Kurt Helin

PBT Extra: Fan poll picks Westbrook as MVP, media poll goes different direction

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iRussell Westbrook. James Harden. Kawhi Leonard. LeBron James.

You can make a legitimate case for any of them as MVP.

For this PBT Extra, I decided to poll fans on Twitter for their call, and you all picked Russell Westbrook (35 percent) followed by James Harden (26 percent), Kawhi Leonard (22), and LeBron James (17).

It’s an interesting result, but different from what Tim Bontemps’ straw poll of the media — who vote for MVP — found.

With a month left in the season, this race is still up in the air.

Ice Cube no fan of Lakers’ tanking, wants to see more D’Angelo Russell

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It’s not been a good day if you’re a Lakers fan. Even if you’re Ice Cube.

The Lakers are in full on tank mode to keep their pick making sure their young players get run so they can develop. That interestingly has meant D'Angelo Russell is coming off the bench, being tried at the two, and generally experimented with. As if they might draft Lonzo Ball and move on from the Russell era in Los Angeles.

Ice Cube — a huge Lakers’ fan and one of the founders of the 3-on-3 league coming this summer – is no fan of the tanking. And he’d like to see a little more D’Angelo, he told TMZ in an ambush interview.

The Lakers are doing exactly the right thing – play the youth, experiment with lineups, see what works and what doesn’t, find out who is playing hard when the season is over, and if out of all of that you keep the top three protected pick, all the better. Luke Walton needs to keep pushing them, coaching them hard, then this summer the Lakers can assess where they are and who is part of the future.

Then make smart moves this summer and Ice Cube — and the rest of Lakers Nation — will be happy.

Steve Kerr on LaVar Ball: “I don’t think it’s helping his kids”

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UCLA’s Lonzo Ball is going to go in the top three in the upcoming NBA draft (probably second, but the lottery results could have a say in that).

The fact that his father LaVar Ball is talking out of his… er, saying ridiculous crap — that he would’ve beaten Michael Jordan one-on-one, Lonzo will be better than Stephen Curry, that Lonzo will play only for the Lakers, that his sons combined deserve a $1 billion shoe deal, plus LaVar is beefing with Charles Barkley — is not going to impact Ball’s draft status. Talent wins out, and Ball has it. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be dealt with (although some organizations are better at that than others).

However, LaVar’s ramblings are not helping his sons either, if you ask Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who was on ESPN Chicago Radio’s “Waddle & Silvy” show Thursday (hat tip to The Sporting News for the transcription).

“The fact that everybody keeps talking about him, he seems to be accomplishing whatever he’s trying to accomplish, because the things he says are so outlandish. But he keeps getting headlines, and I guess that’s what he wants.

“I don’t think it’s helping his kids,” Kerr continued. “I think it’d be better for them if they can just play and have fun and not have to hear that every day, but whatever. It’s all part of him.”

LaVar is trying to accomplish pushing his clothing line brand (named after his sons, and Lonzo is not projected as the best of the three). At least that’s how it appears from the outside (I have not met the man). The father apparently sees marketing opportunities based off of his sons and is starting to try to capitalize on that. In an unprofessional and sloppy way, but that’s what it looks like.

LaVar’s rantings are not going to impact the draft status of elite players, but you can be sure the teams thinking about taking him will have a plan with the PR/marketing/basketball sides to deal with LaVar and not let him become a distraction.

J.J. Redick on Clippers: “We’ve been s— since the All-Star break”

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The Los Angeles Clippers are going to start the playoffs on the road, and will have a tough trek through the playoffs. If the playoffs started today, they would begin the postseason in Salt Lake City against a Jazz team that just beat them on Monday. The Clippers are the five seed and three games back of the Jazz, Los Angeles isn’t catching them and getting home court. In fact, their bigger concern is in the rear-view mirror — Oklahoma City is just half a game back of Los Angeles now. Fall to the six seed and Los Angeles would face a very dangerous Rockets team in the first round.

This is a Clippers team with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, J.J. Redick, DeAndre Jordan — how are they starting the playoffs on the road? How have they dropped three games in a row when they should be making a push toward the playoffs? Don’t ask Redick, as Bill Oram of the Orange County Register did, because the shooting guard doesn’t know.

“I don’t know what to expect from this team anymore,” veteran guard J.J. Redick said, fuming. “We’re in a bad place right now. We’re losing games. We’ve been s— since the All-Star break.”

Since the All-Star break, the Clippers are 5-8, having been outscored by their opponents by 3.8 points per 100 possessions. The offense has been okay (10th in the NBA since the break), but the defense has been a disaster, giving up 112.4 points per 100, 29th in the NBA. For some perspective, the Lakers have the worst defense in the NBA for the season and they give up 110.7 per 100.

A lot of things have slowed the Clippers this season, a combination of injuries and the team not having much depth around their stars. Which sounds familiar.

There is a good chance the Clippers get bounced in the first round this postseason (do not sleep on how good Utah is and how they are defending). Even if it’s another second round exit (beat the Jazz and the Clippers would face the Warriors) the Clippers will have a lot of questions to answer this summer. Paul, Griffin, and Reddick are all free agents, how much is Steve Ballmer willing to pay to bring them all back? If they do head deep into the luxury tax to keep them all, are the Clippers a good team hoping the breaks just go their way one year (like the 2011 Mavericks)? Is that the right long-term move.

It’s going to be an interesting summer in Los Angeles.

Dwight Howard wants to play seven more years, says he is Hall of Famer

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Dwight Howard has had both a remarkable and maligned NBA career. We’re talking about a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, eight-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star who has averaged 17.5 points and 12.7 rebounds shooting 58 percent over a 13-year career. But bring up Howard and you hear about the ugly exits from Orlando, Los Angeles, and Houston, about a guy seen as not taking himself and the game seriously enough.

Howard talks about all of this and more in a fascinating Q&A with Mark Spears at The Undefeated. Go read the entire thing. Three answers he gave stood out to me, and the first two had to do with how much longer he wants to play and if he’s already a Hall of Famer.

How much longer do you want to play?

I want to get to 20 years. Now I’m at 13.

 

Do you feel like you’ve built a resume worthy of induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame?

No doubt. It’s kind of got swept under the rug because the perception of all the things that happened in Orlando. All of the media stuff. If you look at basketball itself, and I don’t ever talk about myself, but winning three Defensive Player of the Year trophies has never been done. Leading the league in rebounding six straight years. All that kind of stuff, I think that deserves it.

Howard’s critics will hate this, but he’s right — he is a future Hall of Famer. It’s not really a debate. He’s got the resume even without a ring, and if you go by the simple criteria of “one of the best of his era” then he qualifies — he was one of the league’s best players for a five-year stretch. You can argue he should have been MVP in 2011, not Derrick Rose. If you don’t think he is a lock, you didn’t watch him play in Orlando.

The other interesting question tied into him coming out of high school straight to the NBA, and whether he thinks that’s good for players.

Should high school players be allowed to go to the NBA right out of high school now?

It’s tough, because they should be able to pursue their dreams. But at the same time, there are a lot of things you can learn in college even for [one] year that can help you adjust to [the] life of being an NBA player. It’s not as easy as what people think. It’s a little different now because you have social media and all this stuff.

It’s a whole different life. You need a little bit of that being off in college and having to take care of the little money that you get. Just learn how to really take care of yourself away from home.

Adam Silver and the NBA owners would like to thank Howard for making their argument for them.