Washington Wizards v Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving would like to remind you he is very good. And Cavaliers win.

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You know why the Cleveland and Washington were on the NBA opening night schedule along with marquee teams like the Lakers, Heat and Celtics? Because the NBA likes to showcase its future, and here were John Wall and Kyrie Irving to entertain you… except John Wall is out for a while with a cracked patella.

That’s okay, Kyrie Irving can put on enough of a show for both of them.

Irving dropped 29 points and keyed a 14-4 run late and the Cavaliers fought to hold on and win a game they should have run away with against a depleted Wizards team, final score 94-84.

Watch that game and you came away reminded that Irving is on his way to joining the stratosphere of NBA point guards — he’s not Chris Paul or Deron Williams yet, but he will get there. He has the shot (he was knocking down threes) and the court generalship to get there and he displayed them all. Most importantly, he picked the right times to shoot and the right times to dish.

There were other bright spots if you’re a Cavs fan — Anderson Varejao owned the glass and had 23 rebounds, 12 of them offensive; Tristan Thompson had a dozen points, 7 in the fourth quarter during the Cavs run to seal the game; and rookie Dion Waiters completely outplayed his counterpart Bradley Beal.

Still this game was a lot tougher than it should have been. The game was tied 24-24 late in first quarter as Washington puts up points by pushing ball in transition and kicking out for three –Beal has figured out to run to the arc in transition and the Cavs had not figured out how to cover that.

But then late in the first the Wizards went cold shooting — 28 percent in the second quarter — and by the half the Cavaliers had pulled away. They led by 11 at the half and by 16 at points in the second and third quarters.

Varejao was a big part of that as he was hustling on the glass and really wanted the rebounds, which set him apart from seemingly everyone in a Wizards uniform. Remember that Varejao was tearing up the boards last season until his broken wrist.

Then the Cavs looked like a young team that couldn’t close out games. Washington made a 14-0 run start the fourth quarter behind the offensive powerhouses that are Jannero Pargo and Jordan Crawford (who led all Wizards with 11 points). A lot of that has to do with some terrible defense by the Cavaliers bench.

One thing you can take away from this game — Washington is going to struggle to put up points until John Wall and Nene return. The shot 35.6 percent for the game and 25 percent from three, and let’s just say this is not the best defense they are going to see in the next week (two games against Boston, plus the Pacers).

Once Irving and the starters for the Cavaliers got back in the game, order was restored. It wasn’t an impressive win, not when guys like Donald Sloan are getting a lot of run, not the way the Cavs bench played. But it’s a win to start the season, the Cavs will take it.

Oh, and Kyrie Irving is really, really good.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.