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

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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

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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.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.

Sacramento Kings waive guard Arron Afflalo

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento Kings have waived guard Arron Afflalo one year after signing him as a free agent.

The Kings cut ties with Afflalo on Friday before his entire $12.5 million contract for 2017-18 would become guaranteed. Afflalo will get $1.5 million instead.

Afflalo averaged 8.4 points and 2 rebounds in 61 games this past season for Sacramento. He has averaged 11.3 points per game in his 10-year career.

 

Frustrated fan: John McEnroe says Knicks a ‘total train wreck’

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NEW YORK (AP) — John McEnroe had a ringside seat for the ugliest bout at Madison Square Garden last season.

He was sitting just feet away when former Knicks star Charles Oakley was surrounded by security officials at his seat, shoving them away before being handcuffed and arrested while watching a game in February.

Even before that, the tennis great had begun to lose patience with his favorite team.

“It’s like a total train wreck,” McEnroe said.

The low point during a miserable 2016-17 season came when Oakley was dragged out of MSG in the first quarter of a game against the Los Angeles Clippers. A fan favorite as a player, he had fallen out of favor with the organization in retirement after critical comments about the team and MSG chairman James Dolan.

McEnroe, who often travels for his tennis or other obligations, wasn’t aware of the history between Oakley and Dolan.

“I didn’t even realize at the time that Charles had said bad things about him,” McEnroe said. “I hadn’t been up on that, so it wasn’t awkward for me when he sort of poked me in my back, Charles, right before the incident happened. I was like, `Hey Charles, how are you? This is my son, Kevin.’ He was with me.

“So I didn’t put 2 and 2 together and I didn’t know what had happened or really what had transpired,” he said. “So maybe Jim was already uncomfortable because of past history or whatever and then when Charles and the security guys started to go at it, even before they started to come up to him I was like, `Uh oh, this is not going to go well, at all.”‘

McEnroe is clearly visible in replays of the skirmish that were shown that night and throughout the next day.

“To see Charles Oakley have handcuffs put on him was horrible. Like, I was sick to my stomach, as well as almost every other fan that was in there watching this as it took place,” McEnroe said. “I bet you Jim Dolan – this is just my opinion – had to feel terrible about what that was.”

McEnroe grew up in and still lives in New York, and considers MSG his home arena. The inside cover of his new book, “But Seriously,” is decorated with ticket stubs from games and concerts at the arena, including a Knicks playoff game. But like many Knicks fans, he’s getting fed up with what he sees.

“I mean I’ve been a Knicks fan since I was a kid, so this is just getting beyond belief,” he said.

McEnroe has owned a home in Malibu, California, for more than 30 years. He often trained in Los Angeles as one of the world’s top players during the early-to-mid 1980s, befriending Lakers executive Jeanie Buss and Linda Rambis, whose husband Kurt played for the great Lakers teams of that era that were led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

“Watching this was like, I’m sitting there going, why the hell am I a Knick fan again?” McEnroe said, “because this is just absolutely unbelievable, watching Showtime.”

Dolan hired Phil Jackson, who won five titles as Lakers coach, as Knicks president in 2014. But the team has missed the playoffs every season under Jackson, who feuded with Carmelo Anthony last season and didn’t speak to reporters at all while the team went 31-51.

“I mean, he’s known as the Zen Master, like a master talker, and then he’s not talking to anybody,” McEnroe said of Jackson. “So this whole thing seems to have gone completely off the rails.”

Jackson is still hoping to trade Anthony, who has a no-trade clause. McEnroe said he was never the biggest fan of Anthony’s game, but that the All-Star forward didn’t deserve the treatment he received last season.

“It’s crazy to treat a guy that way,” McEnroe said. “It seems like, even if it would be better for both guys if they weren’t there – the Knicks and him – the whole thing just seems, I can’t believe how bungled this has gotten.”