Kurt Helin

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Al Jefferson says with shooting around him he will bounce back

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Just like everything else around the Charlotte Hornets, Al Jefferson was not as good last season as he had been the season before.

His knee issues led to a regression on the defensive end (or a return to the norm, if you didn’t buy the 2014 season). His shooting percentages slumped as well, particularly inside 10 feet where he got 64 percent of his looks (he shot 63.9 percent inside three feet and 44.5 percent from three to 10 feet, both down from the season before). This was one of the reasons the Hornets fell out of the playoffs.

Jefferson told Adi Joseph at the Sporting News the real problem last season was the lack of floor-spacing shooting around him.

“I think people don’t realize, 3-point shooting is what makes me who I am,” Jefferson says in that same training camp interview. “Last year, we didn’t have 3-point shooting. That’s why guys were able to sit down on me. I didn’t have it. Now we have guys who can spread the floor and make shots. Teams have to pick and choose their spots. You double me, bang — we’ve got an open shot. So having shooters around is music to my ears. That’s what lets me do what I do best.”

 

The Hornets went out and got Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin, both of whom will see heavy minutes on the wing and can knock down the three. Along with a healthy Kemba Walker, the floor should be better spaced for Jefferson, who has dropped weight and should bounce back to being devastating with his old-school game when he gets the ball on the left block. The Hornets should be scoring at an improved pace this season.

The question is what their formerly-solid defense will look like without the injured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Think there are too many NBA preseason games? So do coaches

Nick Wiggins
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(AP) — Real basketball is almost here.

The NBA preseason schedule, with so many games that Gregg Popovich didn’t even bother going to San Antonio’s opener, is mercifully nearing its end.

It’s already over for Kobe Bryant, nursing an injury. LeBron James also was done last week.

Everyone would be, if some coaches had their way.

The schedule can become such a bore that Milwaukee’s Jason Kidd longs for the glory days of the lockout, when teams could squeeze in only two warmup games before the real ones arrived.

“No one complained,” Kidd said.

They do now.

The league allows for a maximum of eight preseason games, or nearly one-tenth of an entire regular season. But it’s condensed into a span of just three weeks, sometimes creating the necessity of back-to-backs that players dread when the games count, let alone when they’re just for practice.

Kidd, who was still playing when the 2011 lockout ended, favors four preseason games. Cleveland coach David Blatt agrees.

“I’ve expressed myself to the people that make those decisions on more than one occasion,” Blatt said. “My voice is only one, but it’s clearly my opinion that we should play four, maximum five preseason games and create a situation where we could have fewer back-to-backs and give players a little bit more time to rest and a little bit less wear and tear during the preseason.”

It’s not that coaches want to shorten the preseason itself. They like the month they get between the start of training camp and the beginning of the regular season.

It’s just that the games get in the way of the work.

“It’s something that with the CBA you can only have five days of training camp, and you can have two-a-days and even in that, one of the practices is only an hour with limited contact,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. “You need practice time. Guys need to be able to prepare and get comfortable with each other, get comfortable with whatever you’re trying to implement. It’s hard in the preseason when you’re playing and traveling like you do during the regular season. There’s really no need to.”

Well, there is to the organizations and the league. New rules can be tested, game-night operations ironed out, and of course, money can be made.

“I like the number of games. I love giving young players a chance to play. And off the court it lets us get our entertainment and presentation put together,” Dallas owner Mark Cuban said.

“It’s also the best and really only way to introduce NBA teams around the world.”

The NBA added preseason games in Canada and staged another exhibition in Brazil, seeking to drum up more interest before the All-Star Game and Olympics are held in those countries in 2016. And the two-game trip to China got a boost with the inclusion of the Charlotte Hornets, sending owner Michael Jordan to fans that are crazy about basketball.

The Hornets paid for it, though, on the back end with four games in six nights, a brutal stretch that would have coaches seething if the NBA had drawn it up.

But the teams handle their own preseason scheduling, determining how many games to play (there is no minimum) and how often. Coaches aren’t always thrilled with what they get. Hollins didn’t like that the Nets’ six-game slate included two games apiece against Atlantic Division rivals Boston and Philadelphia.

“I wouldn’t mind playing some of the Western teams that are close by, but it is what it is,” he said. “It’s easy to get to these games and it makes the travel different. It’s not a huge issue, but I would prefer to play some teams that you’re not playing all year long in your division, in your conference, that you’re battling with for playoff positions.”

Players don’t gripe as much, since most of the top ones don’t even consider playing in every game. Carmelo Anthony noted that the Knicks’ six-game schedule was better than the seven they played last year, then promptly sat out the second night of a back-to-back at Charlotte.

Popovich, who sits players out of regular-season games for rest, held Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili out of the Spurs’ opener at Sacramento along with himself, keeping to his policy of letting an assistant run the team each year in a preseason game.

The NBA would probably welcome a shorter preseason, since that could lengthen the regular-season calendar to create more rest opportunities for players, a goal of Commissioner Adam Silver. Silver said during All-Star weekend that coaches told him they don’t value the exhibition games as much as they once did, so perhaps those can be reduced and the overall preseason trimmed.

“I think that would be good for the game,” Blatt said. “I know that it would be good for the players and I also think it would be good for the fans.”

AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.

Tony Parker’s DeLorean decked out for Back to the Future Day

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Tony Parker owns a DeLorean. He is a huge Back to the Future fan and was given one as a gift three years ago. (It’s nice to have friends who can just give you vintage cars as a gift. Parker leads a charmed life.)

Wednesday is Back to the Future Day and the Spurs guard has his car decked out.

What other Spurs could play roles in that movie? Gregg Popovich as Doc Brown seems a given. Matt Bonner as Biff? Who is the awkward George McFly, Kyle Anderson?

If none of this makes sense to you… what is wrong with you? Go watch the movie. Now.

(Hat tip Eye on Basketball)

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: Greek Freak an All-Star?

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Voters were not close to putting Giannis Antetokounmpo in the NBA All-Star Game — he came in 10th in fan voting for the  backcourt — but he’s a guy some coaches considered to round out the roster. Then the Bucks went on to make the playoffs and look like a potential breakout team this season.

A good Bucks start to the season might well be enough to get the Greek Freak into the All-Star Game in Toronto next February, I say in this latest PBT Extra. Two Bucks in the All-Star Game? Don’t get greedy, Milwaukee.

Antetokounmpo is the kind of player I want to see in a defense-free, up-tempo exhibition like the ASG. Get that man in the game.

51 Questions: Who will be your League Pass must-watch team?

Garnett, Wiggins, Towns, timberwolves
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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

What is your League Pass team? The team you consistently put on because you enjoy watching them play?

Everyone at PBT is a League Pass addict — we’re all watching a ridiculous amount of basketball, watching every team as it moves through the season. But there is always one team you’re drawn back to again and again, the one that may not be the best but you can’t stop watching them. Today we discuss the team we can’t take our eyes off of.

Kurt Helin: Minnesota Timberwolves

I’m going to see plenty of the entertaining powerhouse teams — Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Golden State (which is like Brazil in soccer, they are every fan’s second favorite team to watch). The teams I’m drawn to on LP are the ones with talented young players trying to figure out, and this year no team fits that bill like Minnesota. They have great pieces — Ricky Rubio at the point, Andrew Wiggins at the two, Karl-Anthony Towns (a surprisingly good passer) in the post, then there are the veterans such as Kevin Garnett and Andre Miller. Can’t leave off Zach LaVine, who is must-watch both for his dunks and cringe-worthy point guard decisions. They don’t know how to make it all work yet, but watching them figure it out is half the fun.

Dan Feldman: Cleveland Cavaliers

I was reluctant to pick a team with 25 national TV appearances, but Cleveland is so intriguing, I’m not sure I want to miss a game. LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were really starting to play beautiful basketball together before the latter two got hurt in the playoffs. The surrounding drama is even more intriguing. Will LeBron and David Blatt get along? Will LeBron and Love? Will Blatt use Love better? Will the Cavs’ big men play well enough that the team can avoid caving to Tristan Thompson? What will J.R. Smith do next? I don’t want to miss it.

Sean Highkin: Orlando Magic

Since the Dwight Howard trade three summers ago, the Magic’s rebuilding effort has been in a weird place: plenty of intriguing talent, but not great coaching and no clear identity. After three years in the lottery, they brought in Scott Skiles to win now, and if there’s one thing Skiles will do as a coach, it’s make a team better in the short term. This Magic roster is full of high-motor guys (Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon) who will respond well to his style. Plus, Mario Hezonja is already appointment television whenever he’s in the game.