Why question “When did basketball get so bad?” misses mark

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NBA basketball right now is entering a golden age. Just not everybody appreciates that.

Charles Barkley swung by the Dan Patrick Show on Monday and together they sounded like grumpy old men telling you how basketball isn’t as good now as it was when they were fans of the sport. At least they didn’t throw in a “get off my lawn.”

“Dan, it’s frustrating for me — and I get paid to watch these teams, so I have to scout these teams — I have to watch all these teams, and I’m sitting here saying I have to go over the schedule with a fine toothed comb to find even one good team playing,” Barkley told Patrick. “When are they playing Indiana? When are they playing Miami? When are they playing Portland or Oklahoma City or the Spurs? Like, I don’t want to watch the Lakers against Toronto. I don’t want to watch the Sixers against Orlando?”

I think they miss the point.

Are there some bad teams now, which leads to some bad games? Yes. Got news for you Charles and Dan — there were terrible teams and games in the NBA when Barkley played. A lot of them. Take Barkley’s arguably best season 1990-91 — his Sixers barely broke .500 with 44 wins and they were the five seed in the East. Not exactly a stacked East, was it? Yes, it was great that year when Michael Jordan and the Bulls took on Detroit or Portland or the Lakers. But you know what, there were games between the 31-win Clippers and the 25-win Kings. Between the 24-win Heat and the 33-win Cavaliers. There was a lot of bad basketball that was not easy to watch. There were a lot of bad owners then just trying to make a profit (see the Clippers and Warriors).

It’s just that 20 plus years later you choose not to remember that part of the league.

The difference is now with League Pass, plus NBA TV and more than just a game a week on national television, we get to see a lot more of the league. Plus when Barkley played there was no Internet in the way we know it now — there were no NBA blogs and passionate bloggers breaking down every game in some detail (which started to force newspapers to cover the teams better rather than ignore them in some markets). The saturation of information was far less intense. Maybe you liked it that way, but that really speaks to you not the league.

What makes this season look so bad is some of the worst teams are in major markets — the Knicks and Nets are terrible right now, the Celtics are rebuilding and miss Rajon Rondo, the Lakers and Bulls are down and dealing with stars who have (or have had) major injuries. So now the star power shifts to smaller markets like Indiana and San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Even Miami, it’s middle of the pack in terms of NBA market size.

Outside of maybe Memphis and Brooklyn, is how much some of these name teams are struggling really a surprise? Not if you were paying attention.

If you are really a fan of the game there is great basketball to enjoy right now, and because of the level of coverage we get to see more of it. Savor how fun Portland is to watch on offense. We get to see Indiana evolve into a contender and Paul George emerge as an elite player. Kevin Durant is just a joy to watch play the game.

And those are just the big names. Today with all this coverage we get to see the little things we would have missed before — Andre Drummond’s emergence in Detroit, Ricky Rubio’s passes in Minnesota, DeMarcus Cousins (on his good nights) in Sacramento, and Anthony Davis in New Orleans. Just to name a few. Even in Philly, Michael Carter-Williams is a revelation and the Sixers are playing fast and fun basketball.

All that is just the tip of the iceberg. We are entering a golden age of basketball. Savor it. Don’t miss out on it because it doesn’t live up to your rose-colored glasses view of the past.

Dan and Charles, you don’t have to get off my lawn. Just grab a lemonade, sit down and try to enjoy the show.

Cleveland OKs last chunk of financing to upgrade Cavs’ arena

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland officials have committed the final chunk of financing for $140 million in upgrades planned at the Cavaliers’ home arena.

The makeover of Quicken Loans Arena would include more space for dining and gathering.

The cost of renovations to the concert and sports venue is being split by the city, the team, Cuyahoga County, and a convention and visitors bureau. The final total is expected to be roughly double the initial $140 million price tag, mostly because of interest over the next two decades.

Cleveland’s share is an estimated $88 million over 11 years, starting in 2024. Mayor Frank Jackson signed off on that Tuesday.

The county already approved the deal and agreed to sell bonds for the project.

The team committed to extend its lease at the arena to 2034. It is expected the team will make a bid to host the NBA All-Star game once renovations are complete.

Did Russell Westbrook really block a teammates shot to get ball back during Game 5?

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Well, this video plays right into the hands of the anti-Westbrook crowd.

The knock on Russell Westbrook‘s season-long triple double and MVP candidacy is that he is chasing stats, padding his numbers at the expense of efficiency and making the Thunder a better team. Basically, he’s looking out for himself and to heck with his teammates.

Which leads to this fourth-quarter video from Game 5.

It sure looks like Westbrook blocks Jerami Grant‘s shot to get the rebound (we only have the one camera angle here).

I would argue that this was just Westbrook being uber aggressive — the only way he ever plays — and he was going hard for the rebound and not noticing it was his teammate about to get the ball. Westbrook just wants the ball and gets it. But he also wants to win and would not have taken the ball out of Grant’s hands had he seen who it was in time to react.

Game 5 — where the Rockets eliminated the Thunder — was a microcosm of the Westbrook debate. Westbrook finished with 47 points on 15-of-34 shooting, but was 2-of-11 in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City was +12 in the 41:52 that Westbrook played, but was -18 in the 6:07 he sat. You can read whatever you want into those numbers.

Much like the video above.

Former Pacers’ star Danny Granger on Paul George: “you can’t fault him if he leaves Indiana”

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There was a time when Paul George was an up-and-coming but raw young player on an Indiana team led by Danny Granger. It was when Granger went down injured that George was thrust into a larger role, where he thrived in the trial by fire.

Granger knows what it’s like to be the star player of the Pacers, and he knows George, so on Bill Reiter asked Granger his thoughts during an episode of CBS’ “Reiter Than You” and Granger’s answer was not what Pacers fans wanted to hear.

“You look at him in that press conference (after losing to Cleveland) and his face and the dejection on it – the guy wants to win. Money don’t make everybody happy, but winning and success and your craft, that does fill a void that a lot of these players have. So you can’t fault him if he leaves Indiana, I’ll tell you that.”

Oh, Pacers fans will fault him. Even if he’s traded.

Pacers’ decision maker Larry Bird isn’t going to do anything until he sees if George makes an All-NBA Team, because if he does Indiana can offer him the new “designated player” contract this summer worth around $80 million more guaranteed than any other team can offer. George will not walk away from that.

However, if, as expected, George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Bird is going to have to revisit the idea of trading George, who can be a free agent in 2018 — and the sense around the league is he will walk away at that point if the Pacers are not contenders. (There are a lot of Lakers’ rumors there, but whether George would leave a team where he is dragging lesser players to a low playoff seed and a first-round exit in Indiana for the same situation in his old hometown is up for debate.)

Bird isn’t going to deal George for pennies on the dollar at this point — think the Kings’ trading DeMarcus Cousins — but if some team comes through with a legitimate quality offer of young players that can help jump start the rebuild in Indiana, he may have to jump at it.

Either way, Granger is right that you can’t blame George for wanting to move on, but plenty of fans will anyway.

Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley keep trading insults in postgame press conferences

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Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley were having their war of words during Tuesday night’s close-out game that ended the Thunder season, and they both picked up technical fouls for it.

The two continued that postgame speaking to the media.

Westbrook was up first, and he was asked what happened between him and Beverley (see the video above).

“He was talking about he was first team all-defense, but I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about because I had 42 at the time, I don’t know, maybe he was dreaming or some s—.”

You know the media was going to ask Beverley about that.

“He said no can guard me I’ve got 40 points, I’m like, that’s nice but you took 34 shots to get it.”

So, no Christmas card exchange for those two.

For the record, Westbrook finished the game with 47 points on 15-of-34 shooting, but he was 2-of-11 in the fourth quarter as he started to wear down. The Thunder were +12 in the 41:52 that Westbrook played, but were -18 in the 6:07 he sat to get rest. The game was almost a Rorschach test for what you think of Westbrook on the season — he wasn’t terribly efficient, but he carried OKC as far as he could, that just wasn’t as far as James Harden could take a superior Rockets’ team. If you were in the Harden (or Kawhi Leonard) for MVP camp, you can point to the inefficiency and the end result. If you’re team Westbrook you can point to the raw numbers and what happened in the limited time he sat.

Also, Beverley is going to make an NBA All-Defensive team. If he doesn’t make the first team, that’s more about the time he missed due to injury (and a good field of guards who can defend) than his play.

Beverley has the advantage now of being able to turn his attention to how to defend Tony Parker (or maybe Mike Conley), as the Rockets are advancing to the next round.