Kurt Helin

Beyond Sport United 2015

Divisions? Who needs divisions? NBA to seed 1-8 in playoffs based solely on record, not division standing

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Down with divisions.

At least when it comes to seeding the NBA playoffs.

That’s what the NBA owners agreed to Tuesday, doing away with old tradition rewarding division winners with an automatic four seed or higher — teams will be seeded one through eight based solely on their record, division standing will play no part, the NBA announced.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had said this change was coming.

We saw why it was needed last season.

The Portland Trail Blazers would have been the sixth seed in the Western Conference by record with their 51 wins. However, because they won a depleted Northwest Division NBA rules said they could be no lower than the four seed (although the Blazers did not have home court in the first round against fifth-seeded Memphis). The real impact was that the three-seed Clippers and the pushed down sixth-seed Spurs had to face off in the first round — a physical, emotional series that was more reminiscent of a Conference Finals that went seven games. The Clippers won the battle, but didn’t have the energy to finish off the Rockets in the second round. Two teams that some (myself included) thought were the second and third best teams in the West were out.

It generated a lot of talk around the league — why exactly were the Blazers being rewarded? Tradition? This is not baseball. NBA teams play each team in their conference four times (a couple only three times, to make the schedule work), they do not play the teams in their division more than others in their conference. Why does the old division system even exist? Well, it still exists but the rewards of winning a division are now pretty miniscule, unless you like “Division Champion” banners.

The NBA also tweaked the tiebreak system for playoff seeding. From the press release:

The Board also approved changes to tiebreak criteria for playoff seeding and home-court advantage.  Head-to-head results have become the first criterion to break ties for playoff seeding and home-court advantage between two teams with identical regular-season records; the second criterion is whether a team won its division.  Under the old tiebreak system, a division winner was awarded the higher seed and received home-court advantage in a series if the two teams met in the playoffs.

LeBron James hosting Cavaliers for pre-camp workouts in Miami

LeBron James
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LeBron James may have sold his home in Miami, but that he’s still going to have some people over for a late summer get together.

Specifically, his fellow Cavaliers teammates. LeBron has invited — and getting an invitation from LeBron is more of a summons — the other Cavs down to Miami for some pre-training camp workouts. Our friend Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer had the scoop.

A few players and coaches have already assembled in Miami while the majority of the team’s roster is expected to arrive towards the middle of the week, one source revealed.

James’ pre-camp is tentatively scheduled to conclude early next week, I’m told….

Now, the four-time MVP is of a new mindset for the upcoming season. Last year he preached patience and did his best to shield his team from heightened expectations. Going into the 2015-16 season, it’s about establishing a sense of urgency, knowing the season won’t be measured a true success unless a Larry O’Brien Trophy is hoisted.

LeBron was smart to tamp down expectations when he first got to Cleveland — the fans in Northeast Ohio are hungry for a title, but LeBron had been down this road before. He knew from his experience in Miami there would be some bumps in getting everyone together and pulling the rope in the same direction. He knew a first-year title was unlikely.

But the second year? Yes, anything short of hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy will be seen as falling short. It’s not fair, it’s incredibly hard to win a title (and some luck has to go your way), but that’s the reality. More will be expected of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, despite the injuries they suffered last season. The Cavs are the clear favorites to come out of the East, but if they relax some team could rise up and smack them. So LeBron is getting his message out early.

Smart. That’s what leaders do.

Charles Barkley, David Stern, Dr. J lead Hall of Fame induction presenters

Naismith basketball hall of fame
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This weekend, 11 people will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

As is tradition, each of them will be “presented” — a ceremonial position where they stand near the inductee — by a mentor or friend of theirs already in the Hall.

Tuesday, the HOF released the list of presenters — and it’s impressive. Charles Barkley, Bill Walton, Dr. J., Pat Riley, David Stern, Larry Brown, and the list goes on. The two Celtics legends, Jo Jo White and Tommy Heinsohn, have other Celtics legends and teammates welcoming them into the club.

Here is the official list of presenters:

Dick Bavetta: presented by Charles Barkley, Bob Lanier and Don Nelson

Dikembe Mutombo: presented by David Stern and John Thompson

Spencer Haywood: presented by Charles Barkley, Bill Walton and Lenny Wilkens

Jo Jo White: presented by Dave Cowens and John Havlicek

John Calipari: presented by Larry Brown, Julius Erving and Pat Riley

Louis Dampier: presented by Dan Issel

Lindsay Gaze: presented by Larry Brown, Hank Nichols and Lute Olson

Tom Heinsohn: presented by Tom “Satch” Sanders

John Isaacs: presented by Nate Archibald

Lisa Leslie: presented by Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, Teresa Edwards, Katrina McClain, Dawn Staley, Tara VanDerveer, Lynette Woodard and James Worthy

George Raveling: presented by Phil Knight, John Thompson and Lenny Wilkens

Giannis Antetokounmpo throws down alley-oop for Greece at EuroBasket (VIDEO)

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With a comfortable 79-68 win against Georgia on Tuesday, Greece is 3-0 in pool play and atop Group C in EuroBasket, with their ticket punched for the elimination round already.

But the Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo is still putting on a show.

Antetokounmpo had 12 points, two of them on this beautiful alley-oop finish you see above. Only one Greek player scored more in the game, former NBA player Nick Calathes (19).

Greece has an interesting showdown with Slovenia — led by Zoran Dragic — but should coast to the top seed in the group and likely a favorable matchup to start the eliminations rounds in five days.

Pat Riley: Heat have “all of the elements of a championship team”

Miami Heat Media Day
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It was the first of our “51 Questions” NBA season preview series:

Who is the second-best team in the Eastern Conference?

You better have the Miami Heat on your list of potentials (our on Sean Highkin picked them in our post). With a starting lineup of Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh, and Hassan Whiteside — and guys like Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts coming off the bench — this is a very dangerous team if they come together.

The Big Kahuna for the Heat, Pat Riley, thinks this team is better than just the second best in the East — he thinks they can make a run at the Cavaliers. That’s what he said on the Dan Le Batard Show, as transcribed by Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

“I think this team has all of the elements of a championship team,” he said. “Whether or not you can ever win a championship will depend on a number of factors. I can list them and you can list them. It’s going to come down to this, health,… performance and this guy and that guy. It’s going to come down to can you make shots?…

“I think this team has the opportunity and the possibilities of being a contender. That’s where you start with a team like this. We have an opportunity to create a new first. That’s how I feel about this team…. I’m excited about this season.”

I think Riley hit the nail on the head when he said “health.” Of course, saying “health is key” is true for every team that fancies itself a contender, but the Heat have more reasons to make you cautious. Dragic has battled injuries, Bosh and McRoberts missed most of last season due to injuries, and describing Wade’s knees issues as “chronic” is like saying Guy Fieri is just “annoying.” It’s more than that.

If everything comes together for the Heat — and they have the depth to keep guys’ minutes under control — the Heat could be the second best team in the East.

But they are only contenders if LeBron James and the Cavaliers stumble. There’s still a talent gap in the East from the top spot to everyone else.