Kurt Helin

Watch LeBron James dunk on Nikola Vucevic

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You don’t have to think LeBron James is a top-five player of all-time. You don’t have to believe he has the body of a 19-year-old.

But we can all agree on this — if you’re between him and the hoop when he drives the rim, it rarely ends well for you.

Nikola Vucevic of the Magic is the latest in a long, long line of examples.

In first week of season, Spurs rest Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili

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It’s never too early for Gregg Popovich to think rest — even if it is the team’s home opener.

It’s the first week of the season, but the Spurs have three games in four nights, and Popovich is going to make sure his guys get their rest whether it’s October or March. Whether it’s the Spurs home opener or not.

Detest on this if you want, but whether you buy the analytics or just use the eye test, players perform better when rested, and they are less likely to suffer injuries. It’s that simple.

Popovich is more aggressive with the rest than most, but he also has some older players that he knows he is going to need come April and May. So he starts the rest early.

Doc Rivers says LeBron James is a top five player all-time. “There’s no doubt.”

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With plenty of years left to go, LeBron James has stacked up an insane resume: three-time NBA champion, three-time Finals MVP, gone to six-straight finals, four-time regular season MVP, 12-time All-NBA, and the list goes on and on.

LeBron is also the first star of the social media era, which has led to a discussion of his legacy and place in the pantheon of the game since he was 23, long before anyone had any idea where he would land on that spectrum.

Doc Rivers has been coaching in the NBA through most of the LeBron era, and he has a thought where LeBron ranks — top five all-time. Above you can see the video, but written out here is what he told Dan Patrick on his radio show (which you can watch on the NBC Sports Network).

“Yes he is…

“Statistically speaking, and visually since I was the coach of the Celtics and we had a 3-2 lead and I watched him score 45, he is in the top five. There’s no doubt. LeBron has a different game. We’re so used to seeing skill looking graceful. We’re not used to seeing skill look so powerful. I think that rubs people wrong. But LeBron, statistically, championship wise, he’s one of the top-five players to ever play the game.”

LeBron’s third title — breaking the 52-year title drought in Cleveland — did more for his legacy in the mind of a lot of fans than his first titles did. And Patrick’s point on how we tend to see the heroes of our generation through rose-colored glasses is a valid one. Michael Jordan was seen as someone who couldn’t win the big game for years after he continually got thrashed by Detroit in the East, but we don’t think of him that way now. Players evolve, legacies evolve.

For me, it’s too early to rank where LeBron ends up, but without a doubt he goes down high on the list of all-time greats. No player had more physical skills, few took better advantage of them than LeBron has.

Paul Millsap leads Hawks to rout of 76ers, 104-72

Associated Press
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Even with Dwight Howard having an off game, Atlanta won easily.

And coach Mike Budenholzer said that’s a good sign for the Hawks.

Paul Millsap scored 17 points to lead five Hawks in double figures and Atlanta toppled the Philadelphia 76ers 104-72 on Saturday.

Kyle Korver added 15 points and Mike Muscala added 14 for Atlanta.

The Hawks barely needed top offseason acquisition Howard. The big man had just two points and seven rebounds in his second game for his hometown team after signing a three-year, $70 million free-agent contract this summer. The 31-year-old center had 19 rebounds and 11 points in Atlanta’s season-opening 114-99 win over Washington on Thursday.

“The great thing about adding Dwight to our group and something that Dwight is embracing and cherishing is that we play as a team,” Budenholzer said.

“Everybody steps up, everybody contributes. Dwight is going to have great, big nights. A day like today was maybe not his day. Muscala, Paul and Kris (Humphries) were great. It’s much more a positive than anything.”

Dennis Schroder displayed the playmaking ability the Hawks are counting on with him taking over for Jeff Teague as the team’s point guard. After getting two assists in the opener, Schroder had 11 to go with 11 points against Philadelphia.

Joel Embiid and Sergio Rodriguez had 14 points apiece for the 76ers.

The Hawks’ reserves (51 points) had nearly as many points (53) as the starters.

“It says a lot,” Millsap said. “Our bench is great. Our bench did a great job of coming in and sparking a nice, little run for us. This game, last game, they did a great job of doing that.”

Millsap scored four points during Atlanta’s 8-2 run to open the fourth quarter, capped by Muscala’s 17-foot jumper for an 82-60 lead.

After sitting out for two years because of a foot injury, Embiid dazzled the home crowd with 20 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes in Wednesday’s season-opening loss to Oklahoma City. The third overall pick in the 2014 draft, Embiid had trouble staying on the court in the opening half against Orlando.

Moments after chants of “Trust the process! Trust the process!” serenaded Embiid on the free-throw line, the crowd erupted in the second quarter when Embiid blocked Howard’s shot attempt.

Embiid had to go to the bench seconds later after picking up his third foul. The Hawks took advantage, outscoring Philadelphia 17-10 from that point to enter the intermission up 53-39.

Philadelphia could get only within 10 points in the third quarter on Jerami Grant‘s highlight-reel reverse dunk. But the Hawks scored eight of the final 10 points of the period to enter the fourth quarter ahead 74-58.

NATIONAL ANTHEM

A day after apologizing for prohibiting R&B singer Sevyn Streeter from performing the national anthem at Wednesday’s opener because Streeter was wearing a “We Matter” T-shirt, the song went off without any incidents or protests prior to Saturday’s game. Mike Moore, a member of the team’s “Flight Squad,” performed the national anthem with no signs that anything was amiss.

NO CHEESESTEAKS

DeAndre Bembry had two points for Atlanta. The rookie is a product of nearby Saint Joseph’s. He received cheers when he entered with just under six minutes left.

Bembry said he had “a bunch of people” in attendance from St. Joe’s. One thing he didn’t have while back in Philadelphia, though, was a cheesesteak due to the recent removal of a wisdom tooth.

MORE MINUTES

Embiid, on a minutes restriction because of his foot injury, played 15 minutes.

“With the minutes he played, he clearly helped us,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “We’re looking forward to him playing more minutes.”

TIP-INS

Hawks: Millsap, a three-time All-Star, is averaging a team-best 22.5 points per game through two games. … Atlanta nearly doubled Philadelphia in assists, with 31 to the 76ers’ 16.

76ers: Philadelphia, which started 0-18 on the way to a 10-72 mark last season, looks for its first win with its third straight home game to start the season, Tuesday against the Magic. Five of the 76ers’ first six games are at home. Philadelphia is playing without three starters because of injury: Jerryd Bayless (wrist), Nerlens Noel (knee) and 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons (foot).

 

Stephen Curry becomes fastest player in NBA history to 1,600 threes

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This may be the least surprising broken record in NBA history.

Stephen Curry hit the 1,600th three-pointer of his career during the Warriors win over the Pelicans on Friday. He got there faster than anyone in NBA history.

That’s just ridiculous. As was the 402 threes Curry hit last season to set the single-season record (a record he won’t break this season, not with Kevin Durant in town).

By the time he walks away from the game, Curry will have virtually every three-point shooting record in the book — he will go down as the greatest shooter the game has ever seen. Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Dennis Scott, and a host of others deserve all the accolades they get, but nobody has the accuracy, quick release, and ability to shoot off the catch and bounce that Curry has brought to the game.