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Blogtable: Biggest surprise at season’s halfway point is _____?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on Cavs? | Biggest surprise at season’s halfway mark? |
Rookie you enjoy watching most (and why)?



VIDEOWhich team is the best at this point in the season?

> Biggest surprise to you at the halfway mark of this season?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: The rapid improvement of the East versus the West. You don’t hear much talk from the media about re-seeding the playoffs because of the dreadful East any more, do you? Not to sprain my wrist patting myself on the back, but some of us argued — and continued to argue –that there’s no magic potion or league-mandated jerry rigging that’s going to make the East better. If you hire good coaches (Brad Stevens, Steve Clifford, Stan Van Gundy), draft the right players (John Wall, Jimmy Butler, Andre Drummond, Kristaps Porzingis), make smart trades (Goran Dragic, Nicola Vucevic, Marcin Gortat) and sign the right free agents for the right amount of money (Pau Gasol, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap), it’s amazing how quickly you can make your team better. I am surprised, though, that Houston and Phoenix and New Orleans have fallen off so quickly this season.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: In the team category, I’m most surprised by Dallas. No way did I expect the Mavericks to be in the middle of things out West. I underestimated the contributions they’d get from Wesley Matthews, Deron Williams, Zaza Pachulia and Dwight Powell, didn’t fully account for the value in shedding Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis and took for granted Rick Carlisle‘s coaching. As for individual surprises, C.J. McCollum has been something of a revelation. Sure, he’s getting more opportunity – he already has played more minutes than in his first two seasons combined – but he still had to be capable of responding to it. The slender shooting guard hasn’t just scored more, he has spruced up his mid-range game and doubled his assist percentage. He’s a big Most Improved candidate in my view.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The Mavericks. I was like everyone else. I thought it was going to be tough several months. Through no fault of their own, but still. I thought losing DeAndre Jordan with little chance to find a replacement center, while also relying on Wesley Matthews coming off a serious injury and 37-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, was a near-certain invitation to the lottery. Instead, Dallas is tracking to the playoffs and 2015-16 is becoming another affirmation of the skill of coach Rick Carlisle. The Mavs knew it all along, signing him to an extension before this latest proving ground, and a lot of people around the league knew it, but the success should be the ultimate sign of Carlisle and the atmosphere around the entire organization.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The Pelicans. I thought by adding a decent coach and getting healthy and benefitting from one of the top-10 players in basketball would place them in the middle of the pack in the West (which isn’t that good this year). But they’re an awful team with major questions and, to be honest, Davis hasn’t improved a lick nor shown that he can transform a team (which is what superstars do).

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Kristaps Porzingis. The rookie was supposed to be a couple of years away from really contributing, but he’s helped the Knicks on both ends of the floor. He’s obviously big and skilled, but he’s also got a fantastic attitude, seems very comfortable living in a new country and in the league’s biggest market, and he even has Carmelo Anthony trying to play distributor every once in a while.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The biggest surprise for me is just how big a gap there is between the top teams in the league (Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland, Oklahoma City and, perhaps, the Clippers on a good day) and the rest of the field. Like most people, I didn’t see the record start coming from the Warriors. And the fact that the Spurs are hot on the trail is truly an amazing feat, given just how all-time great the Warriors have been. Even with the significant improvement from top to bottom in the Eastern Conference, there is still a wide space between the true contenders and everyone else.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The Warriors and Spurs are separating themselves fundamentally from the rest of the league. There is a long way to go, and things can change dramatically, but right now no other team is in the same league as Golden State and San Antonio.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: The Washington Wizards. For a team that pushed the Atlanta Hawks so hard in the 2015 Eastern Conference semifinals, they definitely seem to have regressed. Now, I know they’ve had injuries, and they’re trying to play more small ball, but they just can’t seem to turn the corner and escape this neighborhood of being a perpetual .500 team.

Morning shootaround — Jan. 14


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 13

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Dragic out at least 3 games, perhaps longer | Colangelo: Sixers could be better ‘sooner rather than later’ | Vitti wants to rest Kobe 1-2 weeks | Mavs’ Matthews miffed over rest day

No. 1: Dragic out three games (and perhaps longer) — Injuries haven’t made as much of a mess of the Miami Heat roster as it did a season ago. To date, the team’s most-used lineup of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside has logged a team-high 332 minutes together. Last season, that crew played didn’t play a single minute together. However, that continuity was disrupted last night as Dragic missed Miami’s game in Los Angeles against the Clippers. He was sent home from the team’s road trip due to a calf injury and things may be a little bleak in terms of his injury. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has more:

Amid a stretch when he had been playing his best ball of the season, guard Goran Dragic has been lost to the Miami Heat for at least three games and possibly longer.

Coach Erik Spoelstra announced after Wednesday morning’s shootaround at Santa Monica High School that his starting point guard was being sent back to South Florida due to a strained left calf sustained in Monday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.

Spoelstra termed the injury “a slight calf strain” and added, “it’s not a tear.”

Dragic, however, said a doctor in Los Angeles termed it “a bad strain” and Dragic he is anxious for the results of an MRI scheduled for his Thursday return to Miami.

“We don’t know yet for sure,” Dragic said. “We’ll see when I’m going to have the MRI and we’re going to know a little bit more. We don’t know. We cannot do the timetable.”

“I mean, it’s a frustrating, of course,” he said. “I want to be here with the team. It’s part of the game. Now the only thing I can do is do my part of the job, and try to get healthy as fast as possible.”

“I don’t know which move it happened,” Dragic said. “It started hurting.”

Spoelstra said the team’s training staff has narrowed the injury down to Monday’s second half.

“We looked a couple of different plays that happened last game,” Spoelstra said, “but it could have been on either one of them in the second half, one of them where he slipped on the baseline, another one where he took off. But it started to tighten up during the game.”

Dragic said treatment began immediately.

“After the game we did some ice. We did tests,” he said. “And just said as soon as we got to L.A. we were going to go and see the doctor for the ultrasound and we did.”

Dragic said it is the first time in his career he has sustained this type of injury.

“We did some treatments with ultrasound and tried to get the swelling out,” he said.

Now the question becomes whether the comfort built with Dragic will be lost, with the Heat to utilize Tyler Johnson and Beno Udrih in the interim.

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Morning shootaround — Jan. 13


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 12

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Green likely to rest next 2 games | Wall needs MRI on knee muscle | Report: Davis to sign D-League deal | Rose’s knee to be re-evaluated | Mavs still struggling against elite squads

No. 1: Warriors likely to rest Green in next 2 games — Golden State Warriors power forward Draymond Green has made a pretty solid case already this season that he’s perhaps the most versatile player at his position. If nothing else, he’s proven to be quite durable and resilient this season, what with the 36.1 minutes a game average and five triple-doubles he’s amassed since Dec. 1. As the schedule picks up for the Warriors, though, the team doesn’t want to burn out Green and is more than likely going to rest him over the next two games. Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle has more:

The Warriors plan to rest their versatile power forward the next two games (Wednesday at Denver and Thursday at home against the Lakers), leaving open only the slight possibility that the vociferous competitor might persuade them otherwise.

Green is averaging a team-high 34.9 minutes per game, and joins Andre Iguodala as the only Warriors to play in each of the team’s first 38 games. He averaged 37 minutes per night when Harrison Barnes missed 16 games from Nov. 28 through Jan. 2.

The Warriors are in a grueling portion of the season, which with Thursday’s game, will have included five games in seven nights. The fourth game during that stretch is the always-arduous trek to Denver — a trip that usually involves losing an hour because of the time change, a long bus ride from the airport to the hotel and a game played at altitude.

Green is averaging 15.2 points, 9.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists and was third among Western Conference frontcourt players in the latest All-Star balloting, with updated results expected to be released Thursday.

His legs hurt, but he never wants to sit.

“They always want to play, but they also understand the big picture,” Walton said. “Earlier in the season, it was tough to have them included in the conversation, but this is a hard part of the season. Guys are worn down, and I think they understand now that if we come to them with the training staff saying it’s a smart idea to give them a night off here or there, they’ll be more receptive to that.”

Green had a long chat with head coach Steve Kerr and general manager Bob Myers after Tuesday’s practice. If Green is persuaded to rest the next two games — an official announcement is expected at Wednesday morning’s shootaround — the Warriors could play small by starting Barnes at power forward or go with a more conventional lineup by inserting reserve big men Marreese Speights or Jason Thompson.

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Morning shootaround — Oct. 30


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 29

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Nash’s big moment in Phoenix arrives | Report: Pistons to retire jerseys of Billups, Wallace | Cuban downplays rivalry with Clippers | Carlisle: Williams’ return unknown

No. 1: Nash gets his moment in sun in Phoenix — Tonight, during halftime of the Phoenix Suns’ home game against the Portland Trail Blazers (10:30 ET, League Pass), former two-time MVP Steve Nash will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor. To call this a big event for the franchise is to vastly undersell it as Nash’s impact on the team revitalized the franchise at a low point and also, helped spark an offensive revolution of sorts in the NBA over the last decade. (Suns.com alone has Q&A’s with Nash’s old teammates, his former coach, Mike D’Antoni, a two-part hour-long special on Nash’s career and more.) One observer who was part of Nash’s golden age with the Suns in the 2000s, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, tries to put into context a player who meant so much to so many:

From draft-night boos to “We want Steve” curtain-call chants. From a bloody nose to a swollen-shut eye.

From flying hair to finger-licking free throws. From a sweet shot with a soft touch to a sweet side with a soft spot.

From the nickname “Two-Time” (for his MVP awards) to the Ring of Honor now to the Hall of Fame later.

Dallas borrowed him, but this Canadian snowbird is eternally colored in purple and orange for 10 winters in Phoenix that produced a franchise rebirth. Friday night, Nash the basketball retiree returns, stirring memories of every other version of No. 13.

Entering his prime belatedly at age 30, Nash redefined point-guard play, combining with the offensive genius of coach Mike D’Antoni, who put his stamp on changing tempo, spacing and lineup innovation.

“It was the start of what we see now by the majority of teams in the league,” Nash said of the 62-20 season. “The style was new. The speed and pace was shocking people. They had a hard time adjusting.”

“Sometimes, I watch what (Stephen) Curry is doing and think, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy is incredible,’” said Nash, now a player development consultant for Golden State. “But in that Dallas series, it was kind of similar. It was a great will to win the series. It was obviously personal for me – not in a vindictive way, but a personal way.”

Nash made the Suns the NBA’s most efficient offense for six seasons and remained an All-Star at age 38. That included another vengeful moment in 2010, when he shot 56 percent and averaged 22 points and eight assists to lead a Suns sweep of the San Antonio team that had ousted his Suns from three previous postseasons. That Suns team had the NBA’s most prolific offense per possession in three decades.

Think Nash edged Shaquille O’Neal for MVP by the benefit of his surrounding talent in 2005? In the next season, he repeated the MVP feat over Kobe Bryant even after losing each starting teammate except Shawn Marion.

The Suns won 54 games and again reached the conference finals during the first of Nash’s four 50-40-90 seasons. The only other player to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent on 3-pointers and 90 percent at the free-throw line in a season multiple times is Larry Bird, who did it twice. The only other point guard to be a repeat MVP was Magic Johnson.

 

His background in soccer, hockey and lacrosse gave him unique vision to go with underrated athleticism. Nash was cognizant to keep all of his teammates involved and they learned to be on their toes for passes that would come around his back, underhanded, ambidextrously or through defender’s legs.

Nash showed both strength of his game in a classic 2006-07 season duel with Jason Kidd, whose 38 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists were outdone by Nash’s 42 points, 13 assists and six rebounds with a clutch 3-pointer that saved a double-overtime Suns road win.

For pure passing, the quintessential game came in that season’s first-round playoff series. Nash dished out 23 assists against the Lakers and tied an NBA playoff record with 15 in the first half.

“When you’re at this stage of your life, I’m like, ‘Man, I used to do that? What?’” Nash said. “You forget. Those type of nights happened quite a lot.”


VIDEO: A look back at Steve Nash’s glory days in Phoenix

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Morning shootaround — Oct. 28


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 27

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Barnes halts extension talks with Warriors | Kobe’s new era begins | Hawks get a wake-up call in opener | Williams, Matthews embrace Dallas reunion

No. 1: Barnes breaks off extension talks with Warriors — Just a week ago, the Detroit Pistons and center Andre Drummond decided to table contract extension talks until the summer. Another pick from Drummond’s 2012 Draft class, Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes, is apparently doing likewise as well. USA Today‘s Sam Amick reports on why Barnes is holding off on an extension for now and why his move isn’t a surprise given the upcoming salary cap jump in the NBA:

Fourth-year forward Harrison Barnes broke off extension talks with the Golden State Warriors on Monday night nearly a week before the league-issued deadline of Nov. 2, and no one should be surprised that a deal won’t get done here right now.

Crazy as it might sound, Barnes — who wanted to focus on the start of the regular season and who will be a restricted free agent next summer — is well within his right to want an annual salary in the $20 million range. The league’s salary cap is soaring like a Six Flags roller coaster in the coming years, meaning players with huge upside like him will come at a far greater cost than before. Barnes and his agent, Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports Management, have this security blanket covered in dollar signs on their side here.

The Warriors, meanwhile, have a one-of-a-kind locker room where there is a positive culture and across-the-board cohesion to protect. It was just four months ago, remember, that they gave fellow fourth-year player/starter Draymond Green a five-year, $82 million deal to return. It was a generous deal, to be sure, but one can only imagine how Green — the 35th pick in the 2012 draft who was deemed the “heartbeat” of this team last season by head coach Steve Kerr — might have felt if Barnes (who was the seventh pick in the same draft) wound up making more than him to stick around.

Sure enough, the annual salary that the Warriors are known to have offered Barnes in a four-year extension and that was turned down — approximately $16.4 million — would put him right alongside Green in that regard. That wasn’t a coincidence.

“The deal has to work for Harrison and the organization,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said. “And I always — maybe it’s my background (as a player agent) — but I always respect the position that an athlete takes in these situations. And now, representing the organization, we’re going to make the decision the best decision for us.

“I would not say (they’re) disappointed, would not say frustrated. Like I said, (Barnes) has conducted himself tremendously well — as has his representative — and I think we ended the discussions in a very healthy place, if that’s possible. And I say that will all sincerity.”

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One Team, One Stat: Drop-off in Dallas


VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Dallas Mavericks

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Dallas Mavericks, who couldn’t sustain the league’s best offense after making a big trade.

The stat

20151021_dal_netrtg_drop

The context

20151021_dal_basicsThe Mavs’ regression actually began with the Rajon Rondo trade in December, a risky deal that clearly didn’t work out. They had the league’s best offense, by a pretty wide margin, at that point. In fact, at 10.1 points per 100 possessions better than the league average, the Mavs had the best offense of the last 38 years.

And it was on offense where they fell off the most once Rondo arrived. They scored almost 10 fewer points per 100 possessions after the trade than they did before it, regressing on that end of the floor in each of the “four factors” of efficiency (shooting, rebounding, turnovers and free throw rate).

20151021_dal_before-after

Rondo’s inability to shoot hurt the Mavs’ spacing. Rondo (33.9 percent) shot a better percentage than Jameer Nelson (33.1 percent) with the Mavs. But because Nelson (sent to Boston in that December trade) took a lot more 3-pointers, he was a more effective shooter and floor-spacer.

20151021_dal_nelson_rondo

Rondo had had the highest turnover rate on the team and made just 19 free throws in 46 games with the Mavs. On top of the bad numbers, he had issues with coach Rick Carlisle.

The Mavs’ defense did improve after the trade. In fact, Dallas ranked fifth in defensive efficiency for about a 10-week period between Dec. 20 and Feb. 24. But they couldn’t sustain that level against some tougher opponents down the stretch.

The Mavs will be a different team, especially offensively, this year. Monta Ellis‘ attacks and Tyson Chandler‘s rolls to the rim will be missed.

But Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews will provide much better spacing around Dirk Nowitzki. The pair attempted 312 more 3-pointers than Ellis and Rondo did last season, even though they played 20 fewer games. The Mavs can also run their offense through Matthews in the post.

Of course, neither Matthews (recovering from a torn Achilles) nor Williams (calf injury) has played in the preseason. Health is the biggest question for the Mavs.

If his team is whole, Carlisle will have some new tools to work with, a fresh start, and a chance to put last year’s regression in the rear-view mirror.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Morning shootaround — Oct. 13


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 11

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bosh provides insight on Aldridge’s role | Matthews gets through first full practice | Anthony wants to be held accountable | LeBron, Cavs not sweating winless preseason

No. 1: Bosh chimes in on Aldridge’s new role — Come next offseason, when a go-to guy (and free agent) on an NBA team thinks about taking on a supporting role somewhere else, his first call should be to Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh. Few in NBA lore understand or have experienced that path like Bosh did when he transitioned from superstar with the Toronto Raptors to complimentary piece with the Miami Heat teams of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. As the San Antonio Spurs try to fit new addition LaMarcus Aldridge into their star-studded mix this season, Bosh chimed in on the challenges of Aldridge’s transition before last night’s Heat-Spurs game in Miami. Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News has more:

Of course, their situations aren’t completely identical. Bosh was clearly going to be third in that pecking order, while Aldridge, who signed the largest free agent deal in Spurs history after spending his first nine seasons in Portland, should remain the offensive focal point in San Antonio with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan both past their prime.

But though he won’t have to transform his game as substantively as Bosh, who became primarily a floor-spacing shooter with the Heat after doing pretty much whatever he wanted in Toronto, Aldridge will almost certainly have to sacrifice shots on a Spurs team brimming with depth.

And that, Bosh told the media in advance of tonight’s preseason game in Miami, could be easier said than done.

“The transition is the hardest part. He was getting a high volume amount of touches. Frankly, it’s a lot easier to be a team guy then. But now you have to play within the offense and then people are telling you to be aggressive and you don’t know how to do that. It’s going to be a continuous thing. And usually when you figure it out, the season’s over.

“At least that’s how it was for me. I’m sure in that organization, they’re going to try to fast-track him along. But when you’re playing with all that talent, with all those expectations, you got people chirping at you what you should be doing and you know what you need to be doing within the organization, it’s tough.

“I’m sure it’s going to be frustrating at times for him, because he’s used to getting the ball down on that left block. And he might get it on the right block. Or he might not get as many post touches or as many pick-and-pop looks. So, if it’s limited, he’s looking to move it, instead of shooting as usual.

“But they’re saying, ‘You’ve got to be aggressive.’ So it’s a fine balance, and you have to learn it.”


VIDEO: The Heat rally to top the Spurs in preseason action

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Morning shootaround — Oct. 10


VIDEO: Top plays from Friday’s preseason action

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Dave Meyers — UCLA star, Bucks enigma — dies at age 62 | Klay gives Doc some of own medicine | Sefolosha clears name, can work on game | Mavs’ injuries dampen Dirk’s mood

No. 1: Dave Meyers — UCLA star, Bucks enigma — dies at age 62Dave Meyers‘ greatest basketball achievements came at UCLA, where the 6-foot-8 forward anchored legendary coach John Wooden‘s 10th and final NCAA championship team. But for a lot of NBA fans, particularly in Milwaukee, Meyers represents a terrific player who got away and a man who lived life on his terms rather than strangers’ expectations. Meyers, 62, died Friday at his home in Temecula, Calif., after a lengthy battle with cancer.

His basketball accomplishments came in the first half of his life, including the national championships he won with Wooden and UCLA in 1973 and 1975. Meyers was the No. 2 pick in the ’75 NBA Draft, behind only North Carolina State’s David Thompson. Three weeks later, Meyers was packaged in one of the NBA’s most famous trades ever, sent by the Lakers with Junior Bridgeman, Brian Winters and Elmore Smith to Milwaukee for an unhappy Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley. He averaged 11.2 ppg and 6.3 rpg in four seasons with the Bucks but is most remembered for walking away from the game at age 26. Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times was working in Milwaukee then and wrote about that in Meyers’ obituary for the Times:

Another member of the Meyers family gained fame in the sport. Ann Meyers Drysdale, Dave Meyers’ sister, was also a UCLA basketball All-American and is currently a vice president of the Phoenix Suns in the NBA and the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA, as well as a broadcaster for both teams.

“People always remembered Dave as a tenacious player with a big heart,” Meyers Drysdale said Friday.

Meyers was also known as a private person, who shocked the sports world in 1980 — five years into a productive and lucrative pro career with the Bucks — by announcing that he was leaving the NBA to spend more time with his family.

“Remember, David played for an unbelievable teacher at UCLA,” Meyers Drysdale said, referring to Wooden. “He was taught more about life than about basketball.”

Meyers returned to California, and after a stint in sales for Motorola received his teaching certificate and taught elementary school — mostly fourth and sixth grade — for more than 30 years. He began teaching in Yorba Linda and later taught in Temecula.

An aggressive, fundamentally sound player, he rebounded, played defense and handed out assists with the same enthusiasm that he took shots. From his power forward position, he used the backboard on his shots more than most players and became known for those skillful bank shots. It was something he learned from Wooden.

“I’d run into Bob Lanier,” the former Bucks’ star, Meyers Drysdale said, “and he would always tell me how sad he was that David retired. Lanier always said that, if he had stayed, the Bucks would have won the championship.”

Meyers suffered a serious back injury during his pro career and was pressured by team management to undergo surgery. He refused, partly because that surgery went against principles of his Jehovah’s Witness religion and, according to Meyers Drysdale, partly because there were extreme risks to that kind of surgery.

“In the end, it was what he said it was,” Meyers Drysdale said. “He wanted to be with his family and watch his children grow up.”

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No. 2: Klay gives Doc some of own medicine — Make up your own mind which you think is sillier: Folks elsewhere in the NBA saying things that seem to detract from what the Golden State Warriors did last season or the Warriors dignifying little barbs and digs by responding. Who cares what Houston’s James Harden or Ty Lawson thinks about Steph Curry‘s MVP season, at this point? Or whether Clippers coach Doc Rivers was sticking a Phil Jackson-esque asterisk on Golden State’s championship run from last spring? But Warriors guard Klay Thompson didn’t let the opportunity to zing back pass, as chronicled by Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group:

Warriors players issued several retorts to Doc Rivers after the Los Angeles Clippers coach commented on Golden State being lucky it faced neither the Clippers nor San Antonio in the playoffs.

“Didn’t they lose to the Rockets? Exactly,” Klay Thompson said Friday, laughing in reference to Houston coming from behind to beat the Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals. “That just makes me laugh. That’s funny. Weren’t they up 3-1, too? Yeah, tell them I said that. That’s funny, man.”

Walking away from reporters after his interview session, Thompson continued, “I wanted to play the Clippers last year, but they couldn’t handle their business.”

Rivers’ remarks were the latest in a string of perceived swipes at the defending NBA champions. In published comments, Rockets guard Ty Lawson lamented that Stephen Curry was allowed to relax on defense in the Western Conference finals, and teammate James Harden insisted he felt he deserved the Most Valuable Player Award that Curry won.

Asked on KNBR about the suggestion from other teams that the Warriors were lucky last season, Andrew Bogut joked, “I’ve actually got my ring fitted for my middle finger.”

“We respect all previous champs,” Bogut said. “We’ll respect future champs. They don’t want to respect us, so be it.”

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No. 3: Sefolosha clears name, can work on gameThabo Sefolosha missed all of the Atlanta Hawks’ training camp while testifying in New York in his own defense against three misdemeanor counts, stemming from an incident outside a nightclub there in April. The 6-foot-8 wing player also missed the Hawks’ preseason game against New Orleans Friday in Jacksonville. But Sefolosha, who suffered a broken leg while being arrested by police that night for allegedly interfering with them, did get acquitted on all counts earlier in the day. Now he and the Hawks can get back to basketball, as detailed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Now he wants to get back to playing basketball with the Hawks. Sefolosha hasn’t fully recovered from the injuries apparently suffered when a police officer kicked his right leg. He has been cleared for all basketball activities and has participated in training camp before leaving this week for the trial. He hopes to be ready when the Hawks’ season opens Oct. 27.

“I hope I still have a long career,” he said.

Jurors declined to comment as they left the court, but several of them shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with Sefolosha on the street outside the courthouse. Sefolosha thanked them in person and with his public comments.

“I want to assure them this was the right verdict,” he said. “They were on the side of truth and justice today. I’m happy this is over now.”

Sefolosha, a 31-year-old native of Switzerland who has played in the NBA for nine seasons, thanked his family, attorney Alex Spiro and the Hawks organization. He singled out coach Mike Budenholzer, who testified on his behalf Thursday.

“I’m thankful to the American justice system,” Sefolosha said. “Justice was made today.”

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No. 4: Mavs’ injuries dampen Dirk’s moodDirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams participated in their first contact workouts of the preseason Friday, but the overall health of what’s projected to be Dallas’ starting lineup still is a work in progress. Wesley Matthews (Achilles tendon) and Chandler Parsons (knee) still are rehabbing from offseason surgery, and center Samuel Dalembert has been hobbled this week by a swollen knee. Nowitzki apparently was pretty candid, according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, when he spoke of the effect such injury absences have on October enthusiasm:

The plethora of injuries, combined with the light workload for Nowitzki early in camp, has made getting a handle on these Mavericks impossible. They have been beaten soundly in two exhibition games, but with four of their projected starters yet to play, that’s understandable.

“It’s disappointing,” Nowitzki said. “Honestly, you’d wish more guys would be doing more, at least more contact or run more. But that’s not the case. Some of these guys have had major, major surgeries. And whatever the doc tells them, you got to take it slow.

“Obviously, Parsons and Wes are both guys that want to be here for a lot of years. It would be wrong to push it too much in October and not have them later in the season. You want to take it slow and progress week to week, and whenever they’re ready, they’re ready.”

Carlisle, by the way, said Parsons and Matthews are on similar timetables. Neither is close to playing in the preseason, and both players have said their only goal is to be ready by opening night Oct. 28 in Phoenix. Playing exhibitions is not a prerequisite for being ready when the games count, although it wouldn’t hurt.

At the least, it would help foster some chemistry with so many new players in the rotation.

“It’s not optimal, especially when you have a new point guard [Williams] trying to learn the system,” Nowitzki said. “You can run all the five-on-oh you want, but until you practice and play with each other, it’s not going to help much. But we’re doing all we can to get everybody used to the plays and the calls.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: When The Logo speaks, real NBA fans should want to listen. Here’s an ESPN.com Q&A with Hall of Famer and current Golden State advisor Jerry West. … LaMarcus Aldridge‘s adjustment to his new job in San Antonio is proceeding as methodically as his selection of the Spurs as his free-agent destination, per our man Scott Howard-Cooper. … Our own Steve Aschburner talks with Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker about his rehab methods and his coping techniques in coming back from ACL knee surgery. … Dallas owner Mark Cuban, never shy about speaking out, obviously has at least one qualification for the job. But Speaker of the House in Congress? Really? … Members of the Warriors staff would love to seek out coach Steve Kerr for input on various preseason issues, but they’re consciously avoiding that so Kerr’s aching back can recover (second item). … ICYMI, as folks say on social media: Bill Bridges, a 13-year NBA player and three-time All Star who died in late September at age 76, was a pro’s pro and formidable rebounder.

Morning shootaround — Sept. 22

NEWS OF THE MORNING


VIDEO: Relive LeBron James’ epic return season in Cleveland

Report: Love, Varejao, Mozgov, Irving will be ready for camp | Matthews, Parsons, McGee out for start of camp | Report: Ridnour will sit out 2015-16 season

No. 1: Report: Love, Varejao, Irving, Mozgov all expected to be ready for camp — Reports circulated a few weeks ago that LeBron James was summoning his Cavs teammates to Miami for workouts and judging by a photo that circulated on social media, there was a pretty good turnout for it. As we close in on official team training camps, though, there could be some good news for Cleveland once things get rolling. According to Chris Haynes of the Northwest Ohio Media Group, injured players Anderson Varejao, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and Timofey Mozgov are all expected to participate in training camp:

The Cleveland Cavaliers anticipate that Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov and Anderson Varejao will be ready for the start of training camp Sept. 29, Northeast Ohio Media Group has learned.

All four players are recovering from surgery.

Irving (fractured knee cap) and Love (separated shoulder) will be active during camp, but on a limited basis. The Cavaliers will work the two in slowly and cautiously. The anticipation is that Love will be fully cleared with no limitations before Irving is given the green light, I’m told.

Love said on the “Late Night with Seth Meyers” talk show Sept. 11 that he was “a month and a half away” from returning.

Irving refused to give a timetable for his return in a recent interview with the Associated Press in Miami.

So far, Love’s workload on the court consists of non-contact drills; while Irving has been coy about what he has been doing.

NEOMG is also told Mozgov (knee scope) and Varejao (Achilles’ tendon tear) are not expected to be restricted once camp opens, but the team will closely monitor their involvement

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Morning shootaround — Aug. 12


VIDEO: Steve Smith and Stu Jackson review the first day of Team USA mini-camp

Durant returns for Team USA | Lillard understands why Aldridge left Portland | Anthony a fan of Knicks’ offseason | Report: LeBron may participate in Wednesday’s practice | Markieff Morris wants trade from Suns

NEWS OF THE MORNING

No. 1: Durant returns for Team USA — Oklahoma City Thunder star and 2013-14 NBA MVP Kevin Durant hasn’t played in a basketball game since Feb. 19 when he was shut down for the season as he needed foot surgery. But word circulated yesterday that Durant would take part in some drills as Team USA holds its ini-camp in Las Vegas this week. Durant spoke to reporters after Tuesday’s mini-camp opener and says he’s feeling good and just happy to be playing again, writes our Steve Aschburner

Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s All-Star forward and the NBA’s 2014 Kia Most Valuable Player, had been sidelined by a right foot fracture that required bone-graft surgery. He played his last game of the 2014-15 season on Feb. 19, limping into the sunset with more than a third of OKC’s schedule remaining.

While the Thunder sank in the standings and missed the playoffs, while head coach Scott Brooks got scapegoated and fired, while teammates Russell Westbrook won the scoring title and attracted MVP votes, Durant was left to recuperate, rehab and reflect on the game he loved and missed like never before.

“You remember Christmas as a kid? It’s like that,” Durant told reporters after Team USA’s first session Tuesday.

“I can go 100 percent. I’m not going to play 5-on-5 just yet, but everything else is no restrictions,” he said. “I’ve got to play against some guys to see. But I feel like I’m back to myself.

“I haven’t played since February. So of course, I’m human. I’ll go through a little bit of rust. But I think after two trips down, I’ll be all right.”

“You take it for granted a little bit,” he said of the game to which he’s devoted so many hours. “I missed the routine the most. Getting up, going to practice, getting my shots up before practice, I missed all that part. Hanging out with the guys in the locker room before the game, I think that’s what I missed the most. You can take that type of stuff for granted. I think I did and I learned my lesson.”

OKC trainer Joe Sharpe is one of three NBA trainers working with Team USA. That should reassure Thunder fans that Durant won’t overdo things even in this controlled environment. Besides, the 6-foot-10 forward doesn’t want to go re-setting his own recovery clock.

“It’s a long process, man,” Durant said. “I just tried to stay patient with it. … I have my days where I’m like, ‘Man, it’s not getting any better. I’m sick of working out. I’ve been working out for a year, I’m ready to play.’ … Feels good to stretch my legs a little bit.”

Durant, 26, said that his layoff has been made to feel even longer by the number of strangers or acquaintances who suddenly seemed interested — with him way less than 100 percent — in testing him.

“So many people been trying me though,” he said. “I walk down the street, everybody wants to play me 1-on-1. … The competitive juices are just boiling in my body and I’m just ready to play.”

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