The Extra Pass: The shot that won’t fade away, and Thursday’s recaps

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Over the years, Dirk Nowitzki has cemented his status as one of the most unguaradable players in NBA history. There have been better scorers, and there have been better shooters, but Nowitzki is second-to-none when it comes to getting his shot off.

It would be easy to peg Nowitzki’s 7-foot frame as the sole reason for that, but that’s selling him short. Nowitzki’s ability to shift his weight back to create the proper trajectory for that high-arcing jumper requires an unreal amount of coordination and balance. It’s a move born from an unusual training regimen based around taking shots from less than ideal angles and situations, and there’s nothing textbook about it.

And that’s fine. Dirk Nowitzki didn’t create the fadeaway, and he didn’t master it. He changed it.

This isn’t a move that’s easily adapted or stolen. Go try it in your driveway, and you will travel and airball your way to a frustrating time.

There’s a reason why this particular iteration of the fadeaway jumper has been unique to Nowitzki all these years, but there is one player in the league with the right chops to forge Nowitzki’s signature move. And he might be the only guy who can do it justice.

This is sort of the circle of life in the NBA. Iconic moves only belong to a player for so long, and then someone else takes it and changes it or improves it. Michael Jordan’s turnaround jumper became Kobe Bryant’s turnaround jumper. It’s just the way these things work.

That learning curve on Dirk’s unique one-legged fadeaway is a steep one, but here’s what Kevin Durant said about trying to adopt it for his game in a recent interview with The Oklahoman:

“It was rougher than I thought it was going to be (early on),” Durant said. “Took me some time to figure it out, but I think I’m doing all right with it.”

At this point, with such a diverse offensive toolbox, it’s a move Durant doesn’t typically use more than once every game.

But it’s clearly one of his favorites.

“Just the space it gives you and how it looks,” Durant said. “It just frees you up when you’re kinda pressured. You don’t think you have a shot, then you just step back and knock it down.”

Nowitzki probably won’t be in the league too much longer. He’ll be hanging his sneakers up in a few years, and the league will miss him desperately.

But we’ll still have Durant. And even though it will never look exactly the same, we’ll always remember the player who once owned that beautiful fadeaway whenever we see him unleash it.

-D.J. Foster

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Generally not a fan of proposing to your lady at a sporting event (trust me, she’s not either) but if you’re going to do it, the inflatable mascot trick is a good one.

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Knicks 113, Nets 93: Who’s a laughingstock now? You figure at some point one of the New York teams is going to figure it out and go on enough of a run to win the Atlantic Division (getting to .500 should do it) and Thursday night it looked like the Knicks will be that team. They played with energy — I swear Carmelo Anthony was hustling on defense — and they exposed the Nets league-worst defense for being old and slow. Carmelo Anthony had 19 points and 10 rebounds, Iman Shumpert had 17 points on 8 shots, and the Knicks cruised.

Clippers 101, Grizzlies 81: This was close through a sloppy first half, then Los Angeles went on a 22-5 run in the third quarter and pulled away for a comfortable win. The Clippers played much better defense than the night before, holding Memphis to 37.7 percent shooting, although a chunk of that was execution errors on the part of Memphis (which really misses Marc Gasol). Chris Paul and Jordan Crawford each had 15 points to lead a balanced attack.

Bulls 107, Heat 87: When the Bulls play aggressive defense like they did Thursday they can beat anybody. They hadn’t played this well since Derrick Rose went down but the defense was back and drove Chris Bosh to a terrible 4-of-11 game, held LeBron James in check and stymied he Heat offense. On the other end Carlos Boozer (27 points) and Joakim Noah (17 points, 15 rebounds) led the attack on the inside that the Heat could not stop.

Marc Gasol kicks away Clint Capela’s shoe, earns technical

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Midway through the first quarter, Clint Capela literally came out of his shoe trying to move up to set a pick for James Harden. Just stepped right out of it. J.R. Smith wasn’t there to untie the laces or anything.

Capela turned around to go get his shoe, and Memphis’ Marc Gasol showed his soccer skills kicking the shoe away. That earned him a technical foul. Gasol could argue he just wanted to get something he could trip over off the court, but Capela was clearly coming back for it at that point. Gasol earned this one.

Capela retied his shoes and went on to have 17 points and 13 boards in Houston’s 105-83 win over shorthanded Memphis.

Stephen Curry scores 35, Warriors rally to beat 76ers 124-116

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 35 points, Kevin Durant had 27 and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors overcame a 22-point halftime deficit in a 124-116 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

Joel Embiid scored 21 points and Ben Simmons had 23 points and 12 assists for Philadelphia, which led 47-28 after one quarter and 74-52 at the half.

But the Warriors erased that large deficit with a furious rally in the third quarter. Curry’s 3-pointer got them within one point. He then made a pair of free throws to give Golden State a 90-89 lead.

The two-time NBA MVP hit another 3 and Draymond Green blew past a defender for a dunk to make it 99-89 going into the fourth.

A raucous, sellout crowd that chanted “Trust the Process” most of the night went silent while the Warriors put on a shooting clinic in the second half.

Even veteran David West came off the bench and made big shots in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors distance. He finished with 14 points. Klay Thompson had 16.

Embiid was coming off a career-best performance – 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks, seven assists – in a 115-109 win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

He seemed on his way to another monster game in the first quarter. Embiid embraced the frenzied fans and slapped hands with a guy sitting courtside after a dunk.

But the Warriors showed why they’re the best by stifling Philadelphia in the second half to improve to 12-4.

The Sixers, who lost 135-114 at Golden State one week ago, fell to 8-7.

Playing his first game since receiving a lucrative contract extension, Robert Covington had 20 points for Philly.

Back home for the first time following a five-game road trip to the West Coast, the Sixers showed no jet lag in the first half.

They jumped ahead 15-4 following a 3-pointer by Embiid. Covington stripped Durant and hit a 3 to make it 37-18, electrifying the crowd.

Durant’s dunk off Green’s alley-oop pass got the Warriors within 70-51 late in the second. But Embiid finished off the half with a dunk that sent the Sixers into the locker room up 74-52.

 

Top-10 college recruit Anfernee Simmons may go straight to NBA

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A couple of years back, Thon Maker decided to play a post-graduate fifth year of prep school ball, not go to a major college, then jump to the NBA. He could because he had graduated a year before and was 19, the Bucks took him in the lottery, and so far it has worked out for everyone.

Now another recruit, Anfernee Simmons, may follow that path. Simmons is spending this year at the IMG Academy, and the combo guard is considered a top-10 recruit in this class.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN broke the story after speaking to Simmons.

“Some people have brought it to my attention,” Simons told ESPN during an interview in Connecticut, where his team was participating in the National Prep Showcase. “As long as the opportunity is there, I will do it.

“I can see myself going to the NBA combine, if I have enough teams to actually invite me or recommend me for the combine and enough teams want to bring me for workouts. I really need to hit the weight room hard and get a little stronger.”

This is a sensible approach — find out where you roughly fall in the draft, then make a decision. Listen to the teams, not friends/family/agents. If you have a first-round guarantee, then go pro.

Givony and others describe the 6’3″ Simmons as talented but still a project for the NBA level, starting with the fact he needs to get stronger (something true of most rookies). Not that it really scares off teams any longer, many are willing to develop and wait on a player with potential (he could spend a chunk of his first season in the G-League). Simmons is fast when he drives, and has a smooth release on his jumper. If he gets stronger and his game matures, a team may take a risk on him.

Shorthanded Cavaliers now without Iman Shumpert for 5-7 days

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Isaiah Thomas is still rehabbing his hip, he should return next month.

With him out, Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers have had to lean more on Derrick Rose at the point, except he has a sprained ankle that is going to have him out a couple more weeks.

That has forced Iman Shumpert into the starting point guard role in Cleveland, although he mostly is there for defense/shooting as the playmaking duties fall to LeBron James.

Now the Cavaliers will have to get by without Shumpert for a while with water on the knee, Cleveland announced on Saturday. He left Friday night’s Cavs win against the Clippers with a sore knee and did not return

“Additional examination and imaging today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health confirmed left knee effusion. He will be out 5-7 days while he undergoes treatment and rehabilitation,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.

This is going to force Lue to play Jose Calderon, who he has kept glued to the bench this season despite the injuries. J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade will need to take on more run as well.

The Celtics have won four in a row — thanks to a more focused offense — and face the Pistons, Nets, and Hornets this week.