Harrison Barnes, Cory Joseph

Harrison Barnes’ playoff scoring surge merely step one of two

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Harrison Barnes had a solid regular season, making the All-Rookie first team as a debatable choice for that honor. He started 81 games for the playoff-bound Warriors, but Barnes took a back seat to Stephen Curry, David Lee, Klay Thompson, Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and, when healthy, Andrew  Bogut.

Again being the seventh banana on a playoff team as a rookie isn’t to be scoffed at. But it’s not exactly special.

Then, in the playoffs, Curry and Lee battled injuries, and the Warriors put more on Barnes’ plate. And again and again, he answered.

Barnes became the first rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 to average at least 16 points per game in the playoffs. But unlike Jennings, whose scoring average increased from 15.5 in the regular season to 18.7 in the postseason, Barnes didn’t show this penchant for scoring during the regular season, when he scored just 9.2 points per game.

By exceeding 16 points per game in the playoffs as a rookie, Barnes has already put himself in pretty good company. Just 76 players have done that in NBA history, including four in 1947, the Basketball Association of America’s inaugural year, making everyone a rookie.

In the 15 years before Jennings, the feat was accomplished by just Derrick Rose, Nenad Krstic, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan, Zydrunas Ilgauskas,Stephon Marbury andArvydas Sabonis. That’s pretty good company and Nenad Krstic.

No rookie had averaged 16 points per game in the playoffs with a regular-season scoring average lower than Barnes’ since Brian Shaw in 1989. That season, Shaw averaged 8.6 points per game before upping that to 17.0 while Larry Bird and Danny Ainge missed a three-game sweep at the hands of the Pistons.

And therein lies the lesson. These high-scoring playoff outputs by rookies occur in small samples and are often accompanied by strange circumstances unlikely to repeat themselves.

Of the 76 rookies to average at least 16 points per game in the playoffs, 54 averaged fewer points per game in the their second regular season than in their first. Seven more players improved only marginally, by fewer than two points per game.

Of the remaining 15, including Barnes, a majority are Hall of Famers – Hakeem Olajuwon, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Bailey Howell, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Cliff Hagan and Paul Arizin. Four more – Dwyane Wade, Anfernee Hardaway, Bob Dandridge and Jeff Ruland – became All-Stars.

Nothing can erase Barnes’ awesome playoff run, when  scored so well against two above-average defenses in the Nuggets and Spurs. But he’s unlikely to parlay that scoring success into a great second year.

However, if he does take the next step next season, history says Barnes would be on the fast track to stardom.

Enjoy 50-best circus shots of last NBA season

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As of tomorrow, training camps around the league open, and all the focus goes to the 2016-17 season.

For fun, let’s look back one more time at last season — the 50 top circus shots of last season.

Stephen Curry driving the lane and throwing up prayers once he draws contact (and hitting them), there is Russell Westbrook throwing the inbounds pass off an opponent’s back, and so much more. Enjoy. Then let’s get on with next season.

To avoid trash talk, Steven Adams told Kevin Garnett he didn’t speak English

Kevin Garnett
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Kevin Garnett intimidates people. In the machismo-fueled world of professional sports nobody comfortably admits they were intimidated, but in the wake of Garnett announcing his retirement, a number of players stepped forward to say exactly that. And that KG trashed talked them fearlessly.

Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams found a way to avoid that — tell KG he didn’t speak English.

Brilliant.

Adams was lucky, KG had a reputation for going harder at foreign-born players with his trash talk and intimidation. Then again Adams is not the kind of guy prone to be intimidated.

Pistons’ Stan Van Gundy “encouraged” by players speaking out, protesting social issues

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 17: Head coach Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons yells to his players during the first half of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on April 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption ***Stan Van Gundy
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Athletes are injecting themselves into the needed national conversation about race, violence, and policing in this nation. That has taken some very public forms, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony speaking at the ESPYs, and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and leading others to do so. Some NBA players likely will follow Kaepernick’s lead.

Pistons coach/GM Stan Van Gundy likes seeing players speak out.

A couple of his Detroit players — Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris — said they backed the 49ers quarterback. Here is what the never shy Van Gundy said about all of it, via Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

“I’m encouraged by the fact of what some of those guys stood up and did at the ESPYs and had a conversation,” Van Gundy said. “I’m really proud of the fact that we have guys that not only see the problem, but want to try to do something about it…

“To me, in some ways, (police brutality is) just the most visible to focus on and it goes to deeper inequities in our criminal justice system, our education system so there’s so much to focus on,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s great that we have players that want to be part of that conversation, and a lot of players that want to go beyond the conversation and be part of the solution.”

Van Gundy has been telling his players part of that solution is to vote.

The players union and NBA sent out a release saying they wanted to work together to create positive change, but details are still vague on what that might be. The only thing we know for sure as we head into the NBA season — with as divided a nation and election as anyone can remember as a backdrop — is that some NBA players are going to try and keep the conversation going.

Sunday is 16th anniversary of greatest dunk ever: Vince Carter over Frederic Weis

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It was the last game of the group stage of the 2000 Olympic basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics, the USA was taking on France, another USA win on its way to another gold medal.

But what we all remember is this one play — Vince Carter dunking over the 7’2″ French center Frederic Weis.

Best. Dunk. Ever.

By anyone.

Weis was never the same.

In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.

Hat tip to nitramy at NBA Reddit.