Winderman: The lesson is the regular season is overrated

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Celtics_huddle.jpgWhat we have here is a referendum on the regular season, affirmation, if you will, of whether the first 82 games are, as many insist, indeed overrated.

At 50-32, the Celtics finished tied for the ninth-best record in the NBA. Only four of the 16 playoff teams finished behind Boston.

As a matter of perspective, it would be the worst regular-season record of an NBA champion since the Rockets took advantage of Michael Jordan’s absence to win the 1995 title off a 47-35 regular-season run.

Yet in recent years, the Heat won the 2006 title at 52-30 and the Pistons took the 2004 championship at 54-28.

But this is about more than Doc Rivers purposely putting aside regular season goals in favor of a healthy postseason roster.

It also is about two of the postseason’s biggest stories off the court.

It is about Mike Woodson being fired by the Hawks after winning 100 games the past two seasons, simply because his team proved unable to compete on the elevated stage of the conference semifinals.

And it is about Mike Brown being banished in Cleveland after winning 127 games the past two seasons because he could not push the Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals.

Could the Hawks possibly have gotten more out of a roster lacking a true center or ambulatory point guard the past two seasons?

Could Mike Brown have produced anything more during the late-October-to-mid-April grind?

Try telling either one of those two that the regular season matters.
 
For that matter, try telling Orlando, with its 59 regular-season victories, that the season’s first six months meant anything in terms of getting Vince Carter or Rashard Lewis ready for ultimate stages of the season.

About the only exception to this minimization of the regular season comes from the Nets, who have gone against the grain, with the hiring of Avery Johnson.

In many ways, Johnson, during his coaching tenure in Dallas, was exactly what Woodson and Brown had been these past two seasons in Atlanta and Cleveland, a coach who thrived during the regular season only to see his team melt under the glare of the league’s brightest lights.

Of course, coming off a 12-70 disaster, the 2010-11 regular season will matter plenty to the Nets.

But, otherwise, the signals coming from the NBA are that the initial 82-game marathon is a race that produces no true winners.

Rather it stands as an extended prologue to the only games that seem to matter.

The Celtics are poised to offer such affirmation.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
 

Craig Sager to get third bone marrow transplant thanks to anonymous donor

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16:  Legendary TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager talks with Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Sager is on a one game assignment for ESPN. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Craig Sager couldn’t be in Rio covering the Olympics for NBC, his cancer wouldn’t allow it. That didn’t stop Team USA from reaching out to him before they left. Or from Nike designing a sweet pair of shoes for him.

Now there is good news on his battle against leukemia — he will have a third bone marrow transplant, according to his son Craig Sager II.

This is fantastic news for a man and family who have been through a lot. Hopefully, this treatment is a step forward for Sager, a man beloved by everyone around the NBA.

Report: With Joffrey Lauvergne trade, Mitch McGary likely done with Thunder

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 16:  Mitch McGary #33 of the Oklahoma City Thunder at American Airlines Center on March 16, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Oklahoma City frontcourt is crowded. Enes Kanter and Steven Adams will start, and they will have Nick Collison, Ersan Ilyasova, Domantas Sabonis, and now Joffrey Lauvergne behind them.

Which likely means Mitch McGary‘s done as a member of the Thunder, according to Royce Young of ESPN.

McGary has battled injuries his two seasons in the league and got on the court for only 72 minutes total last season for the Thunder (he played in more games and put up solid numbers in the D-LEague). He was not part of the future there regardless. He’s an undersized five trying to play the four and what he brought as a rookie — energy — was not enough as a sophomore.

McGary will make $1.5 million this season. He may be tough to move because he’s suspended for the first five games he’s eligible to play next season for failing the league’s drug policy (five games is the standard suspension for testing positive for marijuana three times). Maybe a team looking to develop players will give him a shot, but there is little trade value for him.

Dwight Howard is shooting 19-footers to improve his free throw stroke

Dwight Howard
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If you can knock down a 19-foot shot, then a 15-footer should be easier. Right?

Apparently that — and just basic muscle memory — is the latest attempt to improve Dwight Howard‘s free throw shooting. And, he seems to be knocking down those shots.

It’s not hard to see the logic in this approach.

The challenge is form and reps are not the problems for Howard — or DeAndre Jordan or Andre Drummond or others — when it comes to hitting free throws. Anyone who says “why don’t they just practice the shot” doesn’t pay attention, these guys put in a lot of work on the shot. Pregame and in practice (I’m Los Angeles based), Jordan probably hits 65 percent from the line. At least.

The problem is mental. That can be a tougher hurdle to clear. Maybe taking 19 footers and knocking them down will have Howard feeling more confident at the stripe this season.

But we’re going to need to see it to believe it. Just like we’re going to have to see a rejuvenated Howard in Atlanta before we believe this season will be different from the last few.

Report: Veteran big man Jason Thompson agrees to deal in China

BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 15:  Jason Thompson # 34 of Sacramento Kings in action during the 2014 NBA Global Games match between the Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings at MasterCard Center on October 15, 2014 in Beijing, China. 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 Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
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Until this season, Jason Thompson had never been to the playoffs. He spent seven seasons in Sacramento before getting traded to the Warriors last offseason, and then signing with the Raptors midseason when Golden State waived him to make room on the roster for Anderson Varejao. His NBA days appear over, at least for now. International basketball reporter David Pick reports that Thompson has agreed to a deal to play in China.

Since the CBA’s season ends in March, Thompson could theoretically join an NBA team for the stretch run next year. But he didn’t appear to have much interest on the free-agent market this summer.