Nerlens Noel, Lakeem Jackson

Why there’s a 100 percent chance the NBA lottery is fixed

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The NBA lottery is fixed. There’s no question about it. Just as last year’s draft order was determined by a David Stern-led conspiracy, this year’s will be determined the same way.

Think about it. If the NBA lottery really were legitimate, why not conduct the draw publically rather than in a back room? If the league conducted the lottery in the open, nobody could ever question the results.

So, don’t bother tuning in tonight. I’ll tell you why it’s totally fixed.

Orlando Magic

Odds of winning the lottery: 25 percent 100 percent

The NBA doesn’t technically have compensatory picks, but we all know Stern takes care of teams that lose superstars. The Cavaliers lost LeBron James, and then they won the Kyrie Irving lottery. The Hornets lost Chris Paul, and then they won the Anthony Davis lottery. Now, the Magic lost Dwight Howard, and it’s their turn to land the top spot.

Charlotte Bobcats

Odds of winning the lottery: 19.9 percent 100 percent

The Bobcats might be the league’s most stale team. That’s part of the reason Charlotte is changing its nickname back to the Hornets, but a new star would go much further. Charlotte once packed the stands for NBA games, and with a good team, ticket sales will surge again. Plus, Stern wants to boost Michael Jordan’s profile.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Odds of winning the lottery: 15.6 percent 100 percent

Stern desperately wants to create a Cavaliers-Heat rivalry to boost rankings, and to do so, he must make the Cavaliers better. Dan Gilbert remained loyal during the lockout, and especially after LeBron became the worst example of players seizing control from teams, Stern will reward Gilbert with a second No. 1 pick.

Phoenix Suns

Odds of winning the lottery: 11.9 percent 100 percent

Robert Sarver might not be selling the Suns, but he’s at least dipped his feet in the water more than other owners. It’s particularly important for the NBA that its franchises for sale are as valuable as possible, raising the value of all franchises in the process. If Sarver decides to sell anytime in the next five years, having the No. 1 pick on his team would raise Phoenix’s value.

New Orleans Pelicans

Odds of winning the lottery: 8.8 percent 100 percent

Selling the New Orleans franchise proved so difficult, the NBA took over the team for a while. Even then, the league needed time to find a buyer. You think Tom Benson ponied up $388 million for only one No. 1 pick? He’s getting at least two from Stern. The NBA showed it was committed to keeping a team in New Orleans, and for that decision to be financially viable, the Pelicans need more talent, which Stern will gladly provide.

Sacramento Kings

Odds of winning the lottery: 6.3 percent 100 percent

This just reeks of the Hornets situation last year. The NBA brokers the sale of a team shortly before the lottery, and – poof – that team gets the No. 1 pick. Why do you think these sales occur this time of year? Stern sweetens the pot with a No. 1 pick.

Detroit Pistons

Odds of winning the lottery: 3.6 percent 100 percent

The Pistons’ attendance has been extremely volatile in the last decade. When the team was good, the Pistons led the league in home fans. Lately, they’ve ranked near the bottom. So, the marginal value of giving Detroit the No. 1 pick is extremely high. Stern also has a habit of rewarding the new owners with the No. 1 pick, and though Tom Gores had to take a backseat to more pressing matters in Cleveland and New Orleans, he’ll finally get that No. 1 pick promised to him when he bought the Pistons in 2011.

Washington Wizards

Odds of winning the lottery: 3.5 percent 100 percent

It’s the second term of a basketball-loving president, and if the NBA is going finally cash in on the marketing that would come with Barack Obama attending more games, the Wizards must be better sooner than later. Obama has been spotted at Wizards games before, but if those games became higher profile, Obama would probably attend more. That’s the type of cache the NBA could use as it expands globally.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Odds of winning the lottery: 1.7 percent 100 percent

Glen Taylor might not be selling the Timberwolves, but he’s at least dipped his feet in the water more than other owners. It’s particularly important for the NBA that its franchises for sale are as valuable as possible, raising the value of all franchises in the process. If Taylor decides to sell anytime in the next five years, having the No. 1 pick on his team would raise Minnesota’s value.

Portland Trail Blazers

Odds of winning the lottery: 1.1 percent 100 percent

Just as Paul Allen buys so many late first-round picks, he bought the No. 1 pick, too. Why do you think the league’s other owners put up with a rigged lottery? It’s because the “lucky” owner pays off the rest. Really, everybody wins. Allen gets his top player, and the other teams get cash for a player they didn’t deem that valuable (or else they would have bid higher). Best of all, because this income is under the table, no taxes.

Philadelphia 76ers

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.8 percent 100 percent

Philadelphia is the largest media market in the lottery, and Sterns obviously wants his big-market teams to be better. 76ers fans can be among the league’s most-passionate – and the NBA is getting increasingly better at turning that passion into money – but this season’s malaise sucked the life out of the fan base. Nothing would get Philadelphia fans going like the No. 1 pick in the draft, and even if they boo him on draft night, at least they’ll be watching.

Toronto Raptors

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.7 percent 100 percent

Not only are the Raptors the only NBA team based outside the United States, Toronto has plenty of overseas flavor. The Raptors are the NBA’s gateway to worldwide expansion, and the more fans the league draw sin Toronto, faster the growth will occur.

Dallas Mavericks

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.6 percent 100 percent

In the first full season since Mark Cuban bought the Mavericks, Dallas missed the playoffs. Now that he’s personally involved, Cuban won’t sit quietly as the NBA fixes the lottery – unless his teams wins it. Stern will give into Cuban just this once, helping the Mavericks reach the playoffs next season and allowing the NBA to continue its lottery-rigging ways without Cuban interfering.

Utah Jazz

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.5 percent 100 percent

Greg Miller’s ownership has been a little rocky, lowlighted by a very public feud with Karl Malone, since the death of Miller’s father, Larry H. Miller. Stern and Larry were old friends, and on his way out, Stern will do his old bud one last favor. Salt Lake City might not be the biggest market, but at this point, Stern doesn’t care. He just wants to look out for his friends.

Don’t worry, this post will still be here after the lottery in case you forget why it was fixed. Once you know who won the No. 1 pick, come back to check why we told you all along the whole thing was rigged for that team.

Warriors’ defense, Klay Thompson take over fourth quarter, earn Game 2 win

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Only one team in this series can crank up their defense enough to  win them games.

The Warriors’ offense feeds off that stingy defense — with or without Stephen Curry in the lineup, again Tuesday it was without — and the combination can lead to big runs.

Such as a 34-12 fourth quarter. It was historic, as our own Dan Feldman pointed out on twitter.

Golden State trailed by 17 at one point but came on in the fourth with a defensive energy that held Damian Lillard to 0-of-3 shooting and his entire Portland team to 26.5 percent shooting. Those miss shots fueled transition buckets and opportunities — Klay Thompson had 10 of his 27 points on the night in the fourth — and the Warriors roared back for a 110-99 victory.

Golden State now leads the series 2-0 as it heads to Portland, with Game 3 not until Saturday. The biggest question is whether Curry will play in that game, or will the Warriors use their position of strength to get him more rest (as they did in the Houston series up 2-0)?

The best player on the floor in Game 2 was Draymond Green, who finished with 17 points (on 20 shots), 14 rebound and seven assists. But that’s not where the damage he does starts — it’s on defense. His ability to defend the five, then show out high on pick-and-rolls to cut off Lillard or C.J. McCollum and take away their shots from three. With Curry out, Green also spends a lot of time as the guy initiating the Warriors offense. He crashes the boards. He protects the paint, including a key block late on Mason Plumlee. Green did it all.

Portland raced out to a lead using their vintage style — their defense wasn’t that good, but it was good enough (especially with a cold Thompson who kept missing open looks), and their offense was hitting everything. With the Warriors missing shots it was Portland using the opportunity to run — and it was the Warriors defenders doing a poor job of recognizing the shooters and closing them out. So the opposite of Game 1.

Portland was also getting buckets from Al-Farouq Aminu — 10 first quarter points — and that’s always a good sign because he’s the guy (well, him and Maurice Harkless) that the Warriors will live with shooting.

Still, you knew the run was coming. The Warriors went on a 14-2 run to make it close as the second half started to wind down. But then Portland responded with some real poise and an 8-0 run of their own. Portland was getting their buckets and had a 59-51 run at the half. They continued to hold that lead through the third quarter thanks to a red-hot Damian Lillard, who had 16 points in the quarter.

But again, you knew the run was coming — and this time it was fueled by the Warriors defense. Festus Ezeli was a big part of that, his defensive presence in the paint helped turn things around, he was setting big screens to free up Thompson and others, plus he had eight points of his own in the quarter.

When the game got tight Portland missed seven in a row down the stretch, and that sealed the Blazers fate. Meanwhile, the Warriors kept hitting shots, and the Blazers have no great options to change up the defense and alter that dynamic. Even without Curry, the versatility of the Warriors makes them tough to slow, let alone stop. 

Going home, maybe the Trial Blazers can hit some difficult shots and hold off a Warriors charge in the fourth quarter.

Or, maybe Stephen Curry is back, and the Warriors just get better.

Dwyane Wade’s determination outlasts Kyle Lowry’s buzzer beater

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade controls the ball as Toronto Raptors' Kyle Lowry (7) defends during the first half in Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Tuesday, May 3, 2016 in Toronto.  (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Dwyane Wade was helpless as Kyle Lowry‘s halfcourt heave sailed through the air (though Wade cocked his head back and leaned to the side, as if changing his view could alter the ball’s trajectory).

Wade was helpless as the referees swallowed their whistles despite Cory Joseph crashing into him on an inbound. (Haven’t we had enough incorrect no-calls on late inbound plays?) That led to a Heat turnover that preceded Lowry’s miracle shot.

Wade was helpless as the referees again swallowed their whistles despite DeMarre Carroll tugging his jersey on an overtime inbound. (Haven’t we really had enough incorrect no-calls on late inbound plays?) That also created a turnover and gave the Raptors another chance to tie.

So, Wade took matters into his own hands.

Wade snatched the ball from DeMar DeRozan, went to his knees to recover it and charged for a three-point play with 1.8 seconds left – finally clinching a 102-96 Miami Game 1 win in a second-round series Tuesday.

The game went to overtime on Lowry’s long-distance buzzer beater. When the shot fell, Wade dropped to one knee and buried his face in his hand. But he didn’t stay on the mat for long.

The Heat scored first eight points of regulation, and Wade (24 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks) outscored the Raptors himself in the extra period, 7-6.

This is Toronto’s seventh straight Game 1 loss, including four at home the last three years with largely this group of players. But as the Raptors’ first-round win over the Pacers showed, this series is far from over. Road Game 1 winners have taken the series 53% of the time, hardly an overwhelming clip.

Toronto must better stay in front of Goran Dragic, who led Miami with 26 points. Dragic, who had 25 in Game 7 against the Hornets, had never scored so much in consecutive games with the Heat. They’re thrilled to run their offense through him more often.

The Raptors should also more resolutely attack Hassan Whiteside, who scared them away from the basket. Beyond Jonas Valanciunas (24 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals), the Raptors were 8-for-20 in the paint with Whiteside in the game. It’s not so much the shooting percentage – which isn’t great – but the low number of attempts in 39 minutes. Whiteside is a premier rim protector, but he’s not invincible. That proclivity for the perimeter failed especially with Toronto’s star guard struggling so mightily.

Aside from his halfcourt highlight, Lowry scored four points on 2-of-12 shooting, including 0-for-6 from beyond the arc. More than anything, the Raptors need him to play better.

Otherwise, the shot of the playoffs will only delay the inevitable.

Kyle Lowry sends Raptors-Heat to overtime with halfcourt buzzer beater (video)

Toronto Raptors' Kyle Lowry makes a pass as Miami Heat's Luol Deng (9) and Goran Dragic (7) defend during the first half in Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Tuesday, May 3, 2016 in Toronto.  (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Kyle Lowry was 2-for-11, including 0-for-5 on 3-pointers.

Didn’t matter.

He hit the big one to stave off yet another Raptors Game 1 loss.

Video via Kenny Ducey of Sports Illustrated

C.J. McCollum on Warriors: ‘They set a lot of illegal screens’

Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum, center, reaches for the ball between Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, top, and forward Andre Iguodala during the second half in Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, May 1, 2016. The Warriors won 118-106. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts accused Anderson Varejao of being dirty on a particular play.

C.J. McCollum says the Warriors cross the line much more regularly.

via Jason Quick of CSN Northwest:

“They set a lot of illegal screens,’’ Blazers guard CJ McCollum said Tuesday at the team’s shootaround at The Olympic Club. “They are moving and stuff. That’s the respect you get when you are champions, you get a lot more respect from the referees. You have to figure out a way to get around those screens and make it difficult.’’

One underappreciated element of the Warriors’ success is their excellent screening. Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut are two of the NBA’s best. Even the diminutive Stephen Curry wreaks havoc with his screens, leveraging his shooting ability to befuddle defenders.

Do the Warriors sometimes set illegal screens? Yup. Do they do so more than other teams? Yup. Do they do so more than every other team? Anecdotally, probably, though I’d love to see numbers.

But that’s part of Golden State’s strategy. The Warriors screeners so often straddle the line, they move it. It’s a fine line between a good legal screen and an illegal one, and Golden State dares the refs to blow the whistle.

McCollum can campaign for that to change, and his statements might cause the league to instruct referees to watch Warrior screens more closely. But even if Golden State has to harness its movement and arm extensions on picks, the team is more than capable of setting quality clean screens.