Old man game is winning in the NBA

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In the NBA — like in society at large — we have this fascination with youth. Blake Griffin is a YouTube sensation. We all fall in love with the up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder. Fans obsess over draft picks.

But what about the other end of the spectrum — who are the oldest teams in the NBA this season?

The Miami Heat top the list at an average age of 31.32 (all those older veteran minimum deals to put around their big three cause that). Followed by the Lakers (29.98), Mavericks (29.47), Nuggets (29.09), Celtics (28.69), Magic (28.44) and Spurs (28.42).

You know what else that is? A list of every NBA title contender. And Denver.

If you use a team’s “effective age” — weight age by playing time as they did at Hoopism — your oldest teams are Mavericks (31.75), Lakers (30.87), Celtics (30.48), Suns (30.27), Spurs (29.62) and Heat (29.55). Shows you that the Suns have some serious long-term issues, but doesn’t change much else. The best teams are still some of the oldest teams.

Coincidence?

No.

We get pumped about the athletes that can leap out of the building, but at the end of the playoffs, it’s often teams with old man game that are left standing. If you just asked what “old man game” is you’ve never played pickup against that 45-year-old guy who looks slow but always makes the right pass, seems to know where the ball is going to be and never misses the midrange shot. He’s the least athletic guy on the court, and his team keeps winning.

Not that (to use last year’s example) the Lakers and Celtics don’t have some quality athletes, but is Paul Pierce really a guy you just look and think he can create space and never misses a 17-foot fadeaway? Do you look at Pau Gasol standing there and think he’s one of the hardest bigs to defend the game? Yet those are the kind of guys — them and the Tim Duncans and Manu Ginobilis — that are left standing when all is said and done.

This is not something new. Kevin Pelton studied the numbers at Basketball Prospectus two years ago and found those older teams tend to be better at both ends of the floor (and he went back to 1980). That veteran savvy on the defensive end and knowing how to get the shots they want on offense tends to offset any loss of athleticism. Older teams tend to be more efficient teams. There is no perfect correlation (there never is in the real world) but the fact is older teams tend to win more and have for three decades.

This doesn’t mean you go out and drop a 40-year-old on the Cavs roster they start winning, but rather if you combine a handful of good veterans — sometimes as role players, sometimes as key cogs — the sum may be greater than the individual parts. Those older teams just know how to play the game at the NBA level.

I have one other theory as to why. The average NBA career is about four years (the number has decreased in recent years). If you have a veteran team — this season’s Spurs, Celtics and Lakers — you have a lot of players who have played well beyond that average. Why? Because they are better players. The reason a guy lasts 10 years in the NBA is because he can ball. Get enough of those guys together and, even though they’re older, they can win together.

The risk is always injuries — those older bodies breaking down. It’s happened to the Spurs and Celtics in recent years.

So far this season though those older teams are by-and-large staying healthy and as a result they make up the list of contenders (maybe Chicago skews the graph, but they have to prove they can hang in the playoffs still).

Those veteran teams have adjusted. Tim Duncan has taken a back seat to more Tony Parker and Ginobili being the hub of the San Antonio offense. Rajon Rondo sets the table for those older guys to do their thing in Boston. The veterans were willing to give up something to get what they really want — wins. And a shot at a ring.

So enjoy Griffin and Durant. Watch Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins start to figure it out in Sacramento. Love Derrick Rose.

But know, when you’re watching the NBA in June, it will be some old-man game.

Kawhi Leonard scores 25 as Spurs dismantle ailing Cavaliers, 103-74

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points and the San Antonio Spurs dismantled the ailing Cleveland Cavaliers 103-74 on Monday night in a showdown that turned into a major letdown for the defending NBA champions.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol added 14 points apiece for the Spurs, who won their fifth straight.

Cleveland (47-26) dropped its second in a row, set a season low for points and fell a half-game behind Boston (48-26) for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Cavaliers star LeBron James was injured late in the third quarter after taking an elbow to the base of his neck. He remained on the bench for a while receiving medical attention, then headed toward the locker room and didn’t return to the game.

His status was not immediately known.

Cleveland has been out of sync recently, losing three of five, and those struggles only got worse against San Antonio. The Spurs led by as many as 33 points to the delight of the sold-out crowd.

San Antonio (57-16) is two games behind Golden State (59-14) for the league’s best record entering a home showdown with the Warriors on Wednesday.

Cleveland opted to play its stars rather than sit them for rest, but the trio of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love sat out the fourth quarter of its second rout in the past two weeks.

James exited with 25 seconds remaining in the third after taking an elbow to his neck from David Lee on a rebound. James continually rubbed the area before collapsing after he crossed midcourt and remained on the floor for about a minute before walking unassisted to the bench. He left for the locker room early in the fourth quarter during a timeout.

James finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 29 minutes.

The Spurs held the Cavaliers scoreless for three minutes after San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was issued a technical foul during a timeout with 6:38 remaining in the first half.

Leonard hit a right-handed runner as the second quarter closed to give the Spurs a 64-40 lead.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Cleveland completed its schedule against the West, finishing 16-14. In addition to losing to the Spurs by 29 points, the Cavaliers lost by 35 to Golden State and 30 to the Los Angeles Clippers. . Cleveland F Kyle Korver missed his third straight game with a sore left foot, and the team plans to sit him for several games to see if rest and treatment helps. Korver will sit out Thursday in Chicago and Friday at home against Philadelphia before being re-evaluated, a team spokesman said. The shooting specialist missed seven games earlier this month with an inflamed tendon in his foot. . G Iman Shumpert missed his second consecutive game with a sore right knee. . James needs 24 points to pass Shaquille O’Neal for seventh overall in career scoring. O’Neal has 28,596 career points. . The Cavaliers averaged 116.3 points in their previous four games.

Spurs: San Antonio is holding its opponents to an average of less than 100 points for the 22nd straight season. . Danny Green tied his season high with four blocked shots. . Leonard has scored in double figures in 100 straight games.

 

Russell Westbrook dominates final minutes, hits game winner for Thunder (VIDEO)

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This game looked over. The Dallas Mavericks were up 13 with 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Oklahoma City Thunder were going to take the loss.

Then Russell Westbrook happened.

He scored 12 points in a 14-0 Thunder run to close out the game, then capped it off hitting the game winner for the Thunder (video above). For the game-winner, the Thunder almost went 1-4 flat and just let Westbrook work in isolation on his defender, a smart play when you have a guy this talented.

It was the kind of game that the Westbrook for MVP crowd will point to — he had 37 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists, and he absolutely dominated the final minutes of the game (he shot 5-of-9 down the stretch).

This was Westbrook’s 37th triple-double of the season, and the Thunder are 30-7 when he does reaches that mark. Westbrook takes heat in some quarters for “empty stats” or trying to pad his numbers, but the fact is the Thunder are 11-24 when he doesn’t put up the huge numbers and carry the offense. If you’re going to define “MVP” by value to his team, it’s hard not to choose Westbrook this season, this team is toast without him.

Paul Millsap out at least three more games with knee issue, Hawks 0-8 without him

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The Atlanta Hawks have come apart at the worst time. They have lost seven in a row and have fallen from comfortably in the playoffs to tied for the 5-6-7 seed in the East, just 2.5 games out of falling out of the playoffs altogether.

It has all happened with Paul Millsap out, and that is going to continue for about a week more the team announced Monday.

Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap has been diagnosed with left knee synovitis and has undergone a non-surgical procedure at Emory (Orthopaedics & Spine Center in Atlanta). He will be listed as out for the next three games and his status will be updated as appropriate.

Synovitis is when the synovial membrane — which encases joints and helps lubricate them with synovial fluid — becomes inflamed. It’s usually a sign of another issue causing the inflammation.

The Hawks problem is they are 0-8 this season when Millsap is out.

It still feels unlikely Atlanta will fall all the way out of the playoffs (they have a slightly easier schedule than everyone they’re competing against for the slot), but they are more likely than Indiana or Milwaukee to slip. Also, the odds of them finishing with the seven or eight seed seem high, and that likely means a quick one-and-done visit to the postseason.

After that would come some real questions in Atlanta about how much they want to pay Millsap to keep him as a free agent (it’s going to have to be near max money and for five years, or he will look hard at his other options).

Reports: Kings’ owner reaches out to Sam Hinkie; team quickly denies any interest

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Sacramento Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadive’s handling of his team makes President Donald Trump look patient and measured. It’s been less than two seasons since Vlade Divac was handed the reins of the Sacramento Kings, and apparently, that means the Kings are overdue for a change.

Ranadive is getting pressure to make a change because the Kings are seen around the league as a poorly run front office (that other teams try to take advantage of), and as part of that process he is reaching out to former Sixers’ GM Sam Hinkie, according to multiple reports. Yes, the controversial man behind “the process.” Zach Lowe and Marc Stein of ESPN have broken the story.

The Sacramento Kings have expressed exploratory interest in former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, according to league sources.

‎Sources told ESPN.com that Kings owner Vivek Ranadive sought and received permission directly from Sixers counterpart Josh Harris to speak with Hinkie.

Sources say Hinkie has long intrigued Ranadive, whose franchise has been thrust into a rebuilding mode not unlike Philadelphia’s status under Hinkie in the wake of trading DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports adds these details.

The Kings quickly came out and denied the story.

After the denials they would trade DeMarcus Cousins and all the misdirection around the hiring of George Karl, it’s tough to take the Kings fully at face value here.

Hinkie is currently under a non-compete clause as part of his buyout agreement with the Sixers. He can take a job starting this summer.

We’ve got questions.

Question No. 1: If it is available, does Hinkie really want this job? Wojnarowski says he may not be interested. If he’s being brought in to rebuild the Kings from the ground up, that is a long process. Any GM, not just Hinkie, is going to need five years (at least) to have the planted seeds start to bear fruit. As mentioned above, Ranadive has been anything but patient. Hinkie may be willing to wait for another situation that seems a better fit.

Question No. 2: Did Ranadive decide “I need to get the guy that ripped me off on that Nik Stauskas trade?”

Question No. 3: Are the Kings serious about sticking with Vlade Divac, or is Hinkie also going to talk to other potential GMs? There would be guys interested, but they’d want a lot of assurances (read: five years guaranteed and a lot of money).

Question No. 4: What other teams have interest in Hinkie? The ESPN report says other teams have reached out, does this include places were we expecting front office changes such as Orlando? Hinkie in a situation where he already had pieces (like Orlando) and was in the next phase of rebuilding could be interesting.

Question No. 5: Did Divac have any idea this was coming? After that Cousins trade he had to know something could be up, but he said fans should give him two years and the team would be in a better spot or he would step down. But did anyone, including Divac, think Ranadive would be that patient?