Kurt Helin

Russell Westbrook is betting favorite for MVP


Following traditional voting patterns, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook to be voted the NBA’s MVP. The award (voted on by selected media members) is almost exclusively reserved for players on teams that win 55 or more games and finish in the top three in their conference, two things unlikely to happen for the Thunder this season.

But maybe this will be an untraditional year. It is not difficult for anyone to imagine Westbrook putting up monster numbers for the Thunder now that Kevin Durant is in the Bay Area. Will that be enough?

That’s what betters seem to think, something reflected in the latest MVP odds posted by Bovada.

1) Russell Westbrook 2/1
2) Stephen Curry 4/1
3) LeBron James 5/1
4) Kevin Durant 12/1
5) Anthony Davis 16/1
5) James Harden 16/1
5) Kawhi Leonard 16/1
8) Paul George 22/1
8) Blake Griffin 22/1
10) Damien Lillard 28/1
11) Giannis Antetokounmpo 33/1
11) Carmelo Anthony 33/1
11) DeMarcus Cousins 33/1
11) Kyrie Irving 33/1
11) Chris Paul 33/1

This year’s race is a challenge to handicap. If I were betting I’d put my money on LeBron, but he has dialed it back a little in recent regular seasons, not putting up the raw numbers and saving something for the playoffs. Curry and Durant will be fantastic, but both will make sacrifices for the team and may not have the numbers some voters want. Will the teams of Davis and Harden win enough games? Kawhi Leonard is an interesting bet, but will he have the numbers? Could Paul George pull it off thanks to an improved Pacers team?

It’s going to be an interesting season.

Nick Young on D’Angelo Russell: “We’ll be able to work it out”


It was the most TMZ-friendly story in the NBA last season: Lakers’ rookie D'Angelo Russell posted a video of Nick Young talking about how he got women and cheated on his fiancee Iggy Azalea. It was one of the dominoes that led to the end of the relationship between the rapper and NBA journeyman. Meanwhile, it led to a lot of tension in the Laker locker room, led to veterans denouncing the rookie, and it was a humbling and maturing moment for Russell (whose ego had been an issue with former coach Byron Scott).

There’s long been a sense the Lakers would not keep Young and Russell both on the roster this coming season — if they couldn’t move Young as part of a trade, they would waive him and stretch the contract. That could still happen.

But Young says he is ready to move on, and that he and Russell coexist in the same locker room just fine. Young spoke to Mark Medina of the Daily News about it outside the Drew League recently (where Young has played well).

“We’re teammates,” Young told the Southern California News Group. “It’s been so long, so it’s kind of old. We’ll be able to work it out. We’ve already been working it out. It is what it is. I can’t be mad forever.”

Young has two years and $11 million left on his contract. Young and old-school coach Scott clashed, but Young also said he is excited to play in a more up-tempo style for new coach Luke Walton. That said, Young shot 33.9 percent overall last season and 32.5 percent from three, poor numbers even for a guy never known as an efficient scorer. Young had a PER of 9.1. Maybe he can improve those numbers, but the question is will the Lakers give him a chance?


Heckler at Drew League calls out James Harden’s flopping, the beard confronts him


James Harden has a long and storied history as a flopper.

The Beard is a Los Angeles native and swung by the pro-am Drew League (a great environment where a lot of NBA players drop in for games) last weekend. Harden had his team up scoring 27 points on seven shots — in the first half.

Then a heckler called Harden out for a flop — and Harden walked over and confronted him.

Harden is used to hecklers and people rooting against him, and none of this fazed him — he finished the game with 42.

(Hat Tip Ball Don’t Lie)

LeBron James organizing September workouts for Cavaliers in Los Angeles

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LeBron James has done it before, he knows what it takes to win back-to-back NBA titles.

He knows it means you have to come to camp focused and ready for business, not just to take a victory tour. He’s going to be giving that message to his Cavaliers teammates in Los Angeles next month, reports Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com.

LeBron James will host his annual pre-training camp workouts for his Cavaliers teammates in Los Angeles in September, multiple sources told cleveland.com.

Since James returned to Cleveland in 2014, he’s gathered the Cavs to prepare for the upcoming season with a series of informal workouts that typically start around Labor Day.

LeBron has organized similar preseason workouts for years, both when he was with the Heat and with the Cavaliers. Doing it in Los Angeles makes sense — many Cavaliers players (and other teams) are in Los Angeles during the summer. The Clippers practice facility is home to some of the best pick-up summer games in the nation.

The Cavaliers open camp officially on Sept. 27, and they will enter the season like they did the last one — the clear favorites and best team in the East. However, their real competition for a title will come from the West. That is what they need to be working toward.

Serbia beats China 94-60, advances in men’s basketball

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Serbia advanced to the quarterfinals in men’s basketball with a 94-60 victory over China on Sunday night.

The Chinese (0-5) were eliminated, going winless for the second consecutive Olympics.

Serbia (2-3), which finished fourth in Group A, blew the game open in the third quarter with a 17-0 run to take a 60-30 lead. The Serbs’ defense picked up as well and China struggled to score, shooting just 25 percent in the quarter.

Guard Bogdan Bogdanovic paced the Serbs with 19 points while Nikola Kalinic added 15.

Yi Jianlian scored a game-high 20 points for China, but got little help as only one other Chinese player scored in double figures.

China shot just 40 percent, was outrebounded 40-29 and had 19 turnovers.