Kurt Helin

Viewership down slightly after rout in Game 2 of NBA Finals

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NEW YORK (AP) With Game 2 of the NBA Finals turning into a rout, viewership is down from last year’s overtime contest.

The Golden State Warriors’ 110-77 victory Sunday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers to take a 2-0 series lead averaged nearly 17.4 million viewers on ABC. That’s down about 8 percent from the almost 18.8 million viewers for Game 2 between the same teams in 2015, when the Cavaliers won in OT to even the series at 1-1.

ESPN said Monday that the audience was still the second largest for a Game 2 since the NBA Finals moved to ABC in 2003, behind only last season’s matchup.

Evan Turner: “The future is in the mid-range”

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In a vacuum, basketball analytic’s wet dream is a team that gets all its shots at the rim or from three. Why? Because those are the two most statistically efficient shots in the game. What teams should do is limit midrange jumpers.

Except, basketball isn’t played in a vacuum — in the real world a team that believes in analytics and builds a team that way will turn to the midrange jumper some nights. For a prime example, see Shaun Livingston racking up 20 points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. What matters is that he was efficient doing it.

Enter Evan Turner. The Celtics’ forward is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he does not shoot the three particularly well (he took just one three a game and hit 24 percent of them last season). He took 31 percent of his shot attempts this season between 10-16 feet and hit 42.1 percent of them. Turner has real value as a glue guy leading Boston’s second unit — he could score a little, distribute some, defend, and make the unit go. But he’s not seen as a shooter.

Turner is an avid defender of the midrange shot, as he told Maurice Peebles of Complex.com (hat tip Ball Don’t Lie).

“People say, ‘You can’t shoot the three.’ But I can defend, I can pass, rebound, score. You got guys that all they can do is shoot and nothing else. Like, how a– backwards is that? Only in America can you be a lacrosse player and judge basketball. Or you’ve never played basketball and say, ‘Yeah, I was working on the stock market—[stuff] wasn’t working so now I’m in the NBA judging talent.’ [The media] can write stuff on something they have no clue about.

“The future is in the mid-range. The mid-range is where the money’s at, man. I think the three-point shot opens up the court and everything like that, but MJ and all those great players made all of their money out of the mid-range. So I’m not sorry for that at all. Evan M. Turner. For sure, ‘M’ stands for mid-range. Anywhere within 15 feet is cash. I’ll try to get better at threes, but that’s my game.”

Time for some clarification on analytics and the midrange.

We’ll go to baseball for a good analogy. Some talking heads will say that “Moneyball” killed the stolen base, but all the analytics said is that if you’re not successful about 75 percent of the time you attempt a steal, the cost of the potential out is not worth the extra base. Game situations can dictate a lot (such as, how good an arm does the catcher have; or does the pitcher have a slow delivery) but in general if you’re not really good at stealing bases you shouldn’t do it.

If you’re not really good at midrange shots, you shouldn’t take so many.

Did Michael Jordan make a living in the midrange? Sure. Different era of basketball aside, he was also efficient with that shot. If you shoot the midrange like Dirk Nowitzki or Chris Paul, it’s a valuable weapon — they’re efficient. If Player X is taking a lot of long twos and hitting them at near the same rate he does threes, he should take a step back. That’s all that is being said.

NBA offenses are evolving toward more threes, but eventually the defenses will start to catch up. The pendulum always swings. And players who can efficiently hit midrange jumpers may see their value go up someday — but the quest for efficiency is not going away in the league.

Turner is going to get paid well this summer to play basketball (the Knicks are rumored to be very interested), he brings real value to a team. I appreciate his love of the midrange. But it would help if he hit a few more of them.

Thunder GM confident Kevin Durant will stay with team

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Thunder general manager Sam Presti sounds confident that Kevin Durant will remain with the team.

Durant, a four-time NBA scoring champion and the 2014 MVP, will become a free agent on July 1, and he has not made it clear whether he will stay. Presti said he’s looking forward to Durant’s decision.

“We have the opportunity to sit down with him and talk about what looks like an incredibly bright future together,” Presti said Monday. “I think you have to embrace that. You have to really lean into that in an excited way without knowing what the outcome might be. But I don’t see any reason to shy away from that.”

Players such as Boston’s Isaiah Thomas and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid have tweeted their desire for Durant to join them. Presti won’t be among those making a sales pitch – he figures all the necessary advertising on his end has occurred during Durant’s impressive run with the franchise. The team has reached the Western Conference finals four of the past six years, including this season, and reached the NBA Finals in 2012.

“When those conversations occur, it’s really just a continuation of a dialogue that’s been going on for eight or nine years,” Presti said. “It’s a chance to reflect and recognize that relationship and continue the conversations that we’ve had on going.”

Social media has been going crazy over the possibilities, but the cerebral Presti is calm, as usual.

“We can’t make that decision come faster or slow it down, so we may as well enjoy the season we just had and allow him to do the same,” Presti said. “And then when it’s time, we’ll sit down and have that conversation with him, and at that point we’ll know where we stand.”

Presti said ideally, Durant would decide quickly because it helps with other roster decisions, but the superstar has earned the right to be patient.

“I think it really is important for him to take his time, get away from things,” Presti said. “Look, Kevin is a highly, highly intelligent person. He’s a mature person. He’s a rational person, and he’s going to work through the decision in a way that will help him do what he feels is best for him. We’ll react accordingly once we have that information, and we’ll try to be as prepared as possible.”

Durant recovered from a broken bone in his right foot that cost him much of last season to post one of the best years of his career. He averaged 28.2 points per game – more than when he was scoring champion in 2010-11 and 2011-12. He grabbed a career-high 8.2 rebounds per game, and added 5.0 assists per contest, the second-best total of his nine-year career.

“I thought the season he had was just remarkable,” Presti said. “I’m just really happy for him because I thought he had a lot of fun during the year, and I watched him this time last year in a pool. I remember when he started to just start walking – like it was celebratory – to go from that to having maybe his most efficient year.”

Presti said Durant helped the Thunder by focusing on this season rather than the next.

“I also think Kevin deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the way he’s handled his affairs, because what it really did was it allowed our team to focus on the season and really made the season we had possible,” Presti said.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

Doc Rivers on when Muhammad Ali tried to recruit him to play at Louisville

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There have been a lot of poignant memories of when people met Muhammad Ali and how he impacted their lives. He’s a person whose global reach touched many lives.

Doc Rivers had a good one.

The current Clippers coach was being recruited out of high school to play for Louisville and got a call from The Greatest trying to recruit him to the Cardinals (he ended up choosing Marquette). Also, Rivers is a great storyteller.

With Curry, Aldridge, Chris Paul, others out, who is in for Team USA this summer?

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Injuries — and in some cases combined with concerns about Zika virus and malaria outbreaks in Brazil — are taking some of the biggest NBA names off the table for the 2016 Rio Olympics: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, John Wall, and today both Stephen Curry and LaMarcus Aldridge pulled their names from consideration.

So who is left?

Plenty. More than enough to field two teams that would win gold and silver in the Olympics. That’s how deep the USA’s talent pool is — and shows how powers like Spain and France have taken a step back.

Already on Monday, Kevin Durant has told Royce Young of ESPN that he plans to play in Rio. Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green of the Warriors have said they are still in for Rio if asked. Want a big man in the paint? DeMarcus Cousins still wants to play.

And LeBron James has said he would not decide until the Finals are over.

How about this 12-man roster of guys still available (and for fun we’ll leave LeBron off, but he would be a lock if he wants in):

Russell Westbrook
Kyrie Irving
Mike Conley
Klay Thompson
James Harden
Jimmy Butler
Kawhi Leonard
Paul George
Carmelo Anthony
Kevin Durant
Draymond Green
DeMarcus Cousins

Go ahead and tweak that if you want — Andre Drummond can be added as a center if you want to drop a forward, you can add shooting with Bradley Beal or Gordon Hayward, you can add defense with Andre Iguodala. This is just an off the top of my head list.

Guys need to make the best decisions for them and their families, and nobody should question them or their patriotism (don’t go comparing playing a sport and fighting overseas in the military, that is a silly comparison between entertainment and things that matter).

But Team USA will be just fine.