Kurt Helin

Barack Obama would take Michael Jordan over Kobe, LeBron

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Who wouldn’t?

Just a couple of days after his final State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama did a little Twitter Q&A. Understandably, most of the questions he engaged on were about gun violence, the Affordable Care Act, and other things that are important. But then came the hoops question: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, or LeBron James.

Obama is from Chicago, what did you expect him to say?

And who wouldn’t choose Jordan.

In a recent PBT Podcast author Roland Lazenby and I discussed and compared Kobe and Jordan (he has written books on both men and has another Kobe book coming out in August). Kobe has wrung everything out of his body that he could get, even Phil Jackson said he had a better work ethic than Jordan. But Jordan had more gifts and turned those into an unmatched career.

LeBron has more gifts than either of them physically, and his story is still being written (a couple of Cleveland titles tilts the narrative), but he has not had the same success on the biggest of stages as those two guys. Fair or not.

Five Takeaways from NBA Thursday: Tony Parker, Spurs’ bench spark win over Cavs

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, right, prepares to drive around San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
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We had the first in a string of games coming up between the NBA’s powerhouses — Cleveland at San Antonio. But if your significant other forced you to watch American Idol, I feel for you. We can help. Here is what you need to know from a Thursday night around the Association.

1) Cavaliers get off to fast start, but relentless San Antonio wears down Cleveland to get win, remain perfect at home. It’s hard not to try to draw conclusions from this game about what would happen if this were the NBA Finals matchup (a real possibility), even though six months from now these both will be different teams. This was more of a benchmark for where they are now — and at the start Cleveland looked great. Their combination of athleticism and free-flowing offense had them race out to a 12-2 lead to start the game. Seconds into the second quarter the Cavaliers led 35-20 after an Iman Shumpert jumper. That was as good as it got for them, the Spurs walked the Cavaliers down, passed them in the fourth and got the win. Here are the three things I would take away from this game and keep in mind for future meetings.

The Cavaliers got away from the ball movement they had in the first quarter (an improved Spurs’ defense had something to do with that). Cleveland had six assists on 13 baskets in the first quarter, and then nine assists on the 25 buckets they had the rest of the game. Combine the lack of ball movement with solid Spurs positioning on defense (and a guy like Kawhi Leonard, who can make LeBron James work for his 22 points), and you got a Cavaliers team that settled for jumpers rather than attack the rim (and draw fouls or get easier shots).

Tony Parker outdueled Kyrie Irving. I’m not sure if that’s sustainable — Irving is getting better each game still in his return from knee surgery — but if Parker can keep things close that’s good news for the Spurs. Remember that the Cavs were the last team to beat the Spurs in San Antonio and Irving went off for 57 in that game — he can swing these games by himself. Thursday night Parker played good defense on him (Irving had 16 points on 17 shots) plus had a team-high 24 points himself. This season San Antonio is asking Parker to do less than he did in the motion offense championship days just a couple of seasons back, and he is responding by looking less tired and coming through with big games when they need him.

David West sparked a Spurs bench that won the game. This is what you hope for from veterans such as West — the Spurs needed a spark off the bench and West had 13 points in 18 minutes. West hit some key fourth quarter buckets, and he led a bench that got the Spurs back in the game and helped them take the lead in the fourth. This is the one takeaway that might worry the Cavaliers looking ahead to a series — the Spurs have had arguably the best bench in the NBA this season and the Cavaliers will have to keep that gap close to win four of seven games. Cleveland couldn’t do that Thursday night.

2) Jimmy Butler drops career-high 53 to lead the Bulls past the Sixers in overtime. If you want to be negative — as some Bulls fans are prone to be — and say it’s concerning that Chicago needed an epic performance and OT to beat the lowly Sixers, go ahead. I would counter with two things. First, it’s a long season, the Sixers have played better of late, teams have flat nights, and you take the wins where you can get them. Second, just enjoy what Jimmy Butler did — the man was incredible. He played the game’s final 37 minutes straight because Fred Hoiberg couldn’t afford to take him out.

3) Mario Chalmers hit a ridiculous game winner to lift Memphis over Detroit. This end of game sequence may not be the most aesthetically beautiful thing you will ever see, but Mario Chalmers has never feared the moment (going back to Kansas), and he drained another big shot in a career full of them.

4) Stephen Curry threw down just his second dunk of the season. This, and a fond farewell to Kobe Bryant from the Oracle Arena crowd, were the only two things worth noting from the Warriors win over the Lakers Thursday night.

5) Rudy Gay game winner lifts Kings past Jazz. They have playoff dreams in Sacramento this season, but if the Kings are going to make the dance for the first time in nine years they need to beat the team they are trying to catch — like eight seed Utah. Gay made that happen with a good-look elbow jumper for the game winner. (The Kings are now just one game back of the Jazz for the final playoff slot in the West.)

Lowry helps Raptors beat Magic 106-103 in OT in London

Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, left, drives forward as Orlando Magic's Nikola Vucevic defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, at the O2 arena in London, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016.  Raptors won the game 106-103. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
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LONDON (AP) — Kyle Lowry scored 24 points, Cory Joseph added 19 and the Toronto Raptors beat the Orlando Magic 106-103 in overtime Thursday night at O2 Arena.

DeMar DeRozan had 13 points and 11 rebounds to help the Raptors win their fourth straight game.

Victor Oladipo scored 27 points, and Evan Fournier had 21 for Orlando. The Magic lost for the sixth time in seven games.

Lowry made two free throws to put Toronto up 105-100 with 43 seconds left in overtime, but Oladipo answered with a 3-pointer. After Lowry missed a shot, he stole the ball from Oladipo and was fouled by Tobias Harris. Lowry made one of two, making it a three-point game.

Nikola Vucevic‘s last-second shot from near halfcourt bounced off the rim.

Vucevic had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Magic, and Harris had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Down 88-77 with 7:34 left, the Magic tied it at 96 on Oladipo’s jumper with 32.9 seconds left.

After a miss by Lowry, Oladipo had a chance to win it, but missed a 21-foot jumper with less than a second to go. A replay review gave possession to Orlando, but Jason Smith bounced a shot off the rim as the buzzer sounded, sending it to overtime.

Orlando’s Elfrid Payton came off the bench, returning after sitting out the past four games with a bruised left ankle. Forward Aaron Gordon played despite rolling his right ankle during practice Wednesday.

Before the game, and after the playing of “O Canada,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and “God Save the Queen,” Lowry and Vucevic stood at center court and briefly spoke to the crowd, thanking the fans for their support.

TIP-INS

Raptors: The last time the Raptors visited London, back in March 2011, they lost in triple overtime to the Nets, a game where DeRozan and former Raptors center Andrea Bargnani both missed last-second shots.

Magic: Orlando came in 8-0 against Atlantic Division opponents. … G Shabazz Napier (illness) was not available.

Ronnie Price latest Suns’ guard to have surgery, miss time

Phoenix Suns' Ronnie Price, left, and  Brandon Knight, endure the closing moments of the Suns' 142-119 loss to the Sacramento Kings in an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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The Phoenix Suns have already lost starting point guard Eric Bledsoe for the season. They are hoping his replacement Ronnie Price is not in the same boat.

Price had missed the last two games due to what had been called a sprained big toe. Apparently it was more than that. Price is going to miss some time due to surgery, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

Price had been playing 20 minutes a game in his last 10, averaging 6.6 points per game on just 37 percent shooting. The Suns have lost 11 of their last 12.

Expect a lot of Brandon Knight, Devon Booker, Lorenzo Brown, and Sonny Weems. Which is not exactly going to lift the Spurs into the playoffs.

Adam Silver: “We are not looking at franchises in Europe”

Commissioner of the NBA Adam Silver speaks to the media ahead of a regular season basketball game between Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors at the O2 arena in London, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
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Thank you, Commissioner Silver.

For years , every time the NBA played a regular season or exhibition game overseas — or during press conferences during All-Star weekend or the NBA Finals — an international journalist would ask about NBA teams based in Europe. First David Stern, then Adam Silver, would give an answer about how they hope to do it in a decade, it was just figuring out the logistics and arenas.

That was always fantasy sold to keep the European market with hope. The reality was much more stark.

In London Thursday — where the Raptors and Magic played an overtime thriller — Silver admitted a European team in the NBA is just not likely.

“We are not actively taking steps to bring a franchise to Europe or expand to Europe. It’s something we’ve looked at over the years. It just doesn’t feel like the time is ripe right now, especially given what is going on, in the prior question, with the Euroleague and FIBA (those two entities are at war over dates of qualification for FIBA events and more). We think the best place for the NBA right now is to showcase an NBA game here in London, to play our preseason games here, and to work on a grassroots level to develop the game. But at the current time, we are not looking at franchises in Europe.”

The logistics of NBA teams in Europe are daunting. Even if you recruited and turned existing powerhouse clubs (Barcelona, CSKA Moscow, etc.) to form a new NBA division of five teams, the travel for stateside teams going to Europe to play those teams, and those teams coming to the USA for extended road trips, would be hard on a fair competitive balance. There’s just no good way to make it work without inventing a transporter ala Star Trek.

Much like Barclays Premiere League teams build fan bases in the USA with preseason tours and fantastic broadcast/streaming for regular season games; the NBA can do the same thing in reverse. Maybe throw in a couple of games in London and other major European cities. But a regular season team has never been realistic.