Paul Pierce asked for the LeBron James defensive assignment for Game 4

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There are a couple questions about whether the Brooklyn Nets can replicate what got them a Game 3 win over Miami. First off, can they hit 15-of-25 from three again?

Second, can they keep LeBron James and the Heat out of the paint again?

In Game 1 of this series the Heat had 29 shots at the rim (in the restricted area), in Game 3 just 13. After a hot first quarter in Game 3 LeBron got just one shot at the rim the rest of the game. (For more detail on this, check out John Schuhmann’s work at NBA.com.)

Paul Pierce thinks he is just the guy to do it — he wants the LeBron assignment in Game 4, he told ESPN. He’s had it more in recent games and done a solid job at points.

“I went to J-Kidd [for] Game 2 and said I want that assignment. … I think I’ve guarded him more than anybody in this gym. I know his tendencies a little bit more and I just try to step up in that role and try to lead that way….

“You know you’ve got to have that type of mental [approach] when you’re going against a juggernaut,” Pierce explained about establishing a no-fear mental edge following Nets’ practice. “When you go against the best … a lot of series are won on fear factor, or the non-belief. When you have that non-belief, then you have no chance. What I try to do in this locker room and with my teammates is just try give them belief — that we can beat this team. They’re not unbeatable. You’ve got to have that mental [approach] if you’re trying to get over that mountain that you’re trying to climb.”

Pierce is right, even if he said it in an overly dramatic way — you can’t play in awe of the other team. The Nets do not play with fear.

That’s different from keeping a motivated LeBron and Dwyane Wade from getting to the rim. And in Game 4, after a loss, you can expect them to show up motivated. In the first quarter against an attacking LeBron in Game 3 Pierce was left to make a flagrant foul (and even then LeBron scored).

Watch early and see if Miami is getting to the basket or settling for jump shots. If they are making plays at the rim — and LeBron is still the best finisher at the rim in the game — it’s going to be a long night for Brooklyn.

Quinn Cook signing two-year contract with Hawks

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The Hawks began last season with just two point guards, one fewer than most teams – especially notable because neither starter Dennis Schroder nor backup Malcolm Delaney was experienced for his role.

Schroder and Delaney return, but Atlanta is adding another option – Quinn Cook.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Cook is a borderline NBA player. He might not make the regular-season roster. He also might supplant Delaney for a rotation spot.

A 24-year-old who has spent most of the last two years in the D-League (also getting stints with the Mavericks and Pelicans), Cook is a good outside shooter. He’s also steady, if unspectacular, in his lead-guard duties.

This is a solid flier at a position the Hawks could use depth.

Knicks sign Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jamel Artis

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The Knicks signing Nigel Hayes leaked first.

But New York didn’t stop there.

Knicks release:

The New York Knickerbockers announced today that the team has signed forwards Jamel Artis and Nigel Hayes and guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

Like Hayes, Artis (Pittsburgh) and Rathan-Mayes (Florida State) went undrafted this year – making them eligible to be waived and assigned to the Knicks’ minor-league affiliate. That’s likely all three’s fate.

But first, each will have an opportunity to make the regular-season roster. The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one roster spot for someone on a standard contract. Chasson Randle (unguaranteed) is the incumbent choice, but these three could supplant him.

O.J. Mayo says abusing prescription painkillers triggered NBA ban

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Last year, O.J. Mayo was banned from the NBA for at least two years due to a drug violation. Aside from stating a plan to come back, Mayo didn’t say much publicly.

Until now.

Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

He acknowledged smoking marijuana and abusing a prescription pain medication that triggered his two-year ban because it is on the NBA’s “drugs of abuse” list. (He emphatically denied testing positive for hard drugs like cocaine.)

Mayo also concluded that he had been “overwhelmed” by a string of difficult life events: his father, high school basketball star Kenny Ziegler, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for distributing crack cocaine, his brother was placed in juvenile lock-up, a close friend went to jail, and another was killed. “I was bred to play basketball and I thought I could balance everything,” he said. “I couldn’t.”

That’s part of an interesting feature on Mayo, who’s training for his come back. Golliver’s story makes it easy to pull for Mayo.

But the guard will be 30 when he’s eligible to apply for reinstatement, and he played lousily in his last three seasons with the Bucks.

Hopefully, Mayo has and keeps his personal life in order. But returning to the NBA will be an uphill battle.

James Harden throws alley-oop to Chris Paul, pair puts on show at Houston charity event

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What chemistry problem?

There are legitimate questions about how Chris Paul and James Harden will share the backcourt and ball with the Rockets, but none of those were on display on Sunday. That’s when CP3 joined his new teammate in Harden’s charity game (raising money for Harden’s charity, which helps children from single-family homes get a higher education), a kind of pro-am with some names thrown in to draw a crowd.

Harden and CP3 put on a show for the fans.

This is a charity event, not every team is going to defend like this or the Phoenix Suns. It’s going to be harder when the games matter.

But the Rockets are going to be entertaining to watch this season. No doubt.