Dan Feldman

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Raptors’ Game 1 woes continue

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The Raptors lost Game 1 last night.


Yes, I’m writing this post.


Toronto’s Game 1 struggles have reached comical proportions. Dropping the opening game of their second-round series to the Cavaliers, the Raptors have now lost 10 straight Game 1s. Their 1-12 all-time record in Game 1s is the worst among the NBA’s 30 current franchises:


This isn’t just a result of a team overachieving just to reach the playoffs. Toronto is an unbelievable 0-6 in home Game 1s, including lost to the Bucks last round.

Maybe this is just coincidence. Maybe the Raptors have structural problems preparing for a series. But whatever it is seems not to carry into later games. Toronto is a nearly middling 27-29 in Games 2-7.

So perhaps there’s hope for the Raptors against Cleveland (though watching Game 1 certainly wouldn’t indicate it).

At least Toronto can take solace in not have the worst Game 1 win percentage in NBA history.

The Sheboygan Red Skins lost Game 1 of the 1950 Western Division semifinals to the Indianapolis Olympians then feel in three games. After its lone NBA season, Sheboygan was forced out and joined the National Professional Basketball League.

Watch James Harden assist Clint Capela dunk with between-the-legs pass (video)

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James Harden and Clint Capela carved up the Spurs in the Rockets’ Game 1 victory last night.

No play was prettier than this assist.

Norman Powell hacks Kevin Love in the nuts (video)


Norman Powell stuck his arm between Kevin Love‘s legs and, well, took his shot.

The Raptors guard was probably trying to draw a foul. Any other intent, I have no idea.

To be fair to the referees, this wasn’t a shooting foul. Love fouled Powell with his body before the “shot,” and Toronto was in the in the bonus.

Marcus Smart pulled himself from Celtics-Wizards Game 1 (video)

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In an 11-second span early in the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ Game 1 win over the Wizards, Marcus Smart committed two turnovers and two fouls.

So, he went to the bench.

But it wasn’t Brad Stevens’ call.

Smart, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England:

“I decided to take myself out; things were going wrong,” Smart said after Monday’s practice. “I was making a couple of mistakes and everybody else was playing good. So, I decided to take myself out, let those guys keep going and calm myself down.”

“I know I can’t make those mistakes,” Smart said.  “Just wanted to take myself out, get myself together and cheer my team on. Those dudes were rolling and keeping it going. I didn’t want to mess up the groove. Just wanted to re-gather myself and get ready when Brad calls me back in.”

Smart said it wasn’t the first time he took himself out of a game.

“I know myself,” Smart said. “It’s better to just come out, get you a quick breather, gather yourself than to keep in there and keep getting frustrated and make the same mistakes.”

“Some people probably think it was a little selfish of me, to think I was mad at myself but it really wasn’t,” Smart said. “I just felt like at that moment, we were up and my plays with the two turnovers, back-to-back and fouling the three-point shooter, something we all know you’re not supposed to do and he gets the and-one and they get a rhythm.

Smart added, “I just felt that at that time and for the team, I wasn’t doing anything to help.”

This was like a heat check, but applied oppositely. Smart believe that because bad things happened, bad things would continue to happen. Just as a player making a few shots doesn’t mean he’ll continue to make shots, it often doesn’t work that way.

Smart sat for 40 seconds and then returned for an ineffective few minutes. Jaylen Brown replaced him and helped Boston to the win.

On one hand, I applaud Smart for realizing he needed to calm himself. At that moment, leaving the game was probably best for him and his team.

But the fact that it was necessary is a problem. Smart too often loses his composure during games.

Smart played well overall in Game 1, and the Celtics could lean heavily on him throughout the series. At some point, they’ll need him to help them on the court even after he has made a couple errors in succession.

NBA won’t release players for in-season World Cup qualifying

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Stephen Curry said he plans to play in the 2019 World Cup.

He’ll need help ensuring Team USA qualifies.

FIBA, in its infinite wisdom, will hold qualifying games in the following windows:

  • Nov. 20-28, 2017
  • Feb. 19-27, 2018
  • June 25-July 3, 2018
  • Aug. 30-Sep. 8, 2018
  • Nov. 26-Dec. 4, 2018
  • Feb. 18-26, 2019

Obviously, most of those dates occur during the NBA season. The NBA will not release its players to represent their national teams at those times, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.

USA Basketball release:

Players selected to represent the USA in the World Cup Qualifying games are expected to primarily be from the NBA Development League


Another possibility, according to USA Basketball sources, ‎is recruiting Americans who are playing abroad in selected leagues that will consent to releasing players for qualifying windows.

While new USA Basketball head coach Gregg Popovich is engaged with his San Antonio Spurs responsibilities, sources said one option USAB has considered is employing multiple head coaches during the various qualifying periods for the fresh rosters that will be selected for each of the six two-game qualifying sets to come.

But the more likely scenario for now, sources said, is the hiring of one coach not currently in charge of an NBA team to handle the 12 qualifying games before Popovich is scheduled to debut as Team USA head coach at the 2019 World Cup

The Americans have dominated key events lately, winning gold medals at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics and 2010 and 2014 World Cups. But the U.S. relies heavily on its NBA stars. This format change disproportionally affects Team USA.

But every major national team will lose talent. Why did FIBA move qualifying from the summer or early fall? It just hurts its own product.