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Tracy McGrady, Tim Hardaway, Chris Webber headline Hall of Fame nominated finalists

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NEW ORLEANS — Tracy McGrady was one of the great scorers the NBA has ever seen. There was once a time when the debate was “McGrady or Kobe,” he was that good and went on to be a two-time NBA scoring champion, an All-NBA player multiple times, and a seven-time All-Star.

And now he’s on the cusp of being in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

“This isn’t a dream come true because when I was a kid I didn’t even know what the Hall was,” McGrady said.

McGrady was one of the Hall finalists announced on Saturday in an event surrounding the NBA All-Star Game. He, Tim Hardaway and Chris Webber headline the North American class for the Hall. Who will be voted in gets announced at the NCAA Final Four in April.

Also, legendary TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager and the New York Time’s Henry Araton will be honored with the Hall’s Curt Gowdy Media Award.

During his playing days, McGrady knew how to put on a show.

But the Hall announcement humbled a man not exactly known for that side of his personality.

“This is so surreal, I’m only 37 years old, I’m not old,” McGrady said. “For me to be up for this, I still, can’t fathom it.

“This is unbelievable, and I was truly shocked… on our show (ESPN’s The Jump) Rachel (Nichols) told me the news, I was extremely shocked about it. Seriously. I didn’t think I was eligible at the time, and here I am as a finalist. I’m nervous about what’s to come.”

Joining him near the top of the class was the crossover king Tim Hardaway — the other two-thirds of the Warriors Run TMC — Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond — are already in the Hall. Hardaway is a favorite to join them, and his influence is still felt in the game today.

“One of my favorites was Tim Hardaway,” All-Star Kemba Walker said this weekend when asked who he watched and idolized as a youth. “Another small guard, and I just loved the way he played. There’s a lot of similarities in our game.”

Here are the other nominees.

• Chris Webber, the former Michigan standout who was part of the best Kings teams in that franchise’s history. Webber was an NBA Rookie of the Year, a four-time All-NBA player, and he averaged at least 20 points a game for nine consecutive seasons.

• Sydney Moncrief, the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, an All-NBA player, and a five-time All-Star known then as what would now be called a two-way player.

“I grew up under Eddie Sutton, where if you didn’t play defense you didn’t play. Then I played under Don Nelson, where if you didn’t play offense you didn’t play,” Moncrief said. “So I guess I had some good teachers.”

• Rudy Tomjanavich, the former Rockets coach who also coach USA to gold in 2000.
• Rebecca Lobo, college national champion, gold medalist, and one of the first stars in the WNBA.
• Hugh Evans, who spent 28 seasons as a referee and officiated more than 2,000 NBA games, then served as the Supervisor of Officials for the league.
• Bill Self, the Kansas coach who won a national championship with that program in 2008.
• Bo Ryan, the Wisconsin coach who won four Division III national titles before turning Wisconsin into a powerhouse.
• Rollie Massimino, the legendary college coach who led Villanova past Georgetown to a national title in 1985 and well as four other Final Four appearances.
• Robert Hughes, a legendary high school coach from Texas who won 1,333 games over 47 seasons.
• Muffett McGraw, the coach of Notre Dame’s national powerhouse women’s team.
• Kim Mulkey, the Baylor women’s coach who led that program to two national titles.
• The Wayland Baptist University women’s team from the 1950s that was a groundbreaking program for the women’s game.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary (especially given Wall’s comments about not wanting him to play as much) but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.