Who has the best off-hand in the NBA?

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Nash_Suns.jpgFrom a young age, every basketball player is told to get comfortable using their off hand around the basket and on drives, but few players master the skill. Even at the NBA level, the vast majority of players have a dominant hand that they would prefer to drive to, and most of them are good enough to get away with it. After his crossover was done, AI would usually end up driving to his right. Dirk Nowitzki and Sam Cassell love/loved driving to their left to set up their mid-range jumper. Mega-prospect John Wall shoots righty, but favors going left on drives and finishes. 

However, there are some guys who have put in the time and are just as comfortable with their bad hands as they are with their dominant ones. As former player Charles Shackleford would have put it, these guys are almost completely amphibious. Again, this list is in no particular order:
1. Steve Nash 

Despite the fact he’s not particularly fast or tall, and certainly can’t jump very high, defenses have always had trouble keeping Steve Nash from getting into the paint and making layups. A large part of that is because Nash is just as comfortable using his left as he is using his right. Nash can confidently dribble with his left hand, make passes with his left, and can use either hand for one of his signature shots around the basket, a one-handed finger roll that Nash gets off without ever having to gather the ball. Because of how unpredictable Nash is around the basket, he shoots a LeBron-like 71.5% on shots at the rim. 
2. Kobe Bryant

Spoiler alert: If I were to make more of these lists, Nash and Kobe would be on a lot of them. Bryant is equally likely to drive lefty as he is to drive to the right, and no perimeter player has more range or touch with his off-hand than Kobe. Kobe’s left helps him both on drives and in the post, where he’s light years ahead of any other perimeter player. Kobe has been in a contest with teammate Pau Gasol to see who can make the most lefty baskets this season — according to Kobe, Bryant is winning easily. 
3. David Lee

Lee is naturally left-handed, but broke his arm at a young age and learned to become completely ambidextrous. Lee has expanded his perimeter game for the Knicks this season, but his bread-and-butter will always be his ability to get baskets in the paint using either hand.
4. LeBron James
James does everything but play basketball left-handed, and he’s pretty good with his left on the court as well. James is actually slightly more likely to drive to the left in isolation situations, and he finishes strong with his left at the basket as well as anybody — it’s not easy to make 75% of your shots at the rim, no matter how athletic you are. James is also capable of making great passes with his left hand, and his ability to block shots with his left has made some of his more spectacular chase-down blocks possible. Now, if he could just add a lefty hook over his right shoulder in the post…
5. Carlos Boozer

Growing up in Alaska, Boozer developed his left hand when he lost one of his mittens at the beginning of one winter and was forced to shoot baskets with his left hand throughout the winter months so that he could keep his dominant hand warm. Okay, I made that up. However it happened, Boozer is excellent at using his left hand around the basket, and that ability helps him get tons of buckets around the rim from odd angles. 

MVP James Harden, dominant Rockets show up in second half, crush Timberwolves

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We had to wait three-and-a-half games for it.

We had seen James Harden play like an MVP all season. We had seen the Rockets bury threes at a record rate all season. We had seen Houston’s switching defense impress all season (sixth best in the NBA). We had seen Houston rack up 65 wins and make it look easy.

Then we got to the playoffs and the Rockets couldn’t put it all together at once. Harden struggled after Game 1, including going 0-of-7 in the first quarter Monday night. The defense was inconsistent and the threes were not falling. All of it let the Timberwolves hang around in the series — down 2-1 — and the same in Game 4, down just a point at halftime.

Then the Harden and Rockets we all expected showed up.

Houston put up 50 points in the third quarter alone, shooting 61 percent overall and 9-of-13 from three, plus they got to the line 13 times and made every shot. The Rockets opened the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, with almost all of the damage from Harden, who had 22 in the quarter.

The Rockets pulled away and cruised from there to an easy 119-100 win.

“We hit the switch, the switch we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs on both ends of the floor,” Harden said postgame. “It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when defensively we’re locked in like that, and offensively we got rolling.”

Houston now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday night.

In the first half this looked nothing like something that would end with a comfortable Rockets win. Houston struggled at the start of Game 4, opening 0-of-5 in the paint, including Harden missing an open layup. As a team, the Rockets started the game 4-of-16 from three, and a lot of those were uncontested looks. The Rockets play a lot of isolation, but even for them the ball seemed to stick in the first half. If not for Trevor Ariza knocking down three from beyond the arc, the Timberwolves might have been able to pull away.

The fact they didn’t was a blown opportunity for the Timberwolves, something they just can’t do in this series. It was a one-point Rockets lead, 50-49, at the half.

Minnesota had some moments on offense in the game, usually when attacking quickly off the Rockets switch. Derrick Rose had some moments and finished the game with 17 points. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds, Jimmy Butler had 19 points on 17 shots.

But that was no match for the Rockets when they flipped the switch.

It was a barrage of threes that we have waited for all season, and it all started with Harden and Chris Paul, they had all of the first 15 points of the second half for Houston. Harden finished with 36 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. CP3 had 25 points and six assists, Eric Gordon finally woke up in this series with 18, and Ariza finished with 15.

Minnesota is a talented team, but they are learning fast what a contender can do — even not at their peak the Rockets had taken two of the first three in the series, and when they did flip the switch it was another level. A level the Timberwolves want to get to, there are just some rough lessons along the road to getting there.

James Harden puts on show to start second half vs. Timberwolves

Associated Press
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James Harden started Game 4 0-of-7 from the floor, including missing a lay-up. It was an extension of Game 3, and it let the Timberwolves hang around for a half despite their own offensive woes.

Then in the second half the MVP Harden showed up.

Houston started the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, and a lot of it was Harden (with a little help from Chris Paul). Harden had 22 points in the third (with 4:30 left in the quarter). After a couple rough games the Timberwolves were going under the pick when Harden had the ball, and suddenly he made them pay.

Or, he was just stepping back.

With all the buckets the Rockets turned a close game into a 25 point lead.

Tyronn Lue doesn’t hold back with retort to heckling Pacers’ fan

Associated Press
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It’s a part of the NBA experience that most fans don’t get to hear — some fans courtside heckling opposing players and coaches, and those guys occasionally firing back. We only tend to hear about it when things cross a line.

Sometimes the interactions are just funny, such as this one passed along by J. Michael of the Indy Star.

Well played, Lue.

Although is Cleveland really a city at the forefront of fashion? Well, I suppose if you went to college in Nebraska…

Report: Pelicans picked up Alvin Gentry’s option for next season before sweep

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Last summer the buzz was all over the league: Pelicans GM Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry were given a “playoffs or bust” mandate by management. If the Pelicans were not in the postseason — and just barely getting in and then blown out in the first round might be good enough — there was going to be a housecleaning.

The Pelicans made the playoffs as the six seed with 48 wins despite losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn Achilles midway through the season.

That alone was good enough to get Gentry another season in New Orleans, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

As noted, this happened before the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers out of the first round and into a summer of re-evaluation. This option season is the last of Gentry’s original deal with the Pelicans.

Gentry has the Pelicans playing fast, using the elite defense of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday to get stops, and right now Davis is leading an offense that is just getting it done, with guys such as Nikola Mirotic stepping up. Gentry has earned another year, and a shot to integrate Cousins into this style and level of play, to see where that could take New Orleans next season.

It will be interesting to see if Demps can add more shooting and versatility with a capped out roster.