Westbrook, Warriors, and Cavaliers: 3 things to watch on Christmas (VIDEO)

2 Comments

Christmas Day is upon us and that means it’s time to hope there’s as much loot as possible in your stocking and that you’re left alone to do what everyone wants to do on a day like this: watch basketball.

In fact, there’s a full slate of games on Christmas in the NBA, including the one everyone is anticipating in a rematch of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.

I have three things I want to see in particular on Christmas as I try to avoid my one uncle who always seems to drink too much eggnog and talk my ear off saying look, Dane, I know it’s your job and everything but the NBA was absolutely better in the ’90s because of hand-checking, OK?

I’m just hoping underneath the tree this year is a pair of much-needed ear muffs.

Russell Westbrook vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves Defense

Russell Westbrook is an absolute monster. I think we all know that by now as the Oklahoma City Thunder guard is averaging at triple-double. No, the Thunder offense isn’t remarkable outside of Westbrook — ranked just 15th of 30 — but the Timberwolves defense is bottom 5 and that should be fun to watch no matter what.

What else do you want to see on Sunday other than a man trying to ruin someone else’s Christmas by dunking every single one of his 44 points?

Plus, Karl-Anthony Towns!

Christmas Carmelo Anthony vs. the Boston Celtics

Here isCarmelo Anthony’s point totals from his last four Christmas Day games: 34, 34, 37, 32.

It’s easy to say that I want to watch this game because of the offensive firepower between the Celtics and Carmelo, so I will. The New York Knicks in each of those four games have a record of 1-3, but Boston has the 14th-ranked defense in the NBA. The Celtics are also bringing a Top 10 offense headed by Isiah Thomas.

The only thing about this one is that it might be too much scoring too early in the morning for me to enjoy this one. I’m going to be in a robe on my parents’ couch while Carmelo and Thomas might combine for 70 before I’ve had a bagel.

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers II: Electric Boogaloo

This is what we all came to see. It’s what I’ll be watching at 11:30 AM PST here on the West Coast through bites of whatever syrupy, waffle-and-whipped cream dessert thing we have Christmas morning I’ll unconvincingly tell my girlfriend is actually just a light brunch.

Kevin Durant — as you may remember — was on the Thunder last season and now (gasp!) has joined forces with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to try and slay the dragon that is LeBron James and his band of merry men (read: J.R. Smith).

Narratives aside, this is likely to be the best actual basketball game of the day from an execution and competition standpoint, and very well could be a 2017 NBA Finals preview.

So we’ll see you on Sunday, phone in hand and checking scores as you try to seem grateful for the third Slap Chop you’ve unwrapped in as many years while sneaking peeks at the TV.

And hey, the best thing about that 11:30 AM Warriors – Cavaliers game?

It’s still too early for eggnog.

Full schedule:

Knicks vs. Celtics | 9:00 AM PST on ESPN
Warriors vs. Cavaliers | 11:30 AM PST on ABC
Bulls vs. Spurs | 2:00 PM PST on ABC
Timberwolves vs. Thunder | 5:00 PM PST on ESPN
Clippers vs. Lakers | 7:30 PM PST on ESPN

Report: Derrick Rose leaning toward Cavaliers over Lakers

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
1 Comment

Derrick Rose met with the Lakers.

Now, it’s the Cavaliers’ turn.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Free-agent guard Derrick Rose is meeting with Cleveland Cavaliers officials in Ohio on Monday, league sources told ESPN.

Rose met with the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, but has been leaning toward the Cavaliers opportunity, league sources told ESPN.

The Lakers can offer more (the $4,328,000 room exception) than the Cavs are reportedly offering ($2,116,955 minimum contract), but Rose might be eying a starting spot in Cleveland. That comes with complications for both sides.

Just because Kyrie Irving requested a trade doesn’t mean the Cavaliers will trade him. He’s still locked into his contract for two more years, and amid concern of his trade value slipping due to his request leaking, they might just hold him.

Rose’s creaky outside shooting makes him a poor fit with LeBron James. Rose would be an upgrade off the bench, especially as a shot creator while LeBron and Irving are off the floor. But he’s almost certain to underwhelm as a starter.

I doubt that’s how Rose views it, though. The Cavs offer a better path to starting with Irving on the trade block and the Lakers committed to developing Lonzo Ball. One year starting for a prominent team could put Rose right back in the free agent market, in line to receive the contract he believes he deserves. He’d also be playing for a far better team in the interim.

But, if he signs with Cleveland and the Lakers put the full room exception on the table, there’s a good chance, a year from now, he regrets not guaranteeing himself an extra couple million dollars.

Video Breakdown: What is a slot screen and how do NBA teams use it?

Leave a comment

The slot screen just might be one of the most common plays in the NBA when it comes to the pick-and-roll, but can you identify it?

Before we talk about what a slot screen is, we have to define what the slot is when it comes to an NBA basketball court. In simple terms, the “slot” is the area between the elbows and extended above the 3-point line. If you talk to an NBA coach, they would tell you that this area of the floor is referred to as “the slot.”

It stands to reason then that the slot screen is simply a screen that happens within this area of the floor.

So why would you want to know what a slot screen is?

One reason might be to better understand how Your favorite player operates in screens on different parts of the floor. While some players may be a very good at dealing with the pick-and-roll in space and in the slot, they could be comprably worse in Pistol action or in Get action.

Watch the full video breakdown above to see how the slot screen works in an NBA offense.

Eric Bledsoe on Phoenix: “I love everything about it. At the same time I want to win.”

2 Comments

Ever since news leaked — however it leaked — that Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland, Eric Bledsoe‘s name has come up in rumors. A lot. In part because Bledsoe is friends with LeBron James. In part because if Bledsoe went to Cleveland (as part of a package deal), it would give the Cavaliers guy who could play well next to LeBron, and while Bledsoe is no Irving he is a better defender. Bledsoe’s name has come up in a direct trade and as part of a potential three-way deal (none of which is close to happening right now).

Bledsoe has spent the past four seasons in Phoenix and has put down some roots. Does he want to move on? He talked about that and the rumors with Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic.

Then there’s the question of whether Bledsoe wants to remain in Phoenix. He has embraced the Valley, saying, “I love everything about it.” But as he told azcentral sports Sunday, “At the same time I want to win.”

At 27, Bledsoe doesn’t fit into the Suns’ youth movement, or #timeline, as it’s been coined on social media. He said he “definitely feels” like an old man among his teammates. Then there was this response when asked what he thought of the Suns’ offseason:

“We got Josh Jackson. James Jones (in the front office). But for the most part, I don’t care,” he said. “Whatever team we have at training I’m going to play my heart out for. I just control what I can control. Getting better every time I step onto the floor.”

That was the professional non-answer.

No doubt Bledsoe enjoys the Valley of the Sun, but give him a chance to chase a ring in Cleveland and he’s in. Maybe Irving is done playing with LeBron and going to the Finals, but Bledsoe would love to be in his shoes for a year.

Whether or not it’s Cleveland, expect Bledsoe to be moved by the next trade deadline. He a very reasonable two-years, $29.5 million left on his contract, was playing his best basketball last season before the Suns shut him down (while healthy), he doesn’t fit with the Suns’ youth direction, and a number of teams could use him.

Report: Kyrie Irving’s top choice for trade is Spurs

Jason Miller/Getty Images
8 Comments

Kyrie Irving, in requesting a trade, reportedly gave the Cavaliers a list of preferred destinations – Knicks, Heat, Spurs and Timberwolves. But those teams aren’t all equal to Irving.

Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog:

One league source told ZAGSBLOG that the Knicks were not Irving’s preferred destination, and that San Antonio was atop his list.

Irving is locked up for two more years and doesn’t possess a no-trade clause. Where he’d re-sign in 2019 and his agent’s agitating could play small parts in which teams offer the most for him, but he has minimal control of where he goes.

Still, San Antonio is an interesting first choice.

Irving reportedly wants to escape LeBron James‘ shadow and lead his own team. But Kawhi Leonard is far better than Irving and already has Spurs president/coach Gregg Popovich’s trust. Leonard has even turned himself into a 25-point-per-game scorer and MVP runner-up. So, even though the biggest difference between Leonard and Irving is defense (an oft-overlooked area), Leonard still shines in ways that get noticed.

So, why does Irving want to join San Antonio?

Maybe he underestimates Leonard. He wouldn’t be the first star to do so. See Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Maybe Irving has a sliding scale of priorities. Sure, he’d like preeminence on a team, but maybe he’d relinquish that to join Leonard and Popovich. At least the reserved Leonard would cede the spotlight to Irving as much as possible (which LeBron would never do), and Popovich is more respected than Tyronn Lue.

But back to reality: The Spurs lack assets beyond Leonard to trade for Irving – Aldridge would be a horrid fit with LeBron, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, and San Antonio’s first-round picks are always in the low 20s – and the Cavs control where Irving goes. It’s very hard to see Irving landing in San Antonio.