Dan Feldman

Tracy McGrady: Stephen Curry’s unanimous MVP shows NBA is ‘watered-down’

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All 131 voters picked Stephen Curry for NBA MVP.

But if you thought that would create a void of hot takery, don’t worry.

Tracy McGrady is here to fill it.

McGrady on ESPN, via Kenny Ducey of Sports Illustrated:

For him to be that first player to get this unanimously, I think it just tells you how watered-down our league is.

Think about when MJ played, Shaq. I mean, those guys really played against top notch competition. More superstars, I think, on more teams than it is in our league today.

But it’s well-deserved, because he had a hell of a season – breaking records. He’s re-writing the record book.

McGrady, the former Magic and Rockets star, is wrong.

It wasn’t that the NBA’s other superstars are lacking. It’s that Curry elevated his game so far above everyone.

Curry just had one of the greatest regular seasons of all time. Players like Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal produced them more regularly, which is why they’re among the all-time great. But for a single season, not many surpass Curry.

Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and maybe Chris Paul could’ve won MVP in other seasons. Just not in a year Curry was transcendent. Again, that says far more about Curry the next tier of players.

A thoughtful examination by Kevin Pelton of ESPN shows the NBA’s level of competition is steadily rising. The eye test tells the same story.

At least if you don’t have blinders on because everything was better back in your day.

Report: Space Jam 2 producers interested in casting J.R. Smith

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 23: J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James #23 warm up on the court prior to the game against the Chicago Bulls at Quicken Loans Arena on January 23, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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LeBron James will reportedly star in Space Jam 2.

He might be joined on the silver screen by Cavaliers teammate J.R. Smith.

TMZ:

TMZ Sports has learned producers have already reached out to Cavs star J.R. Smith for a role in the flick.

We spoke to Smith’s rep Daniel Hazan … who says producers contacted him a few weeks ago to see if Smith would be down for a part — and J.R.’s ears perked up.

“There is mutual interest,” Hazan says.

As for the role — nothing’s set in stone, but producers have kicked around the idea of Smith possibly voicing an animated character … a la “the Monstars” from the original.

This is the advantage of playing with LeBron. It brings opportunities often reserved for All-Stars like Blake Griffin and Isaiah Thomas, who want parts in the movie.

Just something to keep in mind as Smith can hit free agency this summer.

Three things to watch in playoffs Monday: Stephen Curry’s return?

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1) Get ready for the small-ball experience in Heat/Raptors Game 4. Probably. Here’s what we know about Game 4: The Heat are without Hassan Whiteside, and the Raptors are without Jonas Valanciunas. The big men had played prominent roles in this series — particularly Whiteside’s rim protection, and Valanciunas on the glass and setting screens (he has also been the Raptors most efficient scorer this series). Now what? Nobody knows. Coaches Erik Spoelstra and Dwane Casey have an idea what they want to do, but both know they will have to adjust on the fly as this series enters uncharted water. Funky lineups and experimentation will be the norm.

Expect a lot of small ball from both teams — both played this way a chunk during the season, it’s not completely new to them. The Raptors likely start Bismack Biyombo but expect them to go with Patrick Patterson, maybe Norman Powell and James Johnson at center for long stretches. If Toronto can get offensive production elsewhere (or builds a nice lead), Biyombo becomes a good defensive option inside, but he hurts the offense badly. The Raptors have the depth to play around with lineups and see what works. Also, they have Kyle Lowry, who started to get hot last game (5-of-8 from three) and will benefit more than anyone that there is no Whiteside in the paint. The loss of Whiteside hurts the Heat more than the loss of Valanciunas does Toronto, because the Heat have no other rim protectors.

Spoelstra’s options at the five for Miami are older and less versatile: Udonis Haslem, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Josh McRoberts. One or more of them needs to step up, and expect some five-wing lineups. The bottom line may be whichever team can get better defense out of their small ball lineups will win this game and likely have a leg up in the series. It just feels like the Raptors may have an advantage there.

-Kurt Helin

2) Will Stephen Curry play? Curry’s health been the storyline of the playoffs so far, and the Warriors just upgraded him from doubtful to questionable for Game 4 against the Trail Blazers. Reading the tea leaves, when a team upgrades a player’s status on game day, he usually plays.

There are bigger questions at stake than just Curry’s availability. How well does he move? Is he rusty? Most importantly, how prepared will he be for the for the conference finals?

Golden State is still favored, though not invincible, against Portland. The Warriors are far more likely to need Curry at or near full strength in the next round

3) Outside shooting of Trail Blazers’ forwards. Curry or no Curry, the Trail Blazers still have a dangerous offense that can give Golden State trouble. Guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum attract so much attention, their frontcourt teammates are often left open on the perimeter. After shooting 11-for-31 (35%) on 3-pointers in Games 1 and 2, Portland forwards combined to shoot 8-for-12 (67%) from beyond the arc in the Trail Blazers’ Game 3 win:

Henderson and Crabbe also play guard, but with Lillard and McCollum logging so many minutes, Henderson and Crabbe are spending most of their time in the frontcourt. It’s a nice wrinkle that gives Portland more shooting.

But when Aminu and Harkless are hitting from outside – and providing the benefits of being true forwards – the Trail Blazers are a tough out.

Stephen Curry upgraded from doubtful to questionable

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Stephen Curry: doubtful questionable for Game 4 of Warriors-Trail Blazers tonight.

Monte Poole of CSN Bay Area:

If you’re a Golden State fan, you have to like that upgrade – especially on game day. That’s an encouraging sign.

Up 2-1, the Warriors are still in good shape either way. But getting Curry healthy would reduce the chance of a Portland upset considerably.

It’s official: Dave Joerger agrees to coach Kings

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 13:  Head coach David Joerger of the Memphis Grizzlies looks on during the game against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on April 13, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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UPDATE 4:49 pm: The Kings have made this official, they have hired Dave Joerger to be their next coach.

“I am thrilled to welcome Dave to the Sacramento Kings,” Kings General Manager Vlade Divac said in a statement. “He is a strong and passionate leader with a proven track record of producing results. Dave shares our focus on creating a long-term culture of winning and I look forward to a bright future ahead for the Kings with his leadership on the court.”

2:34 pm: Sacramento got its man.

The Kings wanted to hire Dave Joerger on a reported four-year, $16 million contract, and it appears they have.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The odds looked against Sacramento landing a coach like Joerger, who won nearly 60% of his games and made the playoffs each of his three seasons guiding the Grizzlies. That’s because most coaches with that type of track record were avoiding the Kings – and Joerger wasn’t on the market.

But Joerger got fired in Memphis and found his way to a higher-paying – though maybe worse otherwise – job.

Joerger’s first order of business should be connecting with DeMarcus Cousins, who’s both immensely productive and difficult. Convincing Cousins to buy in will be much easier if he believes trusting the coach will pay off in winning. That’s where Paul Westphal, Keith Smart and Tyrone Corbin failed. Even if Cousins supported those coaches fully, they didn’t appear capable of delivering for him. Joerger must also connect with Cousins on a personal level, which is where  George Karl failed.

Oh, and aid Vlade Divac building a quality roster and sidestep Vivek Ranadive’s outsized expectations (where Michael Malone “failed.)

Joerger is walking into franchise full of landmines, and it’ll take expert coaching to dig them up and build a stable foundation. Maybe he’s up to the task. He did a solid job with the Grizzlies.

But either way, at least he’s getting paid better than he was in Memphis to try. And for the hole they dug themselves into, the Kings found someone much more qualified than expected.

This isn’t destined to work – far from it. But both sides have to feel good about giving it a go.