Is Reggie Evans right? Should Heat’s title have asterisk?

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It’s easy to dismiss Reggie Evans because he’s Reggie Evans. NBA “tough guy” who’s built like a tank but has earned fines for flopping. A guy who comes up on every list when you talk about dirtiest players in the league. He doesn’t exactly have the NBA’s most impressive resume.

But his comments about the Heat — made before the Heat routed his Brooklyn Nets — seem to have struck a chord. From the New York Daily News:

“It doesn’t prove nothing,” the Nets forward told the Daily News when asked what it would mean to beat the defending champs. “That was a lockout season.”

LeBron said after Wednesday’s win he let his game do the talking — 24 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists — but then he did some talking to the Daily News anyway.

“It did (get to me),” James said… “Because no one knows what it takes unless you’ve done it. You can’t sit here and judge and talk about a team winning a championship unless you’ve done it. He hasn’t done it.”

Is Evans right? Should we view the Heat title with suspicion?

They played 66 regular-season games, not 82, but then a full slate of playoff games. Does that deserve an asterisk next to the record?

Some people think so. Evans seems to have struck a chord with the many out there rooting against the Heat.

I would say “ask me again in 10 years.”

Look at the San Antonio Spurs, they won the 1999 NBA title, the first for that franchise, after a lockout-shortened regular season with 50 games.

Last time I looked, there is no asterisk next to that title in the record books and people don’t view that title as tainted — because the Spurs went on to prove three more times they were an NBA championship team. That lockout title may have been their first but they climbed the mountain three more times, you know the Spurs are legit. To this day.

For the Heat, if they build a legacy with more titles for this group then we will not look back on that first one with any suspicion. Same as with the Spurs. Win more rings and 2012 will be the season LeBron finally matured mentally enough to tap into his full potential and lead a team to a ring.

But if the Heat never win another title with this group? Maybe in a decade we will raise our eyebrows at it as a one-off, and maybe the lockout will play into that as one of the reasons.

Still, as LeBron said, they have climbed the mountain now and know what it takes to get there. Recent NBA history suggests that teams that win one ring win multiple ones, and the Heat are certainly contenders so long as LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are together. If they win another ring this year or next, we’re not going to think anything of that first title.

And then we’ll laugh off Reggie Evans and not take him seriously. Which is what we do with most things he says now anyway.

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

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Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?

 

Stephen Curry to begin “modified” practices with Warriors

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Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.

But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.

Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.

The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.

Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.

 

Kenyon Martin: I once played high

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Former NBA commissioner David Stern said the league began testing for marijuana because players complained of other players playing high. Chauncey Billups said he knew teammates who played better high.

But Stephen Jackson is the rare former NBA player who admitted to playing high.

Now, he has company.

Kenyon Martin – who played for the Nets, Nuggets, Clippers, Knicks and Bucks in a 15-year career – via Bleacher Report:

We were playing in Indiana one day. I wasn’t feeling well. I had a hamstring, a hip or something. So, I smoked. I wasn’t going to play originally. So, we got to the arena, and I’m like, “I feel good.” I went and told the trainer, “I’m going to go today.” I went out there and had a great game.

If you want to guess which game this was, here are the possibilities.

This was part of a great feature on marijuana in the NBA and NFL. Matt Barnes, Al Harrington and Gary Paton also participate. I highly recommend (pun intended) watching it in full.

Nuggets president Tim Connelly: Next season playoffs or bust

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The Nuggets have steadily improved over the last four years – 30-52 to 33-49 to 40-42 to 46-36.

But even 46 wins weren’t enough to get Denver into the playoff this season, extending the postseason drought to five years.

Nuggets president Connelly, via Gina Mizell of The Denver Post:

On if next season is “playoffs or bust”:

“I think we’re there. How many times can you be the bridesmaid? Our young core, three of our best players are 23 (Gary Harris), 22 (Jokic) and 21 (Jamal Murray), and they’ve proven they’re capable of doing it at the highest level. I think all of us are, quite frankly, sick of this time of the year having a press conference.”

There’s certainly something to be said for injecting urgency. The Nuggets are already good enough to make the playoffs. They just happened to play in a historically deep Western Conference. But that doesn’t mean they can’t take more responsibility.

Denver lost to the Hawks (twice), Grizzlies (twice without Mikey Conley), Mavericks, Kings and Nets this season. Flip any of those games, and the Nuggets would have made the playoffs.

But I’m not sure what “or bust” means.

Connelly said Michael Malone would return as coach next season. If Denver misses the playoffs, would he get fired? Would Connelly come on the hot seat? What if the Nuggets again produce a record that typically qualifies for the postseason?

Even if Denver misses the playoffs next year, the 2019-20 team would have a 22-year-old Jamal Murray, 25-year-old Gary Harris and probably a 24-year-old Nikola Jokic under contract. That’s still a pretty good place to be.

Because of Jokic’s rapid ascent, the Nuggets are trying to accelerate the timeline. They most notably signed Paul Millsap last summer. (Injury cost him most of the season and contributed to Denver falling short.) They could also emphasize the present by re-signing Will Barton this offseason.

But playoffs or not next year, the Nuggets have a bright future. Connelly just doesn’t want them leaning on that excuse, though following through on his edict could create complications if Denver again narrowly misses the postseason with a good record.