Kurt Helin

Marco Belinelli drops 32 on Blazers in preseason game (VIDEO)

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Sacramento is looking for some guys to step up this preseason and show they can space the floor as shooters, giving DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay room to operate.

Marco Belinelli is made his case for that role Monday night against Portland.

He had 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting (including four from three), four assists, and three steals. Combine that from a strong night from Darren Collison (21 points and 10 assists) and the Kings got the 109-105 win.

Turkey’s Fenerbahce beats Nets 101-96 in exhibition game

Fenerbahce Ulker v Brooklyn Nets
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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets lost their preseason opener Monday night to Turkey’s Fenerbahce Ulker, which got 18 points from former NBA lottery pick Jan Vesely in a 101-96 victory.

Brook Lopez scored 18 points for the Nets and Wayne Ellington added 16.

With a big crowd of fans cheering them on, the Istanbul team improved to 2-2 all-time against NBA clubs. Bogdan Bogdanovic, a 2014 Phoenix Suns draft pick, added 17 points, and another former NBA player, Gigi Datome, had 16.

Blazers wear pregame shirts honoring Oregon college shooting victims

trail blazers shirt 2
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Classy move, Trail Blazers.

Portland hosted Sacramento in a preseason NBA game Monday night, but they wanted to do something to honor the victims at the horrific Umpqua Community College shooting last week in Oregon. One step was to wear pregame warmup shirts of the school. From the Blazers’ own reporter Casey Holdahl.

It’s a small gesture, but it’s a good one to show how they are part of the community.

J.R. Smith hits halfcourt shot, wins $30K prize for military family

2015 NBA Finals - Game Four
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Monday night fans filled the Q in downtown Cleveland to watch an intrasquad scrimmage amongst the defending and heavily favored to repeat Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers.

But before the scrimmage got started, J.R. Smith was selected to take a half-court shot — hit it and a military family won a $30,000 prize. Smith was money.

I’m surprised the Cavs didn’t have to send out someone to contest the shot to get him to hit it.

Without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Hornets playoff hopes fade

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Solomon Hill
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The Hornets’ goal this season is a return to the playoffs.

They had ended their drought and made it in two seasons ago behind the strength of one of the NBA’s better defenses. Then last season chemistry issues, injuries, and a host of other problems saw the Hornets taking a step back. This season coach Steve Clifford was talking about getting the defense sharp again and the team returning to the postseason.

Those dreams took a punch to the gut Monday.

With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out due to a torn labrum (from a dislocation shoulder) the entire picture changes. Officially, Charlotte has said no decision on treatment has been made on how MKG’s injury will be treated. However, this injury requires surgery that will cost him the season.

And with that, the Hornets playoff dreams become deferred for another season.

This stat may sum it up best: Last season the Hornets were 28-29 when Kidd-Gilchrist played, 5-20 when he was out.

There are two main reasons for the drop off — and neither are MKG’s legendarily bad jumper, which was re-worked by Mark Price and is less painful than it used to be (he averaged 10.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last season).

The first and larger issue is MKG is the heart of the Hornet defense. Last season when he was on the court, the Hornets played Warriors-level defense (Charlotte allowed 96.3 points per 100 possessions, which was better than Golden State). However, when MKG was off the court the Hornets defense was Detroit Pistons-like (Charlotte allowed 104.1 per 100). The Hornets were 7.8 points per 100 possessions better defensively when he was out. Because Charlotte plays Al Jefferson in the paint they have no rim protection, and if their best perimeter defender is out as well they are in trouble.

The second issue is they have nobody nearly as good to replace him. The options are Marvin Williams, Jeremy Lamb, P.J. Hairston or Troy Daniels. Out of that group I guess Williams starts, but he’s had more success as a small four than a three.

In an Eastern Conference, there are a few teams that believe they have a shot to jump up into the playoffs — Miami will; Detroit and Indiana think they can. In that setting, it’s hard to picture a Charlotte team struggling to defend making the leap over those teams plus Brooklyn or whoever is going to fall out.

It’s not fair to Charlotte or their fans for this to happen early in the preseason. But the reality is the Hornets will be golfing by mid-April again.