Posts Tagged ‘Derek Fisher’

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 173) Road Trip

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – That fatigue you hear in our voices is real. Chew up nearly 4,000 miles of American highway on a luxury bus in search of some basketball’s biggest names and you’d feel it, too. We did six cities in seven days and did not let up.

The Hang Time Road Trip was real. We lived every wild and crazy minute of it and you will get a chance to see all of the things we did Wednesday night on the Hang Time Road Trip wrapup special (10 p.m. ET, NBA TV). 

We witnessed the return of LeBron James in his first game back in Cleveland. We saw Pau Gasol‘s first steps as a Chicago Bull. We picked Larry Bird‘s brain about where the Indiana Pacers go from here. We got an in-depth explanation of the rebuilding plan in Philadelphia from Sixers CEO Scott O’Neal. We dove into the mind of Lance Stephenson, now of the Charlotte Bobcats. And we fired questions at Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher about the Knicks. And we even dipped into the college ranks with a guided tour of North Carolina’s pristine facilities with Roy Williams.

And that’s just the basketball portion of the trip.

We had just as much fun away from the game, touring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I got my hair cut at President Obama‘s spot in Chicago, we watched Lang work the kitchen at Tony Luke’s and we all dined in fine fashion at Red Rooster, the world-famous Harlem eatery owned by celebrity chef and Knicks fanatic Marcus Samuelsson.

You’ll see all of that and more during Wednesday’s Hang Time Road Trip wrapup special on NBA TV Wednesday (10 p.m.) But in the meantime you can get a sense of the magnitude of the trip on Episode 173 of the Hang Time Podcast: The Road Trip

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best sound designer/engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.


VIDEO: Larry Bird joins the Hang Time Podcast crew on the bus

Hang Time Road Trip: Home Sweet Home!


VIDEO: The Lord of the Rings, Phil Jackson, joins the Hang Time Podcast crew on the bus

By Sekou Smith

HANGTIME HEADQUARTERS – The final tally was somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,925 miles. give or take a hundred miles or so.

That’s the amount of road real estate we traveled during the Hang Time Road Trip, which ended early Saturday morning after a week of grinding from Cleveland through the upper tier of the Central Division and on to Philly, New York and finally to Tar Heel country in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

We’re all home now. It’s back to normal, whatever that means after spending seven nights on a luxury bus with 11 grown men all trying to carve out their own space on a daily basis.

It would be impossible to boil our trip down to just a few words or video snippets, which is why the Hang Time Road Trip wrap-up special (Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on NBA TV) will shine even more light on the maiden voyage for the Hang Time Podcast crew.

Between Lang Whitaker‘s daily updates on the All Ball blog and Rick Fox‘s work on social media, we tried to make sure you could follow us along every step of our journey. We began in Cleveland chasing LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers.

But that was only the beginning.

Chicago brought an in-depth conversation with Pau Gasol, not to mention Washington Wizards’ young stars John Wall and Bradley Beal making it onto the bus (not to mention an impromptu visit from Drew Gooden and a chance meeting with Scottie Pippen). We also made a visit to the Hyde Park Hair Salon, President Obama‘s home shop, so I could get cleaned up.

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VIDEO: Pau Gasol joins the Hang Time Podcast crew in Chicago

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Indianapolis saw Hall of Famer and Pacers boss Larry Bird brave the rain (for all of about 10 feet) to make his way onto the couch in the front of the bus, where we broke down what his team is facing this season and the intriguing situation he faces in trying to keep the Pacers among the NBA elite.

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VIDEO: Larry Bird joins the Hang Time Podcast crew on the bus

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Philadelphia gave us a chance to not only speak with Sixers CEO Scott O’Neal and Charlotte Hornets swingman Lance Stephenson, but also the ideal lunch date at cheese steak wizard Tony Luke‘s South Philly spot. You might have seen Lang trying to get his flip on in the kitchen.

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VIDEO: The Hang Time Podcast crew chops it up with Lance Stephenson on the Hang Time Road Trip bus

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Our stop in New York included an unbelievable visit to Harlem and Marcus Samuelsson‘s famed Red Rooster restaurant, one of the hottest spots in the city with one of the best chefs on the planet. He jst happens to be a huge Knicks and NBA fan, which was the perfect appetizer for Thursday’s trip to the Knicks’ practice facility where we talked to both Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher on the bus.

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VIDEO: The Hang Time Podcast crew at Tony Luke’s

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Wrapping things up in Rick’s old stomping grounds was the ideal ending for this trip. UNC coach Roy Williams gave us a guided tour of the pristine facilities in Chapel Hill and provided some context on our partner and his roots dating all the way back to his high school and college days on campus.

Again, the bits and pieces you can put together now only tell part of the story. A clearer picture will come Wednesday night when you tune into NBA TV (10 p.m. ET) and ride with us from start to finish on the Hang Time Road Trip.

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VIDEO: Knicks coach Derek Fisher joins the Hang Time Podcast crew on the bus

Morning shootaround — Oct. 4


VIDEO: Kobe Bryant — All The Way Back

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron to get some rest | Nash feeling good | Nets for sale? | Kings hire the Dean of basketball stats | Young out with thumb injury | Davis and Asik could sit preseason opener

No. 1: LeBron to get some rest — Over the course of his 11-year career, LeBron James has played about 5,500 minutes (regular season and playoffs combined) more than any other player in the league. That’s the equivalent of an additional 1 1/2 seasons. So, as he approaches the age of the 30 (which he’ll reach on Dec. 30), it’s time for James to dial back on the playing time. As Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal reports, the Cavs could take a Popovichian approach this season, giving James some games off:

Throughout his career, James has been a machine who has deftly avoided major injuries. Still, his nagging back issues and high mileage were enough for the Cavs to rest James during Friday’s morning workout, and coach David Blatt said it could lead him to missing games during the season as a healthy scratch.

“Players are here to play and it’s our job to get them ready and keep them healthy so they can participate in every game, but it doesn’t always work out that way,” Blatt said. “Sometimes you have to know how to rest guys without the team being at risk. That’s part of the process.”

The proof for such an idea was obvious in June, when an old-but-fresh Spurs team zipped passes over, under, around and through a tired Heat defense in the Finals. Gregg Popovich has strategically picked spots to rest his aging stars the last couple years, once famously eliciting a $250,000 fine from the league for doing it. But the Spurs’ consecutive trips to the Finals, including one championship and nearly a second with an aging roster, is proof Pop knows what he’s doing.

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No. 2: Nash feeling good — Steve Nash has not been himself the last two seasons. After injuring his leg early in his first season with the Lakers, he has never been able to fully recover. Now, he’s 40 years old and we have to wonder if his career will soon be done. Nash wonders the same thing, but says that his legs feel great right now. Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star spoke to Nash about trying to get a little more basketball out of his body:

And heading into what may be the final season of a brilliant career, Steve Nash feels good again. He doesn’t know for how long; he knows how quickly it could all vanish again. But it’s not over, not yet.

“I was playing soccer, and I went out there and after a few minutes I said, holy s—,” says Nash, on the phone from Los Angeles. “I’m 100 percent. Stop, start, change direction, mobility, explosiveness — I could go as hard as I wanted. So the next step was, is this going to sustain itself? Because I was used to the whole ‘hey, something will happen in the next two weeks that will kind of knock you back.’

“And it never really happened. I just kept going all summer. I never really had a setback. And it allowed me to enjoy the summer in a way I couldn’t the previous summer, where I was rehabbing twice a day for five months, basically. I think it took a little pressure off me, and just a little bit of joy, where it’s life-giving, instead of crumbling.”

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No. 3: Nets for sale? — Are the Brooklyn Nets for sale, or is Mikhail Prokhorov actually trying to expand his sports portfolio? Both Richard Sandomir of The New York Times and Mitch Abramson of the Daily News confirm the original NetsDaily report that the latter is likely the case.

Sandomir:

Now, Mr. Prokhorov is trying to capitalize as N.B.A. team values soar and new national media contracts with ESPN and TNT that are about to be announced promise a big leap in revenue for each team.

In a complex transaction, he is trying to create a new company by combining his team and arena assets with those owned by the investor group Guggenheim Partners, which bought the Los Angeles Dodgers two years ago for $2.15 billion. In his current negotiations — first reported by the NetsDaily blog and confirmed by a person familiar with the talks — the team has been valued at $1.7 billion and Barclays Center at $1.1 billion.

If the deal comes to fruition, Mr. Prokhorov and Bruce C. Ratner, who sold Mr. Prokhorov the stakes in the team and arena, will receive $2.8 billion in cash, stock and potentially other forms of payment.

Abramson:

A source close to Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov screamed “Nyet!” on whether the Russian billionaire would surrender majority control of the team in Brooklyn.

“He’s not a seller,” the source familiar with Prokhorov’s thinking told the Daily News on Friday. “He wants the Nets and he loves the Nets and he wants to be controlling owner. This is something that he really enjoys.”

A flurry of reports surfaced on Thursday describing two potential scenarios involving the Russian oligarch and his holdings in Brooklyn: First, that Prokhorov is interested in integrating his sports and entertainment assets with Guggenheim Partners, the company that joined with former NBA great Magic Johnson to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 for roughly $2 billion.

The second is that Prokhorov is preoccupied with cashing out and selling his stake in the Nets to the highest bidder.

The source said only the first picture is accurate.

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No. 4: Kings hire the Dean of basketball statsDean Oliver‘s Basketball on Paper is basically the bible of basketball analytics, outlining the “four factors” of efficiency on either end of the floor, as well as other statistical tools to evaluate players and teams historically. Oliver has worked for the Sonics and Nuggets and after three years at ESPN, is taking his talents to Sacramento, as Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes, thanks in part to his previous work with Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro:

At one time, Dean Oliver wasn’t widely respected in basketball for his analytic and statistical evaluations.

One of those who took Oliver seriously 10 years ago was Pete D’Alessandro, now the Kings’ general manager.

“I was just trying to get in, and Pete was one of the first people to listen to me,” Oliver said.

This time, Oliver listened to D’Alessandro, who asked him to join the Kings. D’Alessandro introduced Oliver, now recognized as the creator of many of the advanced statistics used by NBA teams, on Friday. Oliver will provide statistical analysis and have a role in personnel decisions.

“He’s going to be a big part of this team in terms of brokering deals,” D’Alessandro said. “His reputation throughout the league is stellar, and his contact base is as big as anyone’s.”

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No. 5: Young out with thumb injury — The first major injury of training camp belongs to Nick Young and the Lakers. Young injured his right thumb in practice on Thursday, and a MRI revealed “a complete tear of the radial collateral ligament.” Young is set to have surgery on Monday and is expected to be out 6-8 weeks, which would have him missing at least 10 regular season games. Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times has the story:

Young was injured Thursday while tying to steal the ball from Kobe Bryant at practice.

His thumb swelled up overnight and an MRI exam Friday showed a tear. He will have surgery Monday.

A day earlier, Lakers Coach Byron Scott said Young would have a chance at being the NBA’s sixth man of the year.

And earlier Friday, when the team hoped Young’s injury was only a sprain, Scott wished for the best.

“Maybe I jinxed him, I don’t know,” Scott said. “I’m not going to say anything good about Nick Young for the rest of the year. Maybe that will keep him healthy for us.”

Young apparently smacked his thumb into Bryant’s elbow on the play.

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No. 6: Davis and Asik could sit preseason opener — The preseason is here! But the New Orleans Pelicans might not be at full strength when they face the Miami Heat in Lexington on Saturday night. Nakia Hogan of the New Orleans Times Picayune reports that Anthony Davis and Omer Asik will get some rest in the preseason:

New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams said he’s considering holding All-Star power forward Anthony Davis and top offseason acquisition Omer Asik out of Saturday’s preseason opener against the Miami Heat in Lexington, Ky.

Both Davis and Asik, who are expected to be a formidable duo at the power forward and center positions, are healthy. But both are coming off a long summer of activity while playing for their home countries in the FIBA World Cup, which is why Williams is thinking about resting the pair.

Before making his decision, Williams said he’d consult with general manager Dell Demps.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Spurs are heading to Europe to find Boris DiawThe league is bringing back 5-on-5 competition to the Draft CombineWesley Matthews is slowly getting back to work after being sidelined with an irregular heartbeat … A lacerated hand will keep the Suns’ Anthony Tolliver out a few daysPhil Jackson let Derek Fisher do the coaching this weekDanny Ainge doesn’t want Rajon Rondo to rush back from a broken hand … Dirk Nowitzki isn’t yet ready to reveal the skyhook he’s been working on … and you can have LeBron’s Miami house for just $17 million.

ICYMI of The Night: Blazers head coach Terry Stotts talked to Vince Cellini and Steve Smith during Real Training Camp:


VIDEO: Real Training Camp: Blazers – Terry Stotts

Unfinished business in NY for Melo


VIDEO: Media Day: Knicks State of Mind

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Carmelo Anthony had chances to put himself in a better situation to win a championship. His contemporaries from the 2003 Draft class — LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade — all have multiple titles, while he has none.

Joining James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston or Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in Chicago would have given Anthony a serious chance to get a ring right away. In New York, he’ll have to wait at least a year before the Knicks clear the contracts of Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani off their books and have the opportunity to maybe add more top-line talent alongside Anthony. Maybe.

The Knicks, of course, had the ability to offer Anthony a lot more money (via bigger raises and a fifth season) than any other team. That’s what they did. So Anthony stayed in New York.

Was it all about the money? Well, Anthony admits it wasn’t all about basketball and says the decision was “hard.” But, speaking at Knicks Media Day on Monday, he said that it came down to his conscience.

“I made a commitment to stay here in New York,” Anthony said. “I made a commitment to the Knicks’ organization. I made a commitment to Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson. I also made a commitment to my teammates. That right there goes to show you that it wasn’t all about just running, jumping ship, and trying to get something in the immediate future.”

The immediate future in New York offers an opportunity to compete for the playoff spot that the Knicks lost last season. But the ceiling isn’t very high and won’t be unless Jackson makes major changes in the next year.

“I’m willing to be patient,” Anthony said. “How long I’m willing to be patient, I can’t really tell you that. But I’m willing to be patient. I’m willing to take risks. I’m willing to take that chance.”

Anthony wasn’t willing to be patient after seven seasons in Denver, when he made it clear to the Nuggets that he wanted out. He got what he wanted, a February 2011 trade to New York, a transaction that sent a lot of the Knicks’ assets west. So while Anthony has been, by far, the Knicks’ best player in the 3½ seasons since, he felt that he owed the team and its fans more.

“For me to just get up and leave like that,” he said, “I wouldn’t have felt right, within myself. From a basketball standpoint, it probably would have been, maybe, the greatest thing to do. But for me, personally, I wouldn’t have felt right with myself, knowing I wanted to come here. I kind of forced my way to New York and I have some unfinished business to take care of. So I wouldn’t have felt right from a personal standpoint, just getting up and leaving.”

Though he says he can be patient, Anthony also believes the Knicks can improve on last season’s 37-45 record. He said he’s excited to work within the Triangle offense and knows that improvement has to start on D. But he’s not just going to throw this season away.

“I can tell you for sure,” Anthony said, “that we’re going to have a much better season that we had last year.”

A dozen stories to open training camps

Little has changed with the ageless Spurs since the confetti rained down on the champs, but much is now different with the rest of the NBA. So as the first handful of training camps open this week, here are a dozen storylines that will require immediate attention:

LeBron rocks, Cleveland rolls

LeBron James, 2007 (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Is it really as simple as putting the giant sign of LeBron James back up in downtown Cleveland and turning the clock back to the days of the Cavs as contenders for them to win it all? With Kyrie Irving‘s continued growth, his performance at the FIBA World Cup fresh in our minds, with the arrival of Kevin Love to be the third leg of the stool, it only seems a matter of time before the Cavs are on the main stage in June. Let’s remember that Irving and Love have never even been to the playoffs, let alone made a deep run. But let’s also remember that this is the Eastern Conference and that means the door is open.

Kobe vs. The World

Let’s face it. Nobody — not LeBron, not Carmelo Anthony, not Kevin Durant, not anybody — will have every step he takes on the court scrutinized and analyzed more than Kobe Bryant as he battles the calendar and what would seem to be common sense as he tries to come back from a torn Achilles tendon and a knee fracture at age 36. He’ll be determined, defiant, maybe even destructive to his own well-being. More than anything, you have to hope he can stay healthy all the way through the long grind of the season, if for no other reason than to see how he drives and browbeats a ragtag collection of post-Pau Gasol era Lakers in a quixotic quest.

Big Man in the Big Easy

They’ve changed owners, changed their team name and solidified the face of the franchise for the first time since New Orleans was last in the playoffs. Now it’s time to see if Anthony Davis can build on his big dog experience with Team USA in the World Cup and put some bite into the Pelicans. Davis averaged 20.8 points, 10 rebounds and made his first All-Star Game appearance last season. But based on the way he played in Spain, that might have only been scratching the surface. There are some ready to jump Davis over reigning MVP Durant as the next “best player in the game.” He’ll get up front support this season from Omer Asik, and if Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson and Tyreke Evans can stay healthy, this could be the beginning of a whole new era.

Stuck on the launch pad

Until LeBron went back home to Cleveland, it was hard to top the last two offseason jackpots hit by the Rockets — landing James Harden and Dwight Howard. But that streak hit a wall when the Rockets went all-in to bring Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh to Houston. It was a bold and grand gamble that required trading away Omer Asik (to the Pelicans) and Jeremy Lin (to the Lakers) to create salary cap space. It also led to allowing Chandler Parsons to become a free agent and sign with the Dallas Mavericks. Now with neither prize free agent, the Rockets are a team that won 54 games a year ago, lost in the first round of the playoffs and have the depth of a one-night pickup at a singles bar. How much can they get from Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas and Isaiah Canaan? What does Jason Terry have left? How much of the weight can Harden and Howard realistically carry?

(more…)

First Team: KD evokes MJ in MVP season

In this five-part series, I’ll take a look at the best games from last season’s All-NBA first team. The metric I’ve used to figure out the best games is more art than formula, using “production under pressure” as the heuristic for selection. For example, volume scoring in a close game against a stout team on the road gets more weight than volume scoring against the Bucks at home in a blowout. Big games matter. Big clutch games matter more.

Kevin Durant took his otherworldly scoring abilities to another level in his 2013-14 MVP campaign.

Kevin Durant took his otherworldly scoring abilities to another level in his 2013-14 MVP campaign.

There’s a sense Kevin Durant still hasn’t peeked at his peak. His length is unfair. His angel-hair pasta build is a rebellion against the MUSCLEWATCH movement that dominates the NBA. Myth has him closer to being 7-foot than his listed 6-foot-9. All of this leads to a virtually unblockable shot (don’t tell James Johnson!) that allows him to get a clean look whenever he wants.

The results:

1) NBA MVP
2) Five All-NBA first teams
3) Four scoring titles
4) All-Star MVP
5) Olympic gold medal
6) A host of honors too long to list here

Yet Durant is far from a finished product. There’s that untapped post game that Charles Barkley keeps hammering about. Can he win seven more scoring titles to surpass MJ? Could Durant, who turns 26 next week, snatch the top scoring spot from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by the time it’s all said and done?

Last season, he dropped at least 25 points in 41 straight games to top His Airness’ modern-day record (only Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain have more). The night his streak was “broken,” he scored 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting in 31 minutes, then went on to rip off another eight straight at the 25-point level. He hit that mark in 63 out of his final 65 games.

In addition to scoring and playing more minutes than anybody else, he dealt a career-high 5.5 dimes per contest. He even tied for the league lead in technical fouls (16). The only thing Durant was missing last season was a nickname that stuck.

Here are his top games last season:

Jan.17, 2014 — Striking Down The Warriors

The Line: 54 points on 19-for-28 shooting

The Quote:He’s a special talent, a superstar basketball player, an all-time great.” — Warriors head coach Mark Jackson


VIDEO: Kevin Durant carves Warriors up for career-high 54 points

As he did for most of the season, Durant was playing without Russell Westbrook this night, giving him carte blanche with the rock. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green did what they could, but the easy truth about basketball is this: Great offense trumps great defense every time. On this night, Durant put it all together for a career night.

Jan. 21, 2014 — Extinguishing The Blazers

The Line: 46 points on 17-for-25 shooting, 6 3s

The Quote: “The way he was playing, he probably could have scored on Jesus.” – Trail Blazers guard Mo Williams


VIDEO: Durant goes for 46 points in lighting up the Blazers

The eighth night of The Streak was Fan Night on NBA TV. KD had his 25 by the end of the third quarter, but his team nursed a two-point lead going into the fourth. Without Westbrook and a tough Portland team promising to make matters difficult, his plate was full.

So Durant ate. First off a deadly mid-range game, then with a 3-point light show at the end, including a coup de grace over Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews.

Jan. 27, 2014 — Just Another Night

The Line: 41 points on 15-for-25 shooting, 3 blocks

The Quote: “He’s going to be an MVP candidate until he decides to retire.” – Thunder head coach Scott Brooks


VIDEO: Kevin Durant clips Hawks with game-winner to cap 41-point night

With no Westbrook again, Durant donned the hero cape. On the defining play of the game, the double team came from the left. Durant started right. Three hard dribbles later, with three Hawks in the vicinity, he confirmed another moment in a season full of them. Another game winner, another vicious January performance. Just another night, his 10th straight reaching 30 points.

Durant used January to make volume efficiency his M.O. For the month, he put up 36 points on 55 percent shooting, 44 percent beyond the arc. That. Is. Insane.

Feb. 13, 2014 — Rally On The Road

The Line: 43 points on 14-for-33 shooting, 19 in fourth quarter, 7 assists

The Quote: “He is one of the best I have seen in terms of really just playing through anything and everything.” – Thunder guard Derek Fisher


VIDEO: Kevin Durant ends first half with 43-point performance in L.A.

Durant’s final game before the All-Star break didn’t start auspiciously. He clanked his first eight treyballs and his team fought uphill all game. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Thunder were down 13 to a Lakers team that had lost its previous six home games.

But ‘Mr. Unreliable’ took over, almost outscoring the Lakers by himself (19 to 21). He topped the 40-point mark for the eighth time, matching the previous season’s high set by Carmelo Anthony and Kobe. No better way to end the best first half of his career.

March 21, 2014 — Making Fossils Out Of Raptors

The Line: 51 points (38 in second half and two OTs), 12 rebounds, 7 assists

The Quote: “It looked good when it left my hands and God guided that thing in the basket. That was the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of.” — Durant


VIDEO:
Kevin Durant finishes off Raptors in 2OT with game-winner, 51 points

What does a man have to do to get a double team? No matter how many times Amir Johnson stood on an island guarding the best scorer in the league, help never came. But you know what? It probably wouldn’t have mattered. Forces of nature are inevitable.

Down eight points with 49 seconds left, the Thunder ended the game on a 9-0 run. Who was responsible for those final points? Do you even have to ask?

 

Giving Melo in NY the benefit of the doubt


VIDEO: Knicks welcome back Carmelo Anthony

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – It’s time to cut Carmelo Anthony some slack and stop cynically scoffing at his return to the New York Knicks as being, perceptually anyway, for no greater reason than to gobble the millions of dollars other teams couldn’t give him.

If we’re going to lather such thick praise upon LeBron James for the heartfelt letter as he told it to Sports Illustrated in which he was clear his return to Cleveland was more about the tug of his hometown and his family’s happiness there than his immediate quest to collect championships, then why can’t we be equally happy for Anthony for choosing the place he and his family feel most at home?

That the Knicks could offer more money, by rule of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, than the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers or any other team, is completely out of Anthony’s control. The $30 million or so more that he could earn in New York (Anthony signed for $124 million, about $6 million less than the max), plus getting a fifth year as opposed to a maximum of four years anywhere else, are both worthy enticements to return, just as they are meant to be.

But what if Anthony’s love for the city, where he spent his early years and where his wife LaLa grew up, and his son calls home, was his true calling? What if his desire to one day bring a championship to the long-struggling franchise, just like the one in Cleveland that James so admirably wants to lift up, was Anthony’s deeper motivation for re-signing?

Anthony, like James, talked about his family’s happiness in an interview with VICE Sports before his free agency tour of Chicago, Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles began:

“The average person just sees the opportunity to say, ‘Melo should go here, Melo should go there.’ But they don’t take into consideration the family aspect of it, your livelihood, where you’re going to be living. Do you want your kids to grow up in that place? Do I want to spend the rest of my career in that situation, in that city?

“My son goes to school and loves it here (in New York). To take him out and take him somewhere else, he would have to learn that system all over again. I know how hard it was for me when I moved from New York to Baltimore at a young age, having to work your way to try to make new friends and fit in and figure out the culture in that area.”

I can hear the scoffing from here. But why are James’ intentions viewed as pure, while Anthony’s as only greedy?

I understand. You don’t have to be John Hollinger to recognize that adding Anthony as the missing, high-scoring wing to the Bulls, with coach Tom Thibodeau‘s defensive philosophy stamped all over the club, with Joakim Noah as the fiery, emotional leader and former league MVP Derrick Rose returning, would mean big, big trouble in the Eastern Conference.

It seemed a natural fit. Of course, the Bulls, by virtue of the CBA and their own cap situation, could only offer Anthony around $75 million. That’s significantly less money than his New York deal and one likely any rational human being, or businessman, wouldn’t consider for long.

But because this is basketball and not a Fortune 500 company, we want Melo to take less and go to the Bulls because it just makes too much basketball sense. And clearly it seems Anthony grappled with the decision.

He knew he could join an instant contender in Chicago, while the 2014-15 campaign in New York will be a learning one with rookie coach in Derek Fisher and an incomplete roster. Reaching .500 would seem a realistic goal.

But what if Anthony decided to stick with the team that unloaded a package of talented players in the trade to get him out of Denver just three years ago? What if Anthony decided to trust in new president Phil Jackson — the franchise’s first respected voice of authority in years — and give him a chance to assemble a roster in 2015 and 2016 when for the first time under this CBA, the club will boast cap space?

What if the money wasn’t the overriding factor, and visions of becoming the first Knick to hoist the championship trophy since, well, a much younger Jackson in 1973? And how much more meaningful it would be to do it in New York than anywhere else (just as LeBron said about Cleveland)?

Again, I hear the scoffing.

Maybe in the end, the money really was the only thing that mattered.

But just maybe, at age 30 and with a family, and understanding his legacy is far from complete in the game, Anthony embraced the bigger picture, the greater challenge ahead in New York, the city he and his family call home.

Maybe, like LeBron’s sentimental decision we ate up, Anthony’s, too, came from his heart; the extra wallet padding only New York could provide being nothing more than a bonus.

Stop scoffing.

Forgiven James returns Cleveland basketball to relevance once again

LeBron James, 2007 (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

LeBron James, 2007 (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

LeBron James is going home to Cleveland. He thoughtfully explained his decision to Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated. This is what makes him happy, he says, and who can begrudge a King that?

James made the emotional play. He swallowed hard to push past the Comic Sans bile of the jilted owner to seek redemption among his hometown fans who had embraced him since he was in middle school until they cursed him out of town four years ago.

The same fans he crushed that night on national television, with the passing of time, are eager to reunite with their Prodigal Son. All can be forgiven, and T-shirts printed earlier this week in anticipation of his return said so, stamped across the front with the very word — “FOR6IVEN” — James’ No. 6 he wore in Miami and potentially will in his Cleveland reboot, replacing the “g.”

It is indeed a homecoming, a ready-made script for the silver screen. The basketball fit, though, is less than Oscar-worthy.

The Heat, whose every flaw was exposed by the San Antonio Spurs in a blistering and abbreviated NBA Finals, are not necessarily the better fit at this stage, although a healthy Dwyane Wade considerably changes that equation. But James had other choices, more ready-made opportunities had he cared to explore them. He made it clear in his piece that he did not.

The 33-win Cavaliers offer an interesting package of two young players in Kyrie Irving and rookie Andrew Wiggins. New general manager David Griffin cleared out three players this week to squeeze James into a max deal, and now can infuse a roster that needs restocking with low-cost veteran talent and know-how. In an Eastern Conference that already lacks punch, Cleveland could realistically contend. Challenging any number of powers in the mightier West is a far greater undertaking.

James, who turns 30 in December, has committed to playing mentor. He is hitching his prime years to a score-first point guard in Irving — whose defensive work has holes, whose maturity has been questioned, whose injury history is concerning — and a 19-year-old potential phenom. These Cavs are not in the class of the James-Wade-Chris Bosh super team formed four years ago. James acknowledged as much in his piece: “I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010.”

James says he is eager to take on all the issues ahead of him, and feels more capable now that he’s a far more mature player and person then when he left Cleveland when he was just 25.

“I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go,” James said in his piece. “I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.”

Cleveland fans had worked themselves feverish in the last week as it became apparent James was seriously considering a return. But, given the last time James faced free agency, the wait was pure agony.

That agony has burst into elation. The King is coming home. Cleveland basketball matters again.

‘Melo headed to Hollywood? LeBron taking offers?


VIDEO: The Los Angeles Times’ Mike Bresnahan details Carmelo Anthony’s meeting in L.A.

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Carmelo Anthony in purple and gold doesn’t seem so far-fetched after all, at least not to the Los Angeles Lakers.

In fact, the Lakers, long considered a long-shot to land the All-Star free agent forward, are reportedly prepared to offer Anthony a 4-year, $95 million contract, the maximum amount any team (other than the New York Knicks) can offer.

The pairing of Anthony and Kobe Bryant, his two-time gold medal-winning teammate on the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team, would give the Lakers the Hollywood buzz they’ve been lacking the past two seasons as they’ve stumbled from their perch among the Western Conference and NBA elite.

The Knicks, of course, can offer ‘Melo a fifth-year and $34 more million than anyone else. And according to multiple reports, that’s exactly what the Knicks have done.

Anthony visited Chicago, Houston and Dallas this week, getting the red carpet treatment on each stop. None of those suitors offers the added spice that comes with the Los Angeles market (Anthony’s wife LaLa is an actress/entertainer/journalist). Only New York can offer a comparable set of circumstances in that regard, plus that extra $34 million.

Spicing up the 4th of July weekend is the news that the agent for LeBron James, Rich Paul, has been conducting meetings with teams interested in luring his client away from Miami with the same max offer the Lakers are using to attract Anthony.

The Lakers have focused their attention on Anthony and James, trying to figure out if there is a way to unite them with Bryant. But it’s unclear if the Anthony and James are working in concert this summer.

Paul is in the process of narrowing down the list of legitimate suitors to three finalists for James, per a Yahoo! Sports report,  with face-to-face meetings with James and his camp next week in Cleveland.

If Anthony makes his decision before then, we’ll have our answer about whether or not he and James had a joint plan for free agency. In the meantime, Lakers fans are left to wonder what a Bryant-Anthony tandem would look like in Los Angeles …

Morning Shootaround — July 3



VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses Kyle Lowry agreeing to a new deal with the Raptors

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Report: Heat’s Big Three not working in concert | Reports: Several suitors for Gasol | Report: Kobe returns to L.A. for ‘Melo meeting | Report: Clips, Nets talk deal for Pierce | Report: Bulls plan to amnesty Boozer

No. 1: Report: Heat’s Big Three might not all be working on deal together — Last week, the Heat’s superstar trio of free agents, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, held a meeting together over dinner in Miami. Although few details emerged from the meeting, the common notion being they talked about their future together in the city as a group. ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard reports, though, that Wade and Bosh are unsure of what James is planning next:

When the Miami Heat’s “Big 3″ went their separate ways after a lunch meeting last Wednesday, they went not knowing whether they had played their last game together, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

While Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were committed to returning to the Heat, LeBron James was unsure of what he would do, the sources said.

The only certainty coming out of the meeting concerning James was that he wanted a maximum-level salary.

James did not ask or suggest that Wade and Bosh opt out of their deals or take lesser salaries to allow the Heat to add other top players, according to the sources.

But sources who have spoken with two of the Big 3 said that was not the case. Bosh and Wade are intent on returning to Miami, but neither of them knows what James will do.

“It’s not a done deal,” said one source, when asked about James’ return to Miami. “That’s for sure.”

Bosh and Wade were so uncertain about James’s future after last week’s meeting that one of them spoke about what the Heat might look like without James, according to one source.

While both players expect to sign larger contracts overall, each is willing to take less money annually.

Bosh is looking to sign a five-year deal worth between $80 million and $90 million while Wade is thinking along the lines of $55 million-60 million over four years, sources said.

Those figures, combined with a max-level contract that would begin at $20.7 million for James, would not clear the cap room it would likely take to sign free-agent targets such as Kyle Lowry, Luol Deng and possibly Pau Gasol.

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel gives Heat fans some hope, though, about LeBron returning … and it comes in the form of the Cavs having interest in Gordon Hayward:

With James yet to put himself in front of free-agent suitors, and with the Miami Heat more than at peace with the likelihood of James’ new contract starting at the 2014-15 NBA maximum of $20 million-plus, came word of the Cavs considering pouring their salary-cap space into an offer sheet for Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward.

Such a gambit by Cleveland, which was reported by ESPN and other media outlets, would effectively tie up the Cavaliers’ cap space until at least July 13, with July 10 the first day free-agent contracts can be offered, and with teams receiving offer sheets having up to three days to match.

A source familiar with Cleveland’s offseason machinations, which have included an NBA-maximum contract extension to guard Kyrie Irving and the selection of Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 overall pick in last week’s NBA Draft, Wednesday told the Sun Sentinel that it was his impression the Cavaliers have decided to move past a short-term reunion with James, who left Cleveland in July 2010 to sign with the Heat.

The same source, however, said it is possible that even if Cleveland obtains Hayward, it could eventually be through a sign-and-trade transaction that could have the Cavaliers’ cap space back in place.

The fact that Cleveland would be willing to consider tying up valuable cap space for an extended period is an indication of the league-wide sense that James is returning to the Heat, if even for a short-term contract that yet could have him back on the market next summer.


VIDEO: Are the Big Three working together on a new deal?

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