Kurt Helin

Harrison Barnes, Stephen Curry

Harrison Barnes says he wants Warriors to chase 72 wins

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The streak is over, the Golden State Warriors are human after all and will not win 33 straight games. So now they settle in for the grind of the regular season, getting healthy, working on building good habits, and focusing on the postseason, right?

Not if you ask Harrison Barnes — he wants 72 wins this season.

Barnes was at a charity event Tuesday — a “Sports Matter” holiday shopping event Tuesday working with Dick’s Sporting Goods — and told Adi Joseph of the Sporting News he wants to chase Jordan and the 1996 Bulls.

“I don’t know how other guys feel, but to me, being able to win 67 games last year, that just meant so much,” Barnes said. “A year ago, we thought 50 games was a lot. The fact that we hit 50 wins was so big! Then to hit 67, it’s like, ‘Man, we got to 67 games, and think about the games we let slip away? Could we have gotten to 72?’ Seventy-two is like that magical number, so if you can get to that point, it’d be special. And it’s a little competition, too, because Coach Kerr was on that team.”

I don’t think they ultimately get there, only because they will rest Stephen Curry and other key players to have them peaking for the playoffs.

No doubt 72 wins would be huge for a team trying to establish a legacy as one of the great teams of all time — and make no mistake, that is the goal of the Warriors. But here is the key thing about the 1996 Bulls — they won the title. As much as a team’s legacy should be more than rings, that remains a baseline and the Warriors know that to reach the heights they want, they need more than one. That will be Steve Kerr’s focus, not 72 wins during the season.

But if they get close, they may well chase it.

 

Pistons’ Brandon Jennings targets Dec. 29 for return

Detroit Pistons v Milwaukee Bucks
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With all the talk the past couple days of guys who could be traded in the next couple of months, one name that didn’t come up enough was Detroit’s Brandon Jennings. The Pistons seem committed to having Reggie Jackson at the point — he has real chemistry with Andre Drummond — and while Jennings could play a little at the two that’s not a long-term answer.

Why didn’t Jennings’ name come up? He hasn’t been on the court, still recovering from his torn Achilles. But that’s about to change according to Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com.

Jennings also said he would be shaking off some rust by playing in the D-League for a few games before that date.

Jackson and Jennings both played well for Detroit last season. Jackson put up more points per game, Jennings shot better from three, and their PERs were almost identical (19.8 and 19.7). But Stan Van Gundy gave Jackson an $80 million contract this summer because of his chemistry with Drummond (the Pistons are +9.2 points per 100 possessions when they are on the court today). Van Gundy has said he thinks Jennings and Jackson can play together, where Jennings can play more of the two on offense because he has the shot to space the floor, while Jackson is solid enough defensively to guard twos.

That said, look for Jennings to get run at the point as he returns and Stan Van Gundy tries to showcase someone he would trade. Jennings is in the last year of his contract, so he would be a rental, but off the bench that could work for some teams. Something to watch.

Heat assistant Keith Smart undergoes skin cancer surgery

Keith Smart
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MIAMI (AP) — The Miami Heat say assistant coach Keith Smart has undergone successful surgery to remove what the team describes as a very rare type of skin cancer.

Smart has not been with the team this week, and is expected back in 2-3 weeks. The team says Smart’s prognosis calls for a full recovery.

The 51-year-old Smart, who hit the game-winning shot that led Indiana to the 1987 NCAA championship over Syracuse, is in his second year as a Heat assistant. He issued a statement thanking the staff at University of Miami Hospital and the Heat medical team, saying they “steered me in the right direction very early in the process.”

Smart’s surgery was performed on Monday.

The Heat are in Brooklyn on Wednesday night.

LeBron gives game-worn shoes to young Celtics fan with brain damage

LeBron James
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It was a classy move.

It started with the Boston Celtics, who were hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday night, and also honoring Aaron Miller, a 16-year-old with who has overcome brain damage to play two sports at a local high school, something Chris Forsberg detailed at ESPN.

In the second quarter of Cleveland’s 89-77 win, the Celtics honored Aaron Miller, who the team said had undergone thousands of hours of surgery and physical therapy in efforts to overcome a medical condition doctors believed would paralyze him for life. Miller now competes on the basketball and golf teams at Newton North High School.

That’s an inspiring story. It caught the ear of LeBron James, who reached out to the teen twice during the night.

Coming out of a timeout after Miller was acknowledged with a standing ovation at half court at TD Garden, James sought Miller out courtside for a brief interaction. After the game, James returned and gave Miller his game-worn sneakers.

“I wasn’t able to hear the whole story because I was in the game and Coach was drawing up the play,” James said. “But I looked up by the JumboTron and I saw what [Miller had] been through and where he is now. I think the doctor said he would never walk again or talk again. … I looked up there and right from there, it became so much more than basketball.”

That’s bigger than LeBron’s 24 points on the night. For all the triviality we can get stuck obsessing over around the NBA, for all the stories of bad deeds that get too much attention, it’s good to put stories like this out there. This is the stuff that shows how sports can inspire, and how human nature can be a tremendous force. It’s the kind of thing we should acknowledge.

It’s just LeBron, a lot of guys around the league do more in the community than is realized, or than is covered.

Dwight Howard on rumors he’s unhappy: “People make up lies and rumors”

Dwight Howard
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If you’re a member of the 12-14 Houston Rockets, should you be happy? This was a team mentioned as a potential contender preseason that has a bottom five defense, has looked lazy at times, got its coach fired, and on Tuesday night lost to Sacramento.

Now have come the rumors that Dwight Howard was unhappy being second fiddle to James Harden in Houston. When asked about that after the Rockets’ loss, Howard fired back in no uncertain terms, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

“I haven’t said anything to anybody about anything,” Howard said. “People make up lies and rumors. That’s never been my focus. I’m trying to get these guys to play better and get myself to play better.

“People are going to say what they got to say to get a story out. People are always going to come up with some rumor and lies. That’s what it is. I can’t focus on that. And I don’t want my teammates to focus on that….

“I want us to win,” Howard said. “We had two upsetting losses. We’re all frustrated because we know we can play better. I haven’t said anything to any reporter or to anybody about being unhappy. That’s only noise. All the other stuff is lies.”

Howard has been the lone Rocket playing hard on defense for stretches this season — Kevin McHale said Howard was one of the few players trying to keep him employed. He should be frustrated with this teammates and Harden for their play and effort on that end this season.

But he’s not going to get a lot more touches, particularly because he often wants them in the post. Howard has had 77 post possessions this season and is shooting 39.6 percent on those. Or to put it another way, he scores just 0.7 points per possession on post-ups. He, unfortunately, doesn’t tune out Shaq and the other pundits who tell him he should get the ball in the post like they did — the game has changed with zone defenses, you can’t just dump it in the post every time down anymore and be successful. Even with his bad back, Howard is more efficient as the roll man — he shoots 58.6 percent and the Rockets score 1.06 points per possession when he gets the ball back as a roll man. But that’s happened just 36 times this season, less than Clint Capella on the same play.

That’s not to absolve Howard — he’s part of the problem in Houston.

But if he’s not unhappy with how things are with the Rockets this season I’d be more concerned.