Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Bradley Beal cleared from concussion, will play in Wizards preseason opener

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John Wall is still not back on the court at full speed in Washington, still recovering from having both knees operated on this summer.

The good news is his backcourt running mate Bradley Beal has been cleared following his concussion suffered at the start of training camp, and will start in Tuesday’s preseason game, reports J. Michael at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

That would be Trey Burke stepping in for Wall in the short term.

If the Wizards are going to do anything more than tread water this season, they need Beal and Wall to both be healthy, then start to show a more dynamic chemistry between them than we have seen in the past. Maybe new coach Scott Brooks can pull that out of them, he worked with a couple of superstars in Oklahoma City that didn’t always get along on the court, and Brooks got that team to the NBA Finals.

With the Wizards, just making the playoffs would be a good first step.

How do teams slow down the Warriors’ offense? Make them work on defense, to start

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In its preseason debut this weekend, the Golden State Warriors’ offense looked like that of a team which had four practices before stepping on the court. There was plenty of sloppy to go around, starting with Kevin Durant being 2-of-9 from the field. There were turnovers and missteps galore.

Nobody thinks that will continue. There will be some bumps as the Warriors figure this new lineup out, but nobody doubts this will be the NBA’s most dangerous offense in the NBA. Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and quality role players all around them. The will be a force.

How do opponents slow this team down? David Aldridge of NBA.com and TNT asked an NBA assistant coach and got an interesting answer. Starting with there are no good answers. Then going to the other end of the floor.

“I don’t have any answers,” he said. “You’ve just got to go play. You’ve got to go back at them. It’s not brain surgery. They’re talented and they have a couple of great players, but we’re just going to do what we do and try to do it harder and better than they do.”

“Defense starts with shot selection,” the assistant coach says. “If you’re going to take bad shots, if you’re going to allow them to get out in the open court, that’s not good. You have to manufacture the shots you want to get, and you have to make ‘em. It’s not rocket science. So limit your turnovers — turnovers are bad shots — get the shots you want, make sure your transition defense is rock solid, and if you’re good enough, you’re good enough. You can’t change your defense at this level. We’re going to play 28 teams a certain way and play them a different way? It doesn’t work that way.”

During the regular season, offensive and defensive systems get minor tweaks for each game to try to create mismatches or go at an opponents’ weakness. But for the most part teams are what they are. It isn’t until the playoffs, with more time and multiple games, where systems and rotations get overhauls aimed at an opponent.

So how do teams beat the Warriors? Take away the easy buckets, then hope they don’t start making too many of the harder ones. Which makes obvious sense, but is difficult to execute for 48 minutes — and a three-minute lapse is a 12-0 Warriors run. Especially if Curry starts hitting from 28 feet, or Durant is just having one of those nights. Or Thompson is, or… you get the idea.

There are holes in the Warriors that teams can attack. Depth will likely be one (at least during the regular season). There will be others exposed as the season goes along, and you can be sure teams will take notice. But being able to exploit those gaps will require a combination of talent and discipline few teams will have. You don’t have to like the Warriors, or the fact Durant chose them, but you can’t doubt they will be a force.

 

 

Dwight Howard worked on jumper, wants to be known as more than post player

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For years, the knock on Dwight Howard is that he demanded old-school touches in the post when in reality he was far more dangerous when on the move. Whether rolling after setting a pick, getting out in transition, or just making a cut, his offensive numbers were far better than his post up stats. He no longer draws doubles in the post like he once did, but he remains an efficient scorer at the rim and still is more dangerous when in motion.

Now it seems he is ready to step out on the court — he’s been working on his jumper.

We saw video evidence of the work, and Howard told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he wants to broaden his game.

“It’s all about being able to grow and just having confidence,” Howard recently told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Coach (Mike Budenholzer) has total confidence in me shooting the basketball. So, that’s not an issue. I think in the past I’ve started to shoot and then I’ve stopped. I can’t allow missing or anything like that to affect how I play on the floor…

“It’s the mentality,” Howard said. “In my younger years, when I shot those shots I laughed and joked. I don’t think people took it serious when I did that even if I made it. If people see that I’m taking that part of my game seriously, then they’ll get used to it. I think it’s something that they’ve never really seen, especially since I’ve been playing in the NBA. It’s all about how I do it.”

Howard has always wanted playing basketball to be fun first, but that rubbed some former teammates the wrong way. Him  taking the game a little more seriously, showing it more respect, and trying to adapt to the direction the NBA is headed would be welcome in Atlanta — and needed. Howard’s inside game — Howard took just two percent of his shot attempts beyond 10 feet last season — is a start contrast from Al Horford, who was a legitimate threat at the arc. Howard is never going to be that, but he can potentially do more than he has before.

Obviously, every team around the league is going to give Howard the space to take all the elbow jumpers he wants until he proves he can knock them down regularly. He’s not going to be treated like Pau Gasol (or Horford).

But maybe coach Mike Budenholzer has finally gotten through to Howard. Maybe this will be closer to the Howard we’ve all wanted to see for years.

Justin Holiday says brother Jrue’s focus on new baby, wife Lauren, not basketball. As it should be.

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Nobody knows when Jrue Holiday will return to the New Orleans Pelicans. Nobody is pressuring him to get back.

Holiday took leave from the Pelicans — with the team’s blessing — to be with his family: His pregnant wife Lauren was found to have a benign brain tumor. The baby has been born and is healthy, now Lauren — a World Cup and Olympic champion as part of the U.S. women’s national soccer team — will undergo surgery next month.

Jrue’s older brother Justin Holiday is a member of the Knicks on a one-year contract, and he spoke with the New York Post to give an update on Jrue and the family.

“He gets the night shift a lot so I’ve been FaceTiming, seeing the baby’s face changing,’’ Justin told The Post. “These days you have to have FaceTime. It’s like looking at my brother as a baby. The resemblance is amazing….

“His main focus is to be there to support his wife, take care of his child,’’ Justin said. “I don’t think basketball is coming across his mind right now. It’s not his main focus and shouldn’t be. I also think his team and everybody else supports his decision to do this, which has been a good thing. People were nagging him about it, but everybody’s been supportive. He’s handling his business as a father and husband.’’

Those should always be his priorities.

At some point this season Holiday likely returns to New Orleans to take over the point guard duties, but it should not be until he’s comfortable, and his family is in a situation where the travel and time away of an NBA season will not wear on them too much. Holiday needs to take his time, do this at his own pace.

Lauren and the Holiday family remain in our thoughts.

Nick Collison says he got a text from Kevin Durant about move before it was announced

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There hasn’t been much communication between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the wake of Durant’s decision to head West — Westbrook reportedly deleted the goodbye text from Durant.

Things seem a little better between Durant and Nick Collison, who have been teammates longer than KD and Russ. Collison told Hoopshype that he got a text before the announcement went public. He wasn’t thrilled, but he understands — and took the news better than Westbrook.

“He texted me… Well, first I heard that he was leaning that way and then he texted me that morning before he announced his decision….

“I was disappointed, for sure. We played together for a long time, we came a long way from where we started. So yeah, it’s disappointing. It’s always tough when teammates leave, that’s the way the business works. It was a different thing with Kevin because of how much time we spent together, and obviously because of the great player he is.”

I think Collison speaks for a lot of players in Oklahoma City. They get this is a business, they understand Durant had the right to go where he wanted, but it still stings. (Fans don’t want to see sports as a business, so they take these things more personally.)

The question now is how good will the Durant-less Thunder be? And will Westbrook put up MVP numbers?