Posts Tagged ‘Season Expectations’

Lonzo Ball‘s unorthodox shooting form and weak percentages during his rookie campaign with the Los Angeles Lakers drew a great deal of criticism.

The 20-year-old point guard is at least self aware of his shortcomings as a shooter, which is why he took it upon himself to try and improve that facet of his game by reworking his form over the summer.

“”We didn’t want to bother him [his shot],” said team president Magic Johnson on Thursday, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “I think he decided to do that on his own.

“And, man, it is beautiful.”

Johnson said that Ball now brings the ball more in front of him and does the same with his follow through. Where he sets and releases his shot hasn’t changed.

“I think his shot looks incredible,” added general manager Rob Pelinka. “He was here every day. He was one of the most committed guys this offseason. … The way he’s shooting the ball looks a lot more fluid now.

“One of the things about his college metrics is he was an outstanding 3-point shooter. With this team, with so many different ball handlers, I think that’s a strength for him. If he pushes it ahead to someone and runs and fills a spot, and he’s a catch-and-shoot player, he’s going to have the ability, I think, to be a good shooter.”

Ball converted 41.2 percent of his 3-pointers during his lone season at UCLA, with that number dropping to just 30.5 percent during his first season in the NBA. The second overall pick of the 2017 draft shot 36 percent overall across 52 outings, including 33.5 percent on the catch-and-shoot and 31.7 percent on pullup shots.

Of the 154 players in the Association who played 1,700 or more total minutes, Ball ranked 153rd in true shooting percentage at 44.4 percent.

He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in July and will be ready for the start of Lakers training camp, although he’ll initially be held out of five-on-five drills.

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He may not be the dominant middleman Montreal Canadiens fans were hoping for, but there will be a new top center in La Belle Province this season.

Speaking with TSN 690’s Tony Marinaro on Monday, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin confirmed summer acquisition Max Domi will skate at center, while last offseason’s big-ticket addition, Jonathan Drouin, will move to the wing.

“(Drouin) has been playing the wing since the beginning of camp,” Bergevin told Marinaro. “We have Max Domi playing in the middle right now …

“The first half of last year, I think (Drouin) had a hard time (at center). The second half, especially toward the end, he got better and better,” Bergevin continued. “We’re going to try Max in the middle because he did play some center in Phoenix last year. We’d like to try that for now but we know we could also put Jonathan in the middle if need be, so it just gives us more options.”

With the Arizona Coyotes last year, Domi saw a stretch of games at center midseason – his first time playing the position since age 16 – and played well defensively according to former bench boss Rick Tocchet. He appeared in all 82 games with the Coyotes a year ago, finishing the campaign with nine goals and 36 assists. However, he was less than 45 percent efficient in the faceoff dot, far behind fellow centers Derek StepanChristian Dvorak, and Brad Richardson.

Bergevin also rattled off how he envisions the rest of his lineup fitting in at center.

“We’ve got (Phillip) Danault. There’s (Tomas) Plekanec, there’s (Matthew) Peca,” Bergevin said. “Right now we have Big Mac (Michael McCarron), but he could also play the wing. We have (Jacob) de la Rose, who can also play the wing.”

Bergevin added that top prospects Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki have been trying their hand at center in training camp as well.

Even though Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn’t need to be at his best to give opposing defenses headaches, it’s possible that he won’t be in top form at any point this season.

Rodgers suffered a knee injury during Week 1’s victory over the Chicago Bears and played Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings with a brace.

Asked whether the injury would get worse if he continues to play on it, Rodgers sounded mildly worried.

“Yeah, obviously that’s a concern,” Rodgers said Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. “Hopefully it goes the other way though.”

Rodgers will rehab his left knee leading up to Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins.

“Obviously it won’t be 100 percent, so I’ll just adjust accordingly to how I’m feeling and try to get through,” he said.

“It just depends on how the week goes with the rehab and the recovery. Obviously, I’d love to be better than I was last week as far as health-wise but there’s some factors that are out of my control.”

Rodgers hasn’t seemed that much worse for wear since suffering the injury, engineering a dramatic comeback win over the Bears in Week 1 and completing 71.4 percent of his passes for 281 yards and a touchdown during Sunday’s tie against the Vikings. That may not be enough to help Packers fans rest easy.

Although Kawhi Leonard has yet to speak to local media following his trade to the Toronto Raptors, team president Masai Ujiri insists that the former NBA Finals MVP is healthy and motivated.

“He is determined and seems in the right frame of mind,” Ujiri told the Associated Press. “You will be hearing from him shortly. I think there is a fire inside of him and we are all excited about that.”

Ujiri also said he’s not concerned about having to cater to Leonard.

“There is nothing we are going to do different. We are going to be ourselves. I think the situation with him in San Antonio, which I don’t want to talk about because I don’t know much about it, but he’s a quiet kid,” he said. “That’s his nature. We can’t all be the same kind of people. But he is as engaging as he would want to be and he’s very interesting. There is no maintenance with him. There are no tons of people around him. His (focus) is on basketball, which is what you want. He is a basketball junkie.”

Leonard has visited Toronto multiple times since being traded and has worked out with the team’s coaches in Los Angeles during the offseason. He’ll slide in alongside Kyle Lowry to form the head of the Raptors’ attack when the upcoming season gets underway.

Ujiri said Lowry, who saw his good friend DeMar DeRozan shipped to San Antonio in the deal for Leonard, took the trade hard, but believes the point guard will be ready to go when training camp opens next week.

“Kyle is close to DeMar and he’s going to be sensitive,” he said. “That was a blow to him. I think basketball-wise Kyle is always ready, he’s always going to be ready, he’s training hard and he’ll be ready.”

Despite back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, losing to the rival Washington Capitals in the second round of the 2018 playoffs – and watching them eventually hoist the trophy – left Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby with a bitter feeling.

“I think that’ll definitely light a fire for us,” Crosby told NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika. “That’s on your mind when you play that team again. It’s just the way it is. That’s the way it is when you lose. You’ve always kind of got that feeling of something to prove.”

The Penguins-Capitals rivalry featuring Crosby and Alex Ovechkin has been one of the best in sports over the last decade or so, and it was only amplified by Washington’s Stanley Cup victory this past spring.

Even though Crosby doesn’t have much left to prove to anyone, his competitive spirit and work ethic have made him one of the best to ever play the game.

Crosby went on a European vacation this summer, but couldn’t stop himself from bringing his hockey gear.

“Yeah I brought it,” he said with a smile. “I figured I’d want to get on at some point.”

A motivated Crosby is a dangerous proposition for opponents, and Ovechkin and the Caps will find out firsthand as the two teams square off in the season opener Oct. 4 in Pittsburgh.

Max Pacioretty and the Montreal Canadiens were on the same page about parting ways.

“This is a new chapter in my life that I feel mutually, myself and the (Canadiens) organization, were ready for,” the Vegas Golden Knights forward told reporters, including NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika, at his introductory press conference Wednesday. “I think they’re going in a direction of a little bit of a rebuild or a reset, and I’m ready to move on.”

The Canadiens traded Pacioretty to the Golden Knights early Monday morning for forward Tomas Tatar, prospect Nick Suzuki, and a 2019 second-round pick. It ended a year-long saga in which he was frequently in the rumor mill and reportedly nearly dealt to other teams multiple times.

After the trade, Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin said Pacioretty asked for a trade on more than one occasion last season, but as he and his agent, Allan Walsh, have done before, the 29-year-old winger attempted to clarify that Wednesday.

Pacioretty said he was grateful for the honor of serving as Canadiens captain but he thinks the deal sending him to the Golden Knights could help his play.

The 10-year veteran had one of the worst seasons of his career in 2017-18, managing only 17 goals and 37 points after five straight non-lockout campaigns of at least 30 goals and 60 points.

He was Montreal’s captain for three seasons beginning in 2015-16.

Lou Lamoriello is ready to turn the page.

The New York Islanders president of hockey operations spoke candidly Tuesday about the departure of John Tavares.

“There’s no aftermath. Players come and go,” Lamoriello told Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post.

“It’s different if they had won championships. It’s different if they had had a lot of success. They haven’t done much – and I don’t say that with any disrespect. Haven’t been to the playoffs the last couple years. Things haven’t worked out the way everybody would have liked them to, from what my understanding is.”

Since drafting Tavares No. 1 overall in 2009, the Islanders have qualified for the postseason three times, winning one playoff series against the Florida Panthersin 2016.

“So, an aftermath? There’s no such thing in my mind,” Lamoriello, who joined the club’s front office in May, continued. “What the players we have here should be thinking about is not making the playoffs last year, and that’s what the goal should be. Teams win, not players. Individual players win some games, but teams win championships. And that’s what we have to create.”

In addition to Tavares leaving to join his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1, the club lost one of its top blue-liners, Calvin de Haan, to the Carolina Hurricanes via free agency and its starting goaltender, Jaroslav Halak, signed with the Boston Bruins this summer to be Tuukka Rask‘s backup.

Like Lamoriello, new head coach Barry Trotz is looking ahead to the future.

“I don’t think with us we mentioned John once, other than when we get asked,” Trotz, who signed on to be the Isles’ bench boss in June for a reported five years at $4 million per season, told Cyrgalis. “We move on. We’re not looking back, we’re looking forward.”

The Islanders brought in veteran free agents Valtteri FilppulaLeo Komarov, and Tom Kuhnhackl, and traded for a familiar face in Matt Martin this offseason.

“The people that were brought in, they all have an element of one of two things,” Trotz said. “They’ve either won, or they bring a high-character value to the group.”