Kurt Helin

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Isiah Thomas, Julius Erving, Bill Russell, Alonzo Mourning to present Shaq at Hall of Fame induction


Shaquille O’Neal is entering the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.

He enters with more than an incredible resume — four titles, three Finals MVPs, one regular season, MVP, 14 times All-NBA, and the list goes on — but as one of the most physically imposing and best big men ever to play the game. He did it drawing in fans the entire time with a personality almost as big as himself — he seemed to have a childlike joy at getting to play in the NBA.

Who is going to present him at the Hall this weekend?

Isiah Thomas, Julius Erving, Bill Russell, and Alonzo Mourning, Shaq told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in an interesting Q&A.

It’s a career where Shaq said he could have done a lot more than he showed on the court.

“I only played 30 percent of my real game,” O’Neal told The Vertical. “I had a great career, but I didn’t get a chance to showcase what I can really do. That’s because the double- and triple-teams were coming so quick, I had to dominate, dominate, dominate inside. I had the ability to step out, go around defenders, dribble by people, but I never got to show that.

“I had to focus on being the most powerful, dominant player to ever play the game.”

Watch the highlights of early, Orlando Shaq and I don’t doubt his ability to dribble around defenders. Fans can often forget just how agile and quick Shaq was.

Congrats Shaq, you earned this weekend.

Nuggets’ Mike Malone hates losing, trying to adapt to more of it coming

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There’s a lot of talent on the roster in Denver: Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, and Juan Hernangomez to name a few.

Every one of them is 21 years old or younger. While there are a few veterans on the roster — Danilo GallinariJameer Nelson, Will Barton — all that youth getting minutes is going to mean losses are going to pile up in Denver. They should be improved this coming season, but not playoff improved. Not .500 improved.

No coach likes losing, it goes against their very DNA. No NBA coach gets to where they are without being uber competitive. So an NBA lifer like Mike Malone takes the losses hard. Very hard. And there were 49 of them in Denver last year. Malone told Matt Moore of CBS Sports (in a profile you should read all of) that he’s trying this year not to let the losses eat at him as much.

“We have a young team, for sure,” Malone said. “I hate to lose. I’m competitive. I go into every game truly expecting to win. My expectation, going into every game because we’re prepared, we’ve got everything down, is to win.

“But at the same time, I’ve got to do a better job of not taking losses so hard. It’s a long year. I have to be able to take a deep breath. If we come back young, or younger, I’m ready.”

They are young. And when you take a step back, you see a Denver team that could join Minnesota and Utah as teams on the rise in the West that could be very dangerous in a few years. Malone is doing a good job of changing the culture in Denver, essentially creating a healthy field and environment where the seeds of those young players can grow. The organization seems to be on the right path (even if the sports fans of Denver haven’t caught on yet).

But as a coach prepping his team every night, it’s tough to look at the big picture when the losses pile up. It’s something for Malone to work on, but not to get comfortable with. Good luck finding that balance.

Justise Winslow reportedly has improved his jumper


Justise Winslow had a  rookie season in Miami, showing he could defend (as expected) and hinting at some promise on the offensive end. There’s a reason he made second team All-Rookie Team. He was able to get inside to get off his shots (57 percent of his attempts came within nine feet of the rim). It was enough to have Pat Riley say Winslow will be the starting three for the Heat this coming season.

But his jumper needed work. He shot in the low 30 percent range from the midrange and hit just 27.8 percent from three. Improving that jumper has been the focus of Winslow’s off-season work, reports Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

“You will see a major difference; he can be a special player,” that person said.

Winslow declined to identify the shooting coach but said he is “pretty pleased” with the results and that he’s working on his jumper during the early mornings and late at night.

The coach has made mechanical changes to his stroke, Winslow said: “Just smoothing things out. I am pretty confident. I like the way it’s going.”

It’s the offseason, everybody says they lost/gained 10 pounds, improved their conditioning, and their jump shot got better — everyone says they focused on basketball, when half of them focused more on Call of Duty. We need to see the improvement in action to believe it.

But Winslow is a second-year player and should make a leap. His jumper needed work, but it wasn’t broken. If he has found his stroke, he will be the kind of wing who can have a huge season in an up-tempo, spread-the-ball offense run by Goran Dragic.

Lots of Lillard: Watch Portland’s top 10 plays from last season

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We’re starting to look forward to this coming season — be sure to check out our 51 Questions previews — we still like to take a look back at some of the highlights from last season.

Like the Top 10 plays of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Yes, there is plenty of Damian Lillard. There is some C.J. McCollum. But the Gerald Henderson dunks may be the best thing in the mix.

Vince Carter wants to play two more seasons in NBA


Even at age 39 by the end of last season, Vince Carter was a solid contributor for the Grizzlies (in what was a difficult season due to injuries all over that roster). He gave them 6.8 points per night, shot 34.9 percent from three (where he took almost half his shots), played pretty good defense, and for 13 minutes a night he was a replacement level player (not bad off the bench for an inexpensive $4 million a season).

Carter will play his 19th NBA season with the Grizzlies this season, and could have a larger role with the team. He told ESPN he wants to do a 20th season after that.

“We know No. 19 is definitely going to go down. I’m shooting for 20, and we’ll go from there after that.”

Why does he keep coming back?

“Love for the game. Nothing else. I just love to play. It’s not out of me yet. When I don’t want to play and don’t want to put the work in, that’s when I step away from the game, but right now I still love it.”

For a lot of guys, the time to hang it up is not because of their play on the court – the games are always fun — it’s when they are no longer willing to put in the time in the weight room and gym to get their bodies ready for the season that they walk away. If Carter still loves the prep part getting ready for the season, then good for him. He should play as long as his mind and body are able.

Based on the way he played last season, I could see him playing two more years. That said, his contract is only guaranteed for $2 million through the middle of the season — it is possible the Grizzlies move him as trade bait, or waive him themselves to create space for another wing. However, Memphis doesn’t have a lot of depth there, if they let Carter go they need a wing replacement.