Kurt Helin

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 14:  Ty Lawson #3 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on December 14, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Rockets 114-108. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Ty Lawson says he doesn’t want buyout from Rockets

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The Houston Rockets and Ty Lawson have had some level of buyout talks, something confirmed by Lawson’s agent to the Houston Chronicle. But those talks haven’t gotten anywhere.

With it looking highly likely he stays in Houston, time for Lawson to say how he always wanted to stay a Rocket. From the same Jonathan Feigen article at the Chronicle:

“I’m just happy here,” Lawson said. “My role, I’m going to keep playing hard every day. I’d rather stay here.

“Hoping things turn around, we get into the playoffs and make things happen. Up and downs, it’s a little frustrating there’s always some types of talks. I’m glad to be here. Just going to play hard and see what happens. I like the city, I like my fans. I mean, I like my teammates. It’s a good fit. I want to be here.”

This summer the Rockets can and likely will not pick up the next season on Lawson’s non-guaranteed contract, and he will be a free agent.

There isn’t going to be a huge market for Lawson, coming off a season where he averaged six points a game on less than 40 percent shooting. Lawson hasn’t been able to mesh with James Harden, his play this season and last are not going to inspire teams to spend on him. Some team will roll the dice on him this summer, but expect a short deal for less money than Lawson is hoping to find.

Warriors’ Draymond Green apologizes for halftime outburst

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Golden State power forward Draymond Green has apologized to his teammates, coaches and the organization for an emotional outburst during halftime of the Warriors’ 121-118 overtime victory Saturday at Oklahoma City.

Green said after practice Monday:

“I admit my mistakes. I made a mistake. I admitted my mistakes to my teammates, my coaching staff. I apologized to my teammates and my coaching staff, this organization.” He said such a tirade won’t happen again, insisting “that’s not who I am.”

Reigning MVP Stephen Curry, questionable for Tuesday’s game against Atlanta with a tender left ankle, said it is Green’s emotional personality that makes him so valuable.

Curry also was named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday for his fourth such honor this season – the first in franchise history to win four in one season. He averaged 43.8 points, 7.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 1.50 steals as the Warriors went 4-0.

Rumor: Is Kyrie Irving happy playing in Cleveland?

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 10: Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives during the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers at Quicken Loans Arena on February 10, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Lakers 120-111. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Cavaliers have dropped four of five, their defense has struggled since Tyronn Lue took over, and their offense still more often than not feels like stars playing next to each other rather than truly with each other. There has been some overreaction to all of this, we are still talking about the best team in the East, but we do know that LeBron James has been frustrated with all of it.

Is Kyrie Irving, too?

Here is what Stephen A. Smith said on ESPN’s First Take Monday (via Josh Hill at Fansided and Bleacher Report):

“Dating back to last year, I’ve been told that Kyrie Irving ain’t too happy being in Cleveland. The situation is not ideal for him. I don’t know the particulars, I haven’t spoken to him personally. It’s something that I’ve been hearing for months; that under ideal circumstances he would prefer to be someplace other than Cleveland.”

Expect the denials to come in 3…2….1….

Stephen A. Smith loves to/gets paid to stir the pot. That is what is going on here. The question is how much truth is in his statement (if any)?

Before LeBron arrived, there was a lot of buzz around the league that Irving wanted out of Cleveland, but that seemed to subside as the Cavs started winning and moved into the league’s spotlight. The chemistry between LeBron, Irving, Kevin Love and the rest of the team has been a work in progress, and there has seemed to be tension this season as that chemistry has not improved as much as hoped. The Cavaliers are still elite, still the top team in the East and they likely make the Finals. But they are a clear step behind Golden State and likely San Antonio. They are not the team that those two squads are.

Part of it is Irving is not being the glue this franchise needs.

Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer described the frustration LeBron has had recently this way.

Kyrie Irving has to commit to sacrificing his scoring numbers to make his teammates better on a routine basis…. Irving is averaging 4.3 assists on the season and 3.6 assists in his last six games. Those numbers are unacceptable for a player who dominates the ball as much as he does. He’s too creative, too elusive and has too many weapons not to dish out seven or more on the regular….

Behind the scenes, James has been growing livid about being the sole proprietor of making sure guys are involved, and in a rhythm. He’s used to carrying such a workload, but on this team, he shouldn’t have to. From top to bottom, this is the deepest team James has been a member of. He needs help.

What LeBron had in Miami with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and the others was a veteran team where the stars were willing to make significant sacrifices to their personal numbers for the sake of wins (Bosh in particular). There was an organizational structure in place that demanded this, starting from Pat Riley on down.

LeBron has tried to bring that attitude to Cleveland, but has not been able to truly impart that wisdom yet. David Blatt wasn’t able to do it. Kyrie Irving is a score first point guard and that’s not changing. The Cavaliers are a contender because of their raw talent, but one playing with some bad habits that will bite them in the playoffs — if not by Toronto Eastern Conference Finals then by whoever comes out of the West.

Irving is in the first year of a five-year contract extension, and while a lot of teams would gladly trade to take on that deal there is no way the Cavaliers are moving him. Irving, LeBron, and Love are going to need to figure all this out on their own, with a little help from Lue.

Because Cleveland has title-or-bust goals this season. You know it’s all about bringing one to the ‘Land.

PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Who is the third best team in the NBA?

Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul, left, gestures to other teammates along with center DeAndre Jordan during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 120-93. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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The top two teams in the NBA are clear and aren’t really going to change through the end of the season barring some unforeseen disaster. But who is the third best team? I thought it was Cleveland, but they have dropped four of five. The Thunder have dropped three of four. Toronto, a team that starts Luis Scola? I have the Clippers there this week, but I’m not a big believer in them either. At the bottom of the rankings the Sixers are in a familiar spot.

 
source: 1. Warriors (53-5, last week No. 1). They have already clinched a playoff spot and now need to go 20-4 the rest of the way to beat the Bulls’ 72 win record (and they have 17 games at home, where they are undefeated this season). Sorry Chicago, but the Warriors are going to break the record. Stephen Curry could miss a game or more after his ankle got rolled against the Thunder.

 
source: 2. Spurs (50-9, LW 2). Kawhi Leoard is back, and with him in the starting lineup the Spurs’ defense is back as well. Which should scare teams. I thought Ray McCallum was going to work out in San Antonio (they picked him up this summer), but he was cut loose over the weekend to make way for veteran Andre Miller.

 
source: 3. Clippers (38-20, LW 5). They are playing .500 ball over their last six games, but that’s better than the couple teams just below them in these rankings. The Clipper defense continues to impress. Jeff Green has been exactly what was expected: inconsistent, but still an upgrade over Lance Stephenson. Tough showdown against OKC on Wednesday at Staples.

 
source: 4. Cavaliers (41-17, LW 3). They have dropped three of four, and look like a team still searching for answers. Particularly on defense, where they have struggled since Tyronn Lue took over. They are just two games up on Toronto for the top seed in the East (after a loss to Toronto this week) but them finding their defense will matter a lot more than home court.

 
source: 5. Thunder (41-18 LW 4). They have lost four of five, but the punch in the gut by Stephen Curry and Golden State Saturday night was the most painful of those. The Thunder don’t want to hear it, but they earned a moral victory in that game — do they stand a better chance to beat the Warriors than the Spurs? Brutal back-to-back Wednesday at Clippers then Thursday at Warriors.

 
source: 6. Raptors (39-19, LW 6). They picked up a huge win over Cleveland on Friday behind Kyle Lowry and they are now within two games of Cleveland for the top seed (and the Raptors have the tiebreaker). But with Lowry resting Sunday the rest of the Raptors took a mental vacation in Detroit, a win they could have used. They remain the biggest threat to the Cavaliers in the East.

 
source: 7. Celtics (35-25, LW 7). They have won 10 in a row at home, which when you consider it looks more and more likely they will have a first-round playoff series starting at the Garden means the Celtics in the second round seems more and more likely. Heavy home schedule coming up (except a tough showdown with the Cavs this week on the road).

 
source: 8. Hawks (33-27, LW 12). Big wins over the weekend, knocking off the Bulls and Hornets at home, and they are doing it thanks to a lock-down defense that is the best in the NBA over the last 10 games (three points per 100 possessions better than the second-place Clippers).

 
source: 9. Trail Blazers (32-28, LW 10). They finished 9-2 in February. With good reason we’ve talked a lot about Damian Lillard’s strong play since not making the All-Star team, but the Blazers have had a Top 10 defense in their last 10 games as well.

 
source: 10. Heat (33-26, LW 8). Joe Johnson jumped right into the starting lineup for the Heat on Sunday, and he should give them improved three-point shooting that they need. Miami may go on a little run, they are entering a soft part of the schedule (including a home-and-home against the Sixers this week).

 
source: 11. Grizzlies (34-24, LW 9). They are 10-games above .500 and have a six-game cushion from falling out of the playoffs, that should be enough to keep them in the postseason without Marc Gasol. Should. But their schedule starts to really get difficult the last month of the season.

 
source: 12. Hornets (30-28, LW 13). They are in a virtual tie with Chicago and Detroit for the final two playoff slots in the East (charging Washington is just two games back). Which is why the 10-of-12 at home stretch starting this week for Charlotte is key — this is when they need separation from that pack. Keep playing defense like they have and they will get it.

 
source: 13. Mavericks (32-28, LW 15). . They are entertaining to watch because this team puts up a lot of points and gives up a lot of points — Mavs games are old-fashioned shootouts. David Lee is getting what he wanted, he’s part of the rotation and playing minutes, and he fits with the rest of the Dallas team — he’s shown he can still score but not defend.

 
source: 14. Pacers (31-28, LW 11). They have lost three out of four, are just half a game ahead of the nine seed (and falling out of the playoffs), and they have a tough four-game road trip this week that includes Cleveland, Charlotte, and Washington. The Pacers need to find some consistent offense, Rodney Stuckey return should provide some of that (but hasn’t).

 
source: 15. Pistons (31-29, LW 18). They have won four in a row and remain right in the middle of the mix for one of the last playoff spots in the East. Tobias Harris in the starting lineup with Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, and Andre Drummond has been a strong lineup, but the Pistons need more out of the bench.

 
source: 16. Rockets (29-30, LW 17). They remain the eight seed in the East as we enter the week, thanks in large part to a come-from-behind win against a hot Portland team over the weekend. James Harden is carrying this team on offense, and that’s the way it will have to be the rest of the season if they are going to hold on to that playoff slot.

source: 17. Wizards (28-30, LW 19). They are a couple games out of the playoffs and can’t string together many wins, but if you want a ray of hope for their playoff chances here you go: The Wizards have the easiest schedule in the NBA the rest of the way. This week they have the Cavaliers (likely with LeBron this time) and Indiana, and they need to win at least one of those.

 
source: 18. Jazz (28-30, LW 14). The loss to the Nets this week makes you wonder if this team can climb back into the eight seed and hold it. Heavy road schedule the next three weeks will determine their fate, and this week is tough at Boston, Toronto, Memphis, and New Orleans.

 
source: 19. Bulls (30-28, LW 16).No Derrick Rose, no Jimmy Butler, no consistent offense. But that’s not the real problem — 13 straight opponents have scored more than 100 points against Chicago. Even if they make that playoffs that defense gets them swept aside quickly.

 
source: 20. Magic (26-32, LW 23). It’s hard to imagine them making up he four games needed to get back into the playoffs in the East, particularly when the Magic can’t get consistent stops. Which you know eats at Scott Skiles.

 
source: 21. Bucks (24-35, LW 22). Unlike a lot of teams at the bottom of these rankings, there is a good reason to watch the Bucks right now — Giannis Antetokounmpo playing point guard. It’s working. He is good playmaker setting up teammates, and their offense is more than three points per 100 possessions better when he is the playmaker.

 
source: 22. Pelicans (23-35, LW 21). Anthony Davis showed what he can do in a win over the Thunder, and Eric Gordon returned scoring 31 in his first game back after five weeks. But that is all moot because this team cannot get consistent stops, the defense just undercuts them every time you think they can make a run up the standings.

 
source: 23. Kings (24-33, LW 24). Watch for more frustrated DeMarcus Cousins as the Kings water a tough stretch of the schedule (Thunder, Grizzlies, Mavericks, and Spurs this week) and likely will struggle. It feels like this team is just treading water until the summer, when coaching and roster changes will shake things up. Again.

 
source: 24. Timberwolves (19-41,LW 26). As they should, the Timberwolves are upping the minutes for their young core down the stretch. They bought out Andre Miller (now with the Spurs) and Kevin Martin may join him. Their offense is clicking with all that youth, it’s the other end of the court where they struggle.

 
source: 25. Nuggets (23-36, LW 20). They are the team that fans of playoff teams see on the schedule and think “easy win” but will learn the hard way have been playing much better lately. However, no Danilo Gallinari for some time with an ankle injury is a setback.

 
source: 26. Knicks (25-36, LW 25). Kurt Rambis is coaching to win — more specifically, to save his job – and that has meant heavy minutes for Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks are 6.5 games out of the playoffs, that’s not happening, no reason to run Carmelo into the ground now.

 
source: 27. Nets (17-42, LW 27). Break up the Nets, they have won two games in a row. Bojan Bodganovic is starting in place of Joe Johnson and is trying to show other teams he can knock down threes (which has been a good thing for the lowly Nets offense).

 
source: 28. Suns (15-44, LW 30). Earl Watson got his first coaching victory thanks to the Suns beating the stumbling Grizzlies last week. That could be it for a while, the schedule isn’t kind, including four on the road this week with stops in Miami and Charlotte.

 
source: 29. Lakers (11-49, LW 29). They have lost eight in a row, and the team with the worst defense in the NBA is playing its worst defense of the season during this stretch. But the Kobe Bryant show rolls on, and that’s what Laker management prioritized.

 
source: 30. 76ers (8-51, LW 28). Losers of eight in a row and it’s not pretty. Brett Brown is in experimentation mode and Jerry Colangelo is spinning that it’s “inappropriate” to draw conclusions about the Sixers right now. Time for Sixers fans to start planning their lottery parties.

Five Takeaways from NBA Sunday: Could Toronto catch Cleveland for East’s top seed?

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, right, looks on from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Washington. James did not play. The Wizards won 113-99. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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Here’s what you missed on a Sunday around the NBA while thinking, “I should see Spotlight.”

1) Cavaliers rest LeBron James, look sloppy in loss to Wizards. It would be easy to write off Sunday’s Cleveland loss to Washington saying “the Cavs were resting LeBron.” Except the Cavaliers have dropped three of their last four and continue to look lost on defense and still searching for an identity on offense. The Cavaliers still started Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, but those two combined for 13-of-31 shooting Sunday. There was more Love in isolation than anyone needs to see. More importantly, the Cavaliers played sloppy defense again (Washington had an offensive rating of 111.9 points per 100 possessions, meaning against the Cavs defense the Wizards looked like the Warriors). Coach Tyronn Lue was so frustrated he hockey line changed out all the starters mid-way through the third and tried to turn the game over to the Cavs’ bench.

After the game, J.R. Smith was the voice of reason, saying the Cavaliers can’t keep playing like this. Not just if they want to beat Golden State or whoever comes out of the West, but if they want to beat Toronto and the other teams in the East (the Raptors beat the Cavs a couple of nights ago.

2) Toronto misses chance to close gap on Cavaliers to one with loss to Pistons. Cleveland is opening the door with this mini-slump for the Toronto Raptors, something Toronto took advantage of earlier in the week to move within two games of the top seed. But Toronto missed an opportunity on Sunday — the Cavaliers lost again, but so did Toronto, falling to Detroit in ugly fashion 114-101. Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey decided to rest Kyle Lowry — which is a smart thing to do — but it seems the rest of the team took a mental vacation as well. Jonas Valanciunas got thoroughly worked by Andre Drummond, particularly on the glass. Corey Joseph didn’t impress with the start. In the second half, DeMar DeRozan was making bad shot choices. It was just a poor game and a blown opportunity to make up ground by Toronto.

3)Damian Lillard goes off for more than 30 again. Lillard’s run of hot play continued as he scored 20 points in the first quarter on his way to 33 for the game as the Trail Blazers beat the beat the Pacers in Indiana 111-102. Lillard led Portland to a 9-2 record in February.

4) Joe Johnson jumps right into Miami’s starting lineup. Joe Johnson went to Miami to get minutes and he was given them right off the bat — he was in the starting lineup Sunday against the Knicks and played 30 minutes, knocking down the first three he took on his way to scoring a dozen points on 10 shots in Miami’s 98-81 win. Johnson (and the entire Heat team) was a bit up-and-down on the day, Johnson was trying to find a comfort level with his new teammates, and to feel his way through the offense. Fortunately for the Heat, they were playing the Knicks so their mistakes were not exploited, at least not consistently. Dwyane Wade dropped 26 points, while Hassan Whiteside finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Miami is the four seed in the East and with Johnson is looking to keep home court advantage in the first round. Johnson is an upgrade for them that should help with that goal.

5) Dallas’ Dwight Powell had the dunk of the day. This is nasty.