Kurt Helin

Iman Shumpert, Kyrie Irving

Report/spin from Cleveland: Kyrie Irving “destroyed” LeBron 1-on-1


Take this with the entire box of Kosher salt you just picked up for cooking Thanksgiving dinner, because we have entered the “Cleveland Cavaliers Spin Zone.”

Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt said Saturday that Kyrie Irving was doing some 5-0 work and some 1-on-1 drills, making progress, but there was no timetable for his return. That wasn’t enough positive spin for someone in the Cavaliers organization, who leaked this to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

Kyrie Irving played a set of modified 1-on-1 games against LeBron James after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ shootaround Saturday and “destroyed him,” a team source told ESPN.com.

They weren’t true games of 1-on-1 in the sense that only one dribble was allowed per possession, thus rendering James’ significant size advantage moot as he couldn’t simply back Irving down with his dribble and post him up. Games finished with the first player to score three baskets.

Getting hot from the outside with his shot helped Irving succeed, per the source.To be fair, James ultimately evened the set of games 2-2 before the pair finished for the afternoon, but Irving was, apparently, in the zone.

What kind of zone one can actually get in for a game with modified rules which favors guards who have quick first steps and outside shots pretty much the only option is up for debate, but apparently his jumper was falling during this afternoon practice.

Good for him, but don’t read much into it because the difference between a one-dribble-only, 1-on-1 practice game and an NBA game is the difference between dancing like Uma Thurman and dancing like Mark Madsen. Which is to say “destroyed” is not the word that one would use here, unless one were trying to spin things in a pro-Cavaliers way. Which clearly someone was.

That said, the Cavaliers are 10-3 this season, the top seed in the East, and they are doing it without two starters in Irving and Iman Shumpert. This team is going to get a lot better as the season wears on and they get healthy.

Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer ejected for bumping referee

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Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was heated. At the other end of the floor, Justin Holiday had driven the lane and got smacked in the face, and there was no call. Budenholzer was going to let the official hear about it.

But you can’t touch the referee — Budenholzer did and got tossed for it during the second quarter Hawks loss to the Cavaliers. You can see the bump (small though it was) in the video above, watch the left side of the frame after the :34 mark.

After the game, Budenholzer said this, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I was very close to him. That seems like that could be the reason why he threw me out after just a single technical. If there was any contact it would be totally unintentional. If there is contact, I’m sure that’s why he made the judgment call that he did.”

“I didn’t get a lot (of explanation on ejection) really. At the moment I tried to get more. I don’t know. He threw me out. That’s his prerogative. So, I’m sure we will learn more going forward.”

There likely will be a fine at least for Budenholzer on top of this. Usually contact with an official gets a suspension, but the infraction is so minor and incidental I’m not sure it’s warranted here. Then again, the NBA’s fine/suspension structure is as random as roulette, so who knows.



Davis’ big game in return lifts Pelicans over Spurs, 104-90

Anthony Davis, Danilo Gallinari
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis had 20 points and 18 rebounds in his return from a sore shoulder, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the San Antonio Spurs 104-90 on Friday night for their second victory of the season.

Ryan Anderson hit six 3-pointers and scored 30 points for the second straight game. Ish Smith had 17 points and 13 assists for New Orleans (2-11), which snapped a five-game skid.

Kawhi Leonard scored 22 for San Antonio, which lost for only the third time this season and had its six-game winning streak snapped. LaMarcus Aldridge left briefly in the first quarter after twisting his left ankle, but returned and finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Tim Duncan failed to grab a rebound for the first time in his NBA career, STATS confirmed. He scored six points in 19 minutes.

Eric Gordon scored 11 for New Orleans, including a 3-pointer that gave the Pelicans a 100-88 lead with 2:59 remaining.

Davis did not appear inhibited by the shoulder soreness that forced him out in the first quarter of New Orleans’ loss to Denver last Tuesday night. After missing Wednesday night’s loss at Oklahoma City, Davis returned in force, soaring for alley-oop dunks and a dramatic block of Aldridge’s mid-range jumper in the fourth quarter.

As he came down, Davis pounced on the loose ball, turned and hurled it off Aldridge’s legs before crashing into the first row of seats. The play resulted in possession for New Orleans, and Davis waved the crowd into a frenzy that seemed to carry his team to the finish.

San Antonio’s largest lead was 8-0 just more than 3 minutes in. The Pelicans rallied to take the lead for good with 2:50 left in the first quarter.

New Orleans led 48-41 at halftime and by as many as 10 in the third quarter.

Tony Parker, who scored 10 points, pulled the Spurs to 83-82 with a short fadeaway as he fell to the floor with 10:21 left. Smith responded with a pull-up jumper and, minutes later, fed an alley-oop lob to Davis. That made it 89-84, and the Pelicans gradually pulled away from there.


Spurs: Aldridge’s injury occurred in a collision with the Pelicans’ Alonzo Gee. Aldridge wound up playing approximately 32 minutes, all but about 6 of those coming after his injury. … G Manu Ginobili, who missed his second straight game and third in four because of tightness in his hip, is expected to return for San Antonio’s next game against Memphis, coach Gregg Popovich said. … Parker was assessed a technical foul in the fourth quarter for barking at officials moments after being fouled by Jrue Holiday.

Pelicans: C Omer Asik returned from a two-game absence caused by a stomach illness. He played 12 minutes, grabbing seven rebounds and scoring one point. … Holiday, who sat out Wednesday’s game as a precaution as he recovers from a right shin injury, started and played 24 minutes, finishing with nine points and seven assists.


Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas fractures hand in win over Lakers

D'Angelo Russell, Jonas Valanciunas
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Toronto’s backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan gets the bulk o the attention, but the 8-6 Raptors are only going to go as far this season as big man Jonas Valanciunas can take them — they need his presence in the paint to balance out their offense, plus protect the rim at the other end.

Which is why losing him for a while is going to be such a blow.

Valanciunas suffered a fracture in his left hand going for a dunk during Toronto’s win Friday night over the Lakers. Specifically the team said X-Rays showed a fractured fourth metacarpal. The team wants to do more evaluation before giving a timeline for his return, but a broken hand can be a month or more.

It happened on this play.

Valanciunas has averaged 13.5 points and 9.8 rebounds a night, and he does it efficiently (a true shooting percentage of 60.6 percent). Think of it this way, the Raptors offense is 12.6 points per 100 possesions better when he is on the court. The challenge for the Raptors for the next month is they don’t have anyone on the roster who can score inside the way he does. Expect Bismack Biyombo, to get more time, and while he brings shot blocking he isn’t near the same offensive.

The Raptors have battled the injury bug all season, with DeMarre Carroll and Terrence Ross missing time. They are off to a solid 8-6 record, but in a much deeper East they need all the wins they can get. Missing Valanciunas is going to hurt that cause.

Al Jefferson, Hornets drop 76ers to 0-13

Al Jefferson, Mason Plumlee

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The times that Al Jefferson is most confident he’ll have a good game are not when the Hornets center is going against a rookie, and not even when he’s facing a winless team.

Both of those occasions happened Friday in Charlotte’s 113-88 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. But what made Jefferson salivate most was seeing how the Sixers were defending him – with only first-year player Jahlil Okafor.

“What made me start smelling blood is when I noticed they weren’t double-teaming,” he said.

It doesn’t happen that often. When it does, Jefferson tries to take advantage by getting to the places on the floor where he loves to work his post moves the most.

He missed his first two attempts Friday, but sank the next six on his way to 18 first-half points that helped give the Hornets the kind of decisive lead the Sixers (0-13) have not been able to rebound from this season.

Charlotte led by as many as 26 points before the 76ers outscored the Hornets 29-23 in the third quarter to slice the advantage to 81-70 with 1:06 left in that quarter.

But Charlotte rookie Frank Kaminsky had seven of the Hornets’ next nine points spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter to push the lead back to a safe 15.

Jefferson finished with 26 points on 11-for-19 shooting. He added 10 rebounds and five blocks.

Charlotte improved to 7-6, and is now 5-1 at home after winning its last five home contests.

Nerlens Noel led Philadelphia with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting in his first game coming off the bench this season.

The 76ers are within four losses of matching last season’s franchise-worst start and are five defeats away from tying the NBA record, set by the 2009 Nets, for longest losing streak to begin a season.

Philadelphia, which opened a six-game road trip, is three away from tying the NBA record of 26 straight losses. The 76ers already share that dubious mark with Cleveland, with Philadelphia’s skid from Jan. 31-March 27, 2014, matching the Cavaliers’ between Nov. 20, 2010-Feb. 9, 2011.

“We preach and we talk about it (morale) all the time,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “They give us their attitude and their effort; I am with them unconditionally. . They bust their tails. They are 20-year-old kids and I love coaching them. I respect them and we believe the good days will add up.”



One Hornets player who understands the Sixers’ winless plight is point guard Kemba Walker. Walker was part of the 2011-12 Charlotte team that was 7-59 in the lockout-shortened season.

He sees a light at the end of the tunnel for these Sixers.

“It’s tough, but I definitely have to commend the players and the coach and that coaching staff because those guys always come to play, each and every night,” Walker said. “Even when I’m at home and watching League Pass, they’re always in games. They’re always challenging teams, despite their record. They really have some great young talent. And you know, it’s a process. One day those guys are going to be really good.”