Five things I’m thankful for in the NBA today

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I’m thankful for a lot of things today.

I’m thankful for a job that lets me watch as much basketball as I want. I’m thankful to live in a country where this is possible (and I’m thankful for the people who defend it). I’m thankful for a family that is the best part of my life and is understanding about the crazy hours that can come with my job and passion. I’m thankful for a really good Pad Thai. I’m thankful for all of you readers and commenters who make this site both fun and entertaining.

But this is an NBA blog, so I should be thankful for some NBA things, too. Here are five.

• Watching Chris Paul be a floor general. For me it’s not about the assists, it’s not about the midrange jumpers or the crossovers, it’s the way CP3 orchestrates the offense that is a thing of beauty. He is a maestro. This year Doc Rivers has CP3 making his decisions quicker, earlier in the shot clock rather than just surveying everything, and it has taken Paul’s game and the Clippers’ offense to another offensive level. He’s playing chess when most point guards are playing Hungry Hungry Hippos. It is just a joy to watch as a basketball fan.

• Kevin Love outlet passes to Corey Brewer. This was a masterful pairing by Flip Saunders — take the king of the outlet pass in Love and pair him with the NBA’s leak-out king in Brewer and you end up with some touchdown passes. It’s a threat every game and you anticipate it every time Love comes down and starts scanning up court. A full season of this is just a beautiful thing.

• The NBA twitter community. No pro sport has taken to twitter the way the NBA has — not only are all the best media members (and myself) active on twitter there is fun interaction with a massive fan base. Every night during games it’s like a huge live chat with updates, analysis, jokes and endless commentary. It makes game nights so much more entertaining.

• Watching Anthony Davis blossom into a superstar before our eyes. So often hyped players come into the league with the tag “they just need a couple of years to develop” but they never do. Maybe it’s because the player was overhyped, maybe because they didn’t work hard enough to reach their potential. Anthony Davis is neither of those — he had a good rookie season but one that was almost subtle. He is athletic and long but his game is about being smart on the court. This season he has shown marked improvement in his faceup game, his awareness on defense, and with that has started to come a confidence that he is the Pelican’s best player and can take over games… when his guards remember to get him the ball. Davis is second in the league in PER right now (behind LeBron James) and he is still just scratching the surface of how good he can be. This is going to be a fun ride.

• NBA Summer League. It’s not about getting to spend a week in Las Vegas — my in-laws live in Las Vegas, my entire family including my elementary school age daughters come out for the week. Trust me, if you ever want to suck the fun out of Vegas, marry somebody from there. But what I love is he basketball, raw and flawed though it is, and the sense of this as a convention for all things NBA. The superstars are not there (unless it’s before their rookie year, or they are in street clothes watching), but mostly it’s guys fighting to get noticed and get a spot on the end of an NBA bench. Or, more likely, get noticed by a European scout and get a job getting paid to play the game. It’s a big job interview and it has all pressure that can come with that. Plus everyone is there — GMs, coaches, agents, media (including bloggers), die-hard fans — in a setting where mixing and mingling is part of the course. Put it all together and you have a great experience, if not always great basketball.

Spain’s national coach said both Gasol brothers, Ibaka, Mirotic all want to play in EuroBasket

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Spain is the defending EuroBasket champions, the best team in Europe (they won the Bronze medal in Rio after two consecutive silver medal Olympics). Which shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider the talent pool: Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Nicola Mirotic, Ricky Rubio, and a host of top international players who were in the NBA (Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos-Navarro, Sergio Rodriguez, and on down the line).

Spain could bring a loaded team to the tournament, their coach Sergio Scariolo said in a radio interview, transcribed at FIBA.com.

“Pau has also told me he’s coming,” Scariolo said. “All of them want to see how they finish the season. For them to say that they’re looking forward to coming and asking what we’re going to do is a first good step, but then we have to wait and see how they end the season – the physical status of those that have to take part in the play-offs. We have to wait until then to have a definite idea but the pre-disposition of all of the players is very good.”

“We’ll begin training on 28 July and we’ll have to change our way of playing with respect to the last two years when Marc hasn’t been here,” Scariolo said. “We’ll have to incorporate him. It’s an important readjustment and there are many things that we’re working on.”

“(Nikola) Mirotic and (Serge) Ibaka have confirmed their availability,” Scariolo said to Onda Cero radio. “Obviously there is a different status and situation, but all of the players have confirmed to me their availability, although with certain provisos. Each has his own circumstances and own situation, but the availability of all is very good.”

Scariolo will have to choose between Mirotic and Ibaka if both want to play, they are both naturalized Spanish citizens, and only one of those can be on the roster.

That said, Spain heads into EuroBasket this summer as the team to beat. So long as all those players decide they are healthy enough to play.

Stan Van Gundy on slumping Pistons: “We’re just bad all the way around”

Associated Press
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If the playoffs started today, the Detroit Pistons would be out golfing. Or fishing. Or partying in Cabo. The point is, they would not be playing.

Which is stunning — this was a 44-win team a year ago that seemed on the rise and is anchored by Andre Drummond in the paint. This year they’re four games below .500 and lost five of their last six, including back-to-back losses to the Nets and Bulls the last two days. In the month of March, the Pistons have been outscored by  4.4 points per 100 possessions. They are now tied with the Bulls 1.5 games back of the Heat for the last playoff slot in the East.

Stan Van Gundy, you’re coach and GM in Detroit, what do you think of all this? (Via ESPN’s Nick Friedell)

“The message I gave them is, ‘Look, we got 10 games left,” he said. “And if we don’t change the way we’re playing, this is going to get really, really ugly.

“We didn’t defend at any point in the second half. We didn’t defend much in the first half, either. Just really disappointing. We were 33-33, got tied, back to .500 after that New York game [on March 11], ran into a buzz saw in Cleveland [three nights later], and that’s it. We haven’t bounced back. It’s like we took that one hit and have not recovered at all. Have not played a decent game since then. This is six bad games in a row.”

“Right now, we don’t have a lot of life in us, and we got to find some by Friday,” Van Gundy added. “It’s just not one position, either. We’re just not playing. We’re not. We’re just bad all the way around.”

The Pistons have what should be winnable games against Orlando and New York coming up on the road, followed by an important matchup next Tuesday against Miami. Detroit needs wins now, because their schedule the rest of the way is about as tough as Miami’s, but Chicago has a soft finish to the season that could see them string together wins (maybe, Chicago has its own issues).

Whatever happens the final 10 games, Van Gundy and his team have some serious assessing to do this summer, some trades to make, they need to figure out what works and go with it. Because this season did not work.

Timberwolves to unveil new logo at final home game

AP Photo/Jim Mone
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The Timberwolves’ were the trendy pick for a breakout team this season with Tom Thibodeau coaching Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.

Instead, Minnesota fell flat. At, 28-42 the Timberwolves will miss the playoffs for the 13th straight year – the NBA’s longest active postseason drought.

But they’ve shown progress lately and could carry that momentum into next season.

It’ll be a fresh start in at least one way.

Timberwolves release:

The Minnesota Timberwolves begin a new chapter in their franchise history by unveiling a new team logo as part of Fan Appreciation Night at Target Center on Tuesday, April 11. The Wolves will conclude the home portion of their regular season schedule that evening by hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder at 7 p.m.

The logo will be unveiled during a special halftime show and all fans in attendance will receive a commemorative t-shirt with the new identity featured.

While the new identity won’t fully take effect until the 2017-18 season, the unveiling marks only the fourth identity in the franchise’s 28-year history.  The announcement is also the beginning of an eventful summer as the Wolves brand continues to evolve. There will be several future announcements regarding the unveiling of the new team uniforms, new court designs and additional events throughout the coming months.

I’m glad these uniforms are coming out next year. I always enjoy when a style change coincides with a team changing on the court, and it seems the Timberwolves could truly do that.

Shaq on flat-earth claim: ‘I’m joking, you idiots’

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After Kyrie Irving claimed the Earth is flat, he doubled down and insisted he truly believed that.

After Shaquille O’Neal claimed the Earth is flat

Shaq on Art of Charm (hat tip: Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports):

The Earth is flat. Would you like to hear my theory?

The first part of the theory is, I’m joking, you idiots. That’s the first part of the theory.

This world we live in, people take things too seriously. But I’m going to give the people answers to my test. Knowing that I’m a funny guy, if something seems controversial or boom, boom, boom, you’ve got to have my funny points on, right? So now, once you have my funny points on, that should eradicate and get rid of all your negative thoughts, right? That’s what you should do when you hear Shaquille O’Neal’s statement, OK? You should know that he has funny points right over here, and what did he say? The guy had, boom, boom, boom. Add the funny points. You either laugh, or you don’t laugh. But don’t take me seriously. When I want you to take me seriously, you will know by the tone of my voice that I’m being serious.

Shaq is excellent at drawing attention to himself. The only surprise is that he didn’t keep this ruse up longer.

If Irving is pulling our collective legs to put the focus on him, at least credit the Cavaliers guard for maintaining the story longer. That Shaq lasted only a few days is revelatory.