Dan Feldman

Stephen Curry explains all the reasons he has to be grateful in MVP-acceptance speech (video)

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It wasn’t as stirring as Kevin Durant‘s 2014 speech or his own 2015 speech – that’s what happens with a multiple-time winner – but Stephen Curry still spoke eloquently in this year’s MVP-acceptance speech.

“People might not have thought I could be back here on this stage,” Curry said. “And I tried to push myself and tried to achieve what could not be achieved.”

And Curry elaborated on the many reasons behind the scenes he repeated as MVP, becoming the first unanimous winner in NBA history.

Goran Dragic appears to slap Cory Joseph during Game 4 of Heat-Raptors (video)

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The Raptors and Heat look tired of each other, and it showed late in Game 4 when Cory Joseph tangled with Goran Dragic for rebounding position then Dragic appeared to slap Joseph (hat tip: Dan Devine of Yahoo Sports).

Dragic is fortunate he didn’t make the more direct contact he appeared to be seeking. If he had, he might not be playing in Game 5 tonight.

As is, I’m a little surprised he hasn’t faced any punishment.

Vlade Divac: Kings hired ‘probably the best coach out there’ in Dave Joerger

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Vlade Divac’s first coaching search as general manager of the Sacramento Kings was methodical. He talked to about a dozen candidates over several weeks and was ready to bring in three finalists for a second interview before settling on a pick.

That all changed when Memphis fired Dave Joerger on Saturday and a plodding search moved into warp speed. The Kings flew Joerger and his family to Sacramento on Sunday, hired him as coach a day later and introduced him at a news conference on Tuesday.

“We got probably the best coach out there,” Divac said. “I’m happy with the process. If I did it overnight or I did it fast, we’d probably end up without Dave. We took the time, talked to a lot of candidates and had the opportunity to talk to Dave, too.”

Joerger described the two days between getting the news of his firing in Memphis while in the parking lot at a track meet for his daughters to taking over a new organization halfway across the country as a whirlwind.

“It’s certainly been a wild couple of days,” Joerger said. “Bang-bang, it was a quick turnaround. We got out here as fast as we could.”

Now it’s time for Joerger to get to work hiring a staff, building relationships with the front office and players and heading to the draft combine in Chicago.

Joerger said he had already talked to players like Rudy Gay and Kosta Koufos whom he had coached before in Memphis and planned to talk later Tuesday with star DeMarcus Cousins, whose rough relationship with former coach George Karl contributed to this latest coaching change.

Joerger will be the ninth coach in Sacramento since the team last went to the playoffs in 2006 in the final season under Rick Adelman. But instead of fretting about the instability, he sees reason for optimism with a roster that includes players like Cousins, Gay, Willie Cauley-Stein and Darren Collison, a new downtown arena that opens next season and a front office headed by owner Vivek Ranadive and Divac.

“The team is on the rise,” Joerger said. “There’s still some heavy lifting to do but some of the heavy lifting has been done. This is not a blow up, let’s start over situation. We’re on the road to recovery.”

The Kings have the second-longest playoff drought in the NBA and more losses over the past 10 seasons than any franchise other than Minnesota. A rotating cast of coaches has overseen these struggles: Eric Musselman, Reggie Theus, Kenny Natt, Paul Westphal, Keith Smart, Michael Malone, Tyrone Corbin and Karl.

Karl went 44-68 in one-plus season but had frequent run-ins with Cousins and was at odds at times with Divac, who was hired as general manager after Karl took over as coach in February 2015.

With Divac hiring Joerger, he is confident that the coach-general manager relationship will be strong. Divac also believes Joerger can get the best out of Cousins, who is one of the most talented big men in the league with averages last season of 26.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game but he was also suspended by the team for lashing out at Karl.

“It will be players, coach, front office on the same page. It will be a good environment,” Divac said. “I have no doubt DeMarcus will be on the same page. He’s our leader and our franchise player.”

Joerger also comes from a situation that was somewhat unstable. He was promoted from assistant after Lionel Hollins took the team to the conference final in 2013. Joerger went 147-99 in three seasons with the Grizzlies and took them to the playoffs each year. He led the injury-ravaged team to 42 wins this season, pushing them to the playoffs, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.

Despite the success he achieved with the Grizzlies, he never was able to get on the same page with Memphis owner Robert Pera. The situation grew so strained that Joerger interviewed for the open Minnesota Timberwolves job two summers ago before ultimately staying in Memphis.

He expects a healthier relationship in Sacramento.

“The coach and the general manager are absolutely on the same team going forward like this,” he said. “There aren’t going to be any cracks. You’re not going to hear Vlade say something about me or me say something about Vlade. That’s not going to happen.”

Russell Westbrook and Thunder steal Game 5 against Spurs

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Fair? Not necessarily.

Russell Westbrook? Absolutely.

Westbrook frenetically led the Thunder to a 95-91 win over the Spurs Tuesday, causing chaos all the way through two controversial calls in the final seconds of Game 5.

Oklahoma City inbounded up one with 9.3 seconds left, San Antonio primed to intentionally foul. Westbrook took the pass, drove past Kawhi Leonard (who appeared to make sufficient contact for a whistle) and made a layup over LaMarcus Aldridge (who was called for a foul but not might have deserved one).

Westbrook hit the free-throw to make it a two possession game, practically clinching a 3-2 lead for the Thunder as the series heads back to Oklahoma City for Game 6 Thursday.

“My job is to stay in attack mode,” Westbrook said. “And they didn’t blow the whistle. My job is to keep going to the basket.”

Teams leading a best-of-seven series 3-2 have won 85% of the time, though this second-round matchup isn’t over. Able to close a series in a home Game 6, teams have won 66% of the time – solid, but less overwhelming, odds.

No matter how you precisely slice the Thunder’s chances, Westbrook (35 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, eight turnovers and two steals) played a major role in putting them in this advantageous position.

Oklahoma City probably would’ve won even if the refs called the take foul on Leonard.

“I definitely fouled him,” Leonard said. “But the referee, I guess he didn’t see it.”

Westbrook made 81% of his free throws this season, and he could’ve put the Thunder up three. Teams up three – or even two or one – with nine seconds left usually win.

But the Spurs never got that last chance they probably deserved, though Dion Waiters – who somehow also got to throw the fateful inbound to Westbrook – ridiculously contested a Danny Green 3-pointer at the buzzer to test the limits of the term “two-possession game.”

That was one of many times the Thunder lived on the edge, and three Westbrook three 3-pointers made stand out as wild shots. San Antonio will probably allow those deep treys, but Westbrook made them – and they made the difference.

Westbrook also over-passed, playing into the Spurs’ the ball-hawking led by Leonard (26 points, six rebounds, four assists and five steals). One of Oklahoma City’s 20 turnovers led to Leonard dunking on Westbrook to put the Spurs up six with four minutes left:

But Durant (23 points, +7) did enough, and so did a few role players: Steven Adams (12 points and 11 rebounds, +11), Enes Kanter (eight points and 13 rebounds, +8) and Waiters (nine points on five shots and two assists, +18).

The Thunder particularly dominated when pairing Adams and Kanter, a riddle San Antonio still hasn’t solved. Oklahoma City was +15 in 17 minutes with those centers sharing the floor, rebounding 61.5% of its own misses and clearing 84.2% of the Spurs’ misses on the other end.

So, the Thunder made up for Westbrook’s errors – all part of the package. But, mostly, they followed his lead – all the way to one game from the conference finals.

“Russ,” Durant said, “was a maniac tonight.”

Reports: C.J. McCollum, Myles Turner, Brice Johnson named to USA select team

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 03:  C.J. McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers dribbles the ball against the Golden State Warriors during Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2016 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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Team USA will pick its roster for the 2016 Olympics from 28 finalists (the original list plus Damian Lillard, minus Chris Paul, minus Blake Griffin, minus John Wall).

But USA Basketball is also already considering the 2020 Games and beyond.

A group of 13ish young Americans will comprise the select team, which trains against the national team and serves as a pipeline to the senior squad. Who will make the select team?

C.J. McCollum, Myles Turner and Brice Johnson for starters.

Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:

Candace Buckner of IndyStar:

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

McCollum is an excellent choice. The Most Improved Player, the Trail Blazer is one of the league’s top young dynamic guards.

Turner improved throughout his rookie season with the Pacers, and I like the center’s promise. Another good choice.

Johnson certainly has his fans around the league, but this honor seems ambitious for a  borderline first-round pick. It’ll be on him to prove he belongs.

Other players who fit the rough profile of potential selections: