I’d say that the torch in the West has been passed, but that’s not what it felt like.
It felt like James Harden and the Oklahoma City Thunder grabbed the torch and ran off with it.
Harden scored seven in a row — and had 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter — to spark the Thunder as they came from 13 points back in the fourth quarter to sweep the defending champions Mavericks out of the playoffs, winning Game 4 103-97.
Harden is the guy the Thunder want to have the ball late in games because he makes plays — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook fall into hero ball when given the ball late, Harden looks to make plays. Oh, he can score, but he will just as likely set up others. He sparks the Thunder. He sparked this comeback.
If you’re just noticing that now, you seeing what other GMs have been noticing for a couple years — there are a lot of teams that covet him. Doesn’t matter, the Thunder are not letting him go.
For Dallas, this outcome was really decided last summer when Mark Cuban decided not bring Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and Caron Butler back — he rolled the dice on this season to set up the room to offer a max deal to Deron Williams this summer. They had hoped Lamar Odom could fill in that gap, but he couldn’t. That lack of depth showed during the comeback — Dirk Nowitizki had 34 but he did not have enough help anymore. The Mavs put up a fight, but they no longer had the horses.
But it was not all Dallas — Oklahoma City has grown as a team and were far the best side in this series. They have grown and evolved at both ends of the floor, and sent a message with this sweep that they are the team to beat in the West. They have the best scorer in the league — Durant had 24 points and 11 rebounds in this one. They have Westbrook’s speed and scoring. They have Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka in the paint.
And they have Harden coming off the bench. Dallas couldn’t match him. And they are gone because of it.
The FIBA Hall of Fame (not to be confused with the Basketball Hall of Fame, which is not to be confused with the NBA Hall of Fame, which doesn’t exist) enshrined Hakeem Olajuwon and David Stern in its 2016 class.
Olajuwon won a gold medal with Team USA in the 1996 Olympics. A Nigeria native, he has helped promote basketball in Africa.
After growing the sport’s popularity stateside, Stern pushed to globalize basketball as NBA commissioner.
The full list of 2016 inductees:
Panagiotis Fasoulas (Greece)
Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria/USA)
Manuel Raga (Mexico)
Juan Antonio San Epifanio (Spain)
Michele Timms (Australia)
Jorge Canavesi (Argentina)
David J. Stern (USA)
The over-riding objective of the Hall of Fame is to reflect the history of the sport.
The honour may be awarded posthumously.
The key conditions for induction to the FIBA Hall of Fame are:
• Outstanding achievement at the international level from a personal effort or initiative
• Having contributed to the performances of players, technical officials, coaches, and administrators or to the global development of basketball.
Olajuwon and Stern seem to fit the bill.
Now, if only there were a Hall of Fame that appropriately recognized NBA achievements.
Blake Griffin reportedly doesn’t want to leave Los Angeles when his contract is up next summer. This is a guy who has done stand up, is executive producer of a television show, and is generally loving the perks of living in Los Angeles.
Still, the dream lives on in Oklahoma City that he will come in and be the next star there and pair with Russell Westbrook.
Griffin was back in his native Oklahoma for alumni weekend with the OU basketball team, and he heard the sales pitch.
Griffin blows this off, just like he is going to try to blow off the dozens and dozens of reporters who will ask him about his summer plans during the season.
But he has to know the recruiting pitches are coming all season, especially when he visits OKC.
Ty Lawson said that wherever he signed, “they’re going to get me for cheaper than I feel I’m worth … I feel like I’m overlooked in free agency.”
That lucky team — at least in Lawson’s mind — is the Sacramento Kings.
They have reached a one-year deal with him, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
Lawson bounced between Houston and Indiana last season, and struggled at both stops — he shot 39.3 percent last season with a far wbelow replacement lever PER of 9.7. He was better in Indiana than Houston.
Lawson also brings the baggage of a couple of DUIs in recent years and a reputation as a partier — including showing up to practice with alcohol on his breath. That hurt is free agent prospects, and is something Lawson denied to The Undefeated.
But I’m not a person out here like everyone thinks that I’m drunk all day. No, I don’t do that. A lot of my friends, we go out and celebrate. But I’m not that person in the morning getting drunk before practice. I think there is a big misconception about what everybody thinks. That’s what I basically tell them. I keep it honest.
The Kings will start Darren Collison at the point, but Lawson should get a decent run as a backup. Lawson is a solid playmaker and has a spot up shot, when he is right.
What the 28-year-old Lawson also will get is another chance — he hasn’t impressed in his past few stops and if that doesn’t change his NBA career could end soon.
There are 1,230 NBA games in a season, and decent amount of those come down to which team executes better in a close game late. (By the way, the best teams don’t win the most close games, the best teams have the most blowouts and aren’t in as many close games.)
What that means is there are a lot of game winners, a lot of clutch shots every season. The folks at NBA.com compiled them for you, and what else do you have to do on a Sunday night but watch 13 minutes of them.
Yes, there is plenty of Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook in this one, but the clutch shot of the season belonged to Kyrie Irving.