Kurt Helin

LeBron James, Jason Phillips

Relive Cleveland’s Game 2 win in NBA’s mini-movie

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Through two games, this has been an incredibly entertaining NBA Finals. The games couldn’t be closer, this being the first NBA Finals ever where Games 1 and 2 went to overtime. It has been physical, intense, and guys are selling out.

What else can you ask for as a basketball fan?

Enjoy a recap of Game 2 on the travel day, we will gear up for Game 3 on Tuesday.

Will Dallas be able to keep Al-Farouq Aminu?

Al-Farouq Aminu, James Harden
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There were high hopes for Al-Farouq Aminu when the Los Angeles Clippers used the No. 8 pick on him back in 2010. He was crazy athletic and could defend, but there were issues with his shot and there were teams around the league who wondered if the Clippers of that era could develop a player. They didn’t try for long, he was shipped off to New Orleans in the Chris Paul deal and proceeded to bounce around the league a little impressing nobody.

Dallas gave him a chance as a minimum contract roll of the dice this season, and at 24 Aminu seemed to get it. In the playoffs he averaged 11.2 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, shot 63.3 percent from three and had a PER of 20.3. Small sample size and all, but he played himself into a nice little deal for next year.

The question is can Dallas afford it? Tim MacMahon of ESPN lays it out:

League sources estimate that the market for Aminu will be in the $4 million per year range.

The problem for the Mavs is that they aren’t likely to have the full midlevel exception ($5.46 million) and the cap-room exception ($2.81 million) probably won’t be enough to pay Aminu market value. In other words, the Mavs should plan on needing to use some of their precious cap space to pay Aminu.

The Mavs will explore options to dump Raymond Felton’s $3.95 million in a trade, preferring to use that money to pay Aminu. If the Mavs can’t move Felton in a deal, they could opt to waive him via the stretch provision, which would chop two-thirds of his salary off the team’s 2015-16 cap, creating a chunk of space that could help keep Aminu.

If Dallas wants to do it, they can keep him at a fair price. And Aminu has said he wants to stay in Dallas, he loves the city and the organization.

But this is a business, and if another GM misses out on a target or two and decides to throw an extra million or two at Aminu, Dallas could lose him.

This is not a saga likely to play out at the start of July, but as the month moves along keep an eye on Aminu. He’s finally showing some of that promise.

Can Michael Jordan palm a pumpkin? Jimmy Kimmel tests that out.

Michael Jordan
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When Phil Jackson talks about the things that made Michael Jordan so exceptional, the size of his hands is one of the things that comes up early. Jordan’s ability to control the ball better because of those freakish hands was something that gave him an edge even other great players (such as Kobe Bryant) didn’t have.

But can Michael Jordan palm a pumpkin? Yes, it turns out.

Jimmy Kimmel put all of this to the test on his show. Kimmel has been breaking out the NBA bits lately because he comes on not long after the NBA Finals games end on the East Coast.

(Hat tip to Eye on Basketball)

Stephen Curry hasn’t been the same since his fall against Houston

2015 NBA Finals - Game Two
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OAKLAND — Stephen Curry denies there is anything to it. After his 5-of-23 shooting performance (1-of-9 on uncontested looks) in Game 2 — the worst by a reigning MVP in a quarter century — he said he was off, but denied there was anything physical or that this had lasted a while

“No, just tonight,” Curry said of feeling his shot was off. “Shots I normally make I knew as soon as they left my hand that they were off.  That doesn’t usually happen. I mean, mechanically I don’t know if there is an explanation for it, just didn’t have a rhythm and didn’t find one the whole game.”

But it hasn’t been just one game.

Ever since his nasty fall in Game 4 against the Rockets, Curry has not been quite the same. The Big lead crunched the numbers since the tumble:

Field goal shooting: 26-of-73, 35.6%
3-Point shooting: 10-of-36, 27%

For the record, he shot 48 percent overall and 44 percent from three in the regular season.

Now come the list of qualifiers: We are talking a very small sample size, he could just be cold shooting. These games have come against good defensive teams in Houston and Cleveland (Matthew Dellavedova played him well in Game 2), and teams that have focused on slowing him. And he not only was cleared by doctors to return to that game, Curry had an interminably long break between the close out over Houston and the start of the Finals, a lot of time in there to get healthy.

Maybe it’s a coincidence. But it is interesting.

We will see how Curry is shooting come Game 3 in Cleveland, especially after coach Steve Kerr makes some tweaks to get him better looks.

 

Jahlil Okafor on his defense: “I know I’m going to get better”

NBA Draft Prospect Jahlil Okafor Workout
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For a guy who could potentially go No. 1 in the NBA Draft after leading his team to a national championship, there are a lot of doubters about him. It all comes back to his defense — if you watched him look lost trying to defend the pick-and-roll back in January it was easy to picture him getting torched at the next level.

But PBT’s draft expert Ed Isaacson and others say his defensive issues are overblown. Certainly part of it was scheme — Duke couldn’t afford to lose his impressive offense, so they didn’t ask a lot of him on defense — but Isaacson adds that Okafor needs to show more of a mean streak on that end of the court.

Okafor says just wait, he’s going to get better on that end.

Here is what Okafor told Alex Kennedy of BasketballInsiders.com in a story about Okafor’s draft prep.

“I know I’m going to get better,” Okafor said of his defense. “I can get better at everything I do, and I always improve. I don’t think my defense was as bad as people made it out to be. We did win a national championship and all of my coaches were extremely happy with the way that I played on both ends of the floor. Also, I couldn’t get in to foul trouble and with the way our defense was set up, I wasn’t really in rim-protecting situations.

“Honestly, that is one of my flaws that I can improve on, but I can also improve on the offense end. Luckily, I’m 19 years old and I think I have a lot of time to improve my game. … I think a lot of people forget that a lot of us are still 18 or 19 years old. We’re put under the microscope and expected to be perfect, on the floor and sometimes even off the floor. Oftentimes, I do think people forget how young we actually are.”

There are very good reasons Okafor is going to go in the top two of the draft (the buzz is the Timberwolves still like him in the top spot, if not don’t buy the smokescreen out of L.A. the Lakers would take him). He’s already got better footwork and polish in the post than three-quarters of the bigs in the NBA. He’s going to be able to walk in the door and score.

He may never be a defensive stopper but if he can not be a liability he can be paired with better defenders and put in matchups that better play to his strengths. He’s going to have to work on that end, but he has shown a strong work ethic through his career (that post footwork didn’t develop itself).

And he is just 19. Maybe it’s a tad early to say who he is and isn’t yet.