Monday And-1 links: Cavaliers to target Tony Allen this summer

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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 like Mario Batali loves orange clogs.

• The Cavaliers need to improve their defense next season — 26th in the NBA in points allowed per possession — and that has to include some roster changes. So they are already looking to target free agent Tony Allen of the Grizzlies. They are not alone. After these playoffs Allen is going to get a nice payday.

• Andray Blatche will be a free agent this summer after his best season as a pro. He hinted where he signs may be tied to playing time. I say the answer is who pays him the most.

• The Clippers are not going to rush any decision about Vinny Del Negro as coach. But I think we all know how this movie ends. And before you tell me how he turned the Clippers around, look at their record before Chris Paul arrived.

• Speaking of the Clippers, this feature by Ramona Shelburne on Blake Griffin is a must read. Especially for those of you who think he doesn’t work on his game.

• The Grizzlies turned to Instragram to poke a little fun at Blake Griffin after the Clippers were eliminated from the playoffs.

Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri confirmed the obvious: Denver would like to keep Andre Iguodala long term.

Apparently the Suns search for a GM is down to two: Bucks assistant GM Jeff Weltman and Celtics assistant GM Ryan McDonough.

• Denver’s Kenneth Faried won this year’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award from the league for his work in the community off the court. It’s well deserved.

• This is already on my reading list and it’s not even written yet — Jonathan Abrams of Grantland (and the New York Times before that) has gotten a book deal to write “Boys Among Men: How a Generation of High Schoolers Chasing Their NBA Dreams Changed the Game and Themselves.” It’s the story of the guys who jumped from high school straight to the NBA, starting with Moses Malone. (Great trivia question, who was the last guy to do it? Amir Johnson.)

• LeBron James pitched in $1 million to build a new gym at his high school, St. Vincint-St. Mary.

• Vegas, baby. I am pumped as always for Summer League in Las Vegas, starting July 12. I will be at the Cox/Thomas & Mack center ready for the rookies.

• The Bucks John Henson will be in Vegas for Summer League, too.

• Nets GM Billy King says the team may sign swingman Bojan Bogdanovic out of the Europe for next season. That should solve everything.

• Speaking of Euro signings, don’t be shocked if the Rockets ink Turkish forward Furkan Aldemir for next season.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.

Video Breakdown: Rockets launch Eric Gordon from 3-point range against Thunder in Game 4

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The Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, 113-109, and now the series heads back to Texas with the Rockets in the lead, 3-1.

Houston and OKC played a weird game, with Nene scoring 28 points off the bench for the Rockets and serious mischief in the final moments. The end of the game included a purposely missed free throw by Steven Adams that allowed Russell Westbrook to grab a quick 3-pointer and a missed call when James Harden shoved Alex Abrines out of the way like an NFL tackle.

While the Rockets didn’t shoot a stellar percentage from 3-point range — just 31.5 percent — they still knocked down 11 buckets from deep. Part of that action was a play run for Sixth Man of the Year candidate Eric Gordon that included a little semi-Pistol action, and a stagger screen that allowed Gordon to work his way free.

I picked this play to go over this week because it exemplifies just how committed to the 3-point shot the Rockets are. Plus, Gordon ran around three screens just to get this one bucket, which is always fun to see.

Watch the full video breakdown above.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart dustup: ‘He’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down’

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Marcus Smart and Jimmy Butler had to be separated during the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Bulls after Smart pushed Butler, who was hounding him defensively in the backcourt.

Butler:

As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he’s a great actor. Acting tough, that’s what he does. But I don’t think he’s about that, and I’m the wrong guy to get in my face. So, he needs to take it somewhere else because I’m not the one for that.

Was that their first run-in? Butler:

That’s the first time. Last time, too. We’re not going to sit here and get in each other’s faces like that. Like I said, he’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down.

The Bulls, who’ve lost two straight to allow Boston to tie the series 2-2, is angling for any edge. Butler tried to intimidate Smart on the court, and the Chicago wing might actually rattle the too easily shakable Smart with his postgame comments.

The irony: Some might say Butler, who did come up hard, lost touch with his roots as he entered stardom. I don’t buy that, at least not majorly.

But even if both – or neither – are posturing to any degree, this will be a matchup to watch in Game 5.

Remembering former NBA official Jess Kersey, who passed away Saturday

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Jess Kersey, who officiated more than 2,200 NBA games, including being part of 19 NBA Finals, passed away over the weekend, losing his battle with cancer at age 76.

Kersey was a well-respected official who feared nothing. Maybe the most remembered image of Kersey is him trying to break up a fight between Mitch Kupchak and Hakeem Olajuwon, essentially trying to tackle Olajuwon with his head in Olajuwon’s chest and his arms wrapped around him. Kersey got in the middle of everything if that was what was required.

Our thoughts go out to the Kersey family for their loss.