Playing in front of a near-capacity crowd and 17 NBA scouts, the Hurricanes made 13 of their first 14 shots and staved off a late rally by 24th-ranked Florida State to win 80-74. It was Miami’s first home game in more than a month, and the Canes, who improved to 13-2, looked happy to be back in the friendly Watsco Center. Sophomore guard Bruce Brown, who three days ago tweeted, “I need to step up. I will not let my team down again!”, stepped up big time. Brown looked inspired from the start, scored seven consecutive points at the end of the first half, made six critical free throws down the stretch and finished with a season-high 23 points.
The Kings fired scouting director and former assistant general manager Mike Bratz, who was previously an assistant coach in Sacramento under Rick Adelman and Eddie Jordan. “We agreed to part ways and appreciate all of his contributions to the Kings,” the team said in a statement. “We wish him nothing but the best.”
Sean Cunningham: In his many roles over the years, Mike Bratz, once a former Kings assistant coach, served as assistant general manager and most recently as Kings Dir. of Scouting and Sr. advisor to GM Vlade Divac.
Before the draft, in front of all the NBA’s GMs and top scouts, Kuzma helped himself at the league combine when he made four of five three-pointers in a game. But some scouts considered that an aberration. Not Magic Johnson, the Lakers’ new president, or Rob Pelinka, their first-time GM, as they went into their first draft and needed to hit in big since taking over the basketball operations three months earlier. In a rebuilding campaign, they took Ball at No. 2 overall, believing that even with his funky shot and problems defending quicker point guards, he’d be the floor leader they needed, a player other players wanted to play with, and the kind of rare talent who could make his teammates better.
With Kuzma, they were taking more of a risk on a pick they had acquired when they sent off Ball’s predecessor, D’Angelo Russell, to the Brooklyn Nets. His starting salary is only $1.4 million for this season, compared to Ball’s $6.3 million. “Less was more for the Lakers,” the GM noted. “With what they saw at the combine, that helped them make up their mind. Usually, evaluations made solely at the combine backfire, but this time paid off.”
So far this season, per NBA.com/Stats, Gasol ranks 25th in Defensive Rating among centers who play 20 or more minutes per game (106.8 points allowed per 100 possessions). “He’s gone from Defensive Player of the Year level to starter level,” said one veteran pro scout, who thinks Gasol is a good team defender who can protect the paint, but who was helped by the slower pace of play favored by former Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger, and who was aided by having an elite wing defender in Tony Allen on the floor with him.
“As (Gasol) has gotten older, he is slower and has to guard quicker players out on the floor as (the) game has become more perimeter based, (and) he has to go out on the floor away from the rim,” the scout said. Yet Memphis still believes that Gasol is an elite player — or at least one worth backing over the coach. The Grizzlies could have moved Gasol in the last couple of seasons, gone the Boston Celtics’ route of trading experienced talent to teams looking to make a push in exchange for Draft picks. (In fact, they probably could have done such a deal with Boston, at least before the Celtics signed Al Horford in 2016.)