Kurt Helin

PBT Extra: What does Grizzlies’ Mike Conley’s injury mean in Memphis?

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The good news for Memphis about Mike Conley spinal fracture is that it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s not good, but it could be worse, others have bounced back from this same injury.

The real question is how far the Grizzlies will fall with Conley out — they are 19 points per 100 possessions worse when he sits this season. They lack point guard depth, and it doesn’t help that Chandler Parsons, James Ennis, and Brandon Wright are all out injured as well.

The challenges ahead for the Grizzlies is the topic of this latest PBT Extra video.

Iman Shumpert to Warriors: ‘We gon bust your ass. Period.’

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It’s not even December yet, but the war of words between the Warriors and Cavaliers is heating up like the Finals are around the corner.

Back in the preseason, Draymond Green told NBA.com, “…if Cleveland comes out of the east, I want to destroy Cleveland. No ifs, ands and buts about it. But I also know that there’s steps to get to that point. And if and when we get to that point, I want to annihilate them.”

Hey, Iman Shumpert, how do you feel about that?

“We supposed to hate them, and they supposed to hate us. It’s OK. They supposed to take cheap shots at us. They’re gonna hate us, fam. That’s what sports is. It’s great. I love every bit of it. I’m glad he said that ’cause we gon’ bust they ass, too. You need to type that up: We gon bust your ass. Period.”

Thanks to Complex Magazine for the quote, out of a story mostly about Shumpert’s fashion choices and preferences.

The curmudgeonly old man in me wants it’s a little too early for this back-and-forth with more than 60 games left in the season, but already things seem to be lining up for a Cavs/Warriors NBA Finals for a third straight year. Plus, a real rivalry and some smack talk is good for the league.

I’m looking forward to the Christmas Day showdown between these teams.

Lakers’ Nick Young out 2-4 weeks with strained calf muscle

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It looked bad: Nick Young had to be carried off just two minutes into the Lakers’ eventual loss in New Orleans as he grabbed the back of his leg. He had spun around trying to slow Tim Frazier in transition and something went wrong. After the game, Young tried to say it was nothing, but he left the arena in a walking boot.

Now the MRI results are back, and the Lakers’ announced that Young will be out 2-4 weeks with a strained right calf muscle. That’s better than was feared when it happened, but calf injuries can linger, which could make this recovery on the longer end of the prediction.

Young has been one of the biggest surprises in the NBA this season — he is working hard on defense. Which is a shocking development after treating that end of the court like a Drew League game for years. He’s averaged 13.3 points a game and shot 41 percent from three. That said, the Lakers have been better statistically — particularly defensively — with Young off the court, mostly because his minutes go to quality players in Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson.

Still, the lack of Young and the injured D'Angelo Russell hurts the Lakers’ backcourt depth.

Could Sam Hinkie make a return to the NBA next season?

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In a nation divided, one of the topics around sports which highlights that separation is Sam Hinkie. While there may be no person in sports more comfortable living in a world that is shades of gray, reactions to the former Philadelphia 76er GM were black and white: Either he was the smartest and most patient guy in the room who put the Sixers on the track to contention (Joel Embiid, the pick that became Ben Simmons); or he went too far with his plan, disrespected the game, and ruined the culture of a sports team (plus forgot this is supposed to be entertainment).

Right now, Hinkie is living near Stanford in Palo Alto, California, and soaking up that environment. The brilliant Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated spent time with him and found a man comfortable in a tech world where innovation is encouraged and failure is seen more as a learning opportunity than a character definition. If you read one thing today, it should be that piece (which is in the SI magazine, too).

Could Hinkie return to the NBA? He’s on a non-compete clause until next summer, but yes, he very well may.

To date, Hinkie says he’s been approached by a couple of teams, informally, but he won’t know the market until the end of the season, when his noncompete is up. That is, if he goes back to basketball. When I first saw him in October, he seemed unsure. He needed to evaluate. Find a focus. “I’m working 30 hours or so a week, and if I’m being honest I’d rather it was 50,” he said.

As time went by, though, he began to circle back. By early November he seemed more certain. “I think the world probably assumes that I’m recharging and unplugging, and there’s a little of that,” he said one evening. “This will get me in trouble if I say it, but I think I’m mostly sharpening the sword to come back.”

Of course, Hinkie’s vision is more complex than that, because he’s a guy comfortable with complexity. He’s going to be focused on personal growth, artificial intelligence, and more. He’s not defined by basketball.

So if Hinkie is willing to come back to the NBA, will another team bring him in? Most likely.

“(Rockets GM Daryl) Morey says he’d hire Hinkie back as an assistant “in a second,” but that, “I don’t think he’d be interested. He’s destined for bigger things.” Adds Morey: “My advice is to go long on Sam Hinkie. He’s a growth stock.”

A half dozen other GMs and execs—an admittedly unscientific survey—voiced largely similar sentiments. Some pointed out that while fans and media get hung up on the narrative, people in the league move on much more quickly. “Sam’s respected, and that’s the biggest thing for sure,” says one GM. Another points out that just by having confidence in his ideas, Hinkie is appealing to owners. Because, for one, how many people can do the job of NBA GM? And within that subset how many of those actually have a plan? (See the last 10 years in Sacramento.) In Philly, Hinkie became known as a cutthroat negotiator, sometimes to his detriment. But at least one rival GM thought his rep was earned partly because Hinkie’s combination of certainty and patience was intimidating. He knew what he wanted and was willing to wait for it. This is not the norm in pro sports, where, as one exec says, “To be honest, most of us are just plowing through.”

When Hinkie does return, don’t expect The Process Part II. The Sixers were a below average and declining team when Hinkie took over, he knew he needed superstars to win, and he set out to get those via the draft (because, while not perfect it was the best way, Philly was not a free agent destination). He certainly made mistakes, but the biggest of those was letting other people — particularly his detractors inside and outside the league — control the narrative. By the way, Hinkie hates narratives. As if that’s a shock.

If Hinkie lands in a place with a cornerstone star or the ability to attract one without tanking, he likely goes that route. What he and every NBA GM understands is that at any given time there are about 10 guys on the planet you can win a title with as a cornerstone. If you don’t have a LeBron James/Stephen Curry or the like, you need to get at least one. Then surround him with other stars who compliment the style. In Philly, Hinkie went after the stars aggressively through the draft. In five years we can discuss how it worked out (or might have, depending on what the Colangelos do with the team).

Of course, that’s the simplistic explanation of a complex situation, one filled with nuance. You know, the kind of space Hinkie is more comfortable than just about any other owner or GM you can name.

Make that at least three games Dirk Nowitzki is going sit out to rest Achilles

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Tuesday, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said the team was going to be cautious with the sore Achilles of 38-year-old Dirk Nowitzki and he wasn’t going to play Wednesday against the Spurs the back-to-back in Charlotte Thursday.

Now you can rule out Nowitzki playing Saturday against Chicago, either.

Nowitzki has played in just two of the Mavericks’ 16 games this season, most due to resting the Achilles but a couple due to illness. Without him, the Mavericks are off to their worst start in more than 20 years (3-13) with the third worst offense and the third worst net rating in the league.

Mark Cuban said Dallas is not going to tank for a pick this season, which means when they can get Nowitzki back on the court they will. But at this point, how much do they need to try to tank to end up with a good pick?