Paul Westphal is trying something different.
It is certainly hard to fault the Kings’ coach for doing that. He is taking over a team that went just 17-65 last season and whose hopes of a playoff spot this season are minimal. Westphal had a bit of surprise in the opening-night lineup as the Kings lost to the Thunder 102-89 on Wednesday. He started Sean May and Jason Thompson up front and had center Spencer Hawes come off the bench.
Westphal believes it is better to split the minutes of Thompson and Hawes because both are prone to foul trouble. By not starting Hawes, he lessens the risk of having two of his key frontcourt players winding up on the bench early in games.
However, the move has not sat particularly well with Hawes. He started 51 games last season and was quite surprised when Westphal began using him in a reserve role late in the exhibition season.
“When we (he and Thompson) really clicked last year, that chemistry was really obvious and something we built on and was going to be a cornerstone of this franchise.” Hawes said.
Hawes wound up playing 35 minutes in the opener but didn’t exactly back up his contention that he should be in the lineup as he had eight points and six rebounds. Of course, May wasn’t any better as he had six points and no rebounds in 18 minutes. Interestingly, May was a minus-12 and Hawes was a minus-8 even though May played nearly double the minutes.
Westphal is also hoping that coming off the bench might give Hawes a different perspective and allow him to relax.
“I want him to be the best Spencer Hawes that he can be,” Westphal said. “I think he tells himself so many things that he paralyzes himself from what he does best.”
The Lakers Get Their Rings
The Lakers pulled out all the stops Tuesday night as they received their 2008-09 championship rings in an elaborate ceremony before their season-opening victory over the Clippers.
However, nothing topped the rings themselves.
The highlight is that each player has an image of his face inscribed on the side of the ring through laser graphics, the first time any team in any major professional sport has pulled off that trick. The graphic was the product of Jason of Beverly Hills, the company that designed the rings, which have 14 diamonds surrounding the image of the championship trophy to symbolize the Lakers’ 15th championship.
The total karats of the diamonds on each ring are 2.85.
The Lakers also brought back many of their all-time greats for the ceremony, including Magic Johnson and Jerry West.
“It was just a magical night,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “It was hard to play the game after something like that.”
Forward Lamar Odom was overwhelmed by the whole experience, saying, “This is an amazing franchise to be a part of, and to be in that company is a big deal for a kid from Queens.”
The team the Lakers succeeded as champions, the Celtics, also inadvertently got to see the ring ceremony. They were filing into the locker room after their victory over the Cavaliers while the ring ceremony was being shown on television. The Celtics beat the Lakers in the 2007-08 Finals.
“That's muscle memory," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "You want to look at it. We're not the champs. I don't lose sight of that. We're not the champs. The ring ceremony is taking place somewhere else. This (isn't) ring night for us."
After Quiet Off-Season, Nuggets Confident in Chances
The Nuggets would love to be holding ring night next October and feel they have a chance to win it all this season after losing to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals last season.
Denver feels that way despite not making a major off-season move like most of the other contenders in the Western Conference. The Lakers picked up Ron Artest, the Spurs added Richard Jefferson, the Trail Blazers signed Andre Miller and the Mavericks acquired Shawn Marion.
“We’re in a good spot,” said Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien, who would not rule out making a big in-season trade if necessary. “Let’s hit the 3-wood and see how it works. If we get stuck, Big Bertha is coming out.”
The Nuggets feel they have improved their roster. They got rookie point guard Ty Lawson in a draft-night trade and acquired Arron Afflalo and Joey Graham to replace swingmen Dahntay Jones and Linas Kleiza, who left as free agents.
The way Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony looks at it, he doesn’t think Warkentien will need to pull the driver out of his bag.
“I feel good about this team,” Anthony said. “When you’ve got a good team, you don’t really need to go out there and get big-name players. We’ve got our core group of guys.”
Nuggets coach George Karl also agreed with the franchise’s low-key strategy.
“I still think our window of improvement in the younger guys is improving,” Karl said. “I don’t think we were that far from the Lakers. I like continuity. I like consistency. I like the rhythm of being together.”
Cuban on PEDs
Leave it to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to take the contrarian view on performance-enhancing drugs.
Cuban was giving a speech at the University of Pittsburgh recently when the topic of steroids was brought up. Cuban said he would be in favor of steroid use in recovery from injuries if the long-term side effects of the drugs could be lessened.
“How is it different than getting Lasik surgery so you can have perfect vision?" Cuban said. "Or how is it different than Tommy John surgery so you can get a perfect elbow? If they can improve steroids to where they have no harmful long-term effects, I don't see the problem with wanting perfect muscles."
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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