Kurt Helin

Russell Westbrook isn’t as good a finisher at the rim as you think

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When Russell Westbrook is the most explosive athlete in the NBA today and when he drives and dunks at the rim he finishes with authority. He can be counted on for a highlight power dunk nearly every game.

But don’t confuse that with him being a great finisher at the rim. He’s not consistent there. Watch the video above.

In another of his fantastic BBallBreakdown videos (you should subscribe), Coach Nick charted then broke down with video evidence that while Westbrook drives a lot and got to the rim more than ever last season — 37.7 percent of his shots were at the rim, a career high — he’s not a great finisher there.

It’s true.

It also doesn’t mean Westbrook is an inefficient player — he had his most efficient shooting season ever last campaign. He had a career-best 55.4 percent true shooting percentage that is not just above the league average but impressive considering the offensive load he has to carry. He shoots well inside 15 feet when he drives and pulls up. Westbrook gets to the line. He gets buckets.

Beyond that, his passing and decision making have improved over the course of his career. The “he plays out of control” criticism contains little validity anymore. He’s learned to play at the pace his freakish athleticism allows.

He’s one of the five best players in the NBA. He’s going to be an MVP candidate this season. He’s a joy to watch.

But he’s not a consistent finisher at the rim.

Remembering new Hall of Famer Zelmo Beaty

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When it was announced former NBA and ABA star Zelmo Beaty was headed to the Hall of Fame, plenty of people responded with, “who?”

He was a two-time NBA All-Star with the Hawks, who move to the ABA and led the Utah Stars to an ABA title averaging 22.9 points and 15.7 rebounds a game. Check out a good recap of his career by Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie.

Check out the NBA’s retrospective of Beaty’s career, before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend.

Pelicans not sure when Tyreke Evans will join them, but it won’t be start of training camp

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At some point next season, Tyreke Evans will rejoin the Pelicans — and then they will have to figure out where he fits in with a changing rotation.

But that time will not be the start of training camp. Or even the start of the season. Evans had three knee surgeries in nine months and will still be doing rehab when the Pelicans open camp at the end of the month (and likely for a while after that). Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry already said as much, and John Reid of the Times-Picayune reiterated that in a recent story.

Guard-forward Tyreke Evans will not be available for the start of the upcoming season because he is not fully recovered after undergoing three surgeries on his right knee in a nine-month span. The Pelicans say Evans is still rehabbing to strengthen his surgically repaired knee.

When Evans does return, it will be a challenge for Gentry to fit him in smoothly. The Pelicans have revamped their roster around star Anthony Davis and have gotten younger, although better is still to be determined.

Evans can still put up numbers —15.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game last season (in the 25 games he played). The challenge is Evans has done his best work as a point guard with the ball in his hands, however, he isn’t as good paired with Davis as the guy the Pelicans hope to have at the point most of the season in Jrue Holiday (who also will miss the start of camp to be with his wife who is battling a brain tumor). Preseason would be the best time to see if Evans, Holiday and rookie Buddy Hield could play together and make it work, but Gentry doesn’t get that luxury.
It’s going to be an interesting season in New Orleans, where Davis is just starting the max extension to his rookie deal so they have time but need to figure out who to put around him that works.

Russell Westbrook working out with Kristaps Porzingis, Enes Kanter

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Every non-injured NBA player is now deep in pre-camp personal workouts — or at least they should be — and that leads to a lot of guys working out and getting some run together. Often that can mean teammates getting together at team facilities to put in a good sweat and get some run.

And sometimes guys you wouldn’t expect end up working out together. For example, Thunder teammates Russell Westbrook and Enes Kanter working out with Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks.

Two other Knicks rookies, Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Willy Hernangomez, were with Porzingis and were part of the workouts as well. Porzingis has said before he sees Westbrook’s effort and style as an inspiration for his game.

I’d tell Knicks fans that a preseason workout doesn’t mean Westbrook is coming to NYC in two years, but it’s already too late for some of them who jumped on that train after reading the headline.

Good on Porzingis and the others (Iman Shumpert was there as well) — you know Westbrook is going to show up to camp in shape and motivated after this summer. Getting in some run with him will only push them farther.

Kevin Durant on Colin Kaepernick: “I’m behind anyone who stands up for what they believe in”


A few days ago Stephen Curry came out and backed Colin Kaepernick and his right to protest. Curry didn’t endorse Kaepernick’s move, but he also didn’t get sucked into the off-topic issue of how one should respect the flag and said that the 49er quarterback’s message about the treatment of minorities in the United States was the discussion that we needed to have.

At an event in Austin, Texas (where he went to college), Kevin Durant took the same approach as his new teammate, backing Kaepernick’s right to protest.

Durant may take some heat for this from fans. He’s used to it by now. Durant took plenty of heat for his choice this summer to leave Oklahoma City and sign with Curry and the Golden State Warriors, a move that he was allowed to do as a free agent but was unpopular with many fans.

In less than a month NBA preseason games will begin, and we will see which NBA players — and there will be some — decide to follow this trend. And how the league handles it.