Kurt Helin

Mark Cuban offering free heart exams for former Mavericks

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In the wake of the recent deaths of Daryl Dawkins and Moses Malone, Mark Cuban is trying to do something to help out former NBA players:

Every former Maverick can receive a free heart exam, on his dime, the Mavericks’ announced.

“We have had several tragedies in the NBA family recently with the passing of several legends at a young age,” Cuban said.

“The Mavs want to be proactive to inform and educate our alumni about potential health concerns they may face as they age. To this end, we will be paying for advanced screening for heart disease for our former Mavs over the age of 50.”

The Mavericks’ organization is contacting all 33 former players to arrange a doctor’s appointment near the player’s home and cover the costs of the screening if interested. The screening consists of an EKG, stress echo, blood profile and office visit.

The Mavericks are not paying for any follow-up care if these tests find something wrong, just to be clear. The hope is that the players have their own insurance, or the Mavs can help them find some.

It’s a good step. One the NBA and players union should have combined to make available to all NBA players years ago, but we’ll take the progress as it comes.

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: Can Victor Oladipo average 20-5-5?

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Because nobody outside Orlando watched the Magic last season — and we don’t blame you — not a lot of people realized that Victor Oladipo was doing more than 360 dunks, he averaged 18-4-4.

With the Magic expected to take a step forward under new coach Scott Skiles, could he average 20-5-5 this season? That’s the question posed by Jenna Corrado in this latest PBT Extra.

It’s elite company, only guys such as LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Blake Griffin did that last season. That said, Oladipo can put up those numbers on this team, which will rely on his scoring.

Kevin Love to play in Cavaliers’ exhibition game Sunday

Kevin Love
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Kevin Love was unsure if he would be back in time for opening night, but it looks like he will make it.

For the first time since the Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk pulled his shoulder out of its socket in the first round of the playoffs, Love will be back on the court for the Cavaliers this Sunday against Toronto said coach David Blatt, reports Chris Haynes of the Plain Dealer.

“He went through a full practice today, including live work,” Blatt said. “He’s ready to go. [He] will play Sunday.”

Blatt said he’s not sure how he’ll incorporate Love in terms of minutes and usage. It will be the team’s sixth exhibition game. Although he has participated in practices with no limits for about a week, he’s still very much behind.

Blatt is going to have to integrate him pretty quickly, with the Cavaliers starting the season in 11 days. With Kyrie Irving out to begin the season as he continues to recover from his knee surgery, the Cavs are going to lean heavily on Love and LeBron James to start the season.

With LeBron likely out until the start of the season, Love and LeBron aren’t going to get time on the court together until opening night against the Bulls.

Reports: Lamar Odom out of coma, “conscious, breathing on his own”

Lamar Odom
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Friday has been filled with good news for Lamar Odom, and it seems he has turned a corner, at least partially.

Sources told NBC News’ sister site E! that he is out of his coma, off “life support and breathing on his own, and he opened his eyes and spoke.”

Odom is “conscious, breathing on his own” and said a few words on Friday, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. He is still wearing an oxygen mask, but he is no longer intubated, she said on ESPN’s SportsCenter. This follows news that his heart was showing improvement as well.

According to the London celebrity tabloid the Mirror, Odom looked at his estranged wife Khloe Kardashian and said, “hey baby.”

Odom was rushed to a Las Vegas area hospital on Tuesday after being found unconscious at a brothel 70 miles outside Vegas, where he had reportedly been for days doing drugs and drinking. He was rushed to the hospital after being discovered by one of the employees of the brothel.

Odom is not out of the woods. He is still in the intensive care unit, and he is still in critical condition. Beyond that, he likely has suffered some level of brain damage — potentially fairly severe damage — from the stroke that sent him to the hospital in the first place.

But all this news lifts one’s spirit.

Like other members of the media who dealt with Odom, not to mention his teammates, I am a big fan of Lamar Odom the person. The guy I met in the Lakers’ locker room over the years was genuine, emotional, sensitive, had a great sense of humor, and he had a huge heart that he wore on his sleeve. His personality was part of the reason he struggled to deal with everything thrown at him, and like many of his fans it has been hard to watch his downward spiral. I hope nothing but the best for Odom going forward, and Friday was a great first step in the right direction.

51 Questions: Three things Golden State must do to repeat as champs

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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 do the Warriors need to do to repeat as champs?

Say the Warriors got lucky to win the franchise’s first title in 40 years and they take umbrage. Stephen Curry gets sarcastic, Draymond Green gets testy, and as a team you can see the Warriors have a little chip on their shoulder. Which is a good thing if they are going to repeat as champs — they will need that fire.

Make no mistake, the Warriors certainly can repeat. They should be the favorite.

But if I had to bet on the Warriors or the field in a brutal Western Conference, I’ll take the field. There are just so many things that have to go right in a chase for a title, and in this West there is little margin for error.

What has to go right for the Warriors to win it all again?

1. Stay Healthy.

Sorry Warriors, but you were lucky last season. That’s not a slight — not even Michael Jordan won an NBA title without some luck on the health front — it’s just a fact. The Warriors stayed healthier than any other contender, and that was part of their success.

Now they just have to do it again.

On this front, the Warriors have an advantage over some other contenders (hello San Antonio) in that much of their core is young — Curry is 27, Green and Klay Thompson are 25, Harrison Barnes is 23. But still this team needs to avoid a freak injury to those young players while keeping older guys like Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala rested for the playoffs. The Warriors can survive a regular season injury to anyone and still make the playoffs, but once the postseason arrives they will need all hands on deck to repeat.

2. Keep on sacrificing.

Pat Riley calls it the “disease of more” — where individual players start putting themselves ahead of the team after winning a title — and it tears apart championship teams in every sport. Look at the Seattle Seahawks this season, who had to get their quarterback a new contract, had Kam Chancellor holding out, have had trouble fitting in new pieces, plus the distraction that is Marshawn Lynch’s mother — and they are 2-3 to start the season.

Is Iguodala going to remain happy coming off the bench? Will Barnes’ contract extension talks become a distraction? Will the fact that Curry is the fifth highest paid player on this team become an issue? Does Green try to do too much to live up to his $82 million contract? Will Jason Thompson fit in?

Maybe none of this slows the team down. It is very possible everyone keeps buying in and willingly making sacrifices for the betterment of the whole. Steve Kerr knows how to guide them through these pitfalls. But if the Warriors stumble, they would not be the first team to be undone by the disease of more.

3. Avoid complacency.

So far through the preseason, the Warriors have looked disinterested and a little sloppy. It’s preseason, so nobody should read much into that. The problem is that after the euphoric highs of winning an NBA title the slog of an 82-game regular season can seem even more dreary, and teams get complacent. They lose focus. They stop building good habits during the regular season, thinking they can flip the switch. Then they can’t.

When I asked Curry about staying hungry this coming season, he almost blew the question off.

“That’s going to be easy,” Curry said. “We’re all competitors, we’re all proud of what we did last season, but once you enter a new year, we’ll get our rings on opening night, and that’s the end of the celebrating of what happened and you look forward to the next journey, the next goal, which is to win another one.

“I’m hopefully going to lead that charge, and we have such a great core of guys that are young and hungry and want to relive that intoxicating feeling of winning a championship. You look at the history of the league, you understand how hard it is to win one, but the challenge of winning multiple is something that I’m happy to be gunning for now, that I’ve got one under my belt. But that’s the mission.”

Going from the hunter to the hunted is a transition that trips a lot of teams up.

Maybe the Warriors are the exception ready for every one of these challenges. But it will be harder than they realize. They don’t need just to be as good as last season, they will need to be a little better — because the Spurs, Clippers, Rockets and Thunder are all better than a season ago (at least on paper).

There is no margin for error in the Western Conference. The Warriors need to pick up speed, not just make sure they didn’t lose any.