Vlade Divac in favor of NBA’s anti-flopping rules

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TREVISO, Italy — Vlade Divac was the guest speaker for day two of adidas Eurocamp, and spent some time with the international players trying to impart some of his vast knowledge of the game gleaned from a successful 16-year career in the NBA.

Divac is known as one of the great passing big men of all time, but he’s also known for bringing flopping into the NBA — if not initiating it, then certainly making it more prominent and acceptable as a way for players to gain an advantage.

The league has implemented a largely toothless anti-flopping policy in recent years, but it’s at least a start in trying to shame players into cutting down on the blatant attempts to fool the referees into making a questionable call in their team’s favor. It hasn’t had much of an effect, as we’re still seeing it go on at this late stage of the postseason.

Divac was better than anyone during his era at successfully pulling off these kinds of acting jobs, but he’s not necessarily proud of it. He’s in favor of the league trying to eliminate it from the game, but said his resorting to that strategy was simply done out of necessity.

“Whenever you overdo something, it’s time to stop it,” Divac told NBCSports.com. “So I think it’s a great decision by the NBA. But everyone is saying that’s my rule; that’s not my rule. That’s Shaq’s rule.”

Wait, you think Shaq started it?

“No, I started it because of Shaq, because they didn’t want to call fouls,” Divac said. “So that’s not my rule, that’s Shaq’s rule.”

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Our interview also covered a variety of topics.

On players forcing their way out of current teams in advance of free agency (i.e., Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, and now potentially Kevin Love):

“I’m not supporting it,” Divac said. “But you can’t do anything about it. I think loyalty from all sides should have more impact — from the teams and the players. You just can’t go to [random] places. I remember when I made the decision to go to Sacramento, all my friends, even my agent, advised me not to go because they were the worst team. But I chose to take the challenge, make sure that I do something to change it. And I did.

“For me, being a champion is the way you act and the things that you do on the way to being a champion. That’s more important. Today, I can be a champion — just go and sign with the Miami Heat, and I’ll be a champion, right?”

On the ways the game has changed since he played:

“Every year it’s become more fast and physical,” Divac said. “I don’t see big men playing with their back to the basket anymore. That’s a big minus for basketball. To have an inside-outside game, it’s very important to have big men playing with their backs to the basket.”

On being traded from the Lakers to Charlotte:

“I was devastated,” Divac said. “That first week, I just didn’t know what was happening. But you know, things happen in life that you don’t have answers until later on. I think that trade actually helped me and extended my career. It was good for me, but back then I didn’t know.”

“I talked to Jerry West or Mitch Kupchak later on, I told them now, thinking about it, I would do the same thing. Because you move Vlade, you make the salary cap to get Shaq and you get Kobe. So you got Shaq and Kobe for Vlade. It’s a no-brainer.”

Was it an honor to be part of a deal involving two Hall of Famers?

“I’m not honored,” he said with a laugh. “But I would have done the same thing.”

Dan Patrick Show: Flopping too big an issue in today’s NBA

Jazz shut off Thunder in feisty Game 4 win

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Jae Crowder threw an ejection-drawing elbow, and teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn’t contain his grin as he pulled Crowder from the scuffle.

Steven Adams took the elbow in the face, and he didn’t even flinch.

Both the Jazz and Thunder showed their competitiveness in Utah’s chippy 113-96 Game 4 win Monday. The difference: The Jazz delivered the blow. Oklahoma City took it.

Utah has won three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Teams without home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 89% of the time. Still, those leading teams lose Game 5 on the road 74% of the time. Game 5 of this series is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

In other words: The Jazz have seized control of the series. They probably won’t close it out in Game 5 – though the way they’re playing, the certainly could.

Mitchell scored 33 points tonight, the first 30-point playoff game by a rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 (34 points). Mitchell has already scored 110 points this postseason, the most by a rookie since Harrison Barnes in 2013 (193 points). With Utah increasingly likely to advance, Mitchell has a chance to catch Dwyane Wade (234 points in 2004).

“He’s playing amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Mitchell. “He doesn’t seem a rookie at all.”

Rubio, the star of Game 3, happily deferred to Mitchell tonight. Russell Westbrook‘s guarantee to shut down Rubio meant little, as Rubio set the tone as a passer. His eight assists don’t do him justice, as he made key passes that led to fouls drawn and other advantage situations for his teammates.

“We play as a team,” Rubio said.

Westbrook, on the other hand, looked out of control. He committed four first-half fouls, and though calls were questions, he also committed five turnovers and shot just 7-for-18. The question isn’t whether Westbrook was reckless. He was. The only debate is just how reckless.

Westbrook’s fervor hardly stood out. In addition to Crowder’s ejection, the game featured six other technical fouls – on Paul George, Quin Snyder, Steven Adams, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Raymond Felton. And there was even more trash-talking and physicality than whistled.

There just wasn’t nearly enough sustained production from the Thunder.

George (32 points on 9-of-21 shooting with six turnovers) had moments but was far too sloppy. Oklahoma City’s big three shot dreadfully from beyond the arc – Carmelo Anthony (0-for-6), Westbrook (0-for-3) and George (2-for-9).

Utah led by double digits the final 23 minutes. Joe Ingles made as many 3-pointers (5-for-11) as the Thunder combined (5-for-26).

Ingles is an excellent shooter, but the Jazz’s offense hummed and got him open looks. His outside shots are a bellwether – of a Utah team cruising.

Mitt Romney taunts Russell Westbrook after fourth foul

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It’s been a glorious night for Utah Jazz fans.

In Game 4 the Jazz have taken care of the big three of the Thunder in what has been a very physical, chippy game (Jae Crowder even got ejected). Between their team going on big runs and the physical play of the game, the Utah crowd — one already with a reputation for verbal hostility toward opponents — has savored every second of it.

That includes former Massachusetts Governor, presidential candidate, and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reminded Russell Westbrook exactly how many fouls he picked up.

Twitter – which has its own reputation for verbal hostility — was not kind to Romney after this. Of course, he earned it with that outfit.

MVP James Harden, dominant Rockets show up in second half, crush Timberwolves

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We had to wait three-and-a-half games for it.

We had seen James Harden play like an MVP all season. We had seen the Rockets bury threes at a record rate all season. We had seen Houston’s switching defense impress all season (sixth best in the NBA). We had seen Houston rack up 65 wins and make it look easy.

Then we got to the playoffs and the Rockets couldn’t put it all together at once. Harden struggled after Game 1, including going 0-of-7 in the first quarter Monday night. The defense was inconsistent and the threes were not falling. All of it let the Timberwolves hang around in the series — down 2-1 — and the same in Game 4, down just a point at halftime.

Then the Harden and Rockets we all expected showed up.

Houston put up 50 points in the third quarter alone, shooting 61 percent overall and 9-of-13 from three, plus they got to the line 13 times and made every shot. The Rockets opened the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, with almost all of the damage from Harden, who had 22 in the quarter.

The Rockets pulled away and cruised from there to an easy 119-100 win.

“We hit the switch, the switch we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs on both ends of the floor,” Harden said postgame. “It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when defensively we’re locked in like that, and offensively we got rolling.”

Houston now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday night.

In the first half this looked nothing like something that would end with a comfortable Rockets win. Houston struggled at the start of Game 4, opening 0-of-5 in the paint, including Harden missing an open layup. As a team, the Rockets started the game 4-of-16 from three, and a lot of those were uncontested looks. The Rockets play a lot of isolation, but even for them the ball seemed to stick in the first half. If not for Trevor Ariza knocking down three from beyond the arc, the Timberwolves might have been able to pull away.

The fact they didn’t was a blown opportunity for the Timberwolves, something they just can’t do in this series. It was a one-point Rockets lead, 50-49, at the half.

Minnesota had some moments on offense in the game, usually when attacking quickly off the Rockets switch. Derrick Rose had some moments and finished the game with 17 points. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds, Jimmy Butler had 19 points on 17 shots.

But that was no match for the Rockets when they flipped the switch.

It was a barrage of threes that we have waited for all season, and it all started with Harden and Chris Paul, they had all of the first 15 points of the second half for Houston. Harden finished with 36 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. CP3 had 25 points and six assists, Eric Gordon finally woke up in this series with 18, and Ariza finished with 15.

Minnesota is a talented team, but they are learning fast what a contender can do — even not at their peak the Rockets had taken two of the first three in the series, and when they did flip the switch it was another level. A level the Timberwolves want to get to, there are just some rough lessons along the road to getting there.

James Harden puts on show to start second half vs. Timberwolves

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James Harden started Game 4 0-of-7 from the floor, including missing a lay-up. It was an extension of Game 3, and it let the Timberwolves hang around for a half despite their own offensive woes.

Then in the second half the MVP Harden showed up.

Houston started the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, and a lot of it was Harden (with a little help from Chris Paul). Harden had 22 points in the third (with 4:30 left in the quarter). After a couple rough games the Timberwolves were going under the pick when Harden had the ball, and suddenly he made them pay.

Or, he was just stepping back.

With all the buckets the Rockets turned a close game into a 25 point lead.