Posts Tagged ‘Zach Lavine’

Morning shootaround — April 21


VIDEO: Highlights from Wednesday’s games

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Curry still iffy for Game 3 | Pistons’ Johnson on LeBron: ‘I’m definitely in his head’ | Report: Blatt, Rambis top names on Knicks’ list | New era begins in Minnesota

No. 1: Curry improving, but not quite fully healthy yet Game 3 of the Golden State Warriors’ series with the Houston Rockets is tonight (9:30 ET, TNT), but the status of the Warriors’ star player, Stephen Curry, remains as unknown as it was yesterday. Although Curry took part in practice on Wednesday, neither he nor team officials were ready to declare him ready to play tonight. Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle has more:

Go ahead and exhale, Warriors fans: Stephen Curry returned to practice Wednesday.

Go ahead and fret, Warriors fans: Curry would not declare himself game-ready.

He joined his teammates for their workout at Toyota Center, his first extended, on-court session since he injured his right ankle Saturday. Curry was encouraged by how the ankle felt, but not enough to peer confidently toward Game 3 against Houston on Thursday night.

“Based on how I feel right now, I probably couldn’t play,” he said after Wednesday’s practice. “Tomorrow, it could be different. … The trainers are trying to get me right, but how I feel on the floor is a big part of it.

“That’s why I didn’t play in Game 2. I tried to simulate moves I’d probably have to do in the game (during warm-ups), and I couldn’t do it. If that happens tomorrow at full speed, then we’ll adjust accordingly.

“Obviously, my heart is geared toward playing and being out there with my teammates.”

 …

Head coach Steve Kerr hears all the chatter about the Warriors proceeding cautiously with Curry because they hold a two games-to-none lead on the Rockets. This logic suggests the Warriors can beat Houston without him, as they did Monday night, but they will need him to win another championship.

Kerr, naturally, narrowed his vision after Wednesday’s practice. He insisted he will rely only on the guidance of team doctors, and input from Curry himself, in deciding whether No. 30 suits up for Game 3.

“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” Kerr said. “Honestly, it doesn’t even matter the series score. It’s nice to be up 2-0 and say we’ll give him rest, but it really isn’t about that.

“It’s about whether he’s OK or not. And if he’s not quite OK and there’s a risk of him injuring himself or making it worse, then we won’t play him.”

The Warriors practiced for more than an hour after their arrival in Houston, but they did not scrimmage. Curry participated in all the drills, then went through his customary, post-practice shooting routine.

Kerr said Curry moved well during the practice, showing no signs of favoring his ankle. That was a striking contrast with the start of the second half Saturday, when Curry tried to play but lasted less than three minutes before Kerr removed him, worried about his obviously limited mobility.

There were times in Curry’s shooting session when the ball repeatedly and strangely bounced off the back rim. There also were times when he found his familiar rhythm, draining 8 of 10 three-point attempts during one stretch.

He acknowledged some concern about becoming rusty if he sits too long. If Curry doesn’t play Thursday night, and returns for Game 4 on Sunday, he will have gone seven full days without any game action.

“I’m definitely encouraged,” Curry said of Wednesday’s time on the court. “It’s better, and as long as it’s continuing to get better, I think we’re in good shape.

“How quickly that happens, I don’t know. Today was, in the words of Ice Cube, a good day.”

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Blogtable: Most attractive coaching vacancy in NBA 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: How long to rest Steph? | Your All-Defensive team picks? |
Most attractive coaching vacancy?



VIDEOThe Washington Wizards fired Randy Wittman on April 14

> You’re a head coach looking for a job in the NBA. Which vacancy is more attractive: Minnesota, Sacramento or Washington?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: This is a serious question? Only one of those teams has the combo platter of Karl-Anthony Towns, aged 20, and Andrew Wiggins, aged 21, along with side dishes Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad and Nemanja Bjelica. That’s in Mary Richards’s town, Minneapolis. You do notice that just about everyone who’s ever picked up a clipboard is angling for the Wolves’ gig, don’t you?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Minnesota is the winner here by a considerable margin, on par with how easily Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns won (or will win) their Kia Rookie of the Year awards last season and this. Those two, along with Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad and the lottery pick they add this June are gems in various stages of being cut. Flip Saunders in 2014-15 and Sam Mitchell this season handled some of the dirty work, while the next head coach will end the Timberwolves’ playoff drought at 12 or 13 seasons (they last qualified in 2004). That will end my claim as the only Minneapolis beat writer to cover that franchise in the postseason, but it’s a streak I’ll be happy to see end.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comDo well really have to ask this question? It’s Minnesota by a mile. Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine to start. There’s a reason why the Timberwolves got the choosy veterans Tom Thibodeau and Jeff Van Gundy to sit down with them first. It’s a solid foundation that could become a contender for a decade.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comI know which is the least attractive: Sacramento. That leaves us with Minnesota and Washington. Tough call. Based on current rosters, the Wizards have a better chance to win now, led by John Wall and Bradley Beal. But the young Timberwolves have a higher ceiling projecting to the future, and probably much higher. The Wolves also have a big chip the Wiz will not be offering for a top candidate: the chance to also run basketball operations. That won’t be offered to everyone, but for someone like Tom Thibodeau it could be the ultimate selling point between Minnesota and somewhere else.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comThis is like saying who should be MVP, Steph Curry or the field? Minnesota by far is the more attractive opening because of a combination of young talent, a lottery pick on the way and lots of salary cap space. The only hazard is Minneapolis’ winter. The Wizards are next because if nothing else, they have John Wall. Then there’s Sacramento, and the best you can say about the Kings’ job is that it’s one of 30, at least you’re in the NBA.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Minnesota, for sure. Karl-Anthony Towns, a perennial MVP candidate in time if he has the right supporting cast, is reasons Nos. 1, 2 and 3 for his ability to make an impact on offense, defense and in the locker room. Andrew Wiggins has a world of talent, Zach LaVine was much improved after moving to shooting guard in the second half of the season, and Ricky Rubio is a point guard you can trust to run your offense and stay in front of his man on defense. Sacramento is obviously last on the list. Your reputation might take a hit for just accepting that job.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Minnesota has the highest ceiling, when you factor in the quality of the young talent already in place, the assets (Draft and otherwise) available and the non-existent expectations that are in place right now. A program-builder could come in there and mold talents like Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine into the pillars of a playoff team for years to come. Sacramento and Washington have All-Stars in place, but the outlook for the immediate future isn’t nearly as promising.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog

Numbers notes: The other great shooting backcourt in the NBA


VIDEO: Stephen Curry scores 51 points in Orlando

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Stephen Curry is following up his MVP season with … another MVP season.

On Thursday, Curry set the record for most consecutive games with a 3-pointer and hit 10 of them for good measure. He’s currently 10 away from his own record for most threes in a season (286), and he has 25 games left to play. He has shot an amazing 35-for-56 (62.5 percent) from 28 feet and out.

Klay Thompson, meanwhile, is quietly having the best shooting season of his career. He’s the only player within 100 threes of Curry and ranks fifth in effective field goal percentage among players who have taken at least 500 shots.

There’s no arguing that the Warriors don’t have the best shooting backcourt of all-time. But here’s a fun comparison …

Backcourt A has shot 44.4 percent from mid-range (between the paint and the 3-point line).
Backcourt B has shot 46.0 percent from mid-range.

Backcourt A has shot 44.3 percent from 3-point range.
Backcourt B has shot 43.9 percent from 3-point range.

Backcourt A has shot 44.3 percent on all shots outside the paint.
Backcourt B has shot 45.0 percent on all shots outside the paint. (more…)

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 227) Featuring Tyronn Lue and Fred McLeod

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’re caught in that strange stretch of the NBA calendar right now, days removed from a stellar All-Star Weekend in Toronto and hours away from the wildly unpredictable trade deadline (Thursday at 3 p.m. ET) that sets the tone for the stretch run of every season.

Can the Golden State Warriors finish the deal and chase and even break the Chicago Bulls’ hallowed, NBA-record 72-win season? Can the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder or anyone else in the Western Conference catch up to the Warriors? And is anyone willing to gamble whatever it takes to join the elite out west?

In the Eastern Conference, all eyes are on Cleveland, where Tyronn Lue and LeBron James have to bring everyone (Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and everyone else) together in their quest to make a return trip to The Finals where they can get another shot at the Warriors and finishing what they started last year

That’s why we’re kicking off the stretch run of the season for The Hang Time Podcast with a double-dose of Cavs, talking to both Lue (during All-Star Weekend) and the team’s executive producer of multi-media and play-by-play announcer Fred McLeod.

We dig deep in an effort to find out exactly what to expect from the Cavaliers the rest of the way, while also wrapping up our All-Star thoughts (big ups to young skywalkers Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon for the best Verizon Slam Dunk showcase in years) and looking ahead to what we think might go down at the trade deadline.

Check it all out on Episode 227 of The Hang Time Podcast featuring Tyronn Lue and Fred McLeod of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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.

– 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.

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VIDEO: A recap of the epic Verizon Slam Dunk duel between Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon from All-Star Saturday night

Blogtable: Lasting impression from NBA All-Star 2016 in Toronto?

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: Will Warriors win 73 games? | How would you solve the ‘Hack-a’ issue? |
Lasting impression from NBA All-Star 2016?



VIDEORelive the best moments from NBA All-Star 2016

> Your one lasting impression from All-Star 2016 in Toronto?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Brrr. Well, that and how polite Canadians are, every time I engage them. I really do enjoy Toronto, and would be delighted to go back–in May or June.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The game needs to be dialed up. I get it that the weekend is about fun for the participants and, for fans, gawking at an assemblage of bubble-gum cards come to life. But what we saw Sunday was not entertaining — not nearly enough, anyway — or even a good advertisement for the NBA. This league is, yes, about entertainment and basketball, but it’s also about competition. And competition means two sides — offense and defense — putting forth effort. Athletic prowess needs resistance to fully show itself. I get it, that in the hierarchy of defensive intensity, we won’t get (and don’t need) hard fouls and charges-taken. But moving one’s feet, contesting shots, occasionally double-teaming and being a little more bull than matador would benefit everybody. There are some All-Stars who have defense in their portfolios, y’know — Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul, Paul George — and it’d be nice to showcase that too. I perversely was rooting for the West to crack 200 points, hoping it would be embarrassing enough — so little in common with real basketball — that the league would feel compelled to do something. Please let 196 be close enough.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Aaron Gordon’s “sitting in the chair,” passing the ball beneath both legs was the most memorable dunk I’ve seen since Spud Webb in 1986.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The Verizon Dunk contest, and I don’t think I’m the only person who will say that. Kobe Bryant’s farewell to All-Star weekend was nice and the lack of even decent effort in the Sunday main event was a concern that may have to be addressed one day in a message from the commissioner to players, making it a lasting impression of the bad variety, but Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon put on a show. The All-Star game you wanted to be called after the second quarter. The dunk contest could still be going on, tied and LaVine and Gordon with barely enough energy to get airborne, and people would be happy. The two finalists pumped more energy into the contest than anytime in years.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I went to sleep Saturday night thinking about the Verizon Dunk contest. That says it all. It was a sensational series between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine and breathed life into All-Star Saturday and particularly a dunk contest that absorbed lots of backlash, most of it deserved. Did Gordon really dunk off a rotating mascot? Or did I dream it?

John Schuhmann, NBA.comHow high Aaron Gordon can jump. No matter how many times you watch them, those dunks are incomprehensible.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: All-Star Saturday night will be a hard memory to shake. The competition was top-flight, from the skills challenge to the 3-point shootout and the epic finish to the Verizon Dunk contest. I know the weekend was supposed to be about Kobe Bryant riding off into the sunset in his final All-Star Game appearance. But the next wave of stars that will carry on the legacy of great players in the league is what resonates with me. That and the fantastic job the city of Toronto did hosting the festivities. It was a freshening up, if you will, of an event that never gets old to me.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The players need to start policing themselves. Do they grasp the harm they did to themselves by not even pretending to compete defensively? During the playoffs we’re all going to see how much they care and how committed they are to the best qualities – so why, on this great stage, did they sabotage their own reputations by not giving a decent effort?

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog Well, I’m still defrosting. For a weekend that was supposed to be all about Kobe, I thought Saturday night, from top to bottom, was the best All-Star Saturday I’ve ever seen in 14 years of going to All-Star. The Taco Bell Skills Challenge came down to the wire, the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest had drama, and the Verizon Dunk contest set up a rivalry that could last for a decade. To me, it was the second-best dunk contest of all-time. (In my book, 1988 was the only one that was better, when Dominique Wilkins beat Michael Jordan but got done in by suspect judging. And I rate ’88 better than ’16 only because they didn’t use mascots or hoverboards back then.)

Morning shootaround — Feb. 14


VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from All-Star Saturday Night

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LaVine, Gordon wow in Dunk Contest | Hack-A-Gone? | Splash Brother vs. Splash Brother | Horford embraces uncertain future

No. 1:  LaVine, Gordon wow in Dunk Contest For years, the Verizon Slam Dunk was All-Star Weekend’s marquee event. The electricity surrounding the event may have waned in recent years. But last season, Timberwolves rookie Zach LaVine gave it a jolt of excitement, notching his first win. And Saturday night in Toronto, a couple of 20 year olds, LaVine and Magic forward Aaron Gordon, took turns making jaws drop, posting alternating perfect scores in the contest’s final round until LaVine was ultimately able to grab the win in arguably the greatest dunk contest in All-Star Weekend history. And as Lang Whitaker writes, with the contest on the line, LaVine went to the free-throw line

High expectations? No problem.

After bringing the Dunk Contest back to prominence one year ago with a series of electrifying dunks, Minnesota’s Zach LaVine picked up where he left off, with help from Orlando’s Aaron Gordon.

And with the Verizon Slam Dunk on the line, Zach LaVine went to the free throw line. Well, almost.

With a through-the-legs dunk from just inside the charity stripes, Zach LaVine earned his fifth score of 50 on the night, making him the 2016 NBA dunk champ. The 20-year-old LaVine became the first back-to-back winner since Nate Robinson in 2009 and 2010.

Going against Magic forward Aaron Gordon in the contest finals, LaVine and Gordon got locked into a heavyweight bout where they traded incredible body blows. After the contest, LaVine said, “We should share the trophy, because [Gordon] did some stuff I’ve never seen before.”

To begin the final round, Gordon completed a dunk with an unbelievable degree of difficulty, snatching the ball from Orlando Magic mascot Stuff — who was spinning on a hoverboard — and throwing down a twisting dunk. This earned a 50. LaVine countered by throwing himself an alley-oop and floating through the air for a one-handed finish, earning another 50.

Gordon then again used Stuff, this time clearing the mascot with his rear end while passing the ball below for a lefty finish. That earned another 50, putting the pressure on LaVine.

LaVine responded coolly, with a windmill from just inside the free throw line, for another 50. This marked the first time in Dunk Contest history the final round saw four scores of 50.

They didn’t stop. In the first dunk-off, Gordon enlisted teammate Elfrid Payton to throw an alley-oop off the side of the backboard. Gordon caught the ball and completed a reverse dunk while flying through the air. 50. LaVine responded by throwing an alley-oop to himself from the baseline, catching the ball and passing it through his legs for a reverse dunk. This earned another 50.

On the second dunk-off, Gordon ran along the baseline and did a two-handed double-pump reverse reminiscent of Dominique Wilkins. Gordon scored a 47. To win it, LaVine went back to the free throw line.

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No. 2: Hack-A-Gone? A Q&A with the Commissioner of the NBA has become a staple of All-Star Saturday Night, and last night Adam Silver faced the assembled media to address several topics. As Steve Aschburner writes, among the many topics addressed, one change Silver is clearly looking to implement is an end to the Hack-A- intentional fouling that has become en vogue around the NBA lately …

If the Hack-A-Whomever strategy currently raising such a ruckus in some NBA precincts is actually something you like, take solace: It’s going to be with us, extending the real time of games, disrupting any sense of flow and showcasing a whole lot of bricked free throws, at least through the end of the 2016 playoffs.

If, though, you believe in the tactic as a coach’s best friend — something to encourage bad foul shooters to improve, lest they look silly and cost their teams victories — those guys had better get in the gym soon and practice their form, release and follow-through fast.

Change almost certainly is coming, based on NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s comments Saturday in the annual state-of-the-league All-Star news conference.

Silver, addressing and fielding questions from reporters before the skills, slam dunk and 3-point shooting contests at Air Canada Centre, reiterated what he has said on several recent occasion. “I’m beginning to feel that a change needs to be made,” Silver said, citing conversations he has had with broadcast partners, sentiment expressed in fan data and feedback from players, GMs and owners.

As for coaches, Silver said “Clearly our coaches who are smart and using very complex analytics believe it is benefiting them.”

But changing the rules wouldn’t be pursued to make life tougher on the league’s coaches, any more than it would be done to let the most frequent targets of the tactic — notoriously poor free-throw shooters such as DeAndre Jordan (.423 free-throw percentage), Andre Drummond (.351), Dwight Howard (.532) and a handful of others — off the hook. It would be a decision driven more by the NBA product as entertainment, not merely athletic competition.

Silver did share that, when the league’s competition committee discussed the strategy last summer, it sought data from an additional season before making a recommendation. That data so far? “We’re seeing the Hack-a-Shaq strategy used at roughly a five-and-a-half-times greater rate than it was used last season,” the commissioner reported.

That’s a lot of standing around, stoppages in play and, for folks viewing from the stands or on TV at home, a procession of finely tuned, multi-millionaire athletes failing at one of basketball’s fundamental skills. That’s not a good look for anyone involved.

Interestingly, Silver said that there is no consensus among the practice’s critics what remedy should be pursued. Treat the entire game like the final two minutes, when fouls away from the play equal one free throw and retained possession? Come up with something more stringent to snuff even the temptation to hack a targeted player intentionally?

Silver said he would want to have a specific alternative to propose. And even then, that sort of change would need the approval of two-thirds of the league’s members (20 of the 30 teams).

“So we’re nowhere near that point where we’re even starting to count heads,” Silver said. This summer would be the soonest, he indicated.

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No. 3: Splash Brother vs. Splash Brother It was no big surprise last season in Brooklyn when Stephen Curry managed to win the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest; after all, he was midway through an MVP season and establishing himself as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. Last night in Toronto, when it came time for Curry to defend his title, he posted a fine performance, making the final round, until his Splash Brother and Warriors backcourt ‘mate Klay Thompson was able to get hot and edge Curry. As Sekou Smith writes, if there was any questions left about the league’s best-shooting backcourt, those doubts were officially laid to rest night

For the second straight year, one of the Golden State Warriors’ Splash Brothers walked off the All-Star Saturday night stage as the champion of the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest.

But it wasn’t defending champion and NBA three-point king Stephen Curry. This time it was teammate Klay Thompson taking home top honors in a competition that, by the final round, looked like something the Warriors might do at the end of every practice.

It marks the first time in Three-Point Contest history that different players from the same team have won it in consecutive seasons.

“Back-to-back years for Splash Brothers, it’s pretty cool,” Thompson said.

Thompson saved his best for last, finishing with 27 points in the final round to conquer one of the deepest fields in the history of the competition, a group that includes some of the best long-range shooters in the game today and perhaps ever.

“He definitely shot well tonight,” Curry said. “I still think I can hold my own in the competition, but the way that he finished off that second round was amazing. So trust me, the pressure of knowing what number he had to hit and making five out of five was fun to watch.”

Curry collected 23 points in his final round, but was on his feet cheering with the rest of the contestants as Thompson drained shot after shot on his final rack. Phoenix Suns rookie Devin Booker, the youngest player in the league, finished third after netting 16 points in the final round.

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No. 4: Horford embraces uncertain future All-Star Weekend is traditionally something of a swap shop for trade rumors, and with his contract expiring this summer, All-Star Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford hasn’t been immune from hearing his name. But considering the trade rumors and that he was swimming in the Caribbean when he got the last-minute call to get to Toronto, stat, as Sam Amick writes, Horford says he’s thrilled to be in Toronto and taking everything day by day

It’s no secret that the Hawks have been exploring trade options that include Horford, but that doesn’t mean the four-time All-Star’s days in Atlanta are necessarily done. The relationship between the player and the team that drafted him third overall in 2007 remains strong, with nine seasons of history between them and a dynamic between Horford and president of basketball operations/coach Mike Budenholzer that could still lead to him re-signing this summer. And yes, it should be noted, the Hawks are well aware that retaining a talent like Horford in today’s NBA will come with an enormous price tag not only because of his talents but because the league’s salary cap is about to spike from $70 million to $89 million next season (and $108 million in 2017-18). He would earn approximately $25 in his first season.

But the 31-24 Hawks, like any team that isn’t playing to its anticipated level, must consider all options this time of year. They are also known to be engaging in trade discussions relating to point guard Jeff Teague, who is less of a flight risk than Horford because he has one year left on his contract ($8 million). The New York Knicks and Utah Jazz, to name a few, could be serious suitors for Teague in the coming days.

The Boston Celtics are widely believed to be a potential fit as a Horford trade partner, but the real level of interest from general manager Danny Ainge remains to be seen in the coming days. And while Horford continues to speak positively about the city and his situation, there’s an inherent uncertainty to this process that always acts as the driving force.

“I’m very happy in Atlanta,” Horford said when asked if the Hawks had reason to be concerned that he might leave. “I’ve said it repeatedly. I love the city. My family, we all live in Atlanta, we stay there in the offseason, so my focus is just to keep playing and taking it day by day and, right now, it’s to enjoy this weekend. … Just taking it day by day. That’s the only thing I can do. We really can’t worry about three or four months from now.”

Especially when a welcome All-Star berth comes your way.

While Horford wasn’t selected to the team initially, he was given the nod on Friday when Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh unexpectedly pulled out because of a calf strain. Horford was vacationing with his family near Cancun, Mexico, when he got the call.

“I had my phone off (and) I was in the water,” said Horford, who is averaging 15.3 points and 6.9 rebounds this season. “I was doing my morning swim out there, and I got the call (around 9:30 am).

“I’m so excited to be here, man. Words don’t describe it. Being here in this city, in Toronto. I remember last year looking at it, and I was like, ‘It’s going to be in Toronto, I would love to be a part of that,’ because, you know, the fans here are so lively and just being around these guys and it happens to be Kobe’s last All-Star. It’s kind of a big deal, and for me to be a part of this I’m very grateful.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Carmelo Anthony says he’s not getting tradedKarl-Anthony Towns struck a blow for bigs in the Skills Challenge … If you haven’t heard, it’s really, really cold in Toronto this weekend … The Indiana Pacers are eyeing a future All-Star Weekend bidJimmer Fredette was named MVP of the D-League All-Star GameKevin Hart tied Draymond Green in their own three-point shootout.

Blogtable: LaVine or Curry more likely to repeat on All-Star Saturday?

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 Knicks? | Jazz playoff-bound? |
Will LaVine or Curry repeat on All-Star Saturday?



VIDEORelive the 2015 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest

> Shooter Stephen Curry or dunker Zach LaVine? Who is more likely to defend his title on All-Star Saturday?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: How can you pick anyone in anything hoop-related right now and not go with Steph? Anyway, I got a Will Barton kind of vibe for the dunk contest in the Great White North.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comIt’s tempting to bail on this and say “both” because those contests have had lots of repeat winners through the years. But I think LaVine is the guy who defends his crown. It’s a bigger deal to him, given what else the Timberwolves don’t have cooking at this point, and he surely has dunks we haven’t seen. Curry deserves to be the favorite but he’s in a tough, tough field. Bottom line: There’s a big difference in a competition that’s judged – LaVine has a little head start with the judges based on last year’s success – as opposed to one that is pure skill, a hot hand and math.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comI love to watch Zach LaVine and he put on a show last year. But practically everything Steph Curry has done this season has been better, so why not this too? I’m really hoping he tears a page out of the old Larry Bird playbook, walks into the locker room before the event and asks, “So which one of you chumps is going to finish second?”

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Shooter Steph Curry. Because, really, out Anything Steph Curry in front of me right now and I’m on board. Put him in the other contest as well. I can see it now: Dunk Champion Steph Curry. This is not the time to pick against him.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comSince the 3-point contest is absolutely stacked this year, and Curry might not even be the last Warrior standing when it’s all said and one, I’d say LaVine has the best chance. He’s a dunking freak who probably and purposely saved some of his best dunks for this year’s contest.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: LaVine. First of all, there are four dunkers and eight shooters, so the basic odds are with LaVine. And as good a shooter that Curry is, I think LaVine has more of an edge over his competition when it comes to elevation and flair.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The shooters lined up for Saturday night make up one of the best fields I can remember, so Steph, as great as he is, will certainly have his hands full in that competition. And the way he’s played this season, I’d be a fool to pick against him. But Young Mr. Dunkenstein from Minnesota is a heavy favorite to defend his title. The moment his Timberwolves teammate and Toronto native, Andrew Wiggins, decided not to participate, LaVine had the path to a repeat title cleared. No offense to the other participants, but they’re fighting it out for second place.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: If you’re asking in whom should we trust, then doesn’t the answer have to be Curry? No one in the league finds more joy in these kinds of challenges.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogAs awesome as Steph Curry has been all season, to me dunking is a more replicable feat than shooting, with more room for error. What I mean is, LaVine has a little more wiggle room — he gets to shoot from centimeters away instead of feet. And Curry has to go against seven other contestants, while LaVine has to face three. If one other shooter gets hot, he might reel off a few racks of balls and win the contest. dunkers just have to have a few seconds of great performance. So, I’ll say LaVine is more likely to repeat.

Warriors Trio Headlines ‘Big’ All-Star Saturday Night

VIDEO: The Inside the NBA crew gives analysis.

NEW YORK CITY — All-Star Saturday night is going to be big. Literally.

Tonight’s announcement of the participants for All-Star Saturday night revealed a lot of familiar names and faces, but also a couple of intriguing players taking part in contests they haven’t been involved with in previous years. And while the Golden State Warriors have been nearly unstoppable on the court this season, on Saturday, Feb. 13, in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre (8 p.m. ET, TNT), the Warriors’ big three will attempt to bring home several different kinds of hardware.

NBA All-Star 2016The evening will open with the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, which will be radically different this season. Last year, the event was populated entirely by point guards, with Houston’s Patrick Beverley winning over Brandon Knight. This season, Beverley is slated to return and compete against several guards, such as Portland’s CJ McCollum, Boston’s Isaiah Thomas and Jordan Clarkson from the Lakers.

But the twist here is that they will be in a field that includes several big men, including Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and rookie Karl-Anthony Towns. It will also be interesting to see what kind of performance we get from New Orleans’ multi-talented center Anthony Davis, who played guard throughout high school before a growth spurt moved him to the post. And the leading contender among the big men participating must be Golden State’s Draymond Green, who currently leads the League in triple-doubles with 10.

VIDEO: Wolves’ Zach LaVine will defend his title.

We can also safely assume that the evening will close with a bang. Last year’s Verizon Slam Dunk was one of the most electrifying contests in years, as then-Minnesota rookie Zach LaVine completed a series of athletic jams. LaVine will return this season, and be challenged by a field that includes Denver guard Will Barton, who has had something of a breakout campaign in this his fourth NBA season.

LaVine and Barton will be joined by two big men, in a contest where big men have traditionally struggled to score highly. Second year Orlando forward Aaron Gordon has had plenty of athletic dunks in his short NBA career, and Detroit center Andre Drummond has also shown plenty of bounce and skill around the basket, as the NBA’s leading rebounder this season.

In between these events will be the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, which in a league increasingly reliant on the three-point shot, is rapidly becoming the evening’s signature event. While last year’s three-point contest was recognized as having one of the sweetest-shooting fields in the history of the event, this year’s event appears to be equally star-studded:

VIDEO: Steph Curry will bring his sharp shooting to Foot Locker Three-Point Contest

Stephen Curry – Curry won last year’s event, then went on to win the NBA’s MVP award and an NBA title. Leads the NBA this season in three pointers made (232) by a wide margin (77 more than his Golden State teammate Klay Thompson).

James Harden – The Houston guard finished just behind Curry in last season’s MVP voting, and the Rockets have gotten off to a slow start this season. Still, Harden is third this season in total three-pointers made (140).

Klay Thompson – The other Splash Brother has a chance to outshine Curry. Thompson is making 43-percent of his three-point attempts this season.

Khris Middleton – The Bucks swingman is averaging a career-best two made three-pointers per game, and knocking them in at 41-percent clip.

Kyle Lowry – The Raptors guard will surely enjoy a home court advantage. Lowry is averaging a career-high 2.8 threes per game, and making them at a career-best 39 percent success rate.

JJ Redick – Clippers guard Reddick has always been known as a sharp-shooter, but this season has been his masterpiece. In 45 games for Los Angeles, Redick has made 120 threes, converting at a league-best 48-percent clip.

Chris Bosh – Why just have big men in the other two Saturday night contests? To be fair, the power forward Bosh has made himself into a good three-point shooter, and he’s relied on his long-range shot more than ever this season. Consider this: During Bosh’s first nine NBA seasons, he attempted a combined 228 threes; This season he’s attempted 213 threes in Miami’s first 50 games.

Devin Booker – Booker is the youngest contestant (he’s 19 years old) in the three-point shootout, but he’s already proven he’s one of the NBA’s best shooters, connecting on threes for the Phoenix Suns at a 42-percent rate this season.

State Farm NBA All-Star Saturday Night will be televised live exclusively on TNT on Saturday, Feb. 13, from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada.

 

Analytics Art: LaVine, Turner, Noel among best shooters of week


VIDEO: Zach LaVine finishes with authority vs. the Cavs

By Will Laws, Special to NBA.com

The announcement of 2016 NBA All-Star reserves stole most headlines Thursday, but participants for this year’s BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge were named a day before that. Two players in particular showcased their offensive skill in the week leading up to the release of those rosters.

Interactive data visualization site PointAfter will help illustrate the most efficient shooting performances of the last seven days from each position group (guard, wing, forward/center), which have a youthful flavor to them this week.

Note: All weekly statistics cover games between Jan. 22-28.

Best Guard: Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves

LaVine’s shooting stroke was icier than Winter Storm Jonas for most of January, as he reached double-digit scoring in just three of his first 12 games. After setting a Timberwolves record with 35 bench points on 14-of-17 shooting against Oklahoma City on Wednesday, it’s fair to assume the cold spell is over.

LaVine made all nine two-point attempts against the Thunder and sunk 5-of-8 shots from 3-point range to keep Minnesota close in an eventual 126-123 defeat. LaVine’s 82 percent shooting that night was the best by a Timberwolf since Kevin Garnett in 2006.

That followed a solid showing against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, when LaVine scored 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting and had six assists.

Two impressive performances against top-tier teams, getting mentioned in the same breath as a franchise icon, and making the cut for Team USA in the Rising Stars Challenge? That’s a solid week for a 20-year-old backup guard.

Best Wing: Evan Turner, Boston Celtics

Miami Heat rookie Justise Winslow technically owns the second-best field goal percentage (63.2 percent) among wing players over the past seven days. But it would be a stretch to label Winslow the best shooter at his position with just one double-digit scoring performance to his name this month.

Instead, we’ll bestow that title upon Evan Turner, who isn’t exactly a slam-dunk choice himself. Even though he clanked his only two 3-point attempts of the week, Turner’s efficiency inside the arc was too much to ignore.

Note: You can hover over a shooting zone to see Turner’s percentages compared to the league average.

Turner averaged 13.3 points in Boston’s four games this week, all victories, and performed like a maestro from mid-range. The 27-year-old converted 22 of 38 shots overall (57.9 percent).
If you take issue with a guy who hasn’t even made 15 percent of his 3-pointers being classified as “shooter of the week,” realize Turner was agonizingly close to registering a ridiculous buzzer-beater as his first successful trey since Jan. 12.

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If Turner had just moved that foot back a couple inches, the monkey would have been off his back. At least he’s a good sport about it.

Best Forward/Center: Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers have won three of their last six games and produced one of the league’s hottest shooters for the second straight week. After point guard Isaiah Canaan carried the torch for Philadelphia last week, this time it’s Noel, who has matured into an efficient scorer this season.

Noel ended November with a dreadful 40.8 percent shooting percentage. He’s now in the top 10 of the field goal percentage leaderboard (52.7 percent) and is shooting 62.6 percent in January. That’d be good for second in the NBA if he maintained throughout the season.

 

The 21-year-old had to leave Philly’s Jan. 20 clash against Orlando with migraine symptoms, but he recovered shoot 20-for-27 in three games this week. That includes one savage posterization of newly crowned All-Star Andre Drummond on Wednesday night.

The absence of rookie Jahlil Okafor, who sat out two games this week with the flu, probably contributed to Noel’s improved play this week since he had more room to operate in the post. But he’s proven over the last couple months that he can be a valuable piece for the 76ers with or without Okafor on the floor.

Will Laws is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that’s part of the Graphiq network. Visit PointAfter to get all the information about NBA players, NBA historical teams and dozens of other topics.

Morning shootaround – Dec. 5


VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from Friday’s action

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Steve Nash might be Steph Curry’s biggest fan | Byron Scott heard about Kobe’s retirement in unconventional way | Jason Kidd is starting to get concerned in Milwaukee

No. 1: Steve Nash might be Steph Curry’s biggest fan Steve Nash is an advisor with the Warriors and therefore has a point-blank view of one of the greatest shot artists of this generation, and maybe ever. That would be Steph Curry, who once again is proving that he belongs among the NBA’s elite shooters, both active and retired. Nash belongs in such company, too, and recently he discussed Curry with Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star:

Steve Nash wonders, in both senses of the word. He has spent some time around the Golden State Warriors this season as an instructor, but he hasn’t spent a lot of time with Stephen Curry. They’ve spoken, talked about a few things, on and off the court, but Nash doesn’t want there to be any mistake.

“I would cringe if I got any credit for what he’s doing,” says the two-time MVP, on the phone from Los Angeles.
But the Victoria, B.C. native watches Curry play and, like the rest of us, has difficulty finding words to describe what’s happening. Curry is doing more than lighting up highlight shows, animating Vines and laying waste to the NBA one year after winning a title and the MVP as a significantly lesser player. Curry is going places no basketball player has ever gone, and it almost looks inevitable.

“It looks easy, but the shots he takes are insane,” says Nash. “The speed, range, dexterity, going left, going right, leaning, fading. It feels like the possibilities are limitless. I feel like I could shoot the ball in as wide an array of ways as anybody, but he’s been able to do it with more range and more speed. It’s remarkable. It’s the evolution of the game. I don’t think we’ve ever seen anybody be able to do this.”

Curry comes to Toronto Saturday as a circus. The seventh-year point guard has become the best show in sports, the most joyful player since Magic Johnson, and it starts with his peerless ability to shoot the basketball. His own league record for three-pointers in a season is 286. That broke his own record, set two years ago, of 272. He is on pace for 418.

Just eight players have shot .500 from the field, .400 from three-point range, and .900 from the line in a season; Nash and Larry Bird did it twice. Curry is shooting .524/.459/.943 while taking more shots, harder shots, longer shots. He is letting three-pointers fly through closing subway doors, over flailing giants, from the outer reaches of the NBA galaxy. Sometimes he, or a teammate, is walking back before the ball lands. Basketball is, as much as any sport, an evolutionary game.

“It’s a leap,” says Nash. “When you take all factors in, even without the accuracy, just to be able to take those shots at an acceptable rate is itself an evolution. We’ve had a lot of gunslingers, a lot of volume shooters. but to take the shots he takes, even without the accuracy, is a revolution. And then, the accuracy: it’s remarkable.”

 

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No. 2: Byron Scott heard about Kobe Bryant’s retirement in an unconventional way — You would think the first person, or among the first, to hear from Kobe Bryant about the star’s retirement would be the coach, and such was the case recently. But the way Kobe broke the news to Byron Scott was, well, probably an NBA first. Kobe and Scott go way back and their relationship is solid. Yet, did Kobe pull Scott aside in his office or after a practice or maybe on the team charter? not quite. We’ll let Baxter Holmes of ESPN tell all about it:

In an interview with ESPN on Friday, Scott revealed the details of that exchange, which he said occurred at the start of the third quarter of the Lakers’ 108-96 loss to the Trail Blazers on Saturday.

“I said, ‘KB, I played you 20 minutes in the first half. I’m going to cut those minutes down. I’ve got to cut them down,'” Scott said after his team’s morning shootaround ahead of their game against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. “He said, ‘That’s good, coach. That’s all right. I’m going to announce my retirement after the game.'”

Scott said he was stunned.

“I said, ‘What?!'” Scott recalled. “That was the shock part. I was in that state for the rest of the game. Even when I was watching him play [and] I was watching him running up and down, I’m going, ‘Did he just tell me [that]?'”

Scott said he had no idea Bryant was going to give him that news, much less at that time.

“I told him the next day, ‘You know you shocked the s— out of me when you told me that,'” Scott said. “He just started laughing. I said, ‘You really did.’ He said, ‘I know. I could see it on your face.'”

What was most striking to Scott was Bryant’s demeanor in the moment.

“It was so casual. It was kind of cool,” Scott said. “[As a] matter [of] fact, he said, ‘You’re the first to know.’ He said, ‘Coach, you’re the first to know that I’m going to announce my retirement.’

“He was at peace when he told me,” Scott added. “That’s the only thing I could say. During that game, when I was watching him and putting him [in the game] and taking him out, that’s the most relaxed and at peace that I’ve ever seen him.”

 

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No. 3: Jason Kidd is starting to get concerned in Milwaukee — Admit it, you figured the Bucks would be lurking around the top 4 or 5 in the East right now, but they appear miles away at the moment, struggling during a season in which was designed for the young team to take the next step in its development. And maybe that happens soon. Just the same, coach Jason Kidd is concerned enough to lean more on his veterans and prod them for leadership, both on and off the court. Here is Ananth Pandian of CBS Sports on the issue:

After such a strong season, the Bucks were, seemingly, able to build on that success in the offseason by signing Greg Monroe to a long-term deal. Monroe had several suitors including big market teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks but he picked Milwaukee because he wanted to be part of the team’s burgeoning success.

However, the Bucks have started the season 7-12 and look nothing like a perennial playoff team. So what happened?

Well, Milwaukee was limited by injuries at the start of the season as Jabari Parker was still rehabbing from an ACL injury, O.J. Mayo was nursing a strained hamstring, John Henson was limited by an Achilles strain and Michael Carter-Williams had a sprained ankle. Monroe and Parker are also, at this point in their careers, liabilities on the defensive end contributing to Milwaukee’s status as one of the worst defensive teams in the league, giving up 102.8 points a game.

But perhaps the biggest issue for the Bucks, as head coach Jason Kidd repeatedly said at the team’s shootaround in San Antonio on Wednesday morning, is that Milwaukee is the second youngest team in the league and is still learning how to play together. With the Bucks overachieving last year, this may have gone overlooked, but this is an inexperienced team in many ways. Monroe, Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Carter-Williams and Khris Middleton are all under the age of 26 and, on average, have only been in the league for under three years.

Carter-Williams also joined the team at last season’s trade deadline and is still figuring out how to run the team from the point guard spot. The same can be said for Monroe, who is averaging roughly the same numbers (15.7 points and 9.4 rebounds) he was putting up in Detroit over the last couple of seasons but is now back to playing center, a role he wasn’t primarily playing with the Pistons.

“It takes time,” Kidd said when asked about Milwaukee’s early season struggles. “There is a process we have to go through, we are the second youngest team in the league and it’s going to take a little time. We have our good and bad but as long as we keep learning and understanding that it’s not easy to win in this league, no matter how good you are.”

The Bucks definitely had a bit of luck last year, surprising teams and playing with a tenacity that seems to be lacking now. The trade of Brandon Knight for Carter-Williams could be pointed at as one reason Milwaukee has taken a step back. But also last season Milwaukee had excellent veteran role players in Zaza Pachulia and Jared Dudley. In order to clear up the roster logjam, both players were traded in the offseason for second-round draft picks. In a separate earlier move, Milwaukee traded Ersan Ilyasova to clear up cap space to sign Monroe.

Now the only true veterans on the team are Mayo and Jerryd Bayless — who have each played eight seasons in the league. This has given Mayo and Bayless more responsibility on the team as Kidd is counting on both of them to help guide the young Bucks on and off the court.

“When you look at Bayless and Juice (Mayo),” Kidd said, “those guys have been in the league for a little bit and understand what we are trying to do. This is a situation where we are extremely young and we have to have our veterans be leaders and also be guys on the floor that the young guys can look at. They both are working at it. We ask them to do a lot and they’ve responded in a positive way. We are the second youngest team so our vets have to be responsible and also I think for them, they like this opportunity.”

 

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has suffered a setback to his back injury. Looks like he’ll return sometime in January at the earliest … Roy Hibbert‘s fortunes haven’t changed, just because he was traded from the Pacers to the Lakers … Look at the bright side, Sixers: Dario Saric is coming to the rescue, according to his father … Did Kobe Bryant come close to playing for the Bulls?Zach LaVine is thrilled to get tutoring from his childhood hero, none other than Gary Payton.