Kurt Helin

LeBron James’ chasedown block in midseason form. Ask Kelly Oubre.


Oh, young Kelly Oubre. If you steal the ball from LeBron James and try to race him to the rim the other way, you better not get cute at the rim with a soft lay-up off the glass. LeBron eats soft lay-ups for breakfast. Ask Stephen Curry about it.

Tuesday night the Wizards’ Oubre made a nice defensive play, trying to deny the pass to LeBron and making a steal when the pass came anyway.  Kyrie Irving got back on defense, which made Oubre hesitate a little getting to the rim — and then comes the patented LeBron chasedown block.

That gets me ready for the season to start.

Sixers GM: Team, Nerlens Noel not talking contract extension

CAMDEN, NJ - SEPTEMBER 26: Nerlens Noel #4 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during media day on September 26, 2016 in Camden, New Jersey. 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 Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Nerlens Noel is eligible for an extension to his rookie contract, the Sixers and Noel could pound out an extension by Oct. 31 and lock the athletic big man up for years.

But that is not going to happen. For a variety of reasons.

Sixers GM Bryan Colangelo said an extension was not likely, speaking to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“It’s not really something that we’ve discussed given some of the concerns that I think Nerlens has had right now,” said Colangelo, the team’s president of basketball operations. “There’s been very little, if any, discussion with his agents about any extension scenarios.

“But, I’ll just leave it at that.”

Those concerns are Noel saying that the Sixers have too crowded a frontcourt — which is true when everyone is healthy. Which they are not right now. But there is Noel, Joel Embiid, Jahlil  Okafor, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and Jerami Grant. It’s a lot of young bodies. Embiid is emerging as a powerful center, and Brett Brown told NBC he wants to experiment with lineups to see if Embiid, Okafor, and Saric can all play together. Same with Simmons and Saric.  Noel is in that mix as well, there are questions about how all the puzzle pieces are going to fit up front.

Eventually, there is going to be an odd man — or men — out, and there’s a real chance Noel is that guy, because he has real value in a trade. He and Okafor have been discussed in trades, but no offer has truly interested the Sixers yet. Still, it’s easier to trade him if Noel simply has a qualifying offer and enters next summer as a restricted free agent.

All that means you can cross Noel off the list of guys going to get a contract extension before the Halloween deadline.

Charles Barkley says Warriors still a flawed team even with Durant

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04:  Former NBA player and commentator Charles Barkley points to the crowd prior to the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game between the Villanova Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — Charles Barkley didn’t want Kevin Durant to join the Golden State Warriors and isn’t sure Durant changes things now that he’s there.

In Barkley’s mind, the Warriors are still a flawed team.

“Let me say this: I still think they got some of the same issues this year with that team,” Barkley said Tuesday.

“Can they rebound the ball? They’re going to still be shooting jumpers. They’re not going to get any low-post scoring. Can that type of play hold up through the rigors of the NBA playoffs? I’m still going to say the same thing I’ve always said: No.”

The Warriors won a record 73 games in the regular season but blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals and lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Golden State then signed Durant, the former NBA MVP, in the offseason.

That’s made the Warriors the favorites to regain the title they won in 2015, though Barkley said they were “lucky” then because their road was filled with teams weakened by injuries. Cleveland was already without Kevin Love in those Finals and lost Kyrie Irving near the end of Game 1.

The Cavs were healthy last year, and Barkley picked them to beat the Warriors.

“When I told you they couldn’t play that little small ball and win a championship if everybody they played was healthy, that they’d wear down, and they did. I told you Cleveland was going to beat them and they did,” Barkley said during a lunch before TNT’s “Inside the NBA” studio team was elected to the Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Barkley and the team will host their show Tuesday night in Cleveland outside Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavaliers will receive their rings before facing New York in their season opener. The Warriors will play San Antonio in the nightcap of TNT’s doubleheader.

Barkley, a Hall of Fame player who never won a championship, was disappointed that Durant left Oklahoma City for an easier chance at a title with the star-studded Warriors, who have two-time MVP Stephen Curry and fellow All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

If they win, Barkley said, the title won’t mean as much to Durant as it would have in Oklahoma City, where he had played since the Thunder franchise moved from Seattle in 2008 after his rookie season. Durant has been booed in rival arenas since his decision and has angered some of his former fans with what appeared to be criticisms of Russell Westbrook and his former team.

“He’s made himself a villain by taking all these shots at Oklahoma City for no reason. There’s no reason for that,” Barkley said. “He left, he’s happy, shut up. When you’re taking shots at Russell and those guys, that’s not necessary.”

Betting odds have Russell Westbrook MVP favorite, Buddy Hield Rookie of Year

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook spins the ball as he poses for photos during the 2016-2017 Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day in Oklahoma City, Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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This season the race for NBA MVP is as wide open as it has been in years. In predictions from the PBT staff, we got three different answers for who would hoist the trophy — LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and James Harden.

And none of those are the betting favorite: Russell Westbrook.

Speculation about awards is part of the fun of preseason (which is why you need to listen to the PBT Podcast that drops Thursday). As of Oct. 18, one week before the season tips off, here are the latest MVP odds, courtesy the online gambling site Bovada:

Russell Westbrook 2/1
Stephen Curry 9/2
LeBron James 9/2
Anthony Davis 10/1
Kevin Durant 10/1
James Harden 10/1
Kawhi Leonard 10/1
Paul George 22/1
Carmelo Anthony 33/1
Blake Griffin 33/1
Kyrie Irving 33/1
Damien Lillard 33/1
Chris Paul 33/1
Karl-Anthony Towns 33/1

If I were a betting man, getting Harden and Leonard at 10-1 feels like good odds. Same with George at 22-1.

For fun, here are the top five from their Rookie of the Year betting lines (and if you want to see our predictions, follow this link).

Buddy Hield (Pelicans) 7/2
Kris Dunn (Timberwolves) 4/1
Joel Embiid (Sixers) 5/1
Ben Simmons (Sixers) 5/1
Brandon Ingram (Lakers) 11/2

How the Warriors’ lose the West: “They get hurt or hate each other”

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 04:  Kevin Durant #35 talks to Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during their game against the Los Angeles Clippers during their preseason game at ORACLE Arena on October 4, 2016 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)

If Golden State can stay healthy, and if they can integrate a willing Kevin Durant into their 73-win system (which appears to be going well in the preseason), it’s hard to imagine the Warriors not winning the West.

The Spurs will be good but seem to lack the athleticism, and their defense likely steps back with Pau Gasol filling Tim Duncan’s shoes. The Clippers could be the biggest threat to the Warriors in the West. They have great frontline athleticism and an elite point guard in Chris Paul, but they lack both depth and they have struggled mightily to defend the Warriors the past couple of seasons. And that was before the Warriors added Durant.

We have delved into what it will take to beat the Warriors, now Howard Beck has done a long-form piece at Bleacher Report where he got some honest quotes from other team executives.

“That they get hurt or hate each other, for sure,” said the Western Conference executive. “We’re all rooting for that.”

One Eastern Conference team executive suggested something just short of groin-kicking: “The good teams with coaches that are bloodthirsty, they’re going to say, ‘Let’s go out and try to knock them around a little bit.’”

Certainly, being physical with them is going to be part of the plan for many teams. But nobody is rooting for injuries, or at least I would hope not (that’s bad karma for a team executive).

The real question is not can the Spurs and Clippers challenge the Warriors, but rather just how good will the Warriors be? The team may not chase 73 wins again, but they are going to win 65 or more just based on talent. If all that talent meshes well and the rotations are tight come to the playoffs, it’s hard to picture this team losing. Even to Cleveland in a seven-game series, and while that would be close Doc Rivers may explain best what Durant does to the Warriors:

“I don’t know how much better they’ll be for the first 45 minutes of the game,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “They’re gonna be a lot better the last three minutes of the game.”

The Cavaliers and Thunder had the athletes and defenders on their team to blitz Curry when he got the ball late in games and not get destroyed off the ball. Now, blitz Curry and Durant gets the ball. It’s nearly impossible to defend.

NBA GMs unanimously predicted a third straight Warriors vs. Cavaliers NBA Finals. Those games have been booms for ratings, with so many NBA stars gathered in one place. Whether it is good for the entire NBA is another question. And one we have all season to contemplate.