It starts with the big questions — if the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder can’t answer those questions, the little ones will not matter.
That leads us to the big things to watch in Game 1 between the Thunder and Mavericks Tuesday night — can Dallas slow Kevin Durant, and can Oklahoma City slow Dirk Nowitzki.
The Thunder need to answer their question fast — Dallas is coming off a nine-day layoff following their sweep of the Lakers and they are bound to be rusty. They beat the Lakers with superior execution and that my take a while to come back. If the Thunder want to win one of the first two on the road, Game 1 sill be the best chance.
Serge Ibaka is going to get the first shot at Dirk, but he may be ill suited to stopping Nowitzki. We told you want to look for in more detail, but if we had to reduce it to two words, it would be Nick Collison.
On the other side, Shawn Marion is going to get Kevin Durant duty. The book on Durant has been to be physical with him and run him off his spots on the floor, to play heavy ball-denial and to limit his touches. We’ll see if Marion is up to that task.
One other matchup to watch closely is DeShawn Stevenson on Russell Westbrook. Game 7 against Memphis was Westbrook’s best game of the playoffs and if he displays that kind of balance again Dallas could struggle to stop him.
With those two guys to stop, expect to see Dallas use a fair amount of zone defense this series. The Mavs run maybe the best matchup zone in the league and that may be the best way to keep Tyson Chandler on the glass and in the paint to help on defense.
The two other keys for Dallas — don’t foul and don’t turn the ball over. Not fouling was something the Mavs did well, the Thunder got to the line 29 times a game during the regular season but that happened just 24 times against the Mavericks. That has to continue, the Thunder need free throws. They also want to get out and run, Oklahoma City is far more athletic. Dallas cannot fuel that with turnovers.
Lots of things to watch. But it all starts with the two best players on the court.
LeBron James is the best player on the planet when he dials it up, and he reminded every one of that leading his Cavaliers to the NBA title last season.
On the other side of the scale, after losing the title, the Golden State Warriors reloaded by adding Kevin Durant to a roster that already won 73 games and went to Game 7 of the NBA Finals last season. Along those same lines, the Spurs added Pau Gasol to replace Tim Duncan, and the Celtics picked up Al Horford to bolster a strong young team.
Joe Varden of The Cleveland Plain Dealer asked LeBron what he thought of all these teams stacking up.
“I know teams switch and pick up new coaches or new players, and their whole goal is kind of they want to beat me,” James told cleveland.com, in a candid discussion about the upcoming year and his place in the sport at age 31, in this his 14th season. “It’s never just about me, but I always hear them saying, ‘We gotta beat LeBron.’ It’s not just me on the court, but I understand that teams get together in this conference and across the league to try to beat me.”
If anyone should be used to having a target on his back, it’s LeBron.
And he’s not wrong.
The Warriors adding Durant was all styming how Cleveland and everyone else can defend the Warriors — particularly the small-ball “death lineup.” Oklahoma City and Cleveland had success putting their best defensive forward (Durant of OKC and LeBron for Clevealnd) on Draymond Green and switiching his pick-and-roll with Curry, then hoping Harrison Barnes didn’t make their big pay in a mismatch. Barnes couldn’t, it worked.
Now take out Barnes and put in Durant. Good luck defending that lineup now.
LeBron is right, the Warriors did target him. He’s the champ. He and the Cavaliers are the bar to clear. Can he and Cleveland rise up o task is the real question.
ATLANTA (AP) — NBA TV personality Kristen Ledlow says she was robbed at gunpoint at her home.
The host of “NBA Inside Stuff” said on Twitter and Instagram Sunday that she was held up the day before “by three men who knew who I was, where I lived and were waiting for me when I got home.”
She says in addition to stealing her car, purse and phone, the thieves took her “sense of security.” She says she’ll be taking a break from social media as a result of the incident because she says she “will not become a slave to fear.”
Ledlow didn’t say where the incident took place. NBA TV is based in Atlanta.
Miami felt set at point guard with Goran Dragic starting and the up-and-coming Tyler Johnson as his backup. They decided veteran Beno Udrih wasn’t part of the future and waived him.
Detroit, looking for some help at the one until Reggie Jackson returns, saw a dependable veteran guard on the market. So they snapped him up, reports Shams Charnaria of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
At age 34 we are seeing Udrih’s game start to slip. Still, he has valuable NBA skills as a point guard: he doesn’t turn the ball over, can run an offense, and if you ignore him coming off a pick he will bury the shot.
Jackson is expected to be out at least another six weeks after getting PRP therapy to deal with knee tendonitis (he hopes to be back sooner). That leaves Ish Smith as the starting point guard in the short term; Udrih will help provide solid depth at the position.
The Pistons need to keep their heads above water until Jackson can return.
The first 12 years of the NBA’s salary-cap era went without a lockout. The league again avoided a lockout for a dozen straight years between 1999 to 2011.
Now, with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement coming soon, the NBA is setting itself up for another 12 years of labor peace.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are working on a seven-year extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, with a mutual opt-out in six years, league sources told The Vertical.
The seven-year deal could potentially deliver the NBA labor peace through the 2023-24 season, unless the opt-outs are exercised in 2022, league sources told The Vertical.
The new CBA will begin with the 2017-18 season.
Expect an opt out after six years. By then, there’s usually something to renegotiate.
Hope for another quick resolution, like we’re getting now.
And if neither the owners nor players opt out, be pleasantly surprised at an unprecedented 13th straight year without a lockout in this era.