Kurt Helin

Curry welcomes Nash to Warriors, pokes fun at Kerr

1 Comment

Steve Nash has been hired as a consultant with the Golden State Warriors, working with them on player development of their guards.

Stephen Curry welcomed Nash to the Golden State family — and poked a little fun at Steve Kerr in the process.

Finally we get a decent coach around here….👀

A photo posted by Wardell Curry (@stephencurry30) on

Well played Stephen, well played.

Fast Break news & notes: Brett Brown likes Sixers path

Boston Celtics Vs. Philadelphia 76ers Exhibition Game
3 Comments

Even in the dog days of the NBA off-season, there’re a lot of interesting tidbits of news and stories worth reading we don’t get to here at NBC’s PBT. And we’re bloggers, so we have an instinctive love of the bullet point. So we’ve combined them into one post that can get you caught up some news and notes around the NBA quickly.

Sixers’ coach Brett Brown still believes in the rebuilding course the franchise is on. Of course, what else is he going to say at this point? The better question is: Does ownership still believe in that course? And for how much longer?

• On a day where one Muslim youth has been singled out for being smart and creative, it’s good to read about how people of many faiths in Oklahoma City worked hard to make Muslim Enes Kanter feel welcomed as part of the community.

Is Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning the Magic vs. Bird of this era?

• Michael Jordan also has a lawsuit going in China over unauthorized use of his image, but things there are not going as well for him as they did in Chicago.

The NBA players union organized a players’ workout session. Their new facility in New York will have a full gym and other amenities that will make this far more common.

• I hope to see this go through — the Bucks are discussing a $15 an hour wage floor and allowing unions at their new arena. My experience is most arena workers are good, hard-working people, and many are scraping to get by.

George Hill may be the bellwether for how things go in Indiana next season.

This story talks about Giannis Antetokounmpo, but I’m generally a fan of the idea that playing up the positional scale (i.e.,., going small) is better than the alternative.

• NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post criticizing Donald Trump. Trump handled that with a level of maturity usually reserved for middle-school bullies.

• Zach Lowe spent way too much time and effort thinking about and ranking NBA logos, but you have to read it.

• Al Harrington is hoping to land an NBA coaching job.

• Memphis is headed to one of my favorite spots for training camp.

• Recent draft picks Kelly Oubre Jr. of the Wizards and Terry Rozier of the Celtics recently signed with Adidas. Both will be wearing their shoes mostly on the bench this season.

Nikola Pekovic is about to be the new president of Partizan Belgrade’s basketball club.

Minnesota owner expects Flip’s system, Bennett to stay

Ricky Rubio, Kevin Garnett
3 Comments

What NBA owners want for their team, NBA owners usually get.

So when Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor spoke to ESPN 1500 and local television guy Darren Wolfson about what is going to happen in Minnesota with Flip Saunders being out to start the season as he battles cancer, we should pay attention. And what Taylor expects is not a big change in the system under Sam Mitchell.

Whoever is coaching the Timberwolves this season, it will be one of adjustments and system tweaks. Minnesota has a lot of interesting young pieces — Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad — not to mention Kevin Garnett and Andre Miller for veteran presence. The question is what combinations and what styles best suit this group. It should be a season of experimentation in Minnesota — and it should be entertaining.

Also, don’t expect the Timberwolves to trade Anthony Bennett anytime soon.

The fact Anthony had a good summer is why there are trade rumors — fans want to sell high, and the front office would be smart to gauge the market. But playing well in FIBA Americas is not suddenly going to make Bennett a hot commodity on the trade market, the level of play there is more than a couple steps below NBA level. Other teams will be patient, so will the Timberwolves.

Soon Harden will stop being seen in Air Jordans

James Harden
3 Comments

To quote some other writer, this is much ado about nothing. But when you combine celebrities and hundreds of millions of dollars in the dearth of the off-season, you get a story.

To be clear, there are 200 million reasons James Harden should stop wearing Air Jordans.

Harden’s new mega-deal with Adidas doesn’t officially kick in until Oct. 1, and he was seen around the Los Angeles area still wearing Air Jordans. Which he is certainly not a violation of the letter of his contract for another couple of weeks. Still, you can imagine that’s not sitting well with the people at Adidas. ESPN’s Darren Rovell asked the good people at Adidas about it.

Asked whether Harden will have to stop wearing his Air Jordan collection in public when the deal officially commences Oct. 1, Adidas’ Mark King said, “That’s part of the deal.”

“The difference between football and basketball is that a guy like Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a walk-around shoe,” King said. “Harden does, and he will be in our lifestyle stuff.”

This matters to Adidas — they know they are a long, long way from toppling Nike in basketball shoes, but they have brought in other big names such as Kanye West to design lifestyle shoes to wear around. That’s a market they want to go after. Harden’s pop culture status — the beard, dating a Kardashian, being known for fashion — is part of the reason Adidas went in big to land him. So it doesn’t look good when he’s walking around in other people’s gear. It’s not a big deal, but it’s noticed.

Harden seems to have learned his lesson.

51 Q: Can the New York Knicks make the playoffs?

Phil Jackson
18 Comments

PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Can the New York Knicks make the playoffs?

This past summer, New York Knicks decision maker Phil Jackson tried to walk a fine line.

He attempted to balance rebuilding the franchise to compete for titles long term with improving the roster enough for next season that they could make the playoffs.

In trying to do both, he may have done neither.

On the bright side for Knicks fans, Jackson didn’t mortgage the future for a quick-fix, a New York tradition that put the team in this hole in the first place. That is at least a step in the right direction.

Whether you think he did a good job building for the long-term ultimately depends on what you think of rookie Kristaps Porzingis. If you think he’s another Euro bust, or even is going to develop into a solid NBA rotation player, then you also think Jackson swung and missed going for the home run with the No. 4 pick when better guys were still on the board. If you think Porzingis can develop into a franchise cornerstone player, then you think Jackson has them on the right path. The only thing everyone can agree on with Porzingis is that we are two to three seasons away from knowing who is right about him. He’s got skills, but he’s a project.

Aside KP, what move did Jackson make this summer that speaks to the longer-term? They struck out on Greg Monroe and other top free agents. Jerian Grant looks like a good pick, but he’s going to be a solid rotation point guard not a star (and if the Knicks continue to run the triangle that’s not the most crucial of positions). Maybe they can retain Robin Lopez long term. But the only potential big score is Porzingis.

What about the other side of the line Jackson tried to walk — can the Knicks make the playoffs next season?

Probably not.

They will certainly be better, but the playoffs will remain out of reach.

Last season the Knicks won 17 games. Last season it took 38 wins to be the eighth seed in the East, a number that likely climbs a little next season — let’s say just to 40 wins. That means the Knicks need to be 23-wins better to make the cut. That’s a lot of wins, and teams that make that kind of leap in one season usually have a very good reason for it. To use the other New York team as an example (although they were in Jersey at the time), the Nets got 26 games better the season they traded for peak Jason Kidd.

I like the Knicks’ off-season moves better than many, but adding Lopez, Arron Afflalo, and Kyle O'Quinn is not 23-win jump impressive. It’s some solid singles, not a home run. You can be sure Sasha Vujacic isn’t the answer.

Phil Jackson was brought in to land guys that can improve a team 23-games, such as LaMarcus Aldridge, not tell those players he wants them to play out of position then not even meet with them. For more than a year, Greg Monroe was thought to be a lock for the Knicks and he chose Milwaukee instead — those are the targets the Knicks and their fans expect to land. Or at least be in the mix for.

(What was even more odd with the Knicks’ summer acquisitions was giving Afflalo and Derrick Williams player options for next season — why sacrifice potentially $12.6 million in cap flexibility next summer to retain those two guys?)

If the Knicks are going to make the playoffs, three things need to happen.

1) Carmelo Anthony needs to stay healthy and have a monster season. At age 31 he is coming off knee surgery that kept him out of more than half the Knicks games last season. He’s going to have to prove he’s still an elite scorer who can be efficient. More than that, he’s going to have to fit in with the triangle offense and not be a ball stopper. He’s got to lead by example, at both ends of the court.

2) The Knicks need to play some defense. The Knicks were 28th in the NBA in defensive rating last season (points allowed per possession) and if they are going to make the playoffs that needs to improve to somewhere near the middle of the NBA pack at least. Lopez protecting the rim should help, as will Afflalo on the perimeter. The Knicks need to be stronger on the defensive glass. One other area that needs improvement — defending the three-point line. The Knicks allowed the second highest percentage of made corner threes in the NBA last season, and the highest percentage of made threes above the break. In a league with more and more shooters, the Knicks need to defend the arc far better.

3) Someone needs to step up and be a reliable second scoring option. Here’s a fun question: After Anthony, who were the next three highest points-per-game scorers for the Knicks last season? If you guessed Andrea Bargnani (14.8), Alexey Shved (14.8), and Amar’e Stoudemire (12), well, then you cheated. Because nobody would guess that. But those were the guys, which explains why the Knicks scored the fewest points of any team in the NBA last season. And now all three of those guys are gone. This season players like Afflalo, Langston Galloway and others need to become reliable options on the offensive end.

The reality is that the Knicks likely miss the playoffs next season, but that is not the only thing they are playing for.

They need to be impressive enough that come next summer the big name free agents out there — starting with Kevin Durant, who has people in his camp that want him to consider the Knicks — actually take meetings with and give serious thought to the Knicks. Right now, for top free agents the Knicks are an afterthought. Elite free agents are getting paid and getting endorsement money anywhere they go, what they want to see is a team turning the corner, on its way to winning. Monroe saw that in Milwaukee, not New York. The Knicks need to be good enough to change that perception, to be seen as a team just a player or two away.

Making the playoffs would help that perception, but it’s not a necessity.

However, if they suffer through another ugly season, Jackson and the Knicks front office have some serious and significant changes to consider.