Kurt Helin

Hassan Whiteside

Hassan Whiteside on intentional fouls: “It’s not working, so keep fouling me”

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Remember how Adam Silver was preaching that the league didn’t want to change the intentional foul rule — the hack-a-Shaq strategy — because it was really about two players (DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard) and a handful of others now and then. The fact that it’s not basketball didn’t matter.

Well, it’s not just two — Miami’s Hassan Whiteside has gotten the treatment this season. He’s a 53.4 percent free throw shooter this season.

And he says bring it on. From Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post:

“I’m enjoying this,” he said. “Foul me so I can get a double-double and we can win. It’s not working, so keep fouling me.”

He’s even smart at not getting fouled.

Whiteside also is liking that teams are looking at their options against the best defense in the NBA — yes, Miami at 94 points allowed per 100 possessions, is the best defense in the NBA right now — and deciding to attack Whiteside.

“There’s teams that’s out there that say ‘Stay away from Hassan,’ and there’s teams that say, ‘We don’t care if Hassan’s down there. Attack Hassan.’ I love them teams that do that. God bless them coaches. I love them teams.”

Whiteside is not as great a defender as the block totals would indicate — if he doesn’t see a block in it, his rotations can be a bit slow. One scout recently called him a selfish defender to me recently, suggesting he is in it for the numbers, not the sacrifices needed for an elite defense. True or not, the Heat have an elite defense and Whiteside is at the heart of it.

And if the strategy is to try to exploit him, Whiteside plans to make people pay.

LeBron James: Spend less time comparing, more appreciating the greats

Michael Jordan, LeBron James
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Monday night, LeBron James joined Oscar Robertson as the only two players in NBA history to be in the top 25 all-time in assists and scoring. Somewhere this summer (maybe late last season), Stephen Curry passed LeBron James and the best player walking the face of the earth. Don’t even get started on trying to compare LeBron or Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan.

No, seriously, don’t. LeBron thinks we spend to much time comparing and not enough time appreciating the great players of sport, such as comparing him to Robertson (or Magic). Here is what LeBron said to Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

“I think what we get caught up in, in our league too much is trying to compare greats to greats instead of just accepting and acknowledging and saying, ‘Wow, these are just great players,'” James said. “I think in the NFL when you talk about great quarterbacks, they don’t really compare great quarterbacks. They say, ‘Oh, Joe Montana is great.’ You know, ‘Tom Brady is great. Aaron Rodgers is great. Steve Young is great.’ (Terry) Bradshaw, all those great quarterbacks they never compare them as much, but when it comes to our sport we’re so eager to say, ‘Who is better, Oscar or (Michael) Jordan?’ or, ‘Jordan or LeBron or Kobe (Bryant) or these guys?’ instead of just accepting greatness.”

He’s right.

I admit I can get as sucked into this as the next person, it’s a fun barstool argument to have, but in the end it can suck the joy out of watching great players. This is not a new position for me, I was a Laker blogger back in the Kobe/Gasol era and tried to tell those fans to enjoy it while they could. Be a fan of the game has been my mantra.

No player has had to deal with this level of scrutiny like LeBron, the first NBA superstar of the social media age. LeBron is a lock Hall of Famer, he will go down as one of the greats to ever play the game, maybe the most physically gifted ever (him or Wilt), yet while he is still just 30 years old we try to rank him against MJ, Dr. J., Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and a host of others. It’s been going on since he was 24. Probably earlier.

Can you imagine the online heat Jordan would have faced online when the Pistons rolled him and the Bulls in the playoffs three straight years, up to his age 26? But now in the mythology of Jordan those times are almost forgotten. They were dissected at the time, but not with the venom found on twitter. Not with the level of scrutiny LeBron faces.

Does Kobe suck this season? Maybe. But there are flashes of the great player and as fans we should try to savor those moments (even if we question now Byron Scott uses him). Same with Tim Duncan (who doesn’t suck). Or Kevin  Garnett. Plus there are all these great players on the rise like Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns and on and on, yet the NBA world is critical first.

We all need to savor these players, these moments more.

Even if we know LeBron is not MJ, it doesn’t mean LeBron isn’t special.

 

Who wins a footrace: Kyle Anderson or Tim Duncan?

Tim Duncan, Kyle Anderson
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Former UCLA Bruin Kyle Anderson has some skills. The reigning Summer League MVP plays a high IQ game and is a forward who can handle the rock, which is getting him a few Boris Diaw minutes off the Spurs bench this season.

But the man is not fast.

After watching him on a “fast” break Monday night, Tim Duncan thought he could take him in a race. Via Jeff McDonald of the Express-News.

Anderson knows he’s not fleet of foot, his twitter handle is “slowmo.”

This harkens back to the “who would win a race between Dirk Nowitzki and Peyton Manning” debate from the preseason. These are races that could be timed with a sundial. Saying there would be winners is a relative term.

But in this case we might actually see the race. I want a Duncan/Anderson race. Charles Barkley and Dick Bavetta can be the honorary timers.

Five Takeaways from an NBA Monday: Durant is back and so are Thunder

Enes Kanter
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It’s Monday, and all you can think about is turkey and football on Thursday. But you have to get through a few work days, and the NBA machine does not stop. Here is what you may have missed Monday night while trying to figure out what to do with 600 Chris Denorfia Padre bobbleheads:

1) Kevin Durant is back and he is still a bad man. Russell Westbrook is elite. Kevin Durant is elite. But pair them and you quickly see why Oklahoma City has to be considered a potential title contender — when Durant and Westbrook are on the court together this season, the Thunder have an offensive rating of 117.5 points per 100 possessions and are beating opponents by 19.1 points per 100. Nobody can stop those two together (throw Serge Ibaka in the mix and it’s +17.1 per 100).

The Utah Jazz couldn’t stop them Monday night. Durant returned from a strained hamstring after missing six games — where the Thunder were an inconsistent 3-3 — and scored 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting. Behind him, the Thunder had no problem with Utah, winning 111-89 in Utah. KD has returned, and so have the Thunder.

2) Kemba Walker is having a huge season. Just ask the Kings. If you’re looking for a guy having a huge season yet flying under the radar, it’s Kemba Walker in Charlotte. If you don’t believe me, ask the Sacramento Kings, who watched him take over the fourth quarter (9-of-10 shooting, including hitting three threes in the final frame) and finish the night with 39 points. Walker is scoring 16.3 points per game this season, shooting 37 percent from three and is just being more efficient in a more up-tempo system with a little space to work. He’s playing at an All-Star level (whether he makes the game is another matter, the guard spot in the East is loaded). Walker also thought he had the game winner Monday night to beat the Kings, but Rudy Gay had other plans (the Hornets did win in OT).

3) While everyone watches Kristaps Porzingis, the Heat keep right on winning, beating Knicks. Here is your required-by-law Porzingis Hype update — he had 20 points and 14 rebounds, having another impressive game on Monday night. Oh, and by the way, the Heat won the game. Everyone wants to look past Miami but they just went 6-1 on their recent homestand, and while games such as the need to come from way behind to beat Philly raise an eyebrow, the fact of the matter is Miami is 9-4 this season, second best in the East, with the best defense in the NBA allowing just 94 points per 100 possessions (stats via NBA.com). If their offense comes together like you would think it should, the Heat become a dangerous team.

4) LeBron James passes the Big O for another milestone. It happened with five minutes left in the second quarter. LeBron drove the lane and kicked it out to the corner, finding Kevin Love who drained the three. That assist moved LeBron passed Norm Nixon into 25th all-time in scoring.

With that LeBron joined the legendary Oscar Robertson as the only players in the top 25 all-time in scoring and assists in the NBA. Later in the game, LeBron moved past Reggie Miller for 18th all-time on the scoring list. At this point in his career, LeBron is just going to rack up milestones seemingly every time he steps on the court.

5) Just a reminder: Philly has lost 25 games in a row dating back to last season. Nobody is really going to count it because it stretches across two seasons, and we don’t like those kinds of records, but after a loss Monday night to Minnesota (where Jahlil Okafor outplayed Karl-Anthony Towns), the Sixers are now 0-15 this season, which when combined with the 0-10 finish to last season makes them an ugly 0-25. The NBA’s longest losing streak is 26 games. Just consider this a little reminder that the Sixers remain just awful.

Wiggins scores 32 as Wolves drop Sixers to 0-15

Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Garnett
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Wiggins scored 17 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter to help the Minnesota Timberwolves keep Philadelphia winless on the season with a 100-95 victory over the 76ers on Monday night.

Kevin Garnett had eight points and 10 rebounds and the Timberwolves (6-8) won at home for the first time in seven games this season. They dropped Philadelphia to 0-15 and avoided another embarrassing home loss to the Sixers, who snapped an 0-17 start to last season with a win at Target Center.

Jahlil Okafor had 25 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks for Philadelphia and thoroughly outplayed No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns, who played just 19 minutes because of foul trouble. The Sixers led by 13 in the first half and by five with 2:30 to play but once again couldn’t hold on.

Unlike the 76ers, a team filled with youngsters that is built to lose, the Timberwolves have surrounded their young core with veterans Garnett, Tayshaun Prince and Andre Miller, all in an attempt to insulate the kids from the trauma that can come with mass losing in the NBA.

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown admitted to being envious of the Wolves’ roster construction before the game, pointing out that the coach himself had to serve as the veteran guidance for these Sixers.

Garnett was there for the Wolves on Monday night in a throwback performance, scoring six straight points in a 10-0 run to open the third that got a Target Center crowd rendered sleepy by the team’s sluggish play in the first half on its feet.

Philadelphia took the punch and rebuilt a six-point lead with under five minutes to play before Wiggins took over. The reigning rookie of the year – coveted by the 76ers in last year’s draft – scored on a drive, a runner and a three-point play to get Minnesota within two at 91-89.

That’s when Jerami Grant swatted a dunk attempt by Kevin Martin right into Wiggins’ hands. He threw down a thunderous dunk to tie it at 91, and then knocked down two free throws a minute later for the lead and Martin made a 3 with 28 seconds left to ice it.

It was another gut punch in a season full of them for the 76ers, who led by 11 with just over seven minutes to play at Miami on Saturday before the Heat ripped off a 19-2 run.

The Sixers have taken a beating over the last few years under Sam Hinkie’s plan to tank their way back to the top, but Minnesota holds a special place in their hearts. Last year they were one loss away from tying the league record for consecutive defeats to start a season when they won at Target Center.