Author: Kurt Helin

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Clippers

Blake Griffin shows off improved jumper with three point range. That’s not fair.


Midway through the first quarter of the Clippers first preseason game Tuesday, Blake Griffin slid into the right corner while the play started out top. The Warriors defense pretty much ignored him that far from the basket so Chris Paul whipped a pass to Griffin, who quickly went up with a smooth jumper and drained the corner three.

For the game Griffin was 9-of-17 shooting, but 7 of those nine makes were jump shots, a shot that seemed smoother than a year ago. The guy who was knocked by some a couple seasons back because “he can only dunk” has developed an outside shot that is a legitimate weapon, and this season may have expanded that range out to the three point line (last season he took just 44 threes all season and hit 12).

That’s not fair. He’s still just as explosive, he can still put the ball on the floor and finish over anyone. It’s just that now if you lay back to take away the drive he’s make you pay with the jumper. Griffin clearly worked on the shot over the summer and said this about it to Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times.

“It’s just the confidence, really,” Griffin said. “When I’m open, I’m going to shoot it because you just feel like it’s going in. But I’m not strictly a jump-shooter now. I have to do the things I used to do, the things that got me here.”

We’ll see how often Griffin really goes to this shot. Doc Rivers isn’t sitting around thinking, “We should use Griffin as a stretch four and keep him out of the paint.”

But you have to respect that shot from him now, which will space the floor, opening up driving lanes for Chris Paul and room for DeAndre Jordan to work in the post.

This is exactly the kind of step you need to see from contenders looking to get over the hump.

Cavaliers release pregame hype video (there’s plenty of LeBron)

Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day

This is the one-minute video that will show at Quicken Loans Arena before the Cleveland Cavaliers are announced at each home game this preseason (apparently there will be a new one for the regular season).

It what was maybe an homage  the Wizard of Oz, it starts in black-and-white with shots of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao (not to mention iconic shots of Cleveland) but goes to full color when they cut to LeBron James back in a Cavaliers uniform.

It’s going to be a wild season in Cleveland.

Forbes: LeBron James has most valuable athlete brand in sports

LeBron James

LeBron James is worth a lot of money.

We all knew that, but Forbes Magazine wants you to know it’s A LOT of money. Forbes released “The Forbes Fab 40: The Most Valuable Sports Brands of 2014,” a list that has Nike at the top. Which makes sense.

But when you get to athlete’s personal brands, LeBron has moved to the top of the list, past Tiger Woods.

This year the top spot belongs to LeBron James, who will be rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers after fours season and two NBA titles with the Miami Heat. James pulled in $53 million off the court during the past year and his brand is worth $37 million, which is the amount his endorsement and non-basketball earnings exceeded the average of the top 10 off the court earners in the NBA.

LeBron’s return to Cleveland is going to jack that up even further — his approval ratings have gone up, which is good for the brand and good for sponsorship. This number is likely on the low end.

But sure, he needs to do away with the max contract limits.

Here’s your full list of the top athlete brand values from Forbes (check out the story for the team brands, company brands and event brands):

1. LeBron James ($37 million)
2. Tiger Woods ($36 million)
3. Roger Federer ($32 million)
4. Phil Mickelson ($29 million)
5. Mahendra Singh Dhoni ($20 million)
6. Usain Bolt ($19 million)
7. Cristiano Ronaldo ($17 million)
8. Kobe Bryant ($15 million)
9. Lionel Messi ($12 million)
10. Rafael Nadal ($10 million)

Former Xavier star Jamel McLean hits buzzer-beater to lift Alba Berlin past Spurs (VIDEO)

San Antonio Spurs v Alba Berlin

San Antonio is on one of those NBA brand-expanding tours through Europe, and you know Gregg Popovich hates it. Despite the nice German Rieslings has gotten to sample.

Wednesday the Spurs took on German powerhouse Alba Berlin in Berlin and… damn that is a nice runner by former Xavier standout Jamel McLean to beat the Spurs. Granted, this was pretty much the Spurs “guys just here for camp” roster out there, but still that’s a quality win for the Europeans.

The key Spurs looked pretty good. Tony Parker had 28 points to lead the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard had 14 points, while Tim Duncan had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving sprains ankle in practice, says it’s “not serious”

Maccabi Tel Aviv v Cleveland Cavaliers

The first reports were tweeted out early Wednesday by Brian Windhorst of ESPN — Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving was seen walking around Rio in Brazil (where the Cavs are for a preseason game) in a walking boot.

That’s not good, although NBA teams now use the walking boot on just about any grade of ankle or foot injury. As a precaution.

And that’s what it turned out to be — mostly precautionary. X-rays were negative, there was no serious damage, then Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer caught up with Irving.

It’s preseason, there is no reason at all to have Irving push through this. In the least. Even if it’s the regular season you want to be cautious — once the ligaments in an ankle are stretched during a sprain it’s easier to re-sprain the ankle. They need to let it fully heal.

Although for Irving it’s got to suck dragging a leg in a walking boot around Rio. That’s not going to look cool on Copacabana beach.