Kurt Helin

Oklahoma City and Real Madrid put up — and hit — some wild shots Monday night

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Oklahoma City went to Spain and got itself in a shootout — Real Madrid beat the Durant-less Thunder 142-137 in overtime. It was fun; it was entertaining.

And it was filled with guys hitting ridiculous shots. A lot of those came from the Spanish hosts who came from five points down with 4.1 seconds to go to force overtime, where they got the win. Enjoy the highlights of circus shots from the preseason.

And don’t read anything into the loss, Thunder fans. Russell Westbrook only played half the game, Steven Adams sat key portions, and the Thunder were up by 22 at one point. It’s NBA preseason, it has less meaning than a Doraemon cartoon.

J.R. Smith reacts to Cavaliers signing Toney Douglas with…

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J.R. Smith may have LeBron James in his corner, but Smith and the Cavaliers remain at a contract impasse. Smith feels he deserves more money — it’s rumored he wants $15 million a year — and more security, plus he has a hard-driving agent in Rich Paul. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are way over the tax line and know whatever they pay Smith they can multiply by four in dollars it will cost them.

Then on Monday, the Cavaliers signed Toney Douglas as a possible reserve guard. Smith, how do you feel about that?

That tweet came right after the news of the Douglas signing broke.

If I were Smith, I would be frustrated as well.

Although to be fair, Smith is a two guard and Douglas was brought in as a potential backup point (who could play a little two in a pinch). With Mo Williams retirement, things are thin behind Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers are looking for help. Douglas may provide that.

As for Smith, a veteran missing some training camp is no big deal, but at some point in the next couple of weeks the two sides need to reach a compromise. The defending champs don’t need this distraction — what Pat Riley used to call “the disease of more ” — heading into the season.

LeBron James discusses concern with world his son is coming into, why he endorsed Clinton

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LeBron James is like myself and every other father: He worries about his children.

However, as the father of a young black man, he has an added set of concerns. Something reinforced every time he turns on the news lately. LeBron has been more outspoken lately on social issues — particularly in the wake of police shootings of African-American men — and told CNN recently it was in part because of his growing boys.

“I look at my son being four years removed from driving his own car and being able to leave the house on his own,” James said Monday, a day before the defending NBA champions begin training camp. “It’s a scary thought right now to think if my son gets pulled over, and you tell your kids if you just (comply), and you just listen to the police that they will be respectful and things will work itself out.

“And you see these videos that continue to come out. It’s a scary-ass situation that if my son calls me and said he’s been pulled over, that I’m not that confident that things are going to go well and that my son is going to return home.”
The issue of police and race relations in this nation is far bigger than LeBron and much broader than Akron and Cleveland, but as someone with a megaphone because of his stature as a player, he doesn’t want the conversation to die down. LeBron said he will be standing for the national anthem before NBA games, but he wants the conversation Colin Kaepernick started to continue.

LeBron endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in an op-ed article that came out Sunday night. Of course, Monday after practice he was asked about this, and he said he got to know her through President Barack Obama. Here are LeBron’s comments, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“We’ve become really good friends and from Day 1 I just always liked his vision, especially from a community standpoint,” James said Monday. “And I believe Hillary can continue that legacy that Barack has done for the last eight years. You guys know how important my community service is, especially in my hometown. That’s a main point for me.”

He added that he wanted to do a written op-ed so that his words and feelings could not be misinterpreted.

The mere fact LeBron is speaking out (even in an at times watered-down way) is a good step forward, we need to see athletes involved in their community and society as a whole. It’s far better than watching them sit back and try to protect their brand.

Bradley Beal cleared from concussion, will play in Wizards preseason opener

Associated Press
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John Wall is still not back on the court at full speed in Washington, still recovering from having both knees operated on this summer.

The good news is his backcourt running mate Bradley Beal has been cleared following his concussion suffered at the start of training camp, and will start in Tuesday’s preseason game, reports J. Michael at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

That would be Trey Burke stepping in for Wall in the short term.

If the Wizards are going to do anything more than tread water this season, they need Beal and Wall to both be healthy, then start to show a more dynamic chemistry between them than we have seen in the past. Maybe new coach Scott Brooks can pull that out of them, he worked with a couple of superstars in Oklahoma City that didn’t always get along on the court, and Brooks got that team to the NBA Finals.

With the Wizards, just making the playoffs would be a good first step.

How do teams slow down the Warriors’ offense? Make them work on defense, to start

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Associated Press
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In its preseason debut this weekend, the Golden State Warriors’ offense looked like that of a team which had four practices before stepping on the court. There was plenty of sloppy to go around, starting with Kevin Durant being 2-of-9 from the field. There were turnovers and missteps galore.

Nobody thinks that will continue. There will be some bumps as the Warriors figure this new lineup out, but nobody doubts this will be the NBA’s most dangerous offense in the NBA. Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and quality role players all around them. The will be a force.

How do opponents slow this team down? David Aldridge of NBA.com and TNT asked an NBA assistant coach and got an interesting answer. Starting with there are no good answers. Then going to the other end of the floor.

“I don’t have any answers,” he said. “You’ve just got to go play. You’ve got to go back at them. It’s not brain surgery. They’re talented and they have a couple of great players, but we’re just going to do what we do and try to do it harder and better than they do.”

“Defense starts with shot selection,” the assistant coach says. “If you’re going to take bad shots, if you’re going to allow them to get out in the open court, that’s not good. You have to manufacture the shots you want to get, and you have to make ‘em. It’s not rocket science. So limit your turnovers — turnovers are bad shots — get the shots you want, make sure your transition defense is rock solid, and if you’re good enough, you’re good enough. You can’t change your defense at this level. We’re going to play 28 teams a certain way and play them a different way? It doesn’t work that way.”

During the regular season, offensive and defensive systems get minor tweaks for each game to try to create mismatches or go at an opponents’ weakness. But for the most part teams are what they are. It isn’t until the playoffs, with more time and multiple games, where systems and rotations get overhauls aimed at an opponent.

So how do teams beat the Warriors? Take away the easy buckets, then hope they don’t start making too many of the harder ones. Which makes obvious sense, but is difficult to execute for 48 minutes — and a three-minute lapse is a 12-0 Warriors run. Especially if Curry starts hitting from 28 feet, or Durant is just having one of those nights. Or Thompson is, or… you get the idea.

There are holes in the Warriors that teams can attack. Depth will likely be one (at least during the regular season). There will be others exposed as the season goes along, and you can be sure teams will take notice. But being able to exploit those gaps will require a combination of talent and discipline few teams will have. You don’t have to like the Warriors, or the fact Durant chose them, but you can’t doubt they will be a force.