Monday And-1 links: NBA media day edition

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Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points. Today, we bring you a lot of news and notes out of the various media days across the nation.

• This is huge in the shoe industry — Dwyane Wade  is leaving Nike’s Jordan Brand for Chinese shoe manufacturer Li-Ning.

• The Knicks GM said that letting Jeremy Lin go was a financial decision. That certainly was a big part of it. But what else was he going to say?

• Did you know EA Sports cancelled “NBA Live 13” this year? Did you care might be the bigger question.

• Eddy Curry is in the Spurs training camp.

• Elton Brand is willing to be the enforcer for the Mavericks. Stop laughing Sixers fans, he means it.

• Chris Kaman has a sprained lower back and will be taking it slow in camp for Dallas. But at least Elton Brand has his back.

• While we’re talking Mavericks, forward Brandan Wright is day-to-day with a quad strain.

• Kyrie Irving says his hand is 100 percent, so you don’t need to keep asking.

• More Rajon Rondo love in Boston.

• Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is coming off patella tendon surgery and is now targeting a November return.

• Kings swingman John Salmons says he is still dealing with the hip injury that slowed him last season. Not good.

• Carlos Delfino’s arrival at Rockets training camp has been delayed by visa issues.

• Here are some fun, off-the-wall news and notes from Lakers media day, not involving the big stars.

• Ike Diogu played well for Nigeria at the Olympics, and that helped earn him an invite to Suns training camp. He is not expected to make the roster, however.

• A list of the NBA’s best players when they get the ball at the pinch post. Interesting read.

• The Raptors have spoken to DeMar DeRozan’s agent about a contract extension. That is very different than it actually happening, but they talked.

• Along those same lines, Ty Lawson’s agent has had conversations with the Nuggets about an extension.

• Hedo Turkoglu said at media day he hopes to retire with the Magic. You can bet they hope to have him traded by the deadline.

• Jameer Nelson talks about life after Dwight Howard in Orlando.

• Interesting note in this Mark Cuban interview — he says if someone bought a team and wanted to move it to Seattle, he wouldn’t expect to see any opposition.

• Philadelphia signed Xavier Silas to a non-guaranteed camp contract. That’s a good thing, Silas was the guy who suffered a major fall at the Orlando Summer League and needed multiple sinus surgeries.

Rapper ‘lil B said he was getting a camp invite from the Warriors.

GQ compiled a list of the worst decisions in sports. I’m sorry, I know some New Yorkers loved Jeremy Lin, but there is no way the Knicks letting him go should make this list.

• Jazz big man Enes Kanter, using twitter to get dinner dates. And a massage. But he’s flexible on hair color.

• For the record, Scottie Pippen is not broke. However he is not going to get richer suing all the outlets that reported he was, as a judge threw out that case.

• Countering earlier reports (including here at PBT), the Kings are saying their key sponsors and advertisers are sticking with them.

• Amare Stoudemire and John McCain, hanging out. Well, they ran into each other, anyway.

• Former NBA player and Kings head coach Reggie Theus is going to coach the D-Fenders, the Lakers affiliate in the D-League.

Jazz shut off Thunder in feisty Game 4 win

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Jae Crowder threw an ejection-drawing elbow, and teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn’t contain his grin as he pulled Crowder from the scuffle.

Steven Adams took the elbow in the face, and he didn’t even flinch.

Both the Jazz and Thunder showed their competitiveness in Utah’s chippy 113-96 Game 4 win Monday. The difference: The Jazz delivered the blow. Oklahoma City took it.

Utah has won three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Teams without home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 89% of the time. Still, those leading teams lose Game 5 on the road 74% of the time. Game 5 of this series is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

In other words: The Jazz have seized control of the series. They probably won’t close it out in Game 5 – though the way they’re playing, the certainly could.

Mitchell scored 33 points tonight, the first 30-point playoff game by a rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 (34 points). Mitchell has already scored 110 points this postseason, the most by a rookie since Harrison Barnes in 2013 (193 points). With Utah increasingly likely to advance, Mitchell has a chance to catch Dwyane Wade (234 points in 2004).

“He’s playing amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Mitchell. “He doesn’t seem a rookie at all.”

Rubio, the star of Game 3, happily deferred to Mitchell tonight. Russell Westbrook‘s guarantee to shut down Rubio meant little, as Rubio set the tone as a passer. His eight assists don’t do him justice, as he made key passes that led to fouls drawn and other advantage situations for his teammates.

“We play as a team,” Rubio said.

Westbrook, on the other hand, looked out of control. He committed four first-half fouls, and though calls were questions, he also committed five turnovers and shot just 7-for-18. The question isn’t whether Westbrook was reckless. He was. The only debate is just how reckless.

Westbrook’s fervor hardly stood out. In addition to Crowder’s ejection, the game featured six other technical fouls – on Paul George, Quin Snyder, Steven Adams, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Raymond Felton. And there was even more trash-talking and physicality than whistled.

There just wasn’t nearly enough sustained production from the Thunder.

George (32 points on 9-of-21 shooting with six turnovers) had moments but was far too sloppy. Oklahoma City’s big three shot dreadfully from beyond the arc – Carmelo Anthony (0-for-6), Westbrook (0-for-3) and George (2-for-9).

Utah led by double digits the final 23 minutes. Joe Ingles made as many 3-pointers (5-for-11) as the Thunder combined (5-for-26).

Ingles is an excellent shooter, but the Jazz’s offense hummed and got him open looks. His outside shots are a bellwether – of a Utah team cruising.

Mitt Romney taunts Russell Westbrook after fourth foul

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It’s been a glorious night for Utah Jazz fans.

In Game 4 the Jazz have taken care of the big three of the Thunder in what has been a very physical, chippy game (Jae Crowder even got ejected). Between their team going on big runs and the physical play of the game, the Utah crowd — one already with a reputation for verbal hostility toward opponents — has savored every second of it.

That includes former Massachusetts Governor, presidential candidate, and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reminded Russell Westbrook exactly how many fouls he picked up.

Twitter – which has its own reputation for verbal hostility — was not kind to Romney after this. Of course, he earned it with that outfit.

MVP James Harden, dominant Rockets show up in second half, crush Timberwolves

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We had to wait three-and-a-half games for it.

We had seen James Harden play like an MVP all season. We had seen the Rockets bury threes at a record rate all season. We had seen Houston’s switching defense impress all season (sixth best in the NBA). We had seen Houston rack up 65 wins and make it look easy.

Then we got to the playoffs and the Rockets couldn’t put it all together at once. Harden struggled after Game 1, including going 0-of-7 in the first quarter Monday night. The defense was inconsistent and the threes were not falling. All of it let the Timberwolves hang around in the series — down 2-1 — and the same in Game 4, down just a point at halftime.

Then the Harden and Rockets we all expected showed up.

Houston put up 50 points in the third quarter alone, shooting 61 percent overall and 9-of-13 from three, plus they got to the line 13 times and made every shot. The Rockets opened the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, with almost all of the damage from Harden, who had 22 in the quarter.

The Rockets pulled away and cruised from there to an easy 119-100 win.

“We hit the switch, the switch we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs on both ends of the floor,” Harden said postgame. “It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when defensively we’re locked in like that, and offensively we got rolling.”

Houston now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday night.

In the first half this looked nothing like something that would end with a comfortable Rockets win. Houston struggled at the start of Game 4, opening 0-of-5 in the paint, including Harden missing an open layup. As a team, the Rockets started the game 4-of-16 from three, and a lot of those were uncontested looks. The Rockets play a lot of isolation, but even for them the ball seemed to stick in the first half. If not for Trevor Ariza knocking down three from beyond the arc, the Timberwolves might have been able to pull away.

The fact they didn’t was a blown opportunity for the Timberwolves, something they just can’t do in this series. It was a one-point Rockets lead, 50-49, at the half.

Minnesota had some moments on offense in the game, usually when attacking quickly off the Rockets switch. Derrick Rose had some moments and finished the game with 17 points. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds, Jimmy Butler had 19 points on 17 shots.

But that was no match for the Rockets when they flipped the switch.

It was a barrage of threes that we have waited for all season, and it all started with Harden and Chris Paul, they had all of the first 15 points of the second half for Houston. Harden finished with 36 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. CP3 had 25 points and six assists, Eric Gordon finally woke up in this series with 18, and Ariza finished with 15.

Minnesota is a talented team, but they are learning fast what a contender can do — even not at their peak the Rockets had taken two of the first three in the series, and when they did flip the switch it was another level. A level the Timberwolves want to get to, there are just some rough lessons along the road to getting there.

James Harden puts on show to start second half vs. Timberwolves

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James Harden started Game 4 0-of-7 from the floor, including missing a lay-up. It was an extension of Game 3, and it let the Timberwolves hang around for a half despite their own offensive woes.

Then in the second half the MVP Harden showed up.

Houston started the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, and a lot of it was Harden (with a little help from Chris Paul). Harden had 22 points in the third (with 4:30 left in the quarter). After a couple rough games the Timberwolves were going under the pick when Harden had the ball, and suddenly he made them pay.

Or, he was just stepping back.

With all the buckets the Rockets turned a close game into a 25 point lead.