Kurt Helin

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Adam Silver: “Summer” deadline to modify North Carolina bathroom law or NBA may move 2017 Charlotte All-Star Game

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OAKLAND — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made it clear: He doesn’t want to move the 2017 NBA All-Star Game out of Charlotte. He was optimistic that efforts were taking place behind the scenes to modify North Carolina’s much discussed “bathroom law.”

But if it’s not done by sometime this summer, the NBA is looking at its its options to move the game to another city.

“We are looking at alternatives,” on where to host the 2017 All-Star Game, Silver said in his press conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals. “So the critical date for us is are we in a position, if for some reason we don’t move forward in Charlotte, to play our All-Star Game somewhere else? We are in the process of looking at other options. At the same time, I don’t think it would be productive to draw a line in the sand, and we’d be moving on if I didn’t think there were constructive discussions going on in North Carolina right now.”

It makes complete political sense for Silver not to draw a hard-and-fast line in the sand. However, logistically, there needs to be a drop-dead date, even if the league does not make it public.

“Realistically, this summer,” Silver said. “I don’t see we would get past this summer without knowing definitively where we stand.”

In question is the “bathroom law” that has become a national focal point on the topic of transgendered — as well as gay and lesbian — rights.

North Carolina’s legislature called a special session earlier this year approve HB2, which restricts transgender bathroom use (you have to use the bathroom for the gender with which you were born) and preempted anti-discrimination ordinances put in by Charlotte and other North Carolina cities that tried to block discrimination against gays and lesbians. The law led to a business backlash — PayPal, Deutsche Bank, and others have pulled plans for expansion in the state off the table — as well as a social one, including things such as Bruce Springsteen canceling a concert in the state.

Silver said the law is not going to be changed because of what the NBA does or does not do. However, the law does not fit with the ethos of the NBA.

“But one of the core principles, underlying principles of this league is diversity and inclusion,” Silver said. “I think people understand that’s one of our values. It was a value built from the ground floor up in this league long before I ever got involved in it, and I’m sort of carrying the mantle now. But I know I speak on behalf of our owners, our teams and our players. I think they all feel very strongly that this is a core principle of our league, and that where we choose to celebrate something like an All-Star Game, that those values should be honored.”

What Silver wants to see is North Carolina modify the law, saving the NBA the trouble of moving the All-Star Game. Or, explaining why it’s not okay to play the All-Star Game in the state but it is okay to play 41 other regular season Charlotte Hornets games there.

“I was in North Carolina about two and a half weeks ago, spoke to a lot of business leaders in Charlotte who are working behind the scenes, frankly, to craft some sort of compromise with the governmental leaders both in the city and the state,” Silver said. “I’d say there is absolutely strong interest in trying to work something out. I think both sides of the issue recognize, however heartfelt their views are, that the current state of being is causing enormous economic damage to the state.”

The NBA’s vague summer deadline creates an interesting dynamic. This law was passed with the overwhelming support of Republicans in the North Carolina legislature, and not coincidentally they did this in an election year when trying to motivate their base. Even if those Republicans are willing to modify the law, would they be willing to do so before the November elections? If not, what decision will Adam Silver and the NBA make?

Harrison Barnes to start for Warriors, Iguodala to come off the bench

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OAKLAND — Last season, for the final three games of the NBA Finals, Steve Kerr started Andre Iguodala and brought Harrison Barnes off the bench, a switch made because of Iguodala’s defense on LeBron. Kerr did the same thing for Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals this year against Oklahoma City.

But not in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Harrison Barnes will start for the Warriors in Game 1, the team announced just before the start of Game 1.

That puts the Warriors back in the team’s regular rotation, the one they used all season long. It also puts a more dangerous offensive player in Barnes on the court in a game where the Cavaliers are going to want to play fast and go more at the Warriors speed (although Barnes has struggled at points these playoffs). Barnes will get a chance to show how he can defend LeBron (1-on-1 in the post he may be able to hold his own, but that’s going to be a tough match up on the perimeter).

Kerr said pregame this was a decision he made “about 48 hours ago,” and one he seemed very comfortable with.

NBA Finals Cavaliers vs. Warriors preview: Seven key questions that will decide series

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Seven games to decide the NBA title. If that many are needed (they probably won’t be). Still to be symmetrical, we’ve got seven questions that will be at the heart of this series. If you want a more NBA Finals previews, check out our Podcast where myself and Dan Feldman break it all down.

1) Can Cleveland have success running and gunning against Golden State? There’s a simplistic line of thinking that goes “the Cavaliers pushed the Finals to six games last year without Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love, this is a better Cavs team, they will win.” No doubt, they are a better Cavaliers team than a year ago, and they do have a chance. The challenge is that with the return of those two stars the Cavaliers have started to play small and fast — Channing Frye is the backup center and coach Tyronn Lue likes to pair him with Kevin Love and put out a running, shooting lineup. It’s worked well through the playoffs.

But do the Cavaliers want to get into an up-and-down, small ball running game with the Warriors? Do they want to try to out Warrior the Warriors? Oklahoma City just tried that — with far better athletes and defenders up and down the roster — and got torched in the final two games going small, and they lost the series. Cleveland coach Lue has pushed this team to play fast and said that is not changing now.

“We just have to play our game. We’re not going to slow the ball down and be at ease. We’re going to push the pace, try to get easy baskets early in transition but make sure we’re taking good shots,” Lue said.

The question isn’t can the Cavaliers score playing this way; the question is can they get enough stops against a Warriors offense that thrives in these faster, more chaotic games? The Warriors destroy teams because of cross-matches forced by pace. I think by Game 3 you may see the Cavaliers looking to slow the game a down some, feed LeBron James in the post more, and we will start to see the Cavs play more like they did last year in the Finals.

2) How does Kevin Love handle pick-and-roll defense? There is nowhere to hide Kevin Love’s defense this series — he’s not good at defending the pick-and-roll and he is going to be dragged into one nearly every time down the court. Golden State’s versatility means whoever Love guards (Andrew Bogut is likely first), that guy can come up and set the pick (and in small ball situations, if he’s on Harrison Barnes or Andre Iguodala because LeBron is on Draymond Green, both those guys can be on either side of the P&R). Love is going to have to show out on a shooter like Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson, then recover to his man, and history shows us that doesn’t go well. Oklahoma City — with their length and athleticism — did this as well as any team we’ve seen having bigs switch onto Curry and Thompson, and they still got torched from three the final two games. Love likely will start out guarding Bogut, but they use the big man to set picks all the time and if Love hangs back the Warriors could start feeling it early.

To be fair, Love did defend the pick-and-roll better against Toronto, showing out well and at points frustrating Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. But the Raptors are not the Warriors — Golden State’s guards are better and have more options around them than the Raptors guards (Draymond Green on the half-roll, creating that 4-on-3). The Warriors know Love and Irving are traditionally a terrible pick-and-roll defending tandem, and they will go right at them. Coach Nick at BBallBreakdown shows you the problems.



3) Does Steve Kerr start Andre Iguodala or Harrison Barnes?
By Game 4 of the NBA Finals last year, Steve Kerr was done with the Barnes on LeBron experiment and started Andre Iguodala instead to at least make LeBron work for his points. By the second half of Game 6 against Oklahoma City last round, Kerr again was starting Iguodala for defensive reasons — and he also got points from the eventual Finals MVP. Does he wait that long this time, or just start Iguodala from the opening tip? Iguodala is their best defender on LeBron, but he’s also played more and harder minutes through the playoffs this season than he did a year ago, is he going to need more breaks? Whether he starts Game 1 or not, expect a lot of Iguodala on LeBron in one of the key matchups of the Finals. Which leads to another question along those lines…

4) Can anyone on the Warriors slow LeBron James? LeBron is on a mission: He has staked some of his legacy on ending Cleveland’s seemingly eternal championship drought. That doesn’t necessarily have to happen this year, but the window is not going to stay open that much longer, and LeBron knows it. He has pushed, pulled, and prodded this team to play its best ball — and when he’s had to, he’s put the Cavaliers on his shoulders and carried them. He had a PER of 35.7 in the last round of the playoffs, which is insane. He’s attacking the basket like he’s 24 again. He’s going to have to do that at times this series — which means attacking and getting to the rim, it means some time in the post (you’re going to see a lot of LeBron as a power forward, and frankly some time at center), and it means his jumper has to fall. LeBron can do all those things. The Warriors will counter with a combination is

5) Can Kyrie Irving slow down Stephen Curry? When you start to look at matchups, you’re left with Kyrie Irving on Curry because the other matchup combos lead to worse problems down the line for the Cavaliers. This puts a lot of pressure on him on both ends, he has to make Curry uncomfortable and get him to give up the ball. Irving can be a good defender when focused (he was in the first half of Game 1 of the Finals last season) but he tends to be inconsistent and have lapses. Take a mental five-minute vacation against the Warriors and they go on a 17-2 run. As noted in No. 2 above, Irving and Love are a poor pick-and-roll defensive combo that is going to be tested a lot this series. Irving has to have a tremendous, focused defensive effort all series long for the Cavaliers to have a chance, they can’t let the Golden State guards get hot or they are toast.

6) Can Draymond Green play with emotion but avoid a suspension? Green is the kind of player fans love to root against — unless he’s on your team, then he’s a celebrated hero and the opponents are just soft. He’s polarizing that way. But one more flagrant foul in the Finals and Green is suspended a game — a flagrant 2 and he is suspended two games. Green’s aggressive, irritant, emotional style of play skirts that line all the time, for example he could have gotten a flagrant for his takedown of Steven Adams in Game 7, but the league chose not to go there. Green has to play with his emotions on his sleeve to be himself and be effective — and the Warriors need him to be at his best this series. But he can’t pick up another flagrant, and you can be sure Matthew Dellavedova and the Cavaliers will try to bait him into one.

7) Can Cleveland dominate the glass against the Warriors? The book on how to beat the Warriors is out there, and chapter one talks about owning the offensive glass, and grabbing rebounds in general. The Warriors will go small and, as Oklahoma City showed, they can be punished with second chance points. Tristan Thompson can have a big series, and if he’s getting second chance points inside it means more court time for Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli (and maybe some Anderson Varejao, just so Cavs fans can see him again). Force the Warriors to play their bigs more and you take them out of their preferred game.  Look for the Cavaliers to have a big rebounding advantage in the games they win.

Prediction: Warriors in six. I’m leaning five games but will make it six out of respect for how well LeBron is playing. As noted above the book on how to beat the Warriors exists, written by the Spurs and Thunder, but the Cavaliers lack the athletes and defensive focus to execute it. The Cavaliers will play faster and score points, but I don’t see them getting enough stops to win.

James Harden: “I’m excited about what D’Antoni brings to our team”

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Jason Terry has a new show on SiriusXM NBA Radio that debuted Wednesday, and the veteran guard reached into his contact list and pulled up a good one — James Harden.

The All-Star guard and his Houston Rockets had a disappointing season, missing the playoffs with a defense that could kindly be called porous. That meant changes, starting with Kevin McHale getting fired mid-season, and interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff not being brought back after the season. Now in comes the run-and-gun style of Mike D’Antoni, which fits the style management wants to play but will mean significant roster changes are needed.

Harden is pumped about the change, he told Terry in the interview, as transcribed by the Jonathan Feigen Houston Chronicle.

“I’m excited,” Harden said on Sirius XM on Wednesday. “I’m excited about the opportunity. I’ve been hearing great things about him, what he brings to our team. Obviously, our assistant coaches (Jeff Bzdelik and Roy Rogers) as well. A new beginning and I’m excited about the opportunity…

“I’m excited about what D’Antoni brings to our team. (Assistant coach Jeff) Bzdelik is a great defensive-minded coach coming from Memphis who is going to help our defensive schemes. Then the players we’re going to get, it’s set up as a great season for our team next year.”

Excitement is a good beginning. Next season needs to start with Harden showing up in much better shape, and with a much more focused commitment to defense. The changes in the Rockets need to start with him.

Terry told Harden on air the bearded one should be a great fit in the D’Antoni offense because he is a playmaker, not just a scorer. Harden’s going to have the ball in his hands — which is what he wants — and he will have control of the offense, he just can be a ball stopper.

That Harden is excited is a good first step toward the kind of changes the Rockets need.

Shaq was an undercover Lyft driver — and some people didn’t recognize him

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When Shaq walks into a room, you know. Not because of his big, playful personality — although he certainly has that — but because the man is just massive. He’s 7’1″, pushing 350 pounds, and when he shakes your hand his fingers come way up your arm. He’s also a fact that is all over your television — he’s a crossover media personality known by many.

Yet, when he wore some ridiculous disguises — and used some terrible accents — a couple of people did not recognize him as their Lyft driver, as you can see in the video above.

Lyft has done this before with famous sports stars — most notably Danica Patrick and Jerry Rice — but it’s a little easier to disguise them than the massive frame of Shaq. Still, a bunch of the passengers seemed fooled. Somehow.

The Big Lyft Driver makes for a funny video.