Blake Ahearn sets new consecutive free-throw record

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A wise man once said that nobody’s goal should be to break all-time records while playing in the NBA Development League. While that would seemingly be the case the majority of the time — it implies a player’s simply been “developing” a bit too long in the D-League — Blake Ahearn broke the mold this past weekend.

Ahearn, a standout guard for the Reno Bighorns who’s previously spent time on NBA rosters with the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, did what he does best on Saturday night when he hit his 99th consecutive free-throw this season. The veteran shooter bested his own previous D-League record as well as the big league’s record, held by former Minnesota Timberwolves guard Micheal Williams when he hit 97 straight shots from the charity stripe from March to November in 1993 before Ahearn topped it.

The above video certainly isn’t the most exciting thing ever posted on Youtube, but it should probably be stored securely in the archives considering nobody in history has done what Ahearn accomplished over the course of the past month.

“Breaking records is never something that you set out to do,” Ahearn told ProBasketballTalk, “But you’re fortunate when all your hard work pays off … and, in this case, it did.”

Ahearn, currently leading the D-League in scoring with 24.6 points per game, isn’t exactly a stranger when it comes to breaking shooting records. The 27-year-old point guard holds the all-time college free-throw percentage record as well — thanks to shooting 94.6 percent on 460 foul shot attempts while at Missouri State — but he attributes his success his success to the practice he’s put in over the course of his basketball career.

“I make 102 free-throws per day during the off season,” Ahearn says, “But it’s different during the season just with travel and all that.”

Why 102 and not even 100? Legend has it that Ahearn treats the first 100 attempts as practice shots while he considers the final two as the ones that count, in the clutch. It’s paid off in game situations, too.

“I don’t remember as much from high school, but since college I’ve never missed more than two free-throws in a game,” Ahearn said. “I’ve missed twice in one game, I think, five or six times since the start of college up until right now.”

The most impressive part about Ahearn’s streak isn’t the OCD-like behavior when it comes to free-throws — though the 102 shots theory does make sense — but the fact that he was able to do it while averaging nearly 40 minutes per game for the Bighorns. Fatigue obviously isn’t a problem for Ahearn, however, as his 99 consecutive free-throws have come over the course of just 14 games.

It probably won’t be long — or shouldn’t be, at least — until Ahearn’s given another shot to prove that he belongs in the Association even though he certainly isn’t the purest point guard to ever call the D-League home. Free-throw shooting would seem to be one of the most translatable skills available, and considering his success everywhere in the past, it’d seem counter-intuitive to not have a player like Ahearn on the end of the bench available for late-game situations when big shots need to be knocked down.

Ahearn might never be able to steal away the Mr. Clutch moniker from Jerry West, but it seems safe to say he’s proven he’s the best in-game free-throw shooter basketball has to offer.

Steve Kerr “disappointed” in alma mater Arizona; wants to see NCAA follow new model

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Before he was the coach of the Golden State Warriors, before he was a five-time NBA Champion playing next to Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan, Steve Kerr was one of the great players the University of Arizona ever produced. The crowd would echo the announcer after ever made three — “Steeeve Keerrr” — where he was an All-American and helped lead a team (with future NBA players Sean Elliott and Tom Tolbert) to the Final Four.

There is a crisis around Arizona basketball right now. Coach Sean Miller was caught on a federal wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment for star recruit Deandre Ayton (expected to be a high lottery pick in June, possibly the No. 1 pick). Miller did not coach Saturday and changes are coming to Arizona.

Kerr was asked about it before the Warriors took on the Thunder Saturday.

Kerr said he was “disappointed” in his alma mater over the incident. Which is understandable.

Not to completely excuse it, but what Miller got caught doing is commonplace — money is funneled to families or the players of top recruits on a regular basis. What is more troubling (in my mind) is the money paid under the table to AAU coaches, family members, and others close to elite recruits to funnel them to a specific “financial planner” or agent, or a specific university. People in positions of trust with the player are bought and paid for.

Kerr put out one solution that would certainly be a big step forward: follow the Olympics model and let elite players get sponsorships that don’t end their college eligibility.

This system has its flaws as well, but it gets some of the dirty money out in the open. It would be better than the hypocritical facade of amateurism the NCAA has hit behind for years.

Joel Embiid has 28 points, 14 rebounds leads Sixers to Seventh straight win

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid had 28 points and 14 rebounds, and the Philadelphia 76ers extended their season-high win streak to seven with a 116-105 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday.

Six 76ers scored in double figures. Ben Simmons had 17 points and seven assists, and 3-point specialist J.J. Redick added 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting – and just one 3-pointer. Marco Belinelli had 15 points, Robert Covington had 12 and Dario Saric scored 11.

Aaron Gordon led Orlando with 20 points, including four 3s, to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. Evan Fournier scored 16 points, and former Sixer Nik Vucevic had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Magic, who have lost five straight.

Philadelphia led 58-40 at halftime and 71-49 in the third when Orlando used an 11-2 burst, capped by Aaron Gordon’s 3-pointer, to close within 13.

But the Sixers put on a show to finish the quarter.

Embiid overpowered a few Magic defenders for a slam, and then gestured to the crowd after being fouled while soaring to the hoop on a dunk attempt. After Embiid and Trevor Booker swatted consecutive shots in the final seconds, T.J. McConnell used a crossover move to finish a drive at the buzzer and give the Sixers an 87-71 lead entering the fourth.

Orlando used a late 15-2 run to get within nine and nearly cut it to six with 1:21 left, but a 3-point attempt by Mario Hezonja spilled out.

Midway through the first quarter, Philadelphia had more turnovers (three) than field goals (two) and trailed 15-6. The Sixers then erupted for a 21-3 run and ended the quarter up 27-18.

E-A-G-L-E-S

Orlando head coach Frank Vogel wore an Eagles Super Bowl champions T-shirt during his pregame media availability. A native of Wildwood, New Jersey, Vogel makes sure to get a taste of home when he returns to the Philadelphia area.

“Cheesesteaks, Tastykakes, Yuengling beer if we beat the Sixers,” Vogel said. “Wawa coffee, but I get Wawa in Orlando now. I did get a cheesesteak today.”

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell before the game.

“I think it’s awesome,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “He can come over and ring as many bells as he chooses.”

 

Report: Jimmy Butler telling people he will be back for playoffs

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We don’t know a lot about Jimmy Butler‘s meniscus injury (other than that it’s not an ACL injury as feared). Because of that, it’s impossible to put a timeline on his return. We don’t know what kind of surgery he likely needs — a traditional meniscus partial removal takes six weeks or so to get a player back on the court (but is harder on the knee long-term as cushioning in it is removed, Dwyane Wade had this), but a repair could take three months or more before he is back on the court. Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said this pregame Saturday:

However, Butler himself is telling people he will be back for the playoffs.

Is that the optimism of a fierce competitor? Players are often the worst judge of their ability to return from injury.

Or, does he know that a meniscus repair is out of the question with his injury, that a partial removal is the only option (as is true in some cases)? That has a speedier return that could have him back for the playoffs.

In the short-term, Minnesota is going to need a lot more out of Andrew Wiggins, and they need to play a lot better team defense, to hold on to a playoff slot in the West. The Timberwolves have been -8.3 per 100 possessions without Butler this season, but went 2-2 in the four games he missed. Minnesota is currently the four seed in the West at 36-26, but just three games from falling out of the postseason in a crowded conference.

Jimmy Butler has meniscus injury, not ACL. Will miss time, return TBD.

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Rarely is a meniscus injury good news, but it is for the Timberwolves.

It looked like Jimmy Butler had torn his ACL in a loss to Houston Friday night, he had to be helped off the court and he could not put weight on it. But instead, he has an injured meniscus in his right knee, an MRI revealed.

Notice the report says meniscus “injury” not “tear.” Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports reported it is a tear.

If surgery is needed and recovery times differ depending on the severity of the injury. Officially, there is no timetable for his return yet — he could be back for the playoffs. Or not.

If it is a tear, as expected, that means surgery. Most of the time a surgical meniscus repair will keep a player out at least three months, which would end Butler’s season (a meniscus removal heals faster, but is rarely done anymore because long-term it is harder for the knee and the player, think of Dwyane Wade as an example).

Butler leads the NBA in minutes played per game, although he had eight days off before Friday’s game. He was selected an All-Star reserve by the coaches but chose to sit out the big game because he said he needed rest for the rest of the season. His coach, Tom Thibodeau, leans heavily on his best players and does not subscribe to the kind of rest we see in Golden State, San Antonio, and other programs trying to keep players fresh.

Minnesota has to hang on for the playoffs, the team is -8.3 points per 100 possessions when Butler is not on the court this season. At 36-26, the Timberwolves are currently the four seed in the West, but just three games from falling out of the playoffs.