Author: Kurt Helin

Utah Jazz v Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard gets up, throws down on Rudy Gobert (VIDEO)


Damian Lillard is fearless when he attacks the rim. So what if there is a 7’1″ center and good shot blocker in the way, he’s going straight to the rim looking to finish with authority.h

Which he did right over Utah’s Rudy Gobert in the Trail Blazers’ one-point win over the Jazz Tuesday night.

Gobert, who allows teams to shoot just 37.1 percent at the rim when he is on the floor (an incredibly stat), stood up for himself on twitter.

Five Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday: When Portland needs a win they can get one

Utah Jazz v Portland Trail Blazers

If you watch closely every night in the NBA, you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while thinking you needed to go worship some Norse gods

1) Portland may not be back on track yet, but they’ll take the win. Yes, Damian Lillard dropped 25, and LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 points and 10 boards, but don’t underestimate how much having Robin Lopez back helped the Blazers snap their three-game losing streak. He brought a different, needed energy to the squad. Down the stretch he altered shots in the paint and knocked down some key free throws. They are just better with him on the court — not that he made this win easy. Credit the improving Jazz (Quin Snyder is doing a good job) for making the Blazers work for their 102-101 win. But if Chris Kaman were still starting Portland would have lost this game. Lopez does the dirty work the Blazers need better than his sub. Still, Lillard is the one still putting on the show — and dunking on guys.

Rudy Gobert — who has developed into a quality rim protector and a nice young center — stood up for himself, by the way.

2) If anyone is going to catch Charlotte or Miami for the eight seed in the East it might be Detroit. After Tuesday night’s games the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat are tied for the final two playoff spots in the East. Brooklyn is just 1.5 games back, but they are crumbling and trying to trade their best players, it seems unlikely they make a run (even if they do they finish the season with a brutal stretch of games). Detroit on the other hand… they are just 2.5 games back after beating Miami on Tuesday night, 108-91. The Pistons seemed an unlikely team to make a run  after Brandon Jennings went down with a torn Achilles, but Tuesday his replacement D.J. Augustin dropped 25 points and had 13 assists with no turnovers. That’ll do just fine. The Pistons continue to play well since Josh Smith became Houston’s problem. And if Detroit can hang around the playoff race remember this: It has a very soft schedule the last couple weeks of the season. Charlotte and Miami may want to put some distance between themselves and Detroit before that time.

3) Even James Dolan can’t watch the New York Knicks. Lowly Boston came to Madison Square Garden and had little trouble dispatching the depressingly bad Knicks. Is New York so bad even owner James Dolan can’t stay awake to watch them? Apparently (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

4) Hollis Thompson cannot be stopped (for a night, anyway). The question with the Sixers is always, from where will the offense come? Tuesday the answer was Hollis Thompson, who opened the night shooting 8-of-8 (four of those from three) on his way to a team-and-career high 23 points. You don’t see that every day. By the way, when the Sixers find offense they often win, as they did knocking off the Nuggets 105-98. Which brings us to…

5) In case you haven’t been watching, the Denver Nuggets have fallen and they can’t get up. The Nuggets have dropped 10 of their last 11 games, and in that stretch lost to the Sixers (on Tuesday), Celtics and Timberwolves. For a team that had playoff dreams before the season started — they thought they could get back close to the 57-win team of a couple years ago — this has been an ugly fall. It has gotten so bad coach Brian Shaw is suggesting the players are trying to lose games. Over at Eye on Basketball today our old friend Matt Moore did a fantastic job breaking down what is wrong with the Nuggets (as much as one can in fewer than 5,000 words).

The debate in Denver is whether the roster is a bad fit for Shaw, whether Shaw is unfit to coach, or if the players are inherently bad. Throw out the last one. The list of quality players in terms of talent on this team is significant: Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Randy Foye, J.J. Hickson, Darrell Arthur, even the rookies Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic, who weren’t supposed to play this season, can play. So can Nate Robinson and Timofey Mozgov who were traded.

But the roster doesn’t work with Shaw. The thought early on was that the problem was fit, that Shaw needed a back-to-the-basket post scorer, and that’s true. But this goes well beyond it. Shaw seems to have a fundamental failure to understand or connect with these athletes, players, not to belabor the point but who by and large won 57 games for George Karl two years ago. Shaw was brought in to give the Nuggets a better chance to win in the playoffs. Safe to say that not having your players purposefully trying to lose in your eyes is kind of a prerequisite for making the playoffs….

That’s the problem. It’s everything. The coach has coached badly, the players have coached badly, Shaw has thrown enough players under the bus to raise it high enough to change the tires on it, the players have failed to show basic levels of competitive spirit or competency. There’s no effective leadership, and so this is the mess.


Shaw will be out in Denver at the end of the year, but the issues that need fixing in the Rockies are much bigger than just that.

Andre Drummond dunked all over the Miami Heat (VIDEO)

Miami Heat v Detroit Pistons

Andre Drummond is a beast.

His game has needed to mature — his post moves need a lot of polish, he needs to extend his range out a few feet — but he is still the kind of talent you just can’t ignore. He showed that against the Miami Heat where he put on a dunking clinic. For one, he shows why bigs who can run the floor are dangerous.

Second, Drummond showed James Ennis why he is so tough to stop at the rim.

(By the way, the Pistons beat the Heat 108-91.)

It’s too early for New York to give up on triangle offense

Phil Jackson

New Yorkers are not legendary for their patience.

New York’s tabloid media is not renowned for its big picture world views.

All of which meant Phil Jackson’s effort at a total culture change within the New York Knicks organization and putting the triangle offense out there on the court was bound to see pushback this first season. It was going to take time; it was going to require patience and a big-picture view while this played out.

Of course, this season has been a bigger mess than imagined at Madison Square Garden — a 10-38 record with a bottom five offense and defense. It’s much closer to an unmitigated disaster. Jackson admitted as much in a New York Times piece by Harvey Araton.

“Like nothing I’ve seen before,” he said of the Knicks’ first 41 games, of which they lost 36, a half-season of hell. “So far, my experiment has fallen flat on its face.”

Of course, some New York media seized on that last line.

However, it is too early to scrap the triangle entirely.

Part of the issue is that not only was the Knicks roster filled with not very good players, it was filled with guys who were a poor fit for the triangle. Tyson Chandler is a quality rim protector and can finish with authority on a roll to the hoop, but do you want to make him a passer from the elbow (or low block for that matter)? J.R. Smith might arguably be the least triangle friendly player in the league. The list goes on and on.

This year the Knicks were going to be terrible regardless — and this was the year to do it since they control their first round pick for once. So if you’re going to be bad, why not put the new system in and build a foundation?

The question being asked in New York is if the triangle can work as well in today’s NBA? I think we know where Jackson stands on this question.

But as to skepticism about whether he can make the triangle work in a league in which no one else plays it, Jackson said: “I’m not daunted by the number of people who have commented that this way of playing is arcane, that the game has moved on. The game has moved on.”

He also believes that the game, stylistically, moves in mysterious ways.

“I think it’s still debatable about how basketball is going to be played, what’s going to win out,” he said, leaving no doubt of his disdain for the point guard dominating concept of “screen-and-roll, break down, pass, and two or three players standing in spots, not participating in the offense.”

I believe the triangle offense can work.

Actually, let me rephrase that:

I believe the triangle offense that Tex Winter drew up can work in the NBA. The same exact model of the triangle that the Bulls or three-peat Lakers ran will struggle (they had different points of emphasis, in large part due to Shaq).

Winter’s offensive principles called for things that teams do now, for example push the ball and try to get early offense before the defense sets itself. Plus the triangle is all about spacing and forcing the defense to make choices, and then reacting to and exploiting the choice made. If you have three-point shooters and guys willing to work off the ball, those principles still work just fine. Go watch San Antonio Spurs tape from the Finals last season. The Knicks can’t just isolate Carmelo Anthony anymore (although the triangle allows for isolations when you create a mismatch), you have to play a team game. That can work in New York, you don’t just have to run “floppy” every time down.

If the Knicks are going to make this work, however, they need not just better players but specific kinds of role players. High basketball IQ guys. Shooters for sure. Defenders of course. But what Phil Jackson walked into with those Lakers back in 2000 was a team with couple superstars surrounded by smart veteran role players. (And for the record it took that team a year to figure the offense out, those 1999-2000 Lakers had the same offensive points per possession as the Del Harris/Kurt Rambis coached team as the season before. What Jackson did that first year was improve the defense dramatically, the offense came later.)

The Knicks’ offseason headlines will be about chasing another star, but as important is for them they more of those kinds of role players. And that is going to take some time to put together.

Then Carmelo Anthony needs to do more than just pay lip service to the offense and move the ball, and buy in.

It’s not going to be easy, but no matter what system the Knicks try to install now it’s going to be a long road back.

It’s just too early to ditch the triangle yet.

Watch 14-year-old Stephen Curry talk NBA dream, show off already-sweet stroke (VIDEO)

Golden State Warriors v Miami Heat

Back in 2002 Dell Curry — one of the best shooters of his generation — was a Toronto Raptor, winding down his NBA career north of the border. His family was there with him, including a 14-year-old Stephen Curry.

The Curry family was the focus one week of “Off The Hardwood,” a weekly show back then about players lives off the court. In this episode Stephen talks about giving up baseball because he liked hoops better, then he and Seth Curry play a little one-on-one.

Then Stephen shows off a sweet shooting stroke.

Hat tip to the brilliant Sportando for unearthing this gem.