Kurt Helin

Stephen Curry doing Stephen Curry things early vs. Thunder


In Game 1, Stephen Curry was good and had some highlight moments, but he wasn’t the consistently incandescent Curry that takes the Warriors to unstoppable. Maybe it was still the knee, maybe it was the Thunder defense, maybe it was a lot of things.

Game 2 has seen more of the MVP Curry. He drove the lane for a great bucket above.

Below, see what happens when Curry gets isolated on the slow-footed Enes Kanter out high.

Report: Kris Dunn’s camp does not want him drafted by Celtics, Suns

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Kris Dunn of Providence is rated as the best point guard in this class, and his draft projections have him taken anywhere from third to sixth.

The Boston Celtics have the No. 3 pick (thanks to the Brooklyn Nets trade, the deal that keeps on giving) while the Phoenix Suns are fourth. Both of those teams will take a long look at Dunn.

However, Dunn’s camp does not want him taken by either team, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said in a draft video show. The reason is both teams have established young point guards (Isaiah Thomas in Boston, Eric Bledsoe in Phoenix). Agents of guys getting drafted don’t have much leverage, but in Dunn’s case he didn’t take a physical at the combine, so he could try to withhold medical information from the teams plus not meet with them. Here is Wojnarowski’s quote:

“They can’t stop them from drafting Dunn, but will those teams do it without his medical records, without a personal workout, without an interview with him? Because I’m told Boston and Phoenix will likely have to do that with Dunn.”

Teams draft guys they didn’t work out all the time; that is not going to stop either Boston or Phoenix if they like Dunn.

The question is do they like other guys who are projected in that range — Dragen Bender, Jaylen Brown — more? Teams drafting this high take the best player available, only drafting for position if they consider two prospects equal.

There’s going to be a lot of this kind of maneuvering heading up to the draft. For example, Ben Simmons’ camp reportedly wants him with the Lakers, problem is the Sixers have the top pick and are leaning heavily toward taking him.

As for what Dunn brings to the table, here is what PBT’s NBA Draft expert — and Rotoworld writer — Ed Isaacson said about him.

He is a very good ballhandler with excellent vision, and he can be a spectacular passer, but his decisions can still be mindboggling. He thrives when Providence pushes the tempo, doing a great job getting the ball up the floor quickly and finding open teammates for easy scores. He did show improvement in the half court, and he can be very tough to keep out of the lane. Getting to the rim and scoring is a different issue; Dunn can have a lot of problems finishing around length at the basket, but if he has just a little space, he can finish in a spectacular way. Dunn’s perimeter shooting issues are still there, even though looking at his shot, there don’t seem to be any major fixes needed.

Report: New York Knicks near deal to hire Jeff Hornacek as head coach

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This is as surprising as a Robin Lopez three.

The New York Knicks are going to hire former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek as their new head coach, reports Howard Beck of Bleacher Report.

This comes after weeks of hearing that Kurt Rambis was the front runner — backed by team president Phil Jackson — while names like David Blatt and Frank Vogel came into play. It also leads to some interesting questions:

• Is Hornacek going to run the triangle offense that Jackson wants? Did he say he would run parts or principles of it? Did Jackson lose a power struggle in the organization over this (and he could only lose that to owner James Dolan)?

• Can Hornacek get the team to defend, something he didn’t do fantastically in Phoenix (his teams were average, and something the Knicks need)?

• Will Kurt Rambis be part of his staff? If so, then the triangle stays. Either way, Rambis will have a job in the Knicks organization, possibly in the front office.

Carmelo Anthony should be happy — he wanted a broad coaching search, and ultimately Jackson hired outside the comfort zone of his coaching tree.

Knicks fans should be happy because it likely means a lot of Kristaps Porzingis at the five. And they’re happy because it’s not Kurt Rambis.

Hornacek could be a good hire by the Knicks, but with all things New York it will come down to the strings attached and backroom politics involved to see if he gets an honest chance to make it work.

Hornacek was let go mid-season by the Suns. Maybe the thing that doomed him most was the surprise 48-win campaign his first season in 2013-14 — after that, the Suns abandoned the idea of slow growth and tried to double down on the two point guard lineups. It never worked, more because management’s flawed building of the roster than anything Hornacek did. He was fairly creative with his sets, within the confines of the rosters he was given. It just didn’t work, the Suns were 14-35 last season when he was let go.

Hornacek replaces Rambis, who was the interim coach replacing Derek Fisher.

Pat Riley’s first free agency call come July? Hassan Whiteside


Officially, the Miami Heat can’t talk to free agents until the clock strikes midnight and the calendar turns to July 1. (Well, midnight on the East Coast, but for this a lot of players and agents head to Los Angeles because it’s only 9 p.m. so they can get in a meeting or two and still hit a club if they want.)

Who will be Heat president’s first call come 12:01 a.m. July 1?

Hassan Whiteside. Retaining the free agent center — which will eat into the Heat’s cap space — is the team’s highest priority, Riley said when addressing the media Wednesday, via Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

“He will be right there at 12:01 a.m.” Heat President Pat Riley said Wednesday of the shot-blocking center and the July 1 start of NBA free agency. “I want to build a team that can win and he’s got to be part of that…

“I really believe it’s important for him to be a part of that. Now, when you get to the other part of negotiations, then you find out how much he wants to win, too. That doesn’t mean anybody needs to take a haircut or anything, but it’s all part of the game.”

Someone is going to have to take a haircut — the money matters.

Miami’s July is going to be interesting because of money, even though they will have more than $40 million in cap space. It starts with landing Whiteside. Not only is Whiteside an unrestricted free agent, so are Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, and Joe Johnson. Then there is the question about Chris Bosh‘s future — he’s likely back, but that’s not a lock.

Then there is this complication: The Heat do not have Whiteside’s Bird rights. What that means is they can’t go over the salary cap to re-sign him (as they can Wade). Whiteside made $769,881 this season and he is in line for a four-year, $80 million contract, if not a full max — Miami has to take that out of their salary cap space. You can be sure other team’s will come calling with a Brinks truck as their ride, Riley has to be prepared to pay to keep his star. Then with what’s left over in the till he needs to lure other players to fill out the roster, and re-sign Wade and the other key guys they want back.

Riley is a magician who has convinced players to sacrifice for the greater good, but with the league awash in cash and big dollars being thrown about this summer, that becomes a much harder,

After rough fourth quarters during season, Thunder find late-game swagger in playoffs

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The team that struggled to protect a fourth-quarter lead all season long suddenly has figured out how to stage late comebacks in the postseason – against the toughest teams and in the most hostile environments, no less.

Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder will look to build on their 1-0 lead in the Western Conference finals after rallying down the stretch to hand the defending champion Golden State Warriors their first home loss these playoffs and just their third all season at Oracle Arena.

“Just being able to go in and lock in,” Russell Westbrook said Tuesday. “You’ve got to give credit to our guys just coming in and focusing on the task at hand. We couldn’t have done a better job of that, especially in the playoffs.”

The Thunder won three straight road games against teams that had lost only three times combined at home all season. On Monday night, they did it with a fourth-quarter comeback against the defending NBA champion Warriors, who had won their first six playoff games at Oracle Arena. Game 2 is Wednesday.

Oklahoma City lost 14 games during the regular season when it led going into the fourth. But with Monday night’s 108-102 victory to open the best-of-seven series, the Thunder won their second straight road game when trailing after three quarters. They also came back in the crucial Game 5 in the last round at San Antonio.

“We just find a way to finish the game,” Thunder guard Dion Waiters said. “Early in the season when we had a lead into the fourth quarter, we let a lot of games slip away. And I think just coming down in the postseason we’ve just been finding ways just to finish it out. We get up big, just try to keep the lead just to get the win.”

Now, Golden State is embracing the chance to rally from down 1-0.

“Every team that I was on that won a title lost at least a home game during the playoffs, so it happens,” Coach of the Year Steve Kerr said. “There’s a reason we pour champagne on each other when we win. It’s hard, it’s a grind, and this is a great reminder of that.”

This is the first time the Warriors have lost a series opener under Kerr, but last year they had to rally from 2-1 down in both the second round against the Memphis and the NBA Finals facing Cleveland on the way to the franchise’s first title in 40 years – an experience they believe could help them this time.

“I was telling the guys when we look at our championship run, anytime we talk about it, we talk about being down 2-1 to Memphis. Being down 2-1 to Cleveland. We never talk about beating the Pelicans 4-0. We never talk about beating the Rockets 4-1,” Draymond Green said. “You talk about the trying times. So right now is one of those times. We’ve never been down 0-1, so this is foreign territory for us. But at the same time we’ve been in positions where we’ve had to battle back before.”

After leading 60-47 at halftime, the Warriors allowed 38 points in the third quarter and scored only 14 in the fourth. They got outrebounded 52-44, with MVP Stephen Curry‘s playoff career-high 10 boards leading the way along with his 26 points and six 3-pointers.

“Long series, we’ll be able to bounce back and get back to who we are,” said Curry, who last week was named the first unanimous MVP in NBA history.

Kerr begged for a traveling call against Westbrook with 17.2 seconds left and the Thunder ahead 105-102, but a timeout was given. NBA senior vice president for replay and referee operations Joe Borgia went on NBA TV after the game and said Westbrook did drag his pivot foot.

Going forward, the Warriors want to handle what they can control down the stretch.

First-year Thunder coach Billy Donovan appreciates how his team has responded in crunch time when adjustments are needed. Oklahoma City lost Game 1 to San Antonio in the last round before beating the Spurs 4-2.

“I’ve always said this about these guys, I think as a coach, when you bring things to their attention of areas that we’ve got to get better at, concentrate and try to improve on, they really give a good, concentrated effort to do that,” Donovan said. “We just kept playing, and that’s what you’ve got to do.”