Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Clippers

The Extra Pass Thursday Roundup: Stephen Curry could be greatest shooter ever



How good were Stephen Curry and Chris Paul in the shootout between the Clippers and Warriors last night?

It’s almost impossible to be hyperbolic, both about the performances and the players themselves.

Don’t believe me? Try this one on for size: Stephen Curry is the best shooter of all-time.

You’re squirming, aren’t you? It doesn’t sit right. You’re thinking it can’t possibly be true, not yet, not with every great player that has played this game. You’re running through names in your head right now. Larry Bird? Steve Nash? It can’t be Curry.

But then you look. The records are already falling at his feet. You play with the numbers, look deeper and see that Curry is only one of two players to have a career true shooting percentage over 58 percent, a three-point percentage over 44 percent and a career field-goal percentage over 46 percent. By all the important measures, he’s been elite.

And then you see a guy like Steve Kerr listed right next to Curry on that list. Great shooter, Kerr was. One of the best. But then you remember, there is no Michael Jordan creating for Curry. There are no wide open spot-up threes to feast on. Kerr was shooting fish out of a barrel — Curry can’t even see what he’s aiming at half of the time.

And you know what? Everyone knows what he wants to do. He gets every team’s best defender and the full undivided attention of defenses every night. Coaches say, “Make him put it on the floor. Make anyone else beat us.” And then what? He pulls up from 27 feet with a hand in his face and woosh, there goes the ball through the net, and there goes your gameplan.

There’s nothing in the world like watching someone at the peak of their craft doing what they do best. Basketball just happens to be one of the more enjoyable crafts, and that’s what made Curry’s battle with Paul so enthralling. Different styles make for great fights, and that’s what was happening here.

It was actually Paul who dominated in between the lines, using his quick hands to fluster Curry to no end. The turnovers for Curry piled up quick, and Paul was relentless with his pressure on both ends. But once Curry put the ball in the air? All bets were off.

In typical Paul fashion, though, what could be controlled was controlled. The Warriors threw an underrated defender in Klay Thompson at him. No dice. Then they threw maybe the league’s best defender in Andre Iguodala at him, too, and yet still, Paul’s greatness shined through every crack in the Warriors defense.

Paul was more than beating his man – he was exploiting him. This was John Stockton with a streak for scoring, with the same flair for a well-timed flop, with the same nastiness that allows a 6-foot-1 guy to plant a forearm in the chest of a giant and rather ornery Australian man on a cross-screen.

This was two stars in the prime of their careers turning the other eight players on the court into unintelligible blurs. You watched Paul, and then you watched Curry, and everything else was a distraction. Paul, then Curry. Curry, then Paul. And back and forth it went until it came to a close, all while you were wishing that it didn’t have to stop so soon.

—D.J. Foster




Bulls 82, Knicks 81: This was a sloppy early season game with a lot of turnovers, missed shots and missed defensive assignments — but it was close at the end and it certainly had plenty of drama. Derrick Rose missed nine of his first 11 shots and was 7-of-23 on the night, but the seventh make was a beautiful floater with five seconds left that won the Bulls the game. So he gets a few things forgiven, like the fact he is 11-of-38, or 28.9 percent, through two games. Carmelo Anthony had 22 points but needed 24 shots to get there and he was awful from the midrange (4-of-14).

Clippers 126, Warriors 115: I now will spend the rest of the season rooting for these two teams to meet in the playoffs — I want seven games between these guys. This was just fun. Chris Paul decided not to let the Clippers lose — 42 points, 15 assists, 6 steels. As long as they have kept the steal stat (1974) nobody has had a stat line like that with 6 steals in a game. Stephen Curry had 38 points and 9 assists, he was 9-of-14 from three. He hit two threes from somewhere on Figueroa Street outside the building.

In the end it was Curry’s 11 turnovers and 24 for the Warriors as a team that did them in — turnovers against the Clippers leads to fast break alley-oops, the Lob City show and a lot of momentum for L.A. But I really just want these teams to meet in the playoffs. Come on basketball gods make it happen.

51 Questions: Is Mike Malone the key to bringing Denver back?

Michael Malone
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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Is Mike Malone the key to bringing Denver back?

One incident sums up how bad things had gotten in Denver under the Brian Shaw regime — breaking a fourth-quarter huddle in the final game of February, Nuggets players chanted “1-2-3-six weeks!”

The players didn’t like the coach, some of them didn’t like each other, and with six weeks and 24 games left in the season they had checked out. The young players (and some of the veterans) partied so much Shaw canceled shootarounds because guys couldn’t roll in for them in the morning. Shaw had lost the team long before when he’d tried to fit square pegs into the triangle holes of his offense, and it spiraled out of control from there. The culture in Denver was broken.

Mike Malone was brought in to repair that culture.

The Jeff Van Gundy disciple has shown he can do that before. Malone was starting to build something in Sacramento (they started last season 9-6 before DeMarcus Cousins got sick), where he was asked to repair a franchise culture that by the end of the Maloof era was something akin to the Lord of the Flies. Malone also turned out to be the one coach who had gotten through to Cousins. Even with his defensive mindset and Cousins in the paint, Malone had the Kings playing at the eighth-fastest pace in the league in pace, but the Kings’ owner wanted to play faster (and maybe didn’t want to miss out on the chance to hire George Karl), so Malone got sacked.

The question becomes, is Malone alone going to turn things around in Denver and bring them back to relevance?

Not alone, and not just in one season, but he will get them on the right track.

The first step to show management was behind Malone was the trading of Ty Lawson. No doubt when focused Lawson is a quality point guard (as Houston likely benefits from this season), but he was part of the problem in the end in Denver, to the point of picking up two DUIs in six months (he checked into a rehab facility after the second one). He had mentally checked out and his example was an issue the Nuggets needed to change.

That turns the keys for the offense over to rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who impressed a lot of people at Summer League after bailing on SMU to play in China last season. But he’s still a rookie with a long way to go — as the 15 turnovers in his first two preseason games attest. Things that worked in China and Summer League don’t fly against an NBA defense.

With Mudiay at the point and a team that plays half its games at high altitude, Monroe wants to take advantage of that and get out and run. Expect the Nuggets to get back to their traditional up-tempo games, but with some things Malone loves to run (such as the Rick Adelman corner action).

But for Malone, all things — including good transition basketball — starts with defense. You have to get stops and steals to run well, and the Nuggets were 26th in the league in defensive rating last season (105.5 points allowed per 100 possessions). In the first two Nuggets preseason games, that was the Nuggets focus (with mixed results).

Malone’s challenge starts with getting Kenneth Faried to buy in and play as hard on defense as he does on offense — something Faried has never done. Faried has been a defensive minus since he entered the NBA and that becomes one of Malone’s first major projects (even if it’s just to boost Faried’s trade value). Faried, who clashed with Shaw over his role, has said he’s felt energized under Malone, now the coach just has to steer that energy to the defensive end of the court.

Malone will be searching for the right center to put next to Faried, and I expect that will mean a lot of Jusuf Nurkic (who is young and shows it at times). But also expect to see some small-ball lineups with Faried at the five. Something like Mudiay, Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Faried. A lineup with some athleticism and shooting that could put up points, but would they get any stops? If Gary Harris slots in for Foye, does that help the defense (Harris is guy Nuggets fans may see more and more of as the season goes on).

The roster is a work in progress, and if you were to bet on the Nuggets doing one thing this season, it should be making trades. Things are going to change.

There are nice pieces on the Nuggets, but not enough of them and with some real questions about how it all fits together. This is not a playoff team this season, not in the West.

But it’s a team that Malone could have playing a lot better late in the season than at the beginning, once some of those questions start to be answered, and the young players gain experience. That should be the goal in Denver. Begin to change the culture, get buy-in on the system, get guys playing hard again rather than dreaming of Cancun vacations by February. Change can be incremental, but Malone will start the change.

Then in a couple of years, you’ve got the team you want.

Well, so long as the Nuggets ownership doesn’t get impatient and decide it needs to change directions again.

Another Pelicans center down: Omer Asik out three weeks

Omer Asik, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver
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The Pelicans will have to play Anthony Davis at center now.

With backup center Alexis Ajinca already sidelined, starting center Omer Asik suffered his own injury.

Pelicans release:

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that center Omer Asik is expected to miss the next three weeks with a right calf strain. The injury occurred during Wednesday’s practice.

If that three-week timeline is firm, Asik would miss two regular season games – at Warriors and at Trail Blazers.

Davis figured to be the most natural fit at center in Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo scheme. What happens if the Pelicans excel with him there and then stumble once Asik and Ajinca return? Because New Orleans had Bird Rights for Asik and Ajinca, re-signing them made some sense. And once they’re re-signed, Gentry must find a role for them. But that could get harder if it becomes obvious the team is best with Davis at center.

As long as Asik and Ajinca are out, Kendrick Perkins probably moves into the rotation. Jeff Adrien could also see minutes at center. Suddenly, Adrien, on an unguaranteed contract, has a much better chance of making the regular-season roster. Ryan Anderson probably plays more at power forward, too, with Davis logging more time at center.