Vince Carter's big night

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531.jpgFor the first half of the season, Vince Carter was one of the most disappointing players in the league. In the latest chapter of a career that’s sadly become synonymous with disappointment, Carter has underperformed badly in Orlando.

On paper, replacing Hedo Turkoglu with Carter didn’t look like a bad idea. On the court, however, VC has been a disaster. Vince is shooting under 40% from the field, and he’s only averaging 2.8 assists per game. Vince’s PER is currently at 15.79, which is significantly worse than his previous career low of 18.93. 
Vince has struggled from everywhere on the floor this season, but most of his problems have come from his inability to get baskets at the rim. Even though Vince was once one of the most electrifying high-flyers in the history of the league, he’s had serious trouble when he’d tried to attack the basket this season. 
Vince is only averaging 1.8 dunks or layups per game this season, down from 2.3 conversions at the rim per game a year ago. The really bad news for the Magic is that this appears to be the continuation of a trend. Since the 2006-07 season, Vince’s makes at the rim per game have steadily decreased from 3.8 to 3.1 to 2.3 to 1.8. Worst of all, Vince’s percentage at the rim has been terrible, as he’s now making less than half of his attempts at the basket. For a long time, Vince’s head was perceived to be the only thing holding him back from greatness; now his body seems to be letting him down. 
Carter’s 48-point explosion against the Hornets on Monday night has given Magic fans hope that Vince will be able to turn it around after all. For Magic fans, the most heartening thing about Vince’s performance shouldn’t be how many points Carter scored, but how he got them. During the Magic’s fourth-quarter comeback, Carter was on fire from the outside. Carter hit two tough mid-range jumpers and three three-pointers in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game, scoring 13 points on eight shots from outside the paint. Many of those jumpers were contested shots off the dribble with a very high degree of difficulty, classic superstar shots. The highlights show just how dialed in Vince was in that fourth quarter, and how he’s still capable of taking over a game when he’s firing on all cylinders. 
What the highlights won’t preserve is that before his amazing fourth quarter, Carter got himself going by taking the ball to the rim time and time again. According to HoopData, Carter went 9-11 on shots at the rim, with 8 of those makes coming in the first three quarters. Vince only took 5 shots from midrange the entire game, preferring to to his damage from inside the paint and beyond the arc. Vince won the game by making tough shots, but he put the Magic in position to win by creating easy ones. Not only was Carter’s big night what the Magic needed to win the game, but it may serve as a blueprint for how he can be effective over the rest of the season. 

Report: Las Vegas also in contention for 2017 NBA All-Star game

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Where will the NBA hold the 2017 All-Star game?

Charlotte? No.

New Orleans? Probably.

New York/Brooklyn or Chicago? Maybe.

One more maybe: Las Vegas.

Scott Kusher of The Advocate:

The NBA held All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas in 2007. By all accounts, it was wild.

I’d be surprised if the league returned the event to Las Vegas, but at this point, I’d really be surprised by any option besides New Orleans.

Report: 76ers, Sam Hinkie’s ‘handpicked analytics crew’ splitting up

Ben Mikesell/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP
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The 76ers hired Bryan Colangelo, and Sam Hinkie bounced.

Now, much of Hinkie’s front-office is also heading out the door.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

that regime — including deposed GM Sam Hinkie’s handpicked analytics crew — will be mostly gone by the end of August, league sources say.

If Colangelo hires his own analytics staff and integrates numbers into his decision-making, this is no big deal.

If Colangelo leaves those positions vacant, Philadelphia will be working from behind.

I’m betting on the former. He isn’t Hinkie, but Colangelo has discussed the importance of analytics. Let Colangelo hire his own staff, and everything might even flow more smoothly.

Mike Krzyzewski: Team USA having too much fun, needs to tone it down

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26:  DeMar DeRozan #9 of the United States Men's National Team looks on during a break in the action against the China Men's National Team during the second half of a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at ORACLE Arena on July 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Mike Krzyzewski hates fun (even more than he admits).

So, the coach wasn’t thrilled after Team USA’s exhibition win over China, which included DeMar DeRozan nearly 360-degree dunking on someone.

Marc J. Spears of ESPN:

I want to see Team USA make highlight plays. Dunk from the free-throw line. Shoot from halfcourt. Throw behind-the-back passes. Show up weaker competition.

So, it’s hard for me to get behind Coach K’s criticism.

But I also want to see the Americans win gold medals in the Olympics, and I’ll blame Krzyzewski if they’re not adequately focused.

Fair? Not one bit.

Doesn’t change what I want, though.

Report: Kevin Durant told Russell Westbrook he’d re-sign with the Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 28:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook #0 look on prior to game six of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 28, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Kevin Durant said he had to distance himself from Russell Westbrook entering free agency. Yet, Durant listened to the Warriors recruiting him all season and had clearly been interested in Golden State for months.

The writing was on the wall.

Except, a few days before taking meetings in the Hamptons (which led to signing with the Warriors), Durant dined with Westbrook.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Three weeks ago, Kevin Durant’s sitting there at dinner, telling him “Hey, I’m coming back, man. Don’t worry about it.” And now, Russell Westbrook has been kind of thrown into this in having to decide his future a summer earlier than expected.

Kevin Durant, more so than even that, was telling people, “Hey, yeah, I mean I’m coming back.” Like I said in there, a week before Kevin Durant sat down in the Hamptons, he was in Oklahoma City ready to make an offer on a multi-million-dollar house. So, the guy was pretty serious about coming back, and then things turned rather quickly for him to leave. And there’s no doubt that the organization felt a little bit burned by this.

Maybe Durant said that. Maybe he meant it in the moment. Maybe he was just trying to appease someone he didn’t want to let down. Maybe he was unclear. Maybe Westbrook read too much into a more clear statement.

There’s a lot of room for imperfect recollection/interpretation. We’re dealing with human beings.

Likewise on the house. Who says Durant was “ready” to make an offer? That’s an awfully difficult assessment to make outside his head. Just as the Celtics had a list of players Durant wanted them to add, it seems he was preparing for all contingencies. It’s hard to nail down whether he was house hunting because he was certain he wanted to stay in Oklahoma City or whether he just wanted a new place if he stayed in Oklahoma City.

So much of what we know about Durant’s process for picking the Warriors suggests a rational decision. He considered them for months, met with multiple teams, conferred with his inner circle then made a choice.

If Durant told Westbrook or anyone else he’d re-sign with the Thunder, that obviously changes the equation. But I’m left wondering:

How many people in Oklahoma City heard what they wanted to hear rather than what Durant actually said?

How many people are incentivized to paint Durant as impulsive, because the alternative — Durant thoughtfully deciding the Thunder weren’t his best option — indicates deeper flaws in the franchise?