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder

Playoff series: 2014 Western Conference semifinals vs. Clippers

Injury: Calf injury in Game 6

How it affected the series: One season after losing Westbrook in the postseason, the Thunder were still harboring championship aspirations. But during the Thunder’s Game 6 victory over the Clippers, Ibaka suffered a calf injury. A day later, the Thunder announced that Ibaka was done for the rest of the postseason. But after the Thunder fell behind 0-2 to the Spurs during the Western Conference finals, Ibaka returned in a limited role but the Spurs would go on to win and advance.

Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers Jerseys

Playoff series: 2015 Eastern Conference first round vs. Boston cheap nba jersey

Injury: Dislocated shoulder in game 4

How it affected the series: After the Cavs added Kevin Love and LeBron James to a young core, they finished the season as the best team in the Eastern Conference. But during Game 4 of their first round series against Boston, Love and Kelly Olynyk became tangled going after a loose ball, and Love suffered his season-ending injury. The Cavs had enough interior depth to win the series and eventually advance to the NBA Finals, but soon learned there were more injuries ahead…

Love’s Injury

Kevin Love leaves the game after injuring his shoulder while battling for the rebound with Kelly Olynyk.

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers Jerseys

Playoff series: NBA Finals vs. Golden State Warriors

Injury: Patella fracture in Game 2

How it affected the series: Irving actually missed two games against the Atlanta Hawks Jerseys in the Eastern Conference finals with a knee injury, but returned to play against the Warriors’ strong backcourt in the NBA Finals. Irving suffered the injury during overtime of Game 1, knocking him out for the rest of the series. The Cavs would go on to lose the Finals in six games.

Kyrie Irving’s Injury

Kyrie Irving drives, lands awkardly and appears to sustain an injury on the play.

Lang Whitaker has covered the NBA since 1998. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

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