For once, we have a good story out of an NBA player going to prison.
Thunder center B.J. Mullens has been going regularly to an Ohio prison this summer and fall to play some pickup basketball. With the prisoners.
It’s something he has done before, playing and teaching clinics, as was explained in a fantastic ESPN story.
Mullens was born in Canal Winchester, Ohio, and grew up playing basketball around Columbus. He lived off and on with his mother and five siblings until high school before moving into his own apartment, paying his expenses by working after school and on weekends as a plumber. During his junior and senior years of high school, Mullens lived with the family of one of his best friends. In his first year there, he and the friend visited a juvenile detention center to teach basketball clinics and talk to troubled teens about making better choices — and also to play pickup games….
“I played ball at some places for juvenile kids when I was in high school and I kinda wanted to get back into it,” Mullens said.
By mid-July, he played in his first pickup game at Ross, which houses mostly level 2 and 3 prisoners — medium and “close” security, respectively….
“They play some really good basketball up here,” Mullens said.
Not everybody would do this — would basketball finally stop at those walls? — so credit to Mullens for not only doing it but also reaching out to people who otherwise society doesn’t want to see. If that is not the spirit of this time of year, I don’t know what is.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.