Kurt Helin

Watch 5’8″ Isaiah Thomas with the LeBronesque chasedown block

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Chris Paul made the steal and thought he was just going to waltz in for the easy layup. Come on, who was back there that was going to chase him down?

Isaiah Thomas. All 5’8″ of him.

That is a great play.

Paul did what all Clippers do after missing a shot, he turns to the ref and complains it was a foul. Nope. That was just hustle winning out for a play.

CP3 got over this quickly as his Clippers won handily 114-90.

Report: Celtics low-balled Cavaliers on Kevin Love trade talks at deadline

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It was highly unlikely the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to trade Kevin Love at the deadline last month. They tested the market to evaluate what they might get back, but in reality management wanted to see what a healthy LeBron James/Kyrie Irving/Love trio could do in the playoffs.

There were a lot of rumors at the deadline about talks with Boston — Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge is looking for the elite star his roster needs, and they have a lot of affordable and solid role players in their rotation, plus draft picks galore to sweeten the deal.

But those talks didn’t get as hot as had been rumored, reports Zach Lowe at ESPN.

If they lose again, I’d bet big on Love being elsewhere — a split that might end up the best thing for everyone. Cleveland and Boston had trade talks for Love at the deadline, though they died with Boston offering a low-ball package the Cavs wouldn’t consider, according to several league sources. Even if Boston’s interest has faded, someone will call Cleveland about Love around the draft. Wiggins has more trade value than Love now, but that deal was the right move at the time.

There is a lot to go over in that paragraph.

Let’s put the last thing first — the Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins was the right trade at the time for the Cavaliers. Yes, as it was happening we knew this might not look like a good trade five years or so down the line — that is if Wiggins developed, there were questions about his jumper and competitiveness — but the Cavaliers were not playing for five years down the line. The second LeBron made his prodigal son announcement, Cleveland management slayed the fatted calf and went into win-now mode. Love could help them win now, Wiggins was years away, and LeBron wanted Love.

Love has helped them win. While we pick apart the flaws in the Cavaliers, this is still a mid-50s win team with an elite offense that is likely headed to the NBA Finals. Again. The problem is what likely awaits the Cavaliers in those finals — Golden State or maybe San Antonio — are more balanced and selfless rosters that will be able to expose those flaws and take care of business. One of those flaws is the LeBron/Love pick-and-roll, which Lowe notes every team switches and forces the Cavs into a more stagnant isolation play. Cleveland falls into these stagnant moments a lot, they still look like talented players playing next to each other, not with each other enough. Another of those flaws will be Love’s defense, especially with J.R. Smith and Irving out top. Read Lowe’s story for a fantastic breakdown of it all.

The Cavaliers are still a win-now team — LeBron is 31 years old and showing some slippage in his game (but he’s still likely the second best player in the NBA when he turns it up to 11). If trading Love to fill other holes defensively and grab a guy better suited as a pure stretch four comes together, then that may well happen this summer. Especially if LeBron wants it to happen. He’s not leaving Cleveland but when he stays he has the power to push for things in the organization.

Moving Love may be best for everyone involved, but it’s not going to be a panacea for anyone.

And the Cavaliers are not going to take pennies on the dollar back, either.

Chris Paul pulls name out of consideration for 2016 Rio Olympics

London Olympics Basketball Men
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This is likely the first of multiple high-profile NBA players who will decide to rest at home rather than travel to Rio with Team USA for the Olympics in early August.

Clipper point guard Chris Paul — who has a couple of gold medals on his wall from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics — has pulled his name from consideration for 2016, he told Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated.

After more than a decade of contribution to USA Basketball, Paul told SI.com on Monday that he is withdrawing from consideration for this summer’s Olympic team, likely ending his international career. “I feel my body telling me that I could use the time,” he said. Few NBA players have expended more this season than Paul. Although his traditional stats do not vary much from his career norms — 19.9 points and 9.8 assists in 33.2 minutes — he has piggybacked the Clippers in Blake Griffin’s absence….

“Just a few days ago, Little Chris asked me, ‘Daddy, will you play in the Olympics again?’” Paul said. “Part of me wanted to say yes, because he’s never been part of it. But I told him, ‘I want to spend more time with you.’” Paul, a fixture at his son’s Little League complex and basketball gym even during the NBA season, opted to stay home.

Paul is reaching the age where his body is going to take a longer to recuperate in the summer. He desperately wants to play beyond the second round of the playoffs, and putting extra strain on his body is not helping that cause. CP3 has put in plenty of time with USA Basketball, if he wants a summer off he has earned it.

Paul is the best tactician and high IQ point guard in the game (he was huge for Team USA in the second half of the 2008 Gold Medal game vs. Spain), but Team USA will be all right without him. They still have Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Mike Conley and others to choose from, not to mention the two guards who can handle the rock (James Harden, Klay Thompson, etc.).

The interesting question: What does this mean for Paul’s good friend LeBron James? LeBron had said he wanted to play with his friends Paul and Carmelo Anthony one more time in the Olympics, does this (and no Kobe) alter his thinking? LeBron hasn’t committed either way. Just remember, after this season, if the Cavaliers as expected make it to the NBA Finals, that will be six straight NBA Finals for LeBron. His body needs rest, too.

Anthony Davis has said he will be out of the Olympics due to injuries.

With Knicks eliminated from playoffs, Rambis to stick with old man starting backcourt

during the first half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on March 9, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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I come from this crazy school of thought that the best way to develop young players is to play them. You need to coach the guy up, you can’t be soft on him, but if the goal is to bring a guy along to be a quality NBA player you need to give him minutes against other NBA players at game speed. Particularly, do it in situations where it’s not going to hurt the team’s record or standing. For example, when your team is out of the playoff chase.

Enter the New York Knicks. They have been mathematically eliminated from the postseason in the East.

So what is coach Kurt Rambis going to do with his “veteran” (read: old, slow) backcourt of Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic? From Marc Berman at the New York Post.

Rambis said despite official playoff elimination, he will stick with the same starting lineup and not elevate rookie point guard Jerian Grant, who went scoreless (0-for-3) with three assists in just 10 minutes against the Pelicans, and was benched in the second half….

“I just didn’t like the way things were going in terms of organizing the offense,’’ Rambis said. “I wanted more experience on the floor….

“I have not been told (to start Grant) by anybody in the organization,” Rambis said. “The matchups are probably better suited for him coming off the bench, and he’s learning things. Getting out and seeing situations is good for him. Like all young players, he’s making mistakes. We’re working with him to correct those mistakes. It’s going to be this year a learning process. It’s still the toughest position in the NBA to learn.”

Calderon and Vujacic are likely not going to be back with the Knicks next season. If they are Phil Jackson is going to have to deal with a mob of angry Knicks fans carrying pitchforks and torches. That same mob could form if Rambis is brought back, even if Jackson likes him.

It’s not clear yet what kind of player Grant is going to be, he’s shown flashes, but his shot needs a lot of work — he struggles to finish at the rim over length (49.3 percent inside three feet), and he’s hitting just 19.2 percent from three. But now is when you find out a little more and give him a real chance.

Another guy not seeing a minutes boost is Arron Afflalo. Berman speculates the Knicks are bringing the veteran free agent to be off the bench to depress his market value so they can re-sign him this summer. That sounds like a very Knicks thing to do.

 

Paul Pierce sprained right ankle, but it looked far worse (VIDEO)

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That looked scary.

Just before half, Paul Pierce — the veteran forward the Clippers brought in to give them more shooting and provide quality depth up front (it hasn’t worked out that way, but Doc Rivers is giving him more run as the playoffs near) — was driving the lane against the team he will go into the Hall of Fame as a member of (the Celtics). He hit a tough shot over Jared Sullinger.

Then he came down awkwardly on his right leg. He went to the floor grabbing his knee. Everybody held their breath. Pierce went to the locker room and did not return to the game.

Pierce said after the game it was just a sprained ankle, but because of this he will sit out the next week to get right for the playoffs.

It will be interesting to see how much and when Rivers uses Pierce in the postseason. Pierce’s shooting has taken a nosedive this season to a career-low 48 percent true shooting percentage (30 percent from three), and he can be exposed defensively. The Clippers will get Blake Griffin back Sunday, which will help with their rotations.