Kurt Helin

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 23: Head coach Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers talk to his team prior to the game against the Chicago Bulls during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on January 23, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Tyronn Lue takes blame for Cavaliers defensive slippage, making changes

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Before the All-Star break, mostly under the direction of David Blatt, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ defense allowed 101.1 points per 100 possessions, seventh best in the NBA (via NBA.com).

Since the All-Star Break, the Cavaliers have given up 104.7 points per 100 possessions, 11th in the NBA. In the last 10 games things have been much worse, allowing 108.4 points per 100, 18th in the NBA. It’s the main reason the Cavaliers have not looked like a title team.

It’s the main reason the Cavaliers have not looked like a title team of late.

Coach Tyronn Lue took the blame for it, speaking to Joe Vardon at Cleveland.com:

“I take full blame for that,” Lue said. “We’re trying to do some different things and now we just got to get back to the basics and get back to our foundation.”

Lue said there is time to reconstruct the defense because what they’re returning to they “did it all last year.”

“We did it the first half of this season and it’s just getting back to the basics and doing what we’re accustomed to doing,” Lue said.

What Lue did on defense was directly connected to what he wanted to do on offense — play smaller and faster. Part of that was pressure on defense and forcing turnovers, so he had his guards try to be more aggressive and fight over the top of pick-and-rolls more (or, at least, come out higher if they went under on a non-shooter). The problem is that requires someone anchoring the middle to take away drives when the offensive player gets by those more aggressive guards, and it requires quick help recognition to help the helper in the paint (to stop back cuts and lobs). None of that help in the middle was happening consistently, leading to too many easy looks for opponents.

Both All-Star weekend and within the last month, I have asked Lue about how it is going trying to install what he wants for the Cavaliers on both ends, and both times the answers were that he just did not have the time to put things in properly. He said he needed a training camp. NBA teams don’t practice that much, and it’s hard to install significant changes midseason. Lue may be able to put this stuff in next fall, but for this season he’s decided it’s a lost cause.

Which will likely be good for the Cavaliers short term.

Dwight Howard believes Rockets can win championship. This year.

Dwight Howard
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People in the comments on this post, and on Twitter, are going to mock Dwight Howard for this sentiment. It’s inevitable. Because we all understand that the Rockets are not going to win a title this season.

But here’s the important thing: You want Howard to believe it. If he enters the first round of the playoffs — likely against San Antonio or Golden State — and said what we’re all thinking, they might win one game, he’d get thrashed online for that. As he should. We expect athletes to be confident and even brash, that confidence is part of their success. Howard has to believe it, or he’s just coasting around the floor during games collecting a check.

Meaning yes, Dwight Howard believes the Rockets can win a title this season, he told Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“Regardless of how our season is going so far, regardless of the fact that we haven’t played up to our expectations, I really believe that we have a championship caliber team,” Howard said. “Nobody else has to believe it, and that’s fine. The whole world can be against us. But if those 15 guys in the locker room believe that we can win, then we will win. There’s no doubt about it. We had a great season last year, and the reason why we were able to come in the playoffs and do what we did is because we believed.”

He’s right; nobody believed in the Rockets last season. He should have that confidence going it.

I just wouldn’t bet on that outcome if I were you.

Dwight Howard on James Harden: “I have no hate in my blood for this man”

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 18:   Dwight Howard #12 and James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets wait on the court against the Dallas Mavericks during Game One in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs on April 18, 2015 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. 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.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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The Rockets are 35-35. One season after reaching the Western Conference Finals, they are struggling to even make the playoffs. Their team has looked disjointed and/or disinterested for too much of the season.

It’s clear they have some chemistry issues. It starts with their two biggest stars — Dwight Howard and James Harden want to play the game in different ways. They want different tempos, they want different things on defense, one wants inside-out, the other wants pick-and-roll and penetration.

But don’t think that means they don’t like each other, Howard told Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“People feel … like we hate each other,” Howard said. “I have no hate in my blood for this man, you know? For what? He came from nothing. We both came from nothing. And we’re doing something that we love. We grew up playing this game for fun, and we had big dreams of making it to the NBA. So I would never hate this man because I know what it took for me to get here, and he made it. So I want him to succeed. I want us to succeed. I just – before coming here – I watched endless hours of YouTube videos on James Harden, before he had the beard. I watched all that stuff, because I’m like, ‘Dang, this boy, he’s got so much talent.'”

But Howard acknowledges the two need to find a way to get on the same page on the court.

“We both have to figure out how we’re going to make this thing work,” Howard said. “It’s on us. We’ve got the rest of the season, and the playoffs, and we can do it. It’s a mindset. It’s a mentality. And the whole team will fall in line when me and him are on that same page and the team sees that we’re strong together.”

“If we just come together like we’re supposed to – and it takes time, you know. It takes time. If we can just come together like we’re supposed to and like we want to, then I’m telling you, we can win a championship.”

Yes, you read that right, Howard firmly believes this Rockets team can win the NBA title. This season. While we may all know that’s not going to happen, I wouldn’t want or expect Howard to say anything else. Or believe anything else. He should be confident that his team can get into a groove and challenge anyone. Just make sure you don’t go and bet on that belief.

Howard and Harden have been able to come together and make their differences on the court work for stretches — last season in the playoffs, in flashes for a couple of games here or there this season. And Howard has been the best defender on the Rockets by a mile this season. But the team is not consistent. And if you’re Daryl Morey, and you’ve already changed coaches this season, you have to be asking if this pairing can scale those heights again.

It’s a very relevant question with Howard expected to opt out this summer and test the free agent market. How much do the Rockets want to pay to keep him?

Report: Chandler Parsons likely to have season-ending knee surgery

during the first half at American Airlines Center on March 1, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.   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.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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After a slow start to the season, Chandler Parsons has become a key part of a Dallas team fighting to make the playoffs in the West. In his last 15 games, he is averaging 18.1 points per game, he is shooting 44 percent from three, and his all-around versatility on both ends is at the heart of what Dallas wants to do.

Which is why this is such a blow:

He is likely to have knee surgery again and be done for the season, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons is likely to undergo season-ending surgery this week to address a torn meniscus in his right knee, sources told ESPN.com.

Parsons, who sources say will receive a second opinion before scheduling an operation, is expected to be fully recovered in time to resume his regular offseason basketball-workout routine.

Parsons had to have major reconstruction of that same right knee more than a year ago (a hybrid microfracture surgery), at least this isn’t as serious. But it’s not good news for a Dallas team tied with Houston for the final two playoff slots in the West, and with a hot Utah team just one game back.

Parsons has a player option for next season at $16 million, and because of his strong play he was expected to opt out and see if he could land a max — or, at least, larger —deal in a cash-rich free agent market this summer. This injury will give teams pause, and it may have Parsons considering opting in and hitting the 2017 market. But the smart money is still on him testing the market this year.

Jusuf Nurkic shuts down LeBron James at the rim, LeBron gets his revenge

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The Denver Nuggets are becoming faced with a good problem to have — how do they get minutes to two quality young centers, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic.

Monday, Nurkic had the block of the night denying LeBron James at the rim with authority.

But LeBron was on his way to a triple-double — 33 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists — sparking the Cavaliers’ win. And in the second quarter LeBron got his revenge on Nurkic. (It’s all in the video above.)

The Cavs won the game comfortably, 124-91.