Kurt Helin

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Timberwolves Nemanja Bjelica to miss Olympics for Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — The Serbian basketball federation says Nemanja Bjelica will miss the Rio de Janeiro Olympics because of a right-foot injury.

The Minnesota Timberwolves forward missed the Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgrade, where Serbia clinched one of the three remaining places at the Olympics.

The injury has been described as an inflamed nerve. Bjelica said the injury needs another three weeks to heal.

Bjelica is a longtime pillar of Serbia’s team and his absence will be a serious blow to the squad’s hopes of gaining a medal.

Serbia also will be without center Boban Marjanovic, who decided to skip the qualifying tournament while negotiating a contract with the Detroit Pistons.

Coach Aleksandar Djordjevic then decided not to include Marjanovic in the Olypmic squad.

Phil Jackson likes idea of 4-point line, 30-second shot clock

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Say this about Phil Jackson, he’s open minded. He’s not a fan of sticking with the status quo just because “it’s how we do things.”

That includes shaking up some of the things on the court now, like adding a four-point line and more time on the shot clock. Those were some of the things he told confidante Charlie Rosen with todaysfastbreak.com (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“Why not have a four-point line about 35 feet out? It wouldn’t be long before players will get reasonably comfortable shooting from out there. And having a four-point line would certainly serve to enable teams to catch up in what are now blowout games.”

In addition, Jackson supports adding six seconds to the shot clock: “This would give offenses more time to get low-post players involved, make defenses work harder, and encourage more passing and player movement.”

Just a hunch: We will see the NBA experiment with a four-point line (likely at 28-30 feet) in the D-League in a few years. That is the NBA’s lab, where they can test out rule changes and ideas without impacting the main NBA product. I doubt the four-point play ever makes it to the NBA (at least not for many years), but under Adam Silver the NBA much is more open to listening and trying new ideas.

I’m far less convinced we’d ever see a longer shot clock in the NBA — this would end up leading to fewer possessions, a slower game, and the league doesn’t want that. Would we see more post play? More player movement and passing? I doubt it, the longer clock would just lead to another pick-and-roll reset if the first couple didn’t work out.

J.R. Smith ‘nervous’ about possibility he leaves Cavaliers

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J.R. Smith opted out of a $5.4 million payday for the upcoming season, thinking he would get paid a little more after helping the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first NBA title.

Smith is still without a contract.

While Cavaliers GM David Griffin said at Summer League he was confident the Cavaliers would re-sign Smith — who has developed into a solid catch-and-shoot two guard off the ball — other teams have come calling. With more money. Smith was honest in an interview on ESPN about what he is thinking.

“I’ve thought about that situation (leaving Cleveland), and I’ve thought about it the other way, too, going back and winning again,” Smith said. “Both are juggled in the air and I’m kind of nervous about that choice when it gets presented to me.”

Smith averaged 12.4 points a game shooting 40 percent from three last season for Cleveland. He’s still in his prime at age 30 (31 when next season starts). He has real value on the open market, but he wants to stay in Cleveland where he can play with his AAU buddy LeBron James and have a chance to win. If Cleveland is using that desire to lowball him, it could backfire.

LeBron James also has yet to re-sign with the Cavaliers. LeBron has said he will be back with the Cavs, but he is taking his time with putting pen to paper.

Kyrie Irving FaceTimed Kobe Bryant after winning NBA title

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Kyrie Irving hugged LeBron James, Kevin Love, and the rest of his Cleveland Cavaliers teammates. He bonded with coach Tyronn Lue. He got sprayed with champagne and celebrated like a champ in the wake of Cleveland winning its first NBA title.

Then, from the locker room, Irving FaceTimed Kobe Bryant.

From an interview with ThePostGame.com (hat tip Eye on Basketball):

“I actually FaceTimed Kobe after the game as soon as I got in the locker room,” Irving says. “Other than seeing my dad and my sister right after we won, FaceTiming him was just a great thing, knowing how he has won five and I just won my first. Then realizing how hard it is just to win one, my respect for him is already high, but it went to another level knowing that he’s got five of them. I’m trying to get a second one…

“[Bryant] was telling me congrats,” Irving says of the FaceTime. “I had been speaking to him throughout the entire playoffs and during the season. During the Finals, we didn’t really talk as much, because for me, I wanted to experience it full on, and if I needed his help, I would reach out to him. He would send me some texts here and there, but mainly he kind of let me be, and let me grow into my own space.”

Kobe is going to become the guru for guys seeking titles and wanting advice on overcoming the obstacles in the way of rings. A mentor role he will enjoy.

And clearly, what Kobe told Kyrie had a real impact. Kyrie had a pretty nice end to the Finals.

Dwight Howard says his back is no longer a problem

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Dwight Howard has never quite been the same player since his back surgery in 2012. As a snapshot, look at his PER the three years before in Orlando were 24, 26.1, and 24.2; the four years since it has been 19.3, 21.4, 19.2, and 18.9. Those are still strong numbers, but not the dominant numbers we had seen in Orlando. He hasn’t looked like a No. 1 offensive option anymore, and he’s also battled knee and other issues that had him missing 52 games the past two seasons in Houston.

Howard is looking to change all that, to restore his reputation in Atlanta.

And his back is not going to get in the way, he told Steve Hummer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“My back hasn’t been an issue, and I don’t think I’ll ever have an issue out of my back for the rest of my career,” he said without pause.

Even if he is healthy — and that remains a big “if,” everyone needs to see it — the question becomes will he buy into the Hawks selfless system? The Hawks success the past couple years has been based on team play, on moving and sharing the ball, on everyone accepting their role. Can Howard do that? Can he focus on defending and rebounding and not pout if he doesn’t get 15 post touches a game? Last season he led the NBA post touches, was second in the league in paint touches, and still said he didn’t get enough. When he gets them, the ball stops. Do that in Atlanta and the team takes a step backwards.

Maybe Howard has grown up and moved on, maybe he has become humble, maybe he can lead the Hawks and have them in that second tier in the East. But at this point, we all need to see it. We’ve all heard Howard say the right things before. Actions, not words.