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Miami’s Bosh: Long players face long odds in Foot Locker Three-Point Contest


VIDEO: Bosh’s 3-Point highlights

Long thought to be a sport in which height gives one a decided advantage, basketball as put on display at All-Star Weekend tends to come up short, so to speak.

It’s bad enough that centers get thrown into the hopper with the forwards as “frontcourt” players in All-Star balloting. It’s even worse when you look back over past champions of the two most revered side events, the Verizon Slam Dunk and the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest. That’s why Miami’s Chris Bosh isn’t getting his hopes up too much for when he works his way around the arc emptying ball racks on All-Star Saturday Feb. 13.

Only four times since the dunk event became official in 1984 has it been won by a player 6-foot-9 or taller: Larry Nance, 6-foot-10, did it in 1984. Josh Smith, 6-foot-9, won in 2005. Dwight Howard donned his Superman cape in 2008, and Blake Griffin jumped over the Kia in 2011.

The same holds true for big men shooting from long distance, with just four different big men among the winners since the 3-point “shootout” was added in 1986. Larry Bird, at 6-foot-9, won the first three. Peja Stojakoivc, 6-foot-9, won in 2002 and ’03. Dirk Nowitzki claimed the 2006 crown and, six years later, Kevin Love showed off his deep range. Last year, none of the eight contestants stood taller than 6-foot-7.

With the dunk competition, it’s been said for years that it’s harder for a tall player to make his dunks look challenging or artistic enough. There’s no “wow!” factor in how high up the big guys have to get – none of the oohing and aahing Spud Webb or Nate Robinson instantly generated – and generally speaking, wing players in the 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-7 range seem to elevate (so to speak) the act into something balletic.

As for the 3-point contest – which relies on actual scores rather than judging – anatomy and angles seem to disfavor tall guys. Reaching down to grab the ball, then raising it up to proper launch position … that all takes a teensy bit longer for the big guys.

So Bosh is approaching this as something to have fun with, while giving a nod to his fans (current and former) in Toronto, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

Selected Thursday to compete, Bosh on Friday reflected on the daunting challenge of shooting against the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson next week in Toronto.

“Look, I have nothing to lose, OK? I’m just going to shoot it. And if the ball goes in? That’s awesome,” he said.

At 6 feet 11, Bosh is three inches taller than any of the seven other participants.

“I’m just happy I’m the only big,” he said. “Bigs are not going to be a part of the All-Star Weekend in a couple of years. I’m just glad I’m one of the last of the guys.”

With the event at Air Canada Centre, if means more jeers from a fan base yet to accept his free-agency departure from the Toronto Raptors to the Heat in 2010.

“Yeah,” he grinned, “it’ll be awesome. It’s like cheers in reverse. That’s what I tell myself, man. If you care to acknowledge me, that’s half the battle.”

Told it seemingly took Toronto fans 10 years to get over the departure of former Raptors icon Vince Carter, Bosh smiled.

“Oh, so just four more years left?” he said. “OK, that’s good. My kids will be in high school by then. That’ll be nice.”

Report: Warriors ‘significant’ threat to sign Kevin Durant this summer

HANG TIME BIG CITY — The summer of 2016 has been looked forward to for a while by teams around the NBA. Not only will many teams around the league be flush with spending money thanks to a new television deal, but at least one marquee player will be a free agent: Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant.

While Durant, the 2014 NBA MVP, has stayed mum on his future plans, that hasn’t stopped media speculation. And a new report today from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo’s The Vertical suggests that if Durant does choose to leave Oklahoma City this summer, the leading contender to sign Durant could conceivably create something of a basketball monster.

Writes Wojnarowski

The Golden State Warriors’ plan of pursuit predates their 2015 championship run, a bold plot to declare the futility of resistance. It isn’t only that the NBA champions are determined to recruit Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. The truth is that they’re the most intriguing destination to him. If Durant leaves the Thunder, the Warriors are the significant frontrunners to sign him, league sources told The Vertical.

The Warriors already have everything and yet they’re threatening to take more now. Steph Curry. Klay Thompson. Draymond Green. Committed ownership. Bob Myers, the executive of the year. Steve Kerr, a championship coach. Yes, Golden State has everything, including the ability to create the salary-cap space and a belief that Durant’s persona could fit seamlessly – even onto a potential two-time defending champion.

Make no mistake: Durant isn’t close to gone in Oklahoma City – no decision, no leaning, sources said – but the real threats on the summer market are beginning to reveal themselves. Durant is determined to win – to be an immediate championship contender at 27 years old – and that keeps bringing him back to the Warriors should he make the decision to leave Oklahoma City.

Outside of a Thunder championship closing down the process before July 1, there’s a strong expectation that Durant will hit the road, tour campuses and become a recruit again.

The big free agents, they’re forever living one of two things in the months leading into summer: searching for reasons to stay, or searching for reasons to leave. Durant has always been looking for reasons to stay. He adores the Oklahoma City community and holds a fondness for the franchise, but Durant is chasing championships, chasing a legacy.

Rosters released for Rising Stars game

The core of the young, improving Timberwolves — Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine — were among 20 rookies and second-year players chosen for the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge that will be played Feb. 12 in Toronto as part of All-Star Weekend, the NBA announced.

The rosters released Wednesday in a continuation of the format of the U.S. against the World were selected in a league-wide balloting of assistant coaches. Votes had to include a minimum of four guards, four front-court players and two at either position per side. The teams must also have at least three first-year players and three sophomores.

The Timberwolves will have the strongest representation, led by Toronto native Wiggins, the reigning Rookie of the Year, and Towns, the leading candidate at midseason for the 2015-16 award. One of Wiggins’ World teammates, Dwight Powell of the Mavericks, is also from Toronto.

The U.S. roster consists of Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel (76ers), Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell (Lakers), Rodney Hood (Jazz), Jabari Parker (Bucks), Elfrid Payton (Magic), Marcus Smart (Celtics), Towns and LaVine.

The World roster is Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Bojan Bogdanovic (Nets), Clint Capela (Rockets), Mario Hezonja (Magic), Nikola Jokic and Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets), Nikola Mirotic (Bulls), Raul Neto (Jazz), Wiggins and Powell.

The World won the 2015 game, the first under the current format, 121-112 in Brooklyn. N.Y., as Wiggins scored 22 points en route to being named MVP.

 

Hall of Famer Bobby Wanzer dies at 94

Hall of Famer Bobby Wanzer, a five-time All-Star with the Rochester Royals and a star guard on their 1951 championship team, died Saturday, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported. He was 94.

Wanzer played his entire nine-year career with the Royals and joined with Bobby Davis to form one of the best guard tandems. Wanzer also coached the team for three-plus seasons, two in Rochester and one full campaign plus 18 games into another after the franchise moved to Cincinnati as part of the lineage of the organization that would eventually become the Sacramento Kings.

“He was a player’s player and as good as anyone in that decade, including (Bob) Cousy,” former Royals owner and coach Les Harrison once said of the 1950s, according to the Democrat & Chronicle. “He was a complete player. Every time we played Boston, he guarded Cousy and he usually outplayed him.”

The first-round pick by the Royals in the 1948 Basketball Association of America draft out of Seton Hall was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1987 as part of the class that also included Rick Barry, Pete Maravich and Walt Frazier. Wanzer later coached at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, N.Y., from 1963 to 1987.

“It’s certainly sad that he’s gone but what an unbelievable, wonderful life he lived,” Rob Kornaker,  the current coach at Fisher, told the Democrat & Chronicle.

 

Lue moves over 18 inches, enters new world of pressure, Cavs’ expectations


VIDEO: Tyronn Lue addresses media following Saturday’s shootaround

The first day of the rest of Tyronn Lue‘s coaching career began unlike any he’d experienced before. Working on other guys’ staffs the past six and a half years bears zero resemblance to the duties and the pressures he’ll face now as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ head coach, replacing David Blatt.

Lue began the day Saturday by officially running his first morning shootaround session. Then he met with the media for the first of what would be three times – in the morning, prior to his debut game against Chicago in the evening at Quicken Loans Arena and one more time for postgame comments.

He also toted along a grasp of the pressure he’s now facing.

Lue has one advantage over a lot of newly hired or promoted head coaches, but it isn’t necessarily flattering. Rampant speculation over the past year or more suggests that the Cavaliers players, foremost among them LeBron James, already relied on and heeded his counsel more than Blatt’s. It’s a perception Lue tried to put to rest right away, along with any notion that he would favor James in his tenure. As reported by Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:

He enters the job already with strong ties to James from a friendship that spans 14 years. He has James’ attention already, something that wasn’t always the case with Blatt.

“I talked to ‘Bron. I told him, ‘I got to hold you accountable. It starts with you first. And if I can hold you accountable in front of the team and doing the right things, then everybody else has got to fall in line, fall in place.’”

Lue said he wants to do things better, but not necessarily different than Blatt. He’d like to expand the rotation to 10 players and bring Mo Williams back into it. He talked about playing Williams alongside Matthew Dellavedova and Iman Shumpert to give the Cavs three ball handlers at one time and he’d like to re-establish Kevin Love’s presence at the elbow where he was most effective during his years in Minnesota.

Lue became famous last season for calling timeouts from the bench and making substitutions for the Cavs. But he was doing it all with Blatt’s blessing and said he never went behind his coach’s back at any point.

“Blatt knew I had his back 100 percent,” Lue said. “I would never do anything malicious behind his back. So, we talked yesterday and he said, ‘I thank you for everything you’ve done for me. I know you had my back 100 percent.’ ”

James, meanwhile, had a little of his own media spinning or clarifying to do. Given his public friction not just with Blatt but with past coaches, including Miami’s Erik Spoelstra and former Cavs coach Mike Brown, James has the image with some observers as a difficult-to-handle NBA superstar. Many who hold that view assume he requested or demanded Blatt’s dismissal. But according to Lloyd’s report:

LeBron James insisted he learned of David Blatt’s firing when everyone else did and didn’t play a role in it. But he agreed with everything general manager David Griffin said Friday in announcing the decision and said now it’s clear what he meant sometimes when he wasn’t always happy after wins this season.

“Like I told you guys before, you get so caught up in the wins and losses and I tell you every day, it’s not about the wins and losses, it’s how we play,” James said. “It’s how we prepare ourselves every day. … For something like this to happen, now you understand what I was meaning.”


VIDEO: James addresses media following Saturday’s shootaround

Silver: Time zones, miles still hurdles to expanding NBA Euro presence

The world is shrinking, but not fast enough for some NBA devotees in Europe.

Of the questions NBA commissioner Adam Silver fielded in his news conference prior to the 2016 Global Games London Thursday – Orlando vs. Toronto at The O2 Arena – most of them had something to do with geography, distance, time zones and the logistical challenges of staging North American basketball games on other continents.

As Silver answered, he stood five times zones and approximately 3,500 miles away from NBA headquarters in Manhattan. Both the Magic and the Raptors had crossed “the pond,” a.k.a., the Atlantic Ocean, to participate, and both teams had been given four open days before their game Thursday and three more after to adjust to jet lag and otherwise re-acclimate.

Travel issues, more than financial opportunities or hoops missionary work in fertile markets, remain the top challenge to All-Star Games staged overseas, European expansion or other international flag-planting by the league, Silver said. Disrupting the routine of finely tuned athletes locked into the grind of an 82-game regular season is something around which the NBA treads lightly.

“We’re becoming more sophisticated about the impact of fatigue on our players,” Silver said deep into the media session, “and the direct correlation of fatigue and injuries. We want to talk to players association about it. As we all know, when you change time zones … it’s often difficult to sleep when you’ve had quick changes in time zones.”

Just scheduling NBA teams for matinee tipoff times in the States – to provide live televised games overseas – is challenge enough, Silver said. Coaches routinely circle afternoon games on their schedules as potential trouble, given how disruptive it can be to players’ habits and body clocks.

So while it’s easy enough for a player such as Toronto’s Luis Scola to suggest that the NBA send four teams to London or Paris to boost efficiency – playing three regular-season games against three foes, rather than the single Raptors-Magic game – there is a much bigger picture involved.

“I’d love to hear [Scola’s] views on the travel,” Silver said, eliciting some laughter. “Ultimately that is our desire, to bring more teams and be able to play more games. We have a fairly dense schedule throughout the season. We’re playing roughly, over 165 days, 82 games. It’s an average of roughly 3 ½ games a week.”

Clearing out sufficient time for multiple teams –including those from the Central, Mountain and Pacific U.S. time zones – to make the trip, getting All-Stars from as many as 24 franchises to adapt and play, venturing to France and beyond for regular-season games or anchoring a division of NBA expansion teams in Europe all would pose challenges the league is studying, Silver said. For now, there are no simple solutions.

“The next step is to continue to work on grass roots basis here in Europe,” the commissioner said of Thursday’s event. “What’s important for us – while selling out a game in an hour and bringing in a tremendous media interest, that’s all fantastic for us – but it’s got to be part of a larger program. These games can’t just be viewed as one-off experiences.

“We want to make sure we’re part of a larger platform to grow the game. So we’re going to continue to play these regular-season games. We’re working closely with FIBA, closely with the Euroleague to continue building the game of basketball here. And as I said, we to make sure it’s not just a spectacle to come in with two teams and then have interest drop off tremendously once we leave – we want to make sure we have an ongoing impact.”

Among other topics Silver touched on Thursday:

  • The news of Brooklyn owner Mikhail Prokhorov firing his GM (Billy King) and head coach (Lionel Hollins) in a major resetting of the Nets is life in the NBA, Silver said. Referring to a “very steep learning curve,” Prokhorov tried to win big sooner rather than later, signing expensive veteran players and trading away assets such as draft picks. “He’s acknowledged ‘lesson learned’ on his part,” Silver said.
  • Kobe Bryant’s ongoing retirement tour has been good for both the league’s ticket sales and for fans’ ability to see one of the NBA’s greatest players one more time. If Bryant is involved in All-Star Weekend in Toronto next month, Silver said, it will be “a showcase for him” and an “opportunity for the larger NBA community to say ‘thank you’ for his service.”
  • Silver remains optimistic that the owners and the National Basketball Players Association can continue making progress in collective bargaining talks “behind closed doors” and avoid a lockout or strike that would cost games and revenue in 2017-18.
  • Silver agreed with one reporter who wondered if young basketball players might be at risk of overuse injuries related to the number of games they play outside of high school or college programs. Unlike youth baseball, which strictly limits kids’ pitching turns and pitch counts, “you often have these young players playing eight games in a single weekend,” Silver said. He said the NBA, along with the NCAA and USA Basketball have a responsibility to study and establish protocols.
  • No sooner had Silver mentioned that approximately 100 foreign-born players were among the 450 or so on NBA rosters to open the 2015-16 season, he was asked about the eventuality of a player one day representing Austria. “We can’t wait to have the first Austrian in the NBA,” the commissioner said. “ And your next question, ‘When will be playing the first NBA regular season game in Austria…’ ”

D-League planning Showcase changes

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The D-League will likely have a new home for the Showcase next season after two years in a row on the California coast, possibly in a venue that would accommodate two games at a time and maybe in a city without a team, president Malcolm Turner said in the latest sign of expansion for the NBA’s minor league.

While the process is in the early stages and a decision is many months away, growing from 19 to 22 teams in 2016-17 with the addition of new direct affiliates for the Hornets, Bulls and Nets makes it inevitable the D-League will need a location with two courts rather than extend the event that already lasts five days with games that run from morning until night. The feeling within the league is that if the change is going to happen, it might as well happen next season if officials can reach agreement on a site.

That leaves out Santa Cruz despite receiving high marks as a host, although a new venue would probably happen anyway after 2015 and ’16 at the home of the Warriors affiliate immediately after two years in Reno, Nev. League officials would like to take the event that combines the best in-season scouting opportunity for NBA teams — the one-stop shopping of every team in one building brings dozens of top executives and scouts — with an important marketing opportunity for their own operation to a different part of the country.

That, in turn, decreases chances the Showcase will be in Las Vegas next year, something that had been considered for 2016 and facility wise would be a natural fit with the two arenas at UNLV that are used for NBA Summer League. Las Vegas remains an option moving forward, but is not a match for the D-League’s geographic preferences.

One neutral site remains a possibility, and maybe even a strong possibility: the Disney complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the former home of the NBA pre-draft camp that now takes place in Chicago. The drawback would be losing the potential marketing push of the Showcase in the city of one of its teams, although the Magic have indicated they would like to operate a team close to home, possibly in that immediate Orlando area or possibly in another part of the state, rather than sending players to Erie, Pa.

“I think we’d like to (go to a venue with two courts), only because we know it’s coming,” Turner said. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s when. If we can start to grow into that model and if we identify a solution that allows us to do so sooner, we’ll take a look at that. Is it an absolute requirement or mandate? No, I don’t think so. We’re right there at that line. We’re starting to think about it as this platform approaches in our business, we need to think a little bit differently and little bit bigger.”

The D-League will be tracking the progress of construction in some cities amid the possibility one of the locations with a team will have a facility large enough a year from now. That includes the potential of being in the same general area as the team, as in the case of potential venues in the Dallas suburbs other than Frisco, the home base for the Texas Legends. Or, the Showcase could be held in 2017 similar to the current format, with one court and more days (not the preferred outcome) or the same five days while starting earlier or going later than now, and then shifting to two courts in 2018.

The D-League may also begin announcing sites multiple years in advance, similar to the NBA with All-Star weekend, rather than months ahead of time. That could be with disclosing the same venue two years in a row or two different locations.

“I would say by summer we’d like to have a decision,” Turner said. “I think what we’d really like to do is get a lot more ahead of it in terms of our planning process going forward. The way this property is growing and evolving, it’s not out of the question that, just as you would with an All-Star in terms of really projecting well out in advance your markets and your venues, we have to adapt similarly as we continue to grow. Not only in terms of the number of teams, but in terms of capacity and some of the pure logistics we just talked about. I would say summer we’d like to have a really good handle on what we’re doing for next year and not just for next year.”

Bulls’ Rose set for MRI on right knee


VIDEO: Derrick Rose injury update

NBA.com staff report

Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, who has missed three straight games with a right hamstring injury, will undergo an MRI on Monday because of soreness in his right knee.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Rose’s hamstring “is definitely getting better,” and Rose told reporters before Sunday’s game against the Raptors in Toronto that he felt good and expected to be playing soon, perhaps as early as Tuesday against Milwaukee.

ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell reported that Rose initially thought he would be able to play Sunday but woke up with some “discomfort,” so the Bulls medical staff decided to play it safe.

“I’m getting better every day,” Rose said. “It’s improving every day. I had a little bit of swelling. That’s gone. I just have to figure out my schedule a little bit better. I’d rather have this problem of overworking myself than actually being out there in a game and something happening during the game and something serious. If anything, I just have to cut back a little bit more.”

Rose tore the ACL in his left knee in April 2012. Eighteen months later, he tore the medial meniscus in his right knee and had a meniscectomy on the same knee in February 2015.

Crawford ready to call it quits


VIDEO: Beyond the Paint looks at Joey Crawford

Attention coaches, players and fans: You’d better hug Joey Crawford while you can, because he’s about to give himself a pair of technical fouls.

The controversial yet respected veteran NBA referee announced he’s ready to call it a career after this, his 39th season. It would mark the end of a colorful character in recent NBA history, a referee who often gets as much attention as some players and coaches. Curiously, Crawford had a Kobe-like and Jordan-like two word response with regard to his future plans:

“I’m done.”

That’s what Crawford told his hometown paper, the Delaware County Times, yesterday. Crawford is recovering from knee surgery and hopes to return to the court on March 1. He’s 64 and feels like his time is up.

“It’s not that you lose your passion,” he said. “But it just comes a point where you say, ‘I don’t want to make a fool out of myself.’ And it’s been so good that I want to go out on a high note.”

Crawford has worked 50 games in the NBA Finals, an assignment reserved for the refs who grade highest. He has also worked over 300 playoff games. Two years ago he received the Golden Whistle Award, the highest honor in his profession. The NBA family has long held Crawford in high regard, even by those who argued with him and disagreed with his calls. There has always been a long-held belief that visiting teams breathed a sigh of relief when Crawford worked their games; they knew he wouldn’t be intimidated by the home atmosphere.

“It has been a good run,” he said.

 

 

 

Crawford

Can you imagine Kobe as a Celtic?


VIDEO: Closer look at Kobe’s biggest moments against the Celtics

Two decades wearing just one uniform. All those years and games and shots and heroics and histrionics in the purple and gold of the team he grew up idolizing.

Is it even possible to envision Kobe Bryant as anything but an L.A. Laker?

Well, close your eyes, clear you mind and try to think of Bryant as a — gulp! — Boston Celtic.

After a sizzling pre-draft workout and an impressive interview that included none other than the legendary team president Red Auerbach, the Celtics gave serious consideration to taking the high school phenom out of Lower Merion, Pa. back in 1996. But head coach M.L. Carr eventually opted for Antoine Walker or history could have been completely different.

Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com details the conversations and how the choice was made in a story that even surprised Kobe:

“That’s like the coolest thing I’ve ever heard, dude, because I grew up watching Red! You know what I’m saying? I read books about Red.

“I’ve never even known that he knew of my existence!”

Never mind that he calls the 2010 win over the hated Celtics the favorite of his five championships and that he even had trouble putting on the shamrock green practice gear of the Celtics for the workout way back then. Bryant said if Boston had drafted him, he’d have spent the past two decades trying to emulate the other side of the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson rivalry:

“I would’ve tried to carry on Bird’s legacy,” Bryant says without hesitation. “Absolutely. I would’ve done it with a tremendous amount of pride and honor.”

Bryant’s reverence toward Bird might come as a surprise to some, given the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, but Bryant says he studied Bird just as much as he did Magic and Jordan.

Anything specific?

“Timing. Reading situations. Tenacity with his teammates,” Bryant says. “I’ve really studied. That’s like the holy trinity for me — Bird, Michael and Magic. I really watched everything about them.”

And of Bird, Bryant says, “You have no idea how much I’ve studied this guy. Oh, man.”