Kurt Helin

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Rajon Rondo on Kings last season: “There were too many distractions on and off the court”

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Saying that the Kings were a mess last season is no state secret. If a team’s star player and head coach (DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl, respectively) want each other kicked to the curb — including the coach pushing off-season trade ideas — things start on a foundation of sand.

How bad was it in California’s capital? Rajon Rondo — no stranger to challenging locker rooms — said it was the worst he had ever seen, while on The Jump with  Rachel Nichols on ESPN (which is worth your time if you haven’t checked it out, she loves the game and it shows). Here were Rondo’s comments:

“There were too many distractions on and off the court. The organization as a whole, I don’t think was together completely. I think as a team you have to want the best for the next man beside you, and that wasn’t the case with the Sacramento Kings,” he said.

As you would expect, it starts with the coach/star player relationship.

“Too much tension. I’ve never witnessed or experienced a thing like that in my 10-year career,” he said.

New Kings’ hire Dave Joerger is a quality coach, he can get the Kings to play defense and buy into an offensive system. He showed that in Memphis.

That’s not the job. Joerger’s job is to win over Cousins. Everything else is secondary.

As for Rondo returning to Sacramento, he was Cousins’ best (only?) friend in the locker room, but he’s not someone the organization is looking to bring back. They’d like an upgrade. The question is if they can find one.

Report: Ben Simmons will not work out for Sixers, Lakers, anyone

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When you know you’re the No. 1 pick, what’s the benefit of working out for a team that is going to take you anyway.

That the Philadelphia 76ers are going to take Ben Simmons is about as big a secret as Superman’s secret identity. Everyone knows. There are rumors Simmons’ people would prefer he land with the Lakers, but that is moot, he will be a Sixer. Nerlens Noel didn’t work out for the Sixers. Nor did Jahlil Okafor. Nor did Joel Embiid. If they are going to take him, what is the point of working out for them?

He’s not going to work out for any teams predraft, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Unless something changes, the 76ers won’t work out Ben Simmons during the NBA predraft process – at least not at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

They are expected to use the first overall pick on the former Louisiana State University power forward.  However, Simmons doesn’t plan on working out for  NBA teams leading up to the June 23 NBA draft.

“It’s not a red flag,” Sixers president of basketball operation Bryan Colangelo said. “Everybody deals with the draft process differently. Sometimes agents are involved. Sometimes families are involved in those decisions. Again, everything we get in respect to our intel that it relates to Ben, is he would very much like to be selected No. 1.”

Simmons has a ton of potential, but the question is can he reach it, as Rob Dauster pointed out in our breakdown of his game. He is a smooth athlete who has all the skills of a point forward, minus the shooting, but the question is will he be driven enough to put in the work to be great. That remains to be seen. But he’s going to be good either way, and that ceiling makes Simmons a clear No. 1.

The Sixers are taking him. Everything else is just window dressing.


Watch LeBron James, Kyrie Irving combine to score 82 points


OAKLAND — It takes seven minutes to get through this video. Because 82 points is a lot of points.

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving became the first teammates to score 40 points or more in an NBA Finals game, putting on a memorable show in Game 5 and lifting the Cavaliers to a 112-97 win, forcing a Game 6 back in Cleveland Thursday.

The key for LeBron and Irving is that their jump shots — particularly from three — were falling. That has not been consistent this series, especially for LeBron, but on this night they were hitting from the outside, and that opened everything else up.

Plus Irving just hit some tough shots.

Report: Minnesota wants to use No. 5 pick as centerpiece of Jimmy Butler trade. Good luck with that.

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We know two things:

First, the Chicago Bulls may consider moving Jimmy Butler this summer if the right offer comes along. Bulls management has denied those rumors, but there are questions about Butler’s leadership and the chemistry in the Chicago locker room.

Second, we know Tom Thibodeau loves Butler.

Which leads us to this report from Marc Stein and Chad Ford of ESPN.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are prepared to part with the No. 5 overall pick in this month’s draft, as the centerpiece of a trade package, if they can use it to construct a deal for Chicago Bulls star swingman Jimmy Butler, according to league sources….

The No. 5 pick alone clearly wouldn’t be sufficient to pry Butler from the Bulls, but Minnesota’s own cache of trade assets — given the various up-and-coming players on its roster — would theoretically enable the Wolves to either deal with Chicago directly or assemble a multi-team trade scenario.

Do not bet on this. Frankly, don’t bet on any Butler trade this off-season.

First, the Bulls are a conservatively run organization — they don’t make blockbuster trades. It goes against their style. They like to keep players around and build.

Second, the Bulls are going to want a boatload of assets for Butler. The No. 5 pick is a nice start, but what quality starting player are you going to throw in? Then figure out a reserve to add in also. And probably a future second rounder. No, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng and the pick are not going to be enough.

I expect the Bulls will stand pat in the backcourt and try to use their cap space this summer to improve a frontcourt likely to lose Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. Then they will use the money freed up by Rose leaving to go big game hunting in the deep class of 2017.

But don’t expect the Butler trade rumors to stop.

Tyronn Lue puts ball in LeBron James’ hands, he responds with 41-point night


OAKLAND — With the Cavaliers’ backs against the wall down 3-1, coach Tyrone Lue tweaked his game plan in one key way early:

He put the ball in LeBron James hands more. If the Cavaliers were going down, it was going to be with an all-time great player at the helm.

The Golden State Warriors didn’t change their defensive plan on LeBron, they laid off him and dared him to shoot jump shots. They switched on picks and tried to make him indecisive. Things they have done all series. Through the first four Games LeBron was 5-of-16 from three and 4-of-12 from the midrange.

Lue’s plan worked. LeBron’s jump shot started falling, and the threat of a jumper meant he could be aggressive attacking the rim.

“He was hitting his shots we were giving him the first three games,” Klay Thompson said.

LeBron set a tone. A tone Kyrie Irving and the other Cavaliers followed.

In the second half he was dishing (6 assists in the third quarter), defending Stephen Curry for stretches, and doing whatever it took to get the Cavaliers the 112-97 win that sends the NBA Finals back to Cleveland for a Game 6.

“I mean, obviously, it’s do or die for us. Coach Lue said he wanted the ball in my hands a little bit more. I finally did a great job of not turning the ball over and got to my spots, got my teammates involved,” LeBron said. “Just tried to put us in position to be successful. Obviously, it’s not always a bed of roses on the court for 48 minutes, but you just try to go out there and trust your keys. That’s something I’m very comfortable with, and I’ve been comfortable with before in the past. Coach wanted to make that adjustment, and I was able to take advantage of it when I had the ball in my hands.”

LeBron was more comfortable with his jump shot Monday night — in Game 5 he was 4-of-8 from three and hit a respectable 4-of-10 from the midrange. When his jumper is falling, it opens everything else up.

It also helped that the suspended Draymond Green wasn’t there on the switches and protecting the rim.

“I think from a mental standpoint it wasn’t about anybody that was on the floor,” LeBron said, trying to play Green’s absence down. “We just had a mindset that we wanted to come in here and just try to extend our period and have another opportunity to fight for another day.”

“He’s their best defender,” Lue said, being honest about Green’s absence. “I’ve said it all along that he is the best guy in the NBA as far as reading when to help, triple switches and kicking guys out of mismatches, knowing when to go, when not to go. He’s an underrated shot blocker, and he can guard one through five, so that definitely help hurt their defense.”

The way LeBron controlled the game and was more aggressive reminded people of 2012, when his Heat were down 3-2 to Boston and he came up with a performance that saved the Heat season. If Boston beat Miami, if the Heat had regressed after reaching the Finals the year before, that history of a couple of titles in South Beach might feel very different. He changed Miami’s legacy with that game, did he do it again with the Cavaliers?

“Going into Boston, being down 3-2, you know, we understood that, hey, listen, the season is over if we don’t go out and try to take care of business,” LeBron said. “Being a big part of our success, I had to come out and do some things to help us win that ballgame, and tonight was just another example of that. Understood the magnitude of this game. I knew how great of a team we were playing, but I just had to come out and just — I know my teammates trust me, I trust them, and that was the result of it.”

LeBron now has to do it again.

Cleveland is going home but Golden State gets Green back (and rested), it’s going to take another night with LeBron setting the tone, putting up big numbers, and looking every bit like a guy not ready relinquish the “best player on the planet” card.

LeBron was a beast in Game 5, but he’s got to do it two more times to get one for the ‘Land.