Morning shootaround — April 11


VIDEO: Highlights from games played April 10

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Curry for MID award | Duncan hands Father Time first loss? | Cavs or not, Celtics can’t be choosy | Hawks’ Antic, NBPA talk N.Y. incident

No. 1: Curry for Most Improved Defender award — By now, most NBA observers expect Golden State’s floor leader and marvelous 3-point shooter Steph Curry to finish first or second in balloting for the league’s Most Valuable Player. But if you look closely at Curry’s performances on the other end of the court, listen to his coaches and study the Warriors’ numbers in thwarting the opposition, Curry might merit consideration for a wholly fictitious award: Most Improved Defender. Breaking down the components of good individual and team defense with Golden State assistant coach Ron Adams, ESPN.com’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss enumerated the many ways in which Curry has tightened up his game that way, and concluded:

The Warriors challenged their top player to get better, and it worked. They’re having the best regular season — in terms of point differential — we’ve witnessed since Jordan‘s Bulls.

The notion of Curry as defensive ace might be subversive, but perhaps not as subversive as the next statement: Curry got better not just because he wants to be the best player alive, but also because he thinks it’s within his reach.

“He wants to be the best,” [coach Steve] Kerr said. “He knew that to be the best he had to be better at that end.”

Even as Curry is favored to win an MVP award, the concept of a skinny, 6-3 point guard as league alpha strikes people strangely. That spot is usually reserved for physical freaks like LeBron James and Kevin Durant. It all just smacks of basketball heresy.

Curry’s star continues to rise in defiance of convention, though. He markets himself as “the patron saint of the underdog” for a reason. Curry doesn’t look like a good defensive player, but then again, he never looked like a Division I college player, he never looked like an NBA draft pick, and he never looked like an NBA superstar. But he has accomplished all of those things. If reputations are often based on appearances, Curry aims to forge a reputation as someone who transcends that expectation. And his aim is excellent.

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No. 2: Duncan hands Father Time first loss? — Or maybe it only seems that way, considering how well San Antonio’s Tim Duncan has played this season on the cusp of his 39th birthday. In particular, Duncan put on a performance fit for his Springfield, Mass., highlight reel – that’s where the Naismith Hall of Fame is located, for you Rand McNally-challenged readers – against the Houston Rockets Friday night. Right up to his game-saving block on Rockets star James Harden. Our Fran Blinebury was there to witness it all and report on the irrepressible Spurs’ rise in the Western Conference playoff bracket:

The Spurs were down by 12 points almost before the national anthem stopped echoing around the Toyota Center, but pulled themselves together and went to the venerable well of Duncan for one of those 29-point, 10-rebound, three-blocks games that makes you wonder the location of his home planet.

Awesome.

That’s what Duncan calls it.

To watch the way the Spurs maintained their composure when the Rockets smacked them in the mouth right out of the gate, kept their wits about them and slowly and steadily shimmied up the rope and climbed back into the game.

To watch the Spurs steadily reassembled their broken, ailing parts and begin to reassemble the machine that rolled to The Finals and then flattened LeBron James and the Heat last June.

“Awesome. Yes, it is,” Duncan said. “We’ve given away a bunch of games this year that we regret, especially coming down the stretch here. It’s great to be where we are, amazing to be where we are. But we’re playing right at the right time and that’s what you want. We’re healthy at the right time. That’s what you want. Hopefully we can close out these last two games and end it.

“I’ve actually been looking (at the standings) this year more than any other, because it changes so much. Usually you know where you are and where you stand. But from game to game things change so much, so I’ve been looking at it a bit, just trying to figure out where we are, where we could be. It gives me a headache, so I just stopped looking.”

It would probably be less painful to hit yourself in the head with a hammer than to attempt sorting out the West standings. There are four teams — Grizzles, Spurs, Clippers and Rockets — all within one game of each other. While the Warriors have the top spot locked up and the Trail Blazers locked in the middle at No. 4 at the Northwest Division winners, where everyone else parks changes faster than a trailer park in a twister. And from here on in, it only promises to get wilder.


VIDEO: The Spurs hang on to win their 10th straight game

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No. 3: Cavs or not, Celtics can’t be choosy — Some fans of the Boston Celtics are worried that the Cleveland Cavaliers might be suckering their favorite team into position for a serious first-round whupping in the Eastern Conference playoffs. After all, the Cavs had their way with Boston in early March and might welcome a best-of-seven postseason engagement. LeBron James‘ fourth-quarter shutdown Friday night and his plan not to participate Sunday in Boston when the teams play again only fuels the suspicion that No. 2 Cleveland could be cherry-picking its No. 7 opponent. But as the Boston Herald‘s Steve Bulpett reports, the Celtics still are in scramble mode to qualify and can’t be all that picky about how or how high:

The Celtics held on to the seventh seed for the time being with a 99-90 victory over the sort-of Cavaliers last night.

And maybe that’s just where Cleveland wants them, for if the C’s remain in that position after completing the last few days of the regular season, the Cavs will get to play them in the first round of the playoffs.

All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving was already sitting out with a sore hip, but the key evidence that this game was not of primary importance came when the Cavs called a timeout down 10 with 3:44 left — and left LeBron James on the bench. In fact, LeBron and Kevin Love — and fellow regular starters Timofey Mozgov and J.R. Smith — were all spectators for the final 12 minutes.

And James said afterward he probably won’t play at all in tomorrow afternoon’s Garden rematch.

But considering the Celtics trailed by as many as 44 and lost, 110-79, here on March 3, they weren’t about to get overly concerned with Cleveland’s rotational decisions.

Asked about James and Love being bound to the bench in crunch time, Evan Turner went for the funny.

“I really didn’t care,” he said. “I threw away my LeBron poster in high school. I honestly didn’t care.”

James played 26 minutes and had 14 points, his second-lowest output for the season. He was 0-for-5 on treys and had a colossal missed dunk on a third-quarter drive, with the ball going out of bounds near midcourt.

According to Cavs coach David Blatt, the minutes distribution was decided beforehand, “and I was just remaining true to that regardless of the score.”

The Celtics are just trying to stay in the Eastern Conference top eight and assure themselves more than just the three games left on their regular-season slate.


VIDEO: Celtics’ guards fuel upset win over Cavaliers

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No. 4: Hawks’ Antic, NBPA talk N.Y. incident — The Manhattan sidewalk incident in which Indiana’s Chris Copeland was stabbed and, in the aftermath, Atlanta’s Thabo Sefolosha suffered a broken leg is far from over, as far as sorting out who did what, when and to whom. But on Friday, Hawks center Pero Antic – who was arrested with Sefolosha for allegedly obstructing authorities on the scene – provided a few more details, per an Associated Press report. Meanwhile, the National Basketball Players Association said that the union is investigating the incident and is supporting the three players. From the AP story:

Pero Antic said he and Atlanta Hawks teammate Thabo Sefolosha were not with Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland when Copeland was stabbed outside a Manhattan nightclub.

Antic and Sefolosha were at the scene early Wednesday. They were charged with obstructing authorities and disorderly conduct and were released without bail.

On Friday, Antic, speaking for the first time about the scene at the arrest, said he and Sefolosha were not part of Copeland’s group.

“We don’t have nothing to do with what happened with that,” Antic said. “We weren’t together. We didn’t even see the guy and whatever happened, happened way before.”

Copeland, Copeland’s girlfriend and another woman were stabbed. A 22-year-old suspect is in custody.

Antic, a 6-foot-11 backup center, said he and Sefolosha were not trying to shield police or onlookers from Copeland.

“I would say that it’s a pure example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Antic said. “I mean, people know Thabo for so many years in the league. He’s probably one of the greatest guys. The reporters who are here know me. … It’s just a pure example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The National Basketball Players Association is investigating the arrests.

“The players union is concerned about the circumstances of Thabo Sefolosha and Pero Antic’s arrest and is doing its own investigation of the situation,” NBPA communications director Tara Greco said in a statement Friday. “The union was fully engaged in supporting all three players in court and in the precinct this week, and will continue to stay engaged as each situation evolves.”

Attorney Alex Spiro, representing Antic and Sefolosha, said the two did not commit a crime and he expects the charges to be dismissed.

Sefolosha sustained a fractured right lower leg and ligament damage. He will miss the rest of the regular season and postseason.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: A veteran (survivor?) of New York nightlife, Cleveland’s J.R. Smith talks about the Pacers/Hawks incident too. … Boston coach Brad Stevens, no surprise, likes his guy Isaiah Thomas for the NBA’s Sixth Man honor. … Don’t invite the Clippers’ Matt Barnes and his former coach Mo Cheeks to the same parties. … Kings forward Rudy Gay has rolled with multiple coaching changes and a shift in management power in Sacramento. … Wisconsin NBA-prospect-to-be Sam Dekker posted a classy note to the school and fans of the Badgers. … Is money really no object for Orlando GM Rob Hennigan when it comes to restricted free agent Tobias Harris, or is that what he wants potential suitors to think?

ICYMI(s) of the Night: Giannis Antetokounmpo took out his recent DNP-CD on the poor Knicks last night …


VIDEO: Giannis Antetokounmpo jams one home with authority

… and the Dallas Mavericks dug Raymond Felton out of mothballs and let him hit the game-winner in Denver …


VIDEO: Raymond Felton saves the day for Dallas

12 Comments

  1. taekayo says:

    The “Big Fundamental” just played basketball how it is supposed to be played. Though he is athletically gifted most of us don’t actually give him credit for, it is just his effective, precise and no-flash game that makes him arguably the greatest PF of all time. He played basically the same way when he was a rookie, but none has figured out how to make him less effective up to now. Even his age can’t stop him LOL.

  2. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    OG Duncan,

  3. LB says:

    The article refers to Steph Curry as “skinny” and Kevin Durant as a “physical freak”, but Durant is skinnier than Curry! Durant is listed as 6’9″ and 240lbs but 6’11” and 210lb is probably much nearer the truth.

    Tim Duncan is doing a good job holding off “Father time” but unfortunately it will get him in the end, just as long as it gets him gradually rather than all at the same time like happened to Steve Nash.

    • Denholm says:

      he is more fortunate than garnett that he never relied on freakish athleticism like garnett did, his game is savvy and low to the ground, he uses his size well and isnt reckless, hopefully we see another season at least of big tim.

  4. harriethehawk says:

    Mansour fears the beard! lol (I agree the beard is hideous but the boy is bad!)

  5. Strike says:

    *Houston and Spurs…

  6. Strike says:

    Why is Portland still on 4th place on the west with .638, well behind Clippers and Spurs ?

  7. mansour says:

    I give Curry a 90% chance to win MVP this year. Through the years I have been watching basketball, I have not seen a player who is so smooth and artistic in his game. There is nothing more to support him as MVP, than the fact that his team is # 1 in the league and he scores 40 points with ease.
    When it comes to Harden, there are two hurdles in his way. First, his game depends on him getting foul shots and he perfected a way to play and score at the foul line rather than the open court. His beard is the second hurdle. I don’t know how this guy looks, but I know how his beard looks. He may think he is cute with the beard, but I think that his beard is the worst thing about him.
    Lakers Fan

  8. TheKush says:

    If Houston finishes as the 6th seed Steph Curry HAS TO BE THE MVP! I would only give the MVP to Harden if Houston is in the 2 or 3 spot. If Houston ends in the 6th spot Steph Curry is the MVP no questions asked!!!

  9. harriethehawk says:

    1. Curry will win MVP-he deserves it, it’s his.
    2. 6th man should Go to Lou Williams. Lou!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    3. Golden Flake Warriors will win the title-they will face the Hawks who can’t get to the Promise Land without Thabo.
    4. Cleveland will not do as well as everyone thinks.
    5. My daughter is visiting Boston this week and she said the WHOLE city is wearing green. Celtics fans are pumped.
    6. Coach Bud deserves Coach of the Year but it will probably go to Kerr, very tight race.
    7. Let’s Go Hawks!!!!!

    • Strike says:

      Ain’t gonna happen – Warriors winning the Title because the Old man and senior company(Spurs) will take them apart in and out on both ends of the floor, Kawhi leading the way. As for the East it could go either way, considering we haven’t seen the ” Playoff ” post season game from Atlanta againts favourites yet and Cleveland with ” unconscience ” Kyrie playing mad anything could happen, also having a few vets coming in handy and starting to shine more when the lights are on I wouldn’t disscard Cavs. Golden trophy is staying in Texas.

  10. TheKush says:

    Curry better get A real award even if it’s most improved player.