Jordan Hill says improved outside shooting won’t change the rest of his game

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Jordan Hill provided a nice spark off the bench for the Lakers in the early part of last season, before suffering a torn labrum in his hip that sidelined him for 53 games. He was an energy player for a team that didn’t have many of them, and his hustle on the defensive end of the floor along with his rebounding earned him a fairly consistent 15.8 minutes per game.

Following advice from Mike D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant, Hill has been spending his summer working on his outside shooting, to the point where he believes he’s a good shooter now. While the offensive impact should help him get into his coach’s good graces if he can fill the role of a stretch four that D’Antoni’s offense treasures, Hill is saying all the right things in terms of not letting his offense get in the way of doing the things that got him those minutes last season.

From Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

How does Hill prevent his increased outside shooting from diluting the qualities that earned him such a prominent role on the Lakers’ bench in the first place?

“I’m still going to do what I’m going to do,” said Hill, who averaged a career-high 6.7 points and career-high 5.7 rebounds in 15.8 minutes last season through 29 regular-season games. “Provide energy, play defense, rebound. That’s my game. That’s not going to change. I just want to be able to have more options and have something that the team can rely on. It’s all about just trying to expand my game.”

“The thing with me this year is I’m not going to want to worry about scoring,” Hill said. “I’m going to let [Pau Gasol] and [Chris Kaman] take care of that. I’ll make sure I’ll do everything on defense, the little things, anything to make this team better.”

It’s a fine line, obviously, because two-way players are more valuable to teams if there’s consistency at both ends. But Hill is going to be most productive in the paint or close to the basket, even offensively, and it would seem that despite the improved but untested outside shooting, Hill’s defense is going to be needed a lot more than will his offense.

At least at this stage of the offseason, Hill seems to realize it.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

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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.