Kobe Bryant missed shot

NBA Playoffs: Dallas hits, Kobe misses and Mavs make it a series

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Are these Dallas Mavericks different?

Different than the team that falls short, that so many pundits thought didn’t know how to close, that was too old or too soft. The one that keeps getting smoked in the playoffs.

Or was it just the Lakers having one of their patented lapses? Combined with Kobe missing a good look at a three to win it?

One game does not answer those questions.

But for that one game the Mavs were different enough to be able to capitalize on Lakers lapses, the Mavs were the team that held their composure down 16 (after it seemed they would melt down at the end of the first half) and kept doing what they do. They were the team that executed at the end. They got the Game 1 win 96-94 and lead the Lakers 1-0 in the best-of-seven second round matchup.

Game 2 Wednesday will be a more telling to what this series will look like going forward. Don’t expect another Lakers collapse (and just 15 points in the fourth quarter). But for a night, Dallas was good enough.

One play summed it up pretty well. With 23 seconds left and the Lakers up one, Kobe Bryant tried to drive. But waiting for him was one of the people who makes Dallas different — Tyson Chandler. Kobe tried to make a kick-out pass to Derek Fisher that Jason Terry stole.

“He drove right and Tyson (Chandler) did a good job of cutting him off, Jason Kidd put his hands up and he couldn’t really see, and I was in the right position where he usually gets those threes, those dagger threes, and thank God I was there to make a steal….

“In years prior Kobe probably would have made a dunk or layup (Terry said of Chandler’s play).”

It was the Lakers making the mistakes in the clutch — a foolish foul by Pau Gasol, a turnover when Kobe fell on a poorly executed set, a missed game winner by Kobe off a good look — while Dallas made their free throws and shots.

Phil Jackson was very much in “the Lakers blew it” camp.

“We went in the locker room and we gave it away,” he said post game. “I’m not sure Dallas didn’t outplay us, but I just felt like we gave it away. A couple misplays on the offensive end and the foul at the end (by Gasol) to put them on the line kind of makes it difficult to win those kind of games.”

The Lakers built their lead by getting the ball inside — as Hoopdata tells us the Lakers shot 17-for-26 at rim, 19-for-58 elsewhere else. In the second half once they went up by 16 on a Kobe three the Lakers rushed their offense and kept looking for more daggers. As if you can get those in the third quarter. They stopped throwing the ball inside (they had no points in the paint the final 9 minutes of the third quarter). The offense suffered.

Dallas settled for jumpers much of the game — they as a team are so willing to do that — but with good ball movement and some effort to get shots in transition (aided by all those missed Lakers jumpers) they got good looks. Dallas hit 9-of-20 from three (45 percent) and a combined 14-of-29 (48.3 percent) from 10-to-23 feet.

The Lakers to a man talked of missed rotations — they kept Dallas out of the paint by and large but did not contest those looks.

Dallas took advantage and hit their shots.

Is that because Dallas has evolved into the kind of team that could win this series? Or is it because the Lakers just had an off night and they can play better defense?

We know the Lakers will have these lapses. They are standard for them now. But this is one of the few times Dallas has been able to capitalize. Can they do that three more times?

The only thing we do know for sure — this is a series now. Dallas has won on the road and there will be no easy path out for either side.

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Mike D’Antoni declares James Harden the Rockets’ point guard (‘points guard’)

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James Harden is no longer the NBA’s best shooting guard.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said Harden – who averaged 29.0 points and 7.5 assists per game last season – is now Houston’s point guard, though D’Antoni added it wouldn’t be a big adjustment.

D’Antoni, via ClutchFans:

With James, we’ll make a cheap joke. He’ll be a points guard.

We just renamed it. You guys got something to write about.

Harden already controlled the ball a ton, taking primary playmaking and distributing responsibilities last season. This just gets the ball into his hands quicker and should allow the Rockets to play faster, a key component of D’Antoni’s offense.

Of course, D’Antoni’s offense functioned best when Steve Nash – more of a pure passer – ran it with the Suns. Harden won’t duplicate that. His passing ability is more predicated on taking advantage of his scoring threat. But Harden – who, like Nash, is an excellent ball-handler – could make the offense hum in his own way.

Even though D’Antoni is trying to downplay the position switch, it’s a notable shift. Harden fully commanding the offense is a grand experiment with major upside (and potential for a rocky downside).

This will also allow Houston to use Patrick Beverley (historically a point guard) or Eric Gordon (historically a shooting guard) in the backcourt with Harden, allowing a more flexible rotation.

LeBron James says he’ll stand for national anthem

Minnesota Timberwolves v Cleveland Cavaliers
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LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul made a statement denouncing the mistreatment of black and brown bodies and retaliatory violence.

Then, Colin Kaepernick took the civil discourse to another level by sitting and then kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutalizing black Americans.

Will LeBron – the most powerful player in the NBA – follow Kaepernick’s method of demonstration?

LeBron, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“I think you guys know when I’m passionate about something I’ll speak up on it, so me standing for the national anthem is something I will do, that’s who I am, that’s what I believe in,” James said. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect and don’t agree with what Colin Kaepernick is doing. You have the right to voice your opinion, stand for your opinion and he’s doing it in the most peaceful way I’ve ever seen someone do something.”

“You see these videos that continue to come out, it’s a scary-ass situation that if my son calls me and said if he got pulled over, that I’m not that confident that things are gonna go well and my son is going to return home,” James said. “My son just started the sixth grade.”

“I don’t have the answer,” said James, who has a track record for speaking out when notable cases of police violence toward blacks occurs. “None of us have the answer, but the more times we can talk about it, the more times we can conversate about it. Because I’m not up here saying all police are bad because they’re not. I’m not up here saying that all kids are great and all adults are great, because they’re not.

“But at the same time all lives do matter. It’s not black or white, it’s  not that. It’s everyone, so, it’s just tough being a parent right now when you have a pre-teen.”

To many – seemingly including LeBron – the national anthem (at least the verses we sing) represents what America aspires to be. Kaepernick and those who’ve followed his lead can’t overlook what America is.

Neither approach is wrong.

What’s important: We continue the conversation about police overreach and racism in America. The first step in fixing the problems are acknowledging that they exist.

Kaepernick has brought an incredible amount of attention to the issue. His protest is working.

LeBron will add to the cause in his own way, but Kaepernick kneeling opened the floodgates. Because of Kaepernick, LeBron was asked about this today, and his fears about his son interacting with police will be heard.

Derrick Rose: ‘I felt I didn’t do anything wrong’

FILE - In this June 24, 2016, file photo, New York Knicks' Derrick Rose speaks during a news conference at Madison Square Garden in New York. Phil Jackson made a risky move when he traded for the injury-prone Rose in June, and now the Knicks face the possibility of their point guard's involvement in a rape trial in California during his first preseason with the team.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
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The Knicks say they’re not concerned about Derrick Rose, who’s facing a civil lawsuit and criminal investigation for an alleged rape.

Rose doesn’t sound concerned, either.

Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal:

Maybe Rose said he believes he did nothing wrong because he did nothing wrong. Maybe Rose said he believes he did nothing wrong because he’s lying.

Or maybe Rose said he believes he did nothing wrong because he doesn’t understand he did something wrong.

That’s the sad possibility of this case and countless others. People sometimes rape because they don’t understand consent.

Having sex with someone too drunk to give proper consent is rape. Doing a sexual act to someone who consented to sex but not that specific act is rape.

Rose should be concerned. The evidence against him is compelling, and it could lead to civil and criminal penalties. He should also be concerned whether he properly understands the line between rape and consent. You don’t know what you don’t know, and I hope Rose – even if he already already possessed a clear understanding of rape and consent – and everyone else uses this as an opportunity to thoughtfully examine what is and isn’t consensual. It’s important information to hold, because ignorance of what’s rape does not justify rape.

This isn’t an issue to brush aside for something as trivial as basketball.

Cavaliers guard Mo Williams reverses course, retiring now

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 22:  Mo Williams #52 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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Mo Williams, despite retirement rumors, announced last week he’d return to the Cavaliers for one more year. Williams knew Cleveland would face major challenges without him, being forced to rely on young and unproven Kay Felder and Jordan McRae behind Kyrie Irving at point guard .

Williams, via David McMenamin of ESPN:

I didn’t want to put the Cavs in that situation at the end of the day.

Well, Williams is putting the Cavs in that situation.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Williams, 33, informed the Cavaliers just before Media Day Monday that he was retiring from basketball, not even a week after announcing via Twitter that he would return for one more season.

Cleveland general manager David Griffin said at the top of his press conference that Williams’ agent, Raymond Brothers, informed the Cavs of Williams’ latest decision in the morning.

It seemed possible Williams wanted to retire but was trying to extract a buyout on his $2,194,500 salary. Doing so would’ve required convincing the Cavs he’d grind through the season but, hampered by injuries, not produce enough to justify his salary and roster spot.

It’s unclear whether the Cavaliers called a bluff, agreed to a buyout or Williams had a true change of heart. Cleveland would be especially reluctant to give him a portion of his salary, because those payments would count toward the luxury tax. But maybe the Cavs are willing to incur a small hit.

This puts plenty of pressure on Felder, the No. 54 pick. He has shooting and distributing talent, and his hops are eye-catching. But the adjustment from mid-major Oakland to the NBA is tough for anyone, let alone someone 5-foot-9.

At least the Cavs can turn to LeBron James as the de facto backup point guard in big games. Give him the ball, flank him with a few wings, and Cleveland will be alright.

This just makes it a little harder – which is not to say hard – for the Cavs to claim the No. 1 seed while limiting their stars’ minutes and set themselves up for those big games next spring and summer.